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U.S. Says, Clear Evidence Of War Crimes Amid Russia's Deadly New Attacks; Biden Holds Call With European Leaders On Ukraine War; U.N. Says, Nearly 3.5 Million Ukrainians Have Fled The Country; Historic Hearings For Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 21, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Russia's assault in Ukraine threatening more innocent lives by hour as President Zelenskyy makes a new plea aimed at preventing World War III.

Also breaking, the first black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court gives her opening statement at her historic confirmation hearing. We're going to break down what Kentanji Brown Jackson said today and what senators may ask her tomorrow.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour, a disturbing new warning about the Russian assault on a key Ukrainian port city. In a new video addressed, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Mariupol is being reduced to ashes and he is vowing it will survive.

In just moments, we'll go live to Sam Kiley in Ukraine. Kaitlan Collins will have the latest from the White House. But, first, CNN Alex Marquardt has all the breaking news on Russia's war against Ukraine.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Across Ukraine, tonight, the sounds and scenes of war. These air raid sirens in the western sanctuary city of Lviv while snow covers the debris after Russian airstrikes destroyed these residential buildings.

In the other of the country, in Sumy, and in the capital Kyiv, an overnight attack on a shopping center which local officials say killed eight.

The besieged port city of Mariupol is emerging as a critical fight in this war. The Ukrainian officer tells CNN that bombs are falling there every ten minutes. Russian forces bombed an art school being used to shelter around 400 people, according to the city council, with the number of casualties still unknown. Satellite images show the aftermath of the bombing of that that theater where over a thousand civilians were reportedly sheltering, with the Russian word for children written clearly on the ground.

Tonight, Ukraine rejecting a Russian ultimatum to surrender this crucial city, which stands in the way of connecting Western Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.

The mounting death toll across Ukraine, particularly among civilians, is the result of what American and NATO officials see as a stalled Russian military campaign.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The Ukrainians have continued to trick his forces and they've been very effective using the equipment that we provided them.

MARQUARDT: Even in the few cities, they have taken, such as Kherson, citizens have been bravely protesting. This shocking video capturing the moment that peaceful protesters were interrupted by Russian gun fire and explosions that left at least one civilian shot and wounded.

Elsewhere, as the Russian forces run into stiff Ukrainian resistance, Russia has escalated their weaponry. U.S. officials now confirming Russian claims it used hypersonic missile that's fly at five times the speed of sound and are difficult for missile defense systems to shoot down.

AUSTIN: We kind of question why he would do this. Is he running low on precision-guided munitions?

MARQUARDT: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he is ready to speak directly to President Vladimir Putin, warning of the disastrous consequences of failure.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I think we have to use any format, any chance in order to have the possibility of negotiating, a possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a Third World War.

MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN, at the State Department.


BLITZER: Thank you, Alex.

Also tonight, Kremlin forces are claiming that more than 62,000 residents of the besieged city of Mariupol have been evacuated to Russia. CNN cannot confirm that number.

Let's go live to the capital of Ukraine. CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is joining us. Sam, Kyiv has been enduring horrific new attacks by the Russians and Mariupol where you are, and Kyiv as well. What is the latest? What are you seeing? What do you hearing?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here in Kyiv, there has been, I think, a discernible shift in the sort of weaponry that the Russians are using over the last few days. Indeed, over a week. The scenes that we're seeing now are the result of devastating strikes by precision armaments, large missiles with guided systems on board.

Now, the Russians claim that they were hitting multiple rocket launching systems and other military targets at this shopping mall in Northern Kyiv. It is close to the front line. There is a possibility that there may have been military material around. But above all, this is nonetheless a densely populated area that was hit very, very hard indeed with miraculously eight people were killed. And the death toll was relatively low, if that can be considered low, which it is in this conflict.


