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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/5/22

Guests: Nicole Wells Stallworth, Kym Worthy, Julian Barnes, Tim Mak


Ballot initiative underway in Michigan to put abortion protections in state constitution. MSNBC`s continuing coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


ED YONG, THE ATLANTIC: Ones are not forgotten, that the lessons from these years are not forgotten.


And I think there are enough of them, then I wonder if that sufficient to make us remember. I would hope so but, you know, it shouldn`t be on the people who have lost the most. It shouldn`t be on the people who are still mourning their parents or their children to carry this burden of re- fashioning our society. It should surely be on the rest of us.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Ed Yong, as always, it`s great pleasure to have you on. Thank you very much.

YONG: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: That is "ALL IN" on Thursday night.

MSNBC PRIME with Ali Velshi starts now.

Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Good to see you. Thank you, and have a good night.

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

A quick reminder that THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW now airs here every Monday 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Rachel`s excellent team of journalists, however, is producing this hour all week every week. And as always, we are glad to have you with us.

It`s always a powerful image when a group of people gather together to champion something they believe in, to stand up for their rights. But when people do it on the steps of the most powerful court in the land, life gives you goose bumps.

I`m thinking of when there were celebrations in front of the Supreme Court in 2015, after the court of from the right for same-sex couples to get married.

It happened in 2012, when people gathered in that same spot to champion the court`s decision not to take health care away from millions of people in this country.

And it doesn`t take a big crowd to pack unemotionally bunch. This was 1954. A mom and her little girl sitting on the steps off to the court ruled that it was unconstitutional desegregate schools.

This week again, there were demonstrations in front of the high court, although this time, and also celebrate the protection of a right, but to protest the fact that one important one is about to be taken away.

In light of the draft opinion that leak from the court this week, signaling of the court is poised to take away then try and right to obtain abortion, protests outside the court have taken place every day.

Moms brought their daughters, even their little babies. These are affecting images. And they may be the last ones we have for many future protests outside the court over this particular issue, Roe v. Wade. Now, this giant chain linked unclimbable fence was just put up outside the Supreme Court.

I should, not for the record, that in the fight over abortion rights in this country, the side in favor of maintaining that right, the side that was on the steps this week, that`s not on the side of the fight that is historic we`ve been violent. All the gatherings in front of the court this week have been re-peaceful, but after an angry mob of Trump supporters tried to stage a coup on January 6, 2020, this is now but we get in 2021.

For months, it`s been the expectation that this conservative court would knock down Roe v. Wade. But seeing it in black and white this week did catch people off-guard, including apparently the White House. "The Washington Post" reports today that the Biden administration has been scrambling this week to figure out if and how there is a way to compensate for what the court appears to be prepared and ready to do. To protect the abortion rights on the federal level.

Quote, Biden officials spent much of Tuesday panicked as they realized how few tools they had at their disposal. Officials are fervently debating a number of executive and regulatory actions in the administration could take to make it easier for women in red states particularly for women to access abortion care.

But in marathon meetings, and phone calls among White House officials, government lawyers outside advisers and federal agency officials are sobering reality settled in. There is little that the White House can do to fundamentally alter a post-Roe landscape, end quote.

And without a large majority of the Senate, that`s true for Democrats in Congress, too. Next week, the Senate is expected to vote on the Women`s Health Protection Act which would codify into federal law delight to obtain an abortion in this country. Chuck Schumer says the vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

The bill is already passed the House, but it`s almost certainly dead on arrival in the Senate. That`s because Democrats need 60 votes to pass the bill in the Senate. That filibuster thing, again.

And that is far many far more votes than they got. There`s no way to spend this. A federal fix to restore abortion rights is essentially an impossibility. And that`s gotten the gears going of some creative legal thinkers in the states.

Let`s take a look at Michigan, which appears to be turning into a kind of test lab of states to get around the court`s decision, and to protect the rights to obtain an abortion at the state level. Michigan, like most states, has a lot of kooky laws that are still on the books, vestiges from a different time.

For example, did you know that in the city of Grand Haven, Michigan, it is illegal to throw and abandoned hoop skirt into any street or sidewalk?


