The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/23/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 23, 2017
Guest: Bernie Sanders, Bill Browder
JOY REID, “A.M. JOY” HOST: Chris Hayes, great book, get out there and sell
that book. McKay Coppins, thank you very much for being here.
All right, Chris, and you`ll be back here tomorrow. So, you will see you
back in tomorrow.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Tomorrow.
All right. That is “ALL IN” for this evening. I`ll be back this weekend
for my show “A.M. JOY” at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. So, don`t miss that.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel. Are you as shocked as I am about the breathtaking
speed with which Donald Trump stopped caring about health care?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Well, I think the hard part about that is
figuring out a moment in time when he did care about health care, but
without that starting point, I think it`s hard to talk about how fast he
REID: Well, he said he cared about it on the stump. I mean –
MADDOW: Yes. Yes, he did. You are exactly right, my friend.
REID: Have a great show.
MADDOW: Thank you, Joy.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for being with us. Thanks for joining
us for the next hour.
It has been a remarkable day and a remarkable night in the news. We`ve got
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders joining us tonight on really what has been a
landmark day in Washington.
Today is the day that Democrats decided to filibuster the Supreme Court
nomination. Today`s the day when the Republican Congress was supposed to
repeal Obamacare and throw 24 million Americans off their health insurance.
That may yet happen, but it not be happening tonight.
As you know by now, that vote has been scheduled for tonight at 7:00 p.m.
Eastern. It did not happen specifically because Republicans could not get
their own party to support it. I mean, they have got a big congressional
majority. They had a big cushion. They could not get it done.
You know, the day after the election in November, anyone would have told
you this would have been a sure thing for them, right? That, you know,
Republicans might have some tough things on their agenda, some things where
it might be hard to find unity and get it passed but at least they won`t
have trouble killing Obamacare. At least that`s a sure thing. That will
happen right off the bat.
Remember they said it might happen on day one. They might have the repeal
legislation signed and ready to go on day one of the Trump presidency.
Well, it`s not day one and tonight their effort seems to have collapsed.
It`s definitely not over. There`s going to be a vote in the morning but
what they are going through tonight is remarkable and unexpected and it is
a big political deal.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, among many other things, has really helped
spearhead the Democratic Party`s defense of Obamacare, their defense of the
Affordable Care Act, and Senator Sanders is going to be here with us
tonight in just a moment or two to talk about that. We will also talk with
him about why he is joining the filibuster against Neil Gorsuch for the
Supreme Court. We`ll talk with him about whether the Democrats really
think they can block that nomination.
So, big day in the news today, really big. We are happy to have Senator
Sanders here in just a couple of minutes.
It`s interesting, though, if you think about how we got to this moment.
We`ve been sort of saying from the start of the Trump administration that
the change brought about by the election of Donald Trump is a huge change -
- a really big shift in American politics, shift in what a lot of people
thought because possible.
We have also seen the principles of physics at work and for every action,
there is an equal and opposite reaction. And if you think about the start
of the reaction, you think about the start of the organized resistance
against this new administration and their agenda, first thing you think
about, right, is the day after the inauguration, that massive women`s –
look at the size of it, still shocking to this day – that massive women`s
march in D.C., one of the biggest marches in D.C. ever if not the biggest.
Also New York and Chicago and freaking Alaska, all over the country, all 50
states. This unexpectedly huge outpouring of people marching against the
newly inaugurated president and what he said he wanted to do with his
But you know what? That wasn`t actually day one. That wasn`t actually the
start, even if you`re just talking about big rallies.
Go back to before the inauguration. He was inaugurated January 20. Go
back to January 15th. January 15th is when Senator Bernie Sanders and
other Democratic leaders did dozens of rallies all across the country
specifically on health care, specifically to save the Affordable Care Act.
They called those rallies on January 15th “our first stand.”
And it was really, really cold on January 15th and Trump wasn`t even sworn
in yet but thousands of people showed up at those rallies to try to save
the Affordable Care Act, to start the organizing effort that it would take
to try to save the Affordable Care Act. Everywhere from Warren, Michigan,
to Los Angeles, California, to the great state of Maine to Iowa. January -
- mid-January in Iowa.
This was a week before Trump`s inauguration. Folks across the country
already willing to get out there in the cold and put their own two feet
behind their view that Obamacare should be saved. That the Republican
plans to kill Obamacare would at least meet resistance.