And the context of this conflict, Wolf, because they are so close to the front line, a lot of people are already living underground in bunkers and indeed in cellars. But this is all -- what this is doing, Wolf, is that more and more civilians are targeted. It is clearly entrenching perhaps even long term hatred, and a real just sense of defiance that grew out of the democratic energy that was -- gave birth to this whole movement back in 2013-2014. And here's one of the singers who was part of that.


KILEY (voice over): Singing to protesters in Kyiv's in Independence Square eight years ago as a rock star, he helped drive a pro-Russian president from power. Now, the lead singer of the band, Mandry, Serhiy Fomenko, is in uniform, fighting Vladimir Putin's invasion the old- fashioned way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly speaking, these days have been very hard. I have a guitar but I haven't been playing. Also, the last two weeks have been really difficult because the enemy was trying to surround Kyiv so there was no music.

We evacuated people from Irpin and it was a very difficult mission. We also had tasks in and around the city to accomplish but I can't tell you everything.

KILEY: This though speaks loud. Civilian homes ripped open, 3 million Ukrainians now refugees. Putin says he sent troops to save Ukraine from fascism. This is the real result.

ALLA ROMANOVA, SURVIVOR: Hate, hate. I am a person who grew up in the Soviet Union. I grew up with the idea that we were brothers and sisters. And now, there is nothing but hatred for them.

PETRO POROSHENKO, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Our latest volunteers is working extremely efficient.

KILEY: The singer, Fomenko, joined a reserved battalion founded by former President Petro Poroshenko., the billionaire first president after Ukraine after they shook off Russian influence eight years ago. It is not just Putin he blames for the war.

POROSHENKO: We cannot wait until the Russian people under the sanction pressure will not be happy with Putin, because Russia have more than 50 percent of the support of the Putin aggression in Ukraine. That should be sanctioned against these Russian people.

KILEY: The location for the billionaire's 206th battalion is a military secret but the militancy of its volunteers is not.

VOLODYMYR OMELYAN, FORMER MINISTER TURNED SOLDIER: Democracies will always win. Maybe it will take longer than everybody expected. But Putin has chosen path of Hitler and we already know how Hitler ends.

KILEY: For now, though, Ukraine is preparing to defend the birthplace of its modern democracy to the bitter end.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Wolf, the hatred towards not just Putin but the Russian people, I'm hearing time and time again, it is entrenching deeper and deeper in their soul, if you like, of the Ukrainians. I think that is going to contribute a great deal to the pressure on Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president here, not to make any concessions in future talks. At the moment, of course, the talks are just talks about talks. Wolf?

BLITZER: A very good point. Sam Kiley, please stay safe over there. Thank you very much.

Over at the White House, President Biden is warning of evolving intelligence, his words, evolving intelligence suggesting that Russia could conduct cyberattacks against the United States. He is also preparing for his high-stakes trip to Europe for a NATO summit on the war in Ukraine this week.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president's trip this week will be one of the most consequential of his presidency.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. It is going to be critical. It might be the biggest trip that he ever takes while in office. This is going to be part of this diplomatic push that he makes in Europe as he's holding these urgent talks with allies.

He kick-started the week today by talking to the leaders of Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, talking and criticizing the brutal tactics that Russia is using against Ukrainian civilians, hurting them and killing them obviously with these bombs that we've seen, only adding up in these residential areas over the last several few weeks.

And the White House says, at the end of President Biden's trip, he will emerge with deliverables but they're still finalizing the list of what those concrete actions coming out of this upcoming trip are going to be. But, Wolf, we should note that they do come as the White House is also warning that Russia is exploring options for potential cyberattacks here in the United States. They are issuing a new warning today telling private companies to be vigilant, make sure they are monitoring and bolstering their security because they do have concerns that Russia could lash as a response to these sanctions that have been imposed by not only the United States but several other European allies as well in response to this invasion that they have conducted.

And so the White House did say today there is no imminent threat to infrastructure, critical infrastructure, but, of course, that is their big concern. So, they say they are issuing this call to action to companies now to step up their security in case Russia does decide to follow through on what they've seen in this evolving intelligence and the threat of a cybersecurity attack.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thanks for that update.

