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Gas Emerges As Critical Issue In Next Round Of E.U. Sanctions; U.S. To Seek Russia's Removal From U.N. Human Rights Council; Today: Senate Committee Votes On Supreme Court Nomination. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 04, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Germany's finance minister for example today says that country needs to sever all economic ties with Russia as soon as possible but added it is not possible at the moment to cut gas supplies. That's a critical question. Poland's Prime Minister says it is Germany that is the quote, break on tougher European sanctions. So let's sort this out. CNN's Nic Robertson joins us live from Brussels. Nic are these degrees of difference within the alliance or are they major differences about what to do what next steps within the alliance?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Degrees of difference, but they could be very important. The E.U. estimates that so far since the Russian invasion, it spent about $20 billion on Russian energy supplies. So that gives you an idea, the magnitude of the money that is flowing into Russia as one Ukrainian politician put it, blood money, in essence.

The French President here is talking about cutting off Russian oil and coal supplies. He too not talking about gas. The Lithuanians, however, saying that they are the first E.U. nation to stop buying Russian gas. Latvia, on the other hand, is very dependent on Russian gas and other small Baltic state that are close to Lithuania, of course. And also tremendously worried about the impact of what Russia is doing in Ukraine. But they're saying we can't do gas at this stage.

So it does seem that energy supplies from Russia will become a central theme or potentially become a central theme for potentially E.U. leaders this week. They weren't planning to meet. But the Polish Prime Minister is saying that is urgently important, and they should do it soon. So as I say, it seems that there will be a coalescence around Russia's energy supplies, but perhaps not going as far as gas, possibly other financial sanctions, possibly also putting more European ports out of bounds to Russian ships, again, trying to cut off those economic ties.

Bottom line, the sanctions could go harder and faster if there was alignment, there isn't that alignment, but it's likely there will be something.

KING: Nic Robertson live for us in Brussels, very important reporting. We'll keep track of this degrees of difference and see if they get larger. Nic, thank you so much. President Zelenskyy appearing last night, Sunday night, at the Grammy Awards in a pre-taped video. He urged those listening to quote, tell the truth about war.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedo. They sing to their wounded in hospitals. Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story.


KING: After President Zelenskyy spoke, John Legend led a moving tribute with several Ukrainian artists dedicated to the people of Ukraine. We'll be right back.



KING: Strong words today from President Biden calling the images from Bucha, a war crime.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pictures of the matter to show what happened in Bucha. This warrants him, he is the worst criminal. This guy is brutal. And what's happening to Bucha is outrageous. And everyone's seen it.


KING: The President also said the United States will now look at adding additional sanctions against Russia. With me to share the reporting and their insights CNN's MJ Lee, Sabrina Siddiqui of The Wall Street Journal, and Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast. Strong words from the President. The question is, what more can you do? And is it just sanctions? Is there something else? Will he changed his rules of military engagement, give something to the Ukrainians like MiGs, or a no-fly zone that he's been unwilling to give them before?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, at this point, really, regardless of what kinds of labels we might be hearing from President Biden, whether it is on the war criminal front, whether it is talking about regime change, none of that probably will change sort of in the big picture, the actions that the U.S. is going to take when it comes to Ukraine. And we know what some of those actions are. It is going to be an expansion of the big actions that the U.S. and its allies have already taken. We're talking about sanctions, added security assistance, humanitarian aid. I think a unique challenge that this administration has identified from the beginning is that, unfortunately, so much of sort of how and when this conflict comes to an end depends almost entirely on Vladimir Putin. It's why we've seen the President frequently referred to him as an irrational actor. The belief is basically that it is almost entirely up to Putin to decide how many Russian lives is he willing to sacrifice? What kind of economic squeeze is he willing to put up with and for how long in Russia? And none of that really is, can be changed by the actions that the U.S. administration is taking.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And you did hear President Biden earlier today say he will push for additional sanctions, but he declined to really detail what those might look like. I know that by the administration officials are trying to see what sectors of Russia's economy they can still target some that have not been hit yet include mining and transportation, talks are very preliminary as they kind of weigh what are their options they have at their disposal.

Obviously, there's a lot of pressure from Ukrainian officials for countries to cut off Russian gas exports and that's something that Europeans have still been reluctant to do just because of the reliance that they have on Russian energy. But there's a lot of consensus that there needs to be accountability for these war crimes, the U.S. is also working with Ukraine and other European allies to try and organize a vote at the United Nations that would suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. So these are some of the steps that they're looking at. But I think there is a question that remains at how far are they really willing to go.


