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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  March 30, 2018 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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kids not to persuade the people they may lose. they are trying to keep their people together. that's a testament to how these people have been. >> thank you-all. before we go, quick reminder, my book, "a colony in a nation" is available. it's about what donald trump means when he talks law and order and seems relevant these days. it's "all in" for this evening. now here is rachel maddow. happy friday. thanks for joining us. last night richard engel had a scoop on nightly news involving a kgb intelligence officer who defected to the west. we are in the middle of a swirl of international news and international intrigue involving what's now turning into a big tight betwe fight between russia and a fairly united west but it's got this unexpected modern twist of our own government is a question
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mark, a black box in the two-sided fight. richard has a bunch of new reporting on that tonight so tonight we'll go to sengland where richard engel is live on assignment. welcome to salsalisbury. you can see the cathedral lit up. this is the focus of world attention because just over three weeks ago, someone used a chemical weapon, a military grade nerve agent less than two miles away from where i'm standing right now. the world changed since sergei a russian spy and his daughter were poisoned on a park bench. the incident sparked the worst crisis between russia by
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ordering 23 rurkssian diplomats presumed to be thinly disguised to leave the country. 26 others soon followed suit and something truly remarkable happened. the trump administration which has been very reluctant to i'm po inpost sancti inpose sanctions joined in. our government is finally decided to tell putin enough is enough and saying it together with other western countries what we used to call once upon a time the free world. yesterday the kremlin responded in kind ordering 60 americans out of russia and shutting down the american consulate in st. petersburg. the real question is, how meaningful is any of it. will the expulshion be the end? when the cold war ended, we
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moved on and treat russia as an under developed country that no longer posted a threat. that's not how vladimir putin saw things:f. for the past 18 years he's invaded countries, manipulated social media and contact officials to show the world that russia matters and for the most part, we let him do it. it's too early and very scary to suggest that the cold war is back but it does feel a little chilly right around now. russia tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile today. we'll tell you about several of putin's aggressive moves around the world but tonight, since we're talking cold war, we'll start with a spy story. england has for decades welcomed spies coming in from the cold, but houmoscow has a way of tracg
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people down, which is why 20 years after he came here, boris is hiding in the shadows. >> do you live under a false name? >> yes. >> he is used to switching identities. he joined in 1984 and spend the next decade playing the game. >> this is your kgb id card. >> basically license to kill. >> his job is to find agents working for the cia and in spy lynn lingo turn them when his russian spy masters found out he was a double agent and a wanted man and ran. >> do you feel safe? >> no. >> a hard man. we don't know where he lives or what name he goes by. he showed up at the appointed time for our interview.
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>> you still operate like a spy? >> yes, i do because it's basically a way to survive. >> this year on february 12 lt, he says his friend called him out of the blue with an urgent warning. his friend said. >> be careful, look around. something is going to happen. >> he said his name. >> mentioned my name, second close and filled one and for steel. >> wrote the dos n-- dossier. >> he use kexpertise in the dossier allegedly linking the president and inner circle to russia. also on the list, bill browder.
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>> i've been on the hit list for a long time and i haven't been hit. it's a different life for most people. >> he was once the biggest foreign investor but when he accused authorities of being involve in corruption, he became an enemy of the state so he moved to england. >> they hate my guts. they are after me in every possible way. >> do they know where you live? >> i'm sure they do. >> does that frighten you? and your family? >> yeah, yeah, it's all very scary. >> the only thing scarier than finding your name on a hit list is when someone else on the list is hit. on march 4th, sergei was found on a park bench. his daughter next to him. he remembered the call, the l
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list. >> do you have a doubt skripal was poisoned by them? >> i think he was poisoned and intentional intentionally. i think it was blunt and well-executed operation run by secret service. >> that was not obvious to the first responders on the scene. they didn't know skripal's background. he was a russian paratrooper that became an intelligence officer. in 1995 in spain, he was turned by british intelligence and became a double agent. code named forth width. in 2004, he was caught, tried and sentenced to 13 years in prison but then in 2010. >> sounds like something out of the cold war, the justice department said today ten people have been arrested on charges of spying for russia. >> the russian agents were sleepers sent to the u.s. to live and work in the suburbs and spy on their neighbors. now the russians wanted them back. over a burger, russian president
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and president obama cut a deal, an old fashion spy swap. skripal was one of the names and just like that he was freed. traders will kick the bucket. trading their friends, their conrads. he settled in sleepy salisbury both his wife and son passed away lived in russia and kept her distance. together, they went to the cemetery to pay their respects. police investigators have now pieced together the rest of their day. from the cemetery presumably they went straight home.
