Russian Oligarch: Putin tried to collude with Trump Transcript 10/17/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Joyce Vance, Jill Abramson

Date: October 17, 2017
Guest: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Joyce Vance, Jill Abramson

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: What about how big our rats are?
Individually, rat for rat. Trust me, I think we think we have the fattest
rats here in Washington. Take that Bay Area. Maybe after President Trump
finishes draining the swamp, though, he can drive out these rats.

That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more “MTP Daily.” THE
BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Mr. Melber, we are already for a
little oligarching, sir. We`ve got a big special interview you`ve got
coming up. I can`t wait.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Thank you. I`m very excited about the
interview and I will tell you someone who lives in Brooklyn. We always
call them mice when we see them indoors. We call the mice, Chuck.

TODD: Of course, you do. Well, we call them by their real name. Anyway.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

Breaking tonight, a victory for Obamacare if you believe it. Lawmakers
reaching this bipartisan agreement today to fund Obamacare. This is a
response to Trump`s pledge to defund the law just last week, which he then
seemed to recant late today.

Now, Obamacare is seven years old. Trumpcare may have lasted only one day.
That is going to be our top story in a moment.

Also, breaking tonight, a federal court blocking Trump`s new revised travel
ban. The administration, as you may remember, had won this partial victory
before. That`s over. Tonight, this ban once again in peril.

Later tonight, what Chuck just mentioned, our special report on a Putin
rival speaking out. My exclusive interview with a man who risked
everything, including his own life, to take on Vladimir Putin. And after
the interview, Rachel Maddow is here live to break it all down.

Plus, after interviewing Reince Priebus, Bob Mueller`s team now going
through its list. It`s reached another former top Trump aide, Sean Spicer,
this time, according to “POLITICO`s” reporting.

And we have a report on how America`s war hero, John McCain, is calling out
Donald Trump directly. The senator making a plea that goes way beyond the
usual political sniping, a plea for America to rebut the core of Trumpism.

Plus, also on tonight`s show, a story the Trump administration may not want
you to see. They`re pulling their drug czar over that swap scandal all
because of the news. Forget fake news, folks. This is fact news. And
facts apparently still matter.

So, we have a lot of important stories tonight, but we are beginning with
the big breaking news.

Obamacare is back. The GOP Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator
Patty Murray reaching this brand-new deal to fund care for poor families.
That was what Trump again cutting off last week. A direct rebuttal to
Trump saying this today.


It`s virtually dead. As far as I`m concerned, it really is dead. And I
predicted that a long time ago. It`s a concept that doesn`t work.


MELBER: Then four minutes after that statement was made, a bipartisan deal
announced, leading a reporter to ask about it. And, suddenly, Donald Trump
switched gears welcoming the solution to a funding shortage that he
partially caused.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apparently, Lamar Alexander has said he`s made a deal
with SEN. Patty Murray to stabilize Obamacare. Has the White House been
involved in those negotiations and will you support that deal?

TRUMP: Yes, we have been involved. And this is a short-term deal. The
solution will be for about a year or two years. And it`ll get us over this
intermediate hump. They are indeed working, but it is a short-term
solution, so that we don`t have this very dangerous little period -
including dangerous period for insurance companies, by the way. They are
working together. And I know very much what they`re doing, OK?


MELBER: OK. A sudden turn. But if that`s where it ends, even if messy,
some would like to give credit to President Trump for at least landing on a
bipartisan funding plan for healthcare.

But at this hour, we can report that is not where he landed. White House
staff right now walking back the president`s comments at this very hour,
asserting there isn`t a deal as far as they`re concerned, negotiations

And we have a new on-the-record statement from White House legislative
director Marc Short telling NBC`s Hallie Jackson, Trump is “applauding” the
bipartisan deal, but also “absolutely not endorsing” all of it.

The blow here to Trump`s authority has become rather typical. In
biological terms, Trump`s legislative promises have a half-life of about
five minutes. They decay before he`s even finished a typical press

But let`s put the president`s reputation aside. What about the blow to
Americans wondering if their healthcare will continue. Last week, the
answer was no. Last month, the answer was yes because Trump could not get
the Senate to repeal Obamacare.

Then it was no when he was using executive power to begin defunding it.
Today, the answer is - well, the best I can tell you is TBD.

I`m joined now by that reporter NBC`s Hallie Jackson working the White
House beat, Neera Tanden, a former senior advisor to President Obama who
helped to draft Obamacare, and Ana Marie Cox who writes at “The New York
Times Magazine” and also hosts a podcast with “Friends Like These.”

