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Transcript: The ReidOut, 3/21/22

Guests: Slava Vakarchuk, Rula Jebreal, Bobby Ghosh, Cory Booker, Nayyera Haq


NATO says Putin`s war is becoming a stalemate. Defense Secretary Austin says, Putin is moving his forces into a wood chipper. 80 percent of residential buildings in Mariupol reportedly damage or destroyed. Ukrainian leader delivers moving update on Putin`s war.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Spoiler alert, by the end, things were so fun that Professor Murray`s dog made a cameo. That`s`

Thanks for watching "THE BEAT." THE REIDOUT with Joy Reid starts now.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone. We begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the emerging consensus that the war in Ukraine is reaching a stalemate, if it hasn`t already. That`s the opinion of military and political experts, including a senior NATO intelligence official who told NBC News the reality is neither side has a superiority over the other.

Facing more resistance than they bargained for, Russian forces made only meager gains on the battlefield and are now at a virtual standstill. Despite their vastly superior military, they are plagued by broken supply chains, food shortages, equipment failures and sagging morale. Experts tell The Washington Post that Russian troops are strung out along multiple fronts and appear unable to sustain a protracted war. In fact, according to western intelligence estimates, Russians are being killed or injured at the rate of up to 1,000 a day.

Given the lack of a coherent strategy as the war grinds through its fourth week, it is clear Putin not only views Ukrainian lives as being expendable but that he also sees his own troops as expendable. Here is how Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin put it bluntly yesterday.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: They`re not being effective today in terms of their maneuver forces on the ground. They are essentially stalled. And it`s had the effect of him moving forces into wood chipper.


REID: additionally, Ukrainian forces reported on Saturday that they`ve claimed the life of a fifth Russian general, another devastating blow to the Russian war effort. But while Ukrainian forces have effectively halted Russia`s advance for now, the stalemate comes at a tragically high cost for Ukraine`s civilian population, which is bearing the blunt of Russia`s indiscriminate strikes.

Yesterday, Ukraine`s interior minister released this video of a major explosion, which he described as a Russian attack that killed eight people at a shopping mall in Northern Kyiv. While NBC News has not independently verified the location or date, The Washington Post reports that the resulting devastation was reportedly among the worst that the Ukrainian capital has seen since the outbreak of the war almost a month ago. Strikes like, which serve no military purpose, showcase how Russia is effectively compensating for their lack of progress on the battlefield with a terror campaign of aerial bombardment.

Sky News Correspondent Alex Crawford found this report from a northern suburb of northern Kyiv.


ALEX CRAWFORD, SKY NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The community has already been hit several times. The attacks have left yet more people without homes. And workplaces and businesses have been left shattered. But the main supermarket is still operating despite being shelled earlier. A lot of the fridges and storage areas are damaged. The constant volley of attacks has seen half the town empty. The other half can`t understand why this is happening.

They`ve attacked our houses, our schools, our shops, she said. They`re hitting us too much. For what? Please someone explain.


REID: Putin`s scorched earth tactics are more apparent in Mariupol, where some 80 percent of all residential buildings are now either damaged or destroyed, according to local officials who spoke to the BBC.

Without water or electricity, residents facing starvation must scrounge for food and have no opportunity to bury their dead except in temporary graves. According to The New York Times, there are reports of ongoing street fights between Ukrainian and Russian forces. And even more chilling, evacuated residents and a local official both tell The Times resident haves been forcibly taken across the border into Russia against their will.

Yet, despite those horrors, Ukraine today refused a Russian ultimatum to surrender the city. This comes after President Zelenskyy released a powerful new video depicting all that`s been lost in Russia`s senseless war against his country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was, a simple word, merely a part of speech used in everyday life. But it`s not that simple for us, because now the everyday Ukrainians simply cannot, was, without bursting into tears. This was my home. This was my friend. This was my dog. This was my car. This was my job. And this was my father. The millions and millions of Russian wounds are bleeding with their tolls. Russia has drowned Ukraine in tears and blood and children`s corpses.


