Lawmaker reconsiders resolution blaming North Korea's Kim Jong Un for Otto Warmbier's death

Trump said he believed Kim’s denial of complicity in the death of Warmbier.

March 4, 2019, 5:23 PM

Congress was preparing to go on the record to affirm that it holds North Korea's Kim Jong Un responsible for the 2017 death of American college student Otto Warmbier, but the congressman who was planning to introduce a resolution on the subject is now dropping the bid at the Warmbier family's request.

Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., announced Friday his plans to introduce a resolution sometime this week.

But after hearing from the Warmbier family, the freshman congressman reconsidered and will not submit the measure for consideration.

"The family ultimately decided they did not want the resolution to go forward, and we are respecting their wishes," Malinowski spokeswoman Amanda Osborne told ABC News.

A representative for the Warmbier family did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Sates Tom Malinowski speaks during a press conference at U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 19, 2016.
Heng Sinith/AP, FILE

Malinowski's intent to draft the resolution came after President Donald Trump met with Kim at a summit in Vietnam last week. During a press conference after the summit ended, Trump said he believed Kim’s denial of complicity in the death of Warmbier, who was imprisoned for about 17 months before he was released while in a vegetative state. Upon his return to the United States, Warmbier was taken off life support.

"I really believe something very bad happened to [Warmbier], and I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it," Trump said Feb. 28. "I did speak about it, and I don’t believe that [Kim] would’ve allowed that to happen. [It] just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen. Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places, and bad things happened.

"He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word."

President Donald Trump gives a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Feb. 28, 2019, in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Evan Vucci/AP

Trump's comments generated a firestorm of disbelief and criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill and from the Warmbier family. Trump tweeted a clarification on Friday that he was "misinterpreted" and "of course I hold North Korea responsible."

Malinowski conducted at least two national interviews on his prospective resolution, telling MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Saturday that Trump was "disgraceful" and that his comments are "part of a disgraceful pattern."

"He seems to instinctively side with powerful men who are accused of moral transgressions," said Malinowski, who served as assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor during the Obama administration. "The United States Congress has got to try to be an alternative voice for America in the world. Congress has got to step up and say what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s true and what’s false."

Trump has taken the word of a foreign adversary on contentious matters of national security on multiple occasions. He stood by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki, Finland to accept the former KGB officer’s word over the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment when Putin denied interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump also publicly discounted an assessment that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was complicit in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, one of Trump’s biggest allies on Capitol Hill, said Thursday that while he supports Trump’s effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, "I do not have a misbelief of who this leader is."

"I mean, I think Kim knew what happened, which was wrong," McCarthy told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday. "That's why when we passed sanctions, we named it after Otto Warmbier, that's why the president kept those sanctions in place."

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