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New Day Saturday

Battle for Kyiv Underway as Russian Troops Close In On Capital; NATO Activates Response Force For First Time In History; Source: U.S. Concerned Kyiv Could Fall To Russia Within Days; FBI: Russia Is A "Permissive Operating Environment" For Cybercriminals; Biden Nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson To Supreme Court; FDA Moves Forward To Ban Menthol Cigarettes And Cigars. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 26, 2022 - 08:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your "New Day." We're always so grateful to have your company. It is Saturday, February 26th. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be with you as always Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez, thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

We begin with the fierce fight for the heart of Ukraine, as the Russian invasion ravages the capital city Kyiv, a once bustling metropolis of nearly 3 million people.

(voice-over): A security camera capturing the exact moment of missile hit a residential apartment building. Missile strikes have been lighting up the skies over the Ukrainian capital for the last day.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Kyiv witnessing the aftermath. She filed this report.


CLARISS WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Hi Boris, hi, Christi. So we're here in a residential neighborhood quite near to one of Kyiv's airport Zhulyany Airport. And you can see behind me, I'm just going to step out of the way so that my camera man, Scottie McWinnie (ph) can show you here, the damage that has been done at some kind of a projectile hit this apartment building at about 8:15 this morning, we're hearing you could still see smoke coming from it, there was a big fire. Still smoking, there are ambulance workers on the scene. And what they're doing now is trying to take some scaffolding up there to try to prevent the 22nd and 23rd floors from collapsing.

But miraculously, no one was actually killed in this strike. We're hearing from Ukrainian authorities that six people were wounded. Frankly, it's hard to imagine how anyone survived that. But six people were wounded. They're being treated in various hospitals. And there's a little bit of a he said she said going on about how this happened. Ukrainian authorities saying that this was the work of a Russian missile, and the Russians are saying that they believe, excuse me, sorry, it's very windy here, and there's a lot of debris flying around. The Russians are saying that they believe that this was actually a Ukrainian missile defense system that somehow went awry and ended up hitting this apartment building.

Now, whoever was responsible, and however this happened, the reality is, this is the sort of thing that does happen when you have a war playing out in a major metropolis like Kyiv. This is a city of nearly 2.9 million people. And we're in a pretty central area here. This isn't sort of, you know, on the far outskirts of town, you can just imagine how terrifying it was for the people who were sleeping or just waking up having their breakfast with their families on a Saturday morning already terrified about the situation, only to find their building hit in this attack.

Boris, Christi.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Clarissa for her brave reporting on that report. The Russian attacks have spread from the air to the ground. The Ukrainian interior ministry reporting quote, active fighting on the streets.

A short time ago though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released an update saying, quote, we have withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks. So let's keep refusing to leave Kyiv despite acknowledging that he is the number one target for Russian forces.

PAUL: And the Ukraine embassy in Britain reports that he told the U.S. quote, the fight is here. I need ammunition not a ride. That was his response when the U.S. offered to evacuate them.

Now, President Zelensky also sent out this rallying cry a little bit earlier this morning. Listen to this.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Good morning Ukrainians. Currently there are a lot of games appearing on the internet like that I'm asking our army to put down arms and evacuate. So I'm here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country because our weapon is truth. And our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this. That is it. That is all I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine.


PAUL (voice-over): The Russians are denying much of what's happening and much of what you're seeing. The Ministry of Defense says Russia is not targeting civilian infrastructure. It's making a watchdog though is threatening Russian news outlets and banning them from using specific words such as attack, invasion, or declaration of war. And all of this despite a stream of social media videos, images, satellite pictures of Shell buildings and rockets and residential streets as you're seeing this fighting has also prompted this wave of more than 100,000 people who are trying to escape the danger in fact, to be specific Polish border guards say there have -- they have 100,000 Ukrainians crossing into Poland just since the invasion began. And they're the ones who can get out. The United Nations estimates there are another 850,000 Ukrainians, quote, internally displaced.


Our CNN correspondents are covering this from so many angles. Alex Marquardt is in Kyiv this morning. Natasha Bertrand is in Brussels.

