The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/27/2017

Guests:
Jim Himes, Michael McFaul
Transcript:

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: March 27, 2017
Guest: Jim Himes, Michael McFaul


CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: And that is all evening for this – “ALL IN”
for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I think we should start a new thing where at
the end of your show every night, you just tell people where they can come
meet you.

HAYES: Yes, exactly. Here`s where we`ll all be, everybody.

MADDOW: Come and get it.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Good night.

MADDOW: Good luck tonight.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

In the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were the opposing
superpowers in the world, right? Two huge countries with huge militaries,
huge nuclear arsenals and international influence well beyond the bounds of
their already considerable home territory. It was – it was a match and
oppositional force between equals.

That was the simplistic construct of the Cold War. But despite that
simplistic construct, the whole superpowers model, the U.S. and the Soviet
Union were not really equal counterparts. They were not equal in terms of
their strength, their ability to project power, their resilience. The
United States was far stronger in terms of our economy versus theirs.

In terms of international influence, the Soviet Union had tight and
oftentimes brutal control over the states and territories that were within
their orbit, but their orbit was kind of limited. The United States had
influence and involvement and even an accepted leadership role over a much
bigger portion of the globe or at least a much higher number of other
countries, both just in terms of who`s in our own hemisphere but also our
role in international institutions, countries we were in alliance with,
countries we had treaties with, that we could look to as friends for all
sorts of things, not just our standoff with the Soviet Union. We had more
influence in the world.

The United States we can also now tell in retrospect was far stronger than
the Soviet Union in terms of our ability to manage our own destiny. We
were more stable. For all our faults, we were more stable. I mean, the
United States did not collapse. Soviet Union did.

That said one area where the U.S. and the Soviet Union were quite evenly
matched other than the nuclear stuff, right, one other area where both
sides had a lot of capacity and neither side could clearly outperform the
other, one place where the dueling superpower myth was kind of true was in
intelligence, our spy agencies. As opposed to almost every other aspect of
competition between our two countries during the Cold War, the spy agencies
fought each other and tried to beat each other every single day and they
were really well matched adversaries.

And the spy versus spy stuff didn`t stop at the end of the Cold War, so one
of the ways you can tell that they`re spy agencies and our spy agencies
were well-matched that you can talk to us intelligence officials even today
and they will tell you how much respect they have for the Russian
capability, for Russian capacity when it comes to spying and intelligence.

Still though, even if the spy agencies in our two countries are well-
matched and I think most people would say they are, they`re equally good,
that doesn`t mean that they`re the same. For example, one of the things
that they`ve got that we do not is a KGB university. Yes.

I mean, if you want to join the FBI or you want to join the CIA in this
country, yes, you go off and you do training, right, but it`s not literally
spy college. In Russia, they`ve got a spy college and it`s not a
conceptual thing. That`s the building. It`s a spy university.

It was founded by Lenin in 1922, went through a few different names over
the years as Russia changed the names of its various spy and security
agencies. For a while, it was called the Central School of the NKVD.
Then, it was called Dzer-Zhinsky Higher School of the KGB, when it became
the KGB. Felix Dzer-Zhinsky was the founder of the Soviet secret police.
So, oh, that was a nice honor for him. They named KGB college after him.

And then after it was Dzer-Zhinsky Higher School of the KGB, it became
known as the Academy of the Federal Security Service of Russia, FSB school.
It`s an actual college. It`s got a cryptography institute like you might
expect. They`ll teach you everything else you need to know to become a
loyal spy in Russia`s estimable intelligence agencies.

Russia`s FSB academy is in the news today because it is where this guy went
to school. The FSB academy is the alma mater of this man whose name is
Sergey Gorkov. Gorkov was born in 1968. So, I think that means he`s years
48 old, 49. He`ll turn 49 in December.

The same year I graduated from college in California, in 1994, he graduated
from spy college in Moscow. He went to the FSB academy.

And after that, he went on to work at the Yukos Oil Company, right up
through the time when the Russian government came in and seized all the
assets of that oil company and took it for themselves. He then landed a
really sweet job. It`s funny, he didn`t have all that much of an
impressive resume, but he was really well-connected and so he went from spy
school to Yukos, to being deputy chairman of the biggest government-run
bank in Russia.

It`s a bank that – I don`t speak Russian – I think it`s called Sberbank.
That`s how I would pronounce it. It`s a little close to sperm bank in
terms of the phonetics but I`m just going to go with Sberbank, I don`t know
how else to say it.

He was deputy chairman of that largest state-run bank in Russia from 2008
until last year.

