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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA); Interview With Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); Interview With U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith; Interview With Sen. James Risch (R-ID); Interview With Jose Andres. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 27, 2022 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Be not afraid, strong words from President Biden in his speech near Ukraine's border.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Brutality will never grind down the will to be free.

BASH: As Russia signals a possible strategic shift. We will speak to the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, and the top Republican on Senate foreign relation, Senator James Risch, next.

And historic hearing. A viral moment.


BASH: As Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson takes senators' questions.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Today, you're my star. You are my harbinger of hope.

BASH: Judiciary Committee member Senator Cory Booker joins me in moments.

Plus: enormous need. As millions flee their homes in Ukraine, he's there to greet them.

JOSE ANDRES, FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: This is one more place where people feel at home away from home.

BASH: Chef Jose Andres, who just met with President Biden in Poland, joins me ahead.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is wondering if President Biden meant what he said.

You're watching a special two-hour edition of STATE OF THE UNION.

The president is back in Washington this morning after a major trip to Europe to meet with allies. He delivered a speech yesterday in Poland harshly condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin and describing the war as a battle between -- quote -- "democracy and autocracy."

But it's this ad-libbed line at the end of his speech that's raising eyebrows around the world.


BIDEN: For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power.


BASH: The White House quickly tried to walk that comment back, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this morning in Israel the U.S. does not have a strategy of regime change in Russia.

Meanwhile, on the battlefield, Russia struck the Ukrainian city of Lviv with at least two missiles, a city in the west that had previously been spared Russia's attacks, even as Russia said it would shift strategy to focus on the Donbass area in Eastern Ukraine.

With me now from Brussels, fresh off the NATO summit with President Biden, is the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, Ambassador Julianne Smith.

Thank you so much, Madam Ambassador, for joining me.

Let's start with President Biden's comment yesterday that Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power. The White House said quickly that he was not discussing Putin's power in Russia or regime change.

Was that comment a mistake?

JULIANNE SMITH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, look, the president had spent the day visiting with Ukrainian refugees.

He went to the National Stadium in Warsaw and literally met with hundreds of Ukrainians. He heard their heroic stories as they were fleeing Ukraine in the wake of Russia's brutal war in Ukraine.

In the moment, I think that was a principled human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day.

But, no, as you have heard from Secretary Blinken and others, the U.S. does not have a policy of regime change in Russia, full stop.

BASH: Having said what you said, listening to the president, he sounded pretty unambiguous. This man cannot remain in power.

Are you concerned that, by walking back the president's comments, you and other administration officials may be undermining him on the world stage at a really critical moment?

SMITH: I think we all feel great about how the last couple days have gone. It was important to get the president here to Europe. He had several important meetings in Brussels with NATO leaders, with the G7, with the European Union.

It was important for him also to go to Poland. He visited a city very close to the border with Ukraine. He was able to join a meeting with both the Ukrainian foreign minister and the Ukrainian defense minister. And then he was able to sit down with President Duda and talk about what Poland is doing in this moment, literally taking millions of refugees into their country.

So, this week has been remarkable. It's been historic. I thought the speech was completely pitch-perfect. And I think this will set us on a good course for continuing to support the allies, support Ukrainians, and apply pressure on Russia to get them to stop this war.

BASH: I want to move on, but I -- just because there is some murkiness out there, you said that the U.S. policy is not regime change, full stop.

Does that mean the U.S. believes Putin should stay in power?

SMITH: I think what it means is that we are not pursuing a policy of regime change.

But I think the full administration, the president included, believes that we cannot empower Putin right now to wage war in Ukraine or pursue these acts of aggression.


BASH: The Russians are publicly now suggesting that they're changing their focus to a more limited goal in only the Donbass region. Have you seen any signs that this actually could be happening?

SMITH: So, we will monitor the situation the ground to make sure that we understand how they are shifting tactics.

I don't think we have evidence of that quite yet. But what we do have evidence of is the fact that the Russians have not succeeded in their original aims. And that was, as you well know, to take Kyiv in just a couple of days. We're now at the one-month point. And it's clear that Russian forces are not performing as anticipated, and that this has not gone as planned.

So, because of that, I think Russia is reassessing. And they have indicated that they're going to alter their tactics. But let's give it some time. Next couple days, the United States, working closely with allies and the Ukrainian government, will be looking for evidence of this shift.

BASH: Reassessing, could that be looking for an off-ramp, for the war to end?

