tv All In With Chris Hayes MSNBC February 7, 2014 12:00am-1:01am PST
whatever comes along becomes a way to find a way to explain hating the guy. is it the way the guy lives his life? is it his family? is he's a democrat, really? is that the reason to hate him? or is it just because, just because, just because he is who he is? that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. tonight, take a second to think about what a republican-controlled house has looked like for this country. now, imagine what a republican-controlled senate would look like. with ted cruz basically calling the shots. that is the scary reality democrats are facing right now. today, barely 24 hours after senate democrats met with the president to talk about strategy, democrats are ringing the alarm. obama's former campaign manager david plouffe tweeted "two brothers are attempting to purchase the u.s. senate. voters and candidates just mere chess pieces in this game of
self-interest." and this is the number that everyone is freaking out about. according to the "washington post," as of this week, americans for prosperity, a group largely funded by the koch brothers has spent more than $27 million on ads since august. nine months away from election day. and $27 million may not seem like a huge number to you, but here's a little comparison. so far, the democratic senate majority pac has spent just $2.75 million on ads responding to afp. 1/10 of what afp has spent. in 2010, afp spent nearly $40 million total on the midterms. so far, they have already spent $27 million with 3 quarters of a year to go. their goal is very simple. to turn the senate red. >> kay hagan, she just doesn't get it. >> how senator landrieu, we deserve better than obamacare. >> call congressman peters and tell him obamacare isn't working. it's hurting michigan families.
>> obamacare doesn't work. it just doesn't work. >> tell senator pryor to stop thinking about politics and start thinking about people. >> today, the senate is just six seats away from turning republican, and democrats are shouting a warning that incumbents and candidates are already getting absolutely hammered in their local markets. right now, there are six open seats meaning a senator's retiring. three of those senators are democrats in red states, and those are just the open seats. there's a handful of vulnerable democrats like mary landrieu of louisiana and kay hagan of north carolina. americans for prosperity is going after almost all of them with millions of koch dollars in their pocket. they spent a million against representative gary peters who's running for retiring senator carl levin's seat in michigan. today they announced a $610,000 ad by against the very vulnerable democrat mark pryor for his support of obamacare. here's the problem with the flood of big money. it is going largely unanswered by democrats. the "post" reports afp sent over $1.7 million so far on ads just
against senator mary landrieu. senate majority pac spent less than $650,000. americans for prosperity spent $7.2 million, a staggering number, running ads against incumbent senator kay hagan in north carolina. democratic superpac spent only $1.4 million in her race, less than a quarter of what afp has spent. yesterday the democrats' biggest superpac priorities usa announced they would be sitting out midterms. every year, and every election cycle since citizens united, we have seen new frontiers of big money open up. we have watched donors get increasingly more innovative. in this case early in how and when they pump money into races. 2012, with the obama fund-raising juggernaut in place, things came out about even. it does not look like that will happen this year. picture emerging nine months out is organizations funded largely by the koch brothers are overwhelming democrats across the country. they're trying to buy this
election and doing it in plain sight. joining me now is congressman gary peters, democrat from michigan. he's been on the receiving side of some of those ads. are you surprised by how much money there has been this early this negative? >> there's no question, chris. it's, you know, it's unprecedented to have that, over $1 million buy. you're talking 9 1/2 months from an election. so if you have a $1 million buy now, imagine those buys are going to continue for the next nine months they're going to continue to get hammered by these ads, and quite frankly the information they're putting out is, well, this complete misinformation and sometimes outright lies and it's very difficult to try to counter that unless you have a million dollars, yourself, to counter it. >> you know, it occurred to me, i was sitting in my office today watching ad after ad from americans for prosperity, almost all about obamacare. a light bulb went off. if these ads had been running around the country for two years.
