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tv   Richard Engel on Assignment  MSNBC  July 28, 2017 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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is coming up next and then this lawrence o'donnell is back here at 10:00 p.m. i'll see you back here on monday. good night. happy friday, thanks for being here. russia trying to influence american policy to influence american democracy. that is not a new thing. we're going to learn about how much it is not a new thing. this year something different happened when russian president vladimir putin launched a multipronged effort to subvert our american presidential election. just in the past few weeks we've learned that donald trump's eldest son and his campaign manager and son-in-law all attended a meeting with a russian lawyer during the campaign promising russian government help with the trump campaign and russian government dirt on hillary clinton. we learned that the president, president trump and vladimir putin held a second undisclosed meeting at the g-20 summit, at
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which there were no other u.s. officials besides the president himself. he learned that federal investigators are now actively exploring financial and business dealings between trump businesses and russian sha. the investigation is not cooling down. tonight we're going to moscow. tonight richard engel is on assignment in russia. he's live in moscow with this report. ♪ good evening, everyone. tonight we're joining you from the rush shap capitol where earlier today the government made some aggressive moves, ordering american diplomats to leave and seizing u.s. 'embassy property. they war watching yesterday's
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stormy session on capitol hill closely. late into the day, the sat came together to draw a line in the sand imposing harsh new sanctions on russia. >> it's time to respond to russi russia's attack on democracy with strength, resolve and common purpose and action. >> the bill was passed in the senate by an overwhelming majority, just as it did earlier this week in the house. and even before the vote vladimir putin launched his own pre-emptive rhetorical strike. the sanctions are obviously illegal, he said. they violate the principles of international trade. at some point he added, we will have to respond. and today they did, announcing that some of our diplomats here have to leave and seizing the country house the embassy uses for recreation. it's also delayed retaliation for similar actions taken by the
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0 pobama administration. now president trump has the sanctions bill on his desk. he can either defy both houses of congress and his own party by vetoing it or sign the bill into law and put an end to the long honeymoon he enjoyed with vladimir putin. it's a big choice. some see it as a test, they'll be watching the president's decision for the answer to the question, did the attack on our political system result in a dramatic shift in our policy. is the president so beholden to russia that he will side with it no matter what. but as you see tonight, that is probably the wrong question. the russian goals in attacking the u.s. go far beyond one election or one set of sanctions. what we're really looking at is a long term campaign to reset the global political order. a campaign endorsed, according to u.s. intelligence agencies, by the highest levels of the russian government. a lot of work is being done right now in washington to
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figure out exactly what that long campaign looked like. increasingly attention is focusing on one company, a lab. you may be surprised to learn that some of our most sensitive government agents have entrusted netwo network security to a company here in moscow. a letter was sent to federal industries requesting information about the committee. they're concerned that the products could be used as a tool are espionage, sab stage or nefarious activities against the united states. the letter raised specific allegations against the founder who i sat down with here in moscow for an interview. casper ski lab runs one of the most sophisticated computer systems in the world but increasingly the question is
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being raised. is this russian company a guard or an intruder. >> is all of this just a front for russian intelligence? >> we are cooperating with the russian agents responsible for the cybercrime investigations, not with spying, not all their -- not with offensive. zero contacts with the offensive agencies in russia. >> eugene kaspersky released his anti-virus software in 1989. now it's installed in over 400 million computers around the world. >> the bigger cyber company in this country never been asked to cooperate in an offensive operation with russian intelligence? >> zero. i never asked by russian official to help with an offensive operation. >> in the e-mail, i'm quoting,
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it said that you were work ogen a secret program with the russian intelligence service to do active counter measures, to hack the hackers. >> i sent an e-mail to the management team and you called it secret program. >> not the e-mail that was secret, the program involved was secret. i think you said in the e-mail, don't mention this. >> yes, don't mention this because i don't want the public to know that we are not only protecting our customers but also cooperate with the police. >> the software is installed on home computers all across the country. but it's the fact that it's also installed on american government networks that has officials in washington worried. >> i interviewed ksapersky in moscow at length. and he said the only connection, the only eyes he has to russian intelligence is to fight cybercrime. do you believe that.
