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‘He was in business with the cartoon caricature of corruption’: Maddow breaks down Trump-Azerbaijan report

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday began her program with a rundown of the bombshell report linking Donald Trump to corrupt Azerbaijani oligarchs and an Iranian military group, explaining, “there is a reason we should expect this White House to do everything in his power to keep secret his finances and his business dealings.”

The report, published by The New Yorker, examined a Trump-backed hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation.

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Maddow traced a contract between the small country of Azerbaijan, a “former soviet state run by a dictator,” to a failed Trump Organization building project in Azerbaijan. She explained the history of Azerbaijan’s relationship with Bechtel, a U.S.-based infrastructure company that in 2007 lost out on a bid to build roads in the former Soviet state. She noted the public learned about Bechtel’s failed bid from a website that made significant waves in the 2016 presidential election: the transparency organization, WikiLeaks.

“Before WikiLeaks got all inextricably bound up in our new national nightmare about Russia hacking our presidential election … back when WikiLeaks was instead just wholesale dumping U.S. State Department cables into the public domain, one of the things we learned was actually about a funny thing that happened to this giant company, Bechtel,” Maddow began.

She explained that Azerbaijan’s oil wealth “resulted in them doing a lot of building,” including “show off-y buildings.” The country’s transport minister Ziya Mammadov met with the Senior Vice President of the Bechtel Corporation, Charles Redman, in 2007, eventually declining to work with Bechtel because the rates were “quite expensive.” The country instead went with a company that cost three times as much as Bechtel.

“Instead of costing 5 or 6 millions dollars per kilometer [for roads], they had the work done for 18 million dollars per kilometer,” Maddow said. “Huh? Bechtel must have been like, ‘Say what now? We’re too expensive so you send us away so you can have the work done instead at more than triple our price? What?’”

Maddow said the monetary discrepancy starts “to make sense when it comes to stories related to our new president,” pointing to Adam Davidson’s New Yorker piece published Monday that explained the relationship between Trump, Azerbaijan, and oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (an Iranian military organization that low-key provides financial support to terrorist organizations).

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Maddow said the New Yorker piece offers the “next major line of inquiry into our new president,” and provides one of the “best explanations we have had yet about why the White House is so dramatically freaked out about the prospect that there might be an independent investigation into the president and his contacts.”

The MSNBC host explained that the company that landed Azerbaijan’s road contract “is a company that is believed to be controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard”—an Iranian military organization that preserves “internal order” in the country and “wages war on behalf of Iranian interests.” As Maddow pointed out, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is a “supporter of international terrorist movements” and “deeply sanctioned by the U.S. government.”

She explained that it’s often “awkward, hard” and “illegal” for companies that sponsor terrorists “to move money around,” adding it’s important that monetary transactions “appear to be legitimate business transactions.”

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Maddow then turned to the never-opened Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, a planned building in Azerbaijan that “on the surface makes no financial sense.” The hotel was planned miles away from any other major luxury hotel, with no access to the Caspian Sea.

“It really just doesn’t make sense on the surface,” Maddow repeated, later asking “why was this built, how could this ever make financial sense?”

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The MSNBC host explained the Trump family “abandoned this project” a month after Trump’s election, but “not before [Trump] received millions of dollars in that deal”—a deal forged between Trump and billionaire transport minister Mammadov (the same Mammadov that helped the Iranian Revolutionary Guard launder money to terrorist organizations).

Maddow said while U.S. companies are free to do business with any company in the world, they are not free to conduct business if funds originate from companies tied to terrorism. “You have to know,” Maddow explained. “Looking the other way is not a defense.”

“You are expected to do your due diligence,” she added.

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“Trump and his family were in business with the cartoon caricature of corruption,” Maddow said of the president’s ties to Azerbaijan’s Mammadov. The host pointed out, “It is a violation of U.S. law” to do business with a company that helps fund terrorism.

Maddow suggested “if there is going to be an independent investigation into this president,” it must include an investigation into Trump’s financial holdings.

“There is a reason we should expect this White House to do everything in his power to keep secret his finances and his business dealings,” she said.

Watch the videos below, via MSNBC:

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PART 1–

PART 2 —

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2020 Election

Here are 3 winners and 3 losers from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the other leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Wednesday night in the fieriest evening of the race so far.

His presence on the stage drew fire from the other candidates, but it also seemed to change the overall tone of the debate, with more attacks, counter-attacks, and passion than was generally seen earlier in the campaign.

Here’s a (necessarily subjective!) list of the winners and losers from the fray:

Winners

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Warren hit her stride right as the debate started by attacking Bloomberg for his record on the mistreatment of women, racist policies, and his tax returns. She repeatedly came back to skewer the former mayor, making herself the biggest and most notable presence in the debate. But importantly, she also continuously brought the discussion back to the issues she cares about — like expanding health care, environmental justice,  and consumer protection — while getting in digs at the other candidates on the stage.

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Michael Bloomberg ‘lost everything’ in Las Vegas: MSNBC analyst

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Senior editor for "The Root," Jason Johnson, concluded that the biggest loser of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas Wednesday was Michael Bloomberg, but not merely because of his debate performance.

"The big new name was going to be Michael Bloomberg," he said. "This was probably the most expensive night in Vegas I've ever seen. He lost everything. This guy has spent $320 million. He had the opportunity to stand on stage, and appear to be an equal, and he looked bored. He looked disenchanted. He stumbled over obvious questions that anybody would have anticipated about sexual harassment and stop and frisk. I thought it was a bad night for him."

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Pro-immigration protesters interrupt Joe Biden’s closing statement at debate

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Former Vice President Joe Biden's closing statement was interrupted by protesters at Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate.

As Biden began his remarks, demonstrators began shouting about the Obama administration's record on deportations.

WATCH: Protesters interrupt the #DemDebate as the debate nears end. pic.twitter.com/TKCn6eIEsN

— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2020

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