Updated ay 5:21 p.m.
President Trump said Tuesday had Otto Warmbier been “brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different”—a pointed criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to the case of the University of Virginia student who died Monday in Ohio after spending the last several months in a coma in North Korea.
“It’s a disgrace what happened to Otto,” said Trump, who was seated in the Oval Office beside Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “It’s a total disgrace.”
Warmbier’s family announced his death Monday. The 22-year-old returned to his home near Cincinnati, Ohio, last week after more than a year of imprisonment in North Korea where he was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda sign from his hotel. North Korea said he was stricken with botulism soon after he was sentenced and was given a sleeping pill, after which he fell into a coma. But officials at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was taken upon his return from North Korea, said he exhibited no signs of botulism.
Fred Warmbier, Otto Warmbier’s father, said last week he did not believe the North Korean explanation, credited the Trump administration for freeing his son, and criticized the Obama administration’s advice “to keep a low profile” for fear of offending North Korea, where three other Americans remain detained. When asked if the Obama administration could have done more to free their son, Fred Warmbier replied: “I think the results speak for themselves.” He praised Trump’s handling of the events, said he’d spoken to the president about his son’s release, and called him “kind.”