Trump Comparing Himself to Alexei Navalny Is Ghoulish BS

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

It’s a form of Navalny.” That line—in case you didn’t tune in to Laura Ingraham’s interview with Donald Trump this week—was the former president’s attempt to explain why he has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars in civil trials and is facing four separate criminal cases

Trump’s bad acting is not a form of Navalny, but his attempt to pretend otherwise is a form of bullshit. Alexei Navalny, who died in a Russian prison last week for the sin of having been Vladimir Putin’s political opponent, courageously returned to Russia fully knowing he would be jailed and possibly killed there. So, yeah. Trump’s plight is exactly like Navalny’s. Not.

This bogus analogy is yet another sign of Trump’s obsessive self-centeredness. Seriously, Navalny dies, and Trump’s only thought is how it relates to him? It’s also the latest example of Trump’s perennial gaslighting of the public; he paints himself as a victim of anything and everything to galvanize his base.

Trump Can’t Stop Comparing Himself to Alexei Navalny

I won’t bore you with an exhaustive retelling of how Trump casts himself as a sainted victim, while simultaneously projecting his sins onto the righteous—but a quick refresher on a few of Trump’s “greatest hits” is in order.

After the media coined the term “fake news” to describe Macedonian teenagers who were writing fake pro-Trump posts on social media in 2016, Trump weaponized that term into an attack on the fourth estate.

When his Democratic opponent raised questions about his fitness for office, Trump asserted that: “Unstable Hillary Clinton, lacks the judgment, temperament and moral character to lead this country…” Later in 2019, Trump made the audacious claim that Russia wanted Clinton to win in 2016.

Fast-forward to the 2020 election. Not only did Trump attempt to steal an election, but he did so based on the false premise that Joe Biden was trying to steal the election. Then, after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Trump referred to detained rioters as “hostages.”

And as we head into the 2024 election, Trump is now asserting that Biden is the one who presents the real threat to democracy—a message he had been floating for a while.

This brings us back to Trump’s attempt to cast himself as Navalny. It is a devious, even despicable, ploy. But he didn’t come up with it all by himself.

“Navalny=Trump,” right-wing activist Dinesh D’Souza posted on X, after Navalny’s death was revealed. “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.” A little later, former GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin made a similar point.

It takes a village (or at least a village idiot) to invent such an audacious comparison. Nevertheless, this propaganda eventually wound its way to Trump, where he invoked the now-infamous “It’s a form of Navalny” line on Fox News this past Tuesday. (Which echoed a similarly solipsistic message he posted Monday on Truth Social.)

It would be easy to dismiss this comparison as laughable, but (for the sake of those who might be tempted to buy Trump’s bizarro theory) it deserves some scrutiny.

According to his analogy, Trump is Navalny. But does this hold water?

After being poisoned by Putin and receiving life-saving treatment in Germany, Navalny bravely went back to Russia, where he knew he would be imprisoned and likely die. It’s hard to imagine a guy who views wounded veterans as “suckers” displaying such moral courage for a cause (as John McCain used to say) greater than his own self-interest.

Biden (to extend the analogy) is like Putin: the strongman of Russia, former KGB agent, and murderer who has killed off many rivals, including Navalny.

Say what you will about Biden, but the comparison is hardly apples to apples. As far as I know, Biden hasn’t called out Seal Team 6 to assassinate his current political rival (although, according to Trump’s logic, that would be within his purview).

Biden’s character isn’t the only thing implicated by Trump’s flawed premise. The United States of America, by extension, must be presumed the moral equivalent of Russia (what else should we expect from a guy who, while defending Putin for murder, replied, “You think our country’s so innocent?”)

But is Trump just an innocent victim who is being railroaded by the Deep State?

Trump has been found liable for sexual assault, and a judge has ruled that he defrauded banks and insurers. He also faces four separate indictments for things ranging from keeping classified documents, pressuring lawmakers to overturn an election, and allegedly falsifying business records in the process of paying hush money to a porn star.

Did I mention he was also impeached twice?

Now, it is true that Navalny was found guilty of embezzling donations by a Moscow court, but it is generally assumed that those charges were trumped up and put before a kangaroo court.

In other words, it was rigged. To which Trump says, Yes…just like what is happening to me!

But to believe that multiple jurisdictions (with different judges, and—in some cases—juries) are all in on this, one must also believe that America’s justice system is as corrupt as Russia’s.

Since there’s no intellectually honest way to defend Trump, the only way to excuse his behavior is muddy the waters—to allege that everyone and everything is corrupt. This includes tearing down not just past heroes, long-standing institutions, and our social fabric, but also the very idea of America as a force for good in the world.

Is there a moral equivalence between Russia and America? That great patriot Donald Trump would have us believe so. You can either believe in America, or you can believe in Trump. That’s the choice, and never the twain shall meet.

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