Trump Says U.S. Doesn’t Know if Russia’s Navalny Was Poisoned
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said Friday the U.S. doesn’t know directly whether Alexey Navalny was poisoned, failing to accept the German government’s assessment that the Russian opposition leader was attacked with a nerve agent.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that medical tests showed “unequivocally” that Navalny had been poisoned by a military-grade novichok nerve agent. Asked about the German conclusion at a news conference Friday, Trump said, “I hear Germany has made it definitive, or almost definitive, but we have not seen it ourselves.”
Navalny, a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on a domestic flight to Moscow from Tomsk in August. He was evacuated to a German hospital under international pressure.
Kremlin officials have challenged Germany’s conclusion, saying that Merkel’s government hasn’t provided proof.
A novichok agent was used in the March 2018 attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil, prompting a concerted expulsion of 150 Russian diplomats from NATO nations.
Later in his news conference, though, Trump agreed that it was likely Navalny had been poisoned. “Based on what Germany’s saying, that seems to be the case,” he said.
But he didn’t say whether the U.S. would take any specific action in response. “We have to look at it very seriously if that’s the case,” he said.
Trump has tried to nurture a closer relationship with Moscow despite the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. Earlier Friday, the president’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that China should be considered a greater threat to U.S. election integrity than Russia.
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