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Transcript: The ReidOut, 3/3/22

Guests: John Spencer, Anne Applebaum, Michael McFaul


More than 1 million refugees flee Putin`s war. Russian forces bombard cities and towns. Russia-Ukraine talks end with no ceasefire. Ukrainian president warns Putin`s aggression won`t end with Ukraine.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for watching "THE BEAT." THE REIDOUT with Joy Reid starts, well, right now. Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: How are you doing, Ari? Isn`t it amazing that the January 6th news any other time would literally be probably both of our A blocks and how it`s just been overwhelmed by world events, just mind blowing. Anyway, have a great evening.

MELBER: Good to see you.

REID: Cheers. Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight THE REIDOUT tonight with the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine, where the numbers of civilian deaths and refugees are rising, with more than a million Ukrainians fleeing Russian military violence through checkpoints and by train.

Now, take a look at this drone footage showing the devastation in a residential area near Kyiv. About 90 percent of the Russian troops that were on Ukraine`s border are now fighting inside the country. The worst of Russia`s shelling continues to hit Kharkiv, where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are being attacked with a barrage of airstrikes. Russian forces have seized Kherson, a key access point to the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. It is the first major city to fall, as Putin aims to take control of all of Ukraine.

Another round of talks between Russia and Ukraine has been -- has ended with no ceasefire but the country agreed to create safe corridors for civilians, as Emmanuel Macron warns that the worst is yet to come. The French president again asked Putin to halt his attacks, but said Putin won`t do it.

Scenes from Kyiv today include President Zelensky holding a news conference, where he warned of Putin`s larger plans if he were to take Ukraine. Now, you can hear him here speaking to reporters in Ukrainian, which we have translated into English in a voiceover.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: If we don`t exist anymore, God forbids. Remember our meeting. Next, it will be Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova, Georgia, Poland. They will then be walking until the Berlin wall.


REID: President Zelensky switched to Russian to directly challenge Putin to sit down with him for talks.


ZELENSKY: What do you want from us? Go away from our land. You don`t want to leave now? Sit down with me at the negotiation table. I`m available. Sit with me, but not at 30 meters, like you welcome Macron and Scholz and others. I`m your neighbor. You don`t need to keep me at 30-meter distance.


REID: The Ukrainian president went on to say, again, directly to Putin, I don`t bite. I`m a normal man. Sit down with me. Let`s talk. What are you afraid of?

I`m joined now by NBC News Correspondent Cal Perry in Lviv and MSNBC Anchor Ali Velshi in Budapest, Hungary.

I`m going to start with you, Cal. Give us a sense of how fierce this fighting is and how broad it is across Ukraine.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The fighting is fierce, and we`re hearing it`s absolutely terrifying. We`re finally starting to hear from some of the political heads who are in charge of these regions both in the north and in the far south. If we have that map, just go ahead and toss it up.

As I sort of think about this here on the ground, it`s like Russia has opened up a two-front north. There`s this area in the north, it`s called the Sumy region. There are at least five towns that, according to folks there, have been under heavy bombardment for more than 24 hours, where civilians have been unable to flee, they`ve been unable to move, they`re stuck in basements. And addition to that, reports are that there is no power, there is no water, there is no heat. So, you have civilians trapped in a place that not only is there heavy fighting but that the conditions are just becoming brutal.

In the south, you have this move by the Russians to push out from Crimea, to connect a land bridge clearly from that city of Kherson, the first city to fall, all the way to Mariupol, which we are also hearing the fighting is incredibly heavy. It seems as though there`s a bit of reality setting in on the ground here. We crossed that horrible milestone of 1 million refugees. But as you sort of laid out, that first city to fall, I think, really is hitting hard here on the ground, where people are coming to this realization that while we have heard so much reporting about how the Russians are getting bogged down, about how that convoy, for example, outside Kyiv is now stalled, that, really, there is still an advancement.

And there`s been this shift in tactics, Joy, that everybody feared would happen, which is that the Russians are now indiscriminately shelling these cities and, of course, that is killing civilians. Whether or not they`re targeting civilians directly, and we have heard that from the Ukrainian government, there are the very least just indiscriminately shelling these areas. And, of course, the highest price is being paid by civilians.

You mentioned that humanitarian corridor. We understand that the discussions are basically laying out a framework future discussions. But if you talk to Ukrainian officials, they`ll tell you that there is no trust that the Russians will allow these humanitarian corridors and they`ll tell you, what is the point if these cities are being shelled as the negotiations happen, Joy.

REID: Yes, wow


It is tragic and frightening.

All right, let me bring you in, Ali Velshi. So, the question for people who are in Ukraine, stay and fight or try to flee, and, you know, there are people who are doing both. A lot of the men there cannot leave and they`re staying and fighting or they want to stay and fight. But there are people trying to get out, a million refugees already and counting. You`re near the Budapest border. What are you seeing there?

