President Donald Trump defended North Korean Leader Kim Jon Un to reporters Thursday, insisting he believed the dictator had nothing to do with the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was held captive in North Korea and died upon release two years ago.
“I really don’t think it was in his interest at all,” Trump said at the press conference in Vietnam, adding that he doesn’t think “top leadership” was involved in the suspected torture and death of Warmbier.
Warmbier was captured and detained by North Korean officials while on a trip to the country in late 2015. The regime accused him of being an American spy and held him for 17 months. He was returned back to the United States in a coma and died days later in his hometown of Cinncinatti, Ohio.
“It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen,” Trump said of Kim. “Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places and bad things happened but I really don’t believe … he knew about it.”
“He felt badly about it,” Trump added. “Some really bad things happened to Otto, some really really bad things but he tells me he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
Watch the video below:
Pres. Trump says Kim Jong Un ‘felt badly’ about Otto Warmbier, but that he doesn’t believe the North Korean leader knew about the American college student’s torture.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 28, 2019
As the Washington Post noted, Trump’s willingness to believe the dictator of an adversary country is not a new phenomenon. Trump said he believed Russian President Vladamir Putin when he told him his government did not interfere in the 2016 election, despite U.S. intelligence concluding otherwise.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said at a Helsinki conference with the Russian president in July.
More recently, Trump dismissed the U.S. intelligence reports in the case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi that suggested Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the assassination.