- Isolating Russia and a historic Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
- Putin is getting exactly the opposite what he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine.
We have to stay fully, totally, thoroughly united.
- [Yamiche] President Biden travels to Europe for emergency meetings with Western allies.
- [Interpreter] The alliance can save Ukrainian lives from Russia's strikes, from Russia's occupation if we can get all the weapons we need.
- [Yamiche] President Zelensky pleads for more military aid to beat back Russia.
But NATO leaders stop short of giving him the weapons that he wants.
- I am here standing on the shoulders of generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity.
- [Yamiche] Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearing makes history.
- I want to try to understand here, is it your your view that society is too hard on sex offenders?
- [Yamiche] She faces contentious questioning from some Republicans.
- Don't worry my sister, don't worry.
God has got you.
And how do I know that?
Because you're here.
And I know what it's taken for you to sit in that seat.
- [Yamiche] And praise from Democrats.
(dramatic music) - [Narrator] This is "Washington Week".
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The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you, thank you.
Once again from Washington, moderator Yamiche Alcindor.
- Good evening, and welcome to "Washington Week".
We're now in month two of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
This week President Biden traveled to Brussels and Poland where he came within 60 miles of Ukraine.
The emergency meetings are meant to reaffirm western alliances and solidify support for Ukraine against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- The single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world to continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people's lives that are being lost and ruined.
- The President also plans to visit with refugees to highlight the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the war.
And this week, he also said the US will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Meanwhile, four new NATO battle groups are being sent to reinforce the Alliance's territory.
That comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with world leaders for more help.
- [Interpreter] You can give us 1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks, 1%.
The world is waiting.
Ukraine is waiting for real action, for real security guarantee.
- Joining me tonight to discuss this and more, Josh Lederman, a correspondent for NBC News.
He is joining us from Brussels, Belgium.
And here in studio, I'm so excited to have bodies in studio, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the "New York Times".
And Vivian Salama, national security reporter for the "Wall Street Journal".
Thank you all of you for being here.
Josh, I'll start with you.
You're in Brussels where a lot of these emergency meetings took place.
Talk to me a bit about what are the latest when it comes to the significance of these meetings and the impact they might have on the way forward given that the west is really trying to help Ukraine, but also not get into a military conflict with Russia.
- Well, Yamiche, you put your finger on the tough balancing act here that the White House is trying to do along with its NATO allies.
And you heard President Biden and the White House stumble a bit over the last few days in terms of this question of, look, what is the point of all of these sanctions we're putting into place?
Is it deterrent to try to prevent a war from taking place or is it about punishment?
And you heard President Biden in his news conference here in Brussels, try to strike this middle ground of saying, well, look, it's about maintenance.
And over time, these sanctions build up pressure and potentially lead President Putin to pull back what he's doing.
And I think what that illustrates here is the fact that the Biden administration has made very clear what they're not willing to do here, which is to get into a direct military confrontation with Russia.
And so anything that they feel like could trigger that, they wanna steer clear of.
The reality is when you say that you then significantly constrict your list of options for what you can actually do to change the outcome of this situation.
And so you increasingly see the Biden administration grasping for steps that are either symbolic, like sanctioning members of the Russian Duma or, you know, calling President Putin a war criminal, even though there's really no clear path to any kind of a criminal prosecution, or tightening the screws on steps that they've already taken with limited ability to identify really major new steps that they can take that anyone can say with a straight face is likely to significantly alter the outcome of this situation.
- Well Josh, just sticking with you, you were talking about new steps.
The United States and the European Union did announce a new partnership to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian oil.
What might that impact be given that, of course, European countries have not had the ability, they say, to ban Russian oil in the same way that the United States has been able to do.
- Yeah, that's right.
And you've heard the White House make an interesting argument here, which is that we can approach this with a different strategy than our allies and still be both united and effective.
And in the energy sphere, this comes into place with the US saying, we are gonna ban Russian imports of energy, but we're not going to pressure our European allies to do the same because we know that they are much more reliant on Russian energy than we are.
And so you see them trying to find ways that they can work with their allies without putting them into a corner on steps that others are not able to take.
And I have to say, if you were to rewind the tape just a few months to the way that the world looking at the Biden administration's first year of foreign policy, with a big debacle over submarines that the French were very upset about, a bundled withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Now you are seeing a very different situation with Europe very openly acknowledging that it is the Biden administration that has held this Alliance across the Atlantic Ocean together and has made the concerted response that we've seen to this war, that even President Putin apparently was not anticipating.
- And Peter, what Josh is talking about can really be summed up in one word.
And that word is unity.
That was the most important thing on the mind of all these Western leaders.
Where do you see this sort of balance of this show of unity, the impact of it having on where things stand now, given that the west doesn't wanna give, frankly, Ukraine the help that it's asking for, but they also are very united in their stance.
