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CNN TONIGHT: Zelenskyy: Mariupol Is "Reduced To Ashes," But "Will Survive"; Biden Heading To Europe This Week For Urgent Talks With NATO As War Rages In Ukraine; Historic Confirmation Hearings Begin For Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired March 21, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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(VIDEO - UKRAINIAN GIRL WHO SANG "LET IT GO" IN SHELTER PERFORMS NATIONAL ANTHEM)
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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well done, Amelia. Thank you, again.
Stay with CNN, for the latest, on Ukraine. The news continues. Let's hand it over to Laura Coates, and CNN TONIGHT.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Oh, she was so sweet! I have a 7-year-old daughter, you know, Anderson. That just made my heart sing just now.
COATES: She's so cute! And her composure just to bow at the end! It's unimaginable what these kids have gone through.
COATES: And thank you for your coverage. It's really amazing.
COOPER: Thanks, Laura.
Thank you, everyone. I am Laura Coates, and welcome to CNN TONIGHT.
Much more to come, on this first historic day, and historic confirmation hearing, for the first Black woman, nominated to the United States Supreme Court.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is awaiting, a grilling, from senators, on the Judiciary Committee, starting tomorrow. We got a couple clues, today, of what's really to come. In fact, maybe how Republicans, on the panel, will test the judge, on her record. And perhaps more importantly, how will she respond?
But first, to the breaking news, the non-stop bombardment of major Ukrainian cities, on day 26, of the Russian invasion.
New large explosions, in Kyiv, today, as Russian forces attempt to encircle the capital. At least eight more people murdered. This time, in a strike, on a shopping center, earlier today. A kindergarten and nearby apartment buildings also destroyed.
The Pentagon says the Russians are quote-unquote, frustrated that their advances have been stalled by stiff Ukrainian resistance. And that's why the Russian Military is now stepping up its missile attack on civilian areas, like this, the key port city of Mariupol, where bombs are now falling, quote, "Every 10 minutes," unquote, according to one officer.
And this is what President Zelenskyy said, about the onslaught.
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VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Hardworking, honest city of Mariupol, which is being destroyed, by the occupiers, and being reduced to ashes. But it will survive.
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COATES: "Reduced to ashes. But it will survive."
Now, meanwhile, President Biden spoke about Russia's escalating brutality, with key European leaders, today. All this ahead of his trip to the NATO summit, later this week.
And we've got a team of correspondents, standing by, in the region, and also at the White House. And we begin, in Lviv, with Ben Wedeman.
Ben, I'm glad that you're here. We're seeing satellite images, of Russian tanks, and artillery positions, around Mariupol. And, of course, at the same time, we're looking at this map, and satellite imagery. The devastation there is visible, from those same satellites. As you see, apartment buildings, are on fire.
So, what is the latest, right now, Ben, on the bombardment there?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically what's going on, in Mariupol, Laura, is a medieval siege, fought with modern weapons.
We are hearing, for instance, that people are running out of food. There is no electricity. There is no gas. People are basically melting water, because there's no running water, available.
So, the situation is dire. And this really underscores how far the Russians will go to try to gain control, of this city. But it's coming at a very high cost, it would seem.
There was an interesting incident today, where a pro-Kremlin tabloid, quoting the Russian Ministry of Defense, said that the death toll, so far, from this war, among Russian forces, is 9,861.
Most recently, the U.S government was saying, estimating the casualty, the fatalities, among Russian forces, were around 7,000. This is a stunning number.
But, strangely enough, this article that appeared online, disappeared very quickly afterwards, when these numbers came out. But this certainly indicates that the Russian Military is paying a very high price, for this bloody assault.
COATES: And, of course--
COATES: --as you're talking about it, Ben, I would imagine, to have those numbers, public, would really undermine the propaganda campaign, being run, inside of Russia, right now, to suggest that they are having the advantage, and that they are justified, in what they're calling a security operation. And we see those numbers, not to mention the casualties, of civilians, in Ukraine, as well.
Ben Wedeman, thank you so much, for your coverage.
And there are two points, as you know, out of the Pentagon, today. One that, the Russians have so far failed to achieve much of what they wanted to do, on the ground. We just heard about that.
And then, there's this.
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JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We certainly see clear evidence that Russian forces are committing war crimes. And we are helping with the collecting of evidence of that.
