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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/20/22

Guests: Laurence Tribe, Nadya Tolokonnikova, Bradley Moss


Attorney General Merrick Garland will have to make the final decision over whether to indict Donald Trump. President Zelenskyy will address the United Nations tomorrow as more evidence of Vladimir Putin`s war crimes is being discovered daily in towns that Ukraine has recaptured from Russian forces. Russian singer Alla Pugacheva criticized her country and asked to be added to Russia`s foreign agent register in a post to 3.3 million Instagram followers on Sunday.



Now imagine you had a ticket, they don`t actually have tickets. Imagine you have a ticket to that Brooklyn courtroom today at 2:00 p.m. where Judge Raymond Dearie held his first special master session in the case of Donald J. Trump versus United States of America. What would you do with your -- with your one seat for that courtroom?


I would eagerly use it because what an extraordinary hearing and also what a return to normalcy to hear a judge say, uh-uh, this case, you guys have not been arguing very well. That`s the subtext, right? It can`t be classified -- it can`t be declassified if you`re not arguing it`s declassified. I mean, I just thought so many aspects of what transpired in that courtroom are worthy of analysis and discussion because there was a lot packed in there and we get a great indication of where the special master may be heading in all of this.

O`DONNELL: And we`re going to have that discussion because what I would -- what I would do with that ticket is give it to Andrew Weissmann, but Andrew Weissmann doesn`t need my help because he was actually there. He used to work in that courthouse, he`s going to be with us leading off tonight.

And so, we have the guy in the room. The guy I want in the room for these sessions. But, if there`s two tickets, I want to get the other ticket.

WAGNER: I`ll scalp mine to you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, okay. I desperately want to be there. Thank you, Alex.

WAGNER: You`re in good hands, Lawrence. Have a great show.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, today, Donald Trump met his Judge Sirica and he met him in Brooklyn, and that could mean that Donald Trump is now on a legal fast track to a very, very bad outcome to the FBI`s search of his Florida residence, where the FBI found hundreds of government documents and classified documents, including some highly classified documents that the FBI found in Donald Trump`s desk, in his desk.

Judge John Sirica was named "Time Magazine`s" Man of the Year in 1974 because of his handling of criminal cases involving Republican President Richard Nixon. It was Judge John Sirica who ordered President Nixon to hand over the audio tapes of the president`s discussions in the Oval Office. Those tapes revealed Richard Nixon`s involvement in federal crimes. Richard Nixon then resigned the presidency and a month later was pardoned by his chosen vice president who had become President Gerald Ford. That pardon saved Richard Nixon from becoming the first former president of the United States to be charged with a crime and tonight that historical achievement of being the first former president of the United States to be charged with a crime seems ever more likely to become an entry in Donald Trump`s resume.

Judge John Sirica was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and he took down the next Republican President Richard Nixon. Donald Trump`s John Sirica was also appointed by a Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Judge Raymond Dearie who is now serving as the special master in the case of Donald J. Trump versus United States of America became the special master in the case because Donald Trump`s own lawyers suggested his name to the judge handling the case in Florida, asking her to appoint Raymond Dearie as special master.

And because Judge Dearie has always been widely regarded as a fair-minded, reasonable and honorable jurist, the federal prosecutors in the case simply agreed to Donald Trump`s choice of Judge Dearie, who serves in the eastern district of New York, in Brooklyn. And so, it was in the federal courthouse in Brooklyn today where Donald Trump who was born in the adjacent neighborhood of Queens was told something that Donald Trump`s parents never told him, you can`t have your cake and eat it too. That`s actually something parents have been telling children for literally hundreds of years, beginning in medieval England where versions of that sentence were passed around in the 1500s.

In 1611, the English poet John Davies put it in a way that actually makes more semantic sense than the current version when he said: A man cannot eat his cake and have it still.

Judge Dearie conducted a meeting with the lawyers of both sides of the case in his Brooklyn courtroom today and tonight, Donald Trump is probably throwing his cake. Judge Dearie scheduled the meeting for 2:00 p.m. and remarkably entered his courtroom precisely at 2:00 p.m., according to our first guest tonight, Andrew Weissmann, who was in the room. That kind of precise adherence to schedule to anyone who has spent much time in courtrooms is remarkable, it`s just a remarkable way to start a 2:00 p.m. court session, exactly at 2:00 p.m.