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>> well putin said they didn't interfere in our elections either. i don't think we can believe that based on his word. it's in his interest to try to do everything he can to protect his business. but that's not our interest. our interest is to do everything he can to protect the national security of this country. so far we have failed to hold russia accountable for that. >> democratic senator jnne shaheen is a memberfte committe services and foreign relations. both received classified briefings on kasper skrks ky. >> we're not going to talking about anything classified. we have lots of reports between the company, the sfb, the russian intelligence and the russian government. >> shaheen is introducing language into a spending bill that would forbid the department of defense from using the products. >> so you think the labs is a danger to the united states? >> i think they pose a threat.
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>> how serious? >> well, we don't know yet. >> there are several classified investigations under way to answer that question. but it seems the leaders of the intelligence and defense agencies have already made up their minds. >> would any of you be comfortable with kaspersky lab software on your computers? >> a resounding no from me. >> no. >> no, senator. >> no, sir. >> no, senator. >> no, sir. >> you have the director of national intelligence, the director of the cia, the director of the nrvegs sa, the acting fbi director, the dea director and the director of the geospatial intelligence agency all there and they all said they wouldn't be comfortable using your software. >> these people, typically they speak about facts, not about comfort. it means that they have a zero
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proof, zero facts, zero hard data. >> your anti-virus software by its very nature has access to almost everything on the computer on which its installed. >> we scan all of the data, like any other anti-virus product does. it's nature when they come to your doctor, the doctor scans you. it's nature of the cybersecurity business. the difference is that when it come to your doctor, the doctor knows your name. but we don't know who our customers are. >> you have millions of customers but it's not like you have to have staff flipping through note cards to find them. it doesn't seem that hard. if you wanted to, to find out who the customers are. >> it's a mistake. it's hard. it's almost not possible. i don't know how to do it. >> how close is kaspersqy to the kremlin. >> i don't know the answer. but if i were in the fbi i'd be
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talking to him too. >> robert anderson assistant director of the fbi oversaw the bureau's cyber informations worldwide. >> how frequently and in what context did kaspersky cross your desk. >> you have to look at it potentially as a collection of russia. the one thing i think you should look to is look back at eugene kaspersky. >> tell me about yourself. i understand you were interested in math at an early age. >> typical soviet family, my ther was engineer and mother working in archives. poor here in the soviet union. >> and at age 16 you went to a kgb run school for technical whiz kids. >> what was that school like. >> math math math math math. from time to time, once a year, machine gun. >> he told us that yes, he went
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to this kgb school but it was lots of math and a little machine gun. >> that would be like me telling you i went to the fbi academy, don't worry about it, i went to the cia academy. don't worry about it. you don't get into a kgb school by accident. it's one of the most ruthless cut throat intelligence organizations on this planet. for him to say he got into that school willy-nilly, absolute fallshood. >> by the time he left the school, he knew what he wanted to do and who he was going to do it for. >> computer guy. >> computer guy for military intelligence, then the soviet union collapses and you go into private business. >> more or less yes. >> and now you're on the forbes millionaire list. >> yes. >> so your biography reads like someone who has done well in the new russia, the russia that emerged from the soviet union.
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>> i'm lucky. >> estimated fortune at $1.3 billion allows him access to all of the best toys in the world. but he says that unlike other russian billionaires he owes none of his success to a relationship with the government. >> zero help, zero advice from russian government. russian government didn't recognize it until mid 2000s. >> you're saying your story is different from the other olah garks who e ferjmergeemerged. >> absolutely. >> big events are part of the image. flashy conferences with high profile speakers. in 2014, after opening a subsidiary in virginia to drum up business with the u.s. government, kaspersky booked of all people michael flynn as a
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paid speaker. >> the fact that the united states official has a speech at the conference. >> not just any individual, general flynn who received money from russia today, had dinner sitting next to putin, he's under investigation gauze of close connections right now. >> no connection to this conference. we were looking for a good speaker. >> general flynn's connections with russia companies and the payments he received are now under investigation which may or may not be what caused the fbi to interview several kaspersky proi eymployees in the us. >> that's what we do, we interview people. you put the pieces tother. >> he says this is a witch hunt, he's being caught up in anti-russia sentiment in this country. >> the kind of work i did in the fbi for a long time, nobody looks at it like that. they don't look what nationality you are. they're looking for facts, looking for intelligence.