It is also apparently illegal to let your pig run free down the streets in Detroit if it does not have its nose pierced. But who even has a big without its north peace anymore?

It`s also, according to Michigan law, illegal to obtain an abortion under any circumstances, still, right now, today. The law was passed in 1931. And it remains on the books.

Now, when you break the law, you don`t get magically teleport to prison. You have to be charged with a crime, you have to be prosecuted. This is why if you decide to chalk your hoop skirt in front of your house in Michigan tomorrow, no one`s coming to arrest you. No prosecutor in the right mind would try that case in 2022.

It`s the same reason that Michigan has more than two dozen clinics that provide abortions all over the state, even though it is technically against the law in Michigan. Roe v. Wade made that Michigan law unenforceable. But when Roe gets knocked down, a signal by the draft opinion from the Supreme Court, that opens the door for prosecutors to enforce that Michigan law the second the Supreme Court issues that opinion.

But, of course, just like with the pigs who don`t have nose piercing, or the hoopskirts littering Michigan sidewalks, doing that, prosecuting that is up to the prosecutors. The prosecutor in Michigan`s largest county, Wayne County, which is home to Detroit, says, if and when Roe is struck down, she will not prosecute anyone for providing or obtaining abortion care within her jurisdiction, which means Wayne County, Detroit, will become a kind of a safe haven within Michigan for abortion care.

Same for Washtenaw County, where Ann Arbor is. The prosecutor there says he will, cool, never ever prosecuted a patient with the ban on abortion. In fact, and a total of seven Michigan county prosecutors signaled last month that they would do the same thing. Even Michigan`s attorney general says no matter how the Supreme Court decides, quote, I am not going to enforce the law. Nor will I defend the law, which I believe is unconstitutional, unquote.

When the court returns its official position, Republican lawmakers and Michigan can decide to leave that abortion ban on the books, or past some kind of new legislation, severely curtailing access. Heck, they can ban people from saying the word out loud, Voldemort if they wanted.

But without those prosecutors on, board willing to enforce, the laws are essentially wastes of paper. So that`s one legal parachute that`s been discussed in Michigan.

Here`s another, early this year, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU started a campaign to add the right to obtain an abortion to Michigan`s state constitution, their pitch is to make it a ballot initiative in November, so Michigan voters can decide if they want to protect abortion rights in their state.

Now they would need about 425,000 signatures to get it on the ballot. The group gathering signatures said, in just 24 hours, after the draft opinion leaked, the number of volunteers signed up to help gather those farmed in 24 signatures increased by more than 900 people. Like I said creative thinking.

But could any of this actually work?

Joining us now is Nicole Wells Stallworth. She`s the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, one of the groups collecting signatures for the ballot initiative that would amend Michigan`s Constitution to guarantee abortion rights.

Ms. Wells Stallworth, thank you for being here tonight.


VELSHI: Let`s talk about this. You`ve got until mid-July to collect signatures and you now have a whole lot of people uh more people more people than were involved in this last week. How far along is that effort? How difficult will it be to get 425,000 signatures?

WELLS STALLWORTH: Well, we`re up to 17,000 new signups as of Wednesday when the news broke. So that is a signal to us that there that people are outraged. People believe overwhelmingly here in the state of Michigan that abortion should be kept legal and they do not want Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

So we are working diligently. There has been a ground swell of people stepping up to join our campaign, My Reproductive Freedom for All, and we are working round the clock to collect the 425,059 signatures that will be needed to qualify for the ballot in July.

VELSHI: All right. Let`s talk about that.

Let`s say you get enough signatures if this is still a ballot measure it has to pass. What kind of insight do you have on whether it will, because there -- the evidence across country is that a whole lot of people do not want to see abortion criminalized, even if they have differing views on abortion.


WELLS STALLWORTH: Sure. I think, you know, you have to really go back to what you just said a whole lot of people around the country don`t believe that abortion should be criminalized and here in Michigan, we do have this law on the books that if Roe v. Wade is reversed could make abortion a felony crime and that would be one of the most severe and most strict laws in the state in the country.