KING: Right. Is it all economic sanctions hurt but do they hurt enough and bureaucratic sanctions, what I'll call the U.N. thing. Let's listen to the U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She says it's a farce. It's a farce. She says it was a farce anyway. But given the pictures, we've seen in the last 24 hours that Russia sits on a council called human rights.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: The images out of Bucha and devastation across Ukraine, require us now to match our words with action. We cannot let a member state that is subverting every principle we hold dear to continue to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Russia should not have a position of authority in that body.


KING: You hear that. It's quite conceivable given that the condemnation they were able to get a large vote in the general assembly, it is conceivable they can get the two-thirds in the General Assembly to say, kick Russia or suspend Russia, from this Human Rights Council. But does it matter? Vladimir Putin being called a pariah again or an outlier again. Does it matter unless, unless somehow the United States could get China and India to join the condemnation? They have so far had said nope.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And yes, and China's move to particularly resistant to any sort of punishment of Russia. And in fact, they, in some ways have rallied to their defense and not in the way that I think Vladimir Putin would probably like, but that is one of the open questions here. And we were talking about this a little bit at the break. There is really no proportional response that allies, U.S. allies of the U.S. can make to the murder of these people in Bucha and other places in Ukraine. But the Russians still say isn't happening. They're still lying about this.

And the other open question is, OK, when this ends, if it ends. But what do you do with Vladimir Putin then? Does he remain a pariah? Do these sanctions stay in place? Do they -- or is he still kicked out of all of these different international organizations? That is something that I think a lot of experts are looking down the field and seeing the kind of reactive things that the world is doing right now. OK, what are the proactive things that need to happen down the road? You know, as this continues, and once this ends.

KING: And down the road is a year and year and year timeframe. The question is, does the West have the strength in the spine to cut off the gas, get there as quickly as you can, and then outcast for a long period of time. Those are key questions, more to discuss ahead.

When we come back a Russian oligarch's $90 million yacht, the first assets seized by a newly formed Department of Justice Task Force, law enforcement took this 255 foot luxury yacht, it's called the Tango. It's owned by the Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg. All part of the mission of Justice Department's new KleptoCapture Task Force created to crack down on sanctions violations. We'll be right back.



KING: It's a live look here. That's the Senate Judiciary Committee on this, a pivotal day for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. A Committee vote later today as part of the Democrats plan to have the full Senate confirmed Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court as soon as Thursday. Now that 22 person Committee is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. We were told to expect a split vote along party lines.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), SENATE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: She has impeccable qualifications. We don't agree on much in the Senate, but not one senator on this Committee has questioned that she is well qualified.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), SENATE JUDICIARY RANKING MEMBER: Having carefully studied her record, unfortunately, I think she and I have fundamental different views on the role of judges and the role that they should play in our system of government. Because of those disagreements, I can't support her nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Former prosecutor Elliot Williams joins our conversation. I want to play a little bit more if to -- this is two of the key Republicans Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn. They're both on the Committee. Listen closely. This is the impact of polarization which predated Trump and then the Trump effect on the Republican Party, you get this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Judge Jackson has got a lot to be proud of. She's accomplished a lot in her life. She's a good person. I'm sure she's great mother and very gifted person. She's fought hard to be where she's at in life. I'll vote no.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): She's a charming person. Someone of her impressive caliber surely has a judicial philosophy. But maybe she just didn't want to talk about it. I will vote no.


KING: Another Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri saying I'm going to vote no, but this is a great moment for history. And I'll be happy to celebrate it when it's over. Our politics are warped.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They are. And they're grasping for straws here for a candidate that by any metric, objective or subjective is one of the most competent and qualified in history. Look, you don't have to go back that far. In 2005, John Roberts got 22 Democrats to vote for him. That's not happening again. And it's a sign of just how broken and polarized Congress is right now in the Senate. So this isn't in many respects, it's a tragedy that she will get 11 Republicans say and not the whole Committee. This is far bigger than Ketanji Brown Jackson. And we really should be celebrating what is a historic day in Congress.


SIDDIQUI: It was very telling that Senator Lindsey Graham said that if Republicans had been in the majority, they would not have even considered her nomination. So we will probably have pursued a Merrick Garland style strategy to try and keep this seat vacant or demand what they would say is more consensus pick. But I think, you know, we know that conservatives always have this grassroots pressure when it comes to the Supreme Court.

