Return to Transcripts main page
At This Hour
Manchin To Vote "Yes" On Jackson's Nomination To Supreme Court; Texts Show Supreme Court Justice's Wife Pushed To Overturn 2020 Election; Ukraine Tells U.S. It Needs 500 Javelins And 500 Stingers Per Day; Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired March 25, 2022 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Coming up for us, the January 6th Committee now has text messages between the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and former President Trump's chief of staff. What they reveal about efforts to overturn the 2020 election? Next.
BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says he will vote yes to confirm President Biden's Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Manchin's announcement all but guarantees Jackson will have the votes to be confirmed even without a single Republican vote. Democrats still have the numbers for a party-line vote and Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. Democrats are hoping to hold a full Senate vote in early April.
Also new today, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been released from the hospital. He had been there for a week being treated for what's described as an infection. Thomas was hospitalized last Friday when he started experiencing flu-like symptoms, and he missed oral arguments all this week.
Also, the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection has obtained text messages between the wife of Justice Thomas and former President Trump's chief of staff. In dozens of text messages, Ginni Thomas pushed false claims of voter fraud and pressed Mark Meadows to help Trump overturn the 2020 election results. CNN's Jessica Schneider is live in Washington with more on this. Jessica, tell us about these text messages.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, there were really a flurry of these text messages right after the election even in the days after the capital attack. At the same time, Ginni Thomas's husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, was actually considering several cases at the Supreme Court concerning the election. Now, Ginni Thomas in her own right, she has long been an outspoken conservative activist. But the questions now are mounting with these major conflict of interest concerns.
So here are two of those 29 text messages. One was on November 6 when she wrote to Mark Meadows. Do not concede, it takes time for the army who is gathering for his back. Then on November 10, she wrote. Help this great president stand firm, Mark, you are the leader with him who is standing for America's constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest heist of our history. That's when Meadows responds, I will stand firm. We will fight until there is no fight left. Our country is too precious to give up on. Thanks for all you do.
Now, Ginni Thomas in recent weeks, she's actually given an interview, she insisted that she played no role in planning the attack that day. And she's really made clear that she is careful to distance her political activity from her husband, but court watchdogs, they're flagging the fact that Justice Thomas dissented in February 2021 after the majority of the Court declined to hear a case that sought to disqualify Pennsylvania mail-in ballots and perhaps change the trajectory of the election.
And then in January of this year, Justice Thomas was the only justice to dissent in a case where the Supreme Court said that Trump could not block his White House Records from the January 6 committee. So the Supreme Court justices here including Thomas, Kate, they consistently said that they stay out of politics.
And notably, it is within their own discretion, whether to recuse from a case something Justice Thomas has not done in any of these cases. But the optics here, as you can see with these text messages, 29 and all, the optics are murky, and there are a lot of looming questions that no doubt the committee will probe into, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes. It's good to see you, Jessica. Thank you. Joining me for more is CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Emma Brown. She's an investigative reporter for The Washington Post. Jeffrey, Ginni Thomas, being a longtime conservative activist is well known as Jessica was laying out but this takes it to a new level, doesn't it?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It does because there are many cases in front of the Supreme Court regarding January 6, and regarding the election processes and procedures and aftermath, and obviously, this shows that Ginni Thomas was intimately involved in encouraging the false statements about the election.
Her statements are wildly apocalyptic and exaggerated and factually wrong. That's certainly her right under the First Amendment to say anything she wants. The problem is it creates an enormous appearance of impropriety that Justice Thomas is ruling on these issues when his wife is intimately involved in the underlying facts.
BOLDUAN: Emma, there's also this text from -- after the interaction that I want to get to about the Vice President -- Vice President -- then-Vice President Mike Pence, where Ginni Thomas writes, we are living through what feels like the end of America. Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in listening mode to see where to fight with our teams. Those who attack the Capitol are not representative of our great teams of patriots for Donald Trump. Amazing times. The end of liberty. What sticks out to you here with well, all of these text messages I guess? [11:40:00]
EMMA BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I mean, this one, in particular, let's remember that this came after we heard people marching through the halls of the Capitol saying, hang Mike Pence, you know, and he was rushed into hiding because he was trying to uphold the Constitution and the law governing the certification of Biden's victory.
And so she seems to be saying that, you know that what he did was wrong and that they are going to fight against what he did. And she's saying what he did was unAmerican when what we hear from constitutional scholars, including conservative constitutional scholars is that Pence had no choice but to uphold and certified Biden's Electoral College victory that day. So her -- she's operating in a -- in what feels like almost a different frame of reference from the legal world that Pence was operating in.
BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, Jeffrey, when it comes to Clarence Thomas, are there rules around recusal -- are there norms around recusal when it comes to Supreme Court Justices?
TOOBIN: Well, you just made the key distinction there. I think most people don't realize that there are binding rules about the ethics of lower Federal Court judges, but there are no rules about the non- Supreme Court justices. They have exempted themselves from the ethical rules that apply to other federal judges. So there are no binding rules about recusal. There are, as you suggest, norms. And for example, Stephen Breyer, his brother is a Federal District Court Judge. Stephen Breyer has always recused himself when his brother's case has anything to do with them or before the Supreme Court.
