CNN — Alexey Navalny died a political martyr after returning home to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal rule. But that’s not stopping Donald Trump from coopting his heroic legacy to suggest false equivalence with his own legal troubles.

The ex-president has been criticized by opponents for days over his refusal to condemn Putin after Navalny, a Russian opposition figure, died in a Russian penal colony in circumstances that have still not been properly explained.

Given the chance to do so in a Fox News town hall on Tuesday, Trump again showed his habitual refusal to criticize a Russian leader who has crushed democracy and has a long record of persecuting political opponents. He offered a tempered tribute to Navalny, before returning to his own false claims of political persecution.

He said the Russian dissident, whose body still has not been returned to his family, was “a very brave guy” but that he probably should not have returned to Russia ahead of his imprisonment. Then, Trump returned to his obsession with his own treatment in his own country that unlike Russia offers constitutional guarantees of the right to a fair trial, political freedoms and is a place where voters get to choose their president.

“It’s happening in our country too. We are turning into a Communist country in many ways. And if you look at it, I’m the leading candidate, I got indicted. … I got indicted four times. I have eight or nine trials … all because of the facts that I’m in politics,” Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, said in the Fox News event. Later, when referring to a $355 million civil fraud judgment against him last week, he added that “it is a form of Navalny, it is a form of communism or fascism.”

President Joe Biden brought up his predecessor’s refusal to call out Putin’s culpability in Navalny’s death during a fundraising trip to the West Coast.

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