SMITH: Well, we have made clear from day one that we want Putin to stop this war in Ukraine, and we gave him many opportunities in the weeks leading up to February 24, when they went in.

As you will remember, we actually met with the Russians bilaterally, we met with the Russians at NATO headquarters, and we met with the Russians at the OSCE. Sadly, Putin opted for another path, another path of aggression. And ever since that day, ever since February 24, we have been applying pressure on them to stop the war.

BASH: President Biden, as you well know, was with you in Brussels this week at an emergency NATO summit.

I want you to listen to what a top adviser to President Zelenskyy said speaking about that summit.


ANDRIY YERMAK, HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: We're very disappointed, if I'm honest with you. We would expect more bravery, expected some less -- some bold decisions.

The allies is taking decisions as if there are no war.


BASH: He went on to say that NATO's response was -- quote -- "appeasement."

As the U.S. ambassador to NATO, what's your response?

SMITH: Well, this has been a remarkable moment in NATO's history. We came together quickly.

The same day that Russia went into Ukraine, we had an emergency session. We activated plans to move forces into Eastern Europe. We also immediately started providing lethal assistance to Ukraine.

The United States, since January of last year, has already provided $2 billion worth of lethal assistance to Ukraine. We have talked with them regularly about their defense needs. We are working with them each and every week to determine how we can continue to help them with anti-air assets, anti-armor. We have offered Stingers. We have provided Javelins.

And many other members of the NATO alliance are doing the same thing. I think about two-thirds of the NATO alliance are now providing lethal assistance to Ukraine. Every ally is making a contribution. Some are providing humanitarian support. Some are providing lethal. Most are doing both.

BASH: You have heard, I'm sure, President Zelenskyy say just this weekend that he wants from NATO only 1 percent of what it has in tanks and planes to go to Ukraine. He said, you have thousands of fighter jets, but we have not been given one yet.

So, yes or no, will NATO give Ukraine what President Zelenskyy is asking for?

SMITH: Well, this is evolving conversation.

Again, we have spoken with President Zelenskyy many times in recent weeks. We have heard their requests for assistance. In many cases, we have delivered those anti-aircraft, anti-armor capabilities. We are assessing their air defense needs.

But the answer is no. If you're asking about the Soviet era jets, the United States has decided that the particular proposal put forward by Poland is untenable. But, honestly, if any NATO ally wanted to provide those types of pieces of equipment, the fighter jets, the MiGs, that is a sovereign decision. They can take that sovereign decision.

But, right now, the United States is very much focused on their air defense needs. And we're delivering multiple capabilities to try and address those requirements.

BASH: He was really specific, saying 1 percent of NATO's capability. Is that tenable?

SMITH: Well, I'd have to do the math on what's already been provided.

As I stated, most NATO allies are providing lethal assistance, including some NATO allies that have had longstanding policies not to do so. So, we have seen a major change in Europe, with many allies coming forward.


We'd have to go ahead and count up what's been provided to date, what's in train, and what allies are thinking about providing to really determine whether or not that fits that particular calculation.

But I think, honestly, what's important here is that NATO allies are coming forward and offering the capabilities that Ukraine is seeking, and they're making a difference.

BASH: President Biden is raising new concerns about cyberattacks. He said yesterday that Article 5 is a -- quote -- "sacred commitment."

How does the U.S. understand Article 5 of the NATO Charter? Do you see it to include a cyberattack?

SMITH: Well, our commitment, as you have heard President Biden state multiple times, to Article 5 is ironclad. There's no question in my mind that the United States and, in fact, all NATO allies take Article 5 very seriously.

We have had multiple discussions about it, as you might imagine, in recent weeks. The alliance, well before Russia started the war in Ukraine, has also had several conversations about cyber as a new domain for this alliance. We have fortified our cyber defenses. And we have looked at the possibility of scenarios that could involve, in the future, either an Article 4 consultation or an Article 5 response.

So I can't give you -- I mean, I wouldn't want to walk through hypotheticals. We will have to take each scenario in turn. But I do not doubt that, if an ally were to come forward and invoke Article 5 at this juncture, that the alliance would be ready to respond and take action. BASH: Article 5, of course, being that, if one NATO member is attacked, NATO will respond.

Thank you so much, Madam Ambassador. I really appreciate you joining me today from Brussels.

And here with me now is...

SMITH: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

And here with me now is the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Jim Risch of Idaho.

Senator, thank you for joining me.