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, more than 10 percent of those people who have left Ukraine have come here to Hungary. There are a few buckets of people, right? Some come to Budapest because it`s a major center, they go elsewhere. There are some who are citizens of other countries who have been studying in Ukraine or working in Ukraine. They come here to be repatriated to their countries. But in some cases, they`re coming here because they have got nowhere to go.

So, we are moments away, by the way, from another train coming in. We`re expecting -- there have been several of these trains daily. We`re expecting 200 to 300 refugees all night. You can see the police are here now. It`s a quiet station at the moment, but there have been thousands of people through here in the last few days. I just talked to the police who said, yes, there is a train coming in now, and that`s what they are expecting.

Now, people are having trouble getting onto those trains. I spoke to a man from Cameroon who was in Kharkv, in Eastern Ukraine. And he was describing that the stories we`ve been hearing about the fact that not everybody is getting the same chance to get out, particularly if you are not white, he confirmed for me. Listen to what he told me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to the boundary of Hungary (INAUDIBLE). He said -- the first man said, only Ukrainians will cross today (INAUDIBLE).

VELSHI: Did they tell you that because you`re black?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they didn`t tell me that, but information that we (INAUDIBLE).

VELSHI: You got that information, that black people that are not Ukrainian were not going to get out, not easy to cross?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, not easy to cross. So, first, we go back to the train station and bought for 125 (INAUDIBLE). Then we got ourselves to (INAUDIBLE).


VELSHI: He and his friends are part of that group of people who do not have a plan to move forward.

Now, what you have here is you`ve got embassy officials, people from other countries, food aid, and there are civilians, Hungarian civilians, who are here who are organizing accommodations, short-term or long-term for people. They`re organizing transportation for people. And, as you know, the European Union has discussed and is hoping to implement a plan that gives temporary residency to those people coming out here, allowing them to live and work outside of Russia possibly for a few years. So, a lot of developments here in Hungary.

And, again, Joy, you and I have talked about this, but one of the issues in Hungary is this is a country that actually does struggle with other people and with immigrants. It`s got a fairly right-wing government. A number of people pointed out to me here that these are civilians here who are helping and they are not representing the government, but civilians in Ukraine would like to help these people who are struggling.

REID: Just a quick follow-up, Cal and I yesterday had talked about the fact that the 5 million refugees who came out of Syria literally changed Europe. Right-wing governments sprung up all across Europe. Hungary has one, in Poland, Brexit, really, you can trace to the idea that you had all of these Muslim people that are having to leave Syria, which is also a Russian-aided barbaric sort of outcome. And I`m wondering where people are going and who is receiving these various people who are leaving Ukraine?

I`m assuming if they`re Ukrainian, they`re easily getting visas, they`re being told you can stay for three years. But what if they`re not Ukrainian? What if they`re African or North African or something other than white Ukrainians? Where are they going?

VELSHI: A couple of things. First of all, just on a basic accommodation and transportation basis, there are people, these civilians who have a database of Hungarians who have said they will help people out, they have said, we ran into problems when people would show up and they were black. It wasn`t as easy to figure out. They had to sift through their list of people who would offer accommodation. There were people who would accept them, but that is an actual challenge.

There are a number of countries who have set up embassies here. The Indians are here. The Moroccans are here. And they are arranging buses that will take them to the embassy, give them their clearances and ship them right back home. A number of Indians -- that`s happened to a number of Indian students. There are a lot of Indian students in Ukraine.

But there are other people who come here who do not have that option. They do not have official sanction and they don`t have those options and they are stuck. And you`re absolutely right to point out what you did. Hungary did not have a great experience with those Syrian refugees when they came in. It was some of the harshest pictures we had actually seen throughout the whole thing. So, that is an evolving story here, what will happen to the more than -- the hundreds of thousands of people still coming here from Ukraine. They`re not all the same.

REID: Yes. Two of the best there are, Cal Perry and Ali Velshi, both friends, please stay safe, both of you.


Thank you both very, very much.

I`m joined now by retired Army Major John Spencer, Chair of Urban Warfare Studies with the Madison Policy Forum.

I have so many questions. I`m going to try to get through them all in this short time that we`re going to have together. But I want to start with that refugee crisis, because this is a complicated situation, but part of it is this huge outflow of people who are Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian, who were studying in Ukraine out in these neighboring countries. How does that complicate the neighboring country`s sort of attitude to what`s happening in Ukraine and the logistics and what they have to do?

MAJ. JOHN SPENCER, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yes. I mean, look, I`m a human, so I want all those civilians in the most protected place as they can be sent to. But this is -- all war is bad. This is going to be really bad because of the humanitarian crisis that we know is happening and, unfortunately, it`s going to get ten times worse. So, yes, those refugees are going to need assistance and the neighboring countries are going to have to take those in and it`s going to cause a lot of problems in each and individual countries doing what they can, but it is awful, Joy.

