The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/28/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 28, 2017
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Chris Hayes, you were already an honorary
member of the Rachel Maddow family because my family loved you so much, but
this is now actually over the top. Like I`m now ejected from my family in
favor of you, because you`ve made my father so much happier than anything I
have done in the 43 years I have been alive.
You are amazing. It was great. Thank you.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: We had a great time. It was wonderful to see
MADDOW: It was really nice. Thank you.
And to the people who are at Chris` event who applauded my dad when
somebody said at the event, “Hey, Rachel`s dad is here,” I just want to
tell you, each and every one of you made me burst into tears at my desk
today when I heard that news.
So, Dad, I love you. And everybody who was nice to my dad, you`re all
going to heaven.
All right. Point of personal privilege over.
Thank you all at home for joining us this hour. Good to have you with us.
There`s a lot going on tonight. We`ve got two big stories that we are
following. One out of New York that started as a criminal justice matter
today. The other one that happened in Washington that is not at this point
a criminal matter, but may eventually end up being a criminal matter.
But in terms of understanding the importance of these two big stories that
broke today, I want to go back to 2015 for a second. 2015, two years ago.
It was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
And, you know, it`s not often that you celebrate the 70th anniversary of a
world event, right? But you can see why a lot of people wanted to make a
big deal out of the 70th anniversary of World War II, instead of waiting
around for a more, you know, obvious numerical milestone, like the 75-year
anniversary. I mean, people who fought in World War II are disappearing
from the earth. Even the youngest of them are old enough that with each
passing year, you lose the opportunity to personally pay them tribute
before they pass.
So, the 70th anniversary, we made a really big deal about it around the
world in 2015. It was a big deal here in the United States. It was a big
deal anywhere that World War II veterans were able to come out and be
recognized by their countrymen.
But you know what? In Russia and in China, in 2015, even as everybody is
making a big deal of it, Russia and China went to a whole other level.
They went hog wild for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
And not just in the way that had them celebrating, you know, the survivors
of that war, the folks who actually fought in those wars.
What Russia and China did for that anniversary in 2015 is that they decided
to hold absolutely gigantic, unprecedentedly gigantic displays of their own
national military power. It was an unusual thing. China organized what
may have been one of the largest military parades in modern international
China showed off – look at these – the tanks and missile launchers. A
lot of them in this weird intense digital blue camo. They showed off their
domestically made drones and aircraft. In fact, they took great care to
make sure every single weapon, every single missile, every single vehicle
they showed was domestic, was Chinese made. No foreign weapons.
They rolled out dozens of what they call carrier killers. They`re Chinese-
made missiles that the Chinese say, they say these missiles are big enough
and powerful enough to sink an American aircraft carrier in a single
strike. That`s these missiles here.
China`s military has over 2 million people in it. They put a lot of them
in this parade for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. They
even at one point had helicopters flying over the parade route spelling
over 7-0 for 70 years. It`s just massive.
And according to reports from the time from 2015 when it happened, 80
percent of the weapons that China displayed in that huge parade had never
before been seen by the general public until they put them in that parade.
This was the reviewing stand that day. You see President Xi of China
looking for very happy there, standing next to him, looking exactly the way
he always does in every picture where his shirt is on, is Russian President
Putin was not to be outdone in 2015, though. Russia also staged an
absolutely enormous military display to mark the 70th anniversary of the
defeat of the Nazis. The Russians rolled more military equipment through
the streets of Moscow than they had ever done before, including over the
entire history of the Soviet Union. Biggest Russian military parade ever
They did a flyover like they do at all these things. But the Russian one,
at one point a flyover that involved more than 100 aircraft. Yes, the
Chinese spelled out 70 with their helicopters while the Russians spelled
out 70 with their fighter jets. Missiles and tanks and tens of thousands
of troops, no expense spared. Biggest one they`ve ever had.
And it was a little weird that both Russia and China chose to do that in
2015. It was like this kind of North Korean-style display from both of
those countries. Incidentally, I should mention, North Korea also held a
But, you know, in North Korea, while that`s impressive, that`s not weird,
right? That`s like what North Korea does. What`s North Korea famous for?