So, let's talk about President Biden's unified front that he said and the ambassador said was presented with NATO allies. He pledged for more help to Ukraine. The U.S. unveiled a new plan with the E.U. to move Europe away from Russian oil and gas.

So, was the president's trip to NATO a success?

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R-ID): You know, Dana, I really think he did need to be there and manage -- help manage the relationship.

Look, we're fortunate to have a good ambassador there that you just had on, Ambassador Smith. Her predecessor, Kay Bailey Hutchison, did a good job. That's a complex relationship when you're dealing with 30 countries and trying to bring them all together. It was important that the president go there.

He gave a good speech at the end. But, as you pointed out already, there was a horrendous gaffe right at the end of it. I just -- I wish he would stay on script. Whoever wrote that speech did a good job for him. But, my gosh, I wish they would keep him on script.

I think most people who don't deal in the lane of foreign relations don't realize that those nine words that he uttered were -- would cause the kind of eruption that they did. But any time you say or even, as he did, suggest that the policy was regime change, it's going to cause a huge problem.

This administration has done everything they can to stop escalating. There's not a whole lot more you can do to escalate than to call for regime change.

So, look, the White House tried to walk it back immediately. Tony Blinken, the secretary of state, tried to walk it back immediately. I will walk it back right now. That is not the policy of the United States of America.

Please, Mr. President, stay on script.

BASH: For -- you said for those who are not familiar with the way foreign policy works, they don't understand how big of a deal it is.

Can you enlighten people? Can you explain why you think it was -- it was so bad and what the ramifications could be?

RISCH: Well, I think I don't need to do that, as much as everybody who listened to it's done that.

You have seen the stories that have come up all over the world, because that was an announcement of a change in policy. Regime change is something that is existential. I mean, you just don't do that. And the suggestion was made that we were changing policy and going to -- going to regime change.

That is not the policy of the United States. And that was not in the speech, as you know. That was an ad lib of his at the end of what was a good speech. And whoever wrote it did a good job, hit the right notes. And then to have that at the end, the sour note at the end, was unfortunate, to say the least?

BASH: Yes. And, as you just heard from the ambassador, it is not the U.S. policy, the administration policy for regime change, and the White House did try to walk it back moments after the president ad- libbed that.


I want to ask about what's going on, on the battlefield. Russia claims it is moving toward a more limited mission only focused on the Donbass region. President Biden said yesterday that he isn't sure Russia has really changed its strategy.

You're not only the top Republican on Foreign Relations. You're also on the Intelligence Committee. So, what are you seeing? What do you believe?

RISCH: Well, I -- again, I think the jury's out on that. You can't believe anything they say. So I don't put any stock in the fact that they're announcing that they're changing the policy.

But, look, they're losing this war. And if -- anybody who's involved in operating it obviously needs to change direction, or the whole thing's going to fall out from underneath them. So, I'm not -- I'm not surprised to hear them say they're going to do something different.

You -- look, you just keep pounding, trying to pound a square peg in a round hole, and it doesn't work. And that's what they have been trying to do day after day. It's not working. And things are getting more dire for -- in -- at home in Russia. So I'm not surprised to see them announcing something.

And I won't be surprised to see them try something differently. Look, the -- how resolute the Ukrainian people have been is just awesome. I mean, it's awe-inspiring. They're doing what our patriots did in 1776. They're fighting not only for their future, for their kids, for their grandkids. They're trying to pass a gift off to the next generation. So, the Ukrainians, that is invaluable. So they're committed to it. The Russians have found out how committed they are to it. And it has been incredibly costly for the Russians at this point.

BASH: President Biden said this week that the decision about whether to cede Donbass to Russia is up to Ukraine. But he said: "I don't believe that they're going to have to do that."

Ukraine, as I'm sure you have seen, they rejected the idea so far. But is that something that should be considered to end the war, give up that region on the eastern front of Ukraine to Russia, if that would be something that Russia would accept?

RISCH: Look, there's been upheaval there for eight years, as you know. There's been a civil war, essentially, in the two regions that make up the Donbass.

That's not for us to decide. That's for President Zelenskyy and his fellow Ukrainians to decide what they have to do to make peace and what they have to do to regulate their country. They have got two problems there, of course. They have got the Donbass, and they also have the Crimea.

Those are both issues that they're going to have to decide what they're willing to do to take them back. Frankly, with the success they're having, I will -- I wouldn't be surprised if they say, no, we're not going to give it back. It's part of Ukraine, and we're going to defend it and go forward with that.