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>> the office in virginia stands empty now. the lab has already been removed from some of the lists of approved suppliers to the government 37 and driving to work one way he told he he won't be visiting the states anytime soon. >> they're ruining the relationship between russia and the united states. >> you're worried? >> i'm worried about unexpected problems when i'm in the states. >> you think you could get picked up by the police or questioned? >> yes, like this. >> so you're not going to the states these days. >> at the moment, no. >> he's always prided himself on being open and transparent. now americans are demanding that he live up to that promise. >> if he wants to come back and talk to the senate and the house and assure people, i think he should. >> he offered to give the source code of his software to u.s. authorities. >> i think that would be great and i'm sure the united states intelligence committee would
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love to have it. but what you have to look at is really what he's giving us. i'm not doubting him but i'm saying when you're in this type of work and your ear looking for people that could potentially be spying against our country, not everything is as it appears. >> there seem to be undeniable ties between the labs and recent attacks in the u.s. one of the hackers sanctioned by the u.s. government for hacking the democratic party was a former employee, and a former employee, a former intelligence officer was arrested in russia suspected of being a double agent. >> was kaspersky labs involved in any way in the russian effort to infiltrate and influence the u.s. election? >> not possible. if i'm asked to do that, i think it's a reason to move business to different country. >> you're saying if you had been asked that you would have shut down the company here and moved on? >> yes. >> you're saying not only did you not do it, if you were asked to do it --
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>> if i'm asked to do that, i will move the business out of the country. >> how can you operate the way you say you do independently? >> i live in the free world. >> that according to bob anderson is just not true as long as he lives in moscow. >> it's a russian company. if they come toou and say listen, supply this information, you don't have a choice. regardless of whether he would want to do it or not. when it comes down to the way that they run their government, there's no choice involved there. >> do you think kaspersky labs were involved in the russian attempt to influence the u.s. election? >> i don't know the answer to that. and hopefully that's something that we will hear more about as we hear more about the investigation into what happened. we do know that russia interfered in our elections, that they hacked our election system. and we do know that kaspersky
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has tie to the russian government and russian intelligence. >> can you imagine americans right now walking into a best buy and picking up a russian cyber protection program? >> they do. they do. so, listen, the propaganda, it works not only in the united states, in many other countries. but even the anti-american propaganda in russia, anyway, the russians, they go and buy coca-cola. >> coming up later in the show, russian politicians claim the sanctions makes no difference to them whatsoever. if that's what russia wants, they we ssay bring it on. >> we cannot accept illegal sanctions. who gave you the right to rule the word. >> there's a defiant mood in moscow right now and they're not interested in backing down. that story still to come. cation.
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welcome back to moscow. so today russia effectively kicked out some diplomats. it will allow only 455 americans to keep serving here, which is the exact same number of russian diplomats left serve in the u.s. after the obama administration kicked out some of them. this kind of tit for tat is nothing new neither is the fact that some embassy staff are really just spies under what's called official cover. everyone knows it, it's just part of the game. and today's action from the russians is only the latest move in the game which has been going on for decades.
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♪ it's a game the u.s. and russia have been playing for decades. in the cold war days of mad magazine called it spy versus spy. but the truth is it was always the russians who excelled at cloak and dagger to turn americans into russian agents. early on when communism was still an untainted promise, it was ideology. that's what worked with the diplomat who accompanied fdr to the conference and later went on to become the secretary general of the congress that founded the u.n. he was exposed by a "time" magazine editor and former columnist. >> i am not and never have been a member of the communist party. >> chambers led federal agents to his maryland farm where out of a pumpkin patch he pulled five rolls of film containing secret documents from the state department. secrets he claim he got from
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alger hiss. hiss was sentenced to five years in prison for perjury. then there was rudolph able whose story became the film "bridge of spies." he immigrated to the u.s. through canada and lived undercover as an artist and photographer. he proceeded to turn his brooklyn studio into a spy lab and hollowed out nickel coins that contained very tiny photographs of coded messages. eventually ables' assistant turnds him in. he was swapped in exchange for an american pilot on that very famous bridge of spies. then in 1994 we finally learned why the cia might have had such a hard time recruiting spies of its own. >> since the closing days of the soviet union.
