PROMISE KEPT: TRUMP SIGNS VA REFORM BILL IN DEFENSE OF VETERANS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fulfilling another of his campaign promises, President Donald Trump on Friday signed Veterans Affairs reform legislation designed to protect whistle blowers who report inappropriate treatment of U.S. veterans.

“Veterans have fulfilled their duty to this nation and now, we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said as he signed the legislative order. “So to every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words, thank you.”

During a signing ceremony in the White House’s East Room, the president called it a “national disgrace” that many VA workers involved in mistreatment of veterans were allowed to remain in their roles and that the new law will make sure it “never happens again.”

“This is one of the largest reforms of the VA in its history,” Trump told an audience filled with veterans and their families.

The legislation speeds up the process for VA Secretary David Shulkin to terminate employees, regardless of rank, and permits the agency to rescind bonuses if an employee is convicted of a felony related to his or her duties. It also provides additional protection for whistle blowers who report ill care of mistreatment of veterans being cared for by the VA.

The bill was prompted by the 2014 scandal involving a Phoenix VA medical center where patients died while waiting for health care.

“What happened was a national disgrace and yet, some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said.

The House voted 368-55 last week to pass the new legislation before sending it to the president’s desk.

Despite overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill, which was approved by the Senate earlier this month, critics of the legislation have likened the order to a “witch hunt”.

“When poor performers are not dealt with it is not because the civil service laws or procedures are too difficult to utilize. It is because managers do not want to put forward the effort to properly document poor performance so that they can remove or demote these people,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. told the Senate.

Despite the criticism, the president called the legislation a “new day” for veterans.

“Veterans were put on secret wait lists, given the wrong medication, given the bad treatments, and ignored in moments of crisis for them. Many veterans died waiting for a simple doctor’s appointment,” said Trump. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable.”

“Today,” he added, “we are finally changing those laws.”

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‘MAYBE IT’S TIME’: HOLLYWOOD ACTOR JOHNNY DEPP UNDER FIRE FOR CALLING FOR TRUMP’S ASSASSINATION

LOS ANGELES, CA — Hollywood star Johnny Depp is under fire for remarks he made during an appearance in England to promote a film, during which he called for the assassination of American president Donald Trump.

Depp, who was appearing at a theater in Glastonbury, England to introduce his 2004 film “The Libertine”, began discussing the last time a president was assassinated in a theater, reports The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jun/23/johnny-depp-jokes-about-killing-trump-in-glastonbury-appearance?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter).

“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” Depp asked, referencing John Wilkes Booth assassination of Republican President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

“I want to clarify, I am not an actor. I lie for a living,” Depp said. “However, it has been a while and maybe it is time.”

Depp’s comments come just one week after the politically-motivated shooting of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise by self proclaimed “anti-Republican activist” James “Tom” Hodgkinson.

In a statement, a spokesperson for President Trump condemned Depp’s comments calling them “sad”.

“President Trump has condemned violence in all forms and its sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead,” the statement reads. “I hope that some of Mr. Depp’s colleagues will speak out against this type of rhetoric as strongly as they would if his comments were directed to a democrat elected official.”

When reached for comment, a representative for the Secret Service said the agency has been made aware of Depp’s comments and confirmed that they are investigating.

“The Secret Service is aware of the Mr. Depp’s comments. For operational security reasons, we do not discuss specifically or in general terms the means and methods of how we conduct our protective responsibilities,” the spokesperson said.

Depp’s comments are the latest in a string of controversial statements by Hollywood celebrities that have called for the death of President Trump.

Earlier this month, comedian Kathy Griffin faced a wave of backlash after being photographed holding up a replica of the president’s bloody, severed head. The incident led to a boycott of Griffin’s shows and venues across the country cancelled her upcoming appearances. Many of Griffin’s sponsors also dropped her as a direct result of the controversy.

“Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself,” the president wrote on Twitter. “My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

Facing similar backlash, Depp issued a statement on Friday apologizing for his comments in an effort to calm the controversy.

“I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump,” Depp told People Magazine (http://people.com/politics/johnny-depp-apologizes-for-comments-about-president-trump/. “It did not come out as intended, and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone.”

Despite Depp’s atonement, calls have surfaced on social media for an immediate boycott of Depp’s movies and for the actor to be fired from Disney, the company that produces his films.