I don't know what the Russians will do. But if they do fall back there, they will -- they will have a better time defending that particular area. But that's -- those are decisions to be made by them on the ground there.

BASH: President Biden did not rule out a military response to a chemical weapon attack in Ukraine. He said: "We'd make that decision at the time."

How do you think the U.S. and NATO, of course, should respond if Russia does use chemical weapons?

RISCH: Well, look, there's four game-changers here that could happen.

Number one, if the Russians tried to trespass on one square inch of NATO ground, obviously, chemical weapons, biological weapons, or nuclear weapons, all four of those would be game-changers.

I think that, if Russia does that, there's going to be some very difficult decisions that are going to have to be made by the NATO alliance, by the 30 countries that make up NATO.

Look, we're civilized human beings living in the 21st century. There was a horrendous mistake made in Syria when chemical weapons were used after the red line had been laid down and then really nothing happened. There was no response to it. Something's going to have to be done. And it's going to have to be

very significant. One would hope, one would pray that the Russians would not make what would be a catastrophic mistake.

BASH: Senator, we're almost out of time, but I want to ask.

We talked on this show two months ago. You were on with the Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. And you were both optimistic that Congress could pass a bipartisan bill to impose sanctions. You didn't. And, of course, the administration has since imposed a lot of sanctions on its own.

Is there something more that you want Congress to do?


Well, I would like to see, as we -- as both Bob and I talked about at that time, we'd like to see more sanctions. I -- from my standpoint, I'd like to see secondary sanctions on every bank in Russia.


I think that, with what's going on there, we really can't be too tough on sanctions. We just really need to bring the hammer down. So, I'd like to see more.

The administration, of course, they have control of Congress, and they have been very active in persuading their party not to pass sanctions. They want to do it themselves through the administration. I get that. Every administration wants to be in full control.

Obviously, I think Congress plays a role in this. I'd like to see some language passed through Congress. We have struggled with it. We have made a good-faith effort, but came very close, but didn't quite get it done.

Look, they're putting their sanctions on. The sanctions really have surprised us as far as how -- how effective they have been.

BASH: Right.

RISCH: And I'd encourage them to keep up head down -- heading down that road.

BASH: Senator Jim Risch joining me from his home state of Idaho, top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

I appreciate your time this morning, sir.

RISCH: Thank you, Dana. Good to be with you.

BASH: Thank you.

And, as millions of refugees flee their homes, he's greeting them with home-cooked food. Chef Jose Andres will join me from Ukraine later this hour. And next: His emotional remarks brought Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

to tears this week. Senator Cory Booker is up next.


BOOKER: But don't worry, my sister. Don't worry. God has got you.





BOOKER: Today, you're my star. You are my harbinger of hope.

This country is getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens, and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I'm going to rejoice.


BASH: Senator Cory Booker speaking for a lot of supporters of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing this week.

Judge Jackson will become the first black woman to sit on the court if she is confirmed.

Senator Booker is here with me now.

Senator Booker, you just heard, our viewers just heard that very emotional speech, at least part of it, during the hearing.

You are the only black senator on the Judiciary Committee. You're one of only three out of 100 in the U.S. Senate. So, I want to know, just on a human level, what was going through your mind at that moment when you sat there and you saw tears streaming down the judge's face?

BOOKER: Well, look, she was bringing me a lot of emotion during the whole hearing.

I mean, she -- under sort of the most outrageous of attacks, she was showing who she is. She showed up and told America how qualified she is, how special she is, what kind of endurance, grit and grace she showed.

And so, by the time it got to me after three Republicans in a row who were really over the top, the energy in that room, I just wanted to reaffirm the truth of the matter that I think most Americans know, which is how special this person is, and bring our attention back to how incredibly special this moment is in America; 115 justices have served on the Supreme Court; 108 of them have been white men, despite the fact that, for generations, we have seen qualified people from all kind of diverse backgrounds who had really no chance.

She is shattering a glass ceiling, and doing it because she is an extraordinarily qualified human being.

BASH: Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, announced this week that he will vote no on Judge Jackson's confirmation. He said that she should have weighed in on expanding the size that the Supreme Court, given more details on her judicial philosophy, and more of a rationale for some sentencing decisions.

What's your response?

BOOKER: It's not surprising. Look, I voted against Donald Trump's picks, and I did not have any illusion that Mitch McConnell would support President Biden's picks.

But the thing that say about the judge is, she has already passed through the United States Senate three times, confirmed two times overwhelmingly in a bipartisan manner, including no objection from Mitch McConnell. And even the last time...