Prison camps where they work and starve their own people to death in
massive numbers, bizarre leadership that kills their relatives with anti-
aircraft guns or packs of dogs. Super creepy force displays of coordinated
mass gymnastics and, of course, unbelievably enormous military parades.
And, look, in 2015, they did the thing with the 70 as well. I think those
were like biplanes. Anyway.
No expense spared. Russia, China, North Korea.
There`s no law against parading your military, whether or not it`s an
important anniversary. But through American eyes, this is a little weird,
right? If this gives you the willies to look at, it`s because it`s
supposed to. This is an unabashed, uncomplicated, undisguised display of
military threat, military prowess or national insecurity, depending on how
you look at it. I mean, this is not something that we do here in the
Although, when our new president was planning his inauguration this year,
there were some strange signs that maybe the United States was going to
approach the Trump inauguration with sort of a Pyongyang accent.
The president-elect told “The Washington Post” the week of his
inauguration, before he was inaugurated, quote, “We`re going to show the
people as we build up our military. We are going to display our military.
That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military
may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I
mean, we`re going to be showing our military.”
The day after the president-elect made those comments to “The Washington
Post,” with nobody quite knowing what to make of that, “The Huffington
Post” took him seriously and followed up with sources who were described at
the time as being familiar with the plans of the presidential inaugural
committee. What those sources said at the time was, in fact, the Trump
administration was really making inquiries, really was talking to the
Pentagon about rolling the tanks down the streets of Washington, D.C.
Tanks, missile launchers, MRAPs. What else you got?
Jessica Schulberg was the reporter on this piece for “The Huffington Post”
right before the inauguration. This is from her piece at the time. Quote,
“During the preparation for Friday`s transfer of power, a member of Trump`s
transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers
in the inaugural parade.” The source said, quote, “They were legit
thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade.”
There was – I remember that week, right, leading up to the inauguration.
There was a lot to get used to. There was a lot weird in the news that
week. That report in particular, though, stuck with me. I think it stuck
with a lot of people even after the White House denied it.
Asked for an on-the-record confirmation of what “Huffington Post” was
learning through its sources, the White House demarked and said that all
requests for comment on this issue should be directed to the Defense
Department. They weren`t going to talk about it at all.
The reporter Jessica Schulberg explained when she asked the White House in
December about these plans, they had heard about, to use military equipment
during the inauguration, quote, “a Trump aide refused to address the matter
on record but offered a vehement off-the-record denial.” A vehement
Oh, don`t be crazy. We were never considering that.
Well, that “Huffington Post” reporter stuck with that story. She filed a
Freedom of Information Act request, not with the White House but with the
military, because remember, there was an asker but also an askee.
And now, she`s been able to publish the evidence showing that in fact, the
Trump folks, the Trump inauguration committee really was, quote, “seriously
considering adding military vehicles to the inaugural parade.”
Quote, “The conversation started as, can you send us some pictures of
military vehicles we could add to the parade.” Defense Department official
says to his or her colleague, quote, “I explained that such support would
be out of guidelines.”
Quote, “I`m extremely reluctant to produce an improvised list of military
vehicles that we might be held to. Also concerned that we need an
opportunity to staff this request and to make deliberate decisions about
vehicle choice and configuration, paint scheme, uniform for crew members,
et cetera before we start providing pictures which might be regarded as
So this e-mail from one Pentagon official to another, which has now been
released by the Freedom of Information Act request, shows the Pentagon
freaking out because the Trump folks really did ask them to do this thing.
They wanted a picture book of options about what the big military stuff
looks like. We now have this direct evidence because the Trump people
really did want to run freaking missile launchers and tanks down
Pennsylvania Avenue, not for the commemoration of the end of World War II,
or some other not nonsensical reason, they wanted to do that just to
celebrate Trump. Look at all our missiles, everybody.
And you know, credit to Jessica Schulberg, that reporter, for staying on
that story and giving us what is now the real history of what happened
there – the real story of it – which we otherwise would not have gotten
without her reporting and without her continuing to report after the White
House vehemently denied it.
And I think there are two revelations that come out of this, one big and
one small. The small one is, oh, my God, they wanted to do that. The
bigger revelation from this is that there is no use in going to this White
House for factual information. And I don`t say that lightly, and I don`t
say that with any ad hominem intention. I mean it because they proved it.