But there's investigative processes that are going to go on. And we're going to let that happen. We're going to contribute to that investigative process. As for what would come out of that? That's not a decision that the Pentagon leadership would make.
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COATES: When you see buildings, in neighborhoods of Mariupol, they're bearing the scars of destruction. I mean, look at that imagery, right there. I mean, keep in mind, when you're looking at this, this was a thriving community, a month ago.
And when you see attacks, like the strikes on the mall, in Kyiv, me and Ben, were just speaking about, you begin to understand how the idea of holding Russians, to this so-called stalemate, only increases the humanitarian pain.
My next guest, he knows that link, very well. As the former top general, for European Command, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, I'm very glad you're here to help, break this all down. And I want to begin, with that word, "Stalemate." Because, I think, a lot of people hear that, and they don't necessarily know what it truly means, you know, the colloquial term.
But what does that mean to have a stalemate? You see the destruction continues to go on. It does not mean, they're going to retreat, in any way. Is that right?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST, U.S. ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE (RET.): Not necessarily, Laura, but it could.
Here's what we're talking about. The Russians were conducting offensive operations. They attempted to do things very quickly, along five avenues of approach. They were stalled, in each one of them. That means their offensive operations came to a halt.
And it was for a variety of reasons. They ran into some very stiff resistance, on the part of Ukrainian army, and the territorial force. But they also were not able, to keep up with their logistics trail.
Any professional soldier will tell you that at this level of warfare, if you forget logistics, you will lose. And the logistics plan, from the very beginning, many people have said, me included, is it will not be able to keep up, with those various avenues of approaches.
Russia's operation was being conducted, along, if you go around the curve, of Ukraine, that's probably about a 1,400 mile front. That requires unbelievable amounts of resupply of food, fuel, ammunition, and medical supplies.
And all indicators are that Russia has not kept up with their operations. If they don't keep up logistically, the operation stalls. That's where we've come to. It's called, in the Military terms, a culminating point of the offense.
That means they have to rapidly go on the defense, where they're not moving. They're not maneuvered. And they're being subjected to continued attacks, by the Ukrainian forces, which are in something called an act of defense, which means they're defending, but they're also going out, and attacking, in small units. And they have taken--
COATES: Which - yes.
HERTLING: --the brunt of this attack.
COATES: Which, in a way, as you're describing it, first of all, my immediate impression, as you describe the logistics, and the absence of the preparatory planning, on this, says to me, this was a knee-jerk reaction, as opposed to a strategized invasion, which of course, we know, there has been no justification, yet stated that is, actually a viable one.
But the idea also occurs to me that we've heard, for many years, about the might, of the Russian Military. Has the world really overestimated the ability of the Russian army and logistical strategizing as well? Have they overestimated that, as well? And, in doing so, has this been one of the reasons, why the resistance, from the Ukrainians, has been so effective?
HERTLING: In a word, yes. As a guy, who was in Europe, for a very long time, for a big part of my career, 12 years, out of 38 years, in the Military, we continue to get information, about Russia's services, their command and control, their leadership styles.
I visited Russia at least four times or five times. And, in each one of those visits, I would write reports afterwards saying, "These are the things I saw, and they are not 10 feet tall."
There are some problems, with not only their equipment, massive problems with their equipment, bad news, in terms of their doctrine, the way they conducted war, how their equipment, and their force didn't meet their doctrinal approach, how their leadership, at both the senior and the junior levels, were terrible, and how the training, overall, of the force, was poor.
All of those things, added up, to me, as a Commander in Europe that these Russians are not all that good. But having said all that, they do have 6,000 nuclear weapons, more than half of the nuclear weapons in the world. About 2,000 of them are considered tactical nuclear weapons, are small-yield nuclear weapons.
So, that kind of size of a force, with a backing of nuclear weapons, that kind of quantity has a quality, all of its own, when you're talking about a player, on the world stage.
COATES: I'm wondering, in particular, for many people, who are watching? And we're, of course, focusing on the distraction in different areas. And obviously, Mariupol is one. Why Mariupol?
Why is the strategy to continue to bombard and destroy Mariupol? Mariupol - excuse me. Why is everyone focused on that, in particular, if you're the Russian Military? Help explain the context of why this is such a strategic location for the Russians.