SANCHEZ: Now let's start the hour with Alex in Kyiv. And Alex that the battle for control of the Capitol is raging right now, there was some skepticism over we would even wake up to find out that Presidents Zelensky had been captured or worse. What are you seeing and hearing now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Boris, and good morning, Boris and Christi.

You know, we went into it last night with a warning from President Zelensky that it would be a very difficult night, and he said that the fate of Ukraine is being decided right now. And so, you saw residents across this city taking shelter. What is clear now is that this fighting, this violence has made its way from the outskirts into the city itself. You just heard that report from Clarissa Ward, she went to that apartment building that was struck by a rocket, as she noted that is very much in a central location not on the outskirts of the city.

We also heard some of the closest fighting yet to the center overnight, just around three miles four kilometers from where I'm standing now, just to the west significant explosions in the late night around 3:00, 4:00 a.m. We understand now from the Ukrainian military that that was Ukrainian forces attacking what they call a column of Russian vehicles, two cars, two trucks and a tank they say were destroyed. So we are continuing to hear some of that fighting.

Just now moments ago I heard gunfire in the distance, but we have not heard significant explosions over the past few hours that was really concentrated overnight, we heard explosions in the distance from most directions. We saw those explosions lighting up the sky. We heard air raid sirens, and all of that really emphasizing the fact that the Russians are coming at the city from all angles. It is clear, as was predicted that they are trying to encircle the city. They had made an initial push in from the north. The Ukrainian said that there were significant fighting to the south and to the east, in addition to what I just mentioned, coming from the west.

So they are really making this push. At the same time, it does appear that Ukrainian forces are being relatively successful in keeping those forces at bay, despite the prediction from Zeleinsky, that this would be a difficult night, it appears that they fared relatively well. And then you heard from President Zelensky, saying just this morning that they successfully repelled those enemy attacks, and as he said, ruined their plans. But of course, in no way is this city out of the woods. They know that Russia is still targeting this city, perhaps more than any other.

And so we have just learned this morning that the Mayor of Kyiv has changed the curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. So just under two hours from now as the sun is setting, demanding that Ukrainian residents stay off the streets because of this fighting. And he said that anybody who is out there will be assumed to be Russian forces. Boris, Christi.

PAUL: Alex Marquardt, thank you so much for the report. Do stay safe there you and the crew.

We want to go to CNN's Natasha Bertrand now, she's at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Natasha, good to see you this morning. We know NATO's activating this Special Response Force. This is the first time they've done so made up of land, air Sea Special Operations Forces. What can you tell us about the tactic and the mission, obviously, without compromising anything?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, so what this force is going to do is they are going to be deployed to those eastern flank NATO countries in an effort to shore up their defenses, just in case anything goes awry here. Now, the fear, obviously, is not that Vladimir Putin necessarily is planning to go beyond Ukraine and further west. The fear rather, is that there could be an unintended escalation. Of course, there is a major war being fought in Ukraine right now. So they're trying to manage their deconfliction with the Ukraine -- or with the Russians, and NATO is eventually going to deploy a certain number of those forces to those eastern flank NATO countries.

The total number of forces in that rapid response force is about 40,000. We don't know exactly yet how many of those will actually be sent out. But the key here to remember is that these forces are not going to be sent into Ukraine, at least that's the plan as of right now. The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Biden both making very clear that they are not going to be sending troops into Ukraine because it is not a member of NATO.


Ukraine now saying, look, we have been asking for many, many months and years when our country might be able to join NATO. We are fighting this war alone, essentially. And they say that they have received silence on the other end. NATO in turn saying that they are going to be sending more shipments of weapons and defense equipment to Ukraine in order to help them fight this war with Russia. The President Biden just saying just releasing a memo to the State Department last night saying that the U.S. is prepared to provide an additional up to $350 million in support to Ukraine to help them fight this war.

