Negotiator Says Trump Was Correct, Kim Jong Un Likely Didn't Know About Otto Warmbier's Condition

One of the people responsible for securing Otto Warmbier's release sided with President Donald Trump in his belief that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un wasn't aware of the American's condition.

On Thursday, former Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper Mickey Bergman, who negotiated for Warmbier's release, told Fox & Friends First host Heather Childers that while Trump could have articulated his comments better, the crux of the statement was correct. He said what Trump likely meant to say was that Kim made an effort to tell the president that he didn't know what led to the 22-year-old's condition.

"I don't believe they had any interest in Otto getting to the condition that he did and evidence that I have for this is it's the only American prisoner to which it happened to," Bergman said. "That was an anomaly. Typically our prisoners and hostages and detainees get back more or less in one piece."

Bergman added that when Warmbier was returned to America, the negotiator's North Korean counterparts made a point to tell him that they were unaware of the 22-year-old's condition. He said they did so to ensure that Bergman didn't think they negotiated in bad faith because they valued the relationship between the two countries.

During a press conference after his meeting with Kim, Trump said he was taking the North Korean leader at his word in that he didn't know about how Warmbier was being treated. Trump added that he didn't believe Kim would have allowed it to happen because it wasn't advantageous for him.

kim jong un donald trump north korea otto warmbier
President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un pose for a photo before a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on Wednesday. One of the people responsible for securing Otto Warmbier’s release sided with Trump in his belief that Kim wasn’t aware of the American’s condition. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The comments were met with criticism from both sides of the aisle and Senator Rob Portman told NBC News that North Korea should never be let off the hook for what they did.

"Look, the blood of Otto Warmbier is on Kim Jong Un's hands," Republican Senator Cory Gardner told Bloomberg. "He's responsible for the death. There's no doubt in my mind about that."

Trump's former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also spoke out about the president's comment, although, she never mentioned him by name. On Twitter, she wrote that Americans "know the cruelty" the North Korean regime placed on Warmbier and added that he will never be forgotten.

Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime. Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their strength and courage. We will never forget Otto. ❤️🇺🇸

— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) February 28, 2019

Childers's conversation with Bergman was before many people publicly criticized Trump's comments. However, she predicted Americans would be shocked by the president's decision to absolve Kim, and that some may even call him naïve for believing the North Korean leader.

"I think there's a distinction here between not being aware that it happened to saying, 'This was not intentional, it was an incident, a mistake, somebody went rogue,' whatever happened there, which we don't know what happened," Bergman said. "The leader is saying this was not our intention."

Warmbier was imprisoned in North Korea in 2016 after being convicted of stealing a propaganda poster while in the country on a guided tour. When he was returned to the United States, in June 2017, he was in a coma and died only days after being reunited with his parents.

The North Korean regime offered no details as to how Warmbier came to be in a comatose state, and in April 2018, his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, filed a lawsuit against North Korea.

"Otto was taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un," Fred Warmbier said after filing the suit.

In December, a judge ordered North Korea to pay the family $500 million.