- Yeah, they are united.
And that is the most important message coming out of this, this series of summits, basically in Brussels.
Because I think Josh is right, I think Vladimir Putin thought he had an opportunity to divide the west, right?
We were on our back heels because of the debacle out of Afghanistan, because the Germans were in the middle of transitioning to a new chancellor after 16 years, the French have an election, the British prime minister is in trouble.
So maybe this would be a moment when we wouldn't get together, especially after four years of Trump bashing the Alliance and threatening to leave it.
And it turned out to be the best thing for the Alliance in some ways ever, because it's refocused its mission, right?
It has reminded people what NATO was founded for, which it hasn't really known what it was for in the last 30 years, since the end of the Cold War.
Now it knows.
And now it's come out of this with a sense of solidarity.
But you're right, President Zelensky is not accepting that what they've done so far is enough.
He continues to try to guilt them pretty powerfully by saying, yeah, yeah, this is all good.
You need to do more.
This is not enough.
We are not going to win without you stepping up even further.
- And stepping up being even further, we could possibly see a chance, a change of posture if there are chemical weapons used.
President Biden this week said that it's a real threat.
He also said the west would respond in kind.
What do we know about how concerned national security officials are about this threat of chemical weapons, Vivian?
- This is something that the administration has been talking about more and more so in recent weeks.
And it's important to remember, Yamiche, that a lot of the intelligence that has been declassified or downgraded in recent months so that they could publicly build their case against Vladimir Putin has been proved to be true.
And so a lot of officials that I talk to say, when the administration starts talking about chemical weapons, you listen.
And it's in part because of the fact that they've been so forthcoming with a lot of this intelligence.
And so the administration is very concerned about it.
Internally at the White House and elsewhere in the government they're starting to have strategy sessions to be able to somehow devise as contingency plans for what they would do in the event of something, whether it be chemical or biological weapons, or it's something so catastrophic as a nuclear weapon being used, or even just moved around, which is just by itself a major concern for the administration.
And so one of the things though, you have to remember again, when we're talking about the Alliance is whether or not allies are on board and everything.
Obviously the Europeans are very, very worried, it's in their backyard and there's a lot to be said about it.
And so what President Biden said in his press conference at NATO is that it will, the response will depend on what the action is.
And so with so many things, that's going to be what we have to see is we see what happens first, and then they devise a response.
- And quick follow to you, Vivian, you told our producers you're watching to see if there are any moves that essentially make the reinforced US presence in Europe permanent.
What more can you say about what you're watching out for there?
- Well, this is something that has been talked about now in recent weeks is whether or not the US needs to beef up its presence in Europe more permanently.
There's been a lot of talk about reposturing toward Asia, especially by this administration, also by the last.
The last administration also decreased the number of troops that were based in Europe.
And so with this crisis is reminded that Europe is vulnerable, especially the Eastern flank.
And sending troops there on a more permanent basis is something that is seriously being talked about within the administration.
- And I wanna go to Josh, really quick before I go to Josh, Peter, a quick question about the G20.
President Biden came out saying that Russia shouldn't be part of the G20.
But there's some experts saying that that's unlikely to happen.
- Yeah, it's not an American choice.
It needs to be a consensus of the 20 members of the G20 to throw Russia out.
They have some friends or at least some people in that grouping that would be reluctant to do it.
So President Biden, in some ways is putting himself to the test.
Can he actually use diplomacy to make that happen?
If he can't, then what does he do?
Does he pull the United States out?
Do the western Alliance nations, Japan, Australia, our friends in Europe, do they all pull out?
Do we torch, in effect, the G20 or not?
Now President Biden said, well, we should at least have Ukraine there as an observer.
I don't think anybody's gonna think that's all that satisfying.
You know, that the guys who are being invaded are currently sitting in the back bench while the invader is sitting at the main table.
So he's created, unfortunately to some extent, for himself, an expectation now of action he may not be able to deliver.
- And Josh, there's also, of course, as all sort of the strategy conversations about what to do about Russia is happening, the UN says 3.6 million people have left Ukraine and some six million, some 6.5 million are internally displaced.
President Biden, the White House says, is supposed to give a major address and also visit with refugees.
I know you've been on the ground talking to Ukrainian refugees.
Talk a bit about what the White House is thinking here.
- Well, the White House is very aware that the US has gotten some criticism over the last few weeks for being a little bit slow to clear out the red tape and make it possible to take in Ukrainian refugees.
As these countries in Europe, in Russia's backyard have been really, really impressively generous in the way that they have accepted basically an unlimited flow of refugees.
And so the Biden administration using this trip to announce they'll take up to 100,000 refugees, there are some questions about whether they'll even be able to achieve that goal, because the fact is that a lot of these Ukrainian refugees, if not most of them, they're not looking to pick up their lives and move to a new country.