Just ahead, Russian troops fire on civilian protesters in the Ukrainian city of Kherson today, wounding at least one, as Putin's forces are stepping up attacks against civilians.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Shocking new video from Kherson, Ukraine, as Putin's forces ramp up their brutal war against Ukraine. Russian soldiers are seeing opening fire on civilian protesters demonstrating against Putin's totally unprovoked invasion with at least one man seriously injured in the attack.

This warning, the video you're about to see is very disturbing.

Let's discuss all these late breaking developments from Russia's unprovoked war with the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. She is also the author of a brand new, very important, extremely timely book entitled, Lessons from the Edge, A Memoir. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all you've done.

You see the brutality that civilians in Ukraine are facing, this as Russia is hitting markets, hospitals, bread lines, schools. Is this all part of the Russian strategy to try to inflict maximum pain on Ukrainian civilians?

MARIA YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I think that is. I think they're going to a war of extermination and they're trying to extract or inflict such pain on the Ukrainian people that they hope to break the will of the Ukrainian people. But I think that what we're seeing is the exact opposite, that even as they are besieging cities, sort of 15th century tactics with 21st century weapons, as they are doing all these things, frog marching away mayors from different cities, and, of course, deporting people to Russia. These are Stalin tactics.

I think what you're seeing is the exact opposite, where the Ukrainian people are just more resolute, that they are going to keep their lands, they are going to keep their country.

BLITZER: So, are you suggesting that we're seeing a war of extermination unfold?

YOVANOVITCH: I mean, that is what I'm seeing. It seems that since Putin can't attract the Ukrainians to his side, he is killing them. He is killing innocent people, not the military.

BLITZER: It's really, you know, awful to see what's going on. It is heartbreaking, especially you see these kids who are being killed, and the mothers and the grandparent.

Ukrainians in the city of Mariupol, a city you know well, you were the ambassador in Ukraine, they are refusing to bow to Russian demands to surrender. As the former ambassador, just how badly did Putin, from your perspective, actually miscalculate the resolve of the Ukrainian people?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, I think he has never understood Ukraine. He has never understood the Ukrainians. He did not understand, I think, that they are truly a different and unique people with their own history and culture and traditions and lives. And they did not want to be dominated. They don't want to be dominated by Russia. And they are paying in blood for that. And it is a tragedy unfolding.

BLITZER: As you write in your brand new book, Lessons from the Edge, A Memoir, you were flying out of Ukraine after being forced out the same day as President Zelenskyy's inauguration. How has President Zelenskyy risen to this moment from your perspective?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, it is really incredible. I mean, he started as a comedian, as you know, rose to become president, and now he is a wartime leader, the likes of which I don't think we've seen since World War II, binding his nation together, reflecting the values of Ukraine and Ukrainians, but also binding them together, uniting them, inspiring them and inspiring the world.

BLITZER: He's a real, real hero.

YOVANOVITCH: It's remarkable.

BLITZER: Certainly, you know this. And the Russian ministry said it summoned the U.S. ambassador of Moscow, warning that Russian-American relations are, quote, and I'm quoting now, on the verge of rupture after President Biden called Vladimir Putin a war criminal and a thug.


What is the worst-case scenario if Russia were to cut off all diplomacy with the United States?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, I certainly home that does not happen. We always need to have at least some channels open with other countries, certainly allies, but almost even more importantly, with adversaries. But if that were to happen, we can always communicate through other parties. We've done that other countries in the past. But obviously it's much better to have direct channels and open channels.

BLITZER: You have a lot of experience as a career diplomat. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, thanks, once again, for joining us, thanks for all you've done.

Let me once again try to tell our viewer, this is an important new book, there you see the cover, Lessons from the Edge, A Memoir. Thank you so much, Ambassador, for writing this book. Thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to take you inside a makeshift shelter where residents of the besieged city of Mariupol have found some safe harbor after weeks of living in, and I'm quoting now, hell.



