Envoy: Trump Approved The $2 Million To North Koreans For Warmbier

We previously discussed how National Security Adviser John Bolton confirmed the story dismissed by President Donald Trump as “fake news” about the U.S. agreeing to pay North Korean $2 million for student Otto Warmbier. He insisted “We did not pay money for our great Otto” and also denied that they would ever pay money for such a release. The Post reported that, while it was unclear whether the money had been paid, the United States agreed to pay for the release by calling the payment reimbursement for medial expenses — expenses incurred by the abuse of Warmbier at the hands of the North Koreans. Now, former State Department Special Representative for North Korea Joseph Yun has confirmed that it was made clear to him that Trump personally approved the payment.

Warmbier was detained by North Korean officials in January 2016. He was returned in a nonresponsive state with severe brain damage due to the abuse by the North Koreans. He arrived in the United States on June 13, 201, and died six days later.

Yun said that he asked Washington if he should sign the agreement to pay North Korea for Warmbier and that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told him to do so. He said that the approval was made quickly and it was clear that Trump had signed off on the payment for an effective hostage. In fairness to Trump, other presidents have been accused of effective payments for hostages but this is a direct, signed, contractual agreement for such a release in exchange for $2 million.

Trump publicly called the story “fake news” and said “We don’t pay money for hostages. The Otto case was a very unusual case but I just want to let you know, no money was paid for Otto.”

Warmbier’s father said that he was unaware of the payment and referred to it as “ransom.”

It is clear that the U.S. broke its long-standing commitment not to pay for hostages and then broke that promise. Neither is a good thing. The United States must deal with authoritarian nations all the time, including our own allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Not only did Trump establish that the United States would agree to pay for hostages but also that the United States could not be expected to honor nation-to-nation contracts. This was not some contractor on a building site in Manhattan where you just say “take me to court.” By agreeing to the payment, Trump created new and damaging precedent while underlying the credibility of the country in entering such contractual agreements.

It now appears confirm that Trump was involved in the decision to obligate the United States to pay for Warmbier. This will be raised in the future when the country insists that it does not negotiate to pay for hostages. Next time U.S. personnel are seized or U.S. citizens arrested, the same type of payments are likely to be demanded for “medical” or “support” costs.

At the same time, the breaking of the agreement will be raised as to whether any agreement by the United States can be trusted. This agreement is worthy of congressional oversight investigation. Indeed, there is far more at stake in this controversy than some of the subpoena fights being waged by the House.

32 thoughts on “Envoy: Trump Approved The $2 Million To North Koreans For Warmbier”

  1. Turley argues that “in fairness to Trump”, other Presidents have been accused of agreeing to pay ransom. However, “in fairness” to other Presidents, none of them LIED about it.

    In fact “in fairness” to other Presidents, Trump is in a class all by himself when it comes to rank dishonesty.

  2. The alternative to paying the Norks for Otto Warmbier was a principled refusal which wouild likely have ended two ways – Otto Warmbier dying much sooner and more painfully after the refusal, or after a refusal which was backed up by US military action against North Korea, which would have cost more lives, civilian and military.

    Just what was the President supposed to do? Otto Warmbier, unlike the naval hostages taken by Iran, hadn’t sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and to obey all lawful orders given him, and informally been told that committment was effective even at the cost of his own life. My son died in the nation’s service in Iraq, an enlisted National Guardsman sent to a foreign land for motives nowhere near as clear as they were stated to be. I feel for the Warmbiers as another parent who lost a child overseas.

    Was Donald Trump supposed to call the Warmbiers and say, “sorry, my hands are tied here. We don’t pay for hostages.” That would have been a blatant lie, too. Obama paid for hostages, Reagan paid for hostages, it’s possible every President in recent history has. Let’s be real, here.

    1. Sorry for your loss

      You are right. paying for hostages has been a part of foreign diplomacy since the dawn of history.

      In Anglo-Saxon wars with Northmen, king Alfred’s time, it was a frequent part of peace deals. Hostage exchange. Following on a well practiced art of it in Roman times.

      Attilla the Hun was a 12 year old hostage in the court of Emperor Honorious. It’s old stuff and mostly posturing that any nation wont pay for hostages.

      The contemporary French don’t fake a righteous attitude about this and their hostages often come back cheaper and less harmed, or so I hear.

  3. Fake news is losing but truth is winning


    Fox News Channel is top basic cable network in April; CNN ratings plummet

    Fox News Channel dominated basic cable for the month of April, beating news, sports, and entertainment networks in total day and primetime viewers, while rival news channel CNN continued to shed its audience.

    According to Nielsen Media Research, FNC garnered 2.4 million viewers in primetime and finished first among all basic cable stations for the third month in a row, and 1.4 million viewers in total day to top basic cable for the 34th consecutive month.