Even if the thing you are trying to get factual information about is just
the behavior of this White House, hey, White House, hey, administration,
did you guys do this thing? Whatever they say in response to a question
like that should not be taken as evidence as to whether or not they did
that thing. It sounds terrible to say that about your own government,
about the leadership of your own country, that they can`t be trusted in any
circumstance to give you factual truthful information.
But in the case of this administration, I really don`t mean it in a mean
way. I mean it in a specific and strategic way. I mean it in terms of how
we as Americans should be approaching the news about our new president, how
to approach what counts as factual advancement of our understanding of what
is happening in our country and in our politics and in our government.
I mean, they proved literally on day one, they proved from their swearing
in day that they will flat-out deny stuff that they have done and they will
say they`ve done things when they haven`t done those things. And that ends
up being important for approaching a hilarious and creepy story like this -
- like they want to show off cruise missiles on the National Mall.
It`s interesting for a story like that but it`s really important when it
gets to the big stuff. And that dynamic, that important dynamic of
remembering to ignore what they say, that is the key dynamic at work in the
two big stories that broke today.
As I mentioned right at the top here, one of these happened in New York.
It is a criminal matter. The other one happened in Washington. And it is
not a criminal matter, at least yet, but it might be. And that`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today in New York, the FBI and federal prosecutors from the
southern district of New York announced the arrest of a man who works for a
Turkish state-run bank. This man has been arrested and charged with
conspiracy to evade sanctions on Iran.
Now, the fact he works for a Turkish government-run bank, a state-run bank
controlled by the government of Turkey and he`s been arrested for those
particular charges, that is potentially awkward right now for the Trump
administration because that would be the same Turkish government that we
now know had Trump`s national security adviser secretly on their payroll,
working for them, working for the Turkish government while he was
participating in top-secret national security briefings and had access to
all of the most sensitive intelligence in the U.S. government.
So, that`s an awkward thing here for the administration, if the Turkish
government was simultaneously sponsoring an effort through one of its
government-run banks to evade sanctions on Iran and also simultaneously
paying somebody right at the center of Trump`s national security apparatus.
This is also awkward politically because this is happening right before Rex
Tillerson, the secretary of state, is due to go to Turkey. He`s going to
be in Turkey the day after tomorrow. But that arrest announced today is
also awkward for the administration because of what the prosecutors are
describing as the crime here.
This guy who was arrested today works at this Turkish government-run bank.
He`s being charged with conspiracy to evade sanctions on Iran. The person
he allegedly conspired with is another guy who is being prosecuted by that
same office, by what used to be Preet Bharara`s office in the southern
district of New York.
And this other defendant who was allegedly involved in this conspiracy to
evade the sanctions on Iran, that other defendant made news yesterday when
it was announced in this Iranian sanctions case, he has hired for his
defense team, Rudy Giuliani.
So, in this federal prosecution out of the southern district of New York,
the Turkish government is wrapped up in an alleged conspiracy to evade the
sanctions on Iran, to do business with Iran, despite U.S. laws that ban
that. That`s the same government that put Trump`s national security
adviser secretly on its payroll, and now, one of the defendants in that
case has hired Trump`s best friend basically to run his defense.
Hypothetically, if this prosecution in any way links back to the Trump
administration or to the Trump transition or to the Trump campaign, once
again we`re going to have another question of whether or not Attorney
General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from overseeing that case
because of his own personal entanglements here, his own personal
involvement with, hypothetically, the people or entities in question. But
also once again, it`s Preet Bharara, it`s that same office in the southern
district of New York, Preet Bharara`s office once again.
You know, if you had to pick one window through which you`d have to watch
all of the scandals in this new American era, you might choose as your
window, the window that used to be Preet Bharara`s office. You might
choose that as your vantage point, because – I mean, there`s this Turkish
banking case today.
That same office is also prosecuting just off the top of my head, right,
also prosecuting Deutsche Bank and its Russian money laundering scandal.
Russian money laundering proving to be a key line of inquiry when it comes
to Trump`s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Deutsche Bank is also
the president`s largest personal lender, with him reportedly owing them
more than $300 million.