Now if the name of that bank is familiar to you from recent news, if you
feel like you`ve seen that name recently, it`s because on Friday, we
learned that Sberbank is in trouble in the United States. The federal
prosecutor`s office in New York that until recently was run by Preet
Bharara before the Trump administration inexplicably and suddenly fired
him, that prosecutors office brought charges against Sberbank, again, the
largest government-run bank in Russia. They brought criminal charges
against them in conjunction with granite mining firm.

You don`t need to know all the details, I`m not sure I grasp all of them.
But basically, the bank is charged with helping to destroy an industry in
Russia and helping pick a monopoly winner to take over all the granite
mining in that country. That`s a very typical story in terms of how
Russian corruption works under Vladimir Putin.

He`ll pick an industry, destroy what exists there and hand it over to one
of his partners, hand it over to one of his friends. That`s – when people
talk about the oligarchs, that`s kind of the dynamic when it comes to Putin
and the oligarchs.

So, this bank is the largest state-run bank in Russia, Sberbank, and the
reason it made American news on Friday is because the bank announced on
Friday that they have hired an American lawyer to defend them in this case.
They have hired one of Donald Trump`s personal lawyers. When “The New York
Times” published some of Donald Trump`s tax returns last year and Trump
threatened to sue “The New York Times”, this is the lawyer who threatened
to sue “The New York Times”.

When “The New York Times” wrote last year about all the women who have come
forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexually abusing them and from Trump
threatened to sue the paper for that one too, this was the lawyer who he
said to threaten to sue them. BuzzFeed reports that the same Trump lawyer
also represented Trump at his Atlantic City casino financing. This is the
same Trump lawyer who`s also threatened to sue other people who have
written negative things about Trump over the years.

But now, this guy who has been a Trump lawyer for a decade and a half, he`s
now just been hired by the biggest state-owned bank in Russia. And until
last year, Sergey Gorkov, the guy who went to KGB college, he was deputy
chairman of that bank.

He is no longer deputy chairman of that bank though because he is still
rising in his career. He`s now no longer deputy chairman of anything.
Sergey Gorkov, the guy who went to KGB college, he is now the chairman,
he`s now the head guy at another government-owned Russian bank and this one
is a doozy and this is the one that gets into American politics.

January 26 – excuse me, January 26, 2015, 11:45 in the morning, at an A&P
Supermarket in Riverdale, New York, FBI agents swooped in at the
supermarket and arrested dude who was just doing his grocery shopping he
wasn`t bothering anybody, what`s going on? This guy got handcuffed. He
got taken out of there without incident, he didn`t fight.

It turns out that guy they picked up in a supermarket was a Russian spy and
he worked at Sergey Gorkov`s bank. Federal agents picked up that guy at
the supermarket in January 2015. They charged him with being an
unregistered agent of a foreign power and unregistered agent of Russia.
They arrested him at that supermarket in 2015. In March of last year,
March 2016, he pled guilty.

The criminal indictment in this case was absolutely riveting. He not only
used his position at the bank to secretly gather information that he sent
home as intel to the Russian spy services, he also full-on stole U.S.
government documents which is part of how they caught him. He was
particularly involved in trying to steal information here about U.S.
government sanctions against Russia, which Russian institutions are going
to be targeted by the U.S. government for sanctions, which people were
going to be targeted.

Ostensibly, he just worked at this bank but he wasn`t undercover Russian
agent and because he didn`t like have a connection to an embassy, he didn`t
have any overt connection to the Russian government other than working at
this bank, he didn`t have any way to secretly transmit his intel home to
Moscow center, to the – to the spy hub back home and so he would it`s all
laid out in the indictment. He would surreptitiously meet and hand off
scraps of paper and do dead drops and those passive passes thing where they
walk past each other and drop stuff in each other`s pockets, all of that
spy movie stuff.

He and these other Russian spies would do that around New York, and two
other spies were charged in the case, but they both got out and fled back
to Moscow before they could be arrested. The one who got caught and put on
trial in New York, he got 30 months in prison when he was sent this last
year for being a Russian spy. His day job when he wasn`t being a Russian
spy was that he was the number two official in New York for this bank,
which is called VEB.

Likes Sberbank, VEB is a bank that is also controlled by the Russian
government. The Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, he`s on the supervisory
board of the bank. This is the bank that Putin famously uses to direct
billions of dollars in financing and bailouts and strategic assistance to
his favorite Russian oligarchs.

In 2009, that`s the bank that paid four and a half billion dollars to Oleg
Deripaska. Oleg Deripaska is the billionaire who allegedly put Trump
campaign manager Paul Manafort on a $10 million a year retainer to promote
the interests of Putin`s government in the United States and around the
world. Oleg Deripaska, the oligarchs closest to Putin for a long period
recently. Putin shoveled four and a half billion dollars to him through
that bank.

