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Kremlin Refuses To Confirm 10,000 Russian Soldiers Dead In Ukraine; UN: More Than 3.6 Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine; Now: Final Day Of Questioning For Ketanji Brown Jackson. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 23, 2022 - 12:30   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: -- to try to evacuate people from that city according to Ukraine's government. And meanwhile, the global backlash against Russia is growing. France, freezing $800 million worth of oligarch's assets. Poland, expelling 45 Russian diplomats suspected of espionage. And this, sailors blocking this yacht reportedly linked to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich from docking in Turkey. They were carrying Ukrainian flags and no war signs.

The Kremlin spokesman refusing to comment on a report that nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in war, and Ukrainian officials have also been tight lipped about the death toll among their forces. CNN's Ivan Watson reports on the human cost of this bloody war.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This military cemetery brings home the stark reality Ukraine has been living with for years. All of these crosses, they marked the graves of Ukrainian servicemen who've died fighting against Russian backed separatists in the Donbass region since 2014. And on this side, we have new graves. And they're devoted to casualties from Russia's invasion of Ukraine that was launched on February 24th of this year.

One of the fallen is Mikael Sadiraka (ph), born in 1997, just 25 years old. And if you come over here, you see something else, which is a reminder of how grim this conflict is. The authorities have dug dozens of additional graves, anticipating the likelihood of more casualties in this terrible conflict.

This refrigerator truck represents another side of this war it's parked outside, a city morgue. And city officials say that it is partially filled with the bodies of some 350 Russian soldiers. There is another refrigerator truck they say that is parked in another part of the city with around 400 Russian corpses. And when you come to this side here, you can smell the stench of cadavers.

Ukrainian officials say that they are conducting DNA tests of the Russian dead and that they are then going to send these bodies to the Ukrainian capital to eventually be returned to Russia and to the families for proper burial.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Dnipro, Ukraine.

PHILLIP: A grim reminder of the horrors of war. Now President Biden will come face to face with the growing humanitarian crisis when he visits Poland later this week. More than 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia's invasion about 2 million to Poland alone. CNN's Melissa Bell is at the Polish-Ukrainian border. Melissa, help us to understand what you are seeing there, the scope of this humanitarian crisis?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the best thing, Abby, is just to have a look at what's been put in place here. This is one of the main crossing points into Poland. In the first few days of the conflict there were some 80,000 refugees crossing the border every single day. Now that number has dropped slightly and yet it is still women and children. They continue to arrive in urgent need of shelter with no food, carrying often the clothes on their back and not much else.

So in this disused supermarket, some 4 to 5,000 temporary cots have been laid out with a bit of bedding on them. The women and the children stay there for a couple of nights before moved on to Warsaw mostly to the Polish capital where their paperwork gets processed. The idea is that the European Union is trying to coordinate more and more of these refugees getting across to other European countries.

Now, Amnesty International has been warning that that has not been happening fast enough, which means that a lot of people, a lot of these refugees that have been so desperately in need of shelter, not just the immediate shelter they get here in the first few days and hours but what happens to them longer term, these people who've been so traumatized by everything they fled. How could they be properly received and given refuge in a way that is vaguely decent over the coming weeks while they wait to get back to a country that they think they'll be able to return to soon. Abby?

PHILLIP: We can only hope that that is the case. Melissa Bell, thank you so much for your great reporting.

And for more information about how you can help the people of Ukraine go to


And coming up next for us, you see here some live pictures of President Biden Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, back on Capitol Hill today. We will have the latest as she faces more questions and key senators coming up next.


PHILLIP: So just moments ago, this tense exchange between Senator Lindsey Graham and President Joe Biden Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson just happened. Graham was pressing her again about the sentencing of child porn offenders. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Do you think it is a bigger deterrent to take somebody who's on a computer looking at sexual images of children and the most disgusting way is to supervise their computer habits versus putting them in jail?



GRAHAM: That's exactly what you said. I think the best way to deter people from getting on a computer and viewing thousands and hundreds and overtime, maybe millions, the population of the whole of children being exploited and abused every time somebody clicks on is to put their ass in jail, not supervised their computer usage.

JACKSON: Senator I wasn't talking about versus.