Preet Bharara`s office is also the office that prosecuted the number two
official at a Russian state-owned bank called VEB. We talked about this
last night. The New York branch of this Russian bank, the guy who`s the
number two guy in charge there was at the same time he was working at that
bank, also secretly a Russian spy, working at this bank in New York as his
cover story, but really he appears to have been an agent of Russian
intelligence. And we know that because Preet Bharara`s office prosecuted
him for it and convicted him and he`s now serving his sentence at a federal
prison in Ohio.
We now know, I can report tonight, that the director of that bank, the
gentleman on the right here, he`s the guy who inexplicably met with the
president`s son-in-law, with Jared Kushner during the transition, in a
meeting that was not disclosed until yesterday morning`s “New York Times.”
We can now fill in a few more details on that meeting or on the man who met
with Jared Kushner.
This head of this Russian-owned – this Russian state-owned bank who had
this convicted Russian spy as the number two official in the New York
office, this guy heading up that bank, he met with Jared Kushner in either
December or January during the transition. We now know that he was
personally appointed to his position running that bank by Vladimir Putin.
Putin installed him in that job personally last year. Not that long ago.
At the time that Sergey Gorkov was appointed to that job, “Reuters”
reported that he had been recommended for the job by this man, who`s a
former finance minister under Vladimir Putin. He`s also almost famous in
journalistic circles in this country because he`s the guy who organized in
Moscow a big meeting between Donald Trump and a whole bunch of Russian
businessmen while Trump was in Moscow in 2013 to hold his Miss Universe
That guy who organized that meeting for Trump reportedly recommended Sergey
Gorkov for his job. Putin installed Gorkov in that job last year, right
before his second in command in New York was tried and convicted as a
Russian spy. Sergey Gorkov then in December or January for some reason was
meeting with Jared Kushner. And again, it was not disclosed until
yesterday. And once again, that story runs through Preet Bharara`s office
because they convicted the spy.
Preet Bharara`s office also has geographical jurisdiction over any
potential criminal cases that may arise involving the Trump administration
and Trump Tower. If there was ever, for example, to be an Emoluments
Clause criminal prosecution bought against the president for receiving
money from foreign governments through his businesses, that prosecution
would likely be brought by the Preet Bharara`s office in the southern
district of New York. In fact, it was two days after ethics groups asked
Preet Bharara to start such an investigation into the president that Preet
Bharara was suddenly notified by the Trump administration that he was
fired, after previously being told after the election he`d be allowed to
keep that job.
And the White House explanation for that U-turn, for them telling Preet
Bharara he got to keep the job and then suddenly deciding no, he`s fired,
the White House explanation for that was basically – don`t even ask.
There`s nothing to see here. Nothing personal. Nothing specific to Preet
Bharara. This was all just routine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I mean, I – this is a standard
operating procedure for a new administration around this time to ask for
the resignation of all the U.S. attorneys.
REPORTER: I was wondering. Did he the president ask Preet Bharara to stay
on during their conversation during the transition or not?
SPICER: I was not privy to that conversation. Again, I don`t – I`m not
really sure how it`s relevant at the end of the day. The Department of
Justice asked all remaining 46 at this time that they asked for all of them
to submit their letters of resignation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who knows if they asked him to stay on even though they said
publicly at the time that they asked him to stay on? Who knows? He`s now
just one of 46 people who got fired. Why are you asking about him? It`s
The White House explanation is that there`s nothing weird here. There`s
nothing to see here. There`s nothing special about Preet Bharara being
fired even though he had previously been asked to stay. It`s fine. Stop
At which point you should say, OK, yeah, but you also said you didn`t ask
for missile launchers for the inaugural parade, right? And now we know you
Democratic senators have now decided that they don`t necessarily trust the
White House in terms of their explanations on this matter. A letter was
sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions from Senators Richard Blumenthal,
Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren. They`ve posed some pointed questions
that they say want Attorney General Jeff Sessions to answer such as, quote,
“Why was Mr. Bharara fired? Two, which White House or justice department
officials are responsible for the decision to fire him? Three, was Preet
Bharara involved in or conducting an investigation of Secretary Tom Price
at the time he was fired?”
