Republican leaders are commending President Trump for walking away from a bad deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the conclusion of their summit in Vietnam. No deal is better than a bad deal, was the consensus.
"President Trump was right to walk away from a shallow, and potentially dangerous, deal that would have undermined the tremendous progress this Administration has made," GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement Thursday. "Should Kim Jong Un appreciate the opportunity for his country and reconsider his position, the President is prepared to reengage and make a deal that benefits not only the United States and the North Korean people, but the world. Until then, the international community must maintain strong sanctions pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime."
“President Trump is displaying leadership and courage by refusing to make a deal with Pyongyang that is not in America's best interest," House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney concurred.
Yet, Trump is not getting quite as much rousing support for comments he made about former North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier. Warmbier, 22, was an American student who was taken into North Korean custody three years ago for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel. The only "evidence" they had to go on was a grainy video. Warmbier was returned to the U.S. in June 2017, but died shortly thereafter. Doctors found evidence that he had been tortured. In December, the North Koreans were found liable for the young man's death and were ordered to pay millions to his parents.
Despite the evidence, at Thursday's press conference in Hanoi, Trump said he believes Kim Jong Un when he told him that he knew nothing about Warmbier's ordeal.
"He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word," the president noted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among those sounding off on Trump's remarks. Why, she wondered, is the commander in chief taking the words of a "thug?"
Pelosi on Trump's Otto Warmbier comments:— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 28, 2019
"The president has believed Putin as opposed to believing his own intelligence leadership ... It's strange. And I don't know, there's something wrong with Putin, Kim Jong Un – in my view, thugs – that the president chooses to believe." pic.twitter.com/6NKixaEZ2M
Former U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was among the growing number of Republicans trying to clear things up.
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
Former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was a bit more direct.
“This is reprehensible what he just did. He gave cover... to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier,” @RickSantorum says about Pres. Trump saying he believes Kim Jong Un’s claim he wasn't aware of the American student’s condition https://t.co/2JAkMvsnCI pic.twitter.com/kdGjff7N7r— CNN (@CNN) February 28, 2019