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the suspected spy is the highest ranking cia official ever accused. >> he was a 31-year veteran at the cia. the fbi caught him after they found this torn up note he wrote for his kgb contact. when he had something for them or wanted to meet, he would use chalk to ma rk a post office box on the route. in exchange for american secrets, mr. aims received $2.5 million. aims is currently serving a life sentence without parole. he had burned more cia agents than any other spy in u.s. history until this guy. >> the night the fbi has under lock and key one of its own. a veteran fbi agent with access to the most sensitive and highly classified information in the united stas government. >> robert hanson was responsible for keeping tabs a capturing russian spies in the u.s. in 1985 he sent an anonymous
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note volunteering his services to the kgb in exchange for $100,000 in cash. he picked his own dead drops where he could leave packages for his handlers. he provided the russians with more than two dozen computer discs and more than 6,000 pages of valuable material. in exchange for the information, mr. hanson was paid $1.5 million. he is currently serving 15 life sentences in a supermax prison in florence, colorado. when the cold war ended, the russians were consumed with the total economic collapse that followed and americans were happy to declare victory and move on. but in russia, a former kgb agent, vladimir putin came to power and made rebuilding and reenergizing the spy agencies a top priority. moscow still had some assets left over from the old days. >> you can control what you do. >> if you think that the americans is the stuff of fantasy, think again. >> this is the takedown of a
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ring of russian spies operating deep undercover. the russians were sent here at individuals, paired up, got married and posed as the folks next door. >> ten people were arrested, including four couples and moscow was sending in new spies too. in 2015 in new york, three russian agents were caught r red-handed after the fbi fed them fake secret documents in binders withiddenmicrophones. one of the things they talked about was their efforts to recruit agents, including one described in the criminal complaint against three russians as a male approacheds on or about april 8th, 2013 as intelligence source. they were frustrated with this guy. they called him an idiot. but he proceeded to hand over document to one of the spies. that year the fbi paid that american male a visit. that male was a future trump
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campaign foreign policy adviser, carter page. and last year putin launched the biggest spy game year, a multiprong attack on american democracy that some have called the political equivalent of 9/1 is. the game is on and the stakes have never been higher. putin was once asked what he was an expert at. reading people was his answer. it's a skill he developed at the kgb and is putting to use on the world stage. few people have spent as much time as daniel hoffman has studying what putin is thinking and he believes he knows what putin is thinking now. >> the russians have a saying, it's -- [ speaking foreign language ] it means that free cheese can only be found in a mouse trap. >> tonight the president's son on defense. >> and we took the bait. that story is coming up next. stay with us.
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my children and my family are on my mind when i'm working all the time. my neighbors are here, my friends and family live here, so it's important for me to respond as quickly as possible and get the power back on. be informed abouteeling turnoutages in your area. on. sign up for outage alerts at pge.com/outagealerts. together, we're building a better california. welcome back to moscow on this busy news night. we just got some breaking news tonight from the white house. the president has decided he is going to sign that sanctions bill into law. if most people thought relations between moscow and washington would improve after president trump took office, instead today they are reached a new low. no matter what the white house team does, the story of the possible collusion between the trump team and the kremlin just won't go away. but what if we've all been looking at this backwards. what if taking over our national
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agenda was the whole point. what if we've already taken the bait. it was one of the most closely watched political encounters in decades. >> we look forward to a lot of very positive things happening. >> president trump clearly had high hopes for the relationship. but we wanted to find out more about what president putin was thinking. >> what he wants is to be perceived to be a major player on the world stage. >> so we went to someone who has been studying him for years, former cia officer daniel hoffman. >> i'd logically, vladimir putin is our enemy. the ideals that we hold near and dear are an anathema to president putin. start with that and remember that. >> what is putin's overall goal? >> three overarching goals, interfere with our electoral process, interfere with wour
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governing process as well and then elevate russia's stature in the world so reperceive russia to be on same stage as the united states. >> he believes that they set president trump's team up for failure. he focused on the meeting between donald trump jr., paul manafo manafort, jared kushner and five others. >> russian would not send all of those people together to a meeting. it was as if putin was channelling the brothers grim and leaving bread krums allah an sell and gretel back to the kremlin >> you think they wanted us to find out about the meeting? >> absolutely did. >> the initial invitation came in the form of an e-mail with a tantalizing offer of high level sensitive information that would incriminate hillary.
