Bolton: Trump taking Kim's word on Warmbier 'doesn’t mean that he accepts it as reality'

National security adviser John Bolton on Sunday argued that just because President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE said he took North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at his word that he did not know about the treatment of American Otto Warmbier does not mean he actually believes it.

"When he says 'I’m going to take him at his word,' it doesn’t mean that he accepts it as reality. It means that he accepts that was what Kim Jong Un said," Bolton said on "Fox News Sunday."

Anchor Chris Wallace pressed Bolton on Trump's habit of giving credence to the explanations of autocrats over evidence presented by U.S. intelligence agencies. Bolton suggested that Trump's efforts to negotiate American interests is more complex than addressing one particular statement from a foreign leader.


In addition to Kim, Trump has previously cited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's denial that he was involved in the death of Jamal Khashoggi, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's insistence that he did not know of efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

"In the case of all three of those countries we’ve got to pursue American national interests and that involves matters much weightier, much more important than some of these statements by the leaders," Bolton said.

"Look, foreign leaders who are friends of ours lie to our face as well," he added. "This is nothing new in international relations."

Bolton said Trump has been clear publicly and privately that the deaths of Warmbier, an American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea, and Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, were "barbaric."

"What he’s trying to convey is that he’s got a difficult line to walk to negotiate with Kim Jong Un, and at the same time demand what I think North Korea would find in its own best interest," Bolton said. "Give us a complete accounting of who was responsible for what happened to Otto Warmbier."

He added that officials have similarly pressed for a full accounting of Khashoggi's death, but Wallace noted the administration has not gotten one months after the incident.

Trump fueled bipartisan outrage following his summit last week in Vietnam with Kim when he said during a press conference that Kim had denied involvement in Warmbier's death, adding, "I will take him at his word."

Warmbier, who was a University of Virginia student, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster during a January 2016 visit to Pyongyang. He was reportedly in a coma when he was sent back to the U.S. in 2017 and died at age 22 a short time later.

Republicans and Democrats alike condemned the comments and said Kim was responsible for Warmbier's death. Warmbier's parents later issued a statement saying Kim's government was responsible for their son's death, and that "no excuses or lavish praise can change that."