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Inside Politics

Ukraine's Top Diplomat: We Need "Weapons, Weapons And Weapons"; Ukraine Warns Fighting For Donbass Will Rival World War II; Russian Military Abandons Positions Around Chernobyl; CNN On Train As Civilians Evacuate From Eastern Ukraine; Blinken Speaks At NATO Meeting; U.N. Votes To Suspend Russia From Human Rights Council; Zelenskyy: New Sanctions Against Russia Are "Not Enough"; Today: Senate Set To Confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson To Supreme Court. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 07, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Next hour, a history making moment here in Washington. The Senate is about to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. She will be the first black woman to serve on the highest court in the land. Back to that in a moment.

First though, to Ukraine, to the battlefield and the fight for the Donbass. This morning, since overstates heading from Ukraine's top diplomat. He says the next days will rival World War II. Thousands of tanks, planes, artillery fighting for every inch of eastern Ukraine, is warning to the west sent help and send it now or it will be too late.

Overnight, three cruise missiles shot out of the sky by Ukrainian air defense near Zaporizhzhia. Ukrainian officials warned, it may be the last chance to leave for hundreds of thousands still in eastern Ukraine. A anticipate a fierce second wave of attacks from Moscow, an attempt Ukrainian officials believe to conquer and capture the eastern part of the country.

In Mariupol, the mayor says, 5,000 have died since the start of this invasion. Next, a Ukrainian military commander worries, Moscow will try to wipe the city "off the face of the earth." In Lviv, reminders of the steep, the steep human cost of war, military funerals for the war dead.

In Brussels today, NATO foreign ministers are meeting to debate next steps, and Ukraine's top diplomat spoke plainly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I came to Brussels to participate in the NATO ministerial and to hold bilateral meetings with allies. My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it. Its weapons, weapons, and weapons.


KING: We begin our coverage on the front lines in Mykolaiv, in southeastern Ukraine, and CNN's Ben Wedeman is right there. Ben, what's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. Well, basically since the Russian forces have pulled out from around the capital Kyiv and much of north central Ukraine. The expectation is that they're going to focus their efforts on the eastern part of the country.

Now, it's going to take time to move perhaps some of the men and equipment those that are left that is that we're fighting in around the capital to the eastern part of the country. But the eastern part of the country is bracing for a Russian onslaught. We heard the regional military governor for Luhansk calling on all civilians to leave that area as soon as possible.

And at this point, for instance, the city of Mariupol, it's been under siege for 40 days. The situation is increasingly desperate, but it does appear that the Ukrainian defenders are at least being able to hold on for the time being. But there's no indication there will be any relief for them anytime soon as Ukrainian forces begin to concentrate their efforts in the eastern part of the country.

Now one, bit of news not in the east, but Ukrainian military was able to fly a drone over the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and they found that fortifications and trenches were dug by Russian troops in what's known as the Red Forest near the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Now it's called the Red Forest, because it was turned red is a result of exposure to intense nuclear radiation after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. And therefore, it is assumed that all those Russian troops that dug those fortifications in the Red Forest now have a severe case of nuclear contamination. John?

KING: Ben Wedeman, getting us started. Ben, thank you so much for that live report. Officials in eastern Ukraine as Ben just noted, urging civilians to evacuate and evacuate as fast as possible. This as Russian forces escalate attacks in the eastern parts of the country. CNN's Ivan Watson joined a crowded train journey, headed to Lviv. One of the refugees he met had a message for those still left behind.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This train is full of passengers that will pick up more people and it will continue on its 24-hour journey to take this kind of precious human cargo to safer parts of the country.

You finally decided to leave with your family. What was it that finally pushed you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I'm just worried, just worrying my, I have very old grainy, and my mother don't want to leave her alone. And I decided to go along because I very afraid to stay there.

WATSON: How many weeks were you living under Russian occupation?


WATSON: A month?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes. They occupied our city from the 27th February, and from this day, we all feel this pressure.

WATSON: Are you - do you feel better now that you are out of Russian control territory?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel better after we leave our city already because I understand everything already will be much better for me, but I'm very worried about my family there.


KING: We'll take your straight live to Brussels now. The American Secretary of State Tony Blinken, speaking during a big NATO foreign ministers meeting. Let's listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: President Biden also signed an executive order prohibiting new investment in Russia by any person in the United States. The European Union is also actively considering robust new measures, including bans on Russian coal, on Russian vessels, accessing E.U. ports on transactions with four key financial institutions.

Second, the United States continues to work at an unprecedented pace to help Ukraine defend itself. Last Friday, the Department of Defense announced $300 million in new security assistance. On Tuesday, I authorized an additional 100 million to meet Ukraine's urgent needs for more Javelin anti-armor systems.