Judge Dearie was quick. He was simple. He was direct. His first question was to the Trump lawyers, quote, is there a real dispute about the property inventory.

Donald Trump`s lead lawyer today, former federal prosecutor James Trusty, spoke in response to that question for a couple of hundred words, but didn`t answer it to which Judge Dearie said, so the answer to my question is, you don`t know whether there is going to be a real dispute to the inventory. Mr. Trusty, that`s fair.

Judge Dearie covered some mechanical details about how most of the 11,000 documents in the case can be made available to Donald Trump`s lawyers, then Judge Dearie turn to the most important documents saying, quote, the government, of course, wants the classified documents off the table for the moment at least I understand that. We`re dealing with presumably highly sensitive information. If I`m going to verify the classification, what am I looking at? Is there a claim that the document is classified that should not have been classified? Is there a claim that something was labeled purposefully classified that isn`t?

The reason I ask is if the government essentially gives me prima facie evidence that these are classified documents and you, the Trump lawyers, for whatever reason decide not to advance any claims of declassification, which I understand is your prerogative, I`m left with a prima facie case of classified documents. And as far as I`m concerned, that`s the end of it.

That`s the end of it. Donald Trump`s lawyers didn`t think that was the end of it. They said, we`re not in the position without having seen the physical evidence and without having a chance to fully explore what these documents purport to be to tell the court in good faith that I know I have an argument to be made about classification, to which the judge said, well, you did bring the lawsuit and make that claim.

Now, in Judge Aileen Mercedes Cannon`s courtroom in Florida, Trump`s lawyers could get away with making statements like that. But not today, not in Brooklyn, not with Judge Dearie.

Judge Dearie suggested the clear possibility that the Trump lawyers would not be allowed to see the classified documents in this case, and the Judge Dearie himself might not even look at them. Judge Dearie said, let`s not belittle the fact that we are dealing with at least potentially legitimately classified information. The government has a very strong obligation as all of us do to see to it that that information doesn`t get in the wrong hands. It`s not just a matter it seems to me of being cleared, it`s a matter of need to know, and if you need to know you will know.

That`s the way I see it. If I can make my judgments without, I don`t want to see the material. It`s presumably sensitive material. If I can make my recommendation to Judge Cannon, right or wrong, without exposing myself or you to that material, I will do it.

Before the meeting with Judge Dearie, at 2:00 p.m. today, the Trump lawyers filed their response to the Justice Department`s appeal of the case, seeking to exclude the classified documents from the special master process. The Trump lawyers once again classified the case as, quote, a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control and said, quote, the government wrongfully seeks to criminalize the possession by the 45th president of his own presidential and personal records.

The problem for the Trump lawyers is that possession is a crime. Possession of these records is a crime. It is legally true that former presidents have access to many of the records that were found in Donald Trump`s home, access. But presidents are not legally allowed to take them home and own them.

The Trump lawyers repeatedly played the classification game in their filing, the appeals filing to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, referring to, quote, the government`s contention that the approximately purportedly classified documents were in fact classified. But the Trump lawyers refused to say again that the documents were not classified and Donald Trump`s lawyers in writing went so far as to invite a criminal prosecution of Donald Trump to determine whether the documents are classified and whether or not they belong to Donald Trump.

The Trump lawyers actually said in writing whether some of the listed property does not in fact belong to President Trump is a matter best dealt with on summary judgment or at trial or at trial. There are Donald Trump`s lawyers in writing today to a federal appeals court saying the way to determine who should have these documents is to charge Donald Trump with federal crimes and put him on trial.

After a day of Trump lawyering like today, you don`t have to be a TV fiction drama writer, like I used to be, to be left wondering if Donald Trump`s lawyers secretly were working against him, wanting him to be convicted of crimes. Would they have done or said anything different today? I mean, think about it, it was Donald Trump`s lawyers who suggested Raymond Dearie as the special master, the special master who said today that he might not even look at the classified documents before ruling in favor of the prosecution.