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then at 1:30 p.m., skripal's car was caught on camera driving into town. ten minutes later they park the car and head on foot to a pub. they went to a pizza place for lunch, levering around 3:45. 30 minutes later, police and medical teams were dispatched to a park where they found the skripals. unresponsive. >> the lady was on a bench dangling town. >> jamie was one of the first people to find them. >> man was there with his arms up like this. >> just suspended in the air? >> yeah. >> when he threw up, nothing, just poured out like pouring water out of a bottle. >> they had clearly been poisoned but with what? it took days for experts to establish it was a top secret russian nerve agent. >> it's a weapon of mass
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destruction. >> a former military commander and one of the top british experts on biological weapons walked us through the crime scene. >> if you breathe in vx, it generally kills you within seconds, if not minutes because it destroys your nerves. you stop breathing. your heart stops and you die. >> how much would it take to seriously injure if not kill these two people? >> a quarter of a pen head. we're talking absolutely tiny amounts of this stuff if breathed in can kill you inst n instantaneo instantaneously. >> for the first time ever, a chemical weapon was unleashed on british soil. forensic and count terrorism experts called in the military that brought trucks to carry off skripal's car and the ambulance he rode in in case they were contaminated.
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around 50 bystanders were taken to a hospital for examination and 500 diners were told to wash their clothes in case they were exposed but only one person, a police officer showed serious symptoms. >> the police officer, where did he come into contact? >> the skripal's house. >> that was a major clue. it took weeks but investigators are convinced that the contamination happened at the house. they have come to believe that the poison was on the front door. >> i think it's pretty clear they didn't injels gest it dire or they would have died quickly. >> how many people would it take to carry out an attack like this? >> you could do it with one, certainly. we're talking a drop of agent. so very easy to carry. so the fact that they seem at this moment to have got away without being detected again strikes me as being professional activity here. >> the british government agrees. this week prime minister teresa
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may accused moscow of being behind the attack. >> three weeks ago the russian federation was responsible for a murder. they treated a nerve agent with sarcasm, contempt and defiance. >> putin for his part responded with even more contempt and defian defiance, any seasonable person understands this is complete fantasy, nonsense while celebrating. >> is there any chance someone else other than the returnussia state could have done this? >> it's one in a ball chance it it's the russians. >> is that the only place in the world these poisons are made? >> absolutely. it's a nerve agent. >> both sides were racing to develop more and more powerful nerve agents, too. >> the symptoms of nerve agent poisoning are -- >> the type used in sal e s
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>> the type used in sal eal isb was made. >> translator: we had to produce substance that would be ten times more toxic than vx. it needed to take down a soldier within ten minutes. >> russia officially stopped producing nerve agents after the cold war ended. but last night, the bbc played video it says proves that the factory was still operating well into the '90s but he insisted that anyone could have bought or stolen the formula. >> translator: any chemistry person from a good university can make it. there is nothing complicated about it. >> to make something as sophisticated as nav chalk, finance you need to make it only a state like russia could
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actually do it. >> russia is implicated or machine than a dozen deaths, most famously the poisoning of alexander in 2006 with radio active pill loan yum. sergei skripal's condition is critical but his daughter made a remarkable recovery, which is not what the man who helped create the chemical she was exposed to expected to hear. >> translator: they will stay alive until life support is switched off. >> she is well enough to speak and investigators will have a whole lot of questions for her, where, when, who but they don't need to ask why. a few days after the incident.
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putin appeared on tv again. when asked what the one thing he could not ever forgive was, putin answered with one word, betray betrayal. putin, of course, is a former spy himself which may explain why he feels strongly about hunting down spies who betray mother russia and why he's so skilled at using our weaknesses against us, facebook campaigns designed to divide americans and protest to stir emotions. this is classic disinformation campaigns and putin is well-versed in classic spy craft. we'll have retired general berry mccaffrey on to talk about another kind of weakness that putin loves to exploit. >> now, we're going to have to put together the other deterrent forces on the ground near the russians to make sure this mischief does not continue.