REID: Yes. And let`s now talk about what`s going on inside of Ukraine. That map that we put up earlier, I mean, we pull it back up again, it showed a lot of that yellow color, where the Russians are advancing. I see Kyiv right there, very, very close to the pink where you`re seeing the Russians moving in and occupying space. What do you make of the fact that the president is remaining in Ukraine? He`s very close to where those troops are advancing. He`s apparently determined to remain in Kyiv regardless. Is that wise at this stage?

SPENCER: Absolutely. He`s going to go down in history as one of the great leaders. If he would have fled or if he flees, it`s lost. War is more than just military force. It`s about the will of the people. He is everything. He is why they have resistance so strongly. I mean, he`s going to go down as a Churchill, a Washington. That is such an amazing leader. It`s critical that he stay safe but that he stays in the country, and he`s doing that. And those messages, Joy, that`s why they have fought so hard.

REID: Yes, indeed. He is already legend.

Let`s talk about what Ukraine can do. Russia has got like 90 percent of its forces that it had arrayed around that country inside the country now. Just even looking at that map, it looks like they have enough to go in and destroy and bombard cities and kill a lot of people but not necessarily enough to hold a country of 44 million people. So, it`s a two-part question. Number one, what do you make of their strategy so far? They do seem to be stalling.

The Ukrainians are bragging about having brought down not a small number of their aircraft, they`re saying they`ve downed 29 Russian aircraft, 29 helicopters, 7 air defense units. We`re not confirming that but that is what they`re saying. What can the Ukrainians do at this point about that long tank convoy that`s right outside Kyiv? What can they do at this point militarily to fight back? And do you think the Russians have enough troops in that country to really hold it?

SPENCER: Yes, that`s a great question. So, first off, the Ukrainians need to keep doing what they`re doing. Even in all that red that`s on that map, the Russians don`t control nothing. Maybe they think they do. But that`s not the way this is working out for them at all. So, they have to keep hitting the Russian hordes wherever in any way they can.

That stalled target or that stalled convoy is a great target but they have to be safe about it, right? So, this is their ability to continue to resist, because the more time Russia can`t achieve what it wants to do, which is take Kyiv. This is all about an urban objective, a strategic objective, that he wants to take Kyiv and is still a Russian friendly government. So, the more the Ukrainians do, the more they can stop that.

If as long -- every day that goes by, when Ukraine doesn`t lose, it`s winning. They`re running out of time, they`re running out of food, water, gas, he`s running out of political support in his own country. Now, what can they do more is they need to make sure that Russia hits a wall of concrete. Our president said that they hit a wall of strength in the Ukrainian people, and they did.

Now, I`m an urban warfare specialist, just as an old soldier, I`ve been studying this for a long time, having done my own urban combat. The reason they`re shelling like this is because they`re scared. Nobody wants to enter that hell of urban combat. And that`s what -- this is about information war. And that`s what -- Russians have to believe that they`re entering hell, and the Ukrainians have to believe, which I think they should, they are not as disadvantaged as everybody keeps saying. The urban train is the great equalizer. They can put up barriers and make it turn it into weeks and months for them to possibly take.

So, to answer the first question, Russia didn`t bring what it needs to take those major urban areas.


REID: Let me ask you this, and as -- to let our viewers know, what you`re watching there is the train coming into Budapest with the people who are leaving Ukraine, getting to safety in Hungary. So you can see them coming off the train. So, that is what you`re seeing on the screen right now.

So, on this question of insurgency, the fact, as you said, that they didn`t bring enough to hold that country, first of all, they`re creating no kind of good will so there will be an insurgency. Ukrainians have said very clearly they`re willing to fight to the last man. They`re never going to allow themselves to be annexed to Russia.

And so I guess then the next is how do you see that insurgency playing out, if, God forbid, Russians take control of Kyiv? How do the Ukrainians then resist that? I know our own experience in Iraq says that a population that`s determined to resist can resist and get you out of there. We`ve seen it in South Africa. We`ve seen it in other places. But how do they resist if the Russians actually take control of the city?

SPENCER: Yes. So, just my personal opinion, one, I don`t think they brought enough to take, and definitely didn`t bring enough to hold. To fight a counterinsurgency, the numbers you need are astronomical compared to the size of that population that you`re trying to control. And this isn`t Iraq. And like you said, I had two combat tours, experienced a lot of insurgency. But that was maybe 1 percent of the population. This will be a giant percent of the population that will continue resist.

If Russia tries to -- even if they, God forbid, which I hope that doesn`t, they take Kyiv and install a government, they`re going to face years -- I don`t think they can sustain being there with the insurgency that they`ll face.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And I want to thank you, Major John Spencer. I want to thank you.

I am going to jump away from you for just a moment because I do want to go back to Ali Velshi. That train has come in, Ali. I see you`re talking to people, but I`m going to try to grab you before we get to a break. Tell us what you`re seeing.

VELSHI: I`m with NBC News. Joy, I`m just talking to a number of people who have gotten off this train that has just come in from Ukraine. This gentleman has just come in. We were just speaking. Where were you coming from? Where were you staying in Ukraine?

In Kharkiv? And then you got on this train there or you came to the border?


