Trump breaks silence on Navalny, casts no blame on Putin

February 20, 2024 6:37 am

[Source: Reuters]

Donald Trump, who drew criticism as U.S. president for his praise of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, made his first public comment on the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday in a social media post that cast no blame.

It was not clear what similarities Trump was trying to draw with Russia’s most prominent opposition leader. Navalny, 47, fought for years against what he called vast corruption in Putin’s Russia, ruled by “crooks and thieves.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

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Trump has railed against a judge’s order on Friday to pay $355 million in penalties for overstating his net worth to dupe lenders, a decision he called politically motivated. Trump also is preparing for four upcoming criminal trials as he pursues the Republican nomination.

President Joe Biden on Friday directly blamed Putin for Navalny’s death in a the penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, as did Trump’s main Republican rival, Nikki Haley. “Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” Biden said.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in his death and said that Western claims that Putin was responsible were unacceptable.

Since Navalny’s death was reported on Friday, former U.S. presidents and top members of Congress from both parties also denounced Putin.

But Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden in the November election, had remained silent until Monday.

During his 2017-2021 White House tenure, Trump expressed admiration for Putin. In 2018, he refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, casting doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies and sparking criticism at home.

Last week, he suggested the United States might not protect NATO allies who aren’t spending enough on defense from a potential Russian invasion.

Haley, the former South Carolina governor who will face Trump as an underdog in her home state’s presidential primary on Saturday, called his response on Monday unpatriotic.

Republican former U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, a vice chair of the congressional panel that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters, recalled Trump’s frequent promise to seek “retribution” against political opponents if he regains power.