Secretary Tom Price was reportedly buying and selling stocks in health care
companies while he was simultaneously sponsoring and voting on legislation
that would affect the stock price of those companies. It`s been previously
reported that Preet Bharara`s office was investigating that as a potential
criminal corruption case when Preet Bharara was suddenly fired with no
explanation. The senators go on. A, if Bharara was investigating
Secretary Price at the time he was fired, were you aware of that
investigation? B, was President Trump aware of that investigation? C,
were other White House or Justice Department officials aware of that at the
time Mr. Bharara was fired?
Then the big one. Was Mr. Bharara conducting any other investigations of
president Trump, his family or administration officials at the time he was
fired? If so, what was the nature of these investigations? Were you aware
of them when he was fired? Was President Trump aware of them when he was
fired? Were other White House or Justice Department officials aware of
that at the time Pete Bharara was fired?
In other words, we know what you have said about this matter. We`d now
like to have actual information. The senators are looking for a response
from the attorney general by Monday. We`ll see. The Department of Justice
is a little busy right now.
“Washington Post” breaking a bombshell exclusive story today that the Trump
administration, including the Justice Department, tried to block the
testimony of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates in the Trump-Russia
investigation. Sally Yates and two other former administration officials
were due to testify at an open hearing today in the House Intelligence
Committee investigation of Trump and Russia. “Washington Post” reports
that Thursday of last week, quote, “Yates and another witness at the
planned hear, former CIA Director John Brennan made clear to government
officials that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict
some statements that White House officials had made.”
So, Sally Yates, John Brennan communicated that information to the
government on Thursday, according to “The Washington Post.” Then, of
course, on Friday, following day, this hearing that was supposed to be
today got canceled for no apparent reason. They`d said it was so they
could hold a closed hearing with other national security officials.
There`s no closed hearing held.
The White House, naturally, is denying there was any effort to shut down
Sally Yates` testimony. No pressure on her whatsoever on what she can say
or could not say. No anxiety even at the White House about the prospect
that she might testify at a hearing that has now been canceled.
But, you know, it`s one thing to hear the White House say that, to
recognize that they are articulating those words. It is another thing to
look for the real story, to look for proof and “The Washington Post” and
NBC and other news organizations have now published the letters that were
exchanged between Sally Yates and the Department of Justice and the White
House explicitly laying out the administration`s threats to her about her
testimony being in violation of the presidential communications privilege
and the deliberate process privilege.
I mean, the White House insisting up and down today that they did not try
to shut down Sally Yates` testimony in the Trump-Russia investigation. But
who cares what the White House says?. “The Washington Post” has the goods.
They have shown their work. We can see it for ourselves.
And their lead today stands. The Trump administration sought to block
former acting attorney General Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in
the House investigation.
That hearing where she was going to testify was canceled for today. It has
not been rescheduled. There`s no explanation of why.
We don`t know how these investigations are going to go. And we really
don`t know what the FBI is doing or how well they`re doing their work. The
House investigation with this canceled hearing today, it may be blowing up
as of right now, not only did they have their mythical closed door hearing
today nor their open hearing. They`re not holding anything hearings.
They`re not holding any meetings. They`re not even meeting just to speak
to each other.
The only thing that`s emerging as even a partisan consensus around that
investigation is the Democrats now uniform insistence that Chairman Devin
Nunes must go or must at least be recused from this investigation. That`s
The Senate investigation, we got no idea yet. We`ll see the first public
hearing on the Senate side on Thursday of this week. We`ll have the first
press conference on the matter from the chairman and top Democrat on that
committee tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. I will definitely watch that.
We don`t know what`s going to happen with these investigations, but there
are now a lot of them, and every venue from the criminal courts to the
network news. And not listening to what this White House says on any one
part of it, so far that`s the only sure shortcut anybody has come up with
for getting at the truth about this administration and whatever it is they
want to not be discovered about them and Russia.
I mean, we learned this on day one. We learned this on day one if we were
paying attention to the right lesson there. They really did want tanks
rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue when Trump was sworn in. They inquired
about tanks rolling through the inaugural parade and that`s freaking
hilarious on its face.
But their lying about it at the time turns out to be a favor to all of us.
Those blunt day one stupid lies about a stupid thing gave us all the head
start we needed for learning how to find them out and get the truth. They
gave that to us on day one. Lesson learned.
