Trump stays silent on detained U.S. reporter as he avoids criticizing Putin

Former president Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has made no public statements on Russia’s detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been held for one year without formal charges or a trial.

Asked directly to clarify Trump’s position on Friday, his campaign did not respond to requests for comment. Trump has consistently gone out of his way to avoid criticizing Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Trump himself routinely demonizes reporters with terms such as “the enemy” and “criminals.”

His silence stands out among bipartisan condemnation of the detention and calls for Gershkovich’s release. The Journal’s editorial board, whose page Trump is known to read, noted the exception on Tuesday, pointedly asking, “Why the silence, sir?” The Journal commemorated the anniversary of Gershkovich’s arrest Friday by leaving a blank space on the newspaper’s front page.

Even Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who has been among the harshest critics of Ukraine and mostly sympathetic to Putin, concluded his interview with the Russian dictator in February by asking for Gershkovich’s release. Putin’s response was noncommittal.

President Biden’s campaign slammed Trump for accommodating Putin.

“It’s shameful but unsurprising from Donald Trump, who has made it quite clear repeatedly he would side with Putin over the American people,” Biden-Harris spokesman Ammar Moussa said. “This is the same guy who told the world he’d let Putin do whatever he wants to our NATO allies — even if it meant more war and suffering.”

Biden on Friday vowed to keep working to secure Gershkovich’s release. “We’ve tried everything we can so far,” he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews on his way to Camp David. “We are not going to give up.”

In an interview this month on Fox News, Trump demurred when asked about the recent death in prison of Putin opponent Alexei Navalny, saying, “I don’t know, you certainly can’t say for sure, but certainly that would look like something very bad happened.”

Trump has also compared himself to Navalny, who died in prison after previously surviving a near-fatal poisoning in 2020. “It’s a form of Navalny,” Trump said in a Fox News town hall on February, responding to a question from Laura Ingraham about the $355 million fine against his businesses after a New York civil fraud trial. “It’s happening in our country, too.”

During his presidency, Trump met with Putin and sided with him over U.S. intelligence agencies in doubting the assessment that Russian spy services interfered in the 2016 election through the damaging release of hacked communications.

He also pushed for more leak investigations, including seizing reporters’ phone records, and has threatened to jail reporters or use government agencies to punish media companies for their coverage.

Trump also did not condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the CIA concluded he ordered the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote opinion columns for The Washington Post.

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