This bank is basically Putin`s to do with as he wishes. He funds his
favorite oligarchs. He uses it to mess with countries that he wants to
mess with. For example, if he wants to mess with Ukraine, he`ll have this
bank drop eight billion dollars into the hands of some of his oligarch
partners for them specifically to go grab a bunch of important assets in
Ukraine. So, then Russia`s president`s friends own all these critical
assets in Ukraine that means Ukraine is tied even closer to Russia and to
him, Ukraine has even less hope of maintaining or achieving its
independence. That`s what he uses this bank for.

The financially disastrous Sochi Olympics, Putin funded the construction of
all this Sochi Olympics stuff through this bank. It`s his bank, he
controls it. His prime minister is on the board of this bank and the new
chairman of that bank is the guy who started off his career in KGB school,
Sergei Gorkov.

And today, we learned that Sergey Gorkov met with Jared Kushner, which is
nuts in its own right, right? But perhaps the most nuts thing about it is
that we are only finding out about it now.

I mean, Michael Flynn was fired as national security advisor ostensibly for
not fully disclosing his contacts with the Russian government. Attorney
General Jeff Sessions got close to not being able to hold on to his job,
had to recuse himself from all the Trump Russian investigations because he
was not fully forthcoming about his contacts with Russian government
officials.

Nevertheless, we`re learning today, for the first time, from “The New York
Times” that Jared Kushner met with Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador
during the transition, then there was a follow-up meeting, a second meeting
with the Russian ambassador to which Jared sent his assistant – and other
news, Jared has an assistant. But now, we have learned that in addition to
those two meetings with the ambassador during the transition, Jared Kushner
also met during the transition with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Putin`s own
state-run bank which he uses for all sorts of things and where he`s got
just the right guy with just the right training at the top to keep things
sort of in-house.

This is a bank that was targeted directly by the U.S. government in
sanctions after Putin invaded Ukraine and took Crimea. This is a – it
wasn`t just like generically affected by banking sanctions on Russia
generally. This bank was named specifically, singled out for sanctions
because it acts as an agent for the Russian government, because it is
controlled directly by Putin and his government. Why is the guy running
that bank getting a meeting with Jared?

Jared Kushner is 36 years old. He`s not that much older than Sergey was
when he got out of spy school in Moscow. Maybe they talked about that.

The White House and the bank have now both confirmed that the meeting took
place. There has been no credible explanation thus far for why this
meeting between Jared and the head of this Russian bank was not disclosed
until now, particularly when other senior White House officials were
getting fired or having to recuse themselves from major parts of their jobs
because of their undisclosed meetings with Russian government officials and
frankly they`re undisclosed meetings with Russian government officials were
with officials who would raise far fewer eyebrows than the head of a
sanctioned bank linked both directly to Putin and to the Russian spy
services.

Incredibly, this news about Jared Kushner comes on the same day that the
White House has announced that Jared Kushner is about to take charge of
kind of everything in the White House. I mean, he already had an unusually
expansive portfolio.

We already knew, for example, that Jared Kushner, the 36-year-old son-in-
law of the president, we already knew that he was the White House point
person on Middle East peace and China and Canada and Mexico, including
building the wall. We`re also told he was in charge of trade deals in the
White House, which is kind of a big responsibility on its own.

We learned today from the White House that in addition to all of those
things, Jared Kushner is now being put in charge of something called the
White House Office of American Innovation. Through that office, in
addition to all of those other things he`s responsible for, did I mention
that Middle East peace is one of them? In addition to all of that other
stuff he`s in charge of, he will now also be in charge of the V.A. – what
“The Washington Post” describes today as reimagining the V.A. Oh good.

After inheriting his dad`s real estate company, he should definitely be
able to handle that one super fast, second largest agency in the U.S.
government, one of the – one of the largest organizations on earth
responsible for the care of tens of millions of American veterans.

In addition to reimagining the V.A., he will also be in charge of the one
trillion dollar infrastructure plan that his father-in-law is planning, and
he will be in charge of installing brand-new technology and data
infrastructure for every single department and agency of the federal
government, and he will be in charge of broadband policy for the nation,
and he will be in charge of getting rid of the opioid crisis.

That`s all Jared – that`s all Jared`s portfolio now, we learned today on
the same day but the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed that it will
be summoning him to testify on his previously undisclosed contacts, not
just with the Russian ambassador, but his contacts with the Russian spy guy
– I mean, banking chairman at the head of a Putin controlled Russian bank
with multiple known links to Russian spy agencies that`s currently under
sanctions from the U.S. government.

