Trump Breaks Silence on Navalny Death, but Doesn’t Condemn Putin

Trump Breaks Silence on Navalny Death, but Doesn’t Condemn Putin

Days after the death of the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny was first reported, Donald J. Trump broke his silence in a social media post on Monday that barely mentioned Mr. Navalny and that did not condemn President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Instead, he used Mr. Navalny’s death to suggest that his own legal battles amounted to political persecution.

It was a note he hit first on Sunday, when he shared screenshots of an opinion essay that compared his relationship with President Biden to the one between Mr. Navalny and Mr. Putin.

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country,” the former president wrote on Truth Social on Monday, using an alternative spelling of Mr. Navalny’s given name. He pointed to what he called “CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction.”

But the winding social media post contained no reference to Mr. Putin, who has drawn widespread condemnation from politicians in the United States and abroad amid speculation that he or the Russian government had a hand in Mr. Navalny’s death. Instead, Mr. Trump cited “Open Borders, Rigged Elections, and Grossly Unfair Courtroom Decisions” in casting the U.S., in all capital letters, as a “nation in decline, a failing nation.”

Mr. Trump, who has been indicted in four criminal cases and is facing 91 felony counts, was ordered on Friday to pay about $450 million, after a New York judge found in his civil fraud case that he had conspired to manipulate his net worth. He has repeatedly tried to blame Mr. Biden for his legal problems, though Mr. Biden has no purview over the cases.

Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s rival in the Republican presidential primary and his former ambassador to the United Nations, attacked him over his response.

“Donald Trump could have condemned Vladimir Putin for being a murderous thug,” she wrote on Monday on the social media platform X. “Trump could have praised Navalny’s courage. Instead, he stole a page from liberals’ playbook, denouncing America and comparing our country to Russia.”

Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, has seized on Mr. Navalny’s death as a means to criticize Mr. Trump’s past remarks that praised Mr. Putin. She has called Mr. Navalny a “hero,” echoed claims that Mr. Putin had a hand in his death and said that Mr. Trump needed to “answer to that.”

The former president has a long history of complimenting Mr. Putin, calling him “pretty smart” even as Russia prepared to invade Ukraine. And he has at times favored the country over traditional U.S. allies, which Ms. Haley has sought to highlight. Shortly before Mr. Navalny died, Mr. Trump told voters in South Carolina that he would “encourage” Russia to attack NATO allies that failed to pay what they owed to the security alliance.

Mr. Navalny, who was one of Mr. Putin’s most vocal critics, was confirmed dead by his political allies on Saturday, after Russian officials said on Friday that he had died in a prison inside the Arctic Circle. Mr. Biden, addressing the news on Friday, said that while U.S. officials did not know the specifics surrounding Mr. Navalny’s death, he had “no doubt” that it “was a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did.”

Until Monday, Mr. Trump had not commented explicitly on Mr. Navalny’s death, instead issuing posts that cast the world as more dangerous during Mr. Biden’s time in office.

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