But what Ukrainians are really saying now is that they need ammunition, they need weaponry, they right now are handing out weapons to civilians, to citizens in the country, telling anyone who can to fight. And they say that they feel very alone in this fight. They're happy to have the support of the West. But ultimately, these NATO forces that are going to be deployed are going to be protecting NATO countries. And so, what the Ukrainians now say is that they are hoping that these weapons that are provided by the West are going to be enough. They are overperforming, in terms of all the analysis that we have seen from intelligence and U.S. officials.

But importantly, the Ukrainian president is not planning to go anywhere. He is not planning to leave Kyiv, the U.S. has offered and said look, we are willing to evacuate you if that is what you need, because your life is at risk here. And the Ukrainian president has said that he -- it has -- had threats to his life amid the Russian onslaught. But what we're told us that Ukrainian president does not want to leave, he does not want to go anywhere. He wants to stay with this country and fight.

SANCHEZ: And he's proving it on social media despite misinformation coming from Russia that he has fled his country, he has not. Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss the latest in Ukraine is Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, he's a former Commanding General for Europe and the Seventh Army. And also, with us is Jim Townsend, he's the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy.

General Hertling, I wanted to start with you. Given the news that we have received that the British Ministry of Defense has estimated that Russian forces are roughly only 30 kilometers fewer than 20 miles away from the capital the center of Kyiv. They say the Ukrainians are continuing to put on a staunch resistance and you've said that you believe that the Russians would be surprised by the fierce response that they would get from the Ukrainians.

Given what we know, what's your assessment of the state of the conflict right now?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it was a very good night last night, Boris, an extremely good night for Ukrainian resistance not only for their military, but for their guerrilla activities. They are doing an excellent job in countering with their will, the Russian quantitative advantage in forces. You know, what we're seeing is some things that I talked about the last couple of days on CNN, the Russians are out running their supply lines, they're extremely stretched in terms of conducting operations from four different directions. Their leadership in the Russian military is terrible. Their logistics is extremely clumsy. And what you have is a Ukrainian force. It has something called interior lines. They can attempt to move between different locations. And they also have extremely strong leadership that supports their morale.

So yes, it was a good night last night, but there's still a lot of fight left to go. And truthfully, what I'm most concerned about right now is further lashing out irrational lap lashing out by the criminal Putin in Russia. It will continue to get tough. Ukraine has dedicated themselves to fighting this, and I think their President Zelensky is doing an excellent job in terms of leading the nation in this crisis. SANCHEZ: Now there are some concerns given the precedent that Putin has set in Syria with the use of thermobaric weapons, et cetera, that he may repeat that in Ukraine. But Jim, I want to ask you a big picture question now, the American people understandably, have a certain anxiety about engaging in another foreign conflict. President Biden has made clear he does not intend to send American troops into Ukraine. And yet, this conflict is so important in terms of world history, in terms of combating authoritarianism.

How would you describe to Americans the importance of not only backing the Ukrainians, but passionately pushing back this Russian advance?

JIM TOWNSEND, FMR DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECY OF DEFENSE FOR EUROPE AND NATO POLICY: We have to go back and look at the years since World War II and the Cold War at the at the structures that we have built the international community and the transatlantic community things like NATO, the European Union, the UN we've built a structure particularly in Europe to keep wars at a distance. The last century saw great wars that eventually sucked in the United States. In this century, we want to stop that, we'd stop that through deterrence, a strong defense, a strong NATO. And that means when an autocrat like Putin begins to become aggressive, we've got to stand up to him, because if we stop war in Europe, America usually gets sucked in sooner or later.


SANCHEZ: General Hertling, you tweeted something a short time ago quoting President Zelensky of Ukraine, I need ammo not arrived. And you wrote, quote, leaders know where to be how to communicate. It strikes me that somebody who was a comedian, who played president on TV now is not only the actual President of Ukraine, but that he's staring down tyranny and he's facing very difficult odds. What do you make of his decision to stay in the country, despite there being compelling reasons for him, perhaps, to leave?