This will bring total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion in February to over $1.7 billion and over $2.4 billion since January of last year. More than 30 countries have joined us in delivering security assistance to Ukraine.

A, that our Ukrainian partners are putting to very effective use as we see in the Kremlin's retreat from Kyiv, and other Ukrainian cities and towns. Today, I met again with my colleague and friend, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister to discuss how we can continue to provide Ukraine's greatest defenders with what they need to keep pushing Russia back.

Third, we continue to provide significant aid to address the acute humanitarian crisis caused by the Kremlin's war. More than a quarter of Ukraine's population, over 11 million people have been displaced. That's roughly equal to displacing the entire population of Belgium, the country we're in now, in the space of six weeks.

President Biden announced that the U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $1 billion in new humanitarian assistance to those affected by Russia's war aggression. That comes on top of $293 million, we provided in 2022 alone to vulnerable communities in the region, including the neighboring countries that have opened their arms and opened their homes to four million Ukrainian refugees.

The global harm caused by the Kremlin's aggression is growing, including the disruption that's caused to the production and distribution of wheat in Ukraine, on which so many countries realize, something that I heard about and saw firsthand just a week ago when we were in, among other places Morocco and Algeria.

In Africa, where a quarter of the population is now facing a food security crisis. Russia's war of choice has raised the costs of basic staples, worsening the hardship that people were already feeling. So, at the G7, we discussed in some detail ways that we can mitigate the wars impact on the most vulnerable people around the world.


KING: You're listening to the U.S. Secretary of State, Tony Blinken. He is in Brussels. There's a big meeting of NATO foreign ministers underway there. As Mr. Blinken, Secretary Blinken noted earlier today, he met with Ukraine's top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba, who offered this take, this was his take on what he needs from NATO.


KULEBA: How many Bucha have to take place for you to impose the sanctions? How many children, women, men have to die, innocent lives have to be lost? For you to understand that you cannot allow sanctions fatigue, as we cannot allow fighting fatigue.


KING: CNN's Nic Robertson, is right there in Brussels live for us. Nic, you hear Secretary Blinken, given the long list of what things the United States has done? But the Ukrainian foreign minister says, thank you for all that, but he wants more. Will NATO give it to him?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That's the big question here, John. And the reason it's a big question is because, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, was asked precisely that, you know, just a couple of days ago, we were hearing that Ukraine would be supplied with tanks, with armored fighting vehicles.

But when Stoltenberg was asked to be specific about what Ukraine is going to get. He wouldn't be specific. He talks in generalities. He talks about keeping up the supplier javelins that we know, Secretary Blinken, just mentioned. They're $100 million worth of javelins, those anti-tank weapons that have been so effective for Ukrainian forces.

You get a sense here at NATO that they don't want to telegraph to the Russians what they're going to do, because they don't want to give away any tactical advantage to the Russians. They also don't want to escalate tensions between Russia and NATO, so better to keep Russia in the dark about what's being supplied.


But that sense of urgency that the Ukrainian foreign minister gave today, the sense of need of that need and need to get the - need to get those weapons systems in place that really was communicated effectively here. And having spoken with at least one foreign minister directly who came out of that meeting. There is agreement on how to move forward and that is strongly support Ukraine.

KING: Nic Robertson, live for us in Brussels. Nic, appreciate your staying on top of the situation there. And just moments ago, another effort to isolate Russia on the world stage, the United Nations General Assembly just voted to suspend Russia from its human rights council. Let's get straight to our CNN White House National Security reporter Natasha Bertrand. Natasha, walk us through this one.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, John. So, this is largely a symbolic move, but they did get the votes necessary to suspend Russia from the council. That was 93 in favor, 24 against including unsurprisingly, China and Belarus, and 58 abstentions.

Now, the U.N. Human Rights Council does not have any real legal authorities. It is mostly just a symbolic body, although they have opened their own probe into Russian war crimes. However, clearly the members felt like it was a necessary move here, given the fact that so many organizations and countries are now investigating whether Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine.

A number of countries including the United States have come out and said directly and openly that they do believe that Russia has committed war crimes. So, obviously after Bucha, after the massacre that we saw there, this has become even more urgent for the global community. John?

KING: Natasha Bertrand, grateful for the update of the United Nations. Let's get some important insights now from Ian Bremmer. He's the president and founder of the Eurasia Group. He's also the author of the forthcoming book, The Power of Crisis. Mr. Bremmer, grateful for your time today.

