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Congress Must be 'Alternative Voice for America in the World,' Says Sponsor of Otto Warmbier Bill

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), right, accompanied by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), left, speaks during a news conference to introduce legislation supporting NATO on Capitol Hill on Jan. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A freshman congressman from New Jersey said he’s been able to rally Republicans support for a resolution declaring that Congress blames North Korea’s dictator for the death of an American college student.

“I’ll be introducing a bipartisan resolution next week affirming that Congress holds Kim Jong Un responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier,” tweeted Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) today.

Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who visited the communist regime as part of a tour group, was seized by North Korean officials on Jan. 2, 2016, before his flight was supposed to take off from Pyongyang. When he was returned home to Ohio on June 13, 2017, Otto was in a coma. He died six days later. He suffered from brain damage from loss of blood flow to the brain, bore a scar from electric shock torture, had newly misaligned teeth, and his arms were “curled and mangled,” according to documents in the $501 million wrongful death lawsuit Otto’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, won in December against Kim’s regime.

At his Thursday press conference in Hanoi following the end of his brief summit with Kim, President Trump was asked if he had confronted the dictator about Warmbier’s death and asked him to take responsibility.

“Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places and bad things happened. But I really don’t believe that he was — I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump replied.

“He felt badly about it… he knew the case very well but he knew it later,” the president continued. “You got a lot of people, big country, and in those prisons and those camps you’ve got a lot of people. And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things. But he tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”

In a statement today, Fred and Cindy Warmbier said that they have been “respectful during this summit process,” but “now we must speak out.”

“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” they said. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”

Trump tweeted that he was “misinterpreted” and “of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death.”

“Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future,” he added. “I love Otto and think of him often!”

Malinowski, who was formerly assistant secretary of State for democracy and human rights and labor in the Obama administration, told MSNBC this evening that Trump “seems to instinctively side with powerful men who are accused of moral transgressions” and brought “more pain to a family that has suffered far too much pain.”

“And I think it’s just another case where the United States Congress has got to try to be an alternative voice for America in the world. Congress has to step up and say what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s true and what’s false,” he said. “And I’ve got to tell you, I’ve talked to a lot of my Republican colleagues in the last 48 hours, just on this issue, and they agree. This is something we’re going to be bipartisan on.”

The New Jersey Dem said lawmakers are “divided on so many things… but not a question like this.”

“This is so fundamental. And I think, again, it’s just important that when the president goes off and says something like this or fails to say the right thing on behalf of our country, that the Congress step up and do its duty together. And I think we will,” Malinowski said. “I think it’s a vote that stands up for what the United States believes in. Say what you want about President Trump, we need to speak for America.”