spent a bunch of money in 2013. it has to have an effect on how the law, itself, is being perceived by people. there is so much negative advertising about the law. forget candidates attached to it. >> yeah, that's exactly right, and as i mentioned, you know, it's misinformation about it as well. in fact, on the plane tonight coming back home here to michigan, i spoke with a lady who was pretty clear she had talking points down, but didn't understand how the law actually helps people. once i had an opportunity to explain it to her, she had a completely different view of it. it's difficult for me to have those one-on-one conversations with enough people when you've got multimillion dollar ads putting out misinformation day after day. >> many 2012, there's a lot of alarms being rang on this same issue. they were coming from david axelrod and all sorts of folks from around the obama campaign. when all was said and done at the end of 2012, the money came out about even when you totaled all the disclosed money and dark money and the big -- the big money, superpac money. what's to say this isn't the
same thing here? i mean, this is essentially fake alarm to try to shake the donor tree? >> well, you know, it's -- the only way we're going to be able to combat that is we do need to have smaller donations. need the people engaged in the process. when the president ran, we had a lot of small donors all across america that was helping out, standing up to basically two billionaires or handful of billionaires paying for these ads. we're going to need to have that same kind of energy of regular everyday folks who are going to get up and say, we are not going to let a couple individuals distort democracy and buy elections. they're going to have their voice heard. it's a $10 contribution, $20 contribution, that adds up because there are more people out there than billionaires. we have to make sure that power is exercised. >> okay. in the final analysis, wouldn't you also take a few democratic millionaires pouring a bunch of money into a superpac that could run ads going after your opponent? >> well, you know, certainly that would be great, but i also believe very intensity that we've got to have a democratic
system that's based on transparency. to me, what is the most important part of all of this is that we have a transparent government, one that people trust, one that people respect, and if we just let other billionaires fight it out, then candidates like myself who are running for the senate, you know, we're just horses with billionaires backing one horse or the other. i don't want to be part of that process. i want to be part of a process where everyday americans have a say in their government and people here in michigan have a say as to who's going to represent them in the united states senate. this shouldn't be out of state billionaires that are controlling the dialogue. it should be michiganers that are controlling the dialogue for the michigan u.s. senate seat. >> you know, it occurs to me that each election we see each campaign -- we see these innovations. the money actually, the money that we're talking about right now isn't dark money in the sense that we know these are superpacs that are filing. there is money that is even harder to trace and track than this money we have right now and
that's the kind of iceberg that's underneath the water of dark money. that's only going to grow in this election. >> yes, absolutely. it's going to continue to grow. and, you know, we'll see the impact that it has on the midterm. you know, you're right talking about a presidential year. you've got a lot of people engaged. you have really high turnover. it's a completely different dynamic in the midterm. a lot of folks don't show end to vote. it's critical that regular everyday folks understand it's important to not just help out candidates with maybe sending $10, $20 but have to go to the polls. the one good thing about this system in america, even if you're a billionaire and have a lot of money, you only get one vote join go into the ballot booth. we have to have folks coming out. >> you never know what the supreme court is going to do. congressman gary peters, thank you so much. >> thank you very much. joining me now, msnbc colleague, karen finney, host of "disrupt" which airs weekends at 4:00 p.m. eastern. former communications director with the democratic national committee. i should note, we reached out, invited the koch brothers on the
program. they could not make it. they referred us to americans for prosperity. as i read all this today and saw the priorities usa, this is the problem the democrats face as a political party as an electoral coalition. they've got a midterm problem. >> yep. >> do the democrats have a midterm problem? >> we do. part of the problem is, you know, the party tends to focus on presidential elections. the party committees, the democratic senatorial campaign committee and congressional committee, they're doing quite well. fund-raising is going well. as you pointed out in the interview, you need massive air cover. the outside groups are able to spend millions and millions of dollars just on one race. they can really take somebody down with one check basically in a way that is much harder for the inside money. so i do think that part of the problem, and also remember that groups like the kochs, there was a "forbes" article they talk about. they're thinking in terms of decades. not thinking in terms of this cycle and next cycle, right? that's the kind of long-term thinking we have to have.
