National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday morning that his “opinion doesn’t matter” when asked whether he takes North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at his word over the torture and death of American college student Otto Warmbier. Bolton also insisted that President Trump isn’t siding with dictators, instead saying Trump is just expressing his opinions.
During his press conference after the aborted second summit with Kim last week, Trump told reporters that he doesn’t believe that Kim would have allowed the torture of Warmbier ion prison, adding that the brutal dictator tells him “he didn’t know about it” and he’ll take him at his word. Days later, the Warmbier family released a damning statement making it clear they hold Kim responsible for their son’s death.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Bolton told anchor Jake Tapper that the president has “made it very clear” that the treatment of Warmbier was “an act of brutality that’s completely unacceptable to the American side.” He went on to say how much Trump cares about Otto Warmbier and his family and that the right thing for North Korea to do is give a “full accounting” of what happened and who is responsible.
“Do you take Kim Jong Un at his word?” Tapper asked, prompting Bolton to reply that the president does.
“I know he does. What about you?” Tapper pressed again.
“My opinion doesn’t matter,” Bolton shot back, leading the CNN host to remind him that he is a national security adviser to the president.
“I’m not the national security decisionmaker,” Bolton responded. “That’s his view.”
Tapper went on to ask Bolton whether he believed someone in the North Korean prison system “went rogue” and tortured Warmbier or if his knowledge of North Korea leads him to believe that Kim Jong Un must have known about Warmbier’s treatment.
“Nothing that happens in North Korea surprises me,” the national security adviser said/ “But I do think what North Korea would benefit from most is a full description of what happened. A full accounting.”
The State of the Union host pointed out that he doesn’t know one North Korean expert that believes that Kim would have full knowledge of Warmbier’s imprisonment and torture. Bolton dismissively replied “good for them” before complaining that the media seems to think he only comments from a distance on Trump, as if he were still a Fox News contributor.
Tapper then questioned Bolton on the president’s deference to dictators and autocrats, highlighting Trump’s panned Helsinki press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump taking the Saudi crown prince’s denials on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at face value.
“He’s not saying he’s siding with dictators,” Bolton said. “He has expressed his opinion about what they’ve said on these various points.”
Watch the clip above, via CNN.