And it is Donald Trump`s lawyers who have told the special master and the appeals court that the way to find out if Donald Trump is going to claim that he declassified those documents while he was president is to charge him with a crime. They are inviting federal prosecutors to charge him with a crime. The highest price lawyer in the room today, the one Donald Trump is paying three million dollars of his contributors money didn`t say a word, not one word, and he`s considered the most competent lawyer on the Trump side.

At what point does Donald Trump begin to wonder which side are his lawyers really on?

Leading off our discussion tonight is Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel, former chief of the criminal division the Eastern District of New York and professor of practice at NYU law school. He`s an MSNBC legal analyst.

And Bradley Moss is with us. He`s a national security attorney.

Andrew Weissmann, back to your old courthouse, you had no problem getting a seat in that room. I really want to try to squeeze in there next time.

You were in the room. I just want to hand it to you. Tell us what we need to know about what happened in that room today.

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I was trying to figure out an analogy to convey to people how gratifying it was to be there. It must be -- I was thinking about what an astronaut who`s you know gone to the moon must feel upon re-entry to the planet and being surrounded by the familiar and the law of gravity. Well, just like the law of gravity, the rule of law and logic suddenly was applying in a courtroom.

This was vintage Judge Dearie, and you really do not need to be a lawyer to understand what he was saying to Trump, he just came right out and said, look, this is a civil suit. It is not a criminal case. You, Donald Trump, are the plaintiff in a civil suit. That means you have the burden of proof. You want these documents back.

Okay, you are not saying they are just declassified. You are not presenting any proof that they are declassified. So you are not carrying your burden.

By contrast, the government has established a -- at least by prima facie evidence that it`s on its face that they`re classified. Well, guess what? Case over, if you do not want to meet your burden of proof, then there`s nothing for me to decide. I am not returning classified documents to a civilian.

You`re not getting these, and that was -- that was sort of the tenor over and over again during this court appearance. And he was saying, look, you don`t have to present evidence, that is entitled. If you have strategic reasons why you don`t want to present evidence, that`s fine. But that doesn`t decide the case for me. That just means you have not met your burden of proof.

So it was just a very clear logical thing that, of course, should have happened in Florida with Judge Cannon as you pointed out, that those were not the rules there, and these were just very logical questions that were frankly impossible for the Trump team to answer.

And the closest which was really -- with closest really to Judge Dearie being somewhat snide was when Jim Trusty said, well, you know, it`s a little premature to ask us that question and he said, and yet you brought a lawsuit alleging it. I mean, that was where he was like, that`s not the way this works.

I mean, you were the one who came forward and wanted to bring a lawsuit, so you have to have proof. You don`t -- it doesn`t work, it`s not Alice in Wonderland, which is where we were in Florida. So this was not a good day for the Trump team and then finally, you know, Judge Dearie, who many people said might be slow, I never thought that was going to be the case and he had just this wonderful phrase where he said that it`s going to be important for everyone to act with responsible dispatch.

And he had proposed a four-week timeline from beginning to end. He`s going to hear from the parties and then he the next thing we can expect is a scheduling order from him but it`s going to be well in advance of the November date because he clearly doesn`t think this is a complicated issue.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Bradley Moss, the Trump lawyers were basically asking the judge to slow down in every way that they could. But you were able to predict what was going to happen today in this courtroom because there`s a big difference between predicting what happens in this courtroom and what happens in that Florida courtroom where this case began, and that is that you cannot predict stupid, but you can predict learned, careful legal scholarship, and that seems to be what we encountered today.

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: Exactly, and this was what you know kind of following up on what Andrew was saying, this is what we always expected, that once we got this before a judge who understands the case law, who understands the national security aspects of this, they were going to look at these documents, they`re going to see the classification markings, look at the Trump lawyers and say, what do you want me to do with this?

It`s your lawsuit, you have to either prove it`s declassified or that`s the ball game. You know, as Judge Dearie said, that`s the end of it. They`ve produced nothing along those lines because they have nothing. They have no obligation to produce those affidavits as he noted. They can hold that back in case there is an indictment. But you chose to bring this civil lawsuit.

