Today on radio, Glenn introduced someone that many have likely never heard of — Bill Browder.
“He is a really important player in everything that is going on in Russia,” Glenn said.
If you’ve heard of the Magnitsky Act — sanctions imposed on Russia during the Obama administration — Browder is the man that made it happen.
Sergey Magnitsky was Browder’s lawyer. He was beaten, tortured and killed in a Russian prison for exposing a vast, $230 million government corruption scheme.
Wednesday, Senate Democrats blocked Browder from testifying during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the Russian’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
“Senate Democrats blocked his testimony by invoking the two-hour rule — which is rarely, rarely used — to protest the Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. Was that really why they used that, or was it because they wanted to block his testimony on Fusion GPS, the company that produced the Trump dossier and was also hired by one of the Democrat’s biggest supporters?” Glenn asked.
Glenn and Browder engaged in a lengthy, two-part discussion surrounding the fascinating — and troubling — details. After learning that at least seven people related to the Magnitsky case are now dead, Glenn asked Browder one question: “The people around you are dying, and you’re continuing. Have you made peace with this?”
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: Our guest Bill Browder is the man responsible for spearheading the Magnitsky Act. Magnitsky was Browder’s lawyer, and the two of them uncovered a $230 million corruption scheme involving Russian government officials. Magnitsky was jailed, tortured, murdered in prison. Browder vowed to get justice. The Magnitsky Act was his initiative, and it became the sanctions package on Russia that punishes the oligarchs. This kicked off a geopolitical shock wave. But there’s a lot more than just this.
Wednesday, the senate judiciary committee in the Russian investigation into U.S. election medaling, the senate Democrats blocked his testimony by invoking the two-hour rule, which is rarely, rarely used to protest the Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. Was that really why they used that? Or was it because they wanted to block his testimony on Fusion GPS, that is the company that produced the Trump dossier but was also the same company that had been hired by one of the biggest Democratic supporters as well. Welcome to the program, Bill Browder. How are you, sir?
BILL: I’m doing really well. Great to be here.
GLENN: Thank you. It’s nice to talk to you, and I appreciated your testimony in front of Congress, the way you constant responded, “I can’t think for Donald Trump or his team. I don’t know. What I do know is how Russia think so.” And I appreciated the fact that even as a guy who doesn’t support Donald Trump, that you were not going in for political heads. So thank you for that.
BILL: It’s my duty in this situation just to try to get to the truth about what Russia’s up to and what Putin’s up to, which is something that affects — is a totally nonpartisan issue when it comes to Russia.
GLENN: So listening to your testimony, I believe — we’ve been doing a lot of homework, and I’ve been working on Russia things and trying to expose my audience to what Russia is doing for the last probably three or four years. And I warned way before this election that Vladimir Putin and his minions were trying to cause chaos in the entire western world. And they’ll play all sides. They don’t care. They just want chaos and a destruction of what they call the — what is it? The people of the sea. The Atlantic states. The NATO states.
GLENN: I believe, and I would like to start here. I believe not knowing truly what happened in that meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and everybody else, that they may have wanted dirt and were probably told we’ve got all kinds of stuff on Hillary Clinton. But they could have gone in to a meeting and had Veselnitskaya, the Russian woman, just read nursery rhymes because Putin got what he wanted with that meeting, and that is doubts in people’s minds on both Clinton, the Democrats, and the Republicans, and we’re all fighting each other now. Do you think that’s plausible?
BILL: Well, I think we might be reading a little bit too much into Putin’s — Putin is a great tactician. I wouldn’t argue that he’s a great strategist, and that sounds like a strategic — a long-term strategic thing. And I do know a lot about what he’s and thinking doing because I’ve been sort of at odds with him in a very serious way for the last eight years. I think that he — and he’s very blunt and kind of basic in terms of what he wants. And when that lady, Natalia Veselnitskaya went into that meeting, it’s pretty clear what she went into that meeting for, which was she had something that was on the top of Vladimir Putin’s agenda, which was getting rid of these sanctions, these asset freezing and visa-banning sanctions named after my lawyer Sergey Magnitsky. Putin really wanted to get rid of that, and they had a long and a wide campaign to do that. And I think that they spotted Donald Trump, he was the Republican nominee at that point. They hadn’t done much with Obama and Obama hadn’t done what they wanted. And they said. Okay. This guy is saying nice things. Let’s go see if we can do something with these guys. And as you mention, I don’t know what the Trump guys were thinking when they had that meeting, but I sure know what the Russians were thinking, which is here’s something important to us that we want to do if your dad becomes the president.