REID: But it is not without hope.


The video goes on to portray Zelenskyy`s vision for a post war future after Ukraine beats back the Russian invaders.

With me now is NBC News Correspondent Cal Perry live in Lviv, Clint Watts, MSNBC National Security Analyst, who worked as a consultant to the FBI counterterrorism Division, and Slava Vakarchuk, musician, social activist and a former member of the Ukrainian parliament. Thank you all for being here.

Cal, I`m going to start with you. The word, stalemate, is being used but it seems that, military-to-military, it`s not a stalemate. Russia is being -- they`re destroying their own forces. They`re leaving them out there to die and sending them into what the secretary of defense called a wood chipper.

The devastation though Russia is reeking is on civilians. Tell us a little bit more about what is happening. And you`re in Lviv, where the war wasn`t but where you were hearing sirens when we spoke to you last.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I`ll give you an update to start. It was Friday night. We were on the air for your show and we heard these two booms and then I spent the next sort of 12 hours trying to figure out what it was and it wasn`t until the next morning when Russia announced they had fired hypersonic missiles that we were able to put the timing together. That`s what we heard the, first ever use of these hypersonic missiles flying over us on the way to targets in the west.

And there`s this geopolitical discussion about what the aim of that was. Maybe Russia was sending a message to the U.S. I can tell you here in the western part of the country, the message is these missiles fly really fast. Air can`t pick them up and they`re hitting their targets. So, it`s changed sort of the way that this city is operating. You see a lot more sandbags. You see people headed for those shelters whenever the sirens go off.

In the eastern part of the country here, you`re looking at video from Mariupol. This is a city that is being wiped off the map. There`s no other way to put it. The Russians put together this very weird offer of a surrender that really didn`t mean anything because, frankly, there is nothing to surrender.

You have in this city the frontlines are now overlapping. You have Russian soldiers in a hospital using patients as human shields. You have Ukrainian forces basically street fighting now, street by street, block by block, apartment building by apartment building and stuck in the middle are hundreds of thousands of civilians, some of whom cannot get above ground to bury loved ones because the shelling is so intense.

Add to that, the Russians allowing green corridors to flow back into Russia, that, for all of the obvious reasons, is not an option for the people in this city who, again, have been cut off and are being shelled into basically oblivion.

If you go to Kherson, which is on the Black Sea coastline, not very far from this city, you see a city under occupation. Today, there was a large protest by Ukrainian civilians who approached Russian soldiers and they were then fired on with live ammunition.

So, it is happening across the country in the south, where you see that red, in the east where you see that red, it may be becoming a conflict. This may be a conflict that is slowing as far as military advances but everything that we are saying and everything that we`re hearing from western officials is true. It is the civilians who are paying the price for this war, even in the capital of Kyiv, where we saw that strike on a mall. You`re looking at the pictures there. It`s not just the mall that was hit. You see those surrounding apartment buildings heavily damaged.

And, again, in all of these cases, it`s hard for us to accurately report a death toll because these rescue teams, as they reach these sites, are sometimes coming under fire themselves, certainly true in the east. It makes reporting this story and reporting accurate civilian death toll very difficult, Joy.

REID: Wow. Cal Perry, thank you, my friend. I appreciate you. Please stay safe.

I want to bring you in, Clint, because I`m just -- I`m writing down my little notes here. A wood chipper is what our secretary of defense has described as what Putin is sending his forces into. There is kidnapping people and dragging them into Russia, which I guess is good, you know, for their propaganda inside to make it sound like people would ever want to go into a country that`s completely financially broken and where they don`t want to be because they`re Ukrainian.

Firing on shopping malls, this does not sound like a war in which the Russian military and the Ukrainian military are meeting and it`s a stalemate. It sounds like the Russian military is incompetent and are just reverting to terrorism, and that what they`re committing right now is just genocide. Explain to us where things are.

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Joy, what you`re seeing representative of what they`ve done in other countries that we often don`t pay attention to, namely Chechnya. In Grozny, they brought a very similar campaign, just leveling and destroying entire cities, going block to block, just creating intense damage, the way they supported President Assad in Syria very similar. So, you`re seeing total war. They don`t see really the divide between humanitarian issues and military issues. It`s all blended together.