So people in Michigan don`t believe that that should occur. People in Michigan feel overwhelmingly that abortion should be legal to the degree of about 67 percent. So the decision to leak the draft opinion was a wake-up call for many people, and it provided a view for people to understand exactly where we are right now, helping them to understand that this is not a dress rehearsal, that the Supreme Court is positioned and prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It also -- this campaign was a way that we believed we could save abortion in our state of Michigan.

VELSHI: So, before this week it shouldn`t have been an abstraction to anyone but it still might have been the overturning of Roe v. Wade. As of this the leak of the draft opinion, it`s no longer an abstraction. And by the time this becomes a ballot initiative if you get the 425,000 signatures, it may be a reality, that Roe v. Wade is overturned, because this is a November ballot initiative.

What happens if it doesn`t pass?

WELLS STALLWORTH: You know that is that`s a question mark. Right now, you sort of talked a lot about all of the things that we`re doing in our state to protect access to abortion for the 2.2 pregnant capable people who this law would ultimately impact. So for women and people who can get pregnant, that would have devastating effects on them.

What happens if this doesn`t get passed right now, we are exploring a this ballot measure as we`ve been talking about, but Planned Parenthood of Michigan has also filed a lawsuit where we`re asking the court to step in and to strike down the law. Worst case scenario, if none of those strategies work, we would be left without access to abortion with this 1931 law which has been on our books which in essence criminalizes providers for providing a vital and needed health care service that people have enjoyed for over 50 years.

VELSHI: We appreciate you coming to tell us about this and the work that`s going on.

Nicole Wells Stallworth is the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, we`re grateful for your time tonight. Thank you for being with us.


VELSHI: Well, as I mentioned earlier, Michigan`s attorney general as well as numerous county prosecutors have said, they will not enforce that 1931 abortion ban should the Supreme Court follow through in overturning Roe v. Wade. In fact, in a joint statement last month, seven of Michigan`s county prosecutors wrote, quote, we are reassuring our communities that we support a woman`s right to choose and every person`s right to reproductive freedom, end quote.

We believe those laws are in conflict it goes on with the oath we took to support the United States and Michigan Constitutions. We cannot and will not support criminalizing reproductive freedom. Instead, we will continue to dedicate our limited resources toward the prosecution of serious crimes and the pursuit of justice for all.

Prosecutor in Michigan`s largest county as we said, Wayne County, where Detroit is located, signed on to that statement last month.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy reiterated her stance this week saying she will not enforce the state`s abortion ban if Roe is overturned.

Prosecutor Worthy joins us right now.

Thank you for taking time to be with us tonight.

Let me ask you about this, you and your fellow prosecutors in Michigan issued this statement last month, well before anybody thought there was a draft opinion that was going to be leaked. Why did you feel it necessary to do it then as opposed to wait for a Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade?

KYM WORTHY, WAYNE COUNTY, MI PROSECUTOR: Well, for many reasons but the main reason is because our governor is so invested in this issue and we wanted to make sure that she understood that the six of us would certainly support her position in every way in this matter.

VELSHI: You have publicly declared your support for Roe v. Wade. You`ve pledged that you won`t prosecute doctors and people who work at clinics for performing abortions if the law comes back into place, if Roe v. Wade is struck down in your anti-abortion law in Michigan now takes private precedence.

Are you concerned that Michiganders, even those within Wayne County could be investigated or arrested if that law -- that 1931 law comes back to life in Michigan?

WORTHY: Well, I would hope not because I have the criminal jurisdiction in Wayne County. Now, I can`t speak about how other prosecutors in other counties that are not one of the six of us would do but again this is a very restrictive law, as Nicole said, and you can face up to either a patient, a doctor, a nurse, a health provider can face up to four years in prison under the current law that`s almost a century old as you said.

And also, it does not give any provision or exemption for victims of rape and incest. And as someone who has peered into the eyes for years hundreds and hundreds of victims of rape and incest, I cannot believe that people want to enter into their trauma and try to dictate their lives as well. So in Wayne County that will not be the case, and I`m going to do everything that I can to support the victims that will possibly be here.