BASH: So, she will get any Republican support now?

BOOKER: My hope, Dana, is that she will.

She got that Republican support when she ascended to the circuit court of the United States in D.C., which is considered by many the second most powerful position. So, I'm hopeful. She's been endorsed by people on both sides of the aisle. She has an extraordinarily high rating from the -- not only the American Bar Association, but, frankly, from law enforcement groups.

So I'm hoping she will get some Republican support.

BASH: I want you to listen to what your fellow Judiciary Committee member Senator Marsha Blackburn asked Judge Jackson this week.


SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Can you provide a definition for the word woman?

JACKSON: Can I provide a definition?

BLACKBURN: The fact that you can't give me a straight answer about something as fundamental as what a woman is underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about.


BASH: What was your reaction when you saw that moment?


BOOKER: I think there were a lot of moments like that were deflating to me and disappointing to me.

But the reality is, number one, she could have had 22 senators in that room, as opposed to 11, who were asking questions that were a bit beyond the pale, and she still would have persevered. She still would have overcome and be on her way to being -- sitting on the highest court in the land.

Again, I think that what was unfortunate in the room, for me, was that she was getting attacks that were roundly criticized, even by people on the right, as being beyond the pale.

But, yet again, I got a chance to witness firsthand what I think many people in America can relate to, is, when you show up in a room qualified, when you show up in a room with extraordinary expertise and credentials, there are a lot of Americans who know that hurt that you are still going to be treated in a way that does not respect you fully.

And it was something that was not surprising to many Americans, but did poke at a familiar hurt for a lot of us. And I think that, even despite that, she shined in that moment, as well as throughout the hearings.

BASH: Are you saying that there was racism in that room, explicit racism?

BOOKER: You know, not -- no.

No, I think this is not about racism. It's about decency. I think that this is not about any kind of partisan effort. There is legitimate questioning that went on by Republicans there. But, to me, it's just about the kind of way we're going to treat folk.

And I think it's a kind of thing that a lot of folks, women of all races, have had to endure often when they get into a room that they're qualified to be in, but are yet questioned in ways that are disappointing.

BASH: Senator, I want to dig in on a bit of substance.

There was, as you said, a lot of criticism of Senator Blackburn's question. That said, you know that issues of gender have come before the court before. They're likely going to come again, including transgender rights.

So, again, putting aside the way that question was asked, should judicial nominees be more explicit on issues of gender that will undoubtedly come before them in a rapidly changing society?

BOOKER: You know, again, we have seen now -- at least I have. I have sat in that seat for two other confirmation hearings and watched very closely in the Senate when Gorsuch came through, that nominees do not want to answer questions on matters that might come before them.

And that has been respected by senators on both sides of the aisle when a president of their party has nominated folks. And so I understand that these issues, and these very real issues in America, these -- that create real divisions and real concerns.

And I think Marsha Blackburn asked -- amidst her questioning, there were some substantive questions. And she spoke from her heart about a lot of her concerns, in the same way I felt with Amy Coney Barrett, when I knew that her strongly held beliefs could threaten a woman's right to choose.

So there are a lot of folks on both sides of that -- in that hearing who had a lot of deep concerns. But I respect judges who want to maintain their impartiality as these matters come before the Supreme Court.

BASH: I have to, before I let you go, ask about Ukraine.

You heard the major speech that President Biden gave in Poland yesterday. He said at the end of this speech that Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power. The U.S. ambassador to NATO just told me that the U.S. does not support regime change.

So do you think that the president's comment was a mistake?

BOOKER: Again, I think the president's speech, if you listen to the totality of it, is affirming the kind of leader that he's been, which is a resolute leader, who has not only rallied tremendous resources from the United States to support the people of Ukraine, but he has also been able to help marshal an unprecedented coalition, not just of NATO nations, but many free democracies, to stand against this outrageous invasion by Vladimir Putin.

He has made it clear and the administration has that that's not the agenda for regime change. So, what I continue to see in President Biden is solid leadership on a global scale to stop what we know is not just a threat to Ukraine, but a threat we all should take seriously.

We have seen these kinds of actions in Europe before. And we need to stand with the people of Ukraine, and I'm proud of the leadership that President Biden is providing.

BASH: Senator Cory Booker of the great state of New Jersey, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

BOOKER: Thank you. Thank you very much.

BASH: And Vladimir Putin says he's the victim of cancel culture. Really?

We're going to talk about that.