“@Disney Do you support Johnny Depp’s statement “when was the last time an actor assassinated a President?” After shooting just days ago?” one Twitter user asked the entertainment giant?

So far, there has been no official response from Disney over the controversy.

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‘I’M GLAD HE GOT SHOT’: DEM OFFICIAL CAUGHT ON TAPE PRAISING SCALISE SHOOTING

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A top Democratic official has been removed from his position after a tape surfaced on Thursday in which the official can be heard praising the Alexandria shooting.

Phil Montag, who served as the Nebraska Democratic Party’s co-chair of it’s technology committee, can be heard on the recording saying he wishes Steve Scalise, (R-La.,) who was shot last week by an anti-Republican activist during a charity baseball event practice, were “dead.”

“His whole job is to get people, convince Republicans to [expletive] kick people off [expletive] health care. I’m glad he got shot,” Montag said in the audio recording. “I wish he was [expletive] dead.”

The audio, which was posted to YouTube and quickly went viral (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-CKb3vQsi0), has been verified by Nebraska Democratic Chairwoman Jane Kleeb as authentic (http://fox42kptm.com/news/local/nebraska-democratic-party-official-ousted-after-controversial-audio-recording-surfaces).

“We obviously condemn any kind of violence whether it’s comments on Facebook or comments in a meeting,” Kleeb said in a statement after announcing her decision to let Montag go. “Our country is better than the political rhetoric that is out there from both the far right and the far left.”

Montag, in defense of his comments, claims the recording had been manipulated in an effort to take his words out of context.

“I did not call for the congressman’s death,” Montag told the World-Herald. “Like every decent American I am saddened and horrified by the shooting of Congressman Scalise,” he said. “I do not and did not wish for his death. I am hopeful that the entirety of the original, unedited recording will emerge so we can get to the truth of the matter.”

The audio was recorded during a private meeting with the Democrat party’s Black Caucus chairwoman, Chelsey Gentry-Tipton, who is also under fire for saying she found the “trauma” the victims went through during the shooting “funny”.

On a Facebook post written the day of the shooting, Gentry-Tipton wrote:
“Hard to be empathetic towards those that have no empathy for us. The very people that push pro NRA legislation in efforts to pad their pockets with complete disregard for human life. Yeah, having a hard time feeling bad for them.”

In a separate post, Gentry-Tipton added: ‘Watching the congressman crying on live tv abt the trauma they experienced. Y is this so funny tho?”

After intense backlash, Gentry-Tipton too said her comments were taken out of context and claimed no wrong doing. “I don’t condone or find the humor in what happened,” she said in her own defense.

In response to Montag’s comments, Kleeb said the audio is what it is and rebuffed claims that the audio had been altered.

“I’m not interested in the back and forth of Chelsey’s or Phil’s excuses for their comments,” said Montag. “We move forward, continuing to do the work at hand.”

Unlike Montag, Gentry-Tipton is refusing to apologize and says she will not resign over the controversy. Kleeb says her hands are tied in regard to Gentry-Tipton as Montag was appointed and Gentry-Tipton was elected.

“Wishing a Member of Congress or any individual dead is disgusting and has no place in our party,” Kleeb told the World-Herald (http://www.omaha.com/news/politics/state-democratic-party-chair-removes-official-after-offensive-remarks-about/article_d9157d0e-5781-11e7-b24c-e34cfa0fe0c0.html).

Scalise, 51, has represented Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District since 2008. He is married with two children. He is currently still hospitalized as he recovers from the gunshot wounds sustained in the attack.

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REPORT: 1.4 MILLION ILLEGALS WORKING UNDER STOLEN SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As president Donald Trump continues his battle to secure the nation’s border, a new assessment suggests the problem with illegal immigration may be even worse than previously thought.

A report published by the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday documents that as many as 1.4 million illegal immigrants may be working in the United States under stolen or fraudulent social security numbers (https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2017reports/201740031fr.pdf).

Even more disturbing, the IRS only managed to identify approximately half of the people impacted by the fraud during the 2015 tax year, the Treasury Inspector General declared in his report.

“Cases of employment identity theft can cause significant burden to innocent taxpayers, including the incorrect computation of taxes based on income that does not belong to them,” said J. Russell George, the inspector general.