GRAHAM: You just said you thought it was a deterrent to supervise them, I don't think is a deterrent.


PHILLIP: And CNN's Audie Cornish and CNN's Joan Biskupic join our conversation. Joan, this has been the theme for the last two days. But to be clear, she didn't say versus so there is some, you know, Lindsey Graham being Lindsey Graham.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Her position has been caricatured throughout this exaggerated in various ways. And, you know, that's just the message coming from certain Republican senators. But what she's done is tried to explain how she reasoned out her sentences and how she was bound by certain constraints of federal law of the sentencing both of the sentencing guidelines, other congressional dictates looking at other cases, so that when she rules an individual case, it's part of a whole.

And what she tried to stress at every turn, including in that heated exchange and others this morning is how she views the role of a judge that she's someone who's going to, quote stay in her lane. We heard that a lot. And she tried to stress her methodology here of what she looks at in terms of the facts, the law, and applying it.

And she made an interesting point to Senator Grassley, at the outset that I think is important to note. She said, for those trying to pin her down on judicial philosophy, she said, my philosophy is a methodology. I don't come from academia. I'm not a law professor, like some of my other colleagues would be, I'm going to try to do it as a trial judge, not -- she didn't say, as a trial judge, but in that kind of step by step process.

PHILLIP: Because she has that experience.

BISKUPIC: Exactly, right.

PHILLIP: Which is relatively rare for a Supreme Court nominees. BISKUPIC: Right.

PHILLIP: But on the politics of this, you know, there seem to have been a little bit of discomfort in some camps in the Republican Party about do we go down this road of the child porn offenders? Lindsey Graham seems to have decided this is a political winner.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, well, honestly, watching this hearing, and I have covered a number of them, as you know, from the political side, I know, Joan, you obviously, do it from the legal side. This feels more like a campaign event, then a long drawn out campaign event than it does like a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

I mean, we know that she is all but assured to be confirmed. And now you have Republicans who are essentially trying to one up each other on this set of attacks. Ted Cruz was the first one to really unleash it yesterday that he was followed by Josh Hawley, and by others, they're all -- most of them are running for president, unlike Lindsey Graham is, but Ted Cruz likely is, Josh Hawley likely is.

And let's not forget that this also treads upon some of the territory that involves the farthest right conspiracy mongering wing of I don't know if I even want to say the Republican Party, but certainly they were supporters of Donald Trump and very loud set of voices in -- on the QAnon side. So yes, it's been an interesting couple days.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, on top of that, there's also this issue of Guantanamo Bay, she was a public defender defending some folks on -- in Guantanamo Bay. And she presented yet another explanation for that, to get ahead of some of these arguments today.


JACKSON: When we responded as a country to the terrible attacks on 9/11, we were upholding our constitutional values, that we weren't allowing the terrorists to win by changing who we are. And so I joined with many lawyers, during that time, who were helping the courts figure out the limits of executive authority. I worked to protect our country, my brother worked on the frontlines, and it was all because public services important to us.


PHILLIP: So the White House is working behind the scenes with her to make sure she's shoring up things that maybe were loose ends from the day before. And that seemed to be one of those loose ends that they wanted to tie up.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think the White House had anticipated that this would be one of the issues that she would confront in these hearings. I have to say, though, watching some of these Republican lawmakers trying to paint her as being soft on crime, being this extremist liberal when it comes to issues of race and attacking her on her work related to child sex and porn offenders. You sort of get a sense that I think this is what you were alluding to, Kasie, before that some of these ideas that in the past were considered fringe ideas are increasingly becoming less fringe within the Republican Party and that these issues are seen as increasingly important for some Republican lawmakers in sort of rallying their base. And I think a lot about how President Biden had said he wanted to bring civility and respect and bipartisanship back to Washington. And he had hoped that these hearings would sort of do that. And I think in some ways, we are seeing --


HUNT: Hasn't happened.

LEE: Has not happened in some ways.

PHILLIP: Not even close. And in fact, at sea, you know, they've gone are the days of these hearings being kind of academic in nature. But last night, she -- after a very harrowing day, really, on some of this stuff, she had a pretty emotional end talking about her time as a working mom, about her place in this country's history of civil rights.