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donald trump jr. wrote back right away, if it's what you say i love it. hoffman says the e-mail is what the professionals call a poisoned pill and that the trump team swallowed it whole. >> the russians have a saying -- [ speaking foreign language ] . it means that free cheese can only be found in a mouse trap. >> so the offer for helpabout h clinton, that would be the cheese and the meeting would be the trap? >> yes, i believe so. >> tonight the president's son on defense. >> tonight donald trump jr. provided a statement to -- >> hoffman believes that once the trump team took the bait, putin was counting on the free press in america to do what it does best, investigating and exposing all of the details. >> some u.s. officials suspect him of having tie to russian intelligence. >> i think vladimir putin understood that would lead to a media feeding frenzy and a great deal of time and effort being
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focused on this issue that would ultimately interfere with our governing process, drive a wedge among different elements of our government. >> and trump jr. wasn't the first member of the president's team to be targeted by moscow. >> one of the biggest challenges is the misperceptions. >> carter page has always believed that americans should be more friendly towards russia. >> it's a basic simple principle. if you treat someone with respect and you have a constructive positive approach, then people will reciprocate has. >> why are you so sympathetic towards russia. it seems like you're feeling that the kremlin is misunderstood. >> that's a mischaracterization. i think i am looking for a better situation for the united states. >> a fornler naval officer page became an investment banker and spent three years work in moscow. he say he mostly worked for a
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single client, a russian state owned energy company. but page insisted he had no contact with russian intelligence in moscow. >> never in the over 25 years since i first went there in 1991. >> because wouldn't you be the kind of person they would want tory krut. >> -- to recruit? >> it would obviously be me. >> but you say it never happened? >> never a hint of it happening. >> i would say with great confidence that he was on the radar. the russians with whom mr. page engaged in moscow would have been reporting on their contact with an american businessman to the fsb. that's standard procedure. >> page returned to new york, opened his own firm and moved into the building next door to trump tower. at which point he was approached by a man who said he was a russian attache at the u.n. >> this is what he reportedly said in his reports about his meetings with you. he said you traveled to moscow
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all of the time, that you are quote hooked on gas prom and very greedy. now that sounds to me like a spy who is writing back to his handlers about your potential weaknesses he wants to exploit. >> i know a lot of the top managers of gasprom. known them for many years. if they wanted to offer me a bribe, do you think they would have a junior attache make this offer? it's so nonsensical. >> he reports back to moscow that he received some papers, documents from you. did you give him any papers? >> i may have given him, e-mail him a copy of some public research reports, you know, some of the developments in energy markets. i can't remember a what specifically. >> this is a time honored tactic for russian intelligence. they will seek to get the targets comfortable with providing information, even if the information is what we call open source. then you're going to ask for more protected information.