HERTLING: Yes, I agree with his decision Boris. It is, first of all, phenomenal bravery and courage. But it's also what leaders do. They are at the point of main effort. The point of main effort in this fight for a President Zelensky is key. The Russians are attempting to take his capital, he has to show not only personal result, but resolve that is reflected in the people of the country. You know, one of the things that I'd say is, is as he's coordinated -- I watched President Zelensky over the last couple of years, he has been masterful in attempting to play political sides and gain advantage for a country that he truly loves. I don't care if you used to be a comedian truthfully. But he has shown a political savvy that has brought together his nation. He was elected with a very high percentage, I think his percentage was 70% of the people elected him. He has faltered at times, in a couple of times, but truthfully, he has seen the future of Ukraine, the economic, the diplomatic and the military future. And he is built on all of those while attempting very strongly to eliminate corruption.

Jim Townsend and I worked on this together when we were both together actively in the Department of Defense. But the corruption has been hurting Ukraine for a very long time. And I think President Zelensky has done a phenomenal job in gradually eliminating that and making a nation that is certainly going to appeal to the west.

SANCHEZ: And corruption has been cited as one of the main obstacles to Ukraine being able to join NATO. Notably, there are some other European countries that have recently weighed in on potentially joining the Transatlantic Alliance in Finland, and Sweden. And we got from a spokesperson of the Kremlin, a warning that Russia may respond to that implicating perhaps further military action.

Jim, your thoughts on that response from Russia?

TOWNSEND: Well, the Finns and Swedes have been bullied by the Russians for a number of years now. And that kind of threat from Moscow, the Finns particularly have heard that before. But those two nations right now are very close to NATO. They've just been granted some special access to NATO intelligence on a bilateral basis, we have worked with Sweden and Finland to make sure our militaries are interoperable. And so, we're very tight with them.

And I do believe right now, there is pressure on both those nations to see that joining the alliance right now might be important, not just for themselves, but to show unity. And to show Putin that he has instead of grabbing Ukraine without any pain, he has a raid and alliances force around his nation. And he has unified the Alliance, he has unified Europe, to his great surprise, and Sweden and Finland probably will join that, that unity if they were to go ahead and join NATO now.

And I do hope we can see that become true in the coming months as the political situation in both those countries goes through a debate and sees what their next step should be.

SANCHEZ: General Hertling, quickly, there is a likelihood that if Kyiv does fall in the coming days or weeks, this will transform into a guerrilla style warfare. How does that change the equation? And do you think it's feasible that Vladimir Putin can occupy Ukraine for an undetermined amount of time?

HERTLING: Absolutely not, Boris. Absolutely not. And if there is further attacks on Kyiv, and there is a disruption in their government function, I guarantee you it will turn into a guerrilla war and it will be very effective against Russia. Again, what I'd say is Russia went into this without enough forces. They have trouble clumsy logistics trail and you can't occupy cities of like Kyiv the size -- a 3 million population when everyone was there the size of Chicago. Kharkiv which is a million and a half people the size of Philadelphia with 190 troops and a bad logistics tale. And that's not even including some of the other locations throughout Ukraine.


It's just phenomenal that that Mr. Putin and his military even thought they could do this. I've been saying this from the very beginning. It's just not enough force. And Ukraine has the will not only at the individual level to fight back, but they're now generating will from around the world, as well as from within their government. So if it does turn into a guerrilla war, they will win it. And I'm not sure from a personal standpoint, I don't think Kyiv is going to fall to the Russians.

SANCHEZ: We will have to wait and see. Lieutenant General Hertling, Jim Townsend, appreciate your perspective, your expertise and for sharing part of your weekend with us. Thanks so much.

HERTLING: Thank you.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, gentlemen. So as the Russian military increases its attacks on Ukraine, technology experts warn about cyber attacks. The question is, how vulnerable is the U.S.? That if we a prime target, talk about that. Stay close.



SANCHEZ: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling for Russia to be banned from Swift, cutting the Kremlin out of the high security international payment network has been viewed as a last resort. Members of the European Union are split over the move, though support for it appears to be growing.