I think a lot of these Republicans had already made up their mind before they even considered her record, before they even met with her and decided to vote against her. But after a lot of these, I think procedural hurdles, we're still expecting, of course, her to be confirmed, they just need a simple majority vote Democrats. And we do have at least one Republican Susan Collins of Maine who has announced her intention to vote for her nomination as well.

KING: And so the question is, we're waiting, we think two, maybe there'll be a surprise. But we think that Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who has a primary this year and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, we believe they are the only two possibilities, possibilities, which again is nuts. When I came to Washington late in the Reagan administration, just at the beginning of the George H.W. Bush administration, the idea was, OK, we might disagree with this person. But elections have consequences. If the President nominated a qualified person, you got to, yes, not anymore.

LEE: Yes. And that that is certainly a Washington that Joe Biden remembers very well. He has presided over, you know, Supreme Court nomination hearings, where that was sort of the given, you expected that sort of bipartisanship in these processes. And that to him probably feels like ancient history now too, right? He certainly in more recent years has been a part of these kinds of hearings where things got a whole lot more partisan, and rancorous.

And I think, you know, since getting, you know, coming back to Washington in coming back to the White House, I think he had expressed a lot of hope that he could sort of bring back civility and bipartisanship to Washington. He certainly has seen that to be a challenge legislatively. But I think when this vacancy came up, he hoped that he could bring that back to the Supreme Court process and has found that that is a lot more challenging than he would like to see.

KING: One of the big questions is, do the Democrats and do this President get anything politically out of this? And that Ketanji Brown Jackson, Judge Jackson, will be the first black woman on the United States Supreme Court. The Democrats are going to have to use every last vote to make that happen. Collins might be the one extra there. The question is, does it have an impact? Republicans have used the hearings to essentially run their election message. It's not even about her. It's much more about their election message. Would the Democrats get a bounce out of this?

KUCINICH: I mean, I don't know that they're going to get a bounce. I think they just got an attack ad was what Lindsey Graham said about not having her not even in front of the -- not even getting a Committee hearing if Republicans had been in charge. So I'm sure DSCC, the Democratic Campaign Committee, in the Senate is already cut that and are sending it out. But it -- Democrats just talking traditionally haven't really been as animated by the Supreme Court. And whether she I mean, sure, I think this is a historic moment. They're certainly going to be making a lot of a big deal about that as they should. But in terms of whether this matters electorally, I would be surprised.

KING: We'll watch the vote play out today. Again, the Committee will vote this evening, then the full Senate is presumably by Thursday. It is a history moment. It is a history moment. We should keep our mind.


Next, another big moment this week, this one for President Obama, his first visit to the White House since leaving office, five years ago.


KING: Former President Obama will join President Biden tomorrow to celebrate the Affordable Care Act which Mr. Obama signed into law 12 years ago. It will be President Obama's first public event at the White House since he left office back in January 2017.

The White House is denying a "New York Times" report that President Biden told his inner circle he believes Donald Trump should be prosecuted for January 6th. "The Times" also reported Mr. Biden privately has said he wants his Attorney General Merrick Garland to act less like a judge and more like a prosecutor. Biden's Chief of Staff Ron Klain says the President would never interfere with Justice Department decisions.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I've never heard the President say that advocate that prosecution of any person. Only Richard Nixon and Donald Trump in the modern era believe that prosecution decisions should be made in the Oval Office, not at the Justice Department. The President has confidence in the Attorney General to make those decisions.


KING: And former President Donald Trump now backing Sarah Palin in her bid for Alaska as lone congressional seat. Trump thank Palin for embracing him early back when he declared he was running for president in 2016. So this, she might say is returning the favor. It is a very crowded Republican primary field with more than 40 candidates, more than 40 candidates to fill the seat left open by the death of the long serving Republican Congressman Don Young.

And word from Capitol Hill this morning of a potential bipartisan deal in the Senate for more COVID aid. Multiple sources telling CNN, a $10 billion compromise is expected to be announced as soon as today. About half of that money would go towards therapeutics, excuse me. Sources say the agreement would not include money to help send internationally, less 10 billion less than half of the initial $22 billion ask from the White House.

Thanks for joining us today on Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Again, try to have a good afternoon. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We begin with international outrage after Russian forces leave --