HERTLING: Well, operations are tactics. The things that soldiers, and commanders, do in the field, are linked to the strategy of the politicians. And, in this case, the strategy of Mr. Putin was, first of all, to subjugate Ukraine. He knew he could do that.
And I'm glad you've got the map up now. Because Mariupol connects - it's halfway between Crimea, which the Russians have naval forces in, and the Donbas region, of Luhansk and Donetsk, which is that shaded area, to the right.
If you go further, to the west, you also see Odessa. It has always been Putin's desire to have the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, considered as a Russian Lake. He wanted to control those ports, across the board. If you control those ports, you land-lock the rest of Ukraine. And that's part of the subjugation. Mariupol is important, for two reasons, Laura. First of all, going to the east and connecting with the Donbas. But if you go north of Mariupol, there's another Russian city, called Dnipro.
And going north from Mariupol, coming south from Kharkiv, you can encircle the Donbas region, where the Russians believe most of the Ukrainian army was, because they've been fighting there, for the last six years.
That's called a Battle of Annihilation. When you have two sides, coming from different directions, and encircling the enemy force, you basically cause them to surrender.
That didn't happen, because the Russians did not apply as much force. The Ukrainians were fighting for their lives and their country. And they just can't connect those two wings, coming from the south and the north.
So, Mariupol then becomes "Let's destroy it. Let's terrorize the citizens. Let's cause chaos. Let's cause the Ukrainian army to look in two places, fighting us and defending their citizenry."
HERTLING: So, it's a very complex plan. And they certainly didn't have the ability, to execute it.
COATES: General Hertling, the right person, to speak, about this. I appreciate your time, and for the explanation. Thank you.
HERTLING: Thanks, Laura.
COATES: And I remind everyone, Mariupol is a city of about 450,000 people. Look at the destruction, we've been focusing on, as well.
Now, all options, for families, in Ukraine, they're all heartbreaking. On the one hand, you can stay, like this man, in Kyiv, the site of an apartment building, completely sheared off. And he's left to search for anything that can be salvaged, and what used to be a home. Or you do, what millions, now have done. You flee, taking just what you can carry.
Our Miguel Marquez, is in Bucharest, with families facing a very uncertain future.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ludmyla Zhidik, her two teen daughters, and her father, arrived, last night.
LUDMYLA ZHIDIK, FLED KHARKIV: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
MARQUEZ (voice-over): "Our beautiful parks, our beautiful square," she says, "Everything is ruined." From Kharkiv, a city punished, by Russian artillery and rockets, a school teacher, Zhidik, has some savings, but not much. Their three- day journey brought them, to this shelter, run by the city of Bucharest.
SOFIA ZHIDIK, FLED KHARKIV: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
MARQUEZ (voice-over): "I'm shocked war is possible in 2022," she says. "Everything was good. I could walk with my friends. I love my home city. It was very difficult to leave."
S. ZHIDIK: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Sofia's sister says, it's hard to believe their lives have been thrown into such enormous uncertainty.
ANASTASIA ZHIDIK, FLED KHARKIV: I really miss my house, my country, my city. And I hope that this war is going to finish.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Andrei Tesmann, a furniture-maker, had his own business. He's here, with his wife, kids, in all, a family of eight, and their Chihuahua, Bruno (ph).
MARQUEZ (on camera): Do you know when you will go home?
ANDREI TESMANN, FLED IRPIN: Big question.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Big question.
(voice-over): A friend sent video of what their home now looks like.
(on camera): This is your home?
TESMANN: Well it's my home. It's my room, bedroom.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Bedroom?
TESMANN: Yes. It's my bedroom.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Unlivable! The entire neighborhood destroyed by possibly a rocket or artillery fire. Nothing to go back to.
(on camera): At 60-years-old, are you starting over again?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
MARQUEZ (voice-over): "I don't want to," he says. "But I have to."
His son is in Florida. The family has inquired, about visas, to travel to the U.S. But, so far?
TESMANN: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
MARQUEZ (voice-over): "We haven't tried to apply for visas," he says. His wife adds, "My son sent several messages to embassies and to people in Washington D.C." The message they got back? "America does not accept refugees, for now."
The Biden administration looking for ways, to speed up applications. For now, World Vision is helping these refugees, and tens of thousands more, in Romania, alone. Their needs, deepening.