And you`ll see them make these announcements. Here is a humanitarian corridor which leads to Russia, which is a way to move populations out of the corridors that you want to go and level. They then create this sort of prelude, which is if you stay, you`re part of the combatant force and, therefore, we`re going to destroy you.


So, it`s a Catch-22 that they build.

I think what you`ll see over time is they`re trying to do this siege warfare but it is not going to work. They just don`t have the capability to do this over time.

REID: This is what The Washington Post wrote in terms of quoting military experts. They say Russia`s military campaign could soon become unsustainable with troops unable to advance because they lack sufficient manpower, supplies and munitions. Analyst and officials say, the next two weeks could be critical in determining the outcome of the entire war unless Russia can swiftly improve its supply lines, bring reinforcement and bolstering the flagging morale of the troops on the ground. Its goals may become impossible to achieve.

Clint, very quickly, if that happens and they cannot advance, but they also won`t stop, then what?

WATTS: I think you`ll see in two to three weeks, Joy, either they will make progress in one, two, or three locations, in Kyiv, in Izyum, which is an eastern city that you show on that map, or out by Mykolaiv. And if they can`t make those advances and continue to move on, you`ll see them move towards peace negotiations there, some sort of settlement. And they`ll try to keep the south in Donbas. That`s what they`ll focus on, primarily Donbas. They just don`t have the manpower to keep pushing forward.

And I think some of their plans surrounding and taking Kyiv or an amphibious landing at Odessa are just way beyond what they can sustain and do at this point because Ukrainian military has performed much above what the Russian military expected.

REID: Yes, indeed. Slava Vakarchuk, thank you for being here and spending some time with us.


REID: Thank you. Can you foresee in your thought, even Mariupol, a place that`s just been essentially, as Clint said, wiped off the map, can you ever see Ukrainians ever surrendering any city, let alone the capital to these people, to Russia?

VAKARCHUK: I just talked to one of the leaders of the Mariupol defense, leader of one of the National Guards units an hour ago. And I asked him, what is his message to Americans? I will talk to them soon. And he said, Mariupol will never surrender. And I absolutely believed what he says. There are 3,000 of them and they`re not ready to give up the city, not ready to give up civilians that are still there and they are suffering from Russian attacks and I can assume that it will go more and more and more. And none of the Ukrainian cities you mentioned and others are going to surrender.

I`ve seen many of these cities have been all over Ukraine supporting people, and I can tell you that the morale of both troops and civilians is very high and everybody is very resilient, everybody is willing to fight until the end. And when I say the end, I`m saying just our victory. So, we`re very determined and focused.

We didn`t invite anybody of these troops, Russian troops, to our land. It was their decision and they suddenly will regret one day that they just started this. Ukraine is going to win this war. Though, I also agree with the experts that it can come on very high price. We are paying this price because now we are fighting not just for Ukraine. We are -- Ukraine now is a battle ground for the whole free world and that`s why we desperately -- so desperately need your help, I mean, not only Americans but the whole free world`s help.

That`s why we`re asking every day for anti-missile defense and planes because we`re sure that if we had much better situation on the air, where Russia has still advantage, we would have won already this war. Because on the ground, we`re much stronger because Ukrainian army has very strong motivation, everybody is very focused and determined. Russians have very low motivation, some of them surrender, some of them don`t know what they`re doing on our land but still going and committing the orders of Putin, who is now absolutely sure a war criminal after what everything you`ve shown and we`ve seen. They are not the power everybody was expecting.

So, they will never win this war and, certainly, in two or three weeks, as you already said, it will be much better position for Ukraine. But, once again, I need to resume, we pay a very high human price and not only our combat units of our soldiers but also our civilians, including women and children are being killed right now all the time. They deliberately shell and bombed Ukrainian civilian objects, including maternity houses, including care houses for elder, including the corridors, humanitarian corridors.


