Santorum blasts Trump's 'reprehensible' comments about Otto Warmbier

CNN political analyst Rick Santorum ripped President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE on Thursday for not holding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accountable for the death of college student Otto Warmbier, calling Trump's latest comments about the situation "reprehensible."

"This is reprehensible, what he just did. He gave cover, as you said, to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier," Santorum, a former GOP senator, said on CNN. "And again, I don't understand why the president does this. I am disappointed, to say the least, that he did it."

The scolding by Santorum, who largely defends Trump on the network, came hours after Trump told reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam, after meeting with Kim that the North Korean leader "felt badly about it," referring to the treatment of Warmbier which resulted in the student's death.

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

The comments sparked bipartisan backlash and echoed past remarks Trump has made where he has said he takes certain foreign leaders at their word, including Russian President Vladimir Putin when he denied meddling in the 2016 election.

"This is the conundrum of Donald Trump for many of us who like his policies and don't like a lot of the things he does and says," Santorum said Wednesday in reaction to "New Day" co-anchor John Berman. 

Warmbier died in June 2017 shortly after being released following his imprisonment in North Korea for more than a year. The University of Virginia student returned to the U.S. in a coma and died due to brain damage a few days later.

Later in the segment, Santorum did praise Trump for walking away from his second summit with Kim without signing a bad denuclearization deal with North Korea.

"What he did in Hanoi was the right thing to do — he walked away from a bad deal. He hopefully saw this as a learning experience that the North Korean's can't and shouldn't be trusted," Santorum said, adding it was a "wonderful moment in [Trump's] presidency."