BLITZER: In this fourth week of Russia's brutal war, Ukrainians are fleeing attack whenever and wherever they can. Nearly 3.5 million people have actually escaped the country altogether, but many millions of others are simply leaving their homes for makeshift shelters inside Ukraine.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson is in the central city of Dnipro for us. Ivan, the U.N. says about one-fourth of Ukraine's, what, 44 million population has been displaced internally or externally. You've met some of those people.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: i have. And a focal point right now is this modern day siege that the Russian military has been laying on this port city called Mariupol.

Before the war, it had a population of more than 400,000 people. And I spoke with one family that managed to escape, escape Russia's bombardment of their home.


WATSON (voice over): Children at play, frolicking in an arcade meant to host games of laser tag. But these are not normal times. The owners have turned their children's entertainment business into a makeshift shelter, a place to house dozens of Ukrainians who just fled the besieged port city of Mariupol.

DMYTRO SHVETS, FLED MARIUPOL: The last couple weeks will be like hell.

WATSON: Dmytro Shvets, his wife, Tanya, and their daughter, Vlada, escaped Mariupol on Thursday. They endured weeks of Russian bombardment from artillery and airstrikes. SHVETS: Each 15, 20 minutes, you can listen to the airplane. It was like target and target. And then the sound, pew, babam.

WATSON: Tanya kept a journal, March 2nd, day 7 of the war, nothing has changed, she writes. No electricity or heat and there is no running water now as well.

They lived in the basement .And when they emerged, Tanya took photos and videos of their apartment building pock-marked with bullet holes, unexploded shells in residential streets, desperate people looting a bomb-damaged store for food.

SHVETS: There is no water to drink.

WATSON: They scavenged for drinking water, pulling buckets from street sewers.

SHVETS: We were taking the water from the rain water, taking the rain -- waiting for the rain water.

WATSON: Heavy shelling on nearby houses, Tanya wrote, on March 5th. We all went to sleep with the thought of how the survive and stay alive. One day, a shell exploded near Dmytro as he stood in line for water.

SHVETS: A bomb fell down and like killed three people in front of us. One guy was without head, who was like taking the water. Another one in the line was like a half a head. And the last one was killed. With my own eyes, like not in general (ph), like three people completely I saw killed and we were making a grave for them, digging, yes.

WATSON: In your neighborhood?


WATSON: Finally, it was all too much.

SHVETS: The last day, I saw my father, because my mother was completely destroyed mentally, I mean, it was like completely depression, was sitting in the cellar and even she haven't left the cellar since the beginning of the war, just staying inside, unfortunately.

And the last day I saw my father and he begged me, please, guys, leave, leave somewhere. I don't know where. Just escape this. Escape this. And he was crying.

WATSON: Dmytro and his wife and daughter piled into a car with friends and spent 15 hours driving through Russian frontlines to escape the siege of Mariupol. Their parents refused to leave.

SHVETS: I don't know if I am going to see my parents or listen to my parents again. I don't know. It is like living from day the day. Today, we are alive, tomorrow, maybe not.

WATSON: In the relative safety of this arcade built to entertain children, the kids welcome the escape from the conflict.

I really want to say hello to other children, Tanya's seven-year-old daughter Vlada says. And they want the war to end quickly.

Her parents appear haunted, clearly traumatized


Tanya gets a call from her mother in Mariupol, weeping, and saying goodbye because she fears she will not survive the night.


WATSON (on camera): Now, Wolf, the local government says more than 3,000 people managed to escape from Mariupol today. But it is a dangerous journey. Officials also say at least two children are in critical condition from two separate incidents where their fleeing cars were struck by incoming fire. We do not know how many civilians remain cowering in their basements in that ravaged city. Wolf?

BLITZER: Awful, horrible situation. Ivan Watson reporting for us, thank you very much.

