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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/23/2017

Guests: Bernie Sanders, Bill Browder

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.


REID: Absolutely.

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 went.

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.

REID: Bye.

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 administration.

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 reacted.


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 it.

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?


REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: If you want to travel fast, go alone, if you want to travel far, go together.


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 something together?

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?


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 over again.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went to school with your kids. Your wife was our school nurse.

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 condition.

FASO: Yes.

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 will die.

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.



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 country.

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 nope.

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 after this.

Stay with us.



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.


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.


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?


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 see you.

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 chamber?

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 lose.

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 do that.

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 meeting.

And that is our goal. I want to give you one example. I want you to think about this.

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 player program.

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 health insurance?

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 cetera.

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.



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.


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 congenial chat.

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 answer.

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 Russia.

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 boss.

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 Duma.

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 legitimacy pageant.

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 no.

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 police investigated."

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 dictatorship.

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 again.

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 hospital.

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 Manafort.

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 deported him.

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.


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 condition.


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 miracle.

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 by accident.

And what was even more suspicious is that one of the TV stations,, 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 to happen.

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 after me.

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 killed him.

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 it.

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.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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