The family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent-turned-private-contractor who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago while purportedly on a mission for the CIA, announced Wednesday that they believe he is dead.
In a statement given to CNN, Levinson's family said it received information from "US officials" that has "led them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody."
Though they don't know when or how it happened, the family claimed that Levinson had passed before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
"We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody. We don't know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic," they said in a statement.
"It is impossible to describe our pain," the family said. "Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us. His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them."
"Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done. We will spend the rest of our lives making sure of this, and the Iranian regime must know we will not be going away. We expect American officials, as well as officials around the world, to continue to press Iran to seek Bob's return, and to ensure those Iranian officials involved are held accountable," they said.
In their statement, the family thanked President Trump and several members of his administration, including National Security Advisor Robert C. O'Brien, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, as well as their staff - who have done "all they could to make our family whole again."
"Our family also wishes to thank Congressman Ted Deutch, Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Bob Menendez, and their staff members, who fought for Bob Levinson in every possible way," they added.
"Bob Levinson was a truly remarkable individual - the best husband, father, brother, grandfather and friend anyone could ever ask for. He was an American hero - a true patriot, and his compassion and kindness knew no bounds," the family said. "We will miss his warmth, humor, and wisdom, but most of all, we will miss the deep and unconditional love he had for each one of us. He will never be forgotten - we will make sure of it."
The statement is signed by "Christine, Susan, Stephanie, Sarah, Daniel, David, Samantha, and Douglas, and the entire extended Levinson family."
During Trump's Wednesday night press conference, President Trump refused to accept that Levinson is dead, but added that "it's not looking good."
Asked about Bob Levinson's family saying they've been told he died, Trump says, "It's not looking good. He wasn't well for years...it's not looking promising." He's speaking of Levinson partly in the past tense, partly in the present, but says he doesn't accept Levinson is dead.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 25, 2020
Levinson disappeared in March while traveling to Kish Island, in Iran. It's widely believed he was kidnapped by Iranian intelligence to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations, though the Iranian regime never publicly accepted responsibility.