unfortunately, i think our party has that with howard dean and the 50-state strategy. >> that you were part of. >> i'll admit that. it's now sort of dissipated and, again, the idea there is you can't just focus on every four years. you've got to focus on a permanent campaign. and that's been a big part of our problem in terms of the midterms because people say, all right, we'll just throw a lot of money at it at the last minute. rather than if you have been doing the work all year round, you know where your voters are. you know how to turn those voters out. you don't have to just spend a lot of money in the last two weeks to try and convince the community to come out. >> so when i read that headline today about priorities usa, and you've got this fundamental issue which is this kind of campaign in waiting is being erected. being erected independent of an official campaign structure because the superpac vehicle allows you to build a car without a driver. right? no one filed to stay i'm running for president, but you can build the thing. the idea that all this money, organization and donors are going to go toward that and it's not going to do midterms, i'm
sorry, seems unconscionable to me from a strategic perspective. how is that defensible? >> the way i could sort of flip that around -- i don't disagree with you. it's a little startling. when you talk about shaking the donor tree, part of announcing that publicly is to say to donors -- >> right. >> -- you know, if you're going to give to the senate and give to the house races, here are the other vehicles you have to be giving to. so, i mean, it does sort of -- as you said in your open, donors are getting a little freaked out. that's the kind of thing that makes them say, oh, i better write that check sooner rather than later. >> is there a way to combat the kind of big money superpac spending we're going to see in the election in ways other than getting your own billionaires? >> i don't think so. >> that's the honest answer. >> i don't think anybody's come up with anything yet. i mean, again, i think the difference being if the party is thinking long term and not just -- i mean, i'll give you an example. howard dean talked about, hey, we should be thinking about 2010 because of redistricting. some of the folks in the party
that thought crazy. well, guess what? now it doesn't seem to crazy, right? in the gerrymandered districts. the point is we have to get out of the cyclical thinking to have long-term thinking. >> that's the other thing. to stress the stakes here for people. you know, we saw what happened in 2010 both in redistricting and in state-level policy. there's, you know, coal ration in west virginia not because there's a republican government but a republican government doing all sorts of such. they all got swept to power in 2010. so these off-year elections, people saying to themselves, well, you know, we'll lose the senate. if we lose the senate, how bad is it going to be? we'll have the presidency. if there's one thing we've seen is how much it matters. >> absolutely. one place we've seen it, obviously with voting rights, of course, and women's rites. you're seeing women energized and engaged. we're talking vaginal probes, restrictions on our rights and peaks. the things that could have the
most impact on your daily life could happen at the state level. absolutely paying attention to those elections, it's hard because we have low voter turnout in this country, anyway. >> the center left coalition in this country, this is the biggest nut to crack for some kind of, you know, permanent sort of governing majority is getting over that. >> i think it's understanding what we're really up against. we are up against a permanent well-funded campaign on the right that is very strategic. if you look at the places where they're spending money, they know exactly why they're spending that money and how to spend it and what the message needs to be. >> karen finney, thanks so much. catch her on "disrupt" on the weekends at 4:00 p.m. right here on msnbc. all right. there's a new development today in the chris christie bridge-gate scandal that might help answer the most fundamental question. why it was time for some traffic problems in ft. lee. the reporter who dug up some documents will be with us, ahead. a new document that sheds you got the bargain kind?
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we got a new possible clue today in the ongoing mystery at the center of chris christie's troubles. the mystery is this. why did his administration decide to cause a traffic nightmare by shutting down lanes on the george washington bridge for four days in september? why did his then-deputy chief of staff bridget ann kelly write an e-mail saying "time for traffic problems in ft. lee" and his administration unconvincingly claim it was conducting a traffic study? we don't know the answers to the questions and chris christie claims he doesn't know, either. >> what i'm curious about is what happened here.
and that's why i've authorized an internal investigation, as i talked about on january 9th. >> uh-huh. >> and we've hired a law firm to come in and do that internal investigation. they're working really hard. they're working diligently, and i can't wait for them to be finished so i can get the full story here. >> remember, soon after all this went down, ft. lee mayor mark sokolich reached out to a top christie appointee at the port authority asking for assurance the recent traffic debacle was not punitive in nature. there's growing speculation at the time the lanes were closed to get back a sokolich, a democrat, for not endorsing christie for re-election. that theory was never entirely satisfying. >> who would close down lanes to the busiest bridge in the world to get to me? first of all, i never viewed myself as being that important. the governor, himself, said i'm not on his radar nor am i in his roladex. how could this be? >> one theory floated to what the motive is it had something to do with the single biggest thing that's happening in ft.