A lot of them are women and children who have left behind husbands and fathers and sons and brothers, and they wanna stay close to Ukraine so that hopefully they can go back there as soon as possible to reunite with the families in the lives that they were living prior to this invasion from Ukraine.
And so you see the Biden administration looking for other ways to try to help the countries that inevitably are going to be accepting and dealing with the brunt of this refugee crisis, such as Poland and Hungary and Romania, and these other countries that are really in Ukraine's backyard.
- And Josh, the other thing that is happening or that happened this week is that there was a poll out by the AP that said some 56% of Americans think that President Biden is not being tough enough on Russia.
Connect that with the idea that President Biden had to take a question, which I think was remarkable, about whether or not President Trump, former President Trump might come back.
There are really, in some ways the looming politics of all of this, what's the White House else thinking there?
And what's it mean to our national security, the world security that President Trump is sort of looming over all of this when we think about the fact that he was, of course, anti-NATO, anti alliances a lot of times.
- Yeah, and it was so interesting to hear President Biden and his news conference here not only acknowledge that a whole lot of world leaders expressed to him relief that President Trump had not won a second term, which I think a lot of people expected, but also that a lot of them have asked him, yeah, but how long are you here for?
And is it possible that you're gonna be replaced by Trump or someone like him and US policy will revert to something that was very problematic to others on the world stage?
So on the one hand, you certainly have a lot of those in the United States politically who are calling for a much more aggressive response.
Look, we're in a campaign year.
Republicans are going to probably call President Biden weak on national security no matter what he does.
But the fact of the matter is that a lot of the steps that he would have to take to actually be significantly more aggressive on this, like putting American troops into harm's way just after we ended this war in Afghanistan, could potentially be unpopular themselves.
And Biden has really staked his reputation and his legacy on being the guy who doesn't end up pulling the US into long term military conflicts that don't have a clear imperative for US national security interests.
- And Vivian, I wanna bring you in cause you're nodding your head here.
You know, you cover national security, but of course there's the politics of all this too.
- Absolutely, and it's something, that question from "Der Spiegel", the German newspaper to President Biden really caught my attention as well.
Cause it's a question I get asked all the time, including when I was in Ukraine, by the way, a couple of weeks ago.
People wanna know if this is going to be the way our politics works.
And it's not necessarily about President Trump per se, but just the fact that policies can so abruptly swift and so quickly shift back to what they were.
And we were just talking, Peter was just saying about NATO, the Alliance being, you know, challenged under President Biden, so much is at stake globally.
And especially in this environment where we have a war in Europe, a lot of people wondering if the Alliance would be threatened.
And if so, does that weaken international and national security?
- Yeah, a lot to talk about, a lot to be watching for on this story of the invasion of Ukraine.
Thank you Josh so much for joining us and for sharing your reporting.
Meanwhile, this week on Capitol Hill, there was a history-making Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman nominated to the court, endured a marathon two days of questioning.
- It's more of a deterrent to have somebody substantially supervised in terms of their computer use who's looking at child pornography, than it is to put them in jail.
- Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?
- Can you provide a definition for the word woman?
- Your nomination turned out to be a testing ground for conspiracy theories and culture war theories.
I'm sorry that we have to go through this.
- You got here how every black woman in America who's gotten anywhere has done, by being, like Ginger Rogers said, "I did everything Fred Astair did, but backwards in heels."
And so I'm just sitting here saying, nobody's stealing my joy, nobody's gonna make me angry.
- Throughout the hearing, Judge Jackson also defended her record.
- And I've been serving in the District of Columbia both as a trial judge and as an appellate judge.
And we see some of the most politically contentious issues.
My record demonstrates my impartiality.
- White House officials remain confident that they have the votes to confirm Judge Jackson.
Democrats in the Senate are also hoping to hold a final vote on her nomination by April 8th.
Joining us now to discuss this and more is Laura Jarrett, anchor of CNN's "Early Start".
She's a good friend of mine and also a lawyer herself.
So I'm so excited that you're here.
It took 233 years for a black woman to sit where Judge Jackson sat this week.
Talk about the history of this moment, the significance of it for her, but also for our country.
- It's a hugely significant moment.
It sends a message to every little black girl watching her that they can be in that seat and that they deserve to be in that seat.
Given how historic, though, it was and actually is, it's striking to me how much time was spent, of the hours and hours of questioning from all these senators, not about her record, not about some of the issues that might pertain to what she would consider on the court, but rather as Senator Durbin pointed out, some of the more divisive cultural issues of the day.
And it seems as though some Republicans thought that that was their best tact and that their approach was going to be not to dig into her record or the facts of her record, but rather at ask her about anti-racist baby, ask her about how to define a woman, and try to make this a referendum on issues that are likely to come up in the November midterms.
- And Laura, you talked about sort of the anti-racist baby.