I don`t know how much time he`s going to have to spend preparing for that
testimony, but I hope it doesn`t get into the time he`s otherwise going to
spend on China, Canada, Mexico, the wall, Middle East peace, trade deals,
broadband for the country, the opioid crisis, trillion dollars worth of
infrastructure, overhauling the technological and data infrastructure for
every department and agency in the federal government, and reimagining the
Veterans Administration. Hope it doesn`t cut into any of the time he`s had
to set aside for those other little projects.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: A little bit of breaking news. The top Democrat in the House,
Nancy Pelosi, just moments ago has called for the chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee, Congressman Devin Nunes of California, she has
called for him to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation that
he`s supposed to be leading in the House. We`ve had calls today from the
senior Democrat on that House Intelligence Committee that Chairman Nunes
should recuse himself. We had calls earlier in the day today from the top
Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, that Paul Ryan should step in and
replace Devin Nunes, either in that role or specifically – either in that
role specifically or running that committee generally.

There`s a lot in motion on this story right now. It was a week ago today
that the FBI director confirmed that there`s an ongoing counterintelligence
investigation into the Russian attack on our elections last year and into
whether or not the Trump campaign knowingly colluded in that, whether they
cooperated in that attack.

That confirmation from the FBI comes as the – came up at the first open
hearing on the Trump-Russia issue that was held by the House Intelligence
Committee.

The second open hearing of that committee on that topic was supposed to be
tomorrow morning. It was gonna be tomorrow until quietly on Friday, the
Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, canceled
that public hearing.

Initially, he said that it wasn`t cancelled, it was just postponed
indefinitely. Nothing to see here, just a little scheduling conflict.
This isn`t a substantive decision at all.

He said he had to cancel – I mean, postponed indefinitely that public
hearing scheduled for tomorrow because he said the committee instead needed
to go into a closed session tomorrow where they would hear more closed-door
classified testimony from the guys who testified at the hearing last week,
from the FBI director and the head of the NSA. That`s how Devin Nunes
explained why he had to cancel tomorrow`s public hearing, because that
closed-door session was going to happen instead.

Well that closed-door session tomorrow has also just been canceled and
oddly even though that was the excuse for getting rid of the public
hearing, they didn`t reinstate the public hearing when they found out that
the closed-door session wasn`t going to happen tomorrow either, right?
It`s weird. If it`s just a scheduling conflict – I mean, you`ve had this
happen, right?

You like have a long-standing plan with a friend and then something comes
up for work and you`re like, I`m so sorry, I – we have to reschedule.
I`ve got this thing that comes up for work – oh, wait the work thing got
canceled too. We`re back on, right?

That`s happened, right? You`ve had that happen in your life? That`s the
explanation that the house intelligence chairman gave for cancelling that
public hearing tomorrow, the explanation for why he gave that, the
explanation of why you canceled that now has fallen apart, but there`s
still no public hearing. And it`s still not reschedule.

It is really starting to look like that House intelligence investigation
under the leadership of Devin Nunes, it`s – it`s looking like it`s blowing
up. I mean, there are screaming calls today from Democrats that Chairman
Nunes should recuse himself from this investigation or that House Speaker
Paul Ryan should just replace him as chair of that committee.

After Devin Nunes called not one but two dramatic press conferences last
week and said he was rushing to the White House with troubling information
about Trump transition officials, turning up in American intelligence
intercepts, there has been a lot of speculation and wondering since then, a
lot of unclear and contradictory information from Nunes himself as to where
he got that troubling information that he didn`t show to his own committee,
that he rushed straight to straight to the White House with once he got it.
Today, Chairman n Nunes confirmed that where he got that information from
was, quote, “The White House grounds.” Huh?

On the night before his breathless press conferences last week where he
insisted they had to deliver this damning information directly to the White
House, we now know that he went to the White House, or cryptically to the
White House grounds, to receive that information in the first place. And
if that sounds absurd to you, you are not alone. There`s nobody on either
side of the aisle in Washington who says they have any idea what Devin
Nunes is talking about in this regard or what he is up to, and that
includes the intelligence agencies that are talking to members of Congress,
and that includes other intelligence committee officials who are supposed
to have access to all the same information that he has.

So, they`re all these calls for him to recuse himself from that
investigation. The House Intelligence Investigation of Trump in Russia is
in a very weird place. We will have more on that in just a moment with one
of the senior Democrats on that committee.