The justices, as a group are pretty fastidious about avoiding the appearance of impropriety. However, Clarence Thomas has been in a completely separate category. He has, as far as I'm aware, never recused himself where his wife's political activities are involved. And here, you have the most direct connection between her activities and cases before Justice Thomas, but there is no remedy except impeachment. And obviously, that's just not going to happen under these circumstances.
BOLDUAN: Right. And, Emma, I saw you pick up on a text exchange that has been revealed. That stood out to me as well. Ginni Thomas texting Meadows about the Trump team, when they made the decision to distance themselves -- or tried to distance themselves from one of their -- one of their legal team, Sidney Powell.
And Thomas messaged Meadows at the time, trying to understand the Sidney Powell distancing. And Meadows text back, she doesn't have anything or at least won't share it if she does. So what stuck out to me on first reading it was how close Thomas comes off in this as being to the central figures in the push to overturn the election. What grabbed your attention?
EMMA BROWN: Yes, that's right. She was pushing for Sidney Powell to be the face of the legal team, we see in these texts. And -- but what really stood out to me was Meadows writing back and saying she doesn't have evidence, Sidney Powell doesn't -- she's not showing us anything to back up her claims. And so, you know, this just really adds to this growing body of evidence that's been reported elsewhere, that people in Trump's inner circle, including here, the Chief of Staff at the White House, were aware that he was -- he was -- that the president himself was echoing claims that were -- that were baseless and without evidence.
BOLDUAN: And then they knew it and they knew it early. It's good to see both of you. Thank you very much. Coming up. Ukraine making specific requests for the weapons it says it needs to combat Russian forces. Will the U.S. give President Zelenskyy what he's asking for? That's next.
BOLDUAN: Breaking news right now. As you can see here, President Biden is getting a briefing at the moment about the humanitarian response to the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war. This humanitarian crisis is really an unprecedented one in the scope and scale, and speed that we've seen this. We're going to monitor this. We're going to bring you any updates as they come in.
Ukraine is asking the United States for two types of weapons right now, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles. The Ukrainians say they need 500 of each every day to combat Russia. Ukraine says this is what it needs to take on Russian forces one month into this war.
Joining me right now for more on this is CNN Military Analyst General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. General, Ukrainians are asking for 500 of each of these every day. What does that request tell you?
WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, they're on the offensive. So what they're doing is they're working dismounted as much as they can. They're moving out. The Russians are in fixed positions at least around Kyiv and in some of the southern cities. You've got to get these weapons out to the field. So they're being consumed, they're being used but they've got to be distributed so they're going -- they just need a lot of mass and these weapons because you don't know which small unit is going to have the shot and so you may be sending out 40, 50 teams, each with three or four weapons.
CLARK: Maybe only 10 of those teams make contact, but they need everything they've got. So you can't precisely allocate the weapons. It's not like an airpower operation where you do everything central, this is decentralized so they do need a lot of weapons. But I would also say that's not all they need. These are stingers and javelins would be coming from our stocks, but they need tanks, they need artillery rounds, they need artillery tubes because they've got to go on the offensive now. This is a window of opportunity for their forces to go on against a
relatively stable station -- stationary Russian force that's trying to rearm and refuel and put more troops in there. So they're fixed. This is a time for the Ukrainians to jump on them and push them out of Ukraine. They will do that if they have the resources.
BOLDUAN: General, I'm going to jump in, we're going to -- if you stick with me, we're going to head over to Poland real quick to listen in President Biden speaking.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean that sincerely. It's not hyperbole. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. And so what you, the humanitarian community are doing is of such enormous consequences. Brother, this is what we say we're about. This is what we say our obligations are. But you live up to it. We're doing it every day, all of you that are sitting at this table.
And so, you know, I'm here in Poland to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis. And quite frankly, part of my disappointment is that I can't see it firsthand like, I have in other places. They will not let me, understandably I guess, cross the border and take a look at what going on in Ukraine. But you know, I'm eager to hear from you and the humanitarian community, about what you see, what you're doing, and where you think we go from here because you're doing it every day.
As been pointed out, 10 million people have been displaced thus far, 3.8 million people to other countries, including more than a million children. And according to the UN, there are thousands of civilian casualties. 12 million in need of assistance. But hundreds of thousands -- hundreds of thousands of people were being cut off from help by Russian forces and are in besieged places like Mariupol. I mean, it's not stopping. It's like something not about science fiction movies, you turn on the television and see what the -- what these towns look like, the city.
I want to thank each one of you in your organizations -- excuse me. We were visiting our troops and they had pizza pie with hot peppers. But you know, you're helping millions of people -- millions of people and we must have to continue to scale up that assistance, coordinated closely with the Government of Ukraine, which is really I think even you Poles who know Ukraine so we'll have to be a little bit surprised at how -- what -- how much courage and passion, resilience, in Ukrainian people when you see a 30-year-old woman standing there in front of a tank with a -- with a rifle. I mean, I'm talking about what happened in Tiananmen Square. That's Tiananmen Square-square.