MADDOW: Oleg Deripaska is a Russian billionaire who made his money in
aluminum. He`s close to President Vladimir Putin. He travels with Putin.
In that “Associated Press” bombshell a few days ago that reported that
former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had signed a $10 million a year
contract starting in 2006 to, quote, “influence politics, business dealings
and news coverage inside the United States to benefit Putin`s government,”
in that “A.P.” report from a few days ago, Oleg Deripaska is reportedly the
guy who paid Paul Manafort all those millions of dollars for that work,
starting in 2006 and ending who knows when.
Well, today that same guy, Oleg Deripaska, took out an ad in both “The
Washington Post” and “The Wall Street Journal” to respond to him being
named in conjunction with this scandal. He took out the same quarter page
ad in both papers. This is nice.
“I demand that any and all further dissemination of these allegations by
the “A.P.” or any other media outlet must cease immediately.”
Oh, you demand that? Is that how you`re used to this working? You ever
spent any time here? Oh, no, I`m sorry. I forgot you were reportedly
barred from entering this country because of your alleged ties to organized
crime. So you may not know how we do it here.
He also says, quote, “I am ready to take part in any hearings conducted in
the U.S. Congress on this subject in order to defend my reputation and my
The good news is we might have a popcorn boom in this country if our
congressional hearings on Trump and Russia actually are going to involve a
real live Putin-connected bullying Russian oligarch who is already listing
his demands for the American press. Bad news is, come on, what`s with the
quarter page ad? You`re supposed to be some ginormous billionaire with
globe-spanning powers of financial intimidation. All you can afford was a
A complaint about that in “The Washington Post” today and I think he was
kind of joking, but I think he`s right. If you are a billionaire trying to
push us all around, go big or das vi dania, big guy, come on.
But the Paul Manafort story, even beyond the question of whether or not
Oleg Deripaska paid him to promote the interest of the Putin government in
the United States, the Paul Manafort part of this is getting to be a bigger
part of the story as time goes on, particularly as Manafort`s finances are
getting subject to the full rigors of the unfettered American fourth
Today, WNYC, as well as NBC News, published reporting – new reporting on
Paul Manafort`s money, specifically on Paul Manafort`s real estate
dealings, and the interesting large cash flows in and out of those
investments. Both news organizations outlining a chronology of real estate
purchased by shell companies associated with Mr. Manafort.
In three separate instances, Mr. Manafort used shell companies to purchase
properties in New York City, each time for millions of dollars. Each
purchase was paid for in full so no mortgage. No loans.
And in each of those three instances, the ownership of the property was
later transferred from the shell company to Mr. Manafort for zero dollars.
He then proceeded to take out huge multimillion-dollar mortgages against
the properties, against these properties that were already paid for. Why
would you do that?
It`s a weird sort of intricate story but not that complicated a story, but
it`s puzzling in terms of normal real estate deals, right? It`s a puzzling
portrait of the way he was dealing with large amounts of cash and expensive
New York real estate. Some experts say the pattern seems to fit the
pattern that`s used in typical money laundering schemes.
Now, Mr. Manafort has responded to these reports saying that these were
ordinary business transactions, that it is common practice to purchase real
estate in this manner and he says his transactions were executed in a
transparent fashion. That`s his response.
I should also tell you one of the WNYC reporters on this story will be on
with Lawrence O`Donnell right after this show and you`ll want to see that.
But, you know, on that same day that we got that reporting, NBC`s chief
foreign correspondent Richard Engel got a whole different news story on
Paul Manafort and his money. And it`s a story that Richard had to go
halfway around the world to get, as is his want. And Richard is here next.
Stay with us.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Long before he was
President Trump`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was paled millions by a
Russian billionaire with close ties to Vladimir Putin, according to one
report, secretly promising to greatly benefit the Putin government by
influencing politics and media coverage.
Now, NBC News has learned that U.S. Treasury officials are following the
money trail Manafort left behind. It led them and us to a small island in
To find out more we came here to Cyprus to the city of Limassol which has a
reputation for beaches and as a hub for money laundering. The city has
attracted so many Russians, in fact, it`s been dubbed “Limassolgrad”.