The power of this crisis, if you will, is that NATO is making Vladimir Putin a pariah. After 20 years of saying, maybe we can do business, we'll invite him to the GA, maybe he'll turn our way. NATO has clearly made a decision. That was a bad bet.

And we're going to now rewrite the security infrastructure in Europe. The question on the short term is, what about Ukraine? You just heard from Ukraine's foreign minister, he says he needs weapons, weapons, weapons. President Zelenskyy today put it this way.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Today western countries have adopted new sanctions against the Russian Federation, in blocking new investments into Russia, and restrictions on suspends (Ph) banks in Russia. And adding sanctions and other restrictions, this package looks effective, but it is not enough.


KING: Not enough, President Zelenskyy, says let's take this from two directions. Let's start with the military assistance first, then I want to get to sanctions alike. But from a military standpoint, you just heard Nic Robertson saying, the NATO secretary general is reluctant to talk publicly about how many tanks. Whether the S-300 anti-aircraft systems are going in because you don't want to tell Putin what's coming across the border. But are you convinced that military aid is now flowing in a robust and real way?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT OF EURASIA GROUP: I think it is robust. And I also think it's escalated every week in the six weeks of this war. You'll remember at the beginning that the Germans weren't willing to provide any offensive equipment at all. Now, they're saying, they're going to provide tanks. They're going to facilitate that.

The French president two weeks ago oppose tanks, because he actually said that would make NATO into belligerence in the fight. Since the approval in the Czech Republic sending tanks over, we haven't heard a thing from French President Macron on this issue. And of course, because he's watching war crimes being committed on the ground outside of Kyiv.

So certainly, you've gone from smaller numbers of countries to large number of countries, larger amounts of equipment, the Americans, too, you're moving to drones that have offensive capabilities, you're supporting tanks. The only thing that you haven't seen NATO be willing to do so far, is provide an actual air force.

And part of the reason for that, there's been a debate inside the Biden administration as to whether or not the Ukrainians are capable of flying them, and whether they'd be able to get them off the ground and land them when the Russians actually have air dominance. You clearly don't want to send weapons that can't be used by the Ukrainians.

KING: And you heard President Zelenskyy and you have tracked this constant escalation of sanctions against Putin. But I also says something he wrote that I found quite interesting, in the sense that in a demented way, unless the west goes all the way, and stops buying Russian natural gas, stops buying Russian oil. In an odd way, having a partial restriction and then the uncertainty in the energy markets about Russian products, in an odd way actually helps Putin?

BREMMER: Well, I mean, he's obviously making a lot of money off of exceptionally high energy prices right now. And if you're talking about the potential of cutting them off, but you're not cutting them off, we're talking about potential surplus from all these energy sales. I've seen the IAF and Goldman Sachs talking about maybe 15 percent of GDP and surplus this year if the Russians are able to continue to sell.


Now, at some point, this is untenable for the Europeans to continue to buy coal and oil and gas to fund the Russian war effort and there's a lot of pressure. We've already seen Lithuania in last few days, Estonia in the last 24 hours, small countries that have mostly gotten away from Russian gas, saying that they're completely cutting it off.

A lot of pressure happening right now on all of the governments in Europe, saying it's not enough to just freeze the assets of oligarchy, it's not enough to just cut off some of the banks, you've got to cut off this energy.

But John, I have to say, if the Americans were getting 50 percent of our gas from Russia right now, I'm not sure the American politicians would be saying cutting it off. So, we do have to be at least somewhat cognizant of the pressure on both sides, that people like the German chancellor, the Italian prime minister are under right now.

KING: Right, enormous pressure. The Italian prime minister today for example, saying he would go along with this if the rest of Europe did it, saying you know, the world should be debating. Do we want air conditioning, or do we want peace, was the way he put it? I think well put. Ian Bremmer, grateful for your important insights. We'll continue the conversation.

Next, we come to a big day here in Washington, a historic day, up on Capitol Hill. The Senate about to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.




KING: History next hour on Capitol Hill. Senate vote will cement an important first. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States. She will be the first black woman to serve on that high court. The math is a done deal. Now the three Senate Republicans say, they will vote yes. The Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, calls it a joyous day.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY): In the 233-year history of the Supreme Court never, never has a black woman held the title of justice. Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first, and I believe the first of more to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Melanie Zanona, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the New York Times, Tarini Parti, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams. I want to start with you, Melanie.

I just want to put this graphic up on the screen. This is why this is so important. 115 Supreme Court justices in the history of the United States, 108 white men, two black men, four white women, and one Latina. So, this will be a first, a black woman on the Supreme Court, also a record number of women on the court at this moment.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right? It will be the first time that is not majority white men on the court. So, it's a big deal. The court is starting to look like the rest of America. I mean, as long as, I were in Ivy League (Ph) school. So, this is a big deal, not just for Democrats, but also for the country.

