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Why it’s insane for Trump to compare himself to Russia’s Navalny

For years, Trump’s public indifference toward Navalny was outrageous. His sudden interest in presenting himself as a Navalny-like figure is worse.

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Zero. Over the course of his four years as president, Donald Trump was occasionally asked about Alexei Navalny, but it appears the Republican managed to go his entire term never having mentioned the Russian opposition leader’s name in public.

As a Washington Post analysis noted last week, after Navalny was poisoned, Trump was asked about a possible U.S. response. The then-president “riffed on how tough he had purportedly been on Russia and noted that there was no proof of Russia’s involvement. Asked whether he doubted Russian involvement, Trump said it was interesting that people kept asking him about Russia.”

Even after Navalny publicly urged the American leader to condemn the poisoning, Trump refused.

Four years later, the Republican is finally willing to acknowledge the fallen Russian leader’s existence. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the former president is referencing Navalny in the most demonstrably insane way possible.

On Monday morning, three days after the world learned of Navalny’s death, Trump briefly mentioned the Russian leader, but only as a launching point for a harangue complaining about the United States. It appeared at the time as if the presumptive GOP nominee was trying to draw some kind of parallel between himself Navalny.

A day later, Trump was less ambiguous. The Associated Press reported:

Appearing on a Fox News Channel town hall pre-taped before a live audience in Greenville, South Carolina, Trump bemoaned Navalny’s death, which President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have blamed on Putin. Trump then pivoted to himself, repeating his assertions that the prosecutions against him are driven by politics despite no evidence that Biden or the White House ordered them.

After describing Navalny’s death as “a very sad situation,” and calling the Russian dissident “a very brave guy,” Trump added, “[I]t’s a horrible thing, but it’s happening in our country, too.”

Referencing his many legal problems, including his recent civil penalty for business fraud in New York, the Republican went on to argue, “It is a form of Navalny.”

In other words, it took several years for Trump to even mention Navalny’s name out loud. Now, he’s willing to say the Russian’s name in public, but only to advance his own pitiful claims to being a victim of political persecution.

Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, it’s worth noting for context, did not ask the GOP candidate whether he held Putin responsible for Navalny’s death, and at no point in the discussion did Trump condemn Russia’s authoritarian leader.

To be sure, the former president isn’t the only one trying to draw a parallel between himself and Navalny. Assorted partisans — former Rep. Lee Zeldin, Dinesh D’Souza, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, et al. — have pushed the same nonsense since Friday morning.

But as we discussed the other day, the rhetoric is stark raving mad, and it’s made worse by Trump embracing the line with such enthusiasm.

Navalny was targeted for having the audacity to speak out against Putin’s authoritarian regime and try to offer the Russian people a better option. He was poisoned, tortured, prosecuted without cause, imprisoned without cause, and ultimately murdered.

Moscow saw Navalny’s voice as inconvenient, so Russian officials silenced it. They saw his opposition leadership as a threat to Putin’s authoritarian control, so they crushed it.

To see Trump as a comparable victim is simply bonkers. The Republican is facing multiple legal crises, not because of a Democratic plot, but because the former president is, for all intents and purposes, a career criminal who got caught. While the charges against Navalny were baseless, we know prosecutors have found credible evidence against Trump because the indictments and court filings have been made public and subjected to extensive scrutiny.

For years, Trump’s public indifference toward Navalny was outrageous. The former president’s sudden interest in presenting himself as a Navalny-like figure is worse.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.