But again, I support the attorney general, the governor and I really want to make sure that this is I will have all my limited resources, to make sure that this law is repealed.

HANNITY: Let me ask you because I got you here and I think would help our viewers understand. How would you handle the possibility for instance that people from counties where prosecutors are prepared to enforce this 90- year-old law will come to Wayne County, seeking the procedure without repercussion and yet somehow, is there -- is there some way in which they or their or the providers or someone would face legal action in their home county or if somebody lives somewhere else? How does that work?

WORTHY: No, if the procedure is done here in Wayne County and we are one of the I believe 13 counties that have these abortion clinics, then we would have told jurisdiction with that because the act would have taken place here in Wayne County. So I can`t imagine any scenario where when they go back to their respective counties if that is not the feeling of the prosecutor there that they would be in any trouble at all. I just can`t imagine any such scenario.

VELSHI: The attorney general in your state, Dana Nessel, is up for reelection this year. Tell me what happens if her opponent who is campaigning on this very strongly anti-abortion decides that he will prosecute those who have abortions how does the state`s position -- how does that work in Wayne County? Somebody gets an abortion in Wayne County, that`s your jurisdiction, but the state attorney general may not ultimately be on your side of this?

WORTHY: Well, the -- at least one of the candidates -- the candidates of the Republicans chose has said that he would enforce that. But again, you know, I can`t imagine anyone coming into this county and doing such a thing but it is possible because they do have some jurisdiction over across the entire state. But again, that makes it even more of a clarion call for those citizens in the state of Michigan and again our poll numbers are basically the same as the ones across this country, seventy percent of Michiganders do not agree that Roe were to be overturned.

So again it is up to us to get out there and not even want to face that possibility that could happen and make sure that Dana Nessel is reelected, because we can trust her, we know that she has fully said that she would not support any kind of --

VELSHI: So you`re making an interesting point here and that is that you are a prosecutor you have jurisdiction where you have jurisdiction but ultimately, it`s limited. This still -- the long-term solution for this problem is ultimately going to need to be political.

WORTHY: Politics is everything and that`s certainly in this case. It has been so politicized, that`s really the only answer at this particular point in time. We simply cannot have a situation where people have controls of parts of women`s bodies, that they have controls over their reproductive rights, and that`s -- it`s just being ridiculous.

So it is political, if this doesn`t get people out to vote for candidates that support the way that most Michiganders feel, I don`t know what will. I don`t want to imagine that scenario, I`m going to remain optimistic that people want to see women have a right to their control over their own bodies and their reproductive rights.

VELSHI: The Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, we appreciate your time tonight.

WORTHY: Thank you.

VELSHI: We got a lot more to catch up on tonight. Perhaps one of the most surprising things about the war in Ukraine is how many Russian generals have been killed in action. Well, now, it turns out the U.S. is reportedly helping Ukraine target those generals. The reporter who broke that story joins us next.



VELSHI: Russia was three weeks or less than three weeks into its invasion of Ukraine when this story broke. Quote: The Russian military has lost at least three generals in the fight according to Ukrainian, NATO and Russian officials. Two American military officials said that many Russian generals are talking on unsecured phones and radios. In at least one instance, they said the Ukrainians intercepted a general`s call, geo-located it and attacked his location, killing him and his staff, end quote.

The detail about Ukrainian tracking Russian military leaders through unsecured phones and radios was first reported in the very last paragraph of a New York Times story by reporters Helene Cooper, Julian Barnes and Eric Schmidt.

Since then, we`ve seen an astounding number of reports about senior level Russian military leaders being killed in action in Ukraine.


Now, NBC News cannot verify each and every one of these reports, but at least a few of them have been verified by news outlets like "The New York Times" and even by Russian media itself. And today, we got this provocative headline from "The Times". Quote: U.S. intelligence is helping Ukraine kill Russian generals, officials say.

Now, the story`s written by the same three reporters who broke that story about the Russian generals being targeted through their phones just three weeks into the war. According to the new report, the United States has been providing Ukraine with intelligence on Russia`s military units which, quote, has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who`ve died in action in the Ukraine war.