ANDREEA BUJOR, WORLD VISION, ROMANIA: The people that are coming now, these people really, really need help. And there are a lot of people. We were at the border. And I was at the border. And I talked to a lot of people that didn't have any money, any plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
JULIA MULIARCHUK, REFUGEE FROM KYIV: Mama.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Julia Muliarchuk and her 8-year-old son, David, named for David Beckham, from Kyiv, arrived two weeks ago.
MARQUEZ (on camera): When you decided to leave, how long did you have to pack?
MULIARCHUK: Well, I had around three hours.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Three hours?
MULIARCHUK: Yes. Yes. Yes.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): A few bags, documents, and family photos.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Who is this?
MULIARCHUK: It's me and my husband, 10 years ago.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): She calls her mother, in Kyiv, every morning.
MULIARCHUK: It's always like, "Hello, Mom. Are you OK?" And we're talking, talking. She's saying "Yes, it seems like it's been quiet night." And then, I'm speaking to my husband, and my friends.
MARQUEZ (on camera): It's like a full-time job.
MULIARCHUK: Not a full-time job. But you - you have - you have to be sure that everyone is OK, because it's nothing for sure, now, nothing.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): She wants to go home. But when?
MARQUEZ (on camera): When do you think you can go home?
MULIARCHUK: Only God knows when! Nobody knows.
COATES: Miguel, it's listening to this, people talk about, this, going on in the families, and as a parent, trying to hold your face, and your spine, straight to your children, "Don't fear," and "Don't worry" must have just been unbelievable, to experience.
And for weeks now, you've been covering the expanding humanitarian crisis there. I mean, how is the population changing? It went from obviously, a few hundred to now 3 million.
When you're talking about the people, who are traveling, are you seeing a trend, in terms of those who have chosen to leave now, as opposed to before?
MARQUEZ: The ones that are leaving now are leaving under fire. They're leaving, because they have to. They're leaving, because they have nowhere else to go.
So, they're showing, over the border, places, like Romania, and Poland, and Hungary, and everywhere else, with very little money, little clothes, sometimes, not even documents. And it may get worse.
There are many more millions, inside Ukraine that are internally displaced. And if the Russians continue to push, into civilian areas, using that indiscriminate force, there is expected to be another tidal wave, of refugees, in the weeks, ahead. It could get as bad as it is, it could get much worse, Laura.
COATES: Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.
So, one of the big questions is what exactly should President Biden, and what does NATO, need to do? I mean, part of this is going to impact, of course, NATO member allies as well. So, how do they adapt to the changing dynamic of this war?
A former NATO Ambassador and Special Envoy to Ukraine thinks it's very clear how far they should go, and also where they shouldn't. And he joins me next.
COATES: President Biden's been, working the phones, today, before his extremely important trip, to the NATO summit, and then, of course, on to Poland.
Our Senior White House Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, joins me, tonight.
Phil, I'm glad you're here. We've got the President speaking with the leaders of France, and Germany, and Italy, and the U.K. today. What happened during that call?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Laura, it's about an hour long call. And you can really kind of frame it as the opening act of one of the most consequential diplomatic weeks, of probably President Biden's life. Certainly one of the most consequential diplomatic weeks, a U.S. President has, as it pertains to Europe, in decades. And this meeting with the leaders of the four Western European powers was really a chance, to coordinate, share perspectives, on what's going on.
There was discussion about some of the siege issues that Ukrainians have been dealing with that you were talking about earlier in the show. Very specific discussions, as well, about Mariupol, and what's been going on there.
But also, a chance to talk about, what lies ahead, both in the meetings, later this week, but also the expansive response, when you look at what the Western alliance has put together, in terms of that response.
Over the course of the last four weeks, it is at a scale, particularly, on the sanctions side that I don't think many White House officials thought, was possible, a couple of months ago.
Now, they're here. Putin is continuing to ramp up and escalate. What can be done from here to try and change that dynamic? That more than anything else is what leaders are trying to figure out, right now, Laura.
COATES: And I assume, among those discussions, about the deliverables, one of the things our last block was talking about, was obviously you've got an escalating humanitarian crisis. You know the refugee numbers, millions going into countries that include NATO member countries. And it's created a massive crisis.
And the question will be, does the U.S. plan to admit Ukrainian refugees, as well?
MATTINGLY: It's something that's under discussion right now.
White House officials are working through the process, with an acknowledgment that not all of those millions of refugees that are departing Ukraine are necessarily going to want or need to stay in Eastern Europe, or other parts of Europe. There's a possibility some will want to come to the United States.