VELSHI: Where are you from?


VELSHI: Did you have any trouble coming in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t mind about that.

VELSHI: You don`t mind? You`re happy to be out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m happy to be out.

VELSHI: What are you going to do now? What is your plan now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to stay here and (INAUDIBLE).

VELSHI: Go back to Ukraine?


VELSHI: And do you have accommodations here? Do you have somebody you know here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I called my sister who has a friend here.

VELSHI: Your sister has a friend here?


VELSHI: You`re going to go to your sister`s friend? Excellent. Well, I`m glad that you`re safely out.


VELSHI: Welcome to Hungary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

VELSHI: All right, thank you.

Joy, this train has just come in. There are certainly, it looks like, a couple hundred people who have gotten off here. You can see the police in the background, no activity there. But look at these people with the bags that they`re carrying, children around us carrying toys. Toys are one of the things that they do receive, by the way, when they get here. There`s food, there are toys, there`s medication, there`s personal health needs that are being met. You see this phalanx of police here. There has been no incidence of trouble or violence here at all, but they go into this room here.

Let`s go in here and see what they`re doing. You can see, as soon as you get here, there are tables set up. There`s fresh fruit. There are medical products. There`s paper goods over here. There are hygiene needs. There are sandwiches all over this side on the left. There are beverages. People have blankets, hot beverages, cold beverages, snacks, medications.

And then as people go through this hall, they`re walking out, this is a Hungarian Red Cross over here. They`ve got water for people, there`s medication and first aid available, juices. They go outside and they will be matched with people who will drive them to where they need to go, if it`s an embassy or someone`s home, and they do have lists of people who have agreed to accommodate these refugees as soon as they get here. So, they will be paired out.

There`s a new group of volunteers. You can see their signs all over the place. There are people who hold up signs that talk about what languages they speak. So, if a refugee gets off, somebody seeking asylum or needs to speak a different language, then they come out here and this is where they get help in terms of transportation, health care and accommodation needs. You can see people are urging everybody to walk out and find what they need.

There are family members here who are greeting people who have arrived.


Some people have a plan. Some people will go to their embassies. Some people have tickets to go to Poland or their home countries, wherever those home countries may be. There are a number of students, for instance, who are being greeted by their embassies.

But that`s what`s happening here. People are getting information. If you can just see, this woman here has a band on. It says "Info" on her band. You will see some people have a band on that says "Transportation."

That`s the kind of thing that`s going on. I will say, this is mostly civilian-run. This is not a government initiative here in Hungary. Hungary continues to be a problem where -- a country where they struggle with immigration in general. And it`s got some right-wing tendencies to it.

But, for the moment, they are a NATO country. And this is what it looks like when a train of refugees comes in from the Ukrainian border and arrives here in Budapest. We now have more than 10 percent of all the people who have left Ukraine have come to Hungary -- Joy.

REID: Ali Velshi, so valuable. This is fascinating reporting.

And while you`re there, I hope that, as we come back to you and talk with you, we can get a sense of how the government there in Hungary is reacting to this influx, because, as you said, this is a notoriously anti-immigrant government.

VELSHI: Yes, very much so.

REID: And the fact that this is happening, there`s not much they can do about. This is 10 percent of the outflow. It`s a lot of people.


REID: So, look forward to talking with you so much again. Stay safe.

Thank you, thank you, Ali Velshi. Appreciate you, man. Stay safe.

All right, up next on THE REIDOUT: according to plan. Putin unloads a new pile of propaganda, as the siege of Ukraine continues unabated. But despite Putin`s best efforts, Russians are learning of the horrors.

Also, the White House announces new sanctions against Putin`s cronies. But is there any reason for Putin himself to be concerned?

Plus, the January 6 Committee says there is evidence that Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy, and there are new developments tonight in the New York investigation.

And the story of a politician so filled with rage, he is taking it out on children. Normally, that person would be a prime candidate for the "Absolute Worst." Amazingly, we found someone even worse.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.



REID: We all know Russian President Vladimir Putin loves to portray himself as a strongman through elaborate photo-ops perpetuating a macho man image, the infamous shirtless summer vacation exploits by the rather diminutive dictator, or his annual hockey exhibition games, where, despite learning to play late in life, he always not just an impressive number of goals.

Hmm. Wonder why.

Although, in 2019, that image slipped, literally, as he took a victory lap during a match in Sochi. Now, that`s all essentially a proxy for his aggression toward Ukraine, the strongman who, in his mind, epitomizes Russian strength falling on his face. He`s also been stripped of his macho bona fides. His honorary black belt from tae kwon do`s governing body was stripped because of the invasion.

In another rambling diatribe today, Putin again leveled outrageous lies about the Ukrainian people, and insisted that his war in Ukraine is going according to plan, even as the so-called great Russian army in Ukraine is plagued by poor morale, with some soldiers surrendering or even sabotaging Russia`s efforts.