And you know, since the inauguration there have been protests against a lot
of things associated with the new administration – everything from the
Muslim ban to the Russian interference in our election to everything in
between. But the save health care stuff, it started big, it started early,
it`s never gone away but, you know, it`s been kind of the spine on which
everything else has hung. The save our health care stuff started even
before members of Congress had any idea it was coming, let alone any sort
of plan for how they`d respond and you saw that in the initial
confrontations between members and their constituents and how those members
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: All they wanted to do –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there were hundreds of people here.
REPORTER: – was go into the community room at the Aurora public library
to meet with Congressman Mike Coffman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The representative didn`t have a plan. They expected
a small handful of people to show up.
REPORTER: Instead they came in droves, and while they were all singing and
waiting, police were putting up crime scene tape so Coffman could leave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All your constituents are here.
REPORTER: Six minutes before the event was supposed to end.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were told at one point everyone would get their
time and then he sneaks out six minutes early. I think he couldn`t handle
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can`t we fix the broken parts instead of throwing out
everything and starting over?
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP: No one`s saying that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s going to cost –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are saying that!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you vote 60 times for-to-repeal it.
WENSTRUP: First of all, I wasn`t in for 60 of those votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, how many times did you vote to repeal it?
WENSTRUP: A few.
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: If you want to travel fast,
go alone, if you want to travel far, go together.
(AUDIENCE CHANTING “SAVE OUR HEALTH CARE”)
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: So, what I support is a repeal with the
states taking over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. How is that going to be a replacement? You are
expecting it to go away and then hopefully the states will try to put
AMASH: Not hopefully, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would be like a crash and burn.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With what kind of funding?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do we hold the states accountable?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Members of Congress, I think especially at the beginning, just
didn`t see it coming. It started early and it did not let up and the
protests grew from small outbursts at unrelated events to more organized
gatherings inside and outside congressional offices. There has been
constituent lobbying by phone and by letter and by postcard and most
especially in person.
And the in-person part has meant in addition to protests and unannounced
visitors at their office, members of Congress – and I think it`s hard to
overstate the importance of this – members of Congress have also been
having for these last, you know, 70 days or so raw at times emotional
exchanges, one on one, with their own constituents. Personal intense
moments that are even now little hard to batch from the outside but imagine
being on the receiving end of moments like this with your own constituents,
people you know from our own district and it happening over and over and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went to school with your kids. Your wife was our
REP. JOHN FASO (R), NEW YORK: Yeah, she still is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awesome. No longer my school nurse though.
FASO: You`re more than 18.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am, yes. I have a brain tumor and a spinal
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when I was first diagnosed I was kicked off my
insurance because pre-existing conditions. And saying “I support this” is
not good enough. I need you as a human being to say I promise that we will
not take this away from you.
FASO: I can tell you. I promise. I promise.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve got a husband dying and we can`t afford – let
me tell you something, if you can get us better coverage than this, go for
it. Let me tell you what we have, plus a lot of benefits that we need. We
have $29 per month for my husband. Can you beat this? Can you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten years ago my wife had two open heart surgeries.
She now lives with two artificial valves in her heart. She is on a great
deal of medication and the ACA helps us to get that medication. If you
cancel the ACA without putting a viable alternative in there, on my fixed
income, we will not be able to afford the medication she now takes and she
Her name is Judy. J-u-d-y. Same last name. If you vote to cancel the ACA
and you see her name in an obituary, shame on you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without the medication, I can`t work and pay taxes
and pay insurance premiums, I can`t raise two children to be productive
citizens. I can`t do a thing. In fact, by now I would be dead.
So, I want to know from you, sir, if you will support the provisions of the
Affordable Care Act that protect people like me from being thrown into a
lottery system such a high-risk pool and not being guaranteed –
And will protect my children and my husband from going bankrupt to keep me
alive under circumstances that none of us chose.
REP. LEONARD NANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: Thank you for your question.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction – in
the universe, including our weird politics.
A day after the election, nobody would have told you that Republicans would
have any trouble repealing Obamacare, right? That`s a thing they could do
on their own, they`d be pushing on an open door. The Affordable Care Act,
they`d been rehearsing repealing it for years. It would definitely be
their first casualty, no problem. Then they`d get on to the hard stuff.
But people all over the country in every congressional district in the
country changed the course of that otherwise inevitable history. They at
least slowed it down. The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care
Act has a 17 percent approval rating. That`s worse than Chris Christie.