I`m happy the three of you are friends of THE BEAT at least for the next
few minutes.

Neera, walk us through why this matters and then Hallie is going to give us
the latest reporting.

really critical. It undoes a fair amount of the damage that President
Trump has done so far to the Affordable Care Act. And really, not to the
Affordable Care Act, but damage he`s done to people`s health insurance.

So, it enforces the cost-sharing reductions which will help improve
affordability for people. All the numbers of people losing care will be
ameliorated by what is proposed here, the 20 to 25 percent reduction in
premium costs for people.

It also establishes real spending for outreach, another step that the
president wasn`t willing to take. He wasn`t funding outreach. So, this
really does try to undo the damage that Trump has done himself.

I think it`s an oddity when the president endorses something and then his
staff unendorses it. Usually, you can count on the president to speak for
the White House. In this White House, obviously, we have some concerns.

But I think that a lot of Republican senators, who after what President
Trump did on Friday, wanted a bipartisan deal to solve the problem he`s
created. And I think that`s creating a lot of impetus for House Freedom
Caucus members down-promising (ph) as well.

MELBER: Hallie?

couple of things here to unpack, right? Because I will tell you that,
sitting out in the Rose Garden, when the president made those comments
about specifically the Alexander-Murray deal, not Graham-Cassidy, not block
grant, he seemed to be signaling this openness to it that he was supporting

Because he talked about how this was a short-term deal. It would only be
in place for a little bit. It was a little bit head-scratching to some of
the reporters sitting out there, though, because, essentially, it puts back
in place what the president just last week canceled.

So, you think, ha, well, that`s a little bit different, that`s a little bit
unusual, let`s go figure out what this means. So, I`m printing out the
transcript of exactly what the president said, looking at it word by word,
taking into officials here in the White House and saying, hey, explain this
to me, what do you mean by this.

What I got back was essentially that, while the president - as you
mentioned, Marc Short told me, while he is open, he is certainly applauding
this bipartisan effort, he is absolutely not endorsing all of it.

Specifically, what is a sticking point are these waivers to allow states to
waive out of some of these requirements called 1332s. That is something
the White House believes it can already do. It doesn`t need Congress to be
able to get a permission to do. And so, that seems to be a potential
sticking point.

But the bottom line, that we are even talking about sticking points, Ari,
is an indication that perhaps the White House writ large is not backing
this Alexander-Murray compromise.

You`d have the president heading to Heritage in like 90 minutes from now to
give a speech on tax reform, but Heritage has come not a fan of this deal

And when I posed the question to one official, hey, isn`t that a little bit
awkward that he`s going to this place that doesn`t back the deal that he
seemed to have just endorsed. The response is, well, if he had endorsed
it, maybe it would have been awkward, but it`s clear that the president
didn`t give a full-throated backing of that.

MELBER: Let me go to Ana on that because it raises the question of,
depending on the person, whether it`s possible that Donald Trump being at a
very conservative venue for his next speech could again change the words he

think he will. He always plays to his audience. I was, like many people,
stunned at the Rose Garden statement that he made.

Because this was something - the CSR payments are something that he
described as payoffs just a few days ago. He was very proud of himself for
supposedly interrupting some kind of corrupt business, as he described it.

And I know Trump doesn`t understand policy, but I really thought he would
understand corrupt payoffs. I thought that that would be an area that he
would be pretty sure what was going on. And then, all of a sudden, he was
in favor of them, which, again, maybe not that surprising.

He`s generously not well versed in the details of most things. So, that
allows him to freelance quite a bit. And I expect him to freelance even
more tonight. I can never tell if what he is doing is giving his aids
constant heart attacks or just lulling them into some false sense of
security every once in a while when he does stay on script.

MELBER: This is what I want to go to Neera on. This is what Dreamers and
the Iran deal and these Obamacare funds all have in common, which is they
are things under executive control where the president has announced one
thing, then asked Congress to clean up or reverse the thing he announced.

And then, he says, yes, as Hallie was just reported, maybe I`ll cheer it,
I`ll work with you on it. Work with you on what? You just did this last
week. Neera.

TANDEN: Yes. It is odd that he created the impetus for actually passing
this bill with Republicans. I mean, Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have
been working on this for months. And what really happened here is that
Republicans wanted a deal after what he did Friday.

Now, it`s not just that he`s made the statement today. He did call SEN.
Alexander over the weekend and say he was supportive of the bipartisan
effort and we heard comments like that in the past, when we`ve heard that
he`s made calls to Lamar Alexander to encourage a bipartisan solution.