PAUL: Nic Robertson is with us now from Moscow. So Nic, we've talked a lot about sanctions and how effective they would or would not be. This one makes us wonder, you know, as many experts have said, that there's some potency to this penalty. What is your assessment?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, we've heard some pretty scathing criticism coming from the former president, who was former prime minister as well as Dmitry Medvedev. He's also the number two, the Deputy Chairperson on Putin's National Security Council. He was really critical of the sanctions, or perhaps unsurprisingly, he said, now is the time to put the padlocks on the embassies and continue to gaze at each other through binoculars or rifle scopes. I think that gets you the sense of how they're thinking about it. We heard these months ago from President Putin's own press person to be Dmitry Peskov speaking about the possibility of personal sanctions on President Putin, which also seems to be something that could happen as well. And, you know, he said that would be a rupture of relations that this will be taken very, very personally, I think it's the bottom line there.

So the SWIFT sanctions would have a much bigger economic scope. But we've also heard the Russians talking about their response, that there will be a reciprocal response, it might be a symmetrical, not entirely clear what that means. But, you know, if they're sanctioned on, you know, one, one type of import, then they might sanction, they might not sanction specifically, the same goods going in the other direction.

So, there's a possibility here that Russia may take the SWIFT sang a sanction, if it happens, to really ramp up their reaction. They haven't framed that yet. They haven't made clear what that will be. But they have indicated in the past that they might throttle back oil and gas supplies to Europe. Now European Union, president of commission president, Ursula von der Leyen that Europe was on the right side of such -- a such an attack, in essence, in this winter -- over this winter, but that there is a direction that Russia could go in. But there's going to be likely an emotional response and then the calculated economic response from the Russian side.

PAUL: Nic Robertson, boy, thank you so much. I mean, there's so much to think about this morning.

SANCHEZ: So, President Biden made history by nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, she still has to be confirmed, and that may be a complicated process. That story, coming up.



PAUL: The world's leaders prepared for Russia's military attack on Ukraine. They were also preparing for cyberattacks on Ukraine and its allies. As soon as President Biden announced sanctions against Russia, federal officials stepped up warnings that U.S. businesses, governments, utilities need to watch out for digital warfare. While many attacks can't be directly tied to Russia, the belief is that hackers operate with the Kremlin's blessing.

The President said the U.S. is prepared to respond if Russia pursues cyberattacks against U.S. interests and Homeland Security is leading the response to potential effects of cyberattacks. It set up a group to monitor Russian activity, in fact.

Well, its former director of cybersecurity at DHS, Amit Yoran, is with us now. He's currently chairman and CEO of Tenable, which helps companies manage security risks. We appreciate you being here with us. Thank you so much. Amit. I wanted to ask you, when we talk about credible threats and targets, what are those companies, those governments, those energy sectors that are most susceptible?

AMIT YORAN, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, TENABLE: Well, there's a lot of susceptibility across the United States, especially in the critical infrastructures, because those are known targets of hackers operating within Russia and sometimes the direction of the Russian government. We've seen it consistently over the years against the U.S. and also against other nations.

PAUL: So what should they be doing to protect -- basically to protect themselves and their people?

YORAN: Within this -- sorry, within DHS, the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency has a program called shields up where they've spelled out what folks should be doing to protect themselves. The first is know the vulnerabilities that Russian and other state sponsored threat actors are leveraging. They published a set of 15 vulnerabilities, and they said, hey, if you're vulnerable to these things, you need to patch your systems, you need to tighten down, button down the hatches because these are the methods that the hackers are leveraging.


They've also published a series of activities to be on the lookout for. So it's very straightforward. It's very simple, easy to digest what organizations need to do.

PAUL: So, I want to remember SolarWinds, that hack that cyberattack was back in 2020, that will do a series of data breaches, including some within the U.S. government. And the suspect, as we mentioned in the intro there, the suspect is this group believed to be connected to or driven by the Russian government. So with that said, how confident are you that the U.S. can thwart cyberattacks specifically from these groups?