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we're here in the english city of salisbury tonight where a former russian spy and his daughter were found near death from a russian nerve agent attack. a part from a few areas taped off, life here is pretty much back to normal but what happened here caused the world to finally take notice of what russia is up to. for years russia has been getting away with an aggressive foreign policy that combines military force with espionagesp money and the use of proxy forces to reclaim its place in
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the world. nowhere has ha effothat effort more deadly than syria. it's hard to call anyone a win near a war that left millions displaced and a country in ruins but if there is winner in syria, it's vladimir putin. he's used syria to show the world russia is still a military force to be reckoned with. yesterday our own president announced that he plans to pull american troops out of syria soon. that news is go g ing to make things complicated on the ground because they are still fighting isis. we know because we just got back from reporting in syria. we found our ride, an air force c-17 transport on a runway in kuwait. loaded with weapons and ammunition. it's headed for one of the most
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dangerous war zones in the world bringing supplies for a mission most of us think is over, the war against isis but that mission isn't over and we heard it's hitting a roadblock. we wanted to see for ourselves. the cargo unloaded. we step off into the cold syrian night. the last time we visited this area we had to sneak in through a hole in the fence. that was nearly four years ago and there were no american boots on the ground, just a small kurdish town under siege by isis. and fighting for its life. the brave stand these men and women took captured the world's attention. they were the first to stand up to isis and fight back. eventually u.s. forces came to their rescue. then a hand full of american
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special forces operators came in to help. that was the beginning of a partnership that changed the course of history here. coming back here now, we found children playing in the streets and a people rebuilding their lives. there are now about 2,000 american troops based here. their director of operations took me on a flight over the lands that once made up the so-called islamic state. the militants aren't finished and control an area half the size of road island but lost raqqah. >> this is known as the isis amp theater. these are mass graves. >> raqqah was the capital city.
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it was home to the leading henchmen including the gjihad john who beheaded three american soldiers. we found the spot where they got jihad john. >> it's satisfaction that jihadi john met his maker here. it's satisfaction that you got the heart beat of the city coming back. >> the general made a point of walking around without body armor on and on a visit to a local school got a hero's welcome. raqqah, the home address of radical islam has truly been liberated. it happened faster than anybody thought possible, the collapse of the islamic state was a
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stunning victory. most of it was done by the militia, their secular values and fighting spirit impressed american commanders right away. >> we found a willing, able and capable partner. >> did you trust them? >> absolutely and that trust grew over time. they trusted our forces on the ground and we trusted them and i can look at you right here and tell you that they have not broken one of those promises that was made at any time. >> with growing trust came growing support. the americans helped arm, train and mobilize a force of more than 60,000 fighters that drove the enemy out of one town after another. >> this was one of the most successful indigenous force partnership relationship
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possibly in u.s. military history. >> now that partnership could be coming to an end. president trump said on thursday the u.s. will be ending the mission on syria. >> by the way, we're knocking the hell out of isis. we'll becoming out of syria soon. let the other people take care of it now. >> that means the curkurds will without american protection. that couldn't come at a worse time because the kurds are under attack again. a local militia backed by turkish firepower is attacking from the west and send them to protect towns and villages. turkey is a member of nato and on piaper an american ally. it is bombing with american made cannons and planes and doing so without immunity. >> turkey wants to wipe out the
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entire kurdish area. is the u.s. going to sit back and allow that to happen to your friends? >> that's certainly not my decision the make and that's being discussed at the highest level of government. >> as a human or man, does it tear you up? >> sure, i would be lying if it didn't. i think the world owes them a debt of gratitude. >> right now, that debt is being repaid in coffins. at a funeral for the victims of the turkish bombing, a field commander swirls revenge. we will not forget our martyr she told the crowd. how can the world let those who defeated isis be killed like this? the commander fought alongside the americans for years. she said her people have been betrayed. americans need to remember the sacrifices we've made she said.
