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Trump compares Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's death to his own legal woes

Nikki Haley criticized her GOP presidential rival for refusing to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin following Navalny’s death.
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Former President Donald Trump on Monday compared the sudden death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a prison colony to the legal peril he faces in the United States, elevating a talking point in some right-wing circles linking the two in his first comments on Navalny’s death.

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “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.”

Trump's comments came after a judge who presided over a civil business fraud trial against the former president on Friday ordered him, his sons, business associates and his company to pay more than $350 million in damages. Trump also faces criminal liability in four separate jurisdictions after being charged for his effort to overturn the 2020 election, handling of classified documents and alleged hush payments to women.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the U.N. and lone remaining major candidate facing him in the GOP presidential primary, condemned Trump’s response to Navalny’s death. Haley criticized Trump repeatedly over the weekend for not mentioning Navalny’s death, which was reported Friday, and for recent comments in which Trump said he once told NATO allies he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” if those allies did not increase their defense spending.

“Donald Trump could have condemned [Russian President] Vladimir Putin for being a murderous thug,” Haley tweeted. “Trump could have praised Navalny’s courage. Instead, he stole a page from liberals’ playbook, denouncing America and comparing our country to Russia.”

Navalny’s death, which was announced by Russia’s prison service, followed his surviving several poisoning attempts, including one in 2020 in which he was poisoned with a military nerve agent during a business trip to Russia. Navalny, who crusaded for years on exposing corruption in Putin’s government, blamed the poisoning attempt on the Russian president. The Kremlin has denied involvement in the poisoning attempts and dismissed suggestions Putin was behind Navalny's death.

The Russian opposition leader, who spent his final years imprisoned, was 47. His death drew widespread condemnation from international leaders, including from President Joe Biden, who said he was “both not surprised and outraged.”

As president, Trump described Navalny’s poisoning as “tragic” and “terrible,” something that “shouldn’t happen.”

“We haven’t had any proof yet, but I will take a look,” he said at a Sept. 4, 2020, press briefing.

Asked who was responsible two weeks later, Trump said: “We’ll talk about that another time.”

Trump’s post echoed right-wing allies who have linked the former president and the Russia dissident in recent days.

“Navalnys death in prison is a brutal reminder that jailing your political opponents is inhumane and a violation of every principle of a free society,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Watch the Biden Administration speak out against Putin and his jailing of his leading political opponent while Democrats in four different jurisdictions try to turn President Trump into an American Navalny.”

“Navalny=Trump,” the right-wing activist Dinesh D’Souza posted. “The plan of the Biden regime and the Democrats is to ensure their leading political opponent dies in prison. There’s no real difference between the two cases.”

Last year, the U.S. State Department called the most recent “extremism” charges Navalny faced “unfounded,” while the United Nations said the 19-year sentence handed down as a result of them “raises further concerns about judicial harassment & political instrumentalization of the courts and comes amid an increasingly repressive crackdown on freedom of expression and political opposition.”