This new reporting from "The Times" would help explain why so many Russian commanders and generals have found themselves on the wrong end of Ukrainian missiles. It would also be consistent with NBC News`s own reporting from last month which said that the U.S. is providing near-real-time intelligence on Russia`s military movements. But after "The New York Times" published today`s story, saying U.S. intelligence was helping Ukraine kill Russian generals, senior U.S. military and intel intelligence officials started pushing back in very strong terms.

A spokesperson from the National Security Council called the story`s headline misleading and called the story itself irresponsible. They said, quote, the United States provides battlefield intelligence to help the Ukrainians defend their country. We do not provide intelligence with the intent to kill Russian generals, end quote.

But a little bit later, the Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also said that.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.


VELSHI: We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military, end quote, full stop.

Now, here`s the interesting part, neither the NSC statement or what Kirby said actually contradicts "The New York Times`" reporting. "Times" does not say that the U.S. provided this intelligence with the intent to kill Russian military leaders or that they participated in the decisions to target those leaders. But the pushback here says something about the how the U.S. wants the world or maybe it`s Russia to understand its involvement in the war.

This evening, NBC News has reported yet another story about U.S. intelligence playing a key role in Ukrainian attacks. According to U.S. officials, U.S. intelligence sharing helped Ukraine carry out the missile strike that sunk Russia`s flagship Black Sea vessel the Moskva. Quote: The attack happened after Ukrainian forces asked the Americans about a ship sailing in the Black Sea south of Odesa, U.S. officials told NBC News. The U.S. identified it as the Moskva officials said and helped confirm its location after which the Ukrainians targeted the ship.

Tonight, "T New York Times" has also independently confirmed that report. So what does this reporting mean for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and how should we interpret the response that is generated inside our own government?

Joining us now is "The New York Times" national security reporter Julian Barnes. He`s the lead byline on that story about U.S. intelligence being used to target Russian generals.

Julian, thank you for joining us tonight. I have to ask you, you`ve been doing this for a long time, you report on these things, sometimes the government doesn`t like what the press reports on stuff. This has had an unusually strong feeling of pushback. Why?

JULIAN BARNES, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, I think U.S. officials are very worried about the escalation situation. They`re very worried about Putin going up what they call the escalation ladder. And you`re right there was some very sort of strong language out of the NSC and the Pentagon, but they weren`t really disputing what was in our story. We weren`t saying there was an intent to kill. We didn`t even use that language.

What we`re saying is that the U.S. provided intelligence about the locations of mobile headquarters. Ukrainians combine that with their own intelligence, intelligence like those intercepted calls you mentioned and then chose when and where to strike. We explain that in the story. That`s what`s happening.

And look like this administration has properly proceeded carefully in trying not to escalate the Ukraine war, and that`s the right thing to do. But, you know, it`s also important to be transparent about what the United States is doing they`ve said they`ve been providing unprecedented amounts of intelligence.


And it is the responsibility of a free and independent press to report that.

VELSHI: So let`s talk about how much of this is semantics because the pushback was very specific about what they did or didn`t say. But the crux of your reporting and our reporting at NBC News is the same. It is -- it is -- the government has not pushed back on the fundamental idea that U.S. intelligence is being used in some way that is assisting the Ukrainians.

So talking about the semantics because Vladimir Putin has said from the beginning of this thing that the U.S. is escalating it in the U.S. is essentially involved but there seems to be some kind of line that the U.S. is unwilling to cross for fear of provoking Vladimir Putin into thinking otherwise.

Look, the word they clearly do not like today that Kirby made plain, the White House made plain, is this word targeting. They`re claiming they`re not targeting Russian generals. And you know, we didn`t specifically say that, but why do you provide this intelligence to Ukraine. This is so that they can target and kill Russian forces, including Russian generals.

It`s -- this is a war. That`s what warring parties do. And so, it is a little disingenuous, it`s a little bit double speak to say that`s not what this intelligence is for. This intelligence is for fighting a war.