The case law is clear. I don`t like the case law. I`ve been beaten up on by this a whole bunch of times by judges. But the case law says what it says, and that is if you want to be able to override those markings, you`ve got to have proof of declassification or official disclosure. You don`t get to hint at it and then just hope someone thinks the other way.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the Brooklyn cheer that the Trump lawyers got outside the courthouse today.


DEMONSTRATORS: Indict Trump! Indict Trump! Indict him already! Indict Trump!

What are you waiting for? He`s not above the law. The worst lawyers in America!


O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann, that wasn`t too rough by Brooklyn standards.

WEISSMANN: No, but you know, one thing that`s in -- I do think it`s important to note which you don`t get from the cold record is that Judge Dearie today was unfailingly polite to both sides and there was real decorum in the courtroom and you really had a sense of adult supervision, somebody where there just was really no acting out with one exception where Trump`s lawyer Jim Trusty went on a diatribe trying to say that the National Archives is a politicized institution and somehow made them responsible for the Sandy Burger criminality, which I mean, they were a victim of his crime, not a perpetrator.

But other than that, where Judge Dearie politely said, you know, I think you`re painting with a broad brush, this was a really civil discussion. It was uh really clear that there was somebody at the helm, and that`s -- you know, just as I said, that`s vintage Judge Dearie. I think we can expect that from beginning to end and I think that we`re going to see this even in not too long in the future as something that we look back on and say you know thank goodness that there really is a wonderful member of the federal judiciary that oversaw this.

O`DONNELL: And actually, I found that his politeness did come through in the transcript and his patience. It was in his speed. It was an incredibly quick session and the only thing that inflated the time was the amount of bloviating that Jim Trusty, the Trump lawyer, did, which the judge allowed him to do, as long as he wanted to go and then when he would finish. Judge Dearie would just quickly move on.

Bradley, there`s a point that is made by the Trump lawyers in their appeals brief where they note that the government says the materials were stored in an unsecure manner and the Trump lawyers say in writing, this is simply irrelevant.


Bradley Moss, is that irrelevant?

MOSS: No, it`s absolutely relevant and specifically relevant in the context of the Espionage Act, the provision that is cited in the search warrant. The entire issue is the willful retention of information related to the national defense in an unauthorized location. Anywhere that is not an authorized secure facility by the U.S. government is right there and then an unauthorized location.

I don`t care how many locks you put on that thing in Mar-a-Lago, I don`t care how many cameras he`s got at Mar-a-Lago, it`s not designated by the U.S. government as an authorized location to store classified documents or information relating to the national defense. That`s the ball game. That`s the provision right there. It`s not an authorized or secure location.

O`DONNELL: Andrew Weissmann, I could not be more jealous of where you were this afternoon and thank you very much for being here tonight.

Bradley Moss, thank you as always for your expertise in these matters. Really appreciate it. Thank you both.

WEISSMANN: You`re welcome.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe now has a prediction about whether Donald Trump will be indicted. Professor Tribe will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Attorney General Merrick Garland who have to make the final decision over whether to indict Donald Trump and as we showed you last night, Attorney General Garland on Saturday, knowing that the whole world is watching his decision about whether to invite an indict a former president, said this.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The protection of law, the rule of law is the foundation of our system of government. The rule of law means that the same laws apply to all of us, the responsibility to ensure the rule of law is and has been the duty of every generation in our country`s history, and it is one that is especially urgent today at a time of intense polarization in America.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Professor Laurence Tribe, who has taught constitutional law at Harvard Law School for five decades, where his students have included Merrick Garland, among others.

Professor Tribe, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What do you make of the developments of the day in the Trump case and what will ultimately be Merrick Garland`s view of this case?

LAURENCE TRIBE, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Well, it seems to me that the developments of the day were all designed to make clear that the rule of law that Merrick Garland so thoughtfully spoke about when he was in producing new citizens to the United States of America, but the rule of law is going to prevail, a split screen would have shown that almost at the same time that Merrick Garland was giving that speech praising the rule of law, Donald Trump was addressing a rally and he was embracing QAnon.

And he was saying in no uncertain terms that if they come after me, then there`s going to be hell to pay, there will be violence, there will be terrible problems. And he`s speaking to a crowd that is giving what looks frighteningly like a Nazi salute. They`re raising their hands with one finger, cheering this monstrous speech.