There is not a single congressional district in this country where people
who like the Republican idea who outnumber the people who strongly hate the
Republican idea. Not a single congressional district in the entire
That happens for a reason. That political climate doesn`t exist in nature.
It is created by people engaged in political action.
House Republicans are planning to vote at 7:00 Eastern to repeal Obamacare.
But now, they have pulled their bill despite the personal efforts of the
president, despite the White House insisting right through this afternoon
that it would definitely pass, no problem, they apparently could not get it
done. Republicans say they will reschedule the vote for tomorrow morning,
there`s still every possibility it might pass tomorrow morning.
But for the people who have been trying to save the Affordable Care Act all
over the country, even what just happened tonight is huge. Everybody
thought Republicans would be able to move at will on this but people said
Bernie Sanders is going to join us in just a moment. I want to bring in
now to the conversation, though – oh, do – tell me what I`m doing here.
Oh. OK. This is what`s going to happen. There`s been a change in plans.
We`ve got Bernie Sanders now. We just need to sit him down. We`re going
to have a quick commercial break. We`ll be back with Bernie Sanders right
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: They`re scrambling to find a
bill that they can pass on the floor. I don`t know if you want to call
this on Trump`s part a rookie`s error, but you don`t find a day and say
we`re going pass a bill. You build your consensus in your caucus and when
you`re ready, you set the date to bring it to the floor.
Rookie`s error, Donald Trump. You may be a great negotiator, rookie`s
error for bringing up on a day when clearly you`re not ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi earlier today twisting the knife.
Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi, even her sworn political enemies will
tell you that she knows how to count. She knows how to count votes and she
knows how to hold Democrats together.
You haven`t heard much, have you, about Democrats planning on voting with
the Republicans to repeal Obamacare, right? That`s because there aren`t
any Democrats planning on voting with Republicans on this. None.
Republicans didn`t try to get Democrats to vote with them on this. They
were sure they could do it all on their own. After all, they have a big
Republican majority in the House, right? This is their big idea.
Well, as of right now, Republicans haven`t taken the vote they said they
would take on this tonight. They pulled it. They say they la l vote
tomorrow whether they have the votes or not.
Here was Paul Ryan just a few minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Hi, everybody. For seven and
a half years, we have been promising the American people we will repeal and
replace this broken law because it`s collapsing and it`s failing families
and tomorrow we`re proceeding.
REPORTER: Do you have the votes? Do you have the votes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the press conference equivalent of tweeting. He`s like.
“I`ve only got 140 characters here, I`m out.” You can hear reporters
shouting, “Do you have the votes? Do you have the votes?”
Passing legislation unilaterally through a chamber you control shouldn`t be
that hard, especially when we`ve been practicing it for seven straight
years. It`s apparently harder than they thought. That said, if the do it
end up wrangling the votes by tomorrow morning, their job for getting rid
of Obamacare will only get harder from here on out in the Senate. There
are at least a dozen Republican senators who either oppose the bill or lean
against it. If so many as two of them vote no, this thing is in very,
very, very deep trouble.
Joining us now is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders, thank you so much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: What is your understanding of the process at this point? Where is
– what`s the status of the effort to repeal Obamacare, both in terms of
the House? And if it does get out of the House, once it gets to your
SANDERS: Well, you know, as you`ve indicated, they control the situation.
I think if they have the votes, Ryan will bring it up tomorrow. If they
don`t, they won`t bring it up. I don`t understand why you bring it up to
They`re going to have a different set of circumstances in the Senate and
our job is to do everything that we can to explain to the American people
in Kentucky, in West Virginia, in Arizona, in Nevada, and all of these so-
called red states what a disaster this plan would be to their lives. To
explain to them that Donald Trump and many of them voted for Trump lied to
them when he said he was going to protect the interests of working people.
You don`t throw 24 million people off of health insurance, you don`t tell
seniors that their premiums are going to soar, you don`t cut Medicaid which
not only will impact low income people but it will impact middle income
people whose parents are in nursing homes. You don`t cut Medicaid by
almost $900 billion and, by the way, in the midst of all of that, give $300
billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent and more tax breaks to the drug
companies and the insurance companies.
So, our job right now – and you`re seeing this all over the country, some
of the clips you presented indicate this – people are catching on and they
are telling their Republican representatives, “Do not sell us out. Do not
let my mother die because she can`t afford health care under your plan.”
And our job is to accelerate that effort, to get people to stand up and
fight back in a way this we have not seen in the modern history of this
country because, Rachel, if they get away with this, they`re going to keep
on coming. And it will be Social Security next, it will be the Veterans
Administration after that, et cetera, et cetera.
