Joy Ann Reid speaks to the man who wanted to punish the Russian oligarchs for torturing his lawyer. Unfortunately, he didn't count on the Trump administration.
October 29, 2017

I have to admit that I was still so reeling from the shock of having Donald Trump as president (due in no small part to Vladimir Putin) that I missed the entire backstory of the Magnitsky Act. But I listened to former US Attorney Preet Bharara's new podcast this week, in which he interviewed William Browder, an American-born hedge fund manager who worked primarily in Russia, until he stumbled upon some corruption at the highest levels of the Russian government and ended up having to flee for his life. Unfortunately, his attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, was not so lucky. He was jailed and tortured to death.

Determined that Magnitsky's death not be in vain, Browder worked with Democrat Ben Cardin and Republican John McCain to craft legislation that kept these oligarchs from enjoying their ill-gotten gains by essentially banning them from the US or using our banking system for their blood money (a convenient way to launder money, especially if you have willing friends in the US). These sanctions so enraged Putin (who didn't become the world's richest man through exactly honest means, and may have personally profited from the corruption that Browder and Magnitsky sought to expose.) that he immediately banned all American adoptions of Russian orphans (which is incredibly cruel and heartless to his most vulnerable citizens), the only action he felt he could take that wouldn't result in even stricter sanctions, or possibly military actions. That, by the way, was the roundabout alibi for the meeting with Trump campaign officials (and Don, Jr), but you can be sure that the Russian counterparts were far less concerned with the orphans than they were the freedom to bring their cash to the US for expensive penthouses and luxury vacations.

Given that the only person that Trump hasn't criticized is Vladimir Putin, it should not be a surprise that reportedly the Trump administration had not done anything regarding the additional sanctions levied by Congress for Russia's interference in the 2016 elections. In fact, Rex Tillerson gave the order to close the sanctions office. Of course, he's quite cozy with Putin as well.

There is little question that Trump would like to end the Magnitsky Act (and that's likely exactly what Natalia Veselnitskaya was lobbying for when she met with Don Jr, et al.) But since it was a law written by Congress, it will take more than an Executive Order to end them. However, that doesn't mean that they won't try to find a way around that.

Call your senators to make sure they do not try to defang the Magnitsky Act to enable further Putin in our government.

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