Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Thursday the Trump administration cannot be "naïve" about the "brutal nature" of Kim Jong Un's regime – and chided President Donald Trump for accepting the North Korean leader's claim he was unaware of the mistreatment of Ohio native Otto Warmbier.
"I want to make clear that we can never forget about Otto," Portman said on the Senate floor Thursday, The Hill reported.
"His treatment at the hands of his captors was unforgiveable and it tells us a lot about the nature of the regime," he said. "We can't be naïve about what they did to Otto, about the brutal nature of the regime that would do this to an American citizen."
Warmbier, 22, was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel during a 2016 visit to Pyongyang, and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He suffered devastating injuries and died shortly after being released from 17 months of detention.
"I don't believe he knew about it," Trump said after meeting with Kim in Vietnam for their second summit. "He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word."
Portman refuted the exoneration.
"I can't tell you specifically who was knowledgeable of it, but I would assume it goes straight to the top," he told The Hill, asserting Kim's regime are "human rights violators across the board."
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