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At This Hour

Now: Ketanji Brown Jackson Faces Final Day Of Questioning; Ukraine Fights On One Month Into Bloody War With Russia; 1 Dead, Thousands Without Power After Tornadoes Strike Louisiana. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 23, 2022 - 11:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The aftermath of this exchange when he questioned the empathy that she brings to sentence defendants. Listen.


SEN. THOM TILLIS, (R-NC): But if I take a look at your responses to some of my colleague's questions and your statements to some of the -- to some of the defendants, it seems as though you're a very kind person, and that there's at least a level of empathy that enters into your treatment of a defendant that some could view as a maybe beyond what some of us would be comfortable with, with respect to administering justice.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Thank you for letting me clarify the statements that I made about my practices as a trial judge, which I'm no longer a trial judge, but were intended to explain how trial judges operate and how they impose sentences within the framework that Congress has provided.

Nobody said to them, do you understand that there are children who will never have normal lives because you sold crack to their parents and now they're in a vortex of addiction? Do you understand that Mr. Defendant? I was the one in my sentencing practices who explained to those things in, an interest, of furthering Congress's direction that we are supposed to be sentencing people so that they can ultimately be rehabilitated to the benefit of society as a whole.


RAJU: Now, questioning is going to continue to the course of today, the rest of the members on this committee will get 20 minutes apiece to continue to question her, and it's expected to extend into the evening time, and then the Senate Judiciary Chairman will schedule a vote on the committee. That's going to probably happen probably the next week or so before the Democrats try to push her through by the Easter holiday before that day by early April here.

At the moment, Kate, all signs are pointing that she does have the votes, ultimately, to get confirmed. Democrats are not signaling any suggestion that they are breaking ranks in any way in the 50-50 Senate. They have the votes, perhaps they can pick off one or two, but probably not any more than that. A sign of how contentious and partisan Supreme Court proceedings have become, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Absolutely. Gloria, what do you make of what we've seen so far today, as well as just over two days of questioning now for, with the judge?

GLORIA BROWN-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: I see grace under pressure. I see such a wonderful example of a black female intellectual that the country needs to see, the world needs to see. And the first black female attorney was in 1872.

We've had this type of intellectual firepower from the very beginning. I'm glad she's having the opportunity to display it. As opposed to a Brett Kavanaugh who, you know, threw a tantrum screamed, bang the table. I mean, there's such a difference in what we're seeing with this composure.

She's being attacked, being told she's soft on crime when she has people in her family who are in policing and thinking that because she's representing her clients with Guantanamo Bay or whomever the clients may be, that that means she is her client that she must have those same values. So I think she's doing a brilliant job in letting them see who she is as a person and how she will be as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

BOLDUAN: And, Jeffrey, she was asked to talk even go a little more deeper today about her brother -- her family's service, her brother's service in law enforcement, and how that impacts her. I'm going to play that for everyone.


JACKSON: As proud as we are of his service, as much as we know, it's important, law enforcement is a dangerous profession and as family members, you worry, when you don't get the phone call when you haven't heard for a couple of days when you hear about things in the news in the community, you worry.

I understand the need for law enforcement, the importance of having people who are willing to do that important work, the importance of holding people accountable for their criminal behavior. I also, as a lawyer and a citizen, believe very strongly in our Constitution, and the rights that make us free.


BOLDUAN: A unique perspective that would be brought to the court, what -- her -- that just -- even just that bit of her family -- her family story or family history. What do you think of that, Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Indeed, Kate. And in fact, you know, in these hearings, the justices are would-be justices. You know, they're very careful to try to, you know, not say too much. But we do learn things and you know, one of the things we learned -- I think we've learned over the past few days is that there's a long recent history in the Supreme Court of law professors on the Court.


TOOBIN: Justice Barrett, Justice Kagan, Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Scalia, are all -- were all law professors. Judge Jackson, perhaps Justice Jackson, is not a law professor and she doesn't approach the law like a law professor. And I think that's a very interesting difference. It is much closer to Justice Sotomayor, who was also a district court judge.

