Waters presses Treasury on North Korea's $2M 'bill' for Warmbier

Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOvernight Defense: Esper announces new steps on diversity in military but memo silent on Confederate flag | Defense bill amendment would sanction Russians over bounties | US accuses Russia of planting landmines in Libya Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities MORE (D-Calif.) is demanding answers from the Trump administration over whether it paid North Korea for the release of Otto Warmbier, calling it "outrageous" for Pyongyang to send a "bill" following the American college student's death.

Waters, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Pelosi signals flexibility on size of renewed unemployment payments The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - In Rose Garden, Trump launches anti-Biden screed MORE on Friday asking for details after The Washington Post reported that a U.S. envoy signed a pledge agreeing to pay a $2 million bill issued by North Korea for Warmbier’s hospital care.

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Warmbier was held in North Korea for 18 months and was sent back to the U.S. in a coma in 2017 before dying shortly thereafter.

“It is outrageous that the hostile government of North Korea, which has taken U.S. hostages and tortured U.S. citizens, would have the audacity to present a ‘medical bill’ or ransom demand for their ultimately murderous actions; President Kim and the North Korean government are responsible for Otto Warmbier’s death," Waters said in her letter.

The California Democrat cited the Post report that said President TrumpDonald John TrumpProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Ilhan Omar: GOP response to calls for police reform 'was vicious' White House considers sweeping travel ban on members, families of the Chinese Communist Party: report MORE told then-Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe four China strategies Trump or Biden will need to consider Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet How the US could respond to Russia's support of the Taliban MORE that he approved of the envoy signing a pledge to pay the bill in exchange for Warmbier's release.

“President Trump has responded to the report by tweet, asserting that ‘no money’ was exchanged. Despite the President calling the story ‘fake news,’ his National Security Advisor, John BoltonJohn BoltonWhite House considers sweeping travel ban on members, families of the Chinese Communist Party: report Navarro-Fauci battle intensifies, to detriment of Trump Judge lifts restraining order on Mary Trump on eve of book's release MORE, has since confirmed the details on national television,” she wrote.

Bolton asserted last weekend on "Fox News Sunday" that the United States "absolutely" did not pay North Korea for Warmbier's release. But the national security adviser acknowledged that Joseph Yun, a State Department envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier, signed a pledge to pay North Korea for his release.

Waters voiced concerns over whether sanctions were waived or licenses issued to allow the payment to be made.

“The American people should know if the U.S. government accepted this ‘bill’/ransom demand, agreed to make such a payment, did make such a payment, made possible such payment, or used the potential for such payment as negotiating leverage,” she wrote. 

“That you and your Department may have managed this process, possibly in violation of our own North Korea sanctions programs, is also concerning," she added.

Waters requested the documents and information on actions taken by the Treasury Department to be provided to the House panel by May 10.