Josh Dawsey at WP:
President Trump on Thursday defended North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, whose family says he was “brutally tortured” while imprisoned in North Korea and died in 2017 after being flown back to United States in a coma.
The president condemned the “brutality of the North Korean regime” following Warmbier’s death at 22 years old, but he took a softer stance toward Kim at the conclusion of their second summit.
“I don't believe he would have allowed that to happen,” Trump said. “It just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen.”
Trump said that he spoke to Kim about the death of Warmbier — whose family has called it a murder — and that Kim “feels badly about it.” He said the North Korea leader, who rules the country with an iron grip, knew about the case but learned about it only after the fact because, Trump suggested, “top leadership” might not have been involved.
“He tells me he didn't know about it, and I take him at his word,” Trump said.
Trump’s defense of Kim mirrors his willingness to take the word of autocrats in other cases despite the findings of his own government or experts, particularly when confronting the leader is not what Trump sees as in his political interest.