House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Sunday implicated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Otto Warmbier’s death, splitting from President Donald Trump’s naive assessment last week of the college student’s killing.
“Look, North Korea murdered Otto,” McCarthy said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think Kim knew what happened, which was wrong.”
Following the failed U.S.-North Korea summit in Vietnam last week, Trump said during a press conference that he believes Kim “felt very badly” about Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea and died after returning home in a vegetative state in 2017.
“Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places and bad things happened,” Trump said. “But I don’t believe he knew about it. He tells me he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
McCarthy on Sunday claimed Trump had since “clarified” his comments.
But host George Stephanopoulos noted that Trump never specifically blamed Kim for Warmbier’s killing.
“Well, I think Kim knew,” McCarthy responded.
Warmbier was imprisoned in North Korea in March 2016 after being convicted of stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel. Nearly 17 months later, Kim’s regime allowed the 22-year-old to return to the U.S., though he was in a coma at that point and died just a few days later.
Warmbier’s parents on Friday responded to Trump’s comments absolving Kim of their son’s death.
“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
McCarthy was also asked Sunday about Trump’s decision to order a top-secret security clearance for his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, despite objections from top White House aides and concerns from the CIA.
“Does the American public have a right to know what the CIA was concerned about with Jared Kushner?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Look, I think the president has the right to pick ... whoever he wants,” McCarthy responded.
Stephanopoulos interrupted, “I know, but that’s not what I asked. Does the Congress have the right to know the concerns about Jared Kushner and why the president overruled the CIA’s concerns?”
But McCarthy continued to defend Trump’s decision to once again undermine his intelligence officials’ guidance.
“Well, I think the president looked at the concerns. The president says those weren’t concerns to him,” the Republican leader said. “If we went through every person that had this authority before, I’ll guarantee you other people had concerns raised with them. The president gets to make that decision.”