It seems to be that what happened in the courtroom today was what happens when grown-ups take over. You know, Andrew Weissmann compared it to the feeling that an astronaut might have on returning to Earth. I think of it as the feeling that I had when sort of returning from the fantasy land of watching Judge Cannon ignore all the canons of the law and simply doing what seemed sensible to her in order to help Donald Trump -- returning from that fantasy land to the classroom that I used to teach in where the law actually had something to do with the outcome. That was like returning to Earth.

And it seems to me that because Donald Trump`s lawyers clearly have no case to press, they say, we`re just not ready to tell you whether any of these documents have been declassified, even though our client on what he calls Truth Social hints that they were and the judge quite rightly presses and says, but didn`t your client bring this lawsuit? Isn`t it his burden to establish that he has some basis to get these documents back rather than have them protected as secrets that belong to the government?

When that happened, it really seemed to me that the game was up. And what does it all mean? What it all means is that quite apart from whatever indictments come down from Georgia and quite apart from whatever indictments come down for attempting to overturn the election and fomenting a violent insurrection, it`s impossible not to indict Donald Trump for violating the Espionage Act, for violating it by withholding top secret government information, knowingly, willingly, after being advised by his lawyers that they -- that these documents had to be returned to the government and for doing that in an unsecured location.


That is a very serious crime. It`s not just a matter of some dispute over storing things in one locker rather than another. This is espionage and it endangers the security of the United States.

So Merrick Garland won`t have any choice. It used to look like a hard decision for him. Now it`s really quite an easy one. It`s going to be tough for the nation to swallow but even tougher for all of us in the long run would be to swallow the specter of someone violating the national security laws of the United States and getting away with it. That just can`t be the law. And I think what we saw in a serious courtroom today presided over by a mature judge who knows what he`s doing, what we saw is a glimpse of what is going to come down. And that is, Donald Trump will finally for the first time in his life be held accountable. And I think the United States will be the better for it.

O`DONNELL: The Trump lawyers have argued themselves into a truly terrible corner where they find themselves in writing today saying, the way to find out whether these documents are classified or not is to put Donald Trump on trial. They actually invited and I think of you and since you`re the most highly experienced appellate expert we could have here, lawyers in appeals cases have to be so careful of every single word they choose.

And to find themselves writing down into that corner where they end up saying at the end of the sentence, "or in a trial", it would seem they`d have to -- they should do everything they can to make sure they don`t end up saying that?

TRIBE: You would think that and I doubt that they are getting any very kind comments from their client Donald Trump this evening. I mean he obviously must think with friends like these, I don`t know what it would mean to have adversaries.

It also happened by the way today when 11 attorneys general -- Republican attorneys general filed a brief on behalf of Donald Trump in the 11th circuit saying that the ruling by Judge Cannon should not be stayed, that she did the right thing.

Her injunction against the use of the seized materials to investigate Trump should be left in place. But they didn`t make any legal arguments. They didn`t make any factual arguments. It was all ad hominem. And what they said, basically and I read it with astonishment, what they said was you can`t trust the Biden administration.

The Biden administration has done lots of terrible things whereas Donald Trump is essentially above the law. That is they were defending Judge Cannon`s quite open statement they have to give special privileges to a civilian who happens to have been the former president.

This was in the form of a friend of the court brief, but really it was a friend of Donald Trump`s brief, not really helping the court in anyway. And I thought again, with friends like that, Donald Trump really doesn`t need any enemies. Because the attorneys general who thought they were helping him were just underscoring the fact that the only way to rule over Trump, the only way to spare him from an indictment and a conviction is to put him above the law and put the Department of Justice below the law.

And that would be the end of the rule of law and of democracy. That is not where we`re headed. That`s where Trump would like to see us go but I don`t think we`re going there.

O`DONNELL: Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe. Thank you as always for guiding us through this. We really appreciate it.

TRIBE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up President Zelenskyy will address the United Nations tomorrow as more evidence of Vladimir Putin`s war crimes is being discovered daily in towns that Ukraine has recaptured from Russian forces. NBC`s Richard Engel has an exclusive report from one of those places.