Now, there's a process that would have to be in place for that to occur. Officials are talking about trying to streamline that process, or maybe minimize some of the red tape.
But, I think, that's going to be a key point of discussion, when President Biden, arrives in Poland. Obviously, his first stop will be in Brussels, for that extraordinary meeting of all 30 NATO member country leaders. Then, to meet with the European Commission. Then, a G7 meeting, as well, called by Germany. But then off to Poland.
You talk to officials, who have been in conversations, with their Polish counterparts. And they recognize that there have been millions of refugees that have crossed the border into that country. The Polish people have been extraordinarily welcoming. But they are over- capacity, at this point.
MATTINGLY: There's no question about it. And the U.S. will have to step in, not just with dollars, but also with other assistance, as well, Laura.
COATES: A critical conversation, and allies all around. Phil Mattingly, thank you.
To better understand the stakes of this NATO meeting that we're talking about, let me bring in the former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker.
Ambassador, I'm glad you're here. It's nice to speak with you again.
Right now, a lot is at stake. And, of course, a lot of people are wondering about the escalating invasion, about the destruction that's happening.
And it is a very important meeting. What are you thinking might come of this discussion? Will there be actual deliverables that could be achieved, in this discussion?
KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, CENTER FOR EUROPEAN POLICY ANALYSIS: Thank you so much for having me.
And this is a critically important meeting, as you say. And the issue here is not just what NATO does. It's what Putin listens to, what Putin hears, out of this meeting.
Obviously, the first step of all these NATO allies will be to reaffirm the commitment, to collective self-defense. Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, "Any attack on one is an attack on all," that will be very clear.
But what Putin will be listening for, is well what does this mean about Ukraine? What is NATO prepared to do? What are they not prepared to do?
And here, I think, NATO needs to send some very serious messages, to Putin, particularly about civilian casualties, and about refraining from, the use of any nuclear, or chemical, or biological weapons.
COATES: And obviously, that's so important, not only because of the tragedy that could occur. But I also wonder about the desperation, we're seeing.
As many on the ground have described, they're not fighting troops. They are attacking civilians, which says, if he doesn't have the Russia - Russian Military preparedness that obviously should have been there, had he wanted to engage, in this horrible, unjustified invasion, it suggests that he was unprepared, and therefore will be desperate, going forward.
If he is desperate, does that pose extraordinary security, and risk, to the civilians, in other NATO countries as well?
VOLKER: It does. But I think there's one way to deal with that, which is to warn Putin, that any use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons is unacceptable, that NATO stands for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine that we will not allow Ukraine to fail. And then, also, to provide as much support for the civilians as possible.
As you indicated, in your question, Russia's Military invasion, of Ukraine, is failing. The ground forces are not moving. They've had massive defections, massive equipment destruction, massive casualties. And so, that's why they're resorting, to these long-range, indiscriminate attacks, on civilian populations.
So, we need to recognize that they're in a desperate situation. We can push back, and help the civilians. And then, allow time, for the sanctions, to take effect, which ultimately should bring Putin, to the table.
COATES: Now, Ambassador, what you described, though, really falls under the umbrella of diplomacy, which as you know, requires there to be rational parties, on both sides, who have a mutual decision, or a mutual desire, to have a shared result.
We're thinking about this notion, if he is acting in desperation, if he's attacking civilians? Our own President has spoken about him being a war criminal. What good would it do, to warn him, against the use of these chemical weapons, or nuclear warfare?
Obviously, there seems to be discussion about the red line. Have we passed the point of no-return, when it comes to Vladimir Putin, given that he has really balked up to this point in time at diplomatic efforts?
VOLKER: Well, this is a question, we can't ever know the answer to. Is Putin crazy, and will do any crazy thing? Or is he irrational and acting aggressively? We just don't know.
But Russia is a country, not just one person. There are Military leaders, Intelligence leaders, business leaders. And if we make clear, the stakes for Russia, that Putin is driving his country, into the ground? Then, either they will force him, to confront facts, or they may perhaps remove him.
But we need to make those facts clear. We need to be able to create the pushback, so that Russia sees the costs of its own actions, and that Ukraine ultimately will survive and prevail. So, our course direction is clear, even if we don't know exactly the state of Putin's mind.