And I think we should also commend the Democrats, it's pretty impressive that they were able to get this through with a 50-50 Senate and a short window with a pandemic that is still sidelining lawmakers, including today, Speaker Pelosi in the House tested positive. So, it is a very big deal. The fact that they got through Republicans, another huge win for Biden. They didn't need those Republicans, but that was important to him. And so, this is a very historic moment.

KING: And at this moment, as we wait again, the Senate vote will be next hour. Let's listen to this. Now Judge Jackson, soon to be Justice Jackson, and how she views this moment.


KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I am here standing on the shoulders of generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity. I hope that it will bring confidence, it will help inspire people to understand that our courts are like them.


KING: As from a legal perspective, obviously it's a left of center judge, democratic appointee replacing Stephen Breyer, a left of center judge democratic appointee. So ideologically, not a big shift in the court. But she's different. She's younger. She is a black woman. She has a different perspective. And she's heard or been through different cases, whether in her defense lawyer work on a judge, but how will she change the court?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Well think about it, it's an organization of nine people. So, once you take one person out and put somebody else in, that is dramatically going to change how they interact, who speaks, how they speak, and so on. And most importantly, yes, it's a different perspective being brought on the court.

Now, can or should we assume that a black woman is going to rule a certain way every time? No, just as all of the other justices can be unpredictable sometimes, but it is very, very important moment. One point, to Melanie's point, a second ago about how the three Republicans it's significant, that they secured in getting those votes. It's amazing that John Roberts just back in 2005 and '22, we're past the era of bipartisanship and nominations, even for folks as qualified as, this really amazing.

KING: It used to be. If you pass the qualification tests, even people would say, too liberal for me or too conservative for me, but the president won the election. You know, he and eventually she gets to make that choice. But to your point, let's put it up there. 98 to nothing, Antonin Scalia, the former justice Anthony Kennedy, 97 to nothing, David Souter 90 to nine, with Clarence Thomas, she had a very contentious confirmation hearing. You see it there.

But the bipartisanship continued, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it continued. But then you see the last few, especially the Trump appointees, and Elena Kagan and Sotomayor before that, that's when you saw in recent years, you have polarization, then the Trump steroid effect on that polarization. And that's where we are.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think you're seeing this discussion already looming over Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination, in part because of what we heard from Senator Lindsey Graham, also this week, who said that if Republicans take the majority, then Biden wouldn't get another nominee most likely. And when Senator Mitch McConnell was asked about it, he kind of dodged and said he didn't want to give away his strategy.


But this clearly also factored into the decision making of some Republicans. We saw Lisa Murkowski and her statement, bring up the corrosive politicization we're seeing these days. And I think in part that's why she decided to support Jackson's nomination.

WILLIAMS: You know, this the partisanship, Congress is of course a partisan body, it's Democrats as Republicans. This affects the court and how the public sees the court. And over the last several decades, public confidence in the court has been dropping. And now the public sees this record is just an extension of the partisanship.

KING: That was a point, just to show the three. We know, we'll see if there's a fourth, but we expect it will be Judge Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah. And they have made the very point, Elliot is making that, you know, if the person is qualified, you might not agree with them completely, but they're qualified. Let's not cast more doubt on the integrity of our institutions.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You saw some Republicans using those hearings as almost a way to amplify some of the attacks that we're probably going to see more and more in the lead up to the midterms, trying to portray Democrats as being soft on crime. Even if in particular for this judge, the record is there and sound.

And, you know, just in terms of this moment, as well, and kind of, I don't think you can say enough about some of the ripple effects here. My colleague, Linda Q has a piece today where she actually went back to Cambridge, went and talked to the Harvard Black Law Students Association and described how the law students there, you know, are setting up screenings for the hearings.

So, while you know, we're focused on the divisiveness here. You had so many people that saw themselves and Judge Jackson as well, that could be inspired by this. And one moment that I really want to highlight just in terms of this being possibly insular to the Ivy League. The story also talks about how custodians and other kind of workers around the Harvard campus also came in to join and watch, you know, those hearings as well. So, I do think you can't say enough how much of this moment here is going to mean just for a variety of people.

KING: And we'll watch the vote next hour and its amazing history. It's remarkable history, and we will track it as we move from judge to justice. See what happens on the court. Our panel be back with us a bit later. But ahead for us a CNN exclusive, the Polish president accuses Russia of genocide.