I just personally met a family from Mariupol who just told me in a gas station, I already put it on my Twitter, you can see the English, they told me that they were allowed to go out from Mariupol and then in 10 or 15 minutes after they were driving the car, so they were shot and many other cars were hit and people have been killed or wounded.

I`ve been to Zaporizhzhia in the hospital where I saw children in the intensive care unit where they were lying just between life and death and doctors were trying to save them. Some of them have lost their legs and arms, little children, little kids like from 2 or 3 to 12 or 13. One girl, her name was Maria, she was crying not because she felt pain but because she already understood that she just lost her leg. And she was crying because she understood that for her, as for a young teenager girl, it was a disaster. So, that`s all being committed by Russians and that`s why we need to stop them.

Some of your politicians say that you don`t want to close the sky over Ukraine because it may provoke the start of World War III. I am convinced the opposite is the truth and that World War III may start much quicker if you don`t -- if we all don`t stop Putin now. And if, to some extent, we don`t quit now and he will -- he can succeed in Ukraine, he will definitely go further and further.

And while now Ukrainian troops are fighting on our ground, just for everybody, then if Ukraine loses, then other countries troops will fight in that round. That`s why it`s very simple message. I know Ukraine, American audience, American constituents who support us. So, just tell your politicians do more for us now and we will save the whole world. Ukrainians are ready to fight for the whole world.

REID: Yes. There is no doubt that Ukrainians have the valor to do it, have the courage to do it. And I cannot argue with a thing that you`ve said. I`m so sorry for what is happening in your country and hopefully our politicians have heard you and will hear you.

Clint, my friend, thank you very much. And former Ukrainian Parliament Member Slava Vakarchuk, thank you very much.

Up next on THE REIDOUT, Russia is facing a crisis of morale with a staggering number of Russian soldiers being killed. So, what more can the west do? That is the very question of the day, isn`t it, to bring an end to this crisis.

Also --


KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: If I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and this grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years.


REID: The historic confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, she`s facing Looney Toons demagoguery from the right and a celebration of this moment from Democrats, like Senator Cory Booker who joins me tonight.

Plus, the U.S. State Department is demanding access to basketball star Brittney Griner, who is being held prisoner in Russia. We will have the latest on her very troubling case.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.



REID: With Putin`s war in Ukraine at a stalemate, Russia is effectively losing on and off the battlefield, with Putin reversing 30 years of economic progress, turning Russia into essentially another North Korea, evidenced by yet another economic blow last week, when the U.S. House stripped Russia and Belarus of most favored nation trade status, putting them in company with only two other nations, Cuba and, yes, North Korea.

Meanwhile, the Russian government is cracking down on dissent. Today, a Russian court upheld a ban on Facebook and Instagram, accusing parent company Meta of extremist activities. Fearing more economic and political consequences, thousands of Russian citizens are fleeing.

"The New York Times" reports Russia is hemorrhaging outward-looking young professionals, part of a global economy that has largely cut off their country. All of that bad news for Russia is likely to get even worse.

A NATO official told NBC that, despite making no significant progress in the past two weeks, Putin appears dug in and unwilling to admit failure, likely foreclosing the possibility that he will back down. The official warned that a frustrated Putin could resort to even more indiscriminate attacks on civilians, a playbook they used in Syria starting in 2015, with airstrikes targeting hospitals, schools and bakeries, including a relentless month-long aerial bombing attack in Aleppo, killing hundreds of civilians, including children, and leaving the city in ruins.

In the meantime, President Biden will travel to Europe for a NATO summit and European Council meeting on Thursday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, followed by a visit to Poland to meet with its president on Friday.

Joining me now, Rula Jebreal, foreign policy analyst and visiting professor at the University of Miami, and Bobby Ghosh, editor and foreign policy columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

Thank you both for being here.

And, Rula, the comparisons between what`s happening in Mariupol and what happened in Aleppo are now -- everyone is making them, but you have been making them for a very long time, that we should have paid attention to what happened in Aleppo.