The Senate intelligence investigation of Trump and Russia proceeds. It`s
now going to include this bizarre new information that we got today,
belated, inexplicable revelations about Jared Kushner taking a secret
meeting with the chairman of a Russian state-owned bank that is under
sanctions by the U.S. government and that is both linked to the Russian
intelligence services as an institution and headed up by a chairman who
started his career at the FSB academy, a Moscow spy school, he`s the one
who met with Jared.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, their first public hearing on this issue
will be on Thursday. So, we will get one public hearing this week. But my
god, I mean, every news day is like another, right? Who knows what we will
have reported by then?

Joining us now is Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He`s a Democratic
member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is in such turmoil right
now in terms of Trump-Russia investigation.

Congressman Himes, it`s really nice to have you with us tonight. Thanks
for being here.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW: I imagine it frustrates you to hear somebody like me say the House
Intelligence Committee investigation appears to be blowing up. I imagine
that is not how you want your investigation to be described?

HIMES: No, that is not. And I`m – we`re in a bizarre moment right now
where not only is the investigation frozen for obvious reasons, with
hearings being canceled, but the committee is frozen. We ordinarily have a
meeting at 5:00 p.m. on the day that we all return, which was today, to go
over the previous week`s activities and that was canceled. We had a
Thursday meeting to talk about something totally different, I think, than
Russia, and that was canceled. So, we are in suspended animation right
now.

MADDOW: So, you`ve got – just let me confirm it to you. You`ve received
no information in terms of what Chairman Nunes was talking about last week
about these incepts that he said he was so concerned about. You haven`t
had an intelligence committee meeting, an internal meeting. And there
hasn`t been a rescheduling of what was originally going to be another
public hearing tomorrow, and the closed door hearing that was also
scheduled for tomorrow, subsequently scheduled for tomorrow. That has also
been canceled?

HIMES: That`s exactly right. I arrived back today, went to our offices
and discovered that not only have the Democrats received not one single
fact about the chairman`s rather bizarre behavior last week, but it appears
that none of the Republicans or frankly any of the staff on the committee
have been briefed on any of this.

In the meantime, yes, we`re left kind of – with a situation where two
things – two things are going to happen here. One is because of the
chairman`s behavior now, how is the American public going to trust him when
he stands with ranking member Adam Schiff and says, here`s our report. And
secondly, and this doesn`t get covered a lot, but an investigation, of
course, relies on people from the intelligence community, maybe
whistleblowers coming forward and saying, here`s what I know. And you hope
that they do it legally through whistleblowing channels.

But at this point in time, with Chairman Nunes, you know, doing what he
did, can you imagine if you are a whistle blower, or if you are just an
intelligence officer, do you want to sit in a close room with the chairman
in the Intelligence Committee with the possibility that the chairman may
then jump into a car, not one car, but two cars, and then show up at the
White House to brief the exact entity that is being investigated? This is
going to put a really chilling effect on our ability to do this
investigation.

MADDOW: Congressman, I know that you have said that the Democrats should
not back out of this investigation because if you`re not there, there won`t
be an investigation. I`ve heard you articulate that argument. It also
seems to me, that what you`re describing here and the way that you`re
talking about it, it also feels like Chairman Nunes is beyond the point of
no return, in terms of whether or not he can lead this investigation. In
your estimation, is there anything he could do that would reinstate him as
a – you know, as a trusted, and appropriate leader for this investigation
or is the only way out of here that he recuse, gets replaced or that the
whole investigation ends?

HIMES: Yes. I know. Your frame is exactly right. I mean, we`re sort of
in a box as Democrats, because other than the Senate – and, by the way, we
could wake-up tomorrow and discovered that some, you know, harebrained
activity had tanked the Senate investigation. So, we kind of feel like
we`re hanging on by our fingertips here, you know, hoping that we can
continue to make the kind of progress that we did in the open hearing on
Monday.

Now, by the way, that`s not progress that the White House particularly
appreciated, which maybe why we are where we are today, but you`re
absolutely right, I think the only way after all this bizarre behavior and
this record of acting in the interest of the very group being investigated
– that is Trump and his people – the only way for us to proceed with any
credibility, and I agree with ranking member Adam Schiff on this, is for
Devin Nunes to recuse himself as chairman for this purpose. You know,
something a little reminiscent of what the attorney general had to do with
respect to Russia contacts.

MADDOW: One last quick question for you, Congressman. We`ve been
discussing this revelation in “The New York Times” today apparently tied to
the Senate investigation that Jared Kushner had this unexplained and
previously undisclosed meeting with this guy who`s the head of a Russian
government-controlled bank with very close ties to President Putin and to
the Russian spy services.

