Fact check: Did the US pay $2M for Otto Warmbier’s ‘medical expenses’ or not?

American hostage Otto Warmbier in a North Korean courtroom

FACT CHECK: Did the United States pay North Korea $2 million for the hospital care of American hostage Otto Warmbier before he was released in 2017?

Last week, the Washington Post reported that North Korea issued just such a ransom demand in order to release the comatose University of Virginia student. The authoritarian, communist regime’s brazen ultimatum had not previously been known.

Liberal politicians and media outlets gleefully ran with the report as a “gotcha” on the Trump administration, claiming that it showed the amazing record the President has for gaining the release of Americans held hostage is not all that it seems.

Initially, the White House declined to comment on the report. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders indicated in an email to the Post that “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”

In short order, media sharks forced the hand of the President to address the growing controversy. The day after the story ran, he tweeted …

What has been substantiated since then by the White House is that the North Korean invoice was indeed signed by a U.S. negotiator to secure Warmier’s release in order to get him back to the U.S. and urgently into proper medical care.

On “Fox News Sunday,” National Security Adviser was interviewed by Chris Wallace and he confirmed that a U.S. official signed the invoice but that it has not and will not be paid to the North Korean regime.

Video by Fox News

Wallace ran a short clip showing Trump stating to reporters, “We did not pay money for our great Otto. There was no money paid. There was a fake news report that money was paid.”

Bolton said that he believes North Korea did demand money for Warmbier’s release, but that it all occurred before he came into the administration. “But that’s my understanding, yes,” he said.

Wallace asked, “Did the U.S. pay any money to North Korea, however it was disguised, after he was released?”

“Absolutely not, and I think that’s the key point, Bolton replied. “The president has been very successful in getting 20-plus hostages released from imprisonment around the world and hasn’t paid anything for any of them … it’s very clear to me from my looking into it in the past few days, no money was paid, that is clear.”

Bolton also said that the President remains open to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un regarding the nation’s nuclear weapons program. The last summit in February in Hanoi ended with no progress being made, according to reports.

He said Trump wants a “big deal” with North Korea rather than a series of incremental concessions on sanctions for North Korea’s agreement to shut down its weapons program.


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