While the Kremlin has tried to hide the reality of the invasion from the Russian people, that is becoming increasingly difficult. Russia`s Defense Ministry confirmed casualties for the first time. There`s also the weight of crushing Western financial sanctions, Moscow`s stock exchange closed again for the fourth straight day.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said today that Russia was ready to conduct talks with Ukraine, but added that Russia would continue the war, which the Kremlin refuses to even call a war, to the bitter end.

With me now, NBC News senior international correspondent Keir Simmons live in Moscow, and Anne Applebaum, staff writer for "The Atlantic" and author of "Twilight of Democracy."

And, Keir, I wonder if you are getting a sense of how much of the reality of what`s happening in Ukraine, including the just extravagant violence, but also the failures on the part of the Russian military, are bleeding into the ears and eyes of Russians inside of that country?

KEIR SIMMONS, NBC SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it must be known by one Russian. And that`s Vladimir Putin.

And that image you showed of him giving his speech today, he was boiling, quietly boiling. It`s clear that he is furious, just by his visage, by the way that he appears, and also determined.

Honestly, right now, Joy, I think we`re at a point where hope is hard to find, economic hope, military hope for the Russians, but also for the Ukrainians, frankly, because, despite the fact that they have had these setbacks -- I heard Cal talking earlier on the show -- I do -- well, we heard from the French president, who spoke for 90 minutes to President Putin, that he believes that the Russians want to take the whole of Ukraine.

And I think that President Putin pretty clearly is determined to do that. That`s all the messaging that we have, we are getting.

Joy, just think about this. And I think it`s pretty chilling, really, in terms of what we`re looking at. You mentioned a little earlier the Iraq War. I think the casualty numbers for U.S. forces in the Iraq War was around 4,500. Obviously, many more civilians were killed.

In Russia`s Afghanistan war over nine years, 15,000. Now, the Russians today claiming that they have had 500 people killed. The Ukrainians are claiming 7,000 Russians have been killed. We don`t know the exact number. But we do know that the Russian president today effectively on television admitted that Russians are dying, and even offered the equivalent of $50,000 for each family where a Russian has died.

So he`s changing the narrative to get his -- trying to get his country to accept the kinds of casualties. And the problem is, is that we can talk about that might change Russian opinion, but what it might also mean is an astonishing clampdown on the people of Russia, not just in terms of what they`re allowed to know, but also whether they`re allowed to protest on all those issues.


And then you have this iron curtain going down between Russia and the West. I wish I could stand here and be more positive. But I think things look pretty dark tonight.

REID: Yes, indeed. And they will get -- they`re getting darker.

We`re getting reports of -- from NBC News of heavy weapons fire at the largest nuclear plant in a city called Enerhodar.


REID: That`s terrifying. That is almost a worst-case scenario, that they`re actually shelling near the largest nuclear plant in Ukraine. That sounds like indiscriminate -- that does not sound like something that`s going according to plan, and incredibly, incredibly dangerous.

And then the other little point that I will make as well is Russian M.P.s calling for anti-war protesters -- and this is for you as well, Keir -- to be conscripted and sent to the front lines, sent to these breakaway regions and made to fight.


REID: This sounds like inside of even the heads of people that are M.P.s in Russia. They don`t even want to raise the morale of their own people. They just want to use them as cannon fodder, and they`re willing to risk a nuclear -- a Chernobyl-style nuclear nightmare.

They don`t seem to care much about the Russian people.

SIMMONS: Yes, I mean, what we saw today with President Putin`s speech, again, is that his security council were there, but they weren`t there, because they were on video beamed in.

So, once again, he`s at a distance from who are supposed to be his closest advisers. And we have talked already, Joy, this week about the work we`re doing trying to understand who is influencing President Putin. And it does look as if the people who are influencing him, some of the intelligence services, his bodyguards.

There is this unit of presidential protection kind of team, a large organization, very influential here in Russia. And we don`t know this, but you can imagine a scenario where, during the last two years of COVID, President Putin might not have had so much access, certainly not with the oligarchs, perhaps not with his advisers, but with that kind of tighter unit of intelligence officers and bodyguards and those kinds of people.

So one imagines that they are still the people who he is talking to and is influencing him.

REID: Yes.

SIMMONS: And how has his -- how have his views changed?

You know something? I used to say about Russia that be careful what you wish for, because President Putin could be replaced by somebody more nationalistic, more hard-line. It looks as if President Putin has been replaced by that person, but it`s President Putin having shifted his position quite substantially.

REID: Yes.

SIMMONS: And, Anne Applebaum, to bring you in here, and also having -- the former president loves to call President Putin a genius and shrewd.

This seems so incredibly wrongheaded to think that you can force 44 million people to rejoin your -- the empire in your mind, when they have made it very clear they have no interest in doing that, calling a country led by a Jewish man a Nazi, while you are shelling the memorial to the Holocaust inside of Ukraine, and saying you`re going to conscript people who are protesting against the war.

