Trump remains largely silent on reported poisoning of Russian dissident as Europe, US lawmakers offer support
Posted August 21, 2020 7:06 p.m. EDT
CNN — The Trump administration has not made any substantial statement on the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, in sharp contrast to European reaction, despite President Donald Trump saying Thursday his Secretary of State was looking into it.
"We're looking at it and Mike's going to be reporting to me soon," Trump said yesterday at the White House, referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in the room with him.
Trump also said that the US has not determined if Navalny was poisoned or not.
"We haven't seen it yet," Trump said when asked if the US government had determined Navalny, who was hospitalized Thursday, had been poisoned.
Navalny is in a coma which is the result of the suspected poising after drinking a cup of tea before taking a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Omsk, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said. The Siberian hospital treating the 44-year-old corruption investigator, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, rejected claims the Russian opposition leader had been poisoned on Friday. Navalny's wife said the doctors there could not be trusted.
No US comment
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The State Department has not replied to repeated inquiries on the topic.
The Trump administration's silence is in stark contrast to European leaders who are voicing and providing support to Navalny, who campaigned against Putin in Russia's 2018 election but was barred from running.
Navalny will travel to a German clinic for care on Saturday after an offer from German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Yarmysh said. French President Emmanuel Macron said his country was ready to offer Navalny "all necessary assistance" including asylum.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that he was "deeply concerned" by reports that Navalny "has been poisoned on a flight to Moscow and is now in a coma in intensive care."
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, called the suspected poisoning "unacceptable" on Friday.
"Donald Trump continues to cozy up to Russia while Putin persecutes civil society and journalists. Now, opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in a coma after being poisoned. It's unacceptable," Biden tweeted.
Prominent Republicans have spoken out about Navalny as well. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted that "It goes without saying that you oppose Putin at your own peril and people like Mr. Navalny are on the right side of history. As always, the price for standing up for freedom comes at a heavy cost.
To all those standing up for freedom and decency in Putin's Russia, you have my admiration and total support."
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, tweeted that "over the last 16 years over 30 Russian dissidents, defectors & political opponents of Putin have wound up poisoned, falling out of windows or victims of bombings. So let their be no doubt who poisoned Navalny."
In the past the US has condemned poisonings carried out by the Kremlin.
Just days before he left office, President Barack Obama levied sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, named for a Russian tax whistleblower who died in prison, targeting officials implicated in Sergei Magnitsky's death as well as two main suspects behind the poisoning of a former Russian agent in London in 2006. That former agent, Alexander Litvinenko, died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210.
After the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, were poisoned with VX nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury in 2018 and the international community determined that Russia was behind the attack, Pompeo made repeated remarks condemning the attack. The US also imposed sanctions, expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed a Russian consulate in response.