JACKSON: We had to deal with me juggling motherhood and job responsibilities. And I didn't always get the balance right. Seeing me moved to the Supreme Court that they can know that you don't have to be perfect in your career trajectory, and you can still end up doing what you want to do that you just have to understand that there are a lots of responsibilities in the world and that you don't have to be a perfect mom. But if you do your best, and you love your children, that things will, things will turn out OK.


PHILLIP: She will join another working mother on the court. But for her it is very different for a lot of other reasons. And yesterday was a really tough day and you could see it in her -- hear it in her voice.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I can see that was also at the end of the day when the cameras aren't quite so focused on what's going on, which means the attempts to humanize her, they kind of fall to the side, right? Because most of the day you have people who are trying to essentially politically neutralize this for the White House to say, hey, you have a working mom, someone interested in criminal defense experience that isn't on the bench right now.

Well, where we're going to neutralize this is by basically holding any in every client or issue against her, which is why there are so few people with criminal justice -- criminal defense backgrounds on the federal bench in general, we saw that weaponized. And but we're also seeing this movement to basically say, hey, this isn't going to be a win for this White House. By the time these hearings are over the SEO or the Google search term is going to be for child porn, right? Not for anything else, not for Thurgood Marshall, not for any of the aspects of this hearing that I think the White House hoped would be sort of more at the forefront.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, even if they can't stop the nomination, they can change the narrative around the nomination.

CORNISH: Not just change it, they can bruise her up on the way to fall.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. Thank you all for that conversation.


PHILLIP: Take a look at this. Fighters in Odessa are preparing to fight against the Russian invasion and they're listening to Bon Jovi's "It's My life." Bon Jovi retweeted that video with the song lyrics, this is for the ones who stood their ground. We'll be right back.


PHILLIP: Nestle is suspending some of its biggest brands like Kit Kat and Nesquik in Russia after criticism from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. As the world pulls away from Russian markets, Americans, though, are still feeling the strain at the gas pump. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell is joining me now. Catherine, there is obviously a lot of pain at the pump already. And politicians are saying, OK, what should we do to fix it? There are a lot of proposals out there. You have listed a few of them. But you're seeing effectively some of these things, Keystone XL pipeline, accountability for oil executives, these are kind of red herrings.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think the issue is that politicians are so eager to find a politically convenient villain to blame for high gas prices, they have forgotten to figure out what's actually causing the high gas prices. And the Russia wars is an element here, that's certainly responsible for the most recent run up in oil prices and gas prices. But they've been rising for about the past two years. And part of the issue is that demand is really, really strong, on the one hand. And supply has been constrained and supplies constrained in part because energy companies are really risk averse about increasing how much they pump right now.

PHILLIP: This is for the Biden administration, a big challenge. How do they get them to pump more gas?

RAMPELL: Right, right. And I think the villain that the right has chosen is essentially Biden's war on fossil fuels, his climate agenda, which again, I think is mostly red herring, the kinds of things that Biden has done really haven't had much effect. Things like canceling the U.S. side permits for Keystone XL pipeline. That pipeline was only 8 percent built at the point that that happened, it was largely a symbolic measure, you know, it wouldn't be built today. So Biden's climate agenda is not really an issue here. On the left, you have this explanation of corporate greed or profiteering, again, it's a bit of a red herring. What really needs to happen is that energy companies need to feel like there's just not that much risk out there in the market so that they can start pumping more oil and prices won't fall by the time that that oil becomes available.


PHILLIP: That seems like a politically very tough thing to do but what do you --

RAMPELL: Yes, it's not easy to tweet that explanation.

PHILLIP: Prices have been coming down a tad bit. Before you go, I mean, what do you think the future holds? Could we be leveling out in terms of gas prices?

RAMPELL: I certainly hope so in the near term. It's really hard to say because it depends on the trajectory of the war, obviously. And it depends on how much more supply comes online here in the United States. There's always going to be a big lag between when a U.S. company starts drilling and when that oil becomes available. So we have to wait and see.

PHILLIP: Catherine Rampell, always great to have you here.

And thank you for joining Inside Politics. Ana Cabrera and Don Lemon pick up our coverage right after this break.