This is where some of the money Manafort got from the Russian tycoon went.
Banking sources with direct knowledge of the transaction tell NBC News at
least 15 accounts were opened here for more than 10 companies, all linked
to Manafort. The sources say that in one case, a million dollars landed in
one of these accounts and left it on the same day.
TOM CARDAMONE, GLOBAL FINANCIAL INTEGRITY MANAGING DIR: Movements of large
amounts of money very quickly in and out of account is very similar to what
money launders do.
ENGEL: Eventually even in Cyprus, Manafort`s accounts raised suspicions.
In 2012, the internal auditing system at Laiki Bank flagged some of the
accounts for possible money laundering according to the banking sources who
also said when the bank asked for more information, Manafort chose to close
the accounts, without answering the questions.
MADDOW: NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel went all the way to
Cyprus to report on questions surrounding Paul Manafort`s finances.
Late today, a spokesperson for Mr. Manafort responded to NBC`s reporting
saying in part that all of the Cypriot accounts held by Mr. Manafort were,
quote, “legitimate entities and established for lawful ends.”
As for the bank accounts that were shut down by Manafort in 2012, the
spokesman says, quote, “Mr. Manafort has no specific recollection of this
but understands from others that the accounts were, in fact, shut down
together just prior to the mid-June 2012 government takeover of Cyprus
popular bank following the collapse of the country`s banks.” That`s what
Joining us is Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent.
Richard, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate
ENGEL: Absolutely. How are you?
MADDOW: I`m good.
So, tell me, what kind of investigation is this? You mentioned in your
report, you describe it as a Treasury Department investigation. How should
we understand that?
ENGEL: Well, there`s a lot of investigations which you mentioned. Some of
this is a media investigation. I know Treasury Department officials are
looking into this and I think you were starting to build out some of the
facts that have come to light. And I think it`s important to go back and
look at them chronologically.
ENGEL: You mentioned the “A.P.” So, the “A.P.” had this bombshell report
last week, and it said that in 2005, there was allegedly this memo that
Manafort wrote promising services, promising this Russian oligarch that he
would work to benefit the Putin government.
Manafort has denied that he ever worked for Putin and today, this ad that
clearly unimpressed – left you unimpressed was in the newspapers in which
the billionaire Oleg Deripaska said that that`s untrue. It`s fake news.
That he never had this relationship with Manafort in order to benefit the
But the “A.P.” is sticking with its reporting and says there`s this memo in
2006, there is a business relationship which Manafort has acknowledged with
Oleg Deripaska. He says it was to provide business consulting services,
nothing to do with helping the Russian directly – the Russian government
Then, in 2007, we found out, there are all of these business relationships
that start opening in Cyprus with accounts, multiple accounts and multiple
companies opened up, all linked to Manafort in Cyprus. Cyprus has long had
a reputation for a place where you can move money discreetly into and out
of Russia, Ukraine, other countries in Eastern Europe, but particularly
Russia. So, this web of companies and accounts starts opening in Cyprus
linked to Manafort.
Then this – these continue to operate from 2007 until 2012 when suddenly a
bank audit is triggered. It`s triggered under the “know your customer”
program. And this program, bank officials sent out a request and they
said, can you provide more information about these multiple accounts? And
as you saw in the clip you aired earlier, particularly when there`s
activity like a lot of money coming into one account and then a lot of
money quickly leaving, it`s not unusual for bank officials to ask for more
And then, suddenly, the accounts were closed. So, when you take all of
these things together, I think that`s why Treasury Department officials are
asking questions. That`s why journalists are asking questions. That`s why
several senators we`ve spoken to are asking questions and they want to know
more about how these pieces link together.
MADDOW: Richard, can you –
ENGEL: Why were the accounts opened? Why were they closed? Whose money
was it? And tell us more about the Oleg Deripaska connection.
MADDOW: Speaking of telling us more, can you hold on for one second?
Because the part you were able to find in Cyprus talking to Cypriot
officials I think people have not regally grokked yet and I would love to
ask you about that if you can hold on for just one second.