COATES: Ambassador Volker, it'd be very interesting to see how to penetrate that propaganda and misinformation campaign, within Russia, to do exactly what you're talking about.
A pleasure speaking with you. Thank you, for your expertise, on this very important issue.
VOLKER: Thank you so much.
COATES: Now, domestically, to our huge story, here, at home. Historic confirmation hearings are now underway, for the first Black female Supreme Court nominee.
What can we glean from today's opening statements, on how senators will grill Judge Jackson, tomorrow? That's ahead.
COATES: We saw history today. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in for her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the first Black woman ever nominated.
Here she is, explaining her judicial philosophy.
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JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building, "Equal Justice Under Law," are a reality, and not just an ideal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Let's bring in CNN Supreme Court Reporter, Ariane de Vogue, for more on what happened today.
Ariane, I mean, first of all, we know we got a bit of a preview today, as you well know, through opening statements, not only her own, but from the members of the Judiciary Committee, who previewed, in many respects, where they intend to go, with their questioning.
There're about three main areas they're trying to seek to perhaps attack her. Tell us a little bit about what those areas might be.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Oh, right, absolutely, we did get a little bit of a roadmap here.
And, of course, it started with the Republicans, talking about her time, serving as a public federal defender. Remember, that's one of the reasons President Biden chose her. He really appreciated that background.
But you heard a couple of the Republicans say - ask her about some of her clients. For instance, they asked her about the fact that at one point, she represented a terrorism detainee, at Guantanamo Bay.
But she actually, has responded, to this, in the past. And she basically said that at the time she became a public defender, because she wanted to know more about the criminal justice system. Last time, she was on the Hill, less than a year ago, she said that the experience made her a better judge. And she said, when she was asked about a representation that she did, what every lawyer does. And that is to try to vigorously defend her client, to the best of her ability.
We didn't get too much - too many questions, so far, too many statements, so far, about Trump policies, or some of his rulings. That's going to come tomorrow.
But we also got a lot more from Republican Josh Hawley. Because remember, last week, he caused sort of a firestorm.
He sent out these tweets, and he basically believes that in a handful of cases, and as a judge, she was too lenient, in her sentences, for child porn offenders. He basically looked at that, he said, he thought that there was a problem, and there was a pattern there.
But CNN did review, on our own, a few of those cases. And it looked much more like she was, in the mainstream, as far as what other judges did. And that's because, for those particular types of offenses, the guidelines were considered outdated. So, a lot of other judges followed suit, and did basically what she did.
And tonight, CNN has obtained a letter that some retired federal judges have just sent to the Hill. It'll be discussed tomorrow. And they basically bring up that same point. They say, at the time, those guidelines, for these particular offenses, were outdated.
A lot of judges looked at that. And they said, the way that she handled those cases, was a lot like many other federal judges were. And importantly, this letter was also signed by two Republican appointees. They're retired federal judges. But that'll give a lot of weight, and that's sure to be a big topic of conversation, tomorrow.
COATES: Well, it ought to be. I mean, the idea here that she's being questioned on her decisions to depart from the guidelines, to average people, thinking about this, who are legal laymen, they may think, "Oh, these are set in stone, one can never depart."
But the letter you speak about is about how judges have looked at this, and said, "Hey, thematically over time, there has been some variation."
It's not necessarily what Josh Hawley, the senator from Missouri, has been speaking about. And it really comes to the defense of the judicial bench, in many respects, right, Ariane, about the decision to sometimes depart.
What's behind that decision, though? Because they didn't just say blanketly, "You can always depart either upwardly or downwardly." It's more nuance, in a case like this. Why was it out of date, they believe?
DE VOGUE: So, it was particularly to these offenses, and it's, for offenders, who didn't produce the materials, or send the materials. So, it's just people, who were reading them. And that's where the dichotomy was.
And even though we have this letter, you saw Hawley, today, and a couple of other of the conservatives on that - on that panel, they are not going to let this go. They are going to press her about it tomorrow.
But the danger there is here is a candidate, who really has a firm grasp, of the criminal justice system, all around. She was on the Sentencing Commission. She served as this federal public defender. She's a judge. And that will really showcase the depth of her knowledge. And also the fact that nobody who's sitting on the Supreme Court, right now, has such a deep understanding, of the intricacies, of the federal system? So, that will likely come out too.