You know, very fact-based, very related to each individual case, as opposed to an overarching theory of the Constitution. You know, neither approach is right or wrong, but they're different. And I think, you know, that is a real clue to the kind of Justice Judge Jackson will be, much more sort of practical case by case-oriented rather than theoretical in her approach.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's really interesting. It's great to see you all. Thank you so much. Great reporting out there, Manu, keep it going. I really appreciate it guys. Coming up for us, a month into Putin's war in Ukraine, Russian forces are struggling to seize key cities. We discuss the next phase of this bloody warning.



BOLDUAN: A month into the war in Ukraine, we see -- have seen horrific images almost daily of the toll taken on the people of Ukraine, yet still, not a single major city has been captured. Not Odessa, despite constant shelling by what one official says are Russian warships, not Mariupol, which has been reduced to ashes according to the Ukrainian president, and also not Kyiv where 80 percent of the capital city is still in Ukrainian control.

Now, as Russian forces see little progress, there is a new concern of what Putin might try next. I'm joined now by CNN Military Analyst Colonel Cedric Leighton, and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder. Thank you so much for being here, both. Colonel, one month into this invasion, what have you learned about Ukrainian and Russian capabilities in this reality?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Kate, so this is very interesting because, you know, we did not think that the Ukrainians would be able to put up this much of a fight. You know, when you looked at the force's dispositions on paper, it was very clear that the forces were preponderance -- the preponderance of the power was in Russia's favor.

And the fact of the matter is, though, that the Ukrainians have done a magnificent job with what they have and that's, you know, certainly making a severe dent in Russia's ability to move forward with their plans. So Russia has not been able to succeed at all, I -- and that is something that's very surprising based on not only their doctrine but on the preponderance of forces that the Russians have. BOLDUAN: And, Ambassador, we've laid out how this invasion clearly has not gone according to plan for Russia. But what does that say to you about where you think this is headed and what Putin does next?

IVO DAALDER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, he's got one of two choices. He can either try to sue for peace and try to have a negotiation and get the best possible deal out of it, although, given up where the Ukrainians are, and it made very clear that there are no territorial concessions in the cards, that seems unlikely or he can escalate.

He's already done that by starting to bomb and level entire cities, as you mentioned, Mariupol, as now looks like Grozny did in the Chechen -- after the Chechen war, or indeed, Aleppo, after the Syrian war, with incredible humanitarian damages and problems. But he can go further. He can bomb a chemical industrial facility in order to release chemicals all around Ukraine.

He's already done that with an ammonia facility. He could bomb biological research facilities, or worse, he can actually use chemical or biological weapons or even nuclear weapons. And I think that's the issue we now are confronting. President Biden already warned against chemical weapons used, they keep talking about it. And in the meeting at NATO, I hope that the president and his 29 colleagues will start addressing what we would do, in case such escalation is forthcoming.

BOLDUAN: I wanted to ask you about the -- on the question of nuclear weapons. The Kremlin spokesperson was on CNN yesterday refused to take the option of using nuclear weapons off the table. And I just spoke with Slovenia's Prime Minister earlier this hour about this. And what he said, his take is that he says, I don't think Russia will use nuclear weapons because using nuclear weapons means passing the threshold and that is an area of no return. What do you think?

DAALDER: Well, I hope they're right. And it would be a major, major escalatory step. We haven't seen nuclear weapons used since 1945, even though they've now been around for over 80 years. And so any use of nuclear weapons, however small, would be fundamentally changed the nature of the conflict. But we can't just dismiss it. Russia has the capability to use these weapons. It's part of their doctrine to escalate in order to de-escalate, and nuclear weapons are an explicit part of this.


DAALDER: And so we need to be prepared and be clear about what the consequences are that we would be willing to do. In my case, I think NATO needs to be willing to enter the conflict and defeat Russia in Ukraine and help Ukrainians win this war if they escalate in this completely and totally unacceptable way.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see both of you. Thank you so much for coming in. Coming up for us, thousands of people in Louisiana are without power right now after a deadly tornado outbreak tears through the state. We're going to go live from one of the hardest-hit areas next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tornado on the ground. Tornado on the ground. If you're in Arabi --




BOLDUAN: Developing this morning. An outbreak of tornado is carving a huge path of destruction in Louisiana overnight, at least one person is dead and dozens of homes destroyed after two tornadoes ripped through the New Orleans area, thousands are without power this morning. CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is live in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana with more. Wow, look what's just behind you.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, this area, it just can't catch a break. You know, think about the storms that have ravaged this area, Katrina, Andrew, multiple tornadoes dating back to February 7, 2017, record tornado struck the same region. Now this very powerful, unfortunately, devastating and deadly tornado has once again struck St. Bernard Parish, where we're located right here.