Did you – as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, did you learn
that today in “The New York Times”, or is that information that has been
surfaced already in your investigation?

HIMES: Well, this is pretty rapidly breaking. I think I knew a little bit
before the media had it. But – and I know that you have been covering it.

Look, this is – we`ve seen this movie before. We saw it with Paul
Manafort, with Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, all of these people around the
president who had extensive contacts with Russia.

Look, I`ve run five campaigns, granted not presidential campaigns. I`ve
run five campaigns. I`d be shocked if anybody associated with any of my
campaigns had any contact whatsoever with Russia.

So, again, we get back to the reason for this investigation in the first
place, which is the bizarre intensity of the contacts with Russia, coupled
with the president`s completely solid refusal to level any sort of
criticism at the country that all of his people have been happily meeting
with for so long.

MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, member of the
House Intelligence Committee, this is – these are fascinating times.
You`re right in the middle of it, sir. Thanks for helping us keep
apprised. I appreciate it.

HIMES: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: I will say that what the congressman was just saying there about
how these things all fit together, it – the part of this right now that
beggars belief for me is that we are still now at this date at the end of
March still learning about new contacts between Trump officials, Trump
campaign officials, Trump transition officials, Trump administration
officials, new contacts we`re still learning about now with Russia.

If you are in the Trump administration and you are sitting on contacts that
you know you had with Russian government officials and you haven`t said so
by now, time is running out when that stops to feel like a scandal. It`s
remarkable to me that somebody could still be sitting on that this deep
into this story, but who knows what`s going to come out next?

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, earlier this month, we reported that Russian opposition leader
Alexei Navalny had posted nearly an hour long video outlining and showing a
whole bunch of secret properties owned by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry
Medvedev. Dmitry Medvedev officially lives just on his government salary
and has no other source of wealth or income.

Alexei Navalny`s anti-corruption group actually flew drones with cameras
over the walls of Dmitry Medvedev`s 45,000 square foot mountain chalet in
Sochi. They sent another drone with a camera over the fence of this
gigantic country house, country house complete with its own large man-made
lake.

There was also this 30,000 square foot mansion in the Moscow suburbs. It
also had its own lake, different shape. They also got this footage of his
17th century villa in Tuscany, complete with its own vineyard, and the not
one but two yachts that the prime minister owns and has reportedly named
after his wife, aw.

Dmitry Medvedev is a public servant. He has never declared any legal
sources of income whatsoever other than his government salary as prime
minister, which is a nice salary but it`s not like two yachts a vineyard in
Tuscany in your own 45,000 square foot ski chalet nice. It`s not that kind
of nice.

But it turns out there`s more. There`s also this Dmitry Medvedev estate
which was previously discovered by Alexei Navalny anti-corruption group.
This has some very notable features. It has a multi – see that? Looks
like a sort of waterslide. That`s a multi-layered cascading swimming pool.

Also, a big greenhouse. It`s got three helipads. It`s got two large
garages. It`s also got a modest little house built specifically for Mr.
Medvedev`s ducks. The duck house, this little island in the middle of one
of his manmade lakes.

And for some reason, that particular piece of apparently corrupt to
opulence, the fact that he had a home for his ducks, that has really
annoyed people in Russia. And the reason I know that is because this
weekend, tens of thousands of Russian citizens took part in anti-corruption
protests all over the country sparked in part by these revelations about
their prime minister, Medvedev, and lots of people at these protests were
carrying ducks – rubber ducks, inflatable ducks, paper ducks, ducks on
sticks. It`s all a nod to this allegation that Putin`s prime minister,
Dmitry Medvedev, is living in such excess on a government salary that he
can afford to build a house for his ducks at one of his many, many
mansions.

Foreign reporters estimates that about 60,000 people took part in this
weekend`s demonstrations in dozens of cities across Russia these anti-
corruption protest, these were the biggest protests to hit Russia since
2011 and 2012. Those anti-government protests were so threatening to
Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2011 and 2012, that the country passed
new laws there after that said basically, you`re not allowed to protest the
government anymore unless the government explicitly allows you to have a
protest against them, which doesn`t happen all that often.

The murder, the oppression, the exiling, the harassment of opposition
figures in Russia, everybody thought that had kind of stomped the life out
of the opposition there, out of people being willing to visibly oppose
Putin. But this weekend, people really did turn out and it was not just in
Moscow. The demonstrations also took place in Vladivostok and St.
Petersburg and in 82 towns and cities across the whole of Russia.

Tens of thousands of people protesting the Putin government. Russia
without Putin, Russia will be free.