During a 2015 audit (http://oig.ssa.gov/sites/default/files/audit/summary/pdf/Summary%2034030.pdf) the Inspector General found there were 6.5 million U.S. Social Security Numbers (SSN) for persons 112 years or older on the active Social Security roster. Given that there are estimated to be only 35 people age 112 years or older on the planet, the audit confirmed that the Social Security Administration was actively paying fraudulent claims for dead people each month and enabling tens of “thousands of instances of potential identity theft.”

The report comes as president Donald Trump continues his efforts to build a wall separating the southern United States from Mexico, a plan that his Democratic rivals claim is driven by racism.

A February 2017 report by The Los Angeles Times suggested that as many as many as eight million illegal alien currently living in the U.S. could qualify for deportation under President Donald Trump’s immigration plan (http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-deportations-20170204-story.html).

Ronald Mortensen, in a report for the Center for Immigration Studies (http://cis.org/mortensen/president-trumps-executive-order-puts-americans-first-least-75-illegal-aliens-eligible-deportation), claimed that, if enforced, Trump’s immigration reform efforts could lead to the deportation of some 75 percent of the country’s illegal alien population.

In his report, Mortensen argued that pro-immigrant claims of illegal aliens paying into the Social Security system are null and void based on findings that many are earning income through fraudulently obtained Social Security numbers, which are often times stolen from unsuspecting American citizens.

“So, until President Trump issued E.O. 13768, the career politicians that he replaced had consistently put illegal aliens first and deliberately ignored the terrible harm done to the American men, women, and children whose Social Security numbers are stolen,” Mortensen wrote.

“Rather than protecting Americans, career politicians and their business, media, and faith-based allies stood by as the medical records of innocent children were corrupted by illegal aliens using their Social Security numbers, with life-threatening consequences,” Mortensen continued. “They did nothing as their constituents’ and neighbors’ credit records were destroyed by illegal aliens and as the arrest records of illegal aliens were attached to the stolen Social Security numbers of hard-working Americans.”

Trump’s immigration reform plain is in major contrast to that of former President Obama’s where only about 1.4 million illegal aliens were considered qualified for deportation.

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‘NOT ENOUGH’: EMBATTLED HEALTH CARE BILL ON LIFE SUPPORT AS ‘GANG OF 4’ OPPOSE PASSAGE

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The embattled Republican health care plan faced a serious setback on Thursday as four key Republican leaders again came out in opposition of the bill.

Senators Rand Paul, (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), Mike Lee, (R-Utah), and Ron Johnson, (R-Wis.), told the press Thursday morning that they intend to contest the Senate Republican plan in its current form.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” the foursome said in a released statement. “There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system but it does not appear this draft, as written, will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal ObamaCare and lower their health care costs.”

Paul, who holds a unique perspective on the plan being a physician himself, has been exceptionally vocal in his disapproval of key elements of the bill, particularly refundable tax credits, and has taken his issues with the bill in it’s current form to the president himself.

““I told him, part of my problem is it still looks too much like Obamacare for me,” Paul told The Washington Examiner (http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/22/rand-paul-ted-cruz-mike-lee-and-ron-johnson-oppose/).

“My hope is not to defeat the bill, but to make the bill better,” Paul told a group of waiting reporters in DC. “Now the discussions begin — I think it could take longer than a week.”

Cruz and Lee say their main issue with the bill as written is that it does not do enough to lower premiums for Americans.

“As currently drafted, this bill draft does not do nearly enough to lower premiums. That should be the central issue for Republicans — repealing Obamacare and making health care more affordable,” said Cruz. “It is important to remember that what was released today was only a draft,” he said. “I am hopeful that as we openly debate this legislation, real improvements will be made prior to floor consideration so that we can pass a bill that provides the relief from Obamacare that Republicans have repeatedly promised the last seven years.”

As for Johnson, the Minnesota native says he opposes what he calls the “secretive” drafting process and worries that the Senate might be rushing to a vote.

“I’ve got to talk to the governor, to our state legislators, to doctors, to nurse, to health care providers, to hospitals — and we actually have to get the information we don’t have yet,” he said.

In it’s current state, the bill repeals key components of the original ObamaCare plan but has managed to cut some of the “crucial” spending that conservatives have fought for, primarily a cut to Planned Parenthood funding.

Senate GOP leaders hold a 52-seat majority, so they cannot afford to lose more than two votes. Doing so will most certainly lead to a Democratic filibuster on the bill.