    For the 208th month in a row, FNC also beat left-leaning CNN and MSNBC across both categories, while CNN marked its lowest-rated month in total day viewers since October 2015, and since August 2015 in the key demographic of viewers age 25-54.

    “Hannity” finished the month of April as the highest-rated cable news program in total viewers while “Tucker Carlson Tonight” ranked number two, both outpacing MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in key categories.

    Both “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (8 p.m.) and “Hannity” (9 p.m.) also beat the NBA Playoffs airing on ESPN and TNT and wrestling’s “Monday Night Raw” airing on USA Network in total viewers.

    Tucker: All presidents deeply despise the news mediaVideo
    Additionally, FNC’s regularly scheduled programming beat out CNN’s five-hour town hall event on April 22, bringing in 2.3 million viewers and 380,000 in the 25-54 age demo while CNN came in last in total viewers with 1.2 million and 371,00 in the demo for the night.

    FNC averaged 2.4 million in primetime, beating CNN’s 767,000 and MSNBC’s 1,660,000 total viewers. For the 25-54 demo, FNC brought in 389,000, topping CNN’s 198,000 and MSNBC’s 255,000.

    1. Thanks for showing evidence that rational people who care about facts and evidence utilize multiple sources of information, rather than the only source which confirms their cognitive bias. Sadly, such a scenario never occurred to you. So sorry for your loss, and your condition.

      this is to “I have a ‘hannity was here’ tattoo across my lower back” JL

      1. More homophobic insults from the uncreative and uninsightful Mark M

  4. Professor Turley doesn’t win any awards for this posting. Aside from not really knowing what occurred Turley has made what I consider to be some foolish ideas. In the end any claim that Trump paid or the US paid $2Million is “fake news” No money has ever been said to have changed hands.

    This is from the Washington Post:

    “North Korea issued a $2 million bill for the hospital care of comatose American Otto Warmbier, insisting that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay it before being allowed to fly the University of Virginia student home from Pyongyang in 2017.”

    1) Does Professor Turley not bother to look at a bill. $2Million in N. Korea and the man was brought back to die?
    2) The US could have saved N. Korea a lot of costs in carring for Otto but N. Korea kept him captive and would let him get the medical care in the US.
    3) Turley should consider what would happen if his wife had an accident and required a transfusion or she would die. The hospital hands Turley a paper making him responsible for the transfusions at a cost of $10Million. Does Turley sign the paper or let his wife die? He signs the paper. Does anyone think Turley is going to pay the bill? What does anyone think a judge would say.

    The WP is saying “insisting that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay it before being allowed to fly”.

    Did Trump pay the bill? No. Was ransom paid? No. Would Turley pay for his wife once she was home? No.

    This is all “fake news” and Turley’s piece is a “fake editorial”.

  5. Kidnap a N. Korean diplomat in Europe and drop him out of a plane over the N Korean border with a bag of pennies tied to his leg. N Korea is one of the few real Commie places left on the planet. Let em rot in hell.

  6. Any one (or any country) who believes a word Trump says is a nitwit. He’s busy now losing the Korean War after already ceding the Cold War. Expect WWII is next.

      1. I agree; anyone who openly accepts direct U.S. assist in the current turmoil will be branded as a stooge of the Yankee imperialists when the gunfire winds down. Our covert capabilities can (and likely are) being used with caution, however.

        to kurtzie

      2. Mr. Kurtz,
        The other question is how involved the Cuban and Russian troops in Venezuela are in propping up that idiot Maduro.
        Given Putin’s decision to send troops there, and the Cuban military presence, I don’t think the U.S. will stand by passively as a spectator.

        1. I think that Brazil and Colombia are in on the support for the coup but it appears to have already failed. Somebody blamed it on Russia. Maybe so. Russia will act in its strategic interests and we can just grow up and deal with that and not cry too much over it. They are a skilled rival. Miss-steps like trying to smear Trump as their agent have actually weakened the US’ ability to deal with them, by undermining legitimate diplomacy, and increasing the need for Trump to act tough towards Russia even when it is not necessary.

          Here, I question how necessary this is. I think the narrative that Guaido is a strictly legitimate President is less solid than the US media treats it. There are constitutional issues going against him but the US press just takes it all at face value.

          If he is so legit then why the brass in the Venezuelan army just ignores the guy? That’s a serious question for a country that actually has a long history of quasi legitimate functioning democratic institutions, at least by contrast to some of its neighbors, and the notion that they are all just bribed by Maduro would not be a suffcient explanation.

          Maduro is a piece of garbage but I don’t see this conflict in the simple morality tale terms the administration is spinning out. Maybe we should just strengthen our ties with Brazil and Colombia and let the Venezuelan Chavistas continue to fail on their own.

          Need I remind, look how the Bay of Pigs turned out? Maybe patience is a better approach than provocations.