Talk about that, because I know that you were there contemporaneously. So what you`re seeing in Mariupol, is this the same sort of campaign?

RULA JEBREAL, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Exactly the same campaign.

And people were warning. Syrian activists, Syrian academics, refugees were telling us that the campaign that he waged in Syria, where they`re gassing people, starvation, besieging people, bombardment, the double-tap attack, which is, he would send his airplanes to bomb people. Then he would wait until first responder would arrive.

And then he secondly, he will second time bomb people, so he can create terror campaign. Even rape was used as a weapon of war, where people were - - where the soldiers, Assad militias, and watched by the Russian troops, they were raping women in front of their families. Children were raped in detention centers, mutilated, tortured.


And we`re seeing that he is not going to stop. He is deploying the same tactic to terrorize and basically to force Ukrainians into submission by terror. He is using the same thing.

And people wondered -- I mean, I have seen Syrian refugees now in Germany, and they were asking the world, I mean, what happened? What happened was simple. He exploited the West division and bigotry -- let`s be honest about that -- and fear of Muslims to basically incite hatred, or use his proxies in Europe, in the U.S. to incite hatred, even against Syrian refugees who fled the war.

REID: Yes.

And, I mean, in the end, the Syrian migrant crisis broke Europe. I mean, it is partly responsible for Brexit. It changed governments. This refugee crisis now is different, because it is not a refugee crisis of Muslims largely. It`s not a Chechnya. It`s not a Syria. But what do you think the impact will be on Europe of what is this new refugee crisis?

BOBBY GHOSH, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, right now, the Europeans are saying the right things, doing the right things by the Ukrainian people, particularly the neighboring countries, Poland most of all, the same Poland that treated Syrian refugees, Afghan refugees very, very differently.

Now, how long will they do this? How long can they sustain this? We`re already past the three, four million mark; 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes. Nearly four million have fled the country, and they`re all heading West.

Can the Europeans continue, will the Europeans continue to be this hospitable when those numbers increase, when they begin to extract a cost on the economies of these countries? That`s the big test. We don`t know the answer to that. We saw that, with the Syrian refugees, there was an immediate, almost visceral distrust and hatred.

There were two contributing factors. One, of course, was that the majority of the Syrian refugees who were coming were young men, whereas, with Ukraine, many of the refugees are women and children and older folks, because the men are going back to fight.

REID: Yes.

GHOSH: So that makes a significant difference. Of course, culturally, they`re closer.

Many of these refugees from Ukraine are used to traveling in Western Europe. They had visa-free travel before. They know their way around. So they don`t stick out as much as the Syrians did.

REID: Yes.

GHOSH: They speak the languages.

So it`s a -- and the other thing that operated during the Syrian refugee crisis were, these far right groups absolutely exploited this fear of Muslims and turned that into political capital themselves, some of them with funding from Moscow.

REID: Yes, Russia.

GHOSH: And those far right groups have been much more muted. It, of course, doesn`t fit into their narrative.

They`re still very pro-Putin. Many of them are still parroting the Moscow line, not just in this country, but in Europe. Rula has just returned from there. But at the same time, they can`t afford to be seen to be hostile to these white refugees, because being white is a very big part of that identity that they project.

REID: Right. Yes.

GHOSH: So they`re caught in a little bind here. They are pro-Putin, but they can`t be seen as being anti...

REID: Anti-Ukrainian.

GHOSH: ... Ukrainian or anti-refugee, for now.

REID: Yes.

GHOSH: Some weeks from now, some months from now, when the numbers swell, we will see.

REID: And it changes.

You have just come back from Europe. And what are these governments saying? What are these politicians saying?

JEBREAL: They are on edge. They`re horrified by it.

They`re using this occasion, not because of the refugees. They started waking up when Putin start attacking the elections. They understood what he was doing, not only during the Syria crisis, way before the Syria crisis, when he started waging a war within Europe, funding these European, allies, Marine Le Pen in France, a 40 percent popularity, funded directly from banks from Russia, Salvini in Italy, Viktor Orban.

