President Donald Trump said he spoke Monday night with the family of Otto Warmbier of suburban Cincinnati who died earlier in the day following one and a half years in a North Korean prison.
Speaking to a small group of reporters Tuesday in the Oval Office, Trump said “it’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen. And frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different.”
“His family is incredible,” Trump said. “But he should have been brought home a long time ago.”
Warmbier, 22, died just days after he was returned in a coma to his home in Wyoming, Ohio. Physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said last week the University of Virginia student had suffered from extensive loss of brain tissue and was unresponsive.
Trump spoke to the White House pool reporters as he hosted Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, who is visiting Washington. He did not say if the U.S. would take any action against North Korea.
In a conference call with Ohio reporters, an emotional Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he would attend a memorial service Thursday in Warmbier's hometown of Wyoming, Ohio.
After saying he had seen Warmbier at the hospital last weekend, Portman paused for what seemed to be nearly 30 seconds in an apparent effort to compose himself. When he continued, Portman said Warmbier’s parents have “had to endure more than anybody should have to.”
Portman urged Americans to avoid traveling to North Korea, saying “it’s just too dangerous.” In a reference to the Pyongyang government, Portman charged “they have shown a new level of depravity” with Warmbier, saying it was “just amazing they would have detained him the first place.”
Calling North Korea’s behavior “barbaric,” Portman said lawmakers are “looking at” possible “legislative responses.”
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