VELSHI: The Russian military back to the core of this story puts a lot more of its high-ranking officers on the battlefield compared to other nations. Talk to me about this. Are the Ukrainians using that to their advantage? Have the Russians learn some lesson that maybe we ought to stop putting these generals in the -- in the line of fire?

BARNES: The Ukrainians clearly are using that to their advantage. The Russians I think would love to change it but they can`t because this is how their military is structured. Look, in the U.S. military, in NATO militaries, there`s a lot of responsibility pushed down as close to the front lines as possible. You know, even in the U.S. Army, a private has a lot of responsibility to make a decision of whether to shoot or not.

You know, a lieutenant colonel commanding a battalion has a lot of responsibility to alter the battle plans in their area to be as effective as possible. That`s not true in the Russian military. In the Russian military, a junior officer, an enlisted person, they can`t make their own decisions. They can`t alter the plan. Only the general officers alter the plan.

To be able to know how to alter the plan, you need to be at the front lines. So they`re pushing their general officers really close to the front lines of the battle, and Ukraine has been able to take advantage of that.

VELSHI: I want to go back to your reporting um obviously without getting into your sources for the story, this information came from somewhere. Somebody in the U.S. government wanted this information to become public. Why?

BARNES: You know, it`s always hard for reporters to answer those, but there`s a lot of misunderstanding about how national security reporting works. You know, sometimes there are platters with all the information handed out.

But that`s not usually how it happens. Usually, you get a little bit of information here, a little bit information there, you put it together, you see talk to other people and see if it`s right. You put together a story and then you test that again.

You test your theories. Are you -- you test your information, is it correct? It`s not like somebody wants the whole story to come out.

But, look, I think that there are people who think that this information is not escalatory, is not going to push Putin up the ladder and, you know, that there is a -- there`s some benefit in Putin knowing how much support the Ukrainians are getting, how tough a fight he has on his hands. He certainly knows that, but you know, with $33 billion in aid coming and a big flow of information, this is going to be a long tough fight if Putin wants to continue.

And that`s I think part of the message that some people want out.

VELSHI: Yeah, I think that`s relevant because in late January and early February, when we were talking about this fight and the way it was supposed to go, there were a lot of people who didn`t think the Ukrainian military had what it would take to fight Russia. So the idea that they`ve got more than maybe Russia even thought they do and some of that with the help of the United States is relevant.

Thanks for your great reporting by you and your team, "The New York Times" national security reporter Julian Barnes, we appreciate it.

BARNES: Thank you.

VELSHI: All right. Up next, as Russia ups its attacks on civilian targets including this bridge full of cars, we`ll talk live with NPR`s Tim Mack who`s been covering the war in Ukraine since it started. Stay with us.



VELSHI: The last pocket of resistance in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, is still holding out against Russian troops that are bombarding them, with round the clock shelling. Take a look at this video that shows the fighting at this cities steel plant, Azovstal, where a few hundred civilians or hold up with Ukrainian fighters and underground bunkers.

A deputy commander inside the plant said that heavy bloody fighting has hindered any chance of getting civilians out of the path of Russian shelling.


Now, evacuees from the last successful operation from Mariupol arrived in Zaporizhzhia overnight. President Zelenskyy said that the government is still negotiating for another evacuation in the city. Remember that they have to negotiate, this is the Red Cross that to negotiate just to get civilians out of the way of shelling.

Across Ukraine, the fighting is intensifying just days before victory day, which is an important day on the Russian calendar. It`s a holiday celebrating the Soviet Union`s victory over Nazi Germany. It`s really the most patriotic day on the calendar.

And the growing speculation that Vladimir Putin wants to mark the holiday by a win on the battlefield.

Today, the Kremlin claims its artillery has killed more than 600 Ukrainian fighters overnight during strikes on their positions and stronghold. This follows attacks on Ukraine`s infrastructure over the past few days, like this strike, watch it, on a bridge. It carries both cars and trains into the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the bridge hit as cars wart crossing.