YORAN: You've -- I think you've hit the nail on the head. These groups are operating within Russia, and in many instances, have the support of the Russian government. We've seen it in SolarWinds. We've seen it in the -- all the high-profile outages, which many Americans have experienced. We saw it in the Colonial Pipeline shut down. The JBS Foods meatpacking facility shut down.

And in previous years with NotPetya and other very impactful attacks, I don't think it's possible for the federal government to protect the nation. The use of technology is too broad, and it's too critical across every industry and every business. So it's incumbent upon American businesses and critical infrastructure operators to heed the warning, protect your systems.

Many of the vulnerabilities which had been published by SISA have been out there for two years. Two years is two years too long. So you've got to patch your systems, you've got to monitor your systems, you got to protect yourself, and leave it to the federal government to do the monitoring, and have the national coordinated response back through diplomatic and other efforts against Russia.

PAUL: OK, so let me ask you this. Do you see any evidence of others say bad actors who are taking advantage of the chaos that we're watching right now?

YORAN: Yes, as frequently happens in cyber, because attribution is difficult to do. Packets go across the network, someone is implementing a hack. It takes time to attribute those attacks. It takes a lot of work. So there are folks taking advantage of the chaos is -- as you put it, and I think, one of those actors which the government has already called out, you know, by SISA, NSA and FBI is around. And they've already begun their activities taking advantage of the chaos.

And we have other actors, other hackers doing the same, the Koti ransomware group, which has also been very active, has sided with Russians and said, hey, if you side against Russia, we will attack your critical infrastructure. They've got a history of doing so going after medical facilities and others.

PAUL: And it's a lot to learn. Amit Yoran, thank you so much for teaching us this morning. We appreciate it.

YORAN: Good to be with you, Christi.

PAUL: Thank you. Take good care.

So President Biden made good on his promise to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court now. She needs to be confirmed by the Senate. We're going to talk about that in a moment. Stay close.



SANCHEZ: President Biden made history on Friday by nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court pick. If confirmed, Judge Jackson will be the first black woman to sit on the nation's highest court. She's currently on D.C.'s federal appellate court and been considered the front runner for the vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. Judge Jackson says that she hopes to inspire others.


JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: And if I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associates Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans.


SANCHEZ: Here to discuss this historic moment is constitutional law professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and also the author of, "She Took Justice, the Black Woman, Law and Justice, Gloria Browne-Marshall. Gloria, thank you so much for sharing part of your weekend with us. If she's confirmed, Judge Jackson would be a historic pick, obviously, a huge moment for the nation. What do you make of this picked by President Biden?

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, I think it's a powerful moment in history. But it's not just the nominations, it's the power still have on the court. We have nine members of our community, five of whom can create the law of the land, people to the President of United States, people to Congress. And so she will have a mighty task before her and a lot of power in her hand.

SANCHEZ: Gloria, when you look at her list of accomplishments and credentials, and there are many and I do want to personally know that she's a proud product of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, was there something that stood out to you that set her above some of the other potential nominees because the list was studded with people that have accomplished a lot?


BROWNE-MARSHALL: They had accomplished a lot. I mean, all of these nominees or the potential nominees were brilliant women and are part of a community that have been able to produce that women of such high caliber and character. I think the one thing that I think that served for it is the fact that he was curious enough to become a public defender, as well as to work for the Sentencing Commission.

He wanted to find out more about criminal justice, and most of our nominees and I would say the city's justices did not have a deep criminal justice background. He has that background. And because criminal justice is such a, you know, relevant part of our society today, and to our processes have been part of so many conversations, I think she brings that relevant part to the court that's important that she is the person who gets through this brutal hearing process.

SANCHEZ: You know, the brutal hearing process, there were three Republicans that voted to put her on the D.C. appellate court. Are you looking forward perhaps to those Republicans also supporting her in this process? Because at least one of them, Lindsey Graham, didn't sound like he was ready to?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, you know, she's the same person they supported before. But when we get to this level, it's going to be history, and they know it. And the idea that they would not support the same person, that same credentials to be on the same court was still there and insincerity, you know, and what they're looking for in Supreme Court justice, because she has every quality that's needed. But she also brings with her is the sense of history. And I think they want to be on the right side of history at this moment.