I guess the issue here for Republicans is really, just to bottom line it,
if they don`t take this bipartisan deal, a million people will lose
healthcare over the next year, premiums will skyrocket and it will be their

So, this bipartisan deal isn`t a solution. I mean, it`s a solution for the
American people, but it`s also a solution for the Republican Party because
Donald Trump put a gun to their head and now they are trying to basically
solve the problem. And it`s like really up to them if they want to do that
or not. But I imagine they do.

MELBER: The other breaking uses on Russia. Hallie Jackson, you`re
speaking from a room where Sean Spicer used to brief everyone. Reporting
coming in tonight, fresh in our newsroom, that he`s on the next person on
the list who spoke to Mueller`s team.

We`re seeing the former officials like Reince and Spicer talking in an
investigative timeline we would expect. That means they are moving up the
line. Next, we`re going to see current officials. What do you know,

JACKSON: So, I would just tell you that NBC News has not confirmed that
“POLITICO” reporting that you`re talking about regarding Sean Spicer.
We`ve reached out to both the former press secretary as well as his
attorney to get any more information on this.

But it does come on the heels, Ari, as you sort of know that there
shorthanded, Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, has just been in
for his interview. His lawyer conformed to me at the end of last week,
took a long time. These things aren`t quick.

You`re a lawyer. You know how these go. It took the better part of a day.
It is an indication. And when you talk to folks who are familiar with this
investigation and with the special counsel`s inquiry, they will say it is a
sign that the pace seems to be moving forward now. This is what you would
expect, the special counsel to be doing these interviews.

Of course, what`s next are some of the staffers currently inside the White
House. To our knowledge so far, only one has been interviewed by the
special counsel, but we`re keeping an eye on who else goes next. We expect
that in the coming weeks.

MELBER: And you`re right, Hallie. Those interviews with investigators can
take a long time. It`s because of what lawyers call the James Brown rule,
talking loud, saying nothing. And when you have witnesses like that, it
could take hours.

Hallie Jackson, Neera Tanden and Ana Marie Cox, thank you very much. We
have more on Spicer later.

In this show, we are going to break down as well the withering criticism
from John McCain and Joe Biden on Trump`s vision of America.

And later, as mentioned, my exclusive interview with an exiled Russian
oligarch who spent 10 years in Putin`s jails, speaking out now for the
first time since Trump took office.


strong tactician. You know that. And he`s more experienced than Trump.
If they were to faceoff, I wouldn`t bet on Trump.


MELBER: He does appear to make some news with new revelations about the
Russians who met with Jared Kushner.

Also, I`m going to speak with a very special guest about all of it. Rachel
Maddow is here later today.

I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Another big story. President Trump today driving further into an
ugly controversy of his own making, taking heat after questioning whether
President Obama called the families of fallen troops.

Now, Trump invoking Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly who served both
administrations and whose son was killed in Afghanistan, invoking him for


TRUMP: I think I`ve called every family of somebody that`s died. And it`s
the hardest call to make. And I said it very loud and clear yesterday, the
hardest thing for me to do is do that.

Now, as far as other representatives, I don`t know. I mean, you could ask
Gen. Kelly. Did he get a call from Obama? You could ask other people. I
don`t know what Obama`s policy was.


MELBER: Kelly did attend a White House breakfast with the Obamas for Gold
Star families. But the broader point isn`t comparing presidential
responses here, but that Trump took the focus off these fallen soldiers to
stoke a false comparison with another politician.

All of this against the backdrop of John McCain`s powerful address last


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To fear the world we have organized and led
the three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced
around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and
our duty to remain the last best hope of Earth for the sake of some half-
baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find
scapegoats than solve problems -


MELBER: He didn`t mention Trump, but the president must have recognized
himself for selling spurious nationalism. And then McCain said Trump`s
ideology belongs in history`s garbage can.


MCCAIN: - is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of
the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.


MELBER: That is a reference to Ronald Reagan predicting the fall of the
Soviet Union.


now is a plan and a hope for the long term. The march of freedom and
democracy which will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history.


MELBER: Then McCain said America is great because of its ideals, not


MCCAIN: We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.


MELBER: That is a reference to the Nazi chant that the white nationalists
were using in Charlottesville.

A powerful call for patriotism. And with me now to discuss is Allison
Jaslow, who is executive director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of
America, and professor Leah Wright Rigueur of the Harvard Kennedy School.

Allison, quite a contrast. Your thoughts.

AMERICA: I think the reality is that most Americans can`t even relate to
the sacrifice that families of the fallen have not only made themselves,
and instead of actually acknowledging and recognizing troops who we`ve
recently lost in a surprise in Africa, we went too quickly to politics.