This is a war against the working people and our job is to stand up and
tell the billionaire class they`re not going to kill thousands of people
with a terrible proposal like this.
MADDOW: Senator, your greatest skill in politics, your whole orientation
towards politics is to bring Washington basically before the American
people, to make the concerns of the country resonate in Washington in a way
that they don`t through normal and corporate political power channels.
You`ve been a real organizer around these things.
And I feel like I`m watching two eventualities that you would have hoped
and prayed for whether or not you expected them. We`ve got 17 percent
approval rating nationwide for this bill that you just described in such
devastating terms. We have seen unprecedented activism not just against
the administration broadly but in favor of saving the Affordable Care Act,
in not just every state in the country but every congressional district in
the country, sustained, intense, human activism on this stuff.
And yet, it`s close. It may pass the House tomorrow. What are we learning
through this process, seeing the civic engagement in the American people on
this issue, about how that translates to Washington and about how you can
make that concern and that passion into political outcomes in D.C.?
SANDERS: Rachel, what we are seeing is that when the American people begin
to move, Republicans historically had their town meetings and 30 or 50 of
their friends would show up and they talk about cutting the deficit and
cutting Social Security and Medicare and everybody would applaud. But now,
you`re seeing people coming and saying, as you`ve heard on one of your
clips, if you do this, my wife is going to die and I`m not going to let you
And you`re seeing members of Congress, Republicans, having to sneak out the
back door or claim I`m worried about my safety, I can`t even hold a town
And that is our goal. I want to give you one example. I want you to think
You have a state like Kentucky, a poor state, a struggling state. It has
been one of the major beneficiaries along with West Virginia of the
Affordable Care Act. And, by the way, let`s be clear, the Affordable Care
Act has significant problems. I believe in a Medicare for all singer
But you`ve got West Virginia and Kentucky. The rate of uninsured people
has gone way, way down, far fewer people are now uninsured. And you have,
say, in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell advocating and leading the effort to end
the Affordable Care Act. The question is, how does he think he could get
away with in his own state throwing hundreds of thousands of people off
And the reason he thinks he can get away with that – and likely can get
away with it – is there is no opposition. Democratic Party is feeble,
unable to fight back.
So, our job not just on health care but in a broad sense is to bring the
American people together, to bring the working people of this country
together and say you know what, Mitch? You`re not going to give tax breaks
to billionaires and throw my wife or my kids off of health insurance. We
can do it.
But we need a political revolution in this country. We need to have the
guts to go into Kentucky and West Virginia and Arizona and Alaska and Maine
and Nevada and start bringing those people together. If we do that, we
cannot only defeat this Republican proposal, I believe we can move toward a
Medicare for all single payer system, I believe we can have progressive
taxation demanding Trump and his billionaire friends start paying their
fair share of taxes, raise the minimum wage to a living wage, et cetera, et
This is a pivotal moment in American history. Either these guys get away
with what they`re doing and decimate our people or else we stand up, fight
back, and transform the American society.
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont – Senator, there`s another
fight in Washington that has landed on your doorstep, the nomination of a
Supreme Court nominee from this president. I know that – I understand
that Democrats sort of planning a new stage of that fight. Would you mind
sticking around for one more question on that subject, sir?
MADDOW: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders will be back with us to respond
to this news that the Democrats intend to cross a Rubicon and filibuster
Supreme Court nomination from President Trump. Senator Bernie Sanders back
with us right after this. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: You can bet if the shoe were
on the other foot and a Democratic president was under investigation by the
FBI, the Republicans would be howling at the moon about filling a Supreme
Court seat in such circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now once again is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders, thank you very much for sticking with us.
Do you support the filibuster effort against Judge Gorsuch and how do you
think this fight is going to end in terms of his nomination?
SANDERS: Well, I do support the filibuster. I had the opportunity to sit
down with Judge Gorsuch in my office a couple weeks ago. We had a very
And the issues that concerned me of many are the issue of Citizens United
and whether or not he believes in a general sense, he`s not going to rule
on a particular case, in a general sense whether billionaires have the
unlimited freedom to buy elections. He didn`t give me a satisfactory
I asked him about voter suppression. I worried very much that all over
this country, we have Republican governors working overtime in the name of
fighting voter fraud which virtually does not exist, making it harder for
poor people, people of color, older people, young people to vote. I asked
him his views on that, was not a satisfactory answer.