At the large protest in Moscow, Russia`s most visible opposition figure who
plans to run against Putin for president next year, he was arrested in
Moscow. That man is Alexei Navalny, the guy whose anti-corruption group
put together those drone videos of Prime Minister Medvedev homes.

He`s also the guy who was dyed green recently. He was campaigning in
Siberia when somebody came up to him on the street and through a chemical
all over him that literally died him bright green.

This weekend, Alexei Navalny was arrested at these protests that he helped
organize.

A lot of people, it`s interesting, reported that he got sort of a slap on
the wrist. He got charged with the equivalent of a three hundred and fifty
dollar fine and he got days in prison.

But keep in mind about him – one of the things they do to opposition
figures in Putin`s Russia is they bring all sorts of different criminal
charges against people in the opposition. Alexei Navalny right now is
serving a suspended sentence over an embezzlement charge related to timber
futures, the charges, the trial on the timber futures thing that`s
something that very widely believed to be nonsense charges that were
designed to harass him, but also to give him a criminal conviction that
would keep him from qualifying to be on the ballot to run against Putin for
president next year.

So, that cooked up, trumped-up embezzlement charge, he`s on a suspended
sentence for that already. And so, yes, when he got arrested at these
protests in Moscow this weekend, they just gave him a 15-day sentence for
illegally protesting. But that on top of him already having this other
suspended sentence, that could conceivably be a pretense for them to – you
know, as we say in this country, lock him up for a much longer time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TV ANCHOR: Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow on
Sunday in an anti-corruption demonstration against the Russian government.
Police say more than 500 people were arrested, but a human rights group
says that number is actually closer to 700. Among those detained, Alexei
Navalny, the opposition leader who is President Vladimir Putin`s most
prominent critic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Joining us now is Michael McFaul. He is former U.S. ambassador to
Russia. He is now a professor at Stanford.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate you being
here.

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Sure. We`re very glad to
be here.

MADDOW: So, we`re very focused in this country on the Russian attack on
our election last year, the investigations into that continuing revelations
about unexplained contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian
officials, that`s an area of intense focus for us in this country. In that
light, as we`re thinking about that, what do you think is important for
Americans to understand about these protests in the streets against Putin
at home this weekend?

MCFAUL: Well, first, Rachel, I just have to say I never thought I`d see
the day when somebody would go into the detail that you just did to talk
about Vnesheconombank and Sberbank. That was quite brilliant.

MADDOW: How do I do in saying Sberbank? I was a little worried bout that.

MCFAUL: You did just great, seriously.

MADDOW: OK.

MCFAUL: That was a just a fantastic piece. I even learn some things,
given I used to deal with both of those banks when I was ambassador.

But to your point, I think what this underscores is the nature of the
Russian regime that we`ve kind of forgotten about, let`s be honest. We`ve
been focused internally here, what the Russians have done internally here
and what they`ve done with Americans forgetting about the nature of this
regime.

And I think what you saw on display in – on Sunday was, A, as you rightly
pointed out before the break, the protest movement that was much bigger
than anybody predicted. I think even the protesters were surprised. But,
two, how they were just smashed, literally hundreds of people arrested,
maybe up to a thousand. Mr. Navalny`s in jail for 15 days, but he may be
facing future sentences. That`s the nature of the Putin regime that Mr.
Trump wants to be friends with.

MADDOW: In terms of the threat to Putin here, obviously, we have talked in
the past about how part of the impetus for this influence campaign that
they apparently ran on our election last year may have been Putin`s intense
fear of being toppled in a revolution at home or an uprisings at home, his
intense hatred for then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she
criticized the fairness of his elections in 2011, the parliamentary
elections there, and then implicitly supported the protests that rose up
against the Putin government then.

Is Putin right to feel worried that his own people aren`t really with him
that he is in danger from increased democracy and people being allowed to
speak their mind?

MCFAUL: Well, I – you know, I teach about democratization here at
Stanford, and I would say to him if I were advising him, this would be very
easy to negotiate with these people to open up and your regime would be
fine. But that`s never been his tactics, right? His tactics have always
been to crack down and I think it shows an extreme paranoia, extreme
insecurity by the way that they responded to these protests.

That shows that he`s just not comfortable. You know, we`ve seen the
official public opinion polls, but this shows that there`s something else
going on inside Russia and you raised a very important point, this was a –
this was a bit of banter and Twitter with me and other Russians last night,
he can`t blame Hillary Clinton anymore, right? He can`t blame me for these
protests.

These are Russians protesting against him without any support whatsoever
from the outside.

MADDOW: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, professor at
Stanford now, I appreciate you being here with us tonight, sir. Thank you.