But, first, chef Jose Andres joins us live from Lviv, Ukraine. That's coming up.



BIDEN: For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power. JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: As you know and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter.


BASH: That was President Biden declaring, it seemed unequivocally, this weekend that Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power.

But the secretary of state and others in the White House walking back that statement. And you heard not just the secretary of state, but also the U.S. ambassador to NATO on this program earlier this hour.

So, Congressman, let me start with you, Congressman Jake Auchincloss.

First of all, thank you for coming on. It's nice to see you, meet you for the first time on this panel.

What's your response?

REP. JAKE AUCHINCLOSS (D-MA): The administration has been clear that regime change is not U.S. policy.

And this should not undercut a powerful speech from President Biden. Kennedy and Reagan went to Berlin. Joe Biden went to Warsaw. Their message was the same: The United States leads the free world. We will stand with the cause of democracy.

And those words need to be met with continued actions. We need to continue to tighten sanctions on Russia, threaten credibly secondary sanctions on China for assisting Russia, and step up electronic warfare in Ukraine against Russian forces.

I have been a Marine. I have worked in cybersecurity. I have seen how powerful it can be to impair the ability of Russian forces to shoot, move and communicate by jamming their radios and their air command systems.

BASH: Rebeccah Heinrichs?

REBECCAH HEINRICHS, THE HUDSON INSTITUTE: Well, I think that the policy of this administration is not regime change.


Unfortunately, the message is confused, which is why President Biden, I think, kind of worked himself up in this speech, and then he made a comment that he did.

But the White House's response, though, to say what he really meant is really gaslighting the American people. We know that he really doesn't want president -- he doesn't want Putin to be in power. And they could have just said, listen, we all recognize that Putin is evil, what he's doing is evil, but the policy of the United States is, in fact, to get to a position of peace and Ukraine, and we're going to arm the Ukrainians to make sure they can get to a negotiated peace. The other thing I would say, too, is this isn't his only gaffe.

President Biden also made the gaffe about sending the 82nd Airborne into Ukraine, which we're not doing. And he also said that the United States would respond in kind if there was a chemical weapons attack on the part of Russia.

So this really was -- it was not a good, I think, trip for the president, because the three big gaffes really are at cross-purposes with the overall message from this administration.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Obviously, I disagree. I think it was a very powerful speech and a very important trip for the president of the United States of America to go to Poland, in particular, a country that stood up against the scourge of communism.

That's why he talked about John Paul, the pope. That's why he talked about Lech Walesa.

I think Scott and I may agree on this, though. I thought that message actually -- I understand, from a political standpoint, why they walked it back. That's a message for the Russian people. Who are you? Who do you want to be?

Because I traveled to Russia in 1984 on a cultural exchange program. The Moscow of 2022 is not the Moscow of the '80s, which is what Putin is trying to reconvene. People in Russia, as we have seen from the arrests, from all the measures they have had to take to cut people off from information, they have to decide, do they want Putin to be their leader?

The United States, NATO, we can only do so much. Ultimately, it is the people of Russia who will have to decide how this ends and what happens next.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I hated it that they walked him back, because it's what we all believe.

Nobody in the United States wants Vladimir Putin to continue to run Russia. And nobody thinks and nobody should think that, when this is over, we can go back to like this never happen. I don't know how it's going to end. We can't go back to treating this guy like a legitimate world leader.

So the president said what's on all of our hearts. And I do think it was a message for the Russian people. And so, when they came in and they said in the walk back what he meant was, that's not what he meant. That's not what he meant at all. And what he meant is what's in our hearts.

And so I understand the geopolitical ramifications. I get it. But, at some point, how do you look at what's happening, the slaughter, and say anything other than this man cannot be a world leader the way he is in this format? We cannot allow it.

AUCHINCLOSS: The focus needs to be on how we end this slaughter. That's ultimately how the president and NATO will be evaluated by history.

And the needle to thread here is some kind of Article 4-and-a-half. Article 5, of course, is the mutual defense pact. That would not be acceptable to Russia or NATO, for that matter. Article 4 is consultations. That's not sufficient for Ukraine.

They have seen with the Budapest, the Minsk agreements that promises don't stand up. We need to find an article 4-and-a-half that provides significant security guarantees for Ukraine, that they can be nonaligned, but still have confidence in their sovereignty and security.

And President Biden is working with NATO to thread that needle, so that Zelenskyy can sit across the negotiating table from Russia and have confidence that he can make some concessions that will end this violence without undermining the sovereignty and prosperity of his country.