I asked about a woman`s right to choose and privacy rights, not a
satisfactory answer. So, you know, as everybody knows, right now, the
Supreme Court is 4-4. He would be if appointed make it a 5-4 conservative
majority, and I will do everything I can to see that does not happen.
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, thank you for talking to us. I
know it`s a nuts time in Washington and appreciate you taking time out to
be with us. Thank you, sir.
SANDERS: Thank you, Rachel. Take care.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come on this busy news night,
including an interview tonight that you are definitely, definitely going to
want to hear. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Before the terrorist attack on the British parliament yesterday,
what was supposed to be the all encompassing huge news in Britain was
actually U.K. starting to pull out of the European Union. British voters
shocked the world last summer and they previewed the shock that the world
would feel in November after our elections when the U.K. voted to take
themselves out of the European Union, the Brexit vote.
Britain is such a cornerstone of Europe that their departure from the E.U.
may very well be the start of the disillusion of Europe as any kind of
intact political entity. That would be a radical change to that part of
the world, on the order of, you know, the end of World War II and the fall
of the Soviet Union.
So, it is a huge deal that Britain is going to start the process of leaving
the E.U. this week. They are about to trigger their E.U. exit, huge deal.
It`s still a shock even though we`ve had since last summer to get used to
it. It`s still a shock in part, I think because until very recently the
European Union was not just not collapsing, it was expanding at its edges.
This is the European Union. On the right side of your screen over there to
the east, that huge country, that`s Russia. Definitely not part of the
European Union. Under Vladimir Putin quite hostile to it and to every
other Western alliance that Putin sees as a threat.
But as recently as 2013, not long ago, that little country right there,
right in between the European Union and Russia, that country, Ukraine, was
maybe not thinking about marrying the European Union but they at least
wanted to go on a few dates. In 2013, Ukraine was engaged in talks for a
deal with the European Union that would start with easier trade, would
eventually lead to easier travel. It was a negotiated arrangement to
basically bring Ukraine much closer to the E.U.
It would be a big economic deal for Ukraine. I was popular in Ukraine.
Talks were steaming ahead.
But then the leader of Ukraine, President Yanukovych, he bailed. He was a
pro-Putin leader propped up by Putin and by Russia, and Putin didn`t want
Ukraine getting cozy with the European Union and so, he gave his orders and
Yanukovych said, yes, sir, and pulled out of that deal.
And Ukrainians were flabbergasted. They were outraged. People turned on
the street by the hundreds and then by the thousands, and then by the tens
of thousands, then by the hundreds of thousands protesting against
Yanukovych, protesting against Russia controlling their country`s fate.
It started in November, when he pulled out of those talks. It went on for
months. By February, it had turned deadly. They turned live fire on the
protests, dozens of people were killed and Yanukovych fled. He fled to
You may remember, when he fled, he left the gates of his otherwise
basically secret presidential palace unlocked and Ukrainians were able to
stream in to see what he`d been doing with all their money that he`d been
stealing all those years, up to and including his gold toilets and his car
museum and his replica Spanish galleon that he used as a private restaurant
and all the rest.
Among the documents he and his political party left behind were the
documents that allegedly show his off-the-books cash payments to his
political guru, the political consultant who basically ran things for him
and his party, a man named Paul Manafort who went on to run the Donald
Trump for president campaign. More than $12.5 million described in those
ledgers as going to Paul Manafort. It was an off-the-books ledger
described cash payments, $12.7 million. Paul Manafort denies he ever got
any of that money.
But when those massive protests pushed Yanukovych out of power, sent him
running to Moscow, Russia was not in a mood to acknowledge defeat. I mean,
after all, they had stopped Ukraine from going forward with that deal with
the European Union and, sure, they had lost their man in the presidential
palace, but that just meant Putin need another way to show Ukraine who`s
And so, Russia took part of Ukraine for itself. Yanukovych axed the deal
with the E.U. in late November, 2013, the protests went November, December,
January, February. By February, the protesters had won and changed
Yanukovych out of office.
That same week they chased him back to Moscow, Russia invaded. Russia sent
its troops to the part of Ukraine that`s called Crimea. By March, Russia
had not just invaded, they had taken over. They just took it. They took
part of another country.