That`s next.



O`DONNELL: In response to Vladimir Putin`s move to annex territories in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The sham referendum, the potential mobilization of additional forces is a sign of strength? On the contrary it`s a sign of weakness. It`s a sign of Russian failure.


O`DONNELL: President Zelenskyy and President Biden are expected to meet virtually tomorrow. It will mark a week after President Zelenskyy made a surprise trip to the battlefields to see the recently liberated town of Izium.

In the days since that visit, hundreds of bodies of men, women and children have been discovered in mass graves. Many with injuries consistent with being tortured.

NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Izium. He filed an exclusive report with us tonight about a police station there that was used by the Russians as a torture site, a story reported to him by a Ukrainian man who survived it.


O`DONNELL: Here is Richard`s report.


RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: This was one of the Russian headquarters, interrogation areas, torture rooms.

While the Russians were here, they wanted to find out everything they could about the Ukrainians under their occupation. To see who was a potential threat or not, and you can see in this room, they have all these passports, all the Ukrainian passports, that Ukrainian flag, so that the Russians could determine who exactly was under their control.

So this man, Maxim here was tortured in this facility and now he`s giving a statement to the prosecutors.

He says it`s difficult for him to remember the exact lay out of this place because he was blindfolded, but he remembers walking it.

Here`s clearly where the cells were. You`re entering into a gated area.

So this was your cell down this he hallway?


ENGEL: Number two?

MAXIM: Four people.

ENGEL: Four people inside.

MAXIM: four men.

ENGEL: Where did you sleep? Here?

MAXIM: Here.

ENGEL: In their?


ENGEL: And was this terrible bucket -- was that the toilet?

MAXIM: Yes. Yes.

ENGEL: That was the toilet.


ENGEL: This was the only window, and since we are now below ground, the prisoners and guards upstairs would drop their waist and garbage down in here, so this area was full of rats. Three rats in particular and they named them. And that was their only view with a rat-infested hole with a few glimmers occasionally of light.

So this was the torture room. This was originally a target practice area within the police station. They put up some soundproofing and there are these rubber reinforced walls with holes in them. So it was an area that was already built to absorb noise, gunshots or in this case screams.

I know it must be very painful. But can you tell us what happened to you in here?

MAXIM: As soon as I came in, I was put in a chair and handcuffed and had the electrodes attached to me.

ENGEL: So they had an electrical motor. They would put electrical charges on you?

MAXIM: Yes. Yes.

EWNGEL: I`m trying to imagine what it would have looked like, felt like to be here. He said because the room was so dark and the guards had his headlights on, you couldn`t see their faces. All you could see was the light shining on you.

You are in total darkness, you`re frightened, you`re in pain already and now there`s this light shining on you. A voice, you know that they have ill intent to do terrible things to you and all you can see is this one light coming at you.

You don`t even know exactly what they`re doing. You`re blindfolded, you don`t know what they have in their hands. It`s absolutely, absolutely horrendous. Horrendous experience in this terrible, terrible place.


O`DONNELL: NBC`s Richard Engel reporting from Ukraine tonight.

Coming up, one of the most famous singers in Russia has come out against Vladimir Putin`s war crimes in Ukraine. Our next guest spent two years in a Russian prison for the crime of singing a song about Vladimir Putin. The founding member of Pussy Riot Nadya Tolokonnikova will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Vladimir Putin has now publicly lost the support of someone who our next guest, Pussy Riot`s founder Nadya Tolokonnikova, calls a grandmother of Russian pop music. Russian singer Alla Pugacheva criticized her country and asked to be added to Russia`s foreign agent register in a post to 3.3 million Instagram followers on Sunday.

Her post comes after her husband, TV presenter and singer Maxim Galkin was registered as a foreign agent after criticizing the war in Ukraine. In her post she writes, "I am in solidarity with my husband, an honest, respectable and genuine person who is a true and incorruptible patriot of Russia, who wishes his motherland prosperity, peaceful life, freedom of speech, and the end of the death of our guys for illusory goals that are turning our country into a pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens.

Nadya Tolokonnikova participated in a freedom of expression round table with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.



