Biden assails Trump over Navalny: 'Why does Trump always blame America?'

U.S. President Biden boards Marine One for travel to California from Washinton, U.S.

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday thrashed Republican rival Donald Trump's response to the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, asking, "Why does Trump always blame America?"

After Navalny's death was reported on Friday, Biden directly blamed Russian leader Vladimir Putin, as did Trump's main rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Nikki Haley.

Trump did not mention Navalny until a Monday post on his Truth Social platform that did not cast blame or express remorse, but alluded to his own legal problems as persecution and called the United States a nation in decline.

"The former president, Trump, and other Republicans, refuse to hold Putin accountable for his death," Biden said. "Instead, Trump said Navalny's death made him realize how bad America was.

"He said and I quote, 'We are a nation in decline, a failing nation.' Why does Trump always blame America? Putin is responsible for Navalny's death. Why can't Trump just say that?"

Biden said earlier Tuesday the United States will announce a major package of sanctions against Russia on Friday over the death of Navalny.

Trump, the Republican frontrunner, is likely to face Democrat Biden in a rematch in November's presidential election.

In an interview Tuesday with Fox News, Trump praised Navalny as "very brave" for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he underwent treatment for what Western laboratory tests showed evidence of a Russian nerve agent.

However, the former U.S. president also second-guessed that decision.

"He probably would have been a lot better off staying away and talking from outside of the country, as opposed to having to go back in, because people thought that (death) could happen and it did happen," Trump said.

During his 2017-2021 tenure in the White House, Trump drew criticism for his praise of Putin. Last week, he suggested the United States might not protect NATO allies who do not spend enough on defense from a potential Russian invasion.

Biden on Tuesday called the NATO comments dangerous. "It does nothing but encourage bad behavior," Biden said.

Biden folded the criticism into a video posted in Twitter in which he urged Republicans who control the House of Representatives to pass emergency security assistance for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

"We have to stand up to Putin," Biden said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Christopher Cushing)