President Trump on Friday said “no money” was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, after reports that the U.S. received a $2 million hospital bill from Pyongyang for the late American prisoner’s care.
“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else. This is not the Obama Administration that paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages, or gave five terroist[sic] hostages plus, who soon went back to battle, for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl!” Trump tweeted Friday.
The Washington Post first reported that North Korean authorities insisted the U.S. envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier, 21, who was a student of the University of Virginia, sign a pledge to pay the bill before allowing Warmbier’s comatose body to return to the United States. Sources confirmed the bill and the amount to Fox News on Thursday.
Sources told the post that the envoy signed an agreement to pay the medical bill on instructions from the president, but a source told Fox News that the U.S. did not ever pay money to North Korea.
The White House declined to comment when asked on the bill, with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying in a statement that: “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”
Meanwhile, the president added: “’President[sic] Donald J. Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States. 20 hostages, many in impossible circumstances, have been released in last two years. No money was paid.’ Cheif[sic] Hostage Negotiator, USA!”
Warmbier was on tour in North Korea when he allegedly stole a propaganda sign from a hotel. He was arrested in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in March 2016. Warmbier, for unknown reasons, fell into a coma while in custody and was held in that condition for an additional 17 months.
North Korean officials did not tell American officials until June 2017 that Warmbier had been unconscious the entire time. He died less than a week after he returned to the U.S. North Korean officials, though, have repeatedly denied accusations that Warmbier was tortured, instead claiming that he had suffered from botulism and then slipped into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier sued North Korea over their son’s death and in December were awarded $501 million in damages – money that the Hermit Kingdom will probably never pay.
While the Warmbiers blamed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump has said he believes Kim’s claims that he did not know about the student’s treatment.
Trump and Kim have met in two separate summits. The most recent, held in February, ended without an agreement on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told Fox News: “Otto Warmbier was mistreated by North Korea in so many ways, including his wrongful conviction and harsh sentence, and the fact that for 16 months they refused to tell his family or our country about his dire condition they caused. No, the United States owes them nothing. They owe the Warmbier family everything.”
Last year, the Trump administration was also able to save three American prisoners held by North Korea. Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak Song were all detained in North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought the three Americans home last May, and said they were all in “good health.”
Fox News’ John Roberts, Rich Edson, Nicholas Kalman, and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.