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>> the attache was a spy. he and two others were busted by the fbi. page was interview but they didn't press charges. but the russian weren't done with page yet because he suddenly became famous when the then republican candidate name checked him during an interview with the washington post. >> we are going to be doing that. i haven't thought in terms of doing it. if you want i can give you some of the names. carter page, ph.d. >> that was last march. by july the campaign's new adviser wu granted a meeting with moscow's ambassador to washington, sergey kislyak on the sidelines of the republican convention. >> what did you talk about? >> you know, i can't even remember. there was a group conversation with a lot of people. >> you didn't speak one on one? >> i don't recall ever having any direct discussions. >> why would he want to meet with carter page? >> nothing i saw of anything he
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ever did would -- could even vaguely be construed as trying to influence the u.s. election. >> but hoffman says for the russians, the point of the conversation was not content but contamination. >> the difference in terms of status between mr. page and mr. kislyak is quite significant. vladimir putin would understand that that would drive a bit of media interest in why mr. page was engaging with an ambassador. they never should have been meeting. >> page traveled to moscow on a trip he said was private and unrelated to the campaign. >> respect is not something which magically appears. >> but journalists kept asking questions about his past. soon the campaign decided to cut him loose but the stories just kept coming. just like the ones about other members of trump's team. their credibility and that of the administration is called into question daily. as investigators and the media uncover clue after clue, always looking for that smoking gun but
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never quite finding it. do you think we're ever going to find something that wasn't laid down for us, that wasn't part of the trap? >> i think if the media can discover the bread crumbs, then they were deliberately placed. >> what hoffman is saying is that the russians have already achieved their goal. they set the traps and then sat back and waited for them to snap shut unleashing chaos. >> russian intelligence officers are found of saying they are useful idiots who can do the bidding for us. >> who is a useful idiot? does president trump fit that catego category? >> no comment.
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re'si think i mit burst.... totally immersed weekenders. whatever kind of weekender you are, there's a hilton for you. book your weekend break direct with hilton.com and join the summer weekenders. welcome back. in the language of spy craft, when an operation goes bad and an agent gets arrested by the other side, he's said to have been rolled up. but in this case the russians may be rolling up their own people as part of an operation to cover their tracks. and it's an operation that seems to have started as soon as we elected a new president. ♪ on the night of january 20th inaugural parties across moscow were in full swing.
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♪ the man russia supported from afar had won. >> president of the united states. >> and many here believed that the kremlin played a part. >> so fascinated by this completely unexpected success and it looked that russia became so important. we can do something which is nobody expected that. >> did people at the kremlin feel they were king makers? >> i think so. >> investigative journalist is the author of the red web, a modern day bible on the russian hacking and secret services underworld. >> how would you say this ranks in the history of espionage. >> it's absolutely unprecedented i would think. >> but after every good party comes the hangover, or at least the cleanup. and he believes that since the election russian authorities have been scrambling to cover their tracks. >> containment phase, when all
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possible information of leaks about what actually happened on this de, the kremlin started to actually shut down. >> the kremlin is trying to get rid of the people who know too much. >> not just to get rid of them. the thing is to prevent them from talking. >> almost every strand of any part of the story about the russian campaign to hack and influence our election process leads back to here, the head quarters of the powerful russian intelligence service, sfb and it's from this building it seems that the next operation is being directed to locate and muzzle anyone who can tell the story. the first man was arrested last december at a moscow airport as he was about to leave the country. a former russian government cybercrime expert who later joined kaspersky lab where he led the investigative team.
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>> in charge of the biggest investigations against hackers in this country because she was really smart and because he happened to provide technical expertise to the security offices. >> second, his contact at the fsb, and the man responsible for all cybercrime investigations in russia. >> because of his position, he was a kind of -- he was, you know, the kind of handler of the russian internet. >> he was arrested? >> and his deputy was arrested. >> his deputy was the third man arrested, himself a former a h then it looks like he was recruited by the fsb and he became an officer of the fsb. >> he was a hacker turned spy? >> right. >> we managed to track down one
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of the lawyers in the case. he says that because of the nature of the charges treason is not even allowed to tell us which man he's respecting. >> what specifically are they accused of having done? >> it's not a clear accusation. >> but is the general accusation that they cooperated with an american intelligence group? >> they say american special service. >> was the information related to the investigation into hacking into the manipulation of the u.s. election? >> i can't say this because it's my clients that don't disclose this. >> getting a definitive answer is now almost impossible because the three men and a fourth who was reportedly a small time cyber fraudster are locked up in this notorious mos kour prison. this journalist is a member of a prison watchdog group and recently managed to get in and