COATES: In fact, the only person with the same Sentencing Commission experience is her prior judge that she clerked for, Justice Breyer, who, of course is going to be retiring, opening that seat.
Ariane de Vogue, thank you for your time, and your great reporting. I mentioned, of course, one of the reasons, perhaps she's so well- versed, in this process, this is her fourth time--
DE VOGUE: Yes.
COATES: --now appearing, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Very important to note. Thank you.
And we mentioned Republican senator Josh Hawley. Well, he says he's not interested in playing "Gotcha" tomorrow, with Judge Jackson. But as we discussed, he's already signaling that he might try, anyway.
And we're going to dig into what day two will bring, next.
COATES: So, today were the opening statements. And the senators, of the Judiciary Committee, started questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, beginning tomorrow.
Republicans seem to preview their attacks, on her record. In fact, here's part of Senator Marsha Blackburn's opening statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): I can only wonder what's your hidden agenda?
Is it to let violent criminals, cop killers, and child predators back to the streets? Is it to restrict parental rights and expand government's reach into our schools and our private family decisions? Is it to support the radical left's attempt to pack the Supreme Court?
You have praised The 1619 Project, which argues the U.S. is a fundamentally racist country. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: I got to say, it must have been difficult, for her, to sit there, for so many hours, and hear, what was being said, in the accusations. That's just a preview, by the way.
Danielle Holley-Walker's name was floated as a possible Supreme Court candidate. You know, she's the Dean of the Howard University School of Law. And she joins me now.
Dean, I'm glad that you're here. I have to ask you, your initial reactions, to what you're seeing.
Because, there is this overall theme, and Senator Marsha Blackburn seem to have a bit of a kitchen sink argument, to suggest that everything that is in the national Zeitgeist, is somehow falling on the shoulders of a hidden agenda, of the judge.
What was your impression at the line of opening statements that came today?
DANIELLE HOLLEY-WALKER, DEAN, HOWARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, FLOATED AS POSSIBLE SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Laura, thank you so much, for having me, this evening, on this first day, of this historic confirmation hearings.
I think we heard a little bit of everything. And, from the Democrats, of course, we heard about the historic nature, of the nomination, the breadth of Judge Jackson's experience.
And, from the Republicans, I think, what we're seeing is that, this is really an opportunity, to get across national talking points, right? This is one of the few times, where people are really tuning in, to the Judiciary Committee.
So, as you just heard, with Senator Blackburn, you're going to hear a little bit of everything, from Critical Race Theory, to even Senator Cotton, talking about a wave of violent crime, to all kinds of things that really don't have to do with Judge Jackson's qualifications, but are opportunities, for senators, to really show, what's on their agenda.
COATES: And in part, this talking point, about being soft on crime, there's a political analogy, being made, across the country, about so- called Blue cities, and Blue states, and the rising crime rates, and pointing directions, to who might actually be, the cause of it.
But this notion of soft on crime? I'm a former federal prosecutor. And I can tell you that the federal public defenders? They were not soft on crime. They were very hard on injustice, which of course, you want a judge to actually be.
And both prosecutors and defense counsel are aware that the people of the United States has to include the defendant, and their rights, as well, where you couldn't have a situation - and you know that. You're Dean of a Law School.
Where, if the only criteria, for being soft on crime, was to be invested, in the rights, of a particular person, with the weight of the law against them, then everyone would actually be soft on crime, including prosecutors, right?
HOLLEY-WALKER: That's absolutely correct. I think, it is a terrible line of attack, to talk about her record, as a public defender. Because we know that, to be a public defender, you have to be deeply committed, to the rule of law.
There are so many constitutional rights that we all have to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment that could not be taken seriously, without, and could not be vindicated at all, without public defenders.
And I think Judge Jackson's deep commitment, to the rule of law, is exactly what we'll see, on display, when she has the opportunity, to talk about her record, and especially her record, in the Sentencing Commission, and her incredible amount of years, as a judge, almost nine years of experience, as both a trial judge, and also an appellate judge.
COATES: And that breadth of experience is very important, the policy front and, of course, the trial judge experience. But also, the idea of her, on the Sentencing Commission. And, as I note, the sentences that she has handed out, involving cases, involving child predators, has been a huge topic of discussion.