Let's go outside of Ukraine right now to one of the neighboring countries accepting these Ukrainian war refugees. Our Senior National Correspondent Miguel Marquez is in Bucharest, Romania, for us.

Miguel, tell us about the refugees you met today.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is stunning to see that story that Ivan just had and that number of internally displaced refugees in Ukraine, and the people that we are seeing here. We went to one of many, many shelters that the city of Bucharest is setting up for refugees and spoke to several of them there, those harrowing, horrific stories about leaving their country behind, having friends and family there. We spoke to one woman about how difficult it was to leave.


JULIA MULIARCHUK, REFUGEE FROM KYIV: Yes, it was terrifying at the beginning. But then I saw so many people trying to help and I felt, well, probably, we will come to it.


MARQUEZ: Now, look, there is a lot of support for these people. It is terrifying for them to leave just horrible conditions. But then to go out into the world where they don't know anybody and try to figure out how they are going to start their lives all over again, that's what they are faced with now.

The cities, like Bucharest, all over Romania right now are meeting those basic needs, food, water and clothing, shelter, but those longer needs, health care, education, jobs and long-term living conditions are what they're looking at now. They're no longer measuring this humanitarian crisis in days or weeks or months. It is months and years. Wolf?

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez in Romania for us watching this tragedy unfold, thank you very much.

Important information for our viewers for information about how you can help all these humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and you will help impact your world.

Just ahead, why Russia's newest weapon against Ukraine is so dangerous. Experts weigh in on the stunning speed and the maneuverability of hypersonic missiles.



BLITZER: Tonight, military strategists are trying to get inside Vladimir Putin's head and understand Russia's decision to fire powerful hypersonic missiles into Ukraine.

Brian Todd is looking into this story for us. Brian, these missiles are very fast and they're very dangerous.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. We've been reporting on the development of hypersonic missiles for months now but this is the first known use of these missiles in combat. We have new information tonight on the capabilities of these missions used by the Russians and the possible reasons why they launched them.


TODD (voice over): Vladimir Putin unveils a new weapon in his arsenal. U.S. officials confirming CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine in recent days, the first known use of these missiles ever in combat. The missiles the Russians call kinzhal, meaning dagger, struck a military ammunition warehouse in Western Ukraine. Sources telling CNN the U.S. tracked the launches in real- time.

THOMAS KARAKO, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It is a good opportunity to test and it a signal to NATO, to Poland and other countries that they have this and to kind of keep their distance.

TODD: Experts say what makes the hypersonic missile so dangerous is that it can fly at five times the speed of sound or greater and is more maneuverable in flight than missiles.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It uses GPS coordinates or a similar system to hone in on a target. It can also be directed by a controller to specific targets and it can change course in the middle of its trajectory. It can follow the nap-of-the-earth. It's called nap-of-the-earth navigation and it can go right down on the ground where basically it evades radar coverage.

TODD: A senior U.S. defense official tells CNN, Putin's deployment of a hypersonic missile to hit that ammunition warehouse, quote, is a bit of a head scratcher. Why would you need a hypersonic missile fired from not that far away to hit a building?

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also wondered that aloud in an interview with CBS, as he downplayed Russia's use of the weapon.

AUTIN: I don't think that this, in and of itself, will be a game changer. You kind of question why he would do this. Is he running low on precision-guided munitions? Does he lack complete confidence in his ability to -- the ability of his troops to reestablish momentum?

TODD: Military analysts say, what is worrisome about the hypersonic missile is the lack of U.S. defense capability against it.

LEIGHTON: When it is launched, it is impossible to intercept this mission.

TODD: Why?

LEIHGTON: We have no technology that's can do it. Right now, the developments that we're looking at from a missile defense perspective are way behind the development of these hypersonic missiles.

TODD: One expert says Putin could deploy them again in Ukraine and there is a possibility that the Russians could misuse the weapon.

