- Leah Millis/Reuters
- National Security Adviser John Bolton struggled to defend President Donald Trump after he took North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “word” on the death of US student Otto Warmbier.
- “My opinion doesn’t matter,” Bolton said to CNN’s Jake Tapper when asked if he trusted the North Korean leader on his account.
- Trump has faced widespread criticism for taking Kim’s side on Warmbier’s death, including from the dead student’s parents, but has claimed he was “misinterpreted.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday said his “opinion doesn’t matter” when pressed over whether he takes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “word” on the death of US student Otto Warmbier as President Donald Trump did in Hanoi, Vietnam last week.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Bolton told host Jake Tapper, “The President takes [Kim] at his word.”
Tapper then pushed Bolton on whether he also takes the North Korean leader’s word. Bolton replied, “My opinion doesn’t matter.”
Later, he added, “I am not the national security decision-maker. That’s his view.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton on if he agrees with Trump taking Kim Jong Un at his word that he did not have knowledge on Otto Warmbier: "My opinion doesn't matter. … I am not the national security decision maker, that's his view" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/EXjQaTBLS5 pic.twitter.com/HBvvtrlmgC
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 3, 2019
Bolton was also pressed on this issue on other Sunday news programs, offering a shaky defense of Trump’s remarks on Warmbier’s death.
“When he says ‘I’m going to take him at his word,’ it doesn’t mean he accepts it as reality. It means he accepts that’s what Kim said,” Bolton told host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
As Trump met with Kim in Hanoi last week to continue discussions on denuclearization, he told reporters that he’d confronted the North Korean leader about Warmbier’s death. The president said Kim told him he didn’t know about Warmbier’s maltreatment as he was detained in the rogue state, adding that he takes Kim “at his word.”
Warmbier was arrested in North Korea in January 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was released back to the US after 17 months in detention but was in a vegetative state and died soon after.
Kim runs what human rights groups describe as one of the most repressive country’s in the world and Trump has faced widespread criticism for taking the controversial leader’s side on Warmbier’s death, including from the dead student’s parents.
Trump has responded to the backlash by claiming he was “misinterpreted.”