I wanna ask you specifically about the issues of race because Ted Cruz brought up critical race theory.
We also saw the Republican party tweet out something that crossed out the initials of her name and replaced it with CRT.
What do you make of that?
- What's so striking about that is that if they had bothered to dig into her record, as she pointed out, she doesn't have anything to do with how critical race theory is sort of been bandied about, whether it's in the culture, or certainly politically in Washington right now.
Critical race theory is not being taught in lower schools, much less taught in a sort of a widespread way.
It is a legal theory about systemic racism in the legal system that is taught in graduate schools.
As the judge said, this is not something that she has even really studied at length.
And it's certainly not something that she uses in her application if she were to be selected for the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, it has now become a, repeatedly in states, as parents are sort of ginned up about issues about parental choice in schools.
And so the Republicans have harped on this.
But to cross out her name and to cross out the initials of her name, to put CRT was such a striking moment during those hearings, because she literally has no connection to critical race theory.
The only connection there is that she happens to be a black woman.
So I think a lot of people felt like it was intellectually lazy at best and racist at worse.
- Some powerful facts from Laura tonight that needed to be said.
Peter, there is this feeling that Senator Manchin came out.
He said he's backing her so Democrats feel like they have this vote locked in.
But what does it say about our politics that she might not get votes from Republicans, especially someone like Lindsay Graham who spent a lot of time talking about materials showing children being sexually abused, when he voted for her last year?
- He did, he voted for her last year.
We are at a very different stage when it comes to Supreme Court confirmations.
You know, when Stephen Breyer, whose seat she's going to take, was nominated and confirmed to Supreme Court, he got almost all the Republican votes at the time not because they wanted him, not because he was their choice, but because they recognized that a President gets to choose and your senator's options are, you know, only when there is a question of integrity or something significant to vote against, that is gone.
We are now in a strictly partisan era.
Democrats vote against Amy Coney Barrett.
Republicans vote against Ketanji Brown Jackson.
And you're right, it will be at almost party line vote.
It's possible, there are three Republicans who voted for her for the appellate court last year.
Lindsay Graham has made clear he's not gonna be repeating that vote, which is a change for him because in the past he has supported Democratic nominees like Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor because he believed in this principle, this principle that you do give the President his or her eventually choice on the Supreme Court absent some reason otherwise.
He's abandoned that principle obviously.
And the other two are Lisa Markowski, Susan Collins.
They haven't said how they're going to vote.
It's possible both of them or one of them were to vote for her, but that would be the extent of the Republican vote.
It would be at most 52 to 48.
- And Vivian, quickly, I know you did some digging on the Guantanamo Bay nuances there.
About a minute left, but I wanna give you at least a little bit of time before I go back to Laura for one last question.
- Well, I mean, speaking of Lindsay Graham, he stormed out during that whole entire debate because he claimed that what he said was liberals are being too lenient over the issue.
And she got a lot of fire about defending Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Keep in mind, she was a public defender at the time and she was assigned these detainees at the time.
She said, it's a sixth amendment right, it is part of our constitution.
Also the Supreme Court had ruled by then against indefinite detention, saying that that detainees had the right to defend themselves in American courts.
And so, you know, she was defending that role that she had to play.
- And a number of Republicans also came to her defense actually to say, she did not pick her clients.
Laura, I wanna come to you because there was this powerful moment of Senator Booker making her cry, talking about sort of what it took to get her in that seat.
We only have about 45 seconds left, but please talk about that moment and what it means for Democrats, that he had to do that.
- It's interesting that he was really the only one that sort of said, wait a minute, what's going on here?
It seems as though he sort of wanted to rise above everyone and make everyone realize the historic nature of the moment.
We've all seen the picture of her daughter, Leila, 17 years old, smiling behind her.
And I think a lot of people who were watching, especially black people who were watching this historic moment felt a sense of pride that Senator Booker really articulated in his passionate speech for her.
- And he said something that I think so many African American women in particular, as you just noted, resonated with, and that is that he knew what it took to get to that seat.
And don't worry, that she was a great American.
So a touching moment there, and one that brought to tears because she was so poised during everything else.
- Yeah, you can imagine she didn't wanna have to cry, but it was so much, she was so choked up.
- Yeah, it's so true, it's so true.
Well, thank you, Laura, Peter and Vivian for joining us and for sharing your reporting.
We'll continue our conversation on the "Washington Week Extra".
This week's topic, the controversy surrounding the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pushing to overturn the 2020 election.
Find it on our website, Facebook, and YouTube.
And tune in Monday to the PBS News Hour for the latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
And finally this week, Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as secretary of state died at age 84.
She was a brilliant figure who helped steer western foreign policy in the aftermath of the Cold War.
She will be deeply missed.
Thank you for joining us.
I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
Goodnight from Washington.