And I think that that`s just honestly a shame.

MELBER: Leah, you look at this, it was an address from John McCain last
night at a time that we all know is difficult for him and his family as he
battles for his life. And it was really rooted in history and an
alternative vision of America.

KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Absolutely. So, I`ve got to ask you, Ari,
where does it lie? I think this is what was so powerful about the speech
last night, which is that called out all the things that the nation has
been kind of wrestling over, been fighting over, that have been in the
headlines that the president has equivocated over.

And then, right, said that this is not the kind of patriotism that I want
to be associated with. It belongs in the ash bin of history.

I think too - though it`s really powerful in this moment too is that it put
accountability back on Donald Trump. And so, one of the things that we saw
over and over again is that Trump is very willing to use patriotism as a
kind of political football.

It`s something to be wielded. It`s something to use as a line of attack or
a tool of attack. And here comes John McCain, who has been under attack
from Donald Trump, saying, no, that`s not the brand of patriotism that I
want to buy or what America should represent at this moment in time.

MELBER: And we`re seeing a special disgust, I think, displayed, Allison,
by other people who`ve dealt with one of the most torturous parts of being
a leader in government, looking at the families of the people who made the
ultimate sacrifice.

This was Attorney General Holder who, of course, overseas law enforcement
and agents who also lose their lives. And he tweeted, very unusual
language from him, I know him a little bit. He said, “stop the damn lying.
You`re the president. I went to Dover Air Force Base with 44.” Barack
Obama. I saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military and the

JASLOW: I think she hit the nail on the head there, with the fact that
veterans, folks like myself, who`ve been to Iraq twice, and especially
families of the fallen, our Gold Star families among us, should not be used
as political shields.

And it`s happening all too often these days. And what we really need to do
is slow ourselves down and really think about the sacrifice. Look at the
images there on your screen, Ari. We need to spend more time focusing on

And the support that the presidents give our families that are fallen, it
comes in all different types. And what we really need to do is support
organizations like the Tragedy Assistance Partnership for families - excuse
me, TAPS, and make sure that those organizations, nonpolitical
organizations, take the politics out of this, get the support and the
families get the support that they need.

Allison Jaslow, thank you for your service. Thank you for talking to us.
Professor Leah Wright Rigueur, thank you both.

MELBER: Still ahead, as promised, THE BEAT exclusive with a Russian
oligarch jailed and then exiled for criticizing Vladimir Putin.


MELBER: What would happen if you went back to Russia right now?


MELBER: We`ll show you his answer tonight. It`s his first TV interview
since Trump took office, revealing what he knows about Russian election
meddling. I`ll break it down with my special guest Rachel Maddow.


MELBER: In the Russia probe, Bob Mueller is investigating two periods of
time. What happened during the campaign and what happened after.

The campaign part is all the buzzwords you hear - collusion, hacking,
targeting. What happened after implicates a whole different set of
criminal laws because, after November, government power is involved. Were
there bribes for government action or deals to end sanctions.

Bob Mueller is zeroing in on Trump staffers` meetings with Russians after
November. Like Jared Kushner`s December meeting with the head of the
Kremlin bank, Sergey Gorkov.

The bank says it met Kushner for a business meeting because of his role as
head of his family`s real estate company. Kushner`s team denies that,
saying it was a diplomatic meeting.

Now, the FBI is investigating whether Russians suggested to Kushner that
relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to
people with ties to Trump. That`s according to “Reuters”.

Now, here`s the key. Sergey Gorkov doesn`t run just any bank. Gorkov is a
Putin appointee, trained in Russian spying. US authorities say his bank is
still in that game, acting as a cover for Russian spies in New York.

Former prosecutor Preet Bharara indicted one of Gorkov`s employees for
spying. In 2015, Bharara announcing that employee pled guilty to spying in
the US under cover of being a legitimate banker.

The more you know about Gorkov, the more you see he uses the tools of
finance and espionage on behalf of Putin.

So, what was Gorkov`s agenda when he met with Kushner? Who was calling the
shots? How can Americans learn more about Putin`s spy-trained banker?

One man who knows is Gorkov`s former boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He was
the richest man in Russia and employed Gorkov as head of HR in Russia`s
largest oil company. But Khodorkovsky crossed Putin and wound up in a
Russian prison. He is now exiled in Zurich.