GLENN: So tell me — because I don’t think people understand Russia and its level of corruption and how brutal it is. You know, we think, oh, well, you’re dealing with some people but everybody’s corrupt. Not like Russia. Can you give —
BILL: No. No.
GLENN: — people an idea of what this means.
BILL: Well, let’s just talk about this case that I’ve been involved with. So this is called the Magnitsky case. Sergey Magnitsky as you mentioned at the beginning was my lawyer. He uncovered this vast $230 million government corruption scheme, and he thought that — and this was a scheme where a bumbling of government officials were altogether $230 million from their own country — and Sergey thought this is wrong. This is my country. I don’t want them stealing this money from my country. And as a good patriot and good citizen, he went to the law enforcement agency there, and he gave sworn testimony against the officials involved and waited for those officials to be arrested and prosecuted. But instead of those officials being arrested and prosecuted. He got arrested, they put him in jail and tortured him viciously and killed him, leaving a wife and two children. Now, I wish the story had stopped there in terms of the deaths. And then another guy comes forward after Sergey had been killed. His name is Alexander. Alexander was not a good guy. He was one of the bad guys in Russia who had fallen out with the other bad guys. He shows up in London fleeing Russia. And he says, listen, the people I used to work with, they’re really bad guys. Here’s the bank statements showing where they got the money.
And so we took that stuff to the Swiss prosecutor because the money was in Switzerland. The Swiss prosecutor froze the accounts and opened up a big money laundering investigation. And then all of a sudden this guy drops dead at the age of 44 in a suburb of London. And it has since been shown he had a poison in his stomach. And it goes on and on. There are seven people who are dead connected to this case.
GLENN: Why aren’t you dead?
BILL: They would like me dead. They’ve threatened me. They’ve threatened me on a number of occasions. If they could get away with it, if they could kill me and get away with it, I would already be dead. The only thing stopping them is that they don’t know exactly how they can get away with it.
GLENN: So you said something interesting in your testimony. I think it was Lindsey Graham who said, you know, Putin will do whatever he can to get away with. And you responded I think he’ll do whatever he can or wants even if he can’t get away with it. What do you mean by that?
BILL: Well, basically, the — he kind of goes around the world doing whatever he wants. Look, he invaded Ukraine. It wasn’t like — he said it wasn’t us, it’s just a bunch of guys on vacation. Well, it turns out that it was them. They shot down a civilian aircraft, Malaysian aircraft going over Ukraine killing 298 civilians, and they said it wasn’t us. It has been proven it was them.
GLENN: Wait, wait, wait, this is kind of new. Really?
PAT: Was it proven to be them?
GLENN: We knew that was speculation. It has been proven now since?
BILL: Yeah, everybody knows that it’s them. It has all the evidence. Of course it’s them. There’s no question.
PAT: They still don’t admit it, right? Just all the evidence points to them.
BILL: Yeah, the Russians deny . . . they say we didn’t invade Ukraine, we didn’t shoot down that plane. We’re not bombing civilians in Syria.
GLENN: Oh, that plane. Yes, you’re exactly right. Correct. Correct.
BILL: There’s two Malaysian planes, the one going from Amsterdam shot down over Ukraine, 298 people, 200 of them were Dutch. And these Dutch people, this is the Dutch equivalent of September 11th in terms of the number of people killed per capita by a terrorist. Putin did that. No question.
GLENN: So how are you feeling about the — about how the right played footsie a little bit with Putin and then the left is now playing footsie with Putin — or was the left and now the right. And I’m talking about the people. The right is now starting to say “Oh, no, Putin’s not so bad. He’s just like us. And, yeah, he has some problems.” It’s a different category entirely. How do you respond to the American people?
BILL: It’s shocking anybody — anyone who believes that Putin is a normal human being. This man is a cold-blooded killer. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it goes on and on and on. And it’s just ignorance. I mean, anybody who thinks that somehow we have in any shared situation with him, any shared values, any shared interests is just misinformation. It’s wrong. It’s just — and, you know, part of my goal is to try to inform people. I’m glad you’re giving me this opportunity to tell the story on your show because people who take that view just do not have the information, and they need to have that information.
GLENN: So I want to get in a little bit to Fusion GPS. These are the people that came out, and they were the ones that produce the dossier on Donald Trump and the golden showers and all of that stuff. It’s a really bad organization and both sides of the aisle in America are dealing with these people. And I don’t understand it, and I would like you to try to — if you can — take us through a little bit of that when we come back.