Missile strikes caused electrical damage of three major substations at Lviv, delaying trains to a city that has become a critical hub for aid that flows into the country from Eastern Europe. It also knocked down power to hundreds of thousands of people, and some targets appear to have no obvious strategic value, like when Russian rockets struck an amusement park in Kharkiv. Leaving a woman with shrapnel rooms and starting a fire.

Or the shooting of a residential area in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, where over two dozen people were wounded.

NPR`s investigative reporter Tim Mack was in Kramatorsk earlier this week, a city that has seen the 75 percent of its population flee the war. It was also the target of a deadly strike near its train station, you will remember this, that killed 59 people.

Joining us now from Kyiv, is Tim Mak, NPR investigative correspondent. He`s been reporting from Ukraine since the start of the war.

Tim, thanks for being here, thank you for being with us.

Let`s talk about your experience, please, and Kramatorsk, which is due north of Mariupol, it`s ingenious in the eastern part of Russia that is being fought over.

Those who remain there, continue to face shelling. There are critical shortages of fuel, and food, there is infrastructure in communication failures. How are people still coping, those who have not left?

TIM MAK, NPR: Well, it`s a real ghost town and the folks who are still in these areas in the east where this Russian offensive in continuing. They`re there because they`re on a military mission, a humanitarian mission or they have no choice but to stay. There are a lot of folks who just don`t have the means to leave eastern Ukraine which they`ve called their home their entire lives.

I spoke to some folks who said, hey, I`ve been saving up to purchase this apartment for most of my life, how can I possibly leave? Or I don`t have the money to go somewhere else, and if I did arrive somewhere else in Ukraine, or some point further west, where when I go? Where would I live? How would I find food?

And this is the real struggle. The issue in eastern Ukraine is to look out the window, and to take a listen. You hear the sound of bombardment almost constantly throughout the day. In the evening those sounds of bombardment are combined with flashes of light.

I spoke to the mayor of Kramatorsk, and even as we are talking to him in his underground bomb shelter, you could hear the sound of bombing outside. He said the city was becoming emotionally numb to, it that it is becoming part of his daily routine, and he predicted in one or two months he won`t have any emotions about this war, or fighting at all.

VELSHI: As a reporter that we spoke last night for "The Washington Post" something similar, the children had been living with their parents underground in a bunker. At first they were crying and they were scared by the bombs and suddenly that he seemed numb to it all. That`s when the mother said, we`ve got to go. Because, she was actually worried there would be no reaction.

It`s remarkable that you point out something more important. They`re even millions of refugees and millions more internally displaced in Ukraine. It`s a terrible experience. Getting away from what seems obvious, getting away from shelling is one thing. The going somewhere where you don`t know anybody or don`t have anything, or don`t have a means to gain income, it`s a very, very profoundly big discussion, especially if you`re leaving somebody behind.

MAK: Well, that`s right, war is definitely by about violence, and I certainly a lot of that in Ukraine, but it`s also about crime children, it`s all so about women with worried faces, men not knowing where to go. It`s about the people at train stations who have been sitting in train cars for 16 or 18 hours due to train delays.

You spoke about the attacks on infrastructure, and some of that infrastructure has been on bridges, as you mention.


But some also on rail stations, a number of rail stations were hit over the past week by apparent Russian strikes. So that delay is the movements of civilians across this country, and that delays humanitarian aid.

But does this all mean for people. That means difficulty, difficulty leaving the places where there is violence, leaving Ukraine to get to places that are safer, as you point out even western Ukraine has been hit, which means one of the places that has been relatively safe from Ukraine. Some folks may believe it`s no longer safe for them.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about this Monday victory day. There`s been a lot of speculation and there has been throughout this entire war, particularly by Ukrainians about the fact that victory days such an important thing. In a country like Russia, the ability for Vladimir Putin to convey and express power might be important.

Are you hearing about this, about people worried about what happens either on Monday or be legally of today?

MAK: Well, the idea of victory day being an important strategic objective for Vladimir Putin, that`s something that has been on the minds of I think a lot of military officials and government officials for a long time. And the question, is where they be able to deny the Russian military some gains in eastern Ukraine?

