Mar 3, 2019 - World

John Bolton tries to play clean up after Trump's Otto Warmbier remarks

President Trump ignited outrage when he absolved Kim Jong-un of responsibility for the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who left jail in North Korea in a terminal state.

Catch up quick: "I don't believe that he [Kim Jong-un] would have allowed that to happen; it just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen," Trump said in a press conference after meeting with the North Korean dictator in Hanoi. "Those prisons are rough — they're rough places — and bad things happened. But I really don't believe that he — I don't believe that he knew about it."

  • "He tells me that he didn’t know about it," Trump also said, "and I will take him at his word."
  • Trump later said he'd been "misinterpreted," though his original words couldn't have been clearer.

Here's an exchange from today's Fox News Sunday between host Chris Wallace and Trump's national security adviser John Bolton:

  • Wallace: But this is not the first time that the president has taken the word of an autocrat over outside evidence. 
  • Bolton: It's not taking the word. He said I'm going to take — when he says, "I'm going to take him at his word," it doesn't mean that he accepted as reality, it means that he accepts that's what Kim Jong-un said. 
  • Wallace: So when he says "I take him at his word," it doesn't mean that he believes Kim Jong-un? 
  • Bolton: Well, that's what he said — I think one way to prove that is to give the United States a complete accounting. 

The bottom line: Working for Trump often involves claiming the president didn't mean what he clearly said.

Go deeper