GLENN: Bill Browder is with us, lives in London, if I’m not mistaken, Bill.
GLENN: Let me start here with you, Bill. Fusion GPS. This is the organization that apparently had a dossier on Donald Trump, you know, the whole golden shower thing. All of that crap. It has been apparently, you know, debunked and said most of it is not real. I want to not focus on the dossier, but I want to focus on Fusion GPS. Are they a — are they an arm of the Russian government?
BILL: Well, I’m not sure who’s arm they are of, but I have my own experience with Fusion GPS. When they were hired by the Russian government or I should say by a Russian government official to basically run a disinformation campaign against the Magnitsky Act and against me in Washington. They were effectively going out last year, a guy named Glenn Simpson, who is the founder of GPS, he was running around meeting with and discussing with journalists trying to get them to write stories to say that Sergey Magnitsky, my lawyer, had not been murdered. That he died of natural causes. Glenn Simpson was trying to get the journalists to write Vladimir Putin’s part of the story to white wash what the Russian government had done, being paid for by the Russian government.
GLENN: So who are they, exactly? Fusion GPS.
BILL: Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch are both Wall Street Journal reporters. They left — I don’t know a few years back. Set up this firm called Fusion GPS. They call it opposition research, which sounds sort of legitimate. You know, researching people’s backgrounds. But what I saw them doing to me, and I’m not the only victim of this, is that they were effectively doing . . .
BILL: Disinformation, smear campaigning, spreading false information to try to cast doubt on me and on Sergey Magnitsky, and I’m not the only one. There’s another human rights activist from Latin America named Thor Halvorssen, and Thor was trying to expose corruption in Venezuela. And these people were — Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson — were hired by the Venezuelan oligarchs to smear Thor and his human activist colleagues.
GLENN: So if they are acting on behalf of Venezuela oligarchs and Russia and Putin, why aren’t they registered under the foreign agent registration act?
BILL: Well, that was my question as well. I had the exact same question. After they ran this campaign last spring and summer, I went and checked into the database to see if they had registered and any other people. Because it wasn’t just them. It was a whole team of people hired by Russians, lots of Americans involved, and none of them had registered. So I wrote a — and just so you understand, you’re required to register under the law there’s something called the Foreign Agent Registration Act. It was put in place to prevent Nazi propaganda from being spread in America during the Second World War. It’s very important, and these guys hadn’t registered. So I wrote a criminal complaint to the counterintelligence division of the Department of Justice saying that these people didn’t comply with FARA, the Foreign Agent Registration Act. I filed it in the summer of last year and as far as I could tell, there doesn’t seem to be any big investigation going on, and so —
GLENN: But here’s — so here’s the question, though. I mean, we have the Democrats supporting — you know, paying into Fusion, the biggest Democratic supporter paying into Fusion. We have the FBI hiring GPS fusion. I mean, do — I mean, you can’t tell me that the FBI isn’t aware of who these people are. What’s — I tell you what, I have to take a break, and I don’t want to cut you off in the middle of that. I’m sorry. I lost track of the clock. Hold onto that answer and give it to me fully. And then we go into what you think happened in that office with Donald Trump, Jr., and especially Paul Manafort. He’s the real troublesome character here.
GLENN: So the Magnitsky bill that we’ve heard a lot of talk of, most people don’t know about it other than the sanctions against Russia, it passed 419-3.
STU: Well, it’s the new Russia sanctions going. But still bipartisan.
GLENN: This is confirming that. It is bipartisan. The people in Congress, at least seem to know who Donald Trump is. At least they’re acting like it. This all leads really to the heart of all of our governments and to chaos that I believe Russia is trying to sew all over the world. Let’s go to the Fusion GPS, which is the company that came up with this dossier on Donald Trump. The FBI has used it, the Democrats have used it. I mean, do they know who these people are?
BILL: I would assume that they don’t, just based on the fact that anyone engaging with them should certainly know the background of what they did, they tried to do with me and what they’ve tried to do with this other human rights activist Thor Halverson. These people are professional liars, essentially. I don’t have any insight into the credibility of the Trump dossier. I understand that the people who he subcontracted is quite well regarded. But Glenn Simpson is a layer, he has gone out and lied on behalf of Putin and on behalf of some Venezuelan oligarchs, and that’s to try to discredit human rights activists, and that’s not a good thing.