So, Khodorkovsky is not the easiest person to interview about his old
employee Gorkov or how Putin`s allies approach the Trump administration.
In fact, Khodorkovsky hasn`t done an American TV interview since Trump took

Until now. He is my exclusive guest tonight. Our interview is next. And
then Rachel Maddow joins me on THE BEAT to report on what it all means.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Now, we turn to our special report tonight, my
exclusive interview with an exiled Putin rival followed by a discussion
with MSNBC`s Rachel Maddow. Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky was the
richest man in Russia until he crossed Vladimir Putin and lost nearly
everything. Russian journalist Masha Gessen says Khodorkovsky became the
most trusted figure in Russia, and “Putin`s biggest liability.” This is
his first American T.V. interview since Trump took office.


MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, RUSSIAN OLIGARCH (through translator): Could I have
been murdered? Certainly. I was knifed in the face while sleeping. Was I
afraid of it?

MELBER: Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent 10 years in prison after crossing
Vladimir Putin. Once the richest man in Russia, he made a fateful decision
to criticize Putin`s corruption at a 2003 meeting to Putin`s face.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): This is a man with a very particular
view of life, a view typical of special services operatives or gangsters.
If you show willingness to negotiate, it means you`re weak and must be

MELBER: Khodorkovsky did not seem weak. The well-connected oligarch ran
Russia`s largest oil company before Putin seized it and had an auctioneer
gavel a sham sale to the Kremlin, and prosecuting him, displaying
Khodorkovsky in a steel cage during one trial and in a plexiglass cube in
another trial. The verdict was international news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Khodorkovsky stunned to hear the
harsh sentence.

MELBER: After 10 years in prison, he was freed and exiled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight the host nation of Russia is continuing a well-
timed release of high profile prisoners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mikhail Khodorkovsky decided that he would put his
money to work for what he wanted for his country.

MELBER: Now he`s speaking out and just sat down in his first American T.V.
interview since Trump took office.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): There was a very small group in the
Kremlin that has usurped power by taking the post of the president. Nobody
elected this group. It exists above the Russian Law.

MELBER: He says that small group meddled in 2016.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): I am almost convinced that Putin`s
people have tried to influence the U.S. election in some way.

MELBER: On the scale of zero to 10, what number, in your view, do you give
the theory that Putin did seek to collaborate and collude with the Trump

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): I would say nine out of 10 that he
personally and his inner circle attempted to cooperate. Whether or not
that proposal was accepted, I would let the people responsible for
investigating the matter answer that question.

MELBER: Bob Mueller may answer that question. He`s investigating Russians
offering Trump aides information to incriminate Hillary Clinton from the
prosecutor of Russia, an apparent reference to Yuri Chaika.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): I wouldn`t find it at all unusual if
Mr. Chaika whom the people of Russia have accused of corruption used an
attorney he knew to propose some kind of deal to future influential persons
in America because he would want to make himself useful to Vladimir Putin.
Were he to decide to take such a step, he would get permission from
Vladimir Putin beforehand.

MELBER: Khodorkovsky worked with other Putin allies also implicated in the
Russia investigation. His former employee Sergey Gorkov runs a Kremlin
bank and met with Jared Kushner in December.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): When he worked for me, Gorkov was a
fine employee who dealt with H.R. I have no doubt that he wouldn`t do
anything on his own behalf. He is a man who carries out orders.

MELBER: Now, for the first time Khodorkovsky says he thinks those orders
came from Putin`s top bankers.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): If there were any instructors, they
came from the level of question. The Chairman of the Board of VTB bank or
from the level of Mr. Graph which isn`t nearly as likely despite the two of
them being close.

MELBER: One of those Putin bankers organized a 2013 dinner at Moscow Nobu
for Donald Trump, along with Aras Agalarov, the same Trump associate named
in the Trump Tower e-mails.

MELBER: How do you interpret that the Russian bank says this was for
business and the Trump administration and the U.S. government say it was
for government?

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): It`s difficult for me to interpret such
a contradiction. However, it`s very possible that what your administration
regards as a governmental issue, Russian representatives view as purely
business. Although in my experience, it`s typically the opposite.

MELBER: The FBI is investigating if that Kushner meeting was purely
business and if Kremlin money was offered to influence relations with the
Trump administration.

relations with Russia.

MELBER: Khodorkovsky says Putin is an effective opponent.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): Putin is a strong tactician, no doubt,
and he`s more experienced than Trump. If they were to face off, I wouldn`t
bet on Trump.

MELBER: But the U.S. has other advantages.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): America has something Putin doesn`t.
Putin has a small criminal network behind him. A U.S. President has a huge
democratic apparatus behind him.