And just using some of the terminology and the words from the Sheriff of St. Bernard Parish, he described it as widespread damage and that's what we're witnessing on the ground here as well. Let me show you what we've seen. This is just absolutely incredible.

First of all, we've got a full electrical pole here in front of us, and then directly behind me, and it's almost impossible to miss, we have an overturned school bus and there are other school buses that have actually been lofted over 100 yards behind me. And my photographer, talk -- working very hard today.

He and I were walking past this bus and we just had a moment where we said, you just think about the gravity of the situation, what we are actually witnessing here to see an overturned size vehicle of this magnitude. It's just absolutely incredible. You can see how the glass has been shattered, it almost looks as if the entire bus has been squashed as well as it got turned over on its side, and then clearly was rammed or knocked into this other bus.

And then if you look further in the distance, I don't know if Taka (PH) can get that. But that busway down there, that's about 100 yards away from us and that's the bus that was originally parked here where I'm standing before the tornado arrived. Absolutely, difficult and horrible scenes for these people but there's so much humanity going on, people are joining together to help clean up the streets.

We went down the road into the kind of the city center of this particular area, and they were handing out sandwiches, they were handing out donuts, coffee, to all the first responders and media, we were so grateful for that. Anybody would be grateful for something like that, especially when the water is not working, the electricity is still out within this area. We have had comparisons of an EF-3 tornado that again struck back in 2017.

And some of the local meteorologists in this area are comparing it to that, saying that this damage is comparable to that particular scenario. So we believe once the National Weather Service completes its survey this morning and this afternoon, we're going to find winds here well, in excess of 115 miles per hour at least, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it is unbelievable. Derek, thank you for being there, thank you for showing us, it's going to be a long, long, long weeks ahead.


BOLDUAN: Now, let's turn to some promising news, promising news on the pandemic actually. Moderna has announced today that its lower dose COVID vaccine performs as well in children under six years old as it does in adults. The biotech company says the data that it released this morning shows their vaccine provides "a robust neutralizing antibody response and a favorable safety profile." Moderna says, with that, it will be asking the FDA in the coming weeks to authorize the use of the two-dose vaccine for children ages six months to five years.

Also developing this morning, investigators in China say that they found the cockpit voice recorder from a Boeing 737 passenger jet that crashed in China on Monday. The recorder is one of two black boxes that crews are -- crews want to help determine the cause of China's worst air disaster in a decade. 132 people were on board when the plane went down. Flight tracking data shows that it fell more than 25,000 feet in less than two minutes. No survivors have been found.

Now to Afghanistan, where the Taliban is backtracking on a critical promise that it made after it seized power. Taliban is postponing the return to school for girls above sixth grade. Today was to be the first day that those schools were open in 187 days. The Taliban claims that it will wait until a school uniform is designed that they deem appropriate. The UN Mission in Afghanistan in response "deplores the decision." Remember, the Taliban had banned women and girls from education, and most work when they were last in power between '96 and 2001, will continue to stay on that.

One month into Russia's horrific war on Ukraine, another stark reminder of the beauty and resilience of the Ukrainian people amid the ruin. Check out this very powerful moment in Kharkiv.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Playing the cello.

BOLDUAN (voiceover): That is a Ukrainian cellist who's played on some of the world's most prestigious concert halls, now playing Bach on the deserted and bombed-out streets of his hometown. He says he's hoping to raise funds for humanitarian aid and also help restore Kharkiv after the war is over. Ukrainian officials say more than 600 multi- story buildings including schools have been destroyed in Kharkiv. What a haunting image.

For more information on how you can help the people of Ukraine, go to Thanks for being here today.