As you know, the Russian military has started this offensive, continue this offensive, and is escalating this offensive with strikes all across the country, western, central, southern, eastern, all across the country.

And it looks like the Ukrainian military has been able to play a part in whether or not Russia gets to celebrate its victory day the way Vladimir Putin and Russian generals might want to. They`ve been denying and slowing down the Russian advance, which has really struggled to make progress in critical areas. In Kramatorsk, it`s still held by Ukrainian forces, and there is fierce fighting. Just down the road there, in Sloviansk, and points north of there.

But as you can see by looking at various maps of the battlefield, Ukrainian lines are holding installing Russian forces if they try to push forward. There hasn`t been any dramatic breakthroughs.

VELSHI: Tim, thanks again for your excellent reporting on this. Tim Mak is an NPR investigative correspondent. Right now, he`s in Kyiv. We appreciate you making time for us. It`s not late. It`s very early for you there. So, thank you, sir.

Well, two things that I learned today the first is that 4D, not 3D, 4d movie theaters actually exists. The second is that the U.S. government is proud owner of one of those theaters, and it happens to be on a boat. The reason why we all knell only one is up next



VELSHI: You know those 4D movie theaters the ones where the seats shake when the action happens in the movie, well, the U.S. government and I guess you now owns one of those and believe it or not it is on this thing. This is the 348-foot-long $300 million super yacht Amadea. Today, authorities in Fiji where it is docked seized the ship at the request of the United States as part of the Justice Department`s klepto capture task force.

The Justice Department hunted this ship down specifically because it belongs to this man, the sanctioned Russian oligarch, Suleiman Kerimov who made his money in Russian energy and banks. Now a lot of the impact of sanctions are hard to see but this is really, really easy to see. The thing is so in your face about how expensive it is, it is insane.

This super yacht, not a yacht, it`s a super yacht, it`s got a 33 foot see- through pool a second pool that can be turned into a stage a Jacuzzi, a helicopter landing pad, because you need one of those. It`s got a spa with a finished sauna and a Turkish bath, a massage room and a gym. The thing has a wine cellar enough rooms for guests multiple formal dining room tables, two pianos one of which is entirely detailed in 24 karat gold. And then, of course, there is the aforementioned 4D movie theater, multiple jet skis, scuba gear, and a jet pack.

I personally wouldn`t have gone with the 4D movie theater, but this is how this Russian oligarch chose to spend his fortune and so to put pressure on Russia to get this oligarch to feel some pain because of Russia`s war in Ukraine, the U.S. has taken away his very expensive toy, the Amadea.

Russian oligarchs are not just rich Russians, they are Russians who are rich because of their ties to Vladimir Putin. He makes them rich. They make him powerful.

And if this story feels a bit like deja vu, that`s because since the start of the war in Ukraine, Western countries have been cracking down on this specific thing. French authorities captured the former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Sechin $120 million yacht. Italian authorities snagged three oligarchs yachts, one worth $65 million, another worth just $60 million. The third one worth $578 million.


Spanish authorities have seized four Russian oligarchs yachts, coming in at a total of about $840 million. The U.K. caught two of them about $125 million between them, they were just little ones.

And Germany impounded this $600 million super yacht which despite the price tag someone decided to name Dilbar. All of this is sanctions at work at least for the U.S. President Biden is proposing that all the Russian kleptocratic assets seized during this war would be given to Ukraine. Now that`s yet to become law but that is where it looks like the U.S. is headed.

I know there are a plethora of larger macroeconomic sanctions the west is levying on Russia but these targeted sanctions, the ones custom built to take away toys from Russia`s wealthiest most powerful individuals in the hopes that they will throw a fit and make it harder for Putin to wage his war, those sanctions are full steam ahead.


VELSHI: Before we go tonight, a reminder that Rachel is now here on Monday, so don`t forget if you DVR THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, you need to now set your DVR to record MSNBC PRIME to, Rachel on Mondays, MSNBC PRIME Tuesday to Friday, all produced by Rachel`s great team.

Time now for "THE LAST WORD" with my good friend, Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, sir.