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TRUMP: ‘NO TAPES ‘: PRESIDENT DENIES EXISTENCE OF COMEY RECORDINGS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to deny the existence of audio recordings between he and ousted former FBI director James Comey.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information,” Trump tweeted he has “no idea” whether or not “tapes” or recordings of the two men’s conversations exist, but said he “did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

The clarification was in follow up to a tweet the president sent out several weeks ago after Comey went public with claims that he was pressured by Trump to pull back on the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s dealings with a Russian diplomat.

“Better hope that there are no `tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” Trump tweeted the day after Comey’s claim.

Comey responded by saying that if tapes do exist he’s certain they would back up his version of events. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey declared while testifying before the House intelligence committee.

Since then, the president has played coy as to whether or not the illusive tapes actually exist.

Two weeks ago during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Trump teased the press by saying that they’d get their answer “maybe sometime in the very near future.”

“You are going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer,” he added.

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said Wednesday that an answer would be provided this week, presumably by the Friday deadline set by the House intelligence committee for turning over any tapes.

The House intelligence committee assigned to look into whether Russia played any role in interfering with the 2016 presidential election asked White House counsel Don McGahn to clarify the existence of the tapes by Friday. The president’s statement on Thursday seems to have done just that.

Per the Presidential Records Act, a law passed in response to the controversy surrounding Watergate, recordings made by presidents belong to the people and must be preserved. Destruction of the Comey tapes, if they ever existed, would be a violation of federal law.

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WILL ‘THE JUICE’ BE SET LOOSE? OJ SIMPSON PAROLE HEARING SET FOR JULY

LOVELOCK, NV — A parole hearing to determine whether or not O.J. Simpson will soon again become a free man has been scheduled for July.

According to a spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Corrections, Simpson, who is serving a nine-to-33-year sentence for kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, will face a parole board on July 20.

Simpson was convicted of the multiple felonies after prosecutors say he tried to steal pieces of his own sports memorabilia from a collector at gunpoint. During his 2008 sentencing hearing, Simpson claimed he was trying to take back family heirlooms and other personal items that had been stolen from him and that he did not know the associates who accompanied him during the heist were armed.

Aside from his history as a former football star and B-list movie actor, Simpson is best known for being accused of viciously murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown- Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman outside Brown-Simpson’s Los Angeles condo on June 12, 1994.

The subsequent trial, dubbed at the time as “the trial of the century” turned into what many legal analysts referred to as a “media circus” as Simpson’s defense team worked to distract jurors from what prosecutors claimed was a “mountain of evidence” by focusing on race relations within the city that were still simmering after the L.A. riots.

The parole board is expected to consider several factors in deciding whether to release Simpson, Nevada defense attorney Dan Hill told CNN.

“Simpson’s age, the fact that he was given parole on the first sentencing batch, weigh in his favor,” Hill said. “So does the fact that he was by all accounts a model prisoner, as does any acceptance of responsibility for his actions.”

Simpson, who will turn 70 in July, was acquitted in the double murders of Brown and Goldman, but was later found responsible for the killings by a civil jury. He is currently being held at Lovelock Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in the Nevada desert.

If granted parole, the former Heisman trophy winner will be released in October. If denied, commissioners will decide Simpson’s fate at the next parole board meeting, which could be as many as five years away.

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‘ALLAHU AKBAR’: STABBING OF OFFICER AT FLINT AIRPORT EYED AS TERROR

FLINT, MICHIGAN — The Wednesday stabbing of a police officer at a Flint, Michigan airport is being investigated as a terror attack amid claims by witnesses that the assailant screamed “allahu akbar” just prior to attack.

According to a FBI spokesperson, Amor Ftouhi, a 50-year-old citizen of Canada, entered Bishop International Airport in Flint around 9:45 a.m., dropped his bags and began ranting about people being killed in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The suspect then began screaming “allahu akbar”, Arabic for “God is great,” before witnesses say he pulled out a knife and began stabbing Officer Jeff Neville in the neck.

FBI Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios said at a news conference following the incident that Ftouhi shouted “you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die” as he was being arrested.

Police confiscated a 12-inch knife with an 8-inch serrated blade covered in blood from the scene.

According to Gelios, Ftouhi was motivated by “hatred of the United States” and there is no evidence thus far to indicate that the attack was part of a larger plot.

Canadian Embassy spokesperson Christine Constantin condemned the attack in a statement shortly after the incident as a “heinous and cowardly act,” and added “our thoughts and sympathies are with the officer and his loved ones.”

