President Trump took to Twitter on Friday morning to dispell rumors that his administration paid North Korea for the release of 21-year-old college student Otto Warmbier.
The president simply tweeted, “No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else.”
“This is not the Obama Administration that paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages, or gave five terrorist hostages plus, who soon went back to battle, for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl!” he added.
The tweet was in response to a Washington Post report published earlier on Thursday stating North Korean officials presented a U.S. envoy with an invoice of $2 million worth of Warmbier’s medical bills.
The envoy, according to the report, agreed to pay the medical bill and handed it off to the U.S. Treasury Department.
From the Washington Post:
The main U.S. envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier signed an agreement to pay the medical bill on instructions passed down from Trump, according to two people familiar with the situation. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The bill went to the Treasury Department, where it remained — unpaid — throughout 2017, the people said.
Before Trump’s tweet, the White House had declined to comment on whether the bill was paid or whether the issue came up during preparations for Trump’s two summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In his Friday tweet, Trump cited two episodes during the Obama administration that he suggested stood in contrast to his stance on hostage negotiations.
The Washington Post also reports that Trump’s tweet flew in the face of the Obama’s administration’s decision to pay out billions for U.S. hostages.
Here’s more from the report:
Trump claimed that the previous administration “paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages.”
That referred to a 2016 settlement of a long-standing claim by Iran regarding undelivered aircraft on the same day four American detainees were released.
State Department officials have insisted that the negotiations over the claims and detainees were not connected but came together at the same time, with the cash payment used as “leverage” to ensure the release of detainees.
Trump also cited the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who in 2009 walked off a U.S. military outpost in eastern Afghanistan and spent the next five years in enemy captivity. He was released in 2014 as part of a prisoner exchange for five Taliban members who were being held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
Bergdahl pleaded guilty in October 2017 to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Trump has accused Bergdahl of being a traitor and called for his execution. Bergdahl was later sentenced to a dishonorable discharge from the Army but avoided prison time.