HEINRICHS: I would say too the walk-back really didn't put any better clarification on the president's remarks either, because they said that what he meant was that Putin couldn't then have power over the region.

I'm not sure how that's any better. After this is all done, he's still going to be the head of state, unless something else happens internally with his country. But it's -- again, it's not the policy of United States to make that happen.

I do still think it's a missed opportunity, though, because I think that President Biden should have used his speech to say which part of the NATO bloc he's with, because NATO really isn't on the same page. You have the Poles, the Romanians, the Balts, the Czechs, who really want to go even more to arm the Ukrainians, to give Zelenskyy the best hand to play once we get to negotiated peace.

But, instead, President Biden really kind of had this vapid transatlantic unity-type remark without picking a hard side. I think he should have done that to unite the bloc, to get us to a policy that's more fruitful.

FINNEY: But that's part of leadership.

Part of leadership is, you push. You try to create the political space for others to come with you. Remember that, for this president, he's got to get the American people there. You have got to get Congress there. Congress has done quite a bit. And you have got to get the NATO allies there and the rest of the world, who is watching how we handle this.

So I think he's been very adept at trying to create the political space to maneuver within the confines that Congress has given him.

JENNINGS: The Ukrainians need two things. They need us to help them win. Managing their decline is not what they need. They need us to help them win. They need more.


But, also, they need us to inspire the Russian people to put this guy where he belongs. And so, when the White House staff walks back the commander in chief of the United States, it degrades Joe Biden's ability to inspire that population.

So, I wish they would have thought twice about that, because I really think it hurt him.

BASH: Well, Karen, as a former Democratic staffer, somebody who's worked in senior positions on campaigns and in policy settings, what did you make of that, the walk-back?

FINNEY: Well, it had the feeling of -- you know, it was a beautiful speech. He made the comment. When you hear it, you knew that was not the message of the speech. And so you could almost see the staffers sort of getting ready to go walk it back.

But I have to say, with Scott, I agree. I would not have -- I understand the geopolitics. I might have tried to say it a little differently. I might have tried to say, of course, we're not talking -- he's not talking about regime change, but we are saying to the Russian people, you have to take control here. You have a role to play here.

But, having been in that position, I think they felt like the most immediate need was to make sure our allies were comfortable.

BASH: Let's switch gears for a minute to President Putin.

And I want to play something that he said this past week that was odd. I will just leave it there.


BASH: And then we will talk about it.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Children's book writer J.K. Rowling was recently canceled because she, the author of books that spread far and wide in hundreds of millions of copies, did not please the fans of the so-called gender freedoms.

Today, they are trying to cancel a whole 1,000-year-old country, our people. I'm talking about the increasing discrimination of everything related to Russia, about this trend which is unfolding in a number of Western states.


BASH: OK, obviously, on its face, the idea of the Russian president saying that he's a victim of cancel culture is ridiculous.

We should note that J.K. Rowling responded, saying -- in a tweet saying: "Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance or who jail and poison their critics, #IstandwithUkraine."

But aside from the kind of ridiculousness of that, since everybody is trying to figure out what Putin is thinking and what he's doing, what does that kind of comment tell you about where he is?

AUCHINCLOSS: You're hearing a deranged mind under pressure.

It should not be understated how damaging U.S. sanctions, global sanctions have been on the Russian economy. The ruble has cratered in large measure because of the Central Bank sanctions put together by the United States. And the Russian economy has taken a bigger hit in this one month than the U.S. economy ever took in any given year of the Great Depression.

There is panic on the streets of Russia. And while he's an autocrat, he is subject to public opinion in Russia. And he is under significant pressure right now and is looking for an off-ramp. We need to work with Ukraine and indeed with China to provide that off-ramp.

BASH: Rebeccah, 25 seconds left.

HEINRICHS: No, I think Vladimir Putin is most guilty of canceling Russia, if anybody is.

I mean, he's the one who has really set his country back. This is going to be a strategic loss, I think, for Russia in the end. I think some of this -- this idiotic kind of Russophobia, kind of coming out, canceling Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Russian ballet dancers, of course, is wrong and misplaced.

But he does not represent the beauty of Russian culture. And so, again, I agree that his comment should not be taken seriously.

JENNINGS: He's trying to -- he's trying to align himself with the people in the United States who are whining about cancel culture all the time.

BASH: Yes.

JENNINGS: Don't fall for it.

BASH: OK. That's a nice way to end it.

