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Trump claims he is ‘proud political dissident’ in ominous CPAC speech

Donald Trump claimed he is a “proud political dissident” in his CPAC speech just days after he compared himself to Russian leader Alexei Navalny, who recently died in a Siberian prison under unclear circumstances.

Mr Trump said in National Harbor, Maryland on Saturday that “Joe [Biden] and his henchmen have you trapped and it’s an express train barreling toward servitude and to ruin – it’s moving at a speed that Joe doesn’t understand because Joe ... I don’t think he knows what the hell’s going on, to be honest with you, but he’s surrounded by some very bad fascists”.

“A vote for Trump is your ticket back to freedom. It’s your passport out of tyranny,” he argued. “And it’s your only escape from Joe Biden and his gang’s fast track to hell. And in many ways, we’re living in hell right now.”

Government ethics expert Meredith McGehee told The Washington Post this week that Mr Trump “since he has been president, his public statements indicate he has great frustration with using the system as it currently is”.

“When he makes a comment, ‘Yeah, I’d like to be dictator for a day,’ that indicates he does not value the democratic process as it has been traditionally viewed by the American political system,” she added.

Mr Trump said on Saturday that “the fact is Joe Biden is a threat to democracy”.

Mr Trump has long falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from him. There’s no evidence for the claims.

“I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president, but as a proud political dissident. I am a dissident,” Mr Trump added, noting that he has been “indicted more” than Al Capone.

The former president faces 91 felony counts across four indictments in connection to his handling of classified documents, his hush money payment to an adult actor ahead of the 2016 election, and the efforts to overturn the election and the subsequent insurrection on January 6, 2021.

“They've weaponized government. They've weaponized the DOJ, the FBI. We've never had anything like this in this country and it's a phenomenon that's taken place many times but in third-world countries and in banana republics, not in the United States of America,” Mr Trump said. “So it's very dangerous and they are indeed a threat to democracy. And I'm here to unleash this captive nation from Joe Biden and his gang of very bad people, very sick people, smart people, intelligent people, but they're hell-bent on the destruction of American freedom.”

Earlier this week, Mr Trump said that being hit with a $350m judgment following his recent high-profile fraud case was “a form of Navalny,” in reference to the jailing and apparent murder of the late Russian dissident.

The former president said that the ruling by New York judge Arthur Engoron – who he described as a “nut job” – was “a form of communism or fascism”.

On Friday last week, Judge Engoron found that Mr Trump, his sons, their Trump Organization associates and Trump properties were liable for tens of millions of dollars after defrauding banks and investors as part of a decade-long scheme to secure favourable financing terms for some of his brand-building properties.

Mr Trump — as well as his companies and his trust — were ordered to pay more than $350m, plus interest, while his sons were each ordered to pay roughly $4m.

Mr Trump took part in a town hall event, hosted by Fox News, in Greenville, South Carolina on Tuesday. During the event, he was asked about his various ongoing court cases, as well as the shocking death of Alexei Navalny, a long-time political critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in Navalny’s death and said that Western claims that Mr Putin was responsible are unacceptable.

Mr Trump – who expressed admiration for Mr Putin during his 2017-2021 White House tenure and afterwards – previously said in a post on his platform TruthSocial that the death of Navalny had made him “aware of what was happening in our Country”.

Asked about Navalny’s death on Tuesday evening, he replied: “It’s a very sad situation and he was very brave.

“He was a very brave guy because he went back [to Russia], he could have stayed away, and frankly, 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 could happen, and it did happen.”

However, he was quick to compare the news to his own situation, adding: “It’s a horrible thing, but 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’d never heard of being indicted before, I got indicted four times, I have eight or nine trials – all because of the fact that I’m in politics.”

The former president was also asked if felt like he was at risk of becoming a “political prisoner”, following the multiple lawsuits being brought against him. He once again singled out the judgement handed down by Mr Engoron.

“It’s a form of Navalny,” he said, adding “It is a form of communism or fascism. The guy [Mr Engoron] is a nut job. I’ve known this for a long time and I’ve said it openly.