And what are you going to do, put guns to their heads to make them kill Ukrainians, who they clearly have said they do not want any part of it? None of it is rational to me. And I feel like I keep saying it over and over again. None of it seems rational to me.

What do you make of where Putin is mentally and strategically at this stage?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, "THE ATLANTIC": So, unfortunately, it is rational within Putin`s understanding of the world.

In the talk that he gave today, in the rant, actually, that he -- that he did on television today, he made it clear once again that his objective is to eliminate and remove the Ukrainians. They haven`t turned out to be the pliant people that he thought they were going to be. He thought that he would march in and they would be in Kyiv in 48 hours, and they would welcome the Russian troops with flowers and the war would be over.

He`s very distant from reality. He has very little sense of what modern Ukraine is really like. He has no contact with Ukrainians. And I think probably the people around him have very little contact either.

But his theory of the world, his theory of Russian history and geography is that that space in which modern Ukraine exists is really Russian. And so, therefore, the logic of that is that we need to eliminate the people who are there, the so-called Nazis, the non-people, the evil people who have somehow twisted the minds of the inhabitants, and we need to eliminate them and replace them with something else.

And this is really dangerous, really frightening, genocidal thinking. He`s now thinking about eliminating, destroying -- this targeting of civilians now is not an accident. It`s about removing people from that space and substituting them with something else.


REID: And just very quickly, President Zelensky has warned the world and said that he won`t be done, that this mania and his megalomania extends beyond Ukraine, and that, if Ukraine goes, so will many, many other countries, he will try to get it all back, get the whole USSR back.

Do you think that it could be possible, when this man clearly has not deployed enough troops, maybe he doesn`t have enough troops, to really hold that country, that he would try for more?

APPLEBAUM: So, those are two different questions.

I mean, one, yes, I do think it`s possible he could try for more. What he`s trying to do is bring the West to its knees, bring America to its knees. He talks a lot about America, although we`re so far away, and make them feel the shame and humiliation that he felt at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union.

So he is trying to reverse history, to turn it backwards, to replace the modern world with something in the past. It`s a kind of grotesque distortion of nostalgia.

But the second part of your question, which is, can he do it is, I mean, one of the reasons why so few people in Russia believed that this would happen and why there`s so much shock and consternation in Moscow is that he doesn`t have the troops to hold Ukraine, he doesn`t have an occupying force.

And one of the fears that people have is that, since he can`t occupy it, he will destroy it. And so understanding that and understanding that that`s his logic, and that he will then seek to spread those tactics as far as he can, I think it is really important right now so that we understand the scale of what could happen and the distortions of his mind.

REID: And let me bring in former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

Ambassador McFaul, thank you so much for being here. I have been listening to all of your television hits with covetous, rapt attention, waiting for a chance to talk with you, because this idea that Putin could bring the West to its knees, what he`s brought to its knees is Russia. He has brought their economy to its knees. He`s brought their esteem in the world to its knees. He`s turned them into just a giant Syria.

They are an outlaw nation. They are a pariah nation. This, to me, seems like madness, because that`s all that he`s accomplished here. What is happening? Can you take us inside how this person could have been thought of at any point as a rational human being, having done this?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, he`s been obsessed with Ukraine for a long time. He`s wanted to roll back the Revolution of Dignity from 2014 for a long time.

He was increasingly angry at the success of democracy in Ukraine. And so that`s why he decided to go in. And I think -- we`re talking a lot about the word rationality. I would just say he`s ideologically motivated. He`s motivated by a set of ideas, as Anne said, his own particular ideas, but he -- but they`re not our ideas.

And I think that, partly, we have miscalculated and underestimated his tolerance for risk, because we assumed he thinks like us. He doesn`t.

REID: Yes.

MCFAUL: But he`s made two giant mistakes -- well, I would say three giant mistakes.

One, he`s underestimated the Ukrainian fight. And I just want to underscore what Anne said. Even if he does everything that he has told us he was going to do, eliminate the Ukrainian military and denazify -- denazification, his word, not mine, then what?

He does not have a military to occupy all of Ukraine. I don`t think he has the capability to cleanse -- I hate to use that word -- Ukraine of all the Ukrainian people. So I don`t think he really understands what his endgame is in Ukraine.

REID: Yes.

MCFAUL: But he also has underestimated what happened -- what`s happening inside his country, because he`s underestimated Western resolve.

He most certainly did not expect to see these sanctions. And his people back home -- I talk to Russians every single day -- they didn`t expect to see it. And I just think there`s lots more passive resistance, not support for this war back home.

Yes, the babushkas who watches TV stations -- and I see those videos -- they support them. But a lot of people have woken up to think, oh, my gosh, this guy is literally out of control.

REID: Yes.

MCFAUL: And for the rest of their lives, Russia will be the pariah state that you just talked about.

REID: And let me ask you about these sanctions, because you have, I think, been really instructive for us to understand there are all sorts of different oligarchs out there.