MELBER: And while he knows the danger of crossing Putin, Khodorkovsky says
he will continue his opposition.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): I could make my life safer by not
getting involved in the sociopolitical life of my country, but then it
wouldn`t be my life. I am involved and I accept the risks that come with

MELBER: What would happen if you went back to Russia right now?

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): If I crossed the Russian border, I
would be arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

MELBER: Prison shaped Khodorkovsky`s outlook and his rationale for risking

Did you ever think you might die in prison?

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): We have a joke in our country. First,
a person is stripped of all pleasures and then asked, are you willing to
give up your life. So the person responds, of course, what do I want with
this life? The point is, life seems worth living far less inside a Russian
prison than outside of it.

MELBER: With Russian jokes are we supposed to laugh or cry?

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): With nearly all Russian jokes, you
laugh through the tears.


MELBER: Joining me now is Rachel Maddow from “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”
Thank you for being here. What do you think we`re learning from

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: First of all, congratulations on getting this

MELBER: Thank you.

MADDOW: I have been – obviously the Khodorkovsky story, A you can
pronounce his name better than I can but B, I followed this story for a
long time because the idea of Putin`s grip on Russia is at its heart not
just a sort of intrigue and drama story in terms of Putin`s influence in
our own election, it`s also a tragedy in terms of the Russian people. I
mean, talk about – I mean, Russia is a gigantic country. It has immense
natural resources. It has a beautiful culture that has contributed so much
to the world despite all of the political difficulties and the, you know,
the mass scale politically designed disasters of the modern history of
Russia, right, from the czars on down, right?

And then you get somebody like Khodorkovsky who doesn`t get ahead because
he killed and stole and connived his way there. I mean, yes, Russian
business after the fall of the Soviet Union is definitely a dark, dirty and
politicized thing, but Khodorkovsky is sort of a meritocratic success
story. He builds this oil company. He ought to be succeeding. He ought
to be a titan in his country. He`s the richest man in that country, and
Putin just snips him, just cuts him off. And I`m glad you played that
historical footage in terms of him being in the – in the cage in the
courtroom and in the Plexiglas cube. It`s a – it`s a tragedy and I have
been very curious as to what he thinks about this new adventurism of Putin
in terms of this influence that he`s exerting in our own election. So
first of all, I just think it`s important full stop.

Second of all, I do think he made some news in what he told you about
Sergey Gorkov. So one of the Trump administration, Trump transition, Trump
campaign Russian government contacts that was not disclosed until
independent investigators found out about it was this meeting with Gorkov.
For Khodorkovsky, what did he tell you? He said I have no doubt he
wouldn`t do anything on his own behalf, he is a man who carries out orders.
That`s important news about that meeting, and there`s still been no
explanation as to what happened there and why Jared Kushner was meeting
with him during the transition.

MELBER: Right. And there`s a total contradiction between them. So either
the Russian bank is telling the truth or the Trump administration is
telling the truth. But it was either a diplomatic meeting or a business
meeting. So more news on this we have from VTB Bank. Their response, they
say these allegations from Khodorkovsky in this new interview are,
“completely false, unfounded and with no substance. Mr. Kostin – that`s
one of the Russian banker`s side to Putin – is not personally acquainted
with Mr. Kushner, he`s never had discussion of any other kind or
communication with Mr. Gorkov regarding a possible meeting with Mr. Kushner
and doesn`t understand the point such a meeting could have had.” Of
course, many of these banks have been working for years. The point of
these meetings is to at least lift sanctions. They`re publicly looking for

MADDOW: Vladimir Putin personally appointed Sergey Gorkov to the job he
was in when he met with Jared Kushner. Sergey Gorkov went to the KGB
school, like his grand school was their version – like it was FSB school
by then, but it was KGB school. And this powerful testimony that you just
got from the guy who previously employed him when Russia used to be allowed
to have private oil companies before Putin took that for himself and his
cronies too. Gorkov meeting with Kushner is not just a red flag, it is a
blaring red siren. And the fact that it`s not just contradictory
explanations from the White House and the Russian side of this, there has
been no plausible White House explanation for what Jared Kushner was doing
in that meeting.