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: We`ve got much more head tonight. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Tomorrow, the administration is expected to roll back the clean
power plan rule, the most ambitious climate change initiative of the Obama
presidency. It was put in place to among other things cut back pollution
from coal-fired power plants. Trump is due to kill that tomorrow.

But while everything is chugging along on the White House`s environmental
policy side, there appears to be some unexpected and as yet unexplained
drama around how the personnel side of things is working when it comes to
environmental stuff. Specifically, there appears to be some real drama in
the EPA.

Politico.com today has a very dishy article and I say that in the best
possible way. It`s about White House infighting, back-biting, suspicions.
It claims among other things that senior administration officials have now
taken to calling reporters, to ask those reporters if other administration
officials have been talking to those reporters and talking smack about
them. Not a healthy dynamic.

But in them in the middle of all this dish on how bad things are at the
White House right now, there`s this very specific news from a Trump
official who has just quit the EPA. Quote, “The back story to my
resignation is extremely complex. I will be writing about it myself. It`s
a story not about me but about a much more interesting set of events
involving misuse of federal funds, failure to honor oaths of office, and a
lack of loyalty to the president.”

Misuse of federal funds? Tell me more, Mr. Former EPA Appointee who has
just quit.

We do not know what that is about. We wait with bated breath for his
autobiographical resignation backstory which he promises is coming soon.

While we wait for that, we do have one other story, one last story tonight
which includes what really appears to be quite blatant corruption on
another issue that`s in this same wheelhouse. And that story is coming up.
Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: During the Republican convention last year, you might remember
there was one change that the Trump campaign actively sought to insert into
the Republican Party platform. They decided they would gut the part of the
platform relating to Ukraine and Russia. They made it much nicer to
Russia.

And at the time, that seemed weird that the Trump campaign would pick that
just one thing to change when they clearly didn`t care about anything else
in the whole party platform. It was weird.

Now, we also know that it was kind of telling given all the Russia stuff
that`s emerged since then. Well, now, look at this. This is not about
Russia, but it`s the same dynamic.

Right after the inauguration, the administration declared a freeze on all
new government regulation, stop them all, except one. The Trump
administration may one exception for one pending IRS rule which they did
allow to proceed and go into effect. It`s the, quote, “qualifying income
from activities of publicly traded partnerships with respect to minerals or
natural resources rule”. Super obscure tax rule that`s the one thing they
allowed to go forward.

Why? Who on earth would care about that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve got Carl Icahn. Carl
Icahn endorsed me. So many people endorsed me. I have the greatest
businessman in the world, Carl Icahn. Many endorsing me. I will call the
executives or I`ll have Carl do it. I want Carl Icahn negotiating for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He loves him some Carl Icahn.

The president`s billionaire investor friend, Carl Icahn, it turns out loves
that obscure IRS rule. He says because of that obscure IRS rule, that`s
why he bought an eighty-two percent stake in an oil refinery business in
2012. He spent over two billion dollars on that because he saw that rule
coming, and that would make it all worth it.

There`s been only one problem with that investment. There`s an
environmental rule the renewable fuel standard that`s really been eating
into the profits of that refinery that he owns four-fifths of.

Last year, Carl Icahn fired off an 11-page letter to the Obama
administration complaining about that rule. He told them the rule is
broken and it needs to be fixed immediately. The Obama administration was
not persuaded. They did not pull the rule. That was in August.

Four months later, after Donald Trump`s election victory, Carl Icahn got
himself appointed to the new administration as a special advisor to the
president for regulatory reform. It`s not an official White House
position. Carl Icahn is not taking a salary. That means he`s not bound by
any disclosure agreements or any conflict of interest rules. He gets to
keep all his assets, including his oil refining business.

And in his new advisory role, Carl Icahn has been working triple time to
get that regulation overturned that`s keeping them from making money at his
refinery. Eliminating that rule should earn him nearly a quarter billion
dollars a year. The stock price of his company is already up fifty percent
since that election, presumably with expectations of what Carl Icahn is
going to be able to do for that company.

This is the kind of thing we point and laugh at in other countries when we
explain like why it`s frowned upon for Americans to do business there,
because they`re so flagrantly corrupt. But we`re not immune to this kind
of thing now.

Today, seven Democrats sent a letter to Carl Icahn, citing concerns about
his role within the administration, suggesting he may be breaking federal
conflict of interest laws. We`ll see where this goes.

Maybe he will decide that they`re right, he shouldn`t be in this position
of making all this money for pushing a role change that lines his pockets,
that might happen. It might. We don`t know. Watch this space.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

Good evening, Lawrence.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2017 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.