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we liberated this land together and we should protect each other. for now, american and kurdish fighters are still holding the line together, but the war on isis has stalled giving the remanence of isis a rest bite. how dangerous is it you think if isis is allowed to regroup here? >> that's horribly dangerous. i don't even want to contemplate that future. that's not a world i want to live in. >> while president trump says time is running out for the u.s. mission in syria, the syrian regime backed by russian forces is taking more and more territory. american troops had a deadly run in with russian merge narcot narcoticrinarcoti and pointed west. >> there is a substantial amount on combat power sitting three miles there now. >> he said it's hard for him to tell whether those forces were
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russian troops, or syrian soldiers. either way, they were a source for concern. >> when you asked the russians why there is still combat power a couple miles from your base, what do they tell you? >> they liberate that train from isis, which is true. that threat is no longer there. there is no reason for that power to be staring at us that closely. >> the russian military sent thousands of troops and enormous amounts of heavy weapons to property up the syrian government while the general awaits orders, those forces are taking ground. a fact not lost on america's allies here. we met the leader of the kurdish led militia for a rare interview. he made it clear the partnership with the americans was falling apart. the american policy is a grave insult he said. we fought against isis together with the americans and now if
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they let our people die and don't protect them, then we will invite other powers in, powers that can protect us. >> it feels like a free for all right now where the russian merge narcot mercenary is grabbing pieces, is there a danger this collapses this war on isis. >> it is a wicked problem. there is great games within great games going on. our job is to figure out how to keep the pressure on isis. we're at the goal line and we got to push in the end zone. >> coming up next, how russia is obstructing the battle for justice in syria. >> syria is russia's most important ally. they are dead set against justice and any kind of
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welcome back to "on assignment." we're in england but as you saw we recently spent time on the front lines in syria.
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we're at the battle for justice. we got rare access. this does contain disturbing images. justice is another name for victory and bashar al -assad is winning. he bombed people and getting away with murder. he buried people under rubble but he couldn't bury the evidence. in the heat of battle. piles of documents in government buildings, police stations, military out posts were left unguarded and a small group of brave syrian activists swooped in and stole them away. we joined them on one of their smuggling missions. they just crossed the border with a trunk full of stolen documents. it's the first time a television camera has been allowed to follow the process and we agreed not to identify any of the
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syrians involved. their leader asked to be called adal. this must be the most dangerous job in the world. why do you do it? >> translator: because i want to see the rule of law established in syria. i want to see an end to it. >> he had close calls, some teammates were arrested, others killed but he says it's worth it. >> we witness crimes against humani humanity. we witness the killings. i am a lawyer and i believe in criminal justice. we have to have trials. >> the smuggles evidence is delivered by the bag full to an american war crimes investigator. he works for the commission for international justice and accountability or cija that recovered 750,000 pages of
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evidence from syria. one of the documents from syria caught our attention. it named dozens of syrians arrested for protesting against the assad government and all of them appear to have acre secept guilt. >> it's confess, confess, confess. >> every one of them confessed? >> yes. >> when it says confess, they mean confess under torture. >> if they didn't confess, torture would be implied. >> this is the paper trail of a war crime? >> this is a very important part of a paper trail. the evidence is as strong as its ever been of a regime committing mass atrocities against citizens. >> the evidence is strong, very courageous syrians risked torture and death to get it to get photos like these out of r syr syria. how many pictures of victims did you take? >> more than 11,000 bodies, 45 photos of each victim.
