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Trump uses brief comment on Navalny’s death to claim his own political persecution

Former President Donald Trump on Monday used his first direct comment on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death to complain about the alleged political persecution he claims he’s facing in his own legal battles.

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country,” Trump wrote on his social media platform, claiming that his political and court opponents, as well as judges in his cases, are “leading us down a path to destruction” in a “slow, steady progression.”

Trump’s primary challenger Nikki Haley has been blasting him for not commenting on Navalny’s death and not condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny had been a vocal critic of Putin and President Joe Biden immediately accused Putin of being responsible for the death.

Last night, Trump appeared to make a similarly compare himself to Navalny, sharing on Truth Social an opinion piece with a headline that said, “Biden:Trump::Putin:Navalny.”

PHOTO: Donald Trump takes the stage to introduce a new line of signature shoes at Sneaker Con at the Philadelphia Convention Center on February 17, 2024 in Philadelphia.

Donald Trump takes the stage to introduce a new line of signature shoes at Sneaker Con at the Philadelphia Convention Center on February 17, 2024 in Philadelphia.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Trump’s first direct — but brief — comment on Navalny’s death comes three days after it was announced — and he has yet to mention it on the campaign trail — neither during a brief news conference Friday evening, at his appearance at “SneakerCon” in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon nor at his rally in Michigan later that evening.

Instead, his campaign remarks over the weekend zeroed in on his own political and legal battles, including more than $350 million in penalties New York Judge Aurthur Engoron imposed on him in a civil fraud case in which Trump was accused of inflating values of his properties — the ruling coming out the same day Navalny’s death was revealed.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley looks down during a town hall meeting hosted by Fox News in Columbia, South Carolina, on February 18, 2024.

Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley looks down during a town hall meeting hosted by Fox News in Columbia, South Carolina, on February 18, 2024.

Sean Rayford/AFP via Getty Images

Haley, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, has been capitalizing on Navalny’s death as she ramps up her attacks on Trump ahead of their rematch in the South Carolina Republican primary, hitting the former president on his self-proclaimed close relationship with Putin.

“Either he sides with Putin and thinks it’s cool that Putin killed one of his political opponents, or he just doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Haley told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl on Sunday amid Trump’s silence on Navalny’s death. “Either one of those is concerning. Either one of those is a problem.”

Monday morning on “Fox and Friends,” Haley accused Trump of being “weak in the knees” when it comes to Putin, and called for Trump to announce plans to seize Russian assets.

“It’s amazing to me how weak in the knees he is when it comes to Putin,” Haley accused. “… He has yet to say anything about Navalny’s death — which Putin murdered him,”

“He’s yet to say anything about seizing Russian assets and allowing that money to go to Ukraine,” Haley continued. “Why would you not want to have those assets seized? It’s sitting in Congress; he should be calling for that. He doesn’t talk about anything. All he does is go on late night rants talking about his court cases.”

PHOTO: FILES-RUSSIA-POLITICS-NAVALNY-OBIT

(FILES) Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing at the Babushkinsky district court in Moscow on February 20, 2021. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison, Russian agencies announced on February 16, 2024.

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

On the campaign trail, Trump has boasted about his self-proclaimed positive relationship with the Russian leader, claiming the Russia-Ukraine war would not have happened under his presidency. He didn’t condemn Navalny’s poisoning in August 2020 while he was president, saying there was no proof.

Earlier this month, Trump received backlash for saying he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to a NATO ally of the United States that doesn’t pay what he called a “fair share” of defense funding. The Trump campaign defended his comment, saying Trump got U.S. allies to increase their NATO spending while accusing Biden of letting foreign allies “take advantage of the American taxpayer.”

The Trump campaign did not respond immediately to an ABC News request for comment.

ABC News’ Hannah Demissie and Nick Kerr contributed to this report.

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