So, I wonder what you make of this latest round of sanctions, because it appears they are getting closer and closer and closer to Putin`s inner circle, Igor Sechin, who people will remember from the Steele dossier as allegedly having offered to make lucrative deals with American oil companies if the sanctions related to Ukraine were relaxed.


You have people like Nikolai Tokarev. I`m just going to put the names up. I`m not going to read them all off.

But the does this feel to you like the targeting is getting closer to the kind of oligarchs who, if they turned on Putin, or could influence him, could change what`s happening?

MCFAUL: Yes and no.

And I want to say, every time there`s a new sanction, I do a cheer. And I want more and more and more, seizing assets. I want assets to be taken. I don`t want them to be frozen. Whatever the Biden administration says, I say, hurrah and let`s do more, OK? That`s my policy position.

But my analytic position, I think it`s important to understand a couple of things. I know most of those gentlemen you just showed, or I used to know them. Let`s put it that way.

And Tokarev vs. Shuvalov are radically different kinds of people. Tokarev makes his money through the pipelines that he controls, very close to Putin. And it`s part of the oil and gas machine. And as long as we continue to buy that oil and gas, he`s going to be fine.

Shuvalov, he`s a guy who has homes in London and Dubai, and wants to be part of the international system. He was the first deputy prime minister when I was ambassador. He`s -- in other words, he wants to be part of that world. But neither of them have power over Putin.

So, Shuvalov and some of those others, right -- you seized Usmanov`s yacht. Well, guess what? there`s hard-liners around Putin that say, great job, because they don`t like those guys. They`re the ones that got rich in the `90s. They want to see them suffer, whereas the guys that are close to him are rich because Putin made them rich.


MCFAUL: That doesn`t give them a lot of leverage vis-a-vis Putin.

REID: Yes, it is a conundrum. It is a disaster.

But we are so thankful to have such brilliant people to talk to you about it. Keir Simmons, Anne Applebaum, Michael McFaul, thank you all so much.

And still ahead: The January 6 Committee lays out a path to potential criminal conspiracy charges against the former insurrectionist in chief.

We will be right back.



REID: OK, here`s a headline that would be leading the news if this were any other day.

Donald Trump engaged in a -- quote -- "criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States." Just let that sink in for a moment. That explosive charge is from the committee investigating January 6, which, for the very first time, is alleging that Trump and members of his inner circle broke the law when they tried to steal the election from Joe Biden in 2020.

It`s part of a court filing by the committee yesterday against Trump lawyer John Eastman. He`s the author of the infamous Eastman memo, who schemed with Trump using false claims, fake electors and an undue pressure campaign to throw out the legitimate election results.

And he`s now claiming attorney-client privilege in an effort to shield subpoenaed e-mails and documents from congressional investigators. But that privilege cannot be used to cover up evidence of a crime, which is exactly what the committee is now alleging.

They say that they have evidence strongly suggesting Eastman`s e-mails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of Electoral College ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power.

With me now, Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst.

So, Glenn, start by explaining to us this conspiracy charge. What do -- what would have to be proved in order for this crime to be done and dusted, proved beyond a reasonable doubt?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if prosecutors were handling this, Joy, instead of the House select committee, we would have to prove that there was an agreement between two or more people to commit an offense, any offense, and there are a couple in play, and that one of the members of the conspiracy did one thing toward the commission of the crime, an overt act.

And I will tell you, this latest pleading by the House select committee in Thompson -- Eastman vs. Thompson, the first thing I think we ought to recognize is there`s more than a dozen lawyers on the signature page. And these are serious, accomplished lawyers, some of whom I know.

There`s not a Rudy or a Sidney Powell anywhere near the signature page of this pleading. They would not have put their names on this if they didn`t have the goods to back up their assertion that Donald Trump, in their opinion, committed a number of crimes trying to overturn the election results.

But this pleading also has brought into fine focus, at least for me -- maybe I`m slow on the uptake -- the fact that we`re kind of living in this upside-down bizarro government world, because we have three co-equal branches of government, and each typically knows what it`s supposed to be doing.

REID: Yes.

KIRSCHNER: The legislative branch can`t prosecute anybody, and yet they`re conducting this incredibly deep, involved, what seems to be criminal investigation of Donald Trump.

And, Joy, their following -- they`re filing documents in court saying, we have got enough evidence to assert to a federal court Donald Trump committed crimes. You have the judiciary, which can`t charge anybody with a crime, saying things like to the Department of Justice, we understand that you`re prosecuting the people who breached the Capitol, the foot soldiers of Donald Trump`s insurrection, but they are but pawns in Donald Trump`s game.

REID: Yes.

KIRSCHNER: And you have the judiciary saying through Judge Amit Mehta that Donald Trump`s conduct on January 6 is -- quote -- "the essence of" -- close quote -- a conspiracy.

But these two branches of government can`t prosecute anybody. The branch of government responsible for prosecuting people, the executive branch through the Department of Justice, we get crickets.

REID: We get nothing.

KIRSCHNER: This is not the way government is supposed to work.