KARAKKO: We've already seen some Russian drones stray off into NATO territory. You could have cruise missiles stray off as they have in the past into Iran when Russia has fired these things in the past. So, whether it's hypersonic or subsonic, there is always the potential for miscalculations, just something going wrong.



TODD (on camera): Just moments ago, President Biden confirmed Russia's use of hypersonic missile, saying it is almost impossible to stop it. There is a reason they're using it, end quote, from the president, Wolf. It is a pretty scary capability.

BLITZER: Yes, this is such a disturbing new development. Brian, thank you very much for that report, Brian Todd reporting.

Amid all the devastation of Putin's invasion, we want to take a moment to highlight one remarkable story. A loving and selfless act from a Ukrainian mother who used her body to shield her one-month-old baby as their Kyiv home was being shelled during a Russian missile strike, protecting her daughter from flying glass and debris, likely saving her child's life.

Listen to the young mother describe the frightening scene.


OLGA, WOMAN WOUNDED COVERING BABY FROM SHELLING: I was wounded in the head and blood started flowing and it all flowed on the baby. And I couldn't understand. I thought it was her blood. Dmytro was taking the baby away. I'm screaming that she's covered in glass, all in blood. He tells me, Olga, it is your blood, it's not hers.


BLITZER: The baby was unharmed while the mother underwent surgery for her injuries and she is recovering.

Coming up, much more in the breaking developments out of Ukraine as Putin's forces are stepping up their brutal war against civilians.

Plus, Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson gives her opening statement as she seeks to make history and become the first black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court.



BLITZER: We'll get back to all the latest developments on Russia's war on Ukraine in a few moments but there's another important story we're following right now. Day one of the historic confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. The hearings wrapped up a little while ago following her opening statement.

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider reports on Judge Jackson's remarks to senators and the confirmation.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Please raise your right hand.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An historic first for America's highest court, as confirmation hearings begin for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court.

JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I hope that you will see how much I love our country, and the Constitution and the rights that make us free.

SCHNEIDER: Senators of both parties made note of how monumental this moment is.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): You're showing so many little girls and little boys across the country that anything and everything is possible.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I have said in the past, and I think it is good for the court to look like America. So count me in on the idea of making the court more diverse.

SCHNEIDER: But Republicans previewed lines of attack they'll roll out during the question and answer session that begins tomorrow. Senator Josh Hawley leading the charge, laying out several cases where Jackson, while a federal trial court judge in D.C., used her discretion to hand down lighter sentences for child pornography offenders than prosecutors have requested.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Prosecutors recommended 24 months in prison. Judge Jackson gave the defendant three months in prison.

SCHNEIDER: Judge Jackson will likely explain her reasoning for the lower sentence when she answers questions.

JACKSON: I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.

SCHNEIDER: The White House has already said her sentences were in line with what the U.S. Probation Office recommends.

But Senator Hawley preemptively rebutted her response Monday.

HAWLEY: Some have said that the federal sentencing guidelines are too harsh on sex crimes, especially child pornography. I'll just be honest. I can't say that I agree with that.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans will likely also target Judge Jackson for being, quote, soft on crime, pointing in particular to her defense of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I understand the importance of zealous advocacy, but it appears that sometimes this zealous advocacy has gone beyond the pale.

SCHNEIDER: If Jackson is confirmed, the ideological split on the 6-3 court will remain the same because she is replacing liberal Justice Steven Breyer for whom she served as a law clerk more than 20 years ago.

JACKSON: I know that I could never fill his shoes. But if confirmed, I would hope to carry on his spirit.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): Now Republicans are promising no personal attacks but things are likely to get a lot more heated tomorrow when two long days of questioning begins. There will be 11 Democrats, 11 Republicans on the committee. They'll each get 30 minutes for questions. And at that point, Wolf, Ketanji Brown Jackson will likely be pressed on her record as a public defender, also as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and her near-decade as a federal judge -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Schneider reporting for us, thank you very much.