GLENN: Okay. So let’s go over — because Donald Trump, Jr. finally admitted that, yes, he met with Natalia Veselnitskaya and others. First it was just her, they were talking adoption, then it came out it was more. First, let’s start with her. Who is she?
BILL: So Natalia, this is the lady who showed up at Trump Tower, the Russian lawyer. She didn’t go there on her own volition, on her own initiative. She went there being paid for and funded by a family in Russia. It’s a family called the Katysv — K-a-t-y-s-v. The Katysv family is headed by a man named Peter. He was the former transportation minister of the mosque region, which is the region the size of vice president. He’s now the vice president in the second most important Russian-government owned company called Russian railways, and he’s a very wealthy man. His family is very wealthy. And he’s a senior member of the Putin regime. She was there in New York on his dime. He was paying for her time and effort. And she was there with one specific ask. And let’s not mince words here. She was not talking about adoption. There’s nothing — her meeting had nothing to do with adoption.
BILL: It’s a total red herring to be throwing out this adoption nonsense. She was there to talk about trying to repeal a piece of legislation, which is on the books in America, which punishes Russian torturers and murderers and makes sure that they can’t use the American banking system and come to travel to America. That’s what she was there to do, and that’s what was — she was there to ask the son of the possible future next president of the United States for that particular favor.
GLENN: Okay. We know this is true because of the documents that Donald Trump, Jr. himself was forced to release by The New York Times that they were more than eager to hear the dirt and to accept that the Russian government was for them. They got this, really, through a friend, the Agalarov his makes — the way this is being spun is Donald Trump was a hapless dupe and Agalarov is not a bad guy and so what if he has some dealings with the Russian government that’s not — it’s — this is just a guy who’s a businessman that Donald Trump knows. Is that true?
BILL: Well, you know, I don’t know what was going on the side of the Trumps. I honestly don’t. I mean, if anyone had done any even basic Google search on this woman, they would have found out that her main public claim to fame is representing the same family as they were being indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for money laundering in connection with the $230 million Magnitsky discovered. I mean, that’s not a particularly good resume filler to get a meeting. And so either they didn’t do a basic Google search, or they did and just decided to hold their nose when they had the meeting.
GLENN: Let me play devils advocate here with you. So what? I mean, John Adams, you know, was representing the British, and that’s very unpopular. What is the problem with a defendant? Al Capone needed an attorney. What’s the problem?
BILL: Well, there’s no problem with him needing an attorney, but there’s a problem if Al Capone had met with a presidential candidate saying, hey, could you get me off of my crimes, that would be a little bit of a different story.
GLENN: So tell me about Agalarov. Do you know anything about him?
BILL: I only know about him from what I read in the paper. He’s another Russian oligarch that was friends with probably Mr. Katysv I have because these guys travel in packs, but I don’t have any specific knowledge about him.
GLENN: Okay. So when that meeting happened — I believe Paul Manafort was in that meeting, was he not?
BILL: He was there, yes.
GLENN: Paul Manafort is a guy who I’ve been trying to explain to our audience for quite some time is deeply in with the Russians. You want to give a little bit of background on him, and then what he had to have known about this meeting?
BILL: So Paul Manafort has a very dubious background. He’s worked for a lot of dictates around the world. But the one that’s most relevant to our conversation is that he was working for the — this guy, his name is Victor Yanukovich who at one time was the president of Ukraine. And people often think of Ukraine and Russia being at war. He was the Russian’s puppet in Ukraine. So he was Putin’s guy in Ukraine. And effectively the reason Ukraine and Russia are at war now is because the Ukrainian people when they discovered how much money he stole from the country, they drove him out. He had to flea in the middle of the nature in a helicopter. And then the next day, they discovered his compound with, like, gold-plated caps and a garage with 120 classic cars and duck ponds and all sorts of crazy stuff. This guy was a total, absolute crook, Putin’s crook, and he was boss of Paul Manafort and Paul Manafort’s job was to keep him in power.
GLENN: So when the e-mails, which he was on the e-mail chain was going around, and a meeting was asked, and he saw Natalia Veselnitskaya, her name there and what they were going to talk about. Any doubt in your mind that Paul Manafort knew exactly what this meeting was, who was behind it, and that’s a meeting that nobody in a presidential campaign should be having.
BILL: You know, it’s — you know, that’s what it looks like on the surface, but I don’t really want to get into defining his state of mind. I don’t know what he was thinking or not thinking.
GLENN: Is there any way that he didn’t know who the — if he read the e-mails, that he didn’t know that this was Russian government coming in?