And here`s an interesting totalitarian part of that. Russia likes to
appear on the surface as if it is a constitutional democracy. On paper, it
is. I mean, there`s not just authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin now in
the 17th year of his reign. There is technically a Russian parliament, the
And the Duma used to behave sort of like a parliament. Now, it just does
whatever Putin wants. But Putin does go through the motions. It`s like a
And so, part of the process of him invading and seizing part of Ukraine and
saying it`s part of Russia now, part of that process is that he had a
Russian parliament hold a vote on that. March 20th, 2014, they held a vote
and, surprise, the Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly to say yes to
Putin, yes, President Putin, yes, take it, take that part of Ukraine, annex
it, call it Russia now.
But check this out, look at the vote count. The vote was 443 in favor to 1
against. One. One member of parliament looked at Putin, looked at the 443
other members of parliament who are all voting “sir, yes, sir” and he voted
His name is Ilya Ponomarev. He was the one no vote. He also voted against
the big anti-gay bill in Russia before that. He had participated in anti-
Putin demonstrations in Moscow.
The thing I`m happy to tell you about Ilya Ponomarev is that he`s alive.
But, of course, he can`t be in Russia anymore. A few months after that
Crimea vote, where he was the one vote against Russia annexing Crimea, few
months after that vote, he was traveling in the United States and found
that his bank accounts and all of his assets at home had been frozen, taken
by the state.
Then, they stripped him of his parliamentary immunity in absentia, then
they brought criminal fraud charges against him, and then they impeached
him in absentia, he`s never been back. They hung a huge freaking banner on
a building in downtown Moscow denouncing him as a national traitor.
This was an elected member of parliament. He has never been back to
Russia. He now lives in exile, he lives in Ukraine.
This morning, Ilya Ponomarev was on his way to a meeting, he was going to
meet another former Russian member of parliament who has just been
denounced as a traitor to Russia, who has just been threatened with
criminal fraud charges, Ilya Ponomarev, the lone vote against Russia taking
Crimea, he was due to meet this morning in Kiev with Denis Voronenkov. And
on his way to that meeting, Denis Voronenkov got murdered in the street.
Here`s “The New York Times” description of what happened. Quote, “For a
contract murder, a common occurrence in former Soviet countries usually
executed with precision, for a contract murder, this killing in Kiev was
unusually bloody and chaotic. The assassin opened fire with what police
said was a TT pistol, a Soviet era design and Mr. Voronenkov`s bodyguard
fired back. In total, police say, the two fired at least 20 shots a few
yards apart, leaving blood and shell casings scattered around the sidewalk.
The bodyguard was shot in the chest but survived. The assassin was
captured after sustaining a head wound but he later died. And Mr.
Voronenkov, targeted a hit, he was shot four times and died at the scene.”
Quote, “Hours later, the body of Mr. Voronenkov, his tan dress shoes still
protruding from a black tarp, hours later, his body remained on the spot as
We don`t yet know anything about the character of this assassination.
Denis Voronenkov until very recently was nobody`s idea of a Russian
dissident. He was not an opposition figure until recently.
He and his wife were both members of parliament. His wife was in Putin`s
party. They had been accused of the same garden-variety corruption and
inexplicable wealth on government salaries that is a hallmark of the Putin
But something soured for Denis Voronenkov and his wife very recently. They
fled Russia. They said they were fleeing in fear for their lives only in
October. They renounced their Russian citizenship. Voronenkov got
Ukrainian citizenship in November. He has been denouncing Russian
corruption, taking back his own vote for the annexation of Crimea.
He spoke with Radio Free Europe last month, he spoke with the “Washington
Post” on Tuesday. He had recently testified in a major criminal case
against the pro-Putin dictator Yanukovych. He said he`d be happy to do so
The most recent interview with him, the most recent interview with
Voronenkov posted online at 10:00 a.m. this morning local time. By 11:30
this morning local time, he was shot dead in the street.
Again, Denis Voronenkov was not some lifelong dissident and opposition
figure. Some of these pictures are intense, I know. But he was a – he
was a Kremlin insider, basically. He was happy to be part of Vladimir
Putin`s rubber stamp parliament. He was close to power.
He was a favored member of the Russian elite in pro-Putin circles. He was
apparently involved in – he was a beneficiary of the corruption that
involved Putin that helped him keep his power all these years. But
something happened, something curdled and he flipped on them and they came
after him and he went into exile.
He was planning to start a non-government organization focusing on Russian
corruption. He was not just a regular dissident. He was a guy who had
been very recently on the inside. He was in a position to know what he was
talking about in that regard, including giving legal testimony which he`d
already done and they planned to do more.