lee right now, this planned billion-dollar development called hudson lights. it's a location at the base of the george washington bridge is a huge part of the reason it's so valuable. without clear access to the bridge, hudson lights risks being downgraded from billion-dollar development to, well, just another big plot of land in new jersey. in other words, if you wanted to screw ft. lee or the developers or mark sokolich or god knows who, one really good way to do that is mess with the traffic. we don't know if that's what happened. it's a mystery that only the christie folks can solve. but a nice piece of enterprise reporting by "talking points memo" via a public records request found there was a meeting about precisely this issue between the mayor, mark sokolich, and someone from the port authority. the person that sokolich says he met with was this guy, bill baroni who is christie's top appointee in the port authority until he resigned in the wake of the scandal. the name should ring a bell. baroni ordered "there be no public discourse" over what went down in the wake of the lane closures. he testified in november about the lane closures ostensibly
being part of a traffic study. he is also crucially and importantly one of the people involved in the scandal who is turning over documents and not pleading the fifth. joining me now is the "talking points memo" rot reporter, hunter walker. what are you trying to find out here? >> as you said before, we don't know what was at the root of these lanes being shut down. brian murphy and steve kornacki on this website and our website put forth this theory if you follow the money, the biggest most expensive thing at the end of this bridge is this billion-dollar development. so, you know, we requested the planning board documents that were the minutes of the meetings involved in the approval of this development to get a sense of what had happened in that process and see what might be in there. >> what's amazing here is you've got a billion-dollar development, this unbelievably valuable parcel of land they've been trying to develop for 25, 30 years. it has this amazing sordid history.
the mafia tried to develop it and paid a half a million dollar bribe to former mayor of ft. lee who turned it down. then it was bought by leona helmsley. this thing has been around. all of its value depends, its whole selling point, and the developer is in the newspaper on the day they break ground saying you could be in manhattan in 15 minutes. it all depends on how many access lanes ft. lee has to that bridge. >> absolutely. i mean, one thing we definitely saw in these documents is that, you know, the question of bridge access and traffic was absolutely central to whether or not this development would be approved and whether it would be successful for the residents. you know, one of the planning board members referred to as, quote/unquote, dumping traffic right on to the bridge. these three lanes that were shut down were the subject of a study conducted by the developers. >> an actual study. >> yes, an actual -- so, you know, as you said before, we don't know, you know, who would
have been the target of an attempt to sort of hijack this development. you know, was it an attempt to shake down the developers? there's two developers involved. multiple financiers. there's the mayor. we know this development could have been put at risk by traffic. >> one of the things i think that's been under-appreciated here is that the so-called traffic study that was only shut down because the head of the port authority appointed by andrew cuomo on the new york side, patrick foye, shut it down once he heard about it and sent an angry e-mail. in the e-mail traffic what you get from wildstein, i believe baroni, definitely wildstein is we're trying to reverse it, trying to keep it shut down. meaning it's unclear how long they intended this to go. it's possible they were going put the thumb on the scale and keep it there as long as they could. >> and the reason steve kornacki and brian murphy first started pointing at this was the financing for the development. it was actually approved in 2012, the preliminary plan. the financing was being locked up right as these closures were
happening. so it seems a very sensitive moment in the project. >> you've got four people that have lost their jobs over this or had ties severed. bill stepien, former campaign manager. bridget anne kelly, deputy chief of staff. you've got david wildstein who had a sort of nondescript job at the port authority as the eyes and ears of christie and baroni. wildstein turned over documents, basically says i'll talk if you give me immunity. bill baroni hasn't said much, haven't heard from him since he gave that testimony, is actually turning over documents? >> you know, as you said, bill baroni is the guy who initially said this was part of a traffic study. so he's really one of the very, very interesting figures here. and he was also involved in the e-mail traffic both about retaliating after the new york side re-opened the lanes and also about the order to close the lanes in the first place.