BILL: Well, the e-mails suggested that, for sure. I mean — so let’s put it this way. If I had read the e-mails, I would have known that. But I don’t know what he was thinking, and it would be wrong to put my own thoughts in his mind.
GLENN: You tracked a lot of this corruption here to the United States. And a lot of this money has come to the United States. Do the companies here in the U.S., are they aware of what’s going on? The FBI, DOJ, anywhere in the U.S. government? Anywhere anybody doing anything about the massive money laundering that’s going on with the Russians here with U.S. companies?
BILL: A tiny bit. I mean, we identified some of the money from the murder of Sergey Magnitsky, and we alerted the Justice Department, and they opened up a very big criminal case that had a lot of lawyers working on it, and it eventually settled for $6 million. But it was a tough and strong team from the DOJ. Having said that, let me answer the question more broadly, which is that effectively Russia and a lot of other crooks and kleptocrats were getting away with murder as far as financial flows in the United States go and other countries as well. I mean, I would say that 99.9 percent of dirty money goes to where it’s intended to go without being disrupted in any way.
GLENN: Years ago, I was on CNN, and I did an interview after — I can’t remember his name, he was killed by Putin in England, they gave him some polonium, what is it 212 or 220, whatever it is —
BILL: Litvinenko was his name.
GLENN: Yes, thank you, and I was talking to a guy who was here in the United States. He was also a guy Putin was after, and he gave me a long list of all the people who have been killed around. And about six months later, he was — I think he died in a car accident, and I’ve always wondered if that was Putin or if that was a car accident. The people around you are dying, and you’re continuing. Have you made peace with this?
BILL: Have I made peace with — well, I mean, you know, basically, my psychology is that Sergey Magnitsky, who was my lawyer, was in a much graver danger, much more tenuous situation, and he never sacrificed his integrity, and he fought for truth and justice and for loyalty to me, and he died doing that, and I’m — I may be in danger, but I’m in a much safer situation.
GLENN: You have the — do you have the 24 security and — I mean, have you ever seen any direct attempt coming your way or threat coming your way?
BILL: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. In a lot of different ways and threats are coming my way on a regular basis. I mean, the prime minister of Russia at the World Economic Forum in Davos was asked by a number of prominent journalists what do you have to say about the Magnitsky case? And he said it’s too bad that Sergey Magnitsky is dead and Bill Browder is still alive and running around. And that’s the prime minister of Russia saying that.
GLENN: Wow. Bill, we will add you to our prayers. And I appreciate the way you have handled yourself in front of Congress and here, not wanting to just get involved in the politics. I’ve given you a couple of opportunities, and you took me up on none of them, and I really appreciate that. Thank you for your integrity on this and your willingness to stand up in facing your own personal danger. Thank you so much, sir.
BILL: Thank you.
GLENN: You bet. Bye-bye. Bill Browder, he is the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management.
PAT: Seems like a stand up guy.
GLENN: He does. He’s got a weird past. Very weird past.
PAT: Does he? I don’t know much about his past.
STU: He announced his citizenship, right?
GLENN: He announced his American citizenship.
PAT: Oh, why? That would have been an interesting question.
GLENN: I would like to have him on again, and we’ll ask him that. But I would like to know that. He’s also at one point, I think he was a communist, wasn’t he?
STU: His grandfather was.
GLENN: Yeah, that’s right. His grandfather was a communist. The head of the party, actually.
GLENN: So he’s got a very different — now to be the head of a capital fund, a hedge fund is really quite interesting. He’s got quite a life story to tell. And this is just another turn in it. But we have much more. This actually full disclosure to you, this is actually just some research that we’re doing on a much larger story that we hope to have finished by the middle of September and be able to put all of this together on a massive chalkboard, so you can understand all of the pieces of the Russia story. Because I am totally convinced it doesn’t matter who was elected. Anyone who is willing — and both Clinton and the Trump family both willing to play footsies with the Russians — it doesn’t matter. If Donald Trump would have lost, Hillary Clinton would have been here, and we would have had the same kind of conversation that we’re having now, and we all just would have switched chairs. We all would have been saying this has to be investigated. This is treason. We would have been saying it because Donald Trump won, they’re saying it. We need to find a way to come to the truth where we’re both sides saying the same thing. And the first thing you have to get to is Putin is evil. He is a stone-cold killer, and he is trying to cause chaos in the West and correct what he says is the biggest mistake in 20th century history and bring back the Soviet empire.