But he won`t be able to do that now. His assassination today ends all of
that. His assassination today comes two days after another Russian figure
who was due to testify in U.S. federal court in May in a case that had been
run out of the office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who was suddenly
just fired by the Trump administration after initially being told he could
stay on, a Russian lawyer due to testify in that U.S. case, a Russian money
laundering and fraud case, that lawyer took mysteriously flight out of a
fourth floor window at his Moscow apartment on Tuesday.
He`s the family lawyer of Sergei Magnitsky who was murdered in Russia in
prison in 2009 after his part in exposing a quarter billion dollar fraud
case involving Russian officials. That quarter billion dollar fraud and
the trail left behind by that money, investigators are still following that
trail. But who knows if Nikolai Gorokhov will be able to testify after all
in any of those cases after his mysterious fall from that apartment block
on the fourth floor this week. We`ve got an interview tonight with a key
player in that case as Nikolai Gorokhov fights for his life in a Russian
So, this is the split screen we`ve got to have now, in understanding our
own American news, right? The investigation into Putin`s attack on our
election and the possible cooperation of the Trump campaign in that attack,
that investigation may be starting to fall apart in the House of
Representatives because of the Republican leadership of the Intelligence
Committee there, Congressman Devin Nunes reportedly apologized to his
committee for his behavior in that case yesterday, which has seriously
called into question whether somebody like him, a member of the Trump
campaign and Trump transition can actually lead that investigation.
The FBI investigation continues, of course. CNN now reporting that FBI
investigators are focusing increasingly on the evidence they have found
about Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. The top Democratic
member of the Intelligence Committee in the House says there is, quote,
“more than circumstantial evidence” of the Trump campaign collaborating in
the Russian attack on our elections last year.
And all of this stuff in our own politics, in our own government, this is
fascinating to watch unfold, right? The A.P. is reporting today that in
addition to reportedly being a focus of the FBI`s investigation into
Russian collusion, Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, he is also the
target of investigation about his potential ties to an international money
laundering scheme. “The A.P.” says today it`s the same financial crimes
unit that tracked down and shut down the financing of al Qaeda after 9/11
that`s now investigating the money trail left all over the world by Paul
It was also just reported this evening that Paul Manafort`s business
partner with whom he was engaged in many of his Ukraine contracts, tonight,
Manafort`s business partner, Rick Gates, has been ousted from a group
called America First Priorities, which is a super PAC type group set up by
the Trump administration to advocate for Trump policies outside the White
House. Rick Gates has been pushed out of that outfit as of tonight because
of his ties to Paul Manafort as the former Trump campaign chairman
reportedly becomes a red hot focus of multiple Russia-Trump investigations.
This is a fascinating scandal in our own politics and there`s new stuff
uncovered in our own news every single day, but this is not just an
American story anymore this is a foreign attack. This is a global thing
we`re in and so, this is a split screen scandal and on our side of the
screen – yes, it`s about whether or not the presidency is the
collaborative product of a hostile foreign power and their confederates
inside our country who are now inside of the White House.
But on the other side of the screen, it is murder in the street. Over and
over and over again, Putin`s enemies murdered in the street. As the news
of the assassination of this latest Putin critic was breaking today in
Russia, Moscow police put out a public warning about an opposition rally
that`s planned for Sunday in Moscow.
The Moscow police put out this notice threatening today that that rally is
illegal, threatening anybody who might still dare show up for it, quote,
“Your personal safety might be under threat if you come to that opposition
rally.” That`s the warning from the police. Don`t show up, you`ll get
hurt, we promise.
There is a – you know, a Supreme Court nominee on the bubble. There is
the biggest health care policy in generations teetering tonight. There is
a new protest movement in this country that is changing the whole ground
truth of political dynamics in America.
But at the other end of the biggest political scandal we`ve got, that is as
yet unresolved for us. It really is murder, over and over and over again,
it`s murder. We are dealing with something very, very, very dark.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: A man named Bill Browder once ran one of the largest private
equity firms investing in Russia. He`s no longer doing that in Russia
because he made too much noise about Russian government corruption. They
Even after he was deported, he kept fighting and investigating Russian
corruption, including the corruption that targeted him there. He did that
work in part through his won Russian lawyer and auditor, Sergei Magnitsky.
For his work in uncovering a huge quarter billion dollar Russian government
embezzlement scheme, Sergei Magnitsky was thrown in prison without charges.