  7. Was it real?

    “While I happen to agree with him, I voted for him,…”

    Professor Turley told us in no uncertain terms that Obama had engaged in “executive overreach.” Sounds serious! What happened to the moral outrage and constitutional law enforcement?

    Was Professor Turley’s law suit real or a red-herring for purposes of negotiation?

    “Jonathan Turley: Obama Has Effectively Rewritten Laws, “He Has Crossed The Constitutional Line”

    STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Jonathan, let me bring you in now. We covered the explicitly political, let’s get to the legal then. Okay, the Speaker of the House is intent on suing the president of the United States. It’s unclear, apparently, from the remarks John Boehner made today from the information they put out exactly what the specific examples they are using here. Presidential overreach, executive orders they think sort of undercut Congress, but you know, you’ve been following this, their complaints for the last few years, really. Legally speaking, is there any kind of a case here?

    JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW: Oh, I think there is a case against the president for exceeding his authority. I happen to agree with the president on many of his priorities and policies, but as I testified in Congress, I think that he has crossed the constitutional line.

    KORNACKI: Where has he crossed it? Like what specific issue has he crossed it on?

    TURLEY: When the president went to Congress and said he would go it alone, it obviously raises a concern. There’s no license for going it alone in our system, and what he’s done, is very problematic. He has shifted $454 million of the ACA from appropriated purpose to another purpose. He’s told agencies not to enforce some laws, like immigration laws. He has effectively rewritten laws through the active interpretation that I find very problematic. While I happen to agree with him, I voted for him, I think this is a problem.

  8. guys the $2 million number was a pittance. The DPRK prints as many $100 US counterfeit bills like that on their advanced counterfeiting printing presses in a few minutes.

    clearly the whole Otto promise and reneging was face saving measure for both sides.

    It’s a small thing compared to the larger issues, however tragic. but don’t misunderstand it.

    They don’t want an extra 2 or twenty or 200 million; Kim is looking for bigger sums than that from all this negotiating. And if he denuclearizes and allows liberalization of the DPRK economy, he will get it.

  9. I don’t care what the US said in order to get Otto back before he died.

    What I do care about is that we not actually pay millions of dollars to the dictatorship that fatally abused him.

    1. Let the record show that a comment from L4D in reply to Karen S was deleted from this thread for the express purpose of protecting the delicate sensibilitiesof the sacred heifer of the Turley blawg.

      Exactly what is the relationship between the “S” in “Karen S” and the “S” in “Darren Smith”?????

  10. If Kim had half a brain he would have said money up front or no Otto. Trump played him like a Steinway piano. And do you seriously believe that the leader of any civilized country would think the US can’t be trusted because we didn’t cave to an extortion demand? Sorry, Professor. On this subject the world is a tuxedo and you’re a pair of brown shoes.

  11. the breaking of the agreement will be raised as to whether any agreement by the United States can be trusted.

    1. No ransom was paid.
    2. Can’t trust the United States government? Get in line.
    3. Don’t expect to be paid for torturing and killing our citizens; well perhaps with munitions.

    1. Olly,
      #4. Kim doesn’t seem interested in boosting tourism in North Korea. The Otto Warmbier case probably didn’t give N. Korea a positive boost if they want foreign $$$ from tourists who might have some notion visiting N.Korea.

  12. The $2 million wasn’t paid. Trump stiffed Supreme Dear Divine Leader Kim Jong Un aka “rocket man” who is complaining now. Itemized medical expenses included microwaving Otto’s brain. X-rays showed how much of Otto’s brain was missing.

  13. Was it paid, in cash, on a pallet, delivered on a secret plane, in the middle of the night?

  14. To date North Korea is not a country that can be negotiated with. They’ve been lying and reneging on negotiations with the U.S for decades…..this time they got a taste of their own medicine. It’s the only way terrorist nations like North Korea understand.

  15. Sorry, professor, I disagree strenuously! The fact that N. Korea presented the U.S. with a “bill” for medical services as a means to extort ransom for poor Otto, is not at all surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. If the president had refused to sign and Otto was kept in North Korea, we would all be claiming that he had put his own political welfare above that of this young man. Would you have done that, Professor? I doubt it. I think you would have done the same thing: “Sign whatever they want you to sign and get that boy home!” After he was safely on U.S. soil, you would have disavowed your signature as having been made under duress. I – and most Americans – would agree. It’s time to slay this paper tiger of “what other countries might think” and stand up for ourselves! Go Trump!

  16. Trump in his own words from “The Art of the Deal”:

    The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.

  17. “Now, former State Department Special Representative for North Korea Joseph Yun has confirmed that it was made clear to him that Trump personally approved the payment.”
    What Yun actually was quoted as saying is: “That was my understanding. I never asked him, but that was my understanding,” he said when asked if he believed Tillerson had Trump’s approval.

    Made clear by whom? Someone he didn’t ask?

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