And look, the -- whether it's food or blanket or cash or care for medical teams that we send in, or child welfare specialist, they need it now. They need it as rapidly as we can get it there. And so yesterday I announced on behalf of the American people, we're prepared to provide another 1 billion as the Ambassador point out $1 billion for those who fled and those who are affected around the world as the consequences of the negative impact of this war on food security. The bad news is they are the breadbasket of the world, Ukraine and
Russia. But we -- the United States are going to do our part to get rid of the third-largest producer of wheat in the world. And our Canadian friends are going to do the same thing. But -- we're going to try very hard.
BIDEN: But in the meantime, the suffering that's taking place now is at your doorstep. You're the ones who are risking, in some cases, you're alive and risky and all you know, to try to help. And the American people are proud to support your efforts.
And today, I want to hear from all of you. The problem is I know they're going to tell me I have to get on the plane. I'm going to have to leave without a lot of questions because I really mean it. I learned a great deal from you and your counterparts as I traveled the world in the last 30 years.
And so I'm honored that President Duda is here today and we're joined by Secretary Blinken and an old friend as well as my Secretary of State and our USID -- USA ID administrator, Samantha Powers, who, like my sister, whatever I say she says it's not enough. It's not enough. I don't get to do more. And this is a workhorse so -- but I'm now going to turn it back to Harrison (PH) and get to (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. President. Present Duda, I'd love -- if you'd like to say a few words, and before --
BOLDUAN: As President Biden was just discussing, a staggering 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled the war since Russia's invasion and it could be 4 million -- and likely will be 4 million in just -- in just days. The countries on Ukraine's border like Poland are accepting the refugees. They are facing unprecedented challenges. You know, these refugees' housing, clothing, helping and feeding the millions who are escaping the violence. One organization rising to help meet that challenge is World Central Kitchen, which has already served more than a million meals to refugees inside and outside Ukraine.
Joining me now is Chef and Restaurateur Marc Murphy. He's in Poland. He's been cooking meals for refugees as part of the World Central Kitchen Chefs for Ukraine relief effort. It's great to see you, Marc. How's it going?
MARC MURPHY, CHEF HELPING FEED REFUGEES WITH WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Hi, how are you? Good to see you. How's it going, we're cooking a lot of food. We're cooking -- we're -- actually I'm in the kitchen right now, we're in about 10 minutes away from the border, we're pretty well strategically located to be able to get to different border crossings where we're delivering food every day. I'm -- you know, I'm in the kitchen, this is where I belong, I can help most here so that's what I'm doing. We have these huge kettles behind me, we have a bunch of volunteers in the back peeling vegetables, and we're just producing food and getting it to where it -- where it needs to go.
BOLDUAN: You've been there now for two weeks and millions of people have fled Ukraine into Poland, what's been most striking to you, Marc? What's sticking with you the most while being there?
MURPHY: I mean, yes, I have gone to the border twice, actually just to see the operations of where the food is actually being given out and it's just heartbreaking to see these women and children crossing the border with suitcases and some shopping bags. And I think they get here, they don't know where they're going to go. They go -- they get off the train station and then they're redistributing people going to different shelters, where we're also feeding them and you know they're just trying to find places to go. It's just -- it's just amazing that this is -- this is happening right now. Actually, it's hard to understand.
BOLDUAN: It is. It is. It should be hard to understand. This is not normal. This shouldn't be normal. These people as you're talking about, have just left -- have been forced to leave everything behind, they're literally running for their lives. With all of that, what is the simple act of giving a hot meal mean?
MURPHY: You know, when they get over the border, we're actually -- we have -- we got a huge amount of apples donated so we're making a lot of applesauce and putting in a little container and you know, giving a little kid a thing of applesauce when they get over the border. You don't know how long they've been traveling. Or we'd make some hot cocoa, or even just a nice warm -- we're calling it goulash here.
We're making, you know, meat stews that they can sit in there while they're waiting in line after they get across the border or they're waiting for a bus or a train. I mean getting a warm cup of soup. It's just -- you know it's a human right to be able to eat and have something comforting like that and we're here to try to provide that.
BOLDUAN: How long do you think you're going to be there? I mean, what compelled you to drop everything and go, Marc?
MURPHY: I just -- you know, I was watching the news and I just thought, you know what, I have a skill that can be used, I'm going to do it. I'm just going to cancel a bunch of stuff, I cleared my schedule, and I'm here and people keep asking me how long I'm going to be here for and I don't know. If this feels like the right thing for me to do I can -- I feel like I'm making an impact, and know how -- I know how to be part of a brigade of folks and I'm happy to be able to do a lot of my skills.
BOLDUAN: Well, you are having an impact. It's really good to see you. Thank you so much. Now, get back to work.
MURPHY: Thank you. OK, thank you.
BOLDUAN: Hope to see you soon. Thank you.
If you're talking about the impact that Marc's making, you can have an impact too. For more information on how you can help the people of Ukraine go to cnn.com/impact. CNN's coverage of Russia's war on Ukraine continues on INSIDE POLITICS right now. Thanks for being here, everybody.