President Donald Trump instructed American officials to sign a pledge to pay a $2 million medical bill North Korea issued the United States for the hospital care of Otto Warmbier, The Washington Post reports.
Warmbier, a University of Virginia student imprisoned and reportedly tortured for tearing down a poster at a hotel, was flown back in a comatose state in 2017 and died six days later of severe brain damage.
The Post reports that North Korea presented a US official with a $2 million invoice for Warmbier’s hospital care and insisted that the US official sign a pledge to pay the bill before being allowed to fly the student home.
The main US envoy sent to retrieve the student signed the agreement “on instructions passed down from President Trump,” The Post reported.
The bill was sent to the Treasury Department where it remained unpaid through 2017. It’s unclear if the bill was later paid or whether it came up during Trump’s summits with Kim Jong Un.
“We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told The Post.
Trump denies paying the bill:
Trump told reporters outside the White House Friday that he did “not pay money for our great Otto.”
“There was no money paid,” he continued. “That was a fake news report that money was paid. I haven’t paid money for any hostage and I’ve gotten approximately 20 or 21 out. We don’t pay money for hostages.”
Trump similarly tweeted that he did not pay for Warmbier’s release and added a jab at his predecessor.
“This is not the Obama Administration that paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages, or gave five terroist hostages plus, who soon went back to battle, for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl!” Trump wrote.
The Obama administration did not pay $1.8 billion for four hostages. The Obama administration unfroze $1.7 billion in money the US agreed to pay Iran before the 1979 revolution in exchange for four hostages, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
In another tweet Trump cited a quote, presumably from Fox News, claiming he is the greatest at negotiating the release of hostages.
“’President 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,’” Trump quoted, citing an unclear source he referred to as “Cheif [sic] Hostage Negotiator, USA!”