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speak to one of the men. >> how did he seem when you were talking to him? did he seem relaxed? did he seem frightened? did he seem sick. >> he is truly disappointed, she said. he spent his whole life helping fight criminals and now he's accused of being a criminal himself. the men decide the treesen charges. the lawyer said they were arrested not because of what they've done. >> they know much about something that fsb wants to cover. >> do you think they're being held because they know information? >> they know much. they know much. i can't be completely clear with you and say much about this case because it's quite dangerous. it quite dangerous for me, for my client and even for you. >> why would it be dangerous for
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me. i understand about your client. he's in jail. >> it's sensitive information. >> in the spying game, when they talk about rolling up an agent who knows too much, this is what they mean. coming up after the break, my interview break, my interview with a russian lawmaker who thinks american sanctions are an outrage and says we're on the wrong side of history. stay with us. ...it starts a chain reaction... ...that's heard throughout the connected business world. at&t network security helps protect business, from the largest financial markets to the smallest transactions, by sensing cyber-attacks in near real time and automatically deploying countermeasures. keeping the world of business connected and protected. that's the power of and. you...smells fine, but yourin your passengers smell this bell dinging new febreze car with odorclear technology cleans away odors... ...for up to 30 days
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welcome back. as we said at the top of the show, if the russians were
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hoping that president trump's election would spell an end to u.s. sanctions, that's now not going to happen. both houses of congress passed a bill that effectively tied the president's hands. tonight, the white house says the president will sign it into law, doubling down on sanctions. i interviewed a russian senator, andre klemov. he was angry, but not surprised. >> so i cannot say that i am in surprise because unfortunately we are victims of this battle in america. >> now it will be up to president trump to approve these sanctions or veto them. >> he is alone. he is alone, and it seems to me he afraid. he try to think about his own political future and that is why he is under all these threats. it is very difficult for him. >> will russia respond to these new sanctions?
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>> look, we cannot accept any kind of illegal sanctions. what does mean sanctions? who gave you rights to rule the world, to push somebody, to punish somebody? you are not the prosecutor of the globe. >> the sanctions were put in place because the united states -- >> it's illegal action. look, it's illegal action. >> but to punish russia for -- >> look, you have no right to punish anybody. anybody. that is not your rights. your ruths and tights and the r the congress only inside america and that's it. >> supporters would argue russia had no right to interfere with u.s. political process. >> that's nonsense because we have no reason to do that, and it is not possible to change american political system. >> are you saying that russia didn't try and influence u.s. elections or lots of countries including the u.s. have done this kind of thing before? >> russia as a state, of course not. russia as a state.
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i cannot say anything about each of 145 million people. that is not possible. >> now we're seeing a tightening of the sanctions. do you think he will approve or veto them? >> i think he's not so powerful, not like previous presidents of the united states. >> you see president trump as a victim surrounded by hostile forces? >> i can tell you that for me, that's my personal vision. >> what if he vetoes the sanctions? is that a sign of strength? >> look, it is not about is he strong guy or not. it is not a cyber game. it is reality, you see? and if people like to put the world to the hell by such kind of sanctions, it's their choice, but it's the wrong choice. >> you're watching "on assignment" live from moscow. we'll be back after the break. stay with us. [ crickets chirping ]
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if you've got a life, you gotta swiffer if you could book a flight, then add a hotel, or car, or activity in one place and save, where would you go? ♪ expedia. welcome back. as we've shown you tonight, the story of russian involvement is complicated. of course it is. it's espionage. so did the russians spy on the u.s. during the elections? probably. but it looks like they also took that information and weaponized it. i recently spoke with two former cia officials who know this country well, and they believe that russia's goal was not simply to get a complaint american president elected, but something far bigger -- chaos. if you consider america an
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adversary, isn't that what you'd want, to confuse and distract your enemy? americans have now spent a lot of time looking for the fire in the russia/trump investigation because everyone knows where there's smoke, there's fire. in this case, there may be fire. there may not. but smoke is dangerous enough on its own. and right now, we're choking on it. maybe that was the plan all along. thanks for joining us tonight. we'll see you next week live from beijing. now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, richard. the president -- the white house has announced tonight that the president will sign the russia sanctions bill. so i imagine we will have more of a reaction tomorrow from moscow. >> well, we already saw the reaction today with russia putting a cap on the number of americans who can serve here diplomatically, seizing the american compound outside of moscow, and a warehouse in the city. moscow says it may reciprocate with economic sanctions.

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