December 15, 2017

Financier Bill Browder talked with Willie Geist on Morning Joe about Putin, the Magnitsky Act, and whether Trump was an active colluder.

"My lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was killed --I should say, tortured to death in a Russian prison in 2009 for uncovering a massive Putin Russian government corruption scheme. They killed him effectively as my proxy," Browder said.

"They killed him because he worked for me, and that's a big responsibility. He was 37 years old. He left a wife and two children after being tortured to death. And so, on the day when i learned of his murder, the day after they killed him, I made a vow to his memory and his family and myself to make sure I would go after the people who did it. I've spent eight years doing that, which resulted in legislation making asset freezes."

Geist asked him to sketch out the amounts involved.

"I believe that Putin is the richest man in the world. I believe that he personally is worth $200 billion. and I believe that people around him, let's say the top 1,000 officials in Russia, are worth a trillion dollars," Browder said.

He said the money isn't kept in Russia, but the U.S. and London.

"We don't know Trump's position on the sanctions," he said. "Putin's position is he wants the sanctions lifted as his number one foreign policy priority. We know he got this agent, the famous Russian lawyer, he got her to go to Trump Tower when Trump was just nominated to go on a quest to Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner to repeal the act. We don't know the Trump camp's reaction to that. And so we're sort of sitting here, and it's an important month. This is the month more names get added to the Magnitsky list. Trump will either do that as scheduled in the law, or not."

He called it "a significant moment."

He also said there was "no chance" he'd do that, as it’s scheduled in the law, or not, and this is a significant moment.”

Browder said there’s “no chance” that Natalia Veselnitskaya was not acting as Putin’s agent at the Trump Tower meeting.

"We have multiple pieces of evidence that she was acting as an agent for Vladimir Putin. We have the evidence she was working closely with the general prosecutor of Russia, the equivalent of the Attorney General who is Putin's main enforcer," he said.

"She was an agent for Vladimir Putin showing up in Trump Tower. That's for sure. And what she was asking for is also for sure, which is repeal of the act. What we do not know is the reaction to her request.

Jeremy Bash asked if Browder has been interviewed by Robert Mueller or the congressional intelligence committees.

"I can only talk about what I've done publicly. I have been interviewed by the senate judiciary committee. I cannot talk about any law enforcement interactions I had," he said.

"We do not know for sure is whether Trump participated or if Putin was just expressing his interest in the sidelines.

He explained that Putin doesn't keep any money in his own name but uses the names of oligarchs.

"When you see a rich -- spectacularly rich Russian, and you see their name on the Forbes list, multiply it by 50%. The other half of the money is Putin's," he said. They keep their money, or he keeps his money through oligarchs in hedge funds and private equity funds and trophy properties in the United States and all these other places you named."

Browder said it's "impossible" for him to tell whether Trump was an unwitting tool of the Russians. "I'm slowly looking at the pieces of the puzzle being put together. I know for sure what the Russians wanted, and I do not know how the trump camp reacted. But we will know, and quite soon, I think."

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