so one of the most significant things in this document was it shows that meeting between sokolich and baroni which "a" sort of gives the lie to the traffic study explanation. >> yes. exactly. there was a traffic study. he knew exactly what the situation was. >> the meeting they had was talking about strategies to reduce traffic. >> right. >> so what sokolich told me is, you know, you look at the discussion we had, and there's no way he could have thought that shutting those lanes would be anything but a disaster for ft. lee. >> hunter walker from "talking points memo." thanks so much. >> thank you. what do you get when you mix corruption and a seaside resort? athletes at the top of their game. and these cute little guys. we'll tell you the answer coming up. ♪
that's my phone. hey. [ female announcer ] the x1 entertainment operating system, only from xfinity. tv and internet together like never before. on this vote, the ayes are 58. the nays are 40. 3/5 of the senators dually chosen and sworn have not voted in the affirmative. and the motion is not agreed to. >> today, in another shameful moment, the united states senate failed for the third time to pass an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. people cut off from benefits by republican obstruction since three days after christmas. they're now nearly six weeks without assistance. would have extended the benefits for 1.7 million americans for 3 months. harry reid talked about the individual workers behind that statistic. >> i have my republican colleagues to think about the
woman from nevada, 57 years old. she's couch surfing. going around to friends' homes, apartments, and sleeping on their couch. 57 years old. worked from the time she was 18 years old. she's lost her job. she can't find a job. she's a long-term unemployed. >> the measure needed 60 votes to pass because republicans filibuster everything, so it needed five republican votes and it got four of them. senator kelly ayotte of new hampshire, senator susan collins of maine, dean heller of nevada and senator lisa murkowski of alaska. it did not get the vote of senator rob portman of ohio. portman had previously said he was open to it if there was offsets. that is if the bill didn't increase the deficit. guess what? today's bill had offsets. the $6.4 billion was paid for by pension smoothing which allows companies to bring pensions up to date which means revenue and tax collection. bill would have excluded any
complaintant who earned $1 million more in the previous year. this would have added zero to the deficit and senator portman voted against it. today senator portman's office provided a statement which reads in part "with record numbers of long-term unemployed workers, i worked with my colleagues to try to find a common sense way forward to pay for three-month extension of unemergency unemployment benefits while reforms were put in place to better meet the needs of those who can't find a job. unfortunately, majority leader reid went ahead with his own proposal and we ended up back where we started despite our best efforts to find a common sense solution. i support an alternative to pay for a three-month extension that actually included a provision that majority leader reid introduced himself and was in president obama's budget. senator reid since abandoned the idea altogether and would not allow a vote as an amendment. he introduced his own offset proposal that put taxpayers at risk." mark kirk, a state with 80,000 long-term unemployed, voted against it, too.
tweeting "i would have supported unemployment benefits extension if $6.4 billion was paid for with common sense offsets instead of political gimmicks." these statements are an illustration of fiscal politics in the united states now and as star back as i can remember which is that when people say they're doing something because of the deficit, they are lying to you. always, full stop. republican/democrat. liberal/conservative. everyone in between. no one cares about the deficit. no one cares about the debt. no one votes on the deficit and no one votes on the debt. what they do is use the words to stand in for the things they like or don't like. how do you know this? look at the house of representatives which is so concerned about the deficit they are sitting on a senate immigration bill. the cbo says would reduce the deficit by $197 billion over the 2014 to 2023 period. and by roughly $700 billion over the next decade after that.