And I wonder what you make of this notion, of different retired judges, now coming out, to suggest that, well, the idea of departing from a sentencing guideline, which we collectively thought was outdated, is not an indication the person is not a viable judicial candidate. It's quite the contrary.
What did you make of that?
HOLLEY-WALKER: Yes, absolutely. And I think we see that this nominee, that Judge Jackson has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.
She is an expert in sentencing. And I think we will see that expertise, on display, when she finally has a chance, to answer some of these talking points that we heard today.
In the last segment, when you were talking about downward departures, and upward departures, I think, the notion that she has a very firm handle, on fairness, and justice, in sentencing, and that there are wide spans of these questions, including questions that are very difficult, like possession of child pornography, versus producing and distribution of child pornography? And those kinds of nuances are exactly what we want our Supreme Court justices to have.
And I think Judge Jackson will show, tomorrow, when she has the opportunity, to answer those questions that all of what she's done, is extremely fair. And also, it's important, from what these former judges said, is right in the median, of what federal judges do. There's nothing unusual about her record. She has outstanding experience, and has done an excellent job, from having that well- qualified rating, by the ABA.
COATES: Well, I look forward to hearing her. And hopefully, she will have the meaningful opportunity, to be heard, the kind of due process she attempted to guarantee, for her clients, which as you know, is so fundamental to our Constitution.
Dean Danielle Holley-Walker, thank you so much. Nice speaking with you.
HOLLEY-WALKER: Thanks, Laura. Great to be on.
COATES: We'll turn back to Ukraine, and hope, amid the humanitarian crisis.
One family, taking in, get this, 46 refugees, why they didn't wait a moment to become a lifeline, to so many innocent people? Next.
COATES: One family, in Poland, has taken in 46 Ukrainian refugees.
Here's Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The children enjoy a game of hide-and-seek, with a young boy, hiding in the corner. But they're not siblings.
They're new friends, brought together by war, and the goodwill of Jaroslaw Swiecicki, and his wife, Malgojata (ph). They opened their home, to this Ukrainian family, who escaped the war zone, less than a week ago.
LAVANDERA (on camera): When did you decide, to help Ukrainian refugees?
JAROSLAW SWIECICKI, POLISH HOST FOR UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: When the first bomb go down, so.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Since the war started, the Swiecicki family has taken in 46 people. This truck driver, who recently recovered from cancer, says helping Ukrainian refugees, is something he has to do.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Why have you opened up your house to so many people?
SWIECICKI: Because, we show, that this is in Polish tradition, I think, to open our house, to open our homes, for someone, who is in need.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): And he's quick to think of the little things that make his guests feel at home.
Yulia Grishko, is in Poland, with her 7-year-old son, 4-month-old baby, along with her elderly parents. Today is her birthday.
YULIA GRISHKO, FLED DNIPRO IN UKRAINE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAVANDERA (voice-over): She wanted us, to see the gifts, she received, from her hosts. Blue and yellow flowers, Ukraine's national colors.
Yulia and her family, escaped, from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, last week. The fighting has intensified, around their hometown.
LAVANDERA (on camera): So, on March 13, at 5:30, in the morning, a Russian fighter jet, flew over your home. What were you thinking, in that moment?
GRISHKO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAVANDERA (voice-over): She says, "This was the turning point. I realized that I could no longer endure it. At that moment, I thought I had to save my children."
Yulia is a Police officer at home. She was on maternity leave, when the war started. Now, it's up to her, to figure out, what to do next, as the war drags on. But she says, her heart is in Ukraine, with the family she left behind.
GRISHKO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAVANDERA (voice-over): "My heart stayed at home," she says. "I'm scared for my relatives. But thank God, I'm in a warm place, surrounded by kindness, and have inner peace."
GRISHKO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAVANDERA (on camera): This family, here in Poland, will you always consider them, part of your family?
GRISHKO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAVANDERA (voice-over): "Yes," she says. "They have already become part of our family."
(PEOPLE SINGING THE TRADITIONAL POLISH BIRTHDAY SONG)
LAVANDERA (voice-over): On this night, far from home, Yulia was treated, to a birthday cake surprise, and a lovely version of the song, Sto lat, the traditional Polish birthday song.
Yulia tells us, her only wish, is for peace, and the end of war, so her family can return home.
Ed Lavandera, Przemysl, Poland. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COATES: We'll be right back.
COATES: "DON LEMON TONIGHT," live from Ukraine, starts, right now.