GOP lawmaker: ‘Extraordinarily unlikely’ Kim did not know about Otto Warmbier’s torture

GOP lawmaker: ‘Extraordinarily unlikely’ Kim did not know about Otto Warmbier’s torture
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Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartHouse GOP Intel member: 'Why should I care about' another Trump whistleblower Sunday shows - Second whistleblower grabs spotlight Democrats are 'giddy over' impeachment inquiry, Republican says MORE (R-Utah) said Friday it was “extraordinarily unlikely” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not know about the treatment of Otto Warmbier during the American's detention in the country.

Stewart appeared to rebuke comments made by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE on Thursday, in which the president appeared to defend Kim, assuring reporters that the North Korean leader wasn’t responsible for Warmbier’s harsh treatment while in captivity.

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“I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that the president of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, was holding one of the very few Americans that had been held over history and that he wasn’t aware of that person or aware of his treatment and his condition,” said Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. 

Stewart decried Warmbier’s death as “absolute murder.”

“It’s torture and murder. I think that the North Korean regime should be held accountable for it,” Stewart said.

Warmbier, a Cincinnati native and University of Virginia student, was arrested in January 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster while on a tour of Pyongyang. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor but was sent back to the U.S. in a coma in 2017.

He died at age 22 a short time later.

Trump initially said Warmbier was “tortured beyond belief” while he was imprisoned in North Korea and took credit for his release. 

During a press conference with Kim on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam, the president tried to assure reporters that Kim did not know about Warmbier's detention.

“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump said. 

Trump told reporters that the North Korean leader was aware of Warmbier's case "but he knew it later." The remarks followed a two-day summit Trump had with the North Korean leader.

“And, you know, you’ve got a lot of people. Big country. Lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps, you have a lot of people,” Trump said. “And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things.” 

Fred and Cindy Warmbier spoke out against the president’s remarks on Friday morning, saying Kim and his “evil regime” are responsible for their son’s death.

“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that,” they wrote. 

The Warmbiers have previously praised Trump for securing their son’s release.

Stewart said Friday that he understood Trump was meeting with the North Korean leader to develop a relationship on the issue of denuclearization.

“But at the same time, we can’t turn a blind eye to how this young man was treated. And short of other intelligence would indicate otherwise,” Stewart said.

“The North Koreans tortured and murdered this young person, and I think it’s unlikely that Kim Jong Un wasn’t aware of that,” the lawmaker added.