or go back to 2010 and the tea party revolt. the american people, the story goes, disgusted with washington's spending ways rose up, elected a republican house to send a message, we don't want to end up like greece. but in the lame duck session, immediately after that election, after america has sent its message, republicans and democrats got together and what did they do? they agreed to continue the bush-era tax cuts for two years and extend unemployment benefits for 13 months at a cost of $858 billion added to the debt. and then everybody went back to talking about the deficit. so, long-term unemployed in ohio, in illinois, in you are watching, ask yourself if senator rob portman and senator mark kirk really voted against extending unemployment benefits because they didn't like the pay fors. because they're concerned about the deficit. or if they voted against you for some other reason. maybe they think you're lazy or shouldn't be helped or some other reason which we cannot
a few months ago we showed you tape of an extremely upsetting thing that is happening in vladimir putin's russia in which anti-gay quasi fascist thugs lure them, beat them up, intimidate them and post videos online to humiliate and out the folks to their friends and family. i'm going to show you the tape again, now. the reason we showed that to you is because the social victimization and marginalization of gay people in russia which is legal is becoming a key issue as russia positioned itself for a spot on the world stage as host of this year's winter olympics. well, the games are here. the world is watching and things for gay folks in russia are just
as bad as ever. we'll take you inside putin's world, next. i always say be the man with the plan but with less energy, moodiness, and a low sex drive, i had to do something. i saw my doctor. a blood test showed it was low testosterone, not age. we talked about axiron the only underarm low t treatment that can restore t levels to normal in about two weeks in most men. axiron is not for use in women or anyone younger than 18 or men with prostate or breast cancer. women, especially those who are or who may become pregnant, and children should avoid contact where axiron is applied as unexpected signs
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let me declare that 126 session of the international olympic committee open. thank you. >> these are the putin olympics. the games in sochi, russia, designed to showcase a leader in command of his people. putin spent years lobbying to win the games for russia and now the country has spent a record $51 billion making it the most expensive olympics ever. that's 2.5% of russian gdp. in the u.s., that would mean spending $400 billion on the olympics. or as one dutch newspaper illustrates with this graphic, the sochi games will cost more than all the modern winter games combined. $265 million for a ski jumping venue, six times more than the original estimate. $371 million for an amusement park locals call putin world. it's not yet finished.
$8.7 billion with at "b" for a rail link project awarded to the state rail company run by putin pal. it's a curious mix of grandiosity and bungling. the first time the olympics are being held on the edge of a war zone. pair of creepy toilets thrown in for good measure. in the meantime, preparations continue. >> there was word that russian authorities have hired a pest control firm to exterminate thousands of stray dogs around sochi. >> as local animal rights workers tell "the new york times," many of these strays were pets abandoned by families whose homes were demolished to make way for the olympic venues. these are not the kinds of reports vladimir putin wants to get out because vladimir putin wants everyone to know this is not your father's russia. ♪ no, this is a new kind of russia. strength, stability, modernity, athleticism and sophistication.
this is vladimir putin's russia, and everyone in the world will know it. >> all eyes on putin means the world is also paying attention to his policies. putin has embarked on a campaign of social stigma and legal crackdown on gays and lesbians, ushering a spate of anti-gay measures including one that bans so-called gay propaganda. that prompted a global reaction earning condemnation from world leaders including the american president who is not attending the games, sending a delegation of gay athletes to attend in his place. but the anti-gay laws are just
part of the collapse of modern gay russia. as jeff charlotte writes in "gq" books are banned, immigrants hunted, journalists killed, blasphemy is now illegal. civil society isn't just coming undone, it's imploding. this is vladimir putin's moment. he fought hard to be on the world stage. the problem with being on the world stage is that now everyone is watching. joining me now from russia, julia ioffe, senior editor at the "new republic" where she's covering this story. my first question, julia, how are the olympics being received in russia, themselves? i mean, are people excited about it? is it a big victory for putin? is there an upwelling of national pride? all right. it appears that our feed is not working there with julia ioffe. what we might do is take a break and see if we can get that
we're back. we have the "new republic's" julia ioffe in russia. the technical problem appears to be fixed. how are russians viewing the olympics? is this a big point of national pride? is there a kind of upwelling of national pride that the games are there? >> i think it's not so much an upwelling of national pride, it's, like, there's a holdover from the soviet period of we have to do well, we're an athletic nation, we traditionally do well. in this sense, the vancouver olympics were a huge washout for russia. they didn't take nearly as many medals home as they wanted to. people were, i mean, cab drivers, your average man on the street was actually really, really upset about it in a way that i didn't expect. >> so you wrote today something i thought was really caught my