After being beaten and tortured and denied medical treatment, he died in
prison in 2009. He was 37 years old. Sergei Magnitsky`s death became a
rallying cry including in this country. Three years after his killing,
President Obama signed into law the Magnitsky Act, which targets specific
Russian officials who were involved in that crime and the fraud behind it.
That was largely thanks to the activism of Bill Browder, along with Russian
opposition leaders, including Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Kara-Murza. You
know those names because Boris Nemtsov was shot dead two years ago in
Moscow, just outside the Kremlin. Vladimir Kara-Murza has been poisoned to
– nearly to death twice since then.
It`s very a dangerous business being an opponent of Vladimir Putin`s.
The man who plummeted four stories from his apartment building on Tuesday,
Nikolai Gorokhov, he`s the lawyer from Sergei Magnitsky`s family who are
still seeking justice for his death. Mr. Gorokhov was due in court the
very next day after he was thrown or fell out of that fourth floor window.
He was due in court to represent the Magnitsky family. He was also due to
testify in May in New York, in a Russian money laundering case brought in
federal court by Preet Bharara`s office. But right now, he`s in the
hospital with serious injuries.
And joining us now is Bill Browder. He`s the author of “Red Notice: The
True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man`s Fight for Justice.”
Mr. Browder, I know you have stayed up to a terrible hour of the night to
be with us tonight from Britain. Thanks very much for joining us.
BILL BROWDER, AUTHOR, “RED NOTICE”: Good to be here.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you the basics of if you know how Mr. Gorokhov –
how he is. I mean, a fourth floor window is not a good place to start.
It`s remarkable to me that he survived this fall.
BROWDER: Yes, it`s truly remarkable. So, when we got the news that he
fell down four stories, he`s a 53-year-old man, I assumed the absolute
worst two nights ago. And the next day, sort of about 24 hours later, I
got the news that he is in serious condition, but no longer critical
BROWDER: So, Nikolai has survived the fall. He`s got all of his mental
facilities. He`s not paralyzed. He`s got a few broken bones. But it
looks like this man went down four stories and survived, which is just a
MADDOW: Do you have any greater understanding about the circumstances
under which this happened? Obviously, there have been conflicting claims.
Russian state supported media are saying this is all an accident. It`s all
a big misunderstanding. There is definitely no funny business here.
Can you shed any light on those details?
BROWDER: Well, I don`t think it`s an accident. As you mentioned, he was
due to give evidence the next day on a massive conspiracy between Russian
organized crime and Russian police to cover up the details of the Magnitsky
case. People don`t just fall out of their apartments on the fourth floor
And what was even more suspicious is that one of the TV stations, Life.ru,
which is connected to the Russian security services, was their suspiciously
close after he fell, almost as if they must have known something was going
And so, we view this very suspiciously, very skeptically. I can only say
I`m deeply relieved that he survived whatever this attempt was, because it
was just unbelievable, a guy falling down four stories and surviving.
MADDOW: Obviously, there`s a question about whether or not the cases, the
ones he was due to testify in in Russia, the federal court case in New
York, the other cases – the other investigations surrounding this case,
whether they proceed and whether they`re harmed by witnesses apparently
being targeted here. I have to ask you just personally, with your activism
and the way you have spoken out on this issue and the way you have
advocated so aggressively on this subject for these years now – are you
worried about being targeted?
BROWDER: Very, very much so. I am targeted. I`ve been threatened on a
number of occasions by the Russian government, by agents of the Russian
government. I`ve received threats directly, indirectly. They`re coming
But I have a duty to Sergei Magnitsky, my lawyer who was murdered seven
years ago, to get justice for him. And I`m not going to back down from
these – from these threats. It`s my duty to go after the people who
MADDOW: Bill Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management, the
author of “Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man`s
Fight for Justice” – I know it is nigh on 2:00 a.m. in the morning in
London, where you`re joining us from, sir – thank you for staying so late
with us into the evening to talk to us about what`s going on. I appreciate
BROWDER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight.
I will tell you the thing you`ve got to watch for in tomorrow`s news, as
far as we know, they are planning that health care vote for sometime in the
8:00 a.m. Eastern hour. This is health care repeal Obamacare vote that was
due to happen tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. As of right now, it does seem
like it is a very fluid situation.
The headline is that it didn`t happen tonight when they thought it would,
but expect it to happen early morning before you`re having breakfast, if
you`re still up right now in terms of their second bite at that apple.
We will see you again tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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