Ken Brown, a witness to the attack, told The Flint Journal (http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2017/06/man_stabs_police_officer_in_ne.html#incart_2box_news_flint) that he was at the airport to drop off his daughter when he saw the officer covered in blood.

“The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck,” said Brown, who says he called for a towel to absorb the flowing blood.

Neville is a lieutenant with the airport’s police department and is expected to make a full recovery.

In a statement released on Twitter, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder asked Americans to “keep the attacked officer in your thoughts and prayers.”

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‘WE BEAT HIS OSSOFF!’: PRESIDENT BLAMES DNC CANDIDATE’S GEORGIA LOSS TO DEMOCRATS’ ‘OBSTRUCTION’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump took to social media on Tuesday night to congratulate Republican candidate Karen Handel on her devastating upset over Democratic rival Jon Ossoff in Tuesday’s 6th District race in Georgia.

In his comments, the president said Democrats have only themselves to blame for their recent string of losses and said it all comes down to what he called their history of “obstruction”.

“Democrats would do much better as a party if they got together with Republicans on Health Care, Tax Cuts, Security. Obstruction doesn’t work!” Trump tweeted.

In a separate tweet, the president took a swing at the mainstream media, touting what he called another blow to “fake news”.

“Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and 0!” Trump tweeted late Tuesday. “All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0,” he wrote

Handel’s win over Democrat favorite Jon Ossoff follows a slew of Republican wins in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina.

“Republicans are going to get tired of winning if the Democrats don’t get an agenda,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News in response to the recent victories.

The Georgia race was one that Democrats had touted as an easy win amid what they called “a mounting resistance against President Donald Trump”. But in the end, despite the tens of millions of dollars in donations – Ossoff raised more than $23 million compared to underdog Handel’s $4.5 million – and Hollywood support that flowed into Ossoff’s campaign, voters proved that claim otherwise.

“We beat his Ossoff,” said one Handel supporter after Tuesday night’s victory. “The golden boy didn’t know what hit him!”

In its comments following the election, the RNC said Handel’s win was not only a victory for the state of Georgia, but for those who support president Trump and his “America first” agenda.

“Tonight, the people of Georgia’s 6th District overwhelmingly voted not only for Karen, but also for President Trump’s agenda of replacing our broken health care system, reforming an outdated tax code, and prioritizing infrastructure investment,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “For the fourth time since November, voters have rejected the Democrat’s agenda of obstruction and made it clear it’s time get to work for the American people and join President Trump’s administration in Making America Great Again.”

For their parts, Democratic leaders seem to be coming to terms with the fact that their party is in trouble.

“Race better be a wake up call for Democrats — business as usual isn’t working,” tweeted Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). “Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future.”

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BREAKING: OTTO WARMBIER DEAD AT 22

CINCINNATI, OH — Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old Ohio college student who was held in North Korea for 17 months before being released just last Tuesday, has died.

Warmbier suffered a devastating brain injury while being held prisoner and was in an unresponsive state when released by North Korean officials and flown home to the United States.

On Monday, his family paid tribute to Warmbier in a statement.

“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost — future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds,” the family’s statement continues. “But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched — Wyoming, Ohio, and the University of Virginia to name just two — that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.”

The family also thanked “the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto.”

In a statement, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called Warmbier a “promising young man.”

“He was kind, generous and accomplished,” Portman said. “He had all the talent you could ever ask for and a bright future ahead of him. His passing today is a loss for Ohio and for all of us. Jane and I are lifting up the Warmbier family in our prayers at this difficult time, and we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this remarkable young Ohioan.”

In a statement from The White House,  President Donald Trump sent his condolences to Warmbier’s family and condemned the North Korean regime.

 

“Melania and I offer our deepest condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his untimely passing,” said the president. “There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Otto’s family and friends, and all who loved him.

“Otto’s fate deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.  The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said late Monday that the United States holds North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un directly accountable for Warbier’s death.

“We hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained,” said Tillerson.

Warmbier had gone to North Korea as a tourist on his way to Hong Kong for a study abroad program, but was stopped when he tried to leave the country. At trial, North Korean officials accused him of trying to steal a poster as he left the country.  He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

The North Korean government says it played no role in Warbier’s death and says the student fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill in March 2016.  US doctors say they found no evidence to back up these claims.

 

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