eye. there's been all of these tweets and kind of mocking photos of sochi and the hotels being not ready and water in glasses that looks dirty. you said "it does seem like the western press is on the hunt for evidence of how inept and hilarious the russians are. there does seem to be something mean spirited in all of this. there's a fine line between fair criticism and schadenfreude and the western press has been on the side of the ladder." >> i think, i've been tracking this, a lot of these tweets coming out of there. i think everybody figured that things wouldn't be ready on time. they're often not ready on time. pretty much anywhere the olympics are held. it's a huge thing to pull off, and the russians aren't really great logistical planners. the tone with which a lot of this is done is a little bit over the top. and i found that russians here in moscow who are actually openly critical of the government who didn't want the olympic games here, who think it's a huge waste of money, are a little bit offended. they're like, you guys are really happy about these
upsidedown toilet seats, why? >> do you think that the presence of the olympics has been part in parcel of the putin crackdown that you've documented so well in the "new republic" cover story which is out right now which i would want everybody to read? what relationship is there between putin's actions and having these olympics? >> i mean, this is part of his vanity project. he put his personal image at stake here. he learned an english speech which for him is kind of unheard of. he wants to do things on russia's terms, generally. this is part of what his idea of russia is. he definitely sees himself as a national leader. as somebody who restored russia to greatness on the international stage, who restored its economy, who brought back political stability which some people confused with, you know, who some people say is stagnation and a tightening of the screws and outright repression. he sees this as, like, you see a lot of his buddies and his -- running with the olympic torch
yesterday, or today in new york. you see this is his party. he clearly sees these $51 billion as his money to spend for whatever he wants. he wanted to throw a pretty big party to show the world that russia's back and russia's important and russia should be respected. >> it seems that the presence of the olympics spotlighted a bunch of policies, not the least of which is the raft of anti-lgbt legislation, but strained the u.s./russian relationship where you have the u.s., the president not going. he's sending this delegation of openly gay athletes. a russian official tweeting out a link of a hacked phone conversation of american diplomats talking about ukraine. things do seem to be quite bad between the two countries at precisely this moment. >> that's right, but they've been getting bad for a couple of years now. this is just the -- you have ambassador mcfall leaving. in some ways it's because his
family he have been hunted for the entire time he's been here for the two-year stint he's been in moscow, have been hunted and harassed by kremlin stooges, essentially. his wife finally had enough of it and went back to the u.s. and him being pulled out of moscow seems to be kind of a signal from the white house, you know, he's quite close to president obama. it seems to be a signal to moscow saying, like, you're not a priority anymore, we're just going to have, you know, a faceless diplomat as ambassador. you're not at the top of the list anymore. you're impossible to work with. >> julia ioffe from the "new republic" live from russia. thank you so much. really appreciate it. enjoy the games. >> thanks for having me. we're going to have more on this story ahead. i'll talk to two other journalists who have done incredible behind-the-scenes reporting on what it is to be gay in putin's russia, what sochi olympics mean for that country. so stay with us.
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joining me now, journalist masha gessen, author of the books "words will break cement: the passion of pussy riot" and "man without a face." and jeff sharlet, contributor to "gq" where he wrote a phenomenal piece about what it's like to be gay in russia right now. a 100% read. masha, you wrote a biography of vladimir putin which is an incredible read, great book. why did putin want these olympics so badly? what is it about what he is doing to russia as the russian leader that made getting this such an unbelievable priority for him? >> when he became president, he wanted -- one of his great ambitions was to become one of the guys, to show that russia was great again and he was one of the world's leaders. what a better way to prove it
than to have all the guys come over for a big party to his favorite place which is sochi where he loves to downhill ski? but also russia had suffered a disgrace during the 1980 boycott of the soviet olympics. >> right. remember, that 1980 is when the u.s. boycotted the games. they were in russia and it was kind of half olympics because the u.s. wasn't there and it's sort of an asterisk next to those. >> right, and the u.s. and several other countries -- >> right. >> -- i believe boycotted the olympics in response to russia's invading afghanistan. this was russia's answer to everything. through the humiliation the soviet union suffered. the 1980s. the mess of the 199 0s. now vladimir putin resurrected russia and almost restored the soviet union and finally held the olympics and everybody came. >> jeff, you write about gay life in russia at this moment.