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>> the photos were the regime's record of its own crimes, the work of an official photographer for the military police. he smuggled them out and goes by the code name cesar. >> the photos show that they were tortured. their bodies were burned. eyes gouged out. they were dragged behind cars, electrocuted. >> four years after the photographs first shocked the world, cesar is still in hiding. we agreed to even disguise his voice to help protect him but he and his photos are well-known, famous even. in september at a ceremony in germany, he was celebrated. >> cesar has brought the world unanswerable evidence. i believe that cesar's evidence has made justice for syria inevitable. >> but cesar afraid for his life and the lives of those he left
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behind in syria wasn't in the hall that night. he didn't come to germany at all. there is a cruel irony in the fact that cesar's award was handed out here in the city. this city is still mostly remembered as the place chosen by the u.s. and allies to bring nazi leaders to justice at the end of the world war ii. >> the hitler gang has gone on trial for the first time, criminal war laeaders are being judged. >> this is where justice jackson said law had to reach man that to s possess themselves. >> touch every home. this is the heart. this is the beginning of international justice. >> steven wrap is an accomplished war crimes prosecutor. >> how does the evidence of the syrian war crimes compare to the evidence that was shown in this room? >> the cesar evidence is incredible. it is actually better evidence than we had in the nazi
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concentration camps because you didn't actually have them putting on the body of each corpse a card that identified that individual. >> for two years, cesar lived a dangerous double life filling one flash drive after another with copies of the gruesome images. >> i have the flash drive in my sock. they would frisk us and i was afraid because if they found the drive, they could have killed me and my whole family. >> you risked your life to get these photographs out. was it worth it? >> more than just my own life, it was the lives of my family and of all the people that helped me smuggle these pictures out of syria. >> cesar finally escaped with flash drives in 2013. wrap, then the u.s. ambassador for human rights made sure they were seen all over the world. >> how important are cesar's photographs as a body of
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evidence? >> they really do demonstrate that this regime was in the business of torturing and murdering its own people. under international law, if a commander or a political leader has people under his control and they are committing crimes, he's guilty in the same way as if he gouged out the eyes or cut the flesh or burned them. >> the syrian government, of course, called the pictures fake but a committee of legal and forensic experts interviewed cesar and carefully examined images and found him to be a truthful and credible witness. still, last year when assad was confronted with cesar's pictures, he called them fake news. >> just propaganda. it's just fake news. they want to deny the city and government. >> cesar says the syrian regime demonized itself and his goal is
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to brings assad and his henchme to justice establishing an international court would take a u.n. resolution and time and time again. >> those against. >> russia used veto power to stop that from happening. >> syria is russia's most important ally. so they are dead set against the justice. they are dead set against any investigation that's independent, even the one on poison gas after we appoint an independent body to deal with it and present abundant proof. >> wrap, who started working on the case for president obama admits that administration didn't fight the russian veto as hard as it could have. if assad gets away with this, stays in power and continues to govern his country, what message does that send to other dictators? >> a horrendous message that has effects on everyone.
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attacks on hospitals, ambulances, doctors, nurses. poison gas. those worlds have been observed in every war in the 20th century and those rules are violated. what happens when somebody else faces people saying let's have an election that's half way fair. they are going to look back at syria, torture, kill your way out of it and you get away with it. >> the trump administration has no ambassador for human rights or the inclination to stand up to russia so the case against the syrian government isn't going anywhere any time soon. did accountability die in syria? >> accountability was dealt a body blow in syria. i mean, i think it's on life support. >> next we're going to look at the bets putin made over the years. he has perfected a trick that allows him to win when he's holding a bad hand. how? by bluffing and then doubling down. stay with us.
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want us to do about what woulthis president?fathers i'm tom steyer, and when those patriots wrote the constitution here in philadelphia, they had just repelled an invading foreign power. so they created the commander in chief to protect us from enemy attack. the justice department just indicted 13 russians for sabotaging our elections. an electronic attack on america that the chief investigator called "warfare". so what did this president do? nothing. and is he doing anything to prevent a future attack?
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the head of the fbi says no. this president has failed his most important responsibility- protecting our country. the first question is: why? what is in his and his family's business dealings with russia that he is so determined to hide, that he'd betray our country? and the second question is: why is he still president? join us today. we have to do something. . welcome back to "on assignment. many said putin was over reaching and his forces would get bogged down in the fight. well, guess what? that didn't happen. instead, it's the u.s. that says it's about to leave syria. why? because putin has the better poker face.