Was it related to Kushner family business properties? Was related to the
Trump transition? Was it related to the Magnitsky Act? Was it related to
sanctions? Was it related to the ongoing undisclosed conversations that
Flynn was having with the Russians at the same time? We`ve had no
explanation about whatsoever. Jared Kushner M.O. in terms of dealing with
the Russia investigation is to appear to be completely transparent and
cooperative. His security clearance application was a complete disaster in
terms of disclosing his foreign contacts. His answers about whether or not
anybody from the Trump campaign or his transition had been in contact with
Russian officials is a complete disaster in terms of what we later learned
about those contacts that he didn`t disclose. But this Gorkov meeting in
particular, what was it about? The White House should have to say what
it`s about if Jared Kushner is going to continue to work at the White

MELBER: And one of the other things that Khodorkovsky talked to me about
was how Vladimir Putin controls the stage manages so much in Russia and
these banks as we`ve – as we`ve covered are an arm of the state in a
sense. Here he was talking about Putin in the 2018 forthcoming election
which as you covered on your show has been rife with attacks on opponents
just like Khodorkovsky. Take a look at this.


MELBER: Can Putin lose the next Presidential election next year?

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): If there was to be an election in 2018
by some miracle, it is highly likely that Putin would lose. Instead, in
2018 we`re going to see a show called presidential election. It cannot be
won because it is a show. The show will go exactly as the producer has

MELBER: We know something about that. It`s scripted television is what
they call it here, reality shows.

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): And if something unexpected happens,
you can always rerecord.


MELBER: And that`s the story he lived.

MADDOW: Yes. And, you know, Khodorkovsky, to his credit, you know, after
going through this ordeal, after having – being brought low from being the
richest man in Russia running the – running the biggest oil company in
Russia, being jailed, being humiliated, living through a decade in prison
and then being exiled, when he got out, what he decide today do was stay
involved in Russian life, stay involved in trying to promote civic
institutions and send political opposition parties in Russia which as he
talked to you about is an incredibly dangerous thing for him to have done.
But he`s done it and ends up being an important external force in terms of
Russian civic life. So I mean, the Alexei Navalny who`s the man who`s
going to run against Putin in the Presidential election is itself dramatic
and fascinating and you know, he`s such a charismatic figure in the same
way that Khodorkovsky is.

You can see his wit even with the translation there in his – in his
interview with you but it`s – the difference in Russia, the difference
with Putin is that what`s constantly looming over every point of conflict
with Putin, anybody who`s challenging, any of whom – anybody who`s rising
to the point of being interesting in terms of opposing Putin, what
constantly looms over that is your expectation that they will end up dead.
And you know, that`s not America, that`s not how we do things. And to be
reminded in the person of Khodorkovsky or in Navalny right now, or any of
these other people, Boris Nemtsov, any other people who have been killed,
Anna Politkovskaya, to be reminded about what it means to take Putin`s
approach to world politics, for me it makes it very serious. I`m
interested in the drama and the intrigue and everything. It makes it very
serious that Putin got this far into our own politics. It is a – it is
not just a threat to us, it`s a mortal threat to American politics to bring
somebody this far into it who frequently and without any consequence kills
his opponents.

MELBER: Rachel Maddow, thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.

MADDOW: Congratulations on the scoop, man. I`m super jealous. Well done.

MELBER: Thank you so much. And we will all be watching Rachel at 9:00
p.m. tonight of course right here on MSNBC. If you have a question,
comment about this interview, you could join us on Facebook and leave your
questions. I`m going to answer some of them, about this reporting.
Tomorrow, ahead, the other breaking Russia news. Tonight, Bob Mueller, his
team interviewing Sean Spicer straight ahead.



MADDOW: Anybody who`s challenging, any of whom – anybody who`s rising to
the point of being interesting in terms of opposing Putin, what constantly
looms over that is your expectation that they will end up dead. And you
know, that`s not America, that`s not how we do things. And to be reminded
in the person of Khodorkovsky or in Navalny right now, or any of these
other people, Boris Nemtsov, any other people who have been killed, Anna
Politkovskaya, to be reminded about what it means to take Putin`s approach
to world politics, for me it makes it very serious. I`m interested in the
drama and the intrigue and everything. It makes it very serious that Putin
got this far into our own politics. It is a – it is not just a threat to
us, it`s a mortal threat to American politics.


MELBER: That was Rachel Maddow moments ago speaking with me. I`m joined
now by Joyce Vance, a former Federal Prosecutor under President Obama and
Jill Abramson who teaches at Harvard and is a former Executive Editor for
the New York Times. Joyce Vance, I wonder your thoughts on some of what I
was just digesting with Rachel, my discussion with his exiled Putin critic,
Mikhail Khodorkovsky talking about some of the things that Bob Mueller is
investigating including the role these Russian bankers and your views as
well on the breaking news that Sean Spicer added the list of people that
Mueller`s team is speaking to.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It was a pretty amazing interview,
Ari. and we`ve heard so many people from the Trump campaign and now the
administration with high-level Russian contacts, whether it`s Kushner or
Sessions, Manafort, Page, Trump Jr. and all along the White House and the
President himself saying nothing to look at here, there`s nothing to this
Trump-Russia investigation. But we have this high volume of in many cases
undisclosed contact and now we have an insider, someone who knows Putin,
who you`ve spoken with at length and he`s saying nine out of 10 that Putin
was personally involved in this. And it really brings everything that we
know about the high level of Russian contact into focus in what you and
Rachel discussed as a very ominous way for our democracy.