All right. We`ll be right back with Richard Engel. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Back with us again, again, is Richard Engel, NBC News chief
correspondent, talking about his exclusive about Paul Manafort`s finances
Richard, I just want to clarify something with you. You were talking about
sort of the timeline. 2005, there`s this reported memo where, according to
the “A.P.”, Manafort is, essentially, pitching his services to Oleg
Deripaska. 2006, we believe or it`s reported that a deal is signed. 2007,
as you found in Cyprus, a number of accounts linked to him start opening
thereafter, there`s a lot of money moving in and out of multiple accounts
associated with Manafort that some experts say fit the patterns of what
looks like money laundering.
My question for you is about Cyprus and how they`re dealing with it. If
U.S. Treasury is looking into this, if U.S. senators are looking into this,
if you`re there looking into this, I mean, Cyprus used to really be known
as money laundering hub, they`ve tried to clean up their act in that regard
– are they cooperating in terms of handing over information, making this
stuff available to Americans who may be looking for it?
ENGEL: They are. The attorney general in Cyprus told us that his office,
particularly an office is set up to fight money laundering, is cooperating,
has handed over information about Manafort, and his activities in Russia,
to investigators at the Treasury Department.
When we spoke to officials at Cypriot banks, that he say that their systems
of controls have gotten better, that they don`t want this reputation any
more, we reached out to the Bank of Cyprus, they are trying to distance
themselves, in particular, from Mr. Manafort and say that just – the fact
that there was this internal investigation triggered shows that they were
not asleep at the wheel. That Manafort`s activities there were
specifically flagged and that more questions were asked to provide more
information about why money was moving through across these accounts and
who it belonged to and where it was going, that he then closed down the
accounts. That, itself, experts tell us, raises red flags.
Now, in the statement that you quoted earlier, a spokesperson – a
spokesman for Manafort said that all of his accounts were legal. They were
set up for legal purposes. That it is legal to do offshore business in
cypress and that it`s a convenient way for doing transactions in Russia and
Ukraine, transactions, which he has acknowledged that he was taking part of
and which he says were not in order to benefit the Putin government.
MADDOW: And everything in that statement, factually, true. It`s also as
you reported true that he was conducting financial business in Cyprus in a
way that triggered Cyprus` internal checks against trying to prevent
international money laundering.
Fascinating story. I know you had to go halfway around the world and then
stay up all night to give us this story – Richard, thank you so much. I
ENGEL: I think we`ll be hearing more about it to come, as well.
MADDOW: Oh, yeah, hopefully sooner rather than later. Thank you, my
All right. We`ve got more to come here tonight as well. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The White House today made as big of show as possible of signing
what they hope will be a full 180-degree reverse of some of the most
important policies President Obama enacted to fight climate change and
This White House is having lots of failures in the policy arena, but on
environmental stuff, they really are full steam ahead.
That said, there have been some embarrassments in this part of their
agenda. The day they approved the Keystone pipeline, we learned that a
pipeline oil spill in North Dakota was one of the biggest spills in that
state`s history, not a great day to promote your new pipeline approval.
Then, there was this chest-pounding crowd pleasing announcement that the
only way Keystone and Dakota Access were going to get approved if they were
all made with 100 percent U.S. steel. Well, the president has approved
both of those pipelines now, and they are not going to be made with 100
percent U.S. steel.
Today, though, the White House thinks they had a great photo-op occasion
when they lined the president up with these colors of Benetton tableau
around him to brag about his executive order to allow increased pollution
from power plants. And the president, and his back up band here today,
they presented this as a done deal, as a fait accompli.
But there`s one thing to know about this particular thing that he did
today, it is an executive order, but this will change that he ordered
today, it is likely to be in litigation and otherwise fought over tooth and
nail at each of about 40 different steps in what`s about a 40-step process
that it will take to actually do what he presented today as if it was done.
And, you know, if the health care fight taught us anything, it`s that that
fight against what the president is doing on environmental stuff, that
fight, itself, is going to be a source of mobilization of focus of people
who disagree with him on the issue of climate change and disagree with what
he`s doing on the environment. This, today, looked like something that it
was not. This today was not just, you know, a man at home in his milieu–
a man in an environment where he feels comfortable.
This really was the start of what will be a huge yearlong fight. They
presented this as a done deal today. A lot of people reported it as a done
day. This was actually day one of what will be an epic battle on climate.
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.
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