REID: Exactly. And it seems that it only works that way for Donald Trump or for -- maybe it`s because he`s a Republican. I don`t know what`s going on at DOJ.

But just to dial this back just a second, I`m a layperson, but I`m going to try this. It would seem to me that, if Donald Trump is involved this conspiracy, number one, he would have to know that he really did lose.


We now have lots of people on the record, including William Barr, who`s out hawking a book and trying to launder his image by now belatedly admitting that, yes, he directly told Donald Trump, you lost. So that means his -- the head of his Department of Justice told him that all the conspiracy stuff about fraud was B.S., OK?

You also have the actual act of trying to stop the election. You have Donald Trump himself saying, in Georgia: I just need 11,000 votes. It seems like he was aware that he wanted to take away an election that he lost, that he was aware, at least per the DOJ, that he had lost.

And now you have another guy, the first January 6 defendant to go to trial yesterday. Prosecutors opened oral arguments against the defendant in this January 6 trial. I know that you attended that trial. But you also have had a January 6 defendant who`s pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. His name is Joshua James. He`s a member of the Oath Keepers.

He admits: Oh, I was involved in a seditious conspiracy.

If he starts saying Donald Trump was a part of it, I don`t see how the DOJ could ignore that.

KIRSCHNER: No, I don`t see how the DOJ has ignored the mountain of evidence regarding Donald Trump`s criminal responsibility for all of this that we see reported out every day.

And you`re exactly right when you`re highlighting the evidence of Donald Trump`s Trump`s corrupt intent, because usually intent is hard to prove, because we have no way of looking into the human mind to discern what somebody intends. So, usually, we have to infer intent from conduct and statements.

But, here, I think we have direct evidence of Donald Trump`s corrupt intent, not only because Bill Barr told him there was no fraud undermining the election, not only because Chris Krebs announced that this was the most secure election in U.S. history, but because, remember, there was also reporting about a meeting Donald Trump had with some of his DOJ officials, where again he was being told there was no fraud undermining the election.

And he said, words out of his own mouth, which actually constitute direct evidence: I don`t care if there was no fraud. Just say there was and leave it up to me and my allies in Congress.

Intent is usually hard to prove. It won`t be if we can just get this case before 12 people in a jury box.

REID: And that is up to Merrick Garland. Where is Merrick Garland? It is the question every single day.

Glenn Kirschner, thank you so much. Always great to talk with you, helping us make some sense of this.

Stick around for tonight`s "Absolute Worst," as irony becomes the so-called free state of Florida`s most delicious export.

That`s next.



REID: Ron DeSantis says he`s all about parental rights, so much so that it`s the official name of the draconian don`t say gay bill.

Last year, he made a big deal about passing a parents` bill of rights during COVID and an executive order explicitly allowing parents to choose whether or not their kids wear masks. But that right to choose only seems to apply if parents do what DeSantis wants them to do, so their mask- wearing kids don`t ruin his photo-op.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off.


DESANTIS: Honestly, it`s not doing anything, and we have to stop with this COVID theater. So, if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.


REID: To start, Governor Hissy Fit, it is a blatant lie that masks don`t do anything. We know that masks helps saved many, many lives throughout this pandemic.

And the CDC still recommends masks where he was, because Tampa currently has what the CDC describes as a high transmission rate of COVID. But, most importantly, he`s infringing on the parental rights he claims to care so much about.

So, on any normal day, the glaring hypocrisy of Ron DeSantis would make him the "Absolute Worst."

But, nope, there`s someone even worse out there.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: It might be time for Joe Biden to let us know Ketanji Brown Jackson`s LSAT score was.

What -- how did she do on the LSATs? Why wouldn`t he tell us that? That would settle the question conclusively as to whether she`s a once-in-a- generation legal talent, the next Learned Hand.


REID: Weirdly enough, "Couldn`t Get Into an Ivy" Tuckums Carlson never asked to see any other nominee`s test scores.

As Nikole Hannah-Jones so aptly tweeted: "This is textbook racism, not even a dog whistle. Outside of the ridiculous argument that scores to get into law school are the measure of qualification long after law school, plus a lengthy judicial career, the presumption that black people are dumb is standard white supremacy."

Ketanji Brown Jackson has an extensive amount of experience. As Elliot Williams tweeted when she was nominated: "Imagine a supremely qualified SCOTUS nominee with two Harvard degrees with honors, a SCOTUS clerkship for the justice they`d replace, and two years as a federal judge. That`s Chief Justice John Roberts. Ketanji Brown Jackson has all of that, plus seven more years as a judge."

In contrast, Amy Coney Barrett was the least qualified nominee in recent history. And did Tuckums question her experience? He sure didn`t. Instead, he said there was no question she was qualified for the job. I guess he knew just by looking at her.

He then praised her remarkable family and mused that she was "maybe the most impressive person to receive a Supreme Court nomination in memory."

So, for his not even trying to hide it anymore, blatant and, frankly, stupid racism, Tucker Carlson is once again tonight`s "Absolute, Absolute Worst."

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.