Trump finally breaks silence on Navalny’s death – to claim himself a victim of America’s ‘path to destruction’

Republican front-runner compares United States to Putin’s Russia in self-serving post about Alexei Navalny, who died on Friday in an Arctic jail

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 20 February 2024 09:12 GMT
Related: Alexei Navalny’s courage ‘will not be forgotten’, says Joe Biden

Donald Trump has finally commented on the death of Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny – to draw a self-serving and unlikely comparison with his own legal plight.

Rather than blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for the highly suspicious death of Navalny in an Arctic prison camp on Friday, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination wrote on Truth Social: “The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country.

“It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction.

“Open Borders, Rigged Elections, and Grossly Unfair Courtroom Decisions are DESTROYING AMERICA. WE ARE A NATION IN DECLINE, A FAILING NATION! MAGA2024.”

The former American president is vying for a return to the White House with four criminal indictments and 91 felony charges hanging over his head.

On the same day as Navalny’s death, he was also ordered by a judge in New York to pay more than $350m in damages in a civil fraud trial.

Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing on every count and has persistently and angrily insisted on social media and at his rallies that the cases against him are part of a giant conspiracy being orchestrated by President Joe Biden and his many enemies to stop him securing a belated second term in the Oval Office come November.

The candidate has failed to produce any evidence to substantiate his baseless claims of endemic corruption, but that has not stopped him using his court dates as opportunities for grandstanding, self-promotion and lucrative campaign fundraising.

Mr Trump appears to have succeeded, so far, in convincing his army of loyal supporters that he is genuinely being persecuted by President Biden’s administration, rather than simply facing the inevitable legal consequences of his actions – a narrative he mounted after his defeat in the 2020 election, which resulted in the failed insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.

Alexei Navalny (AP)

His self-serving comments using Navalny’s death to paint himself as a victim come three days after the news broke – with the former president coming under fire for failing to address the matter sooner.

By contrast, Mr Biden called a press conference on Friday morning where he paid an emotional tribute to Navalny, saying that he “bravely stood up to the corruption, the violence and all the bad things that Putin’s government was doing”.

“In response, Putin had him poisoned. He had him arrested and prosecuted for fabricated crimes [then]... sent to prison and held in isolation,” the president continued, adding that it was “kind of amazing” that Navalny kept up his criticism of the dictator from behind bars.

“Even in prison, he was a powerful voice for the truth.”

On Navalny’s brave decision to return to Russia after he was poisoned on a domestic flight in August 2020 and taken to Germany for treatment, Mr Biden said that the activist knew all too well what was likely to happen to him but “did it anyway, because he believed so deeply in his country and Russia”.

He concluded: “Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. What happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality.”

Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also joined world leaders in paying respects to the imprisoned dissident while attending the Munich Security Conference on Friday, stating unequivocally: “Russia is responsible.”

Mr Trump’s last remaining rival for the Republican nomination, his own former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, also put out a statement on Friday blasting the former president’s failure to speak out, saying her opponent “continues to side with Vladimir Putin – a man who kills his political opponents, holds American journalists hostage, and has never hidden his desire to destroy America”.

“Trump continues to side with Putin over our allies and our military service members,” she added.

Earlier in the week, Mr Trump came under fire after he threatened to let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” to any of America’s Nato allies that fail to pay defence contributions to the military alliance, should he return to the White House.

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