BLINKEN: We have a real stake in upholding these principles if they can really (ph) defend them against those who would seek to dilute them, diminish them, eliminate them, mostly I`m anxious to hear from all of our colleagues who have in various ways shown extraordinary courage in upholding these principles.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Nadya Tolokonnikova, founding member of the Russian protest art and music collective Pussy Riot. Thank you very much for joining us again.


O`DONNELL: What did you tell Secretary Blinken?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: We spoke about freedom of press and particularly freedom of -- there`s still lack of freedom of the press in Russia. I (INAUDIBLE) which is a media outlet that I founded in 2014 when I got out of jail with my colleagues. And I spoke about the importance of independent media to cover the war because a lot of Russian people today are brainwashed, they don`t really know, about the atrocities of the Russian army, genocide that Russian army makes in Ukraine. So we spoke about working with Russian people and informing, importance of informing them not through hand of the State Department but with helping Russian people who are actually standing against the war.

I spoke with him about importance of separating people in Russia -- those who support Putin, those who support the war, and those people who are stand against the war and against Putin.

Unfortunately, as said, our Alla Pugacheva said our country is becoming a pariah, and it`s really is painful for me. I feel like I lost my identity, I feel like I lost my country. It was stolen, taken away from me.

And I feel responsibility with me and people like me who are standing against Putin now. We are going to be rebuilding our country and restoring, step-by-step, and trust and respect to our country.

O`DONNELL: What do you think is going to happen to Alla now that she has come out in this way against Vladimir Putin? I mean you did two years in prison, you had a longer sentence but enough pressure built so that Putin let you out after two years. What happens to her?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: She might face 15 years in jail because of the current law. I hope it`s not going to happen with her because she is so big. You mentioned 3 million followers on Instagram, but her fame and her influence cannot be measured in Instagram followers because most of the people who love her and respect her and follow what she does, they are not even on Instagram.

And what specifically is sad and just disgraceful for Putin is that his biggest support base who are people 50 years old and older, they are (INAUDIBLE) fan base of Alla Pugacheva so it might signal something bigger that is happening right now in the minds of Russian people because Russians understand the standards of living are falling, that basically our country is being robbed from the future.

And a lot of Russian people are questioning this war, and they are questioning the reason of this war. You know, Putin always changes his reasoning. In the beginning it was the denazification of Ukraine. Nobody understood what does it mean. Nobody believed that there are Nazis in Ukraine.

And now he talks about protecting Russian-speaking people that he bombs Kharkiv, he bombs Mariupol. Even people in Russia don`t understand what is happening.

O`DONNELL: She seemed to put in this very tight statement, everything -- the whole case against Vladimir Putin. How much of that will get through? How much of that will Russian people hear?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: A lot of people saw the Instagram posts, because it went much further than just her Instagram posts. It was reposted by literally everyone. But when it comes to Russian TV, it was ignored for the most part, and (INAUDIBLE) report about that. They reported just about the first part, which says, I`m asking to put myself on the foreign agent list.

And they didn`t mention that she criticized the war in Ukraine which is basically they portrayed her is a crazy person who wants to be a foreign agent all of a sudden.

O`DONNELL: But she is the kind of person that if it get through, she could change minds.

TOLOKONNIKOVA: Absolutely. And I think it`s happening. We see people -- even some people who belong to positions in power municipal deputies, out calling for resignation of Putin.

O`DONNELL: Nadya Tolokonnikova, thank you very much for joining us tonight.



O`DONNELL: And thank you for exemplifying for us the it takes to fight for democracy like this. Thank you very much.


O`DONNELL: And tonight`s LAST WORD is next.


O`DONNELL: The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly is now open. Before the general debate, which began today, American poet Amanda Gorman, who shared her work with the world during President Biden`s inauguration, came to the United Nations with the poem titled, "An Ode We Owe".


AMANDA GORMAN, AMERICAN POET: To anyone out there, I only ask that you care before it`s too late, that you live aware and awake, that you lead with love in hours of hate.


GORMAN: I challenge you to heed this call. I dare you to shape our fate, above all. I dare you to do good so that the world might be great.


O`DONNELL: The poet laureate of the United States Amanda Gorman gets tonight`s LAST WORD.