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Rick Santorum Slams 'Reprehensible' Trump Comments Trusting Kim Jong-un on Otto Warmbier

Grabien screenshot of Rick Santorum and John Berman on CNN.

On Thursday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) slammed President Donald Trump’s comments trusting North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on the matter of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died in a coma in June 2017 after suffering severe brain damage in a North Korea prison camp. Santorum has firmly supported Trump, but he had to attack the president over these comments.

Of Warmbier, Trump said, “I believe something bad happened to him. I don’t think the top leadership knew about it. He felt badly about it. He knew the case very well. But he knew it later. Got a lot of people. Big country.”

“This is the conundrum of Donald Trump for many of us who like his policies and don’t like a lot of things he does and says,” Santorum told CNN. “What he did in Hanoi was the right thing to do. He walked away from a bad deal. He hopefully saw this as a learning experience that the North Koreans can’t and shouldn’t be trusted. Not to criticize him for the summit, but the fact he walked away is, to me, a wonderful moment in his presidency.”

“But this — this is reprehensible what he just did,” Santorum added. “I mean, he gave cover, as you said, to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier. And again, I don’t understand why the president does this. I am disappointed, to say the least, that he did it.”

Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea in 2016, but he returned to the U.S. in June 2017. He died one week after returning to Ohio.

Trump’s comments trusting Kim on Otto Warmbier have been met with outrage from both the Left and the Right, but Santorum’s words on the matter seem particularly important. In 2012 Rick Santorum ran for president on many of the issues Trump would champion in 2016. While Santorum endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at first, he firmly defended Trump in the primary, endorsed Trump in May 2016, and has steadfastly defended the president after his election.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.