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In post about dead Russian opposition leader Navalny, Trump talks of his own legal problems

NEW YORK — More than 72 hours after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ‘s death in an Arctic penal colony, former President Donald Trump mentioned him by name for the first time in a post on his social media site that focused not on Navalny, but his own legal woes.

President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the 47-year-old’s death, responding with anger and demands for answers.

But Trump made no mention of Putin or Navalny’s family in the post Monday morning that instead cast himself as a victim and continued to paint the U.S. as a nation in decline.

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country,” he wrote. “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.”

A New York judge on Friday ordered Trump to pay $355 million in penalties in a civil fraud trial, finding the former president had inflated his wealth for years, scheming to dupe banks, insurers and others. Trump has also been criminally charged in four separate investigations, the first of which is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Trump’s post drew immediate denunciation from his rivals, including Nikki Haley, his last remaining challenger in the Republican nominating contest, who has been stepping up her criticism of the former president heading into Saturday’s South Carolina primary.

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

On Monday morning in Sumter, she further accused Trump of “siding with a thug” in Putin, whom she called “a dictator who killed his political opponents.”

Biden’s campaign posted on X, formerly Twitter, that after days of silence, Trump finally responded by comparing Navalny to himself in a “deranged social media post.”

Trump has been criticized for nearly a decade now for his refusal to denounce the Russian leader and his frequent complimentary statements.

As president, Trump drew outrage when he openly questioned his own intelligence agencies ’ finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to help him win, seeming to accept Putin’s insistence that Moscow’s hands were clean.

This month he again caused an uproar when he said he once warned a NATO ally that he “would encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries in the alliance that don’t spend enough on defense.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, has accused Putin of killing her husband in a remote prison and refusing to turn over his body as part of a cover-up.

Russian authorities have said Navalny’s cause of death Friday is still unknown and is the subject of a new investigation. Its findings are likely to be met with deep skepticism.

Trump’s reference to Navalny’s “sudden death” was notable.

Prison officials allegedly told Navalny’s mother when she arrived at the penal colony Saturday that her son had perished from “sudden death syndrome,” Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, wrote on X.

Navalny had been imprisoned since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating from a nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.


Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard contributed to this report from Sumter, South Carolina.

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