SANCHEZ: She has made some rulings that a lot of Republicans may not agree with. She famously issued an opinion reading, quote, presidents are not kings, essentially, forcing Don McGahn, the former White House Counsel to testify in a congressional investigation of then President Donald Trump. What do you think might be the most controversial of her decisions in the past that may come up in this process?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: I think is that -- I think that it is also because she wasn't virulently conservative. I mean, if you think about the process, we just went through with Amy Coney Barrett that we have someone who was vetted for her conservatism to find a person that might with overturning Roe versus Wade, and be loyal to a president. I mean, when we think about, you know, someone being rabidly, you know, an advocate of a particular ideology, we see that in the last nominees to the court.

So I think that she represents in her past decisions, a moderate. I don't think she's wildly liberal. I think she is definitely a moderate. He started off her remarks by talking about her deep faith, which is what I thought the services wanted. So it doesn't matter. It seems like what the Conservatives are saying, what they're going to do is object to anyone that she just said put forward, that what appears to be.

SANCHEZ: And I think she's already achieved some of what she was trying to by being an inspiration just seeing her reach this level and potentially become confirmed, expands the paradigm for so many young people to imagine what is possible for themselves.

Gloria Browne-Marshall, thank you so much for the time this morning.


PAUL: Stay with us. The CDC is issuing new guidance on masks. We'll tell you what you need to know.



SANCHEZ: We are 52 minutes past the hour and here's a look at some of the top stories we've been following. In Kentucky, in the trial of Brett Hankinson, the only police officer charged in connection with the botched 2020 raid in Louisville that left Breonna Taylor dead. Jurors took a tour of the 26-year-old apartment yesterday.

Hankinson's charges are actually not related to Taylor's death. He's facing three wanton endangerment charges for firing 10 shots into a neighboring apartment. No one has been charged for causing Taylor's death to this point.

PAUL: Well, the CDC announced new changes to its COVID-19 metrics that will allow most people here in the U.S. to unmask indoors, and that includes inside schools, which has been a big point of contention. The agency will now consider hospitalizations and hospital bed capacity, in addition to COVID caseload to determine if areas of the country are high, medium or low risk.

Now under this new guidance, only about 28 percent of the U.S. population lives in high risk areas such as Los Angeles and San Diego. That's where masks are still recommended indoors.

SANCHEZ: More disruption in Major League Baseball. You won't see any spring training games until March 8th at the very earliest. The owners and players have been caught in a labor dispute since last week. They're meeting in Jupiter, Florida right now to try and negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The league set a Monday deadline for a new deal.

PAUL: And the FDA is taking the next step towards banning all menthol cigarettes and cigars. This week, the agency sent its proposed rules into the Office of Management and Budget for review. Now menthol, tobacco products have been heavily marketed to racial minorities, and studies show these products can lead to smoking habits, particularly in a young. Menthol flavoring is also believed to be more addictive.

PAUL: Cities all across the world are displaying blue and yellow lights, the colors of the Ukrainian flag in a show of solidarity with the European nation as it grapples with a full-on Russian invasion.

[08:55:00] This is California in San Francisco where City Hall is lit up to show their support. In Paris meantime, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated on Friday at the request of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The London Eye also joining landmarks in lighting up the sky in unity for about five hours last night. The Empire State Building was also lit up in blue and yellow as well.

PAUL: Yes, it is something to see. You know, many of you watching you may be like us, you want to know how to help but you don't know how to do that. Well, organizations around the world and on the ground in Ukraine are trying to help the people who need food and shelter and water and additional aid right now in this crisis. So for information about how you can help those efforts, just go to And thank you for doing so.

And we we are so grateful to have you with us in the morning from these weekends. We do hope that you make some good memories today. Smerconish is up next for you.

SANCHEZ: And we'll see you back here tomorrow morning at 5:00 Eastern. Hope you have a great day.