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this narrow strip of kurdish territory served as the base of operations for u.s. forces ever since they arrived in syria. but now, turkish forces are invading the safe haven at the same time syrian government forces are coming the other way. turkey is formally an ally nation, so why are both our allies and enemies ignoring washington's urgent pleas to halt? because there is another power rising in the region, russian power. in august, 2015, putin sent his troops in to back up the syrian government of dictator bashar al-assad. in october, the u.s. sent in the first american forces to fight isis. syria became a proxy fight like the good old days of the cold war. the enemy, the americans came for isis is nearly vanquished but so is america's reputation
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as the only power that matters in the world. the u.s. demanded that assad goes, russia made sure he didn't. putin bet big on the assad regime and won big. but syria is only one front in putin's war. he keeps making awe bets. crimea redrawing boarders set after world war ii and nobody stopped him. >> russia's decision to send troops into crimea drawn global condemnation. >> and prorussia hackers, ukraine says he attacked their presidential election. since then, investigators have alleged putin used hackers, spies or fake news campaigns to attack elections in the czech republic, austria, boll boll car ya, norway, using the same tacti tactics, putin according to u.s.
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intelligence worked to undermine or political process and nobody stopped him. now according to the british government, the russians used a chemical weapon to poison an enemy on british soil. >> we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil. >> the bets keep getting bigger and so does putin's place but placing these outrageous bets. he has, like it or not, made russia great again. >> next, my interview with general barry mccaffrey. >> that attempted assassination of the two russians in the u.k. was a signature assassination attempt. that was a statement no matter where you are in the world if you oppose me, i'll come and kill you.
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two weeks ago, frustrated with the president's refusal to push back against russian president, vladimir putin, retired general barry mccaffrey tweeted that he has reluctantly concluded that president trump is a serious threat to u.s. national security and it is apparent that president trump is for some unknown reason under the sway of mr. putin. since then the president ordered 60 diplomats expelled. i wanted to know if that changed his view of him, and i wanted to
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know about the plan to pull out of syria very soon, something he's been mulling for weeks. general thank you for joining us, the president said yesterday he was planning to pull troops out of syria very soon and, quote, let other people take care of it. what other people does he mean? is he talking about russia? >> pulling out now and leaving this mess is likely emboldening the assad regime, the russians and the turks to finish off the kurds. >> russia is also making a power play in syria, not just syria, we've seen crimea, ukraine, interference in elections, including ours. where does this end? >> putin is a clever politician and former kgb officer, running a criminal enterprise. but it's to reduce to shame the
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soviet union and break up the eu and nato. the bellicose rhetoric by the russians is like nothing we saw during the cold war. these new weapons and the threatening notion of pre-emptive nuclear attack on west everyone europe of autonomous nuclear torpedos heading to the united states. >> most americans still use social media every day and russia has started using it as a weapon of war it seems. how does that fit into the larger picture of our confrontation with moscow. >> when i talk about weapons of mass destruction, i include not just nuclear, chemical, biological but also cyber war fair and we are ill prepared to deal with it. >> when you look at what happened in salisbury earlier this month with two people
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infected by a nerve agent does it seem like we're entering a more dangerous phase with russia. >> that attempted assassination of two russians in the uk was a signature assassination attempt. that was a statement no matter where you are in the world, if you oppose me i'll come and kill me. >> the expulsion of 60 russian diplomats in the u.s. is unprecedented since the cold war have we sent a strong enough message? >> probably not. now we have to put together the deterrent forces on the ground near the russians to make sure this mischief does not continue. >> so now that president trump has taken this action, do you still think he is a threat to national security? >> i think he's now either growing into the recognition of the degree of threat of mr. putin and russian intelligence services or he's being pressured into it. >> general mcca mc, thank you f
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(vo) more "dper rollres for mom" more "doing chores for dad" per roll more "earning something you love" per roll bounty is more absorbent, so the roll can last 50% longer than the leading ordinary brand. so you get more "life" per roll. bounty the quicker picker upper. and before we leave you tonight we go back to the question we started with, did something change because of what happened here. we've been talking about putin's aggressive foreign policy for a while but it took two people foaming at the mouth on a park bench to bring the world together to take action, not the war in syria, not meddling in
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the u.s. elections. it was the use of a chemical weapon in europe that got nations rattled. so the question is did russia go too far this time? is this going to be the turning point. that's all from us at "on assignment" don't forget to follow us on twitter. we'll be back soon but for now, thanks for watching and good night. good evening i'm lawrence o'donnell and this is tonight's "last word" live from los angeles. no one got fired from the white house today, no one forcefully escorted out of the building by security. every cabinet member who had had a job at breakfast today still had the same job at sun down today because the president of the united states spent his 104th day playing golf.

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