Joining us to discuss this truly historic hearing, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. He's a key member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us. During your remarks earlier today, you highlighted the history-making

name of Judge Jackson's nomination, the significance of diversifying the federal courts. Tell us why that is so important?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): I mean, this is not normal. We've had 115 Supreme Court justices in the history of our country, 108 of them have been white men. And this is the first time ever we've seen a black woman be before the United States Senate judiciary Committee for this kind of confirmation.


It is extraordinary that this is happening and it's about time. It's overdue. We all know that for generations, there have been more diverse people qualified to get in the court but they did not have a shot. We are doing something -- all of us here in the Senate, we're something really special and I know a lot of my colleagues even on the other side of the aisle understand the gravity of this historic moment and the glass ceiling that's being shattered.

BLITZER: Yes. It is historic what's going on right now.

The Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will ask Judge Jackson in his --

BOOKER: I'm not hearing --

BLITZER: Can you hear me, Senator?

BOOKER: I hear now, sorry.

BLITZER: OK. Mitch McConnell says that they'll ask Judge Jackson tough questions this week, particularly about what Senator McConnell called her, quote, so-called empathy for particular parties in cases over others. What do you think he means by that?

BOOKER: I don't know what he means but as a guy who used to work in legal clinics and knows full well that 80 percent of the people that enter our criminal courts can't afford lawyers. That very fundamentally to our judicial system, starting back in the days of John Adams, is giving people no matter who they are, in that case, British soldiers who were part of the Boston massacre. Everyone deserves a defense.

And so, those people who step into that role, it is not a career -- a fast moving career path like prosecutors often have to the bench. She became a public defender because she believes in the fundamental ideal of our nation, that everyone deserves a vigorous defense and I respect her for that. I honor her.

And what's exceptional is that she will be the first person on the Supreme Court ever to be a public defender. Finally, we have someone who has that kind of experience and that kind of empathy gained from that experience on the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: As you know, Republicans are ramping up their attacks on Judge Jackson as being supposedly soft on crime. How do you respond to that line of criticism?

BOOKER: Well, I think you just look at the people that are endorsing her. Are you soft on crime if the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police union in the country, is endorsing you? Are you soft on crime if the International Association of Chiefs of Police, one of the largest police organizations representing chiefs of police, her endorsements come from the right and the left, just appointed from Republicans and Democrats.

When she was on the Sentencing Commission, she joined with the majority, sometimes she actually joined with Republicans against other Democrats.

She's been an extraordinarily tough and fair judge. These attacks don't hold water, especially compared to the law enforcement leaders that are supporting her. And her herself, and her family, has a lot of police officers. That's -- that's the nature of who she is.

BLITZER: Very quickly while I have you, a quick question on Ukraine because you sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. President Zelenskyy says a key city is being, quote, reduced to ashes.

What more can the West do, the NATO allies, to help Ukraine hold on?

BOOKER: Well, there are ongoing efforts right now. They are pretty considerable. To see NATO joining together to make sure that Ukraine has more of the capability that they need to defend against this horrific efforts by Putin, what he is doing amounts to me to war crimes, it amounts to me to of the sort of ugliest type of invasion, the type of which we saw during World War II.

And so, I'm grateful. I was in conversations with colleagues today about our continued efforts to support the Ukrainian folks in alliance with other Western nations. This is horrific what we're seeing, but we are pulling together and investing, from the United States' perspective, billions of dollars to support the Ukrainian defense.

BLITZER: Senator Cory Booker, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it very much.

We'll have more news right after this.

BOOKER: Thank you.



BLITZER: Finally tonight, we want to share a truly inspiring performance by a 7-year-old Ukrainian girl. You may remember, she wowed the world when she sang the hit song let it go from frozen while she was in a Kyiv bomb shelter. Now she is safe in Poland where she performed a cappella version of the country's national anthem for an audience of thousands. Listen to this.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) BLITZER: Let me join in the applause. What an amazing young 7-year- old. That moving performance, by the way, was part of the benefit concert to help the people of Ukraine.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.