when you went to russia to do this reporting, what were your expectations and what surprised you about what you found about the reality of gay life there right now under putin? >> i think what was really surprising was the pervasiveness of the fear and the perversity of the law, gay propaganda law. you know, one of the items in the law is this idea that same-sex couple can't say that their relationship is equal to a heterosexual relationship. and so it's almost as if they're outlawing love. you see, practically speaking, everyone i spoke to, people were going back into the closet, people had been living happily out lives, people who were forced to flee to keep their families in tact. and it was a very, very dark cloud that really sort of
hovered over every aspect of lgbt life that i encountered. >> i remember in the beijing olympics, that became a real flashpoint for the policy of the chinese government. remember the olympic torch was essentially chased after by protesters. and there was a feeling among a lot of folks i talked to, chinese experts and chinese folks, that this was unfair, that essentially china was being singled out. what do you say to people that say all of this attention on russia's gay laws in the run-up to the olympics or putin is essentially unfair, that you're singling out russia when there are tons of countries that persecute lgbt folks? >> well, just because someone else is abusing someone else doesn't mean that abusing is right. i mean, i don't really understand that argument at all. but to the point, do you remember what happened after the beijing olympics? how the world forgot about china? how china reinstated the death penalty which it repealed in
advance of the olympics? how china cracked down and nobody noticed? that's what's going to happen here, except i think worse. >> so you actually think there's this kind of pause as russia is so clearly in the world spotlight and as soon as everyone packed up and has gone home, the crackdown will continue and worsen? >> i think it will intensify. putin feels his main concessions, because he actually released high-profile political prisoners. >> pussy riot among them. >> low-profile political prisoners have been getting harsh sentences as the preparation for the olympics continue. i think it will still lash out after the games are over. believing the eyes of the world are no longer on him. >> jeff, one of the things that comes through in your article and is the most upsetting about chronicling what has happened in russia is "a" the fact things have moved backwards but "b" this combination of thuggish vigilanteism with tacit state support. what you're seeing are people, citizens, stoning and beating up while the government looks the
other way. >> yeah, you know, there's those who gather stones to throw. there's one demonstration where there was a priest blessing stones before they were thrown. on the video, you can see the police smiling. that reflects a national trinity that hate has three faces in russia right now and the state is the mind an the russian orthodox church, unfortunately, traded its integrity for access to power and has become the heart of this hate. you have these fringe thugs who are the hands, the fists that they do so, they are in effect enforcing the law. >> putin has moved very close to the orthodox church. pussy riot who you have a book out about, they're now in the states, they played a concert last night, their great crime was having a protest moment in
the most sacred cathedral in the orthodox church. why has that the relationship intensified between putin and the church? >> you know, that's a very difficult thing to unpack. i'm not sure there's a distinction. they both come from the same. the russian orthodox church always served at the pleasure of the state. during the soviet period, russian clergy serviced to kgb. orthodox clergy have not changed. they're the same people. the head of the russian orthodox church, the patriarch who lobbied putin, come from the same corporation. they're both from the kbg. they're colleagues. >> right. jeff, what is the future for the folks you talk to on the ground there? are they planning to flee? are they going under ground? what are they doing. >> they're going under ground. they're planning to flee. i spent a night having dinner with one family, two lesbians and their son. and their dinner -- they were out a year ago. now they're closeted at work. they're making arrangements. every night they get together at dinner and talk about their
research about where they can hide. i didn't speak to anyone who wasn't at least considering emigration or new lives to tell their co-workers to hide things. >> journalist masha gessen and "gq" contributor jeff sharlet. that's "all in." "the rachel maddow show" begins now. that was fascinating stuff. thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. the new jersey party circulated this reprint from the newark "star-ledger" from 1996. see in the upper left hand corner there there's a christmas sale at the silk floral outlet. down in the lower left hand corner, that's sort of a checking account ad. up top, a feature of a wood carver, an angel's head carved out of wood. nice.