MELBER: Right. And it is relatively rare to get a sort of real-time
current take from someone who knows how to oligarchs connect with Putin`s
financial network because most of them who are in good graces aren`t
speaking openly and candidly this way. Jill, the reporting you know, that
we looked at in researching this is the New York Times, which you used to
edit. It is Vanity Fair and the New Yorkers which have followed these
dissidents out there for years. I want to play a one other new part of
interview that we haven`t aired yet which is the dance that Khodorkovsky
says Putin is doing having gotten the perception that he got his guy in
Trump in the U.S. but still, as you well know who have overseen the
reporting for years, still wanting America as a geopolitical foe. Take a

KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): As for Putin, he needs America as his
enemy. And now he has the difficult task of constantly explaining how,
despite Trump being our man in the White House, America is still an enemy.
I should say that the Kremlin propaganda has been up to the task but it`s
been tough going.

MELBER: Jill, walk us through your views and that propaganda machine which
I think you know well.

And you know, Putin is among the most artful users of propaganda, and you
know was raised to new art form. But, you know, like Trump, he creates his
own reality. It doesn`t need necessarily to comport with the facts. And
we see how our own President does that on a daily basis. And though the
real news media tries its best to hold his feet to the fire, you know, what
he says bears so literal relationship to the truth that it almost seems
like something out of the Soviet old playbook that Putin still seems to be

MELBER: And, Joyce, one of the other points the oligarch made is that if
you understand how the prosecutor in Russia works, Yuri Chaika, it is not
with the deference that people have in the United States to say the
position you held or how it works in a functions democracy. He says this
prosecutor who has a history of public use of conformant who is explicitly
cited in the Trump Tower e-mails offering dirt on Clinton is essentially an
arm of the – of that operation and thus his view is that the citing of him
specifically by name along with other Trump associates who are publicly
linked to business with Trump is relatively incriminating for the theory of
the case that there was direct meetings about collusion which is something
Mueller hasn`t answered yet but investigating. Joyce?

VANCE: Well, I think that`s right. Prosecutors in Russia operate very
differently than prosecutors in the United States. Here we`ve watched that
play out recently on a public stage where prosecutors have vigorously
defended their independence. We`ve heard stories about the prosecutors
like Preet Bharara in New York talking about how critical that is to a
functioning American democracy. And we know that often in Russian
prosecutors work arm in arm with leaderships. There`s some indication that
the conviction of the Russia oligarch that you spoke with in fact had
overtones and fingerprints from higher folks in government and was not a
result of an independent prosecutor in it and an independent judiciary. So
it`s a very different playing field than what we`re used to.

MELBER: Joyce Vance fascinating and yes, I chose these words mean
different things in different places. My personal apologies for Jill
Abramson, we usually have more time for you. This is an unusual hour. But
I`d love to have you back on THE BEAT if you`ll allow it, as they say in
court. And we will be right back.


MELBER: Welcome back. We`ve had quite a busy show. We reported on some
of what Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch exiled by Vladimir Putin
said about a lot of the things that affect the United States and the Russia
investigation. There`s a broader point as well that Rachel was speaking
to, which is how his story reflects the transition of Russia under Vladimir


MADDOW: But Khodorkovsky is sort of a meritocratic success story. He
builds this oil company. He ought to be succeeding. He ought to be a
titan in his country. He`s the richest man in that country, and Putin just
snips him.

For Khodorkovsky, what did he tell you? He said I have no doubt he
wouldn`t do anything on his own behalf, he is a man who carries out orders.
That`s important news about that meeting, and there`s still been no
explanation as to what happened there and why Jared Kushner was meeting
with him during the transition.


MELBER: No detailed explanation but tonight we hope some of the reporting
has added to the answers and of course more questions. If you want the
find out more, you can always look us up on Facebook. The article on That does it for me. I will see you back here tomorrow night
at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Thank you for watching. And I`m excited to say,
don`t go anywhere because right up next is “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It won`t be pretty. Let`s play HARDBALL.



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