Thank you so much, all of you. Great discussion.

And up next: His group is making 10,000 sandwiches a day for Ukrainian refugees. And now chef Jose Andres is actually back in Ukraine.

We're going to talk to him about his efforts after a quick break.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I also want to thank my friend, the great American chef Jose Andres, and his team for help feeding those who are yearning to be free.


BASH: That was President Biden yesterday thanking chef Jose Andres for the incredible work he has been doing to help feed millions of Ukrainians fleeing their homes through his organization World Central Kitchen.

And now he actually tried to address things in Ukraine, and he is in Ukraine. He's back in Lviv, and he joins me now, as you can see.

So, nice to see you, Jose.

You just did just meet with the president on the ground in Poland. What did you talk about? And what was your message to him?

ANDRES: Well, my message to him was that Ukrainian people need all the help we can give them.

They are defending their country. They are fighting for democracy. They are fighting for freedom. And the least America and the rest of the free world we can do for them is to be next to them. That was my very simple and direct message.

BASH: Now, your organization -- and you tell me the exact current numbers, because I know you're feeding millions of people, but I believe it's 3.5 million meals so far in Ukraine.

Tell us about the people you're seeing and you're feeding on the ground.

ANDRES: Well, we already over past four million. We are 280,000, 290,000 meals a day, distributed around over 1,000 points in six countries.

Inside Ukraine, we are in 21 cities. Obviously, Lviv has become our headquarters inside Ukraine. But we are delivering food every day to places like Odessa, Kyiv and other places.

How we do that so fast and so quickly? I think everybody is obviously talking about the men and women defending Ukraine, but there are other people fighting the war in other ways. It's what I call the food fighters. We see restaurants, we see food people in many of these cities doing what they can to feed women, children, elderly that very often are in bunkers trying to escape for the bombing that arrived without nobody even telling them.

That's the heroes that I see in Ukraine. And what you see is everybody doing whatever they can to provide comfort and relief to fellow Ukrainians, not only inside Ukraine. But in the first moment I arrived, I saw Poland. I was able to tell the president and the prime minister of Poland that the Polish people, within hours, they were in every border crossing waiting with baby food, formula, hot soup. [09:55:11]

The temperatures were freezing. Women and children were walking across the border. And they were being welcomed at least with a message of, we care. We are going to take care of you. You are not going to be alone in this dark hour.

BASH: You tweeted about your team watching a Lviv orchestra performance, when they were interrupted by an air raid siren in the middle of their performance.

It was really striking to see that attempt at normalcy, something healing like music, in the middle of a war zone. How are people there trying to keep up a sense of hope?

ANDRES: Obviously, Lviv is hundreds of kilometers from the real front lines, where men and women are dying defending their country.

But now Lviv, if I would -- you would walk with me today, Sunday, or even in the place I am now is a place called Fez (ph). It's a restaurant. It's families here enjoying lunch, enjoying dinner, children playing.

If you walk, you go to the churches, the churches are full. The cafes are people on the sidewalks having coffee. But everything is normal, until the sirens began, telling you that an incoming missile may be coming, when you see monuments and churches, that they are protected, when you see, all of a sudden, military walking in the street going somewhere.

Everything is normal until, again, you see with clarity that -- like we saw a few hours ago, that more missiles hit again in Lviv. And this can be happening in any moment.

So, it's kind of heavy. Plus, days after, everybody is trying to use -- enjoy life. But, at the same time, people are trying to have normalcy in their lives.

BASH: Yes.

ANDRES: Every Ukrainian is doing something.

Like, these men and women that you see behind me, that they are volunteers every day in this location doing 11,000 sandwiches.

On the other side, we have a big kitchen. From here, we are doing tens of thousands of hot meals, that they are going to train stations, to buses, to the shelters, we are feeding more than 80 shelters in Lviv alone, because Lviv is becoming that place that the mothers don't want to leave Ukraine.

Why? Because, very often, they tell you, Dana, they don't want to be far away from their loved ones, because their men or their daughters are fighting in the front lines. They want to be near them.

BASH: Well, it's understandable, as a mother. And anybody who has a family can understand that.

Jose Andres, thank you so much. Thank you to the volunteers behind you and all across Ukraine and at the borders for all of the volunteer work that you're doing. Really, really heartwarming to hear your stories as well.

And up next...

ANDRES: Let's keep praying for Ukraine and all Ukrainians, please.

BASH: Thank you.

And, up next, a special second hour of STATE OF THE UNION. Stay with us.