Then you have the far right in Netherlands, everywhere around Europe. So, Europeans` leaders today are fighting for the survival of the European Union, because they know, if Putin wins, that union, that project is dead.

REID: Right. Yes.

JEBREAL: They know that. So they`re fighting for their own survival.

REID: Yes.

JEBREAL: At the same time, for the first time, we`re seeing Switzerland, a country neutral for a century, intervening because, again, they understand that Putin is not going to stop there.

REID: Yes.

JEBREAL: And the refugee crisis is only the beginning. And he`s willing to go as far as basically invading or waging -- continuing this war that is not only with bombs, with disinformation, misinformation, and with bankrolling -- bankrupting European and Western governments.

REID: Yes.

And then you have President Biden heading to Europe, because the question is, yes, they are now on the right side. What are they willing to actually do? They`re certainly not willing to directly arm Ukraine.

GHOSH: Well, they`re arming Ukraine. They`re not -- they`re not willing to put their own boots on the ground.

REID: Their own, right.

GHOSH: They`re beginning to provide sort of stronger and stronger weapons. They`re not going to provide aircraft. That`s very clear.

But they`re now talking about providing missile defense, anti...


REID: Yes, anti-aircraft.

GHOSH: ... aircraft missile defense systems, which is quite significant.

REID: Yes.

GHOSH: They are providing more drones, more anti-tank weapons.

The reason why the Russians have not been able to advance, apart from the incredible bravery of the Ukrainian soldiers...

REID: Sure.

GHOSH: ... is the weapons provided by the Western alliance.

REID: Yes.

GHOSH: And they`re going to get plenty more of those. And the U.S., for instance, is now thinking of sending drones there, which are very, very effective.

REID: Yes, just not the jets.

GHOSH: Just not the jets.

REID: Yes.

GHOSH: And you know what?

There is an argument that the Ukrainians are using the drones so effectively that they might not be able to do the same with jets. You put jets in theater, and that changes the nature of that conflict.

REID: Yes.


GHOSH: And, right now -- yes, right now, the Russian air force is unchallenged, but once those missile defense systems arrive...


REID: It will change.

JEBREAL: It will change.

REID: Thank you both for being here. We have to do this again.

We appreciate you so much. Bobby Ghosh, Rula Jebreal, thank you, my friends. Really appreciate you.

And coming up: an historic day in Washington, D.C., as confirmation hearings begin for President Biden`s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

We will bring you the highlights and, of course, the lowlights from today`s session -- next on THE REIDOUT.



REID: History was made today, as the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first ever confirmation hearing for a black woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States.

In her opening remarks, Judge Jackson hit many of the important points in her career dedicated to the law and to this country. But the emotional high point came when she talked about her family.


JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: My parents have been married for almost 54 years, and they`re here with me today.

I cannot possibly thank them enough for everything they have done for me.

I love you, mom and dad.

Speaking of unconditional love, I would like to introduce you to my husband of 25 years, Dr. Patrick Jackson. I have no doubt that, without him by my side from the very beginning of this incredible professional journey, none of this would have been possible.

I`m saving a special moment in this introduction for my daughters, Talia and Leila.

Girls, I know it has not been easy as I have tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you have seen that, with hard work, determination and love, it can be done.


REID: Judge Jackson was also joined by her best friends and roommates from Harvard, tearing up when one of them, law professor Lisa Fairfax, introduced her.


LISA FAIRFAX, FORMER COLLEGE ROOMMATE OF KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: Our tight- knit group of girlfriends also knows that there`s so much more to Ketanji beyond her brilliant mind.

There`s her wonderful sense of humor, her gift of storytelling, her heart of gold that always shows up. Above all, Ketanji is humble enough not to pretend she knows how to have it all. But she does know how to give it her all.

And what she gives to her family, her friends, she also gives to the law and to this country.


REID: As "The Washington Post" points out in this detailed chart, Judge Brown Jackson will be far and away the most qualified person to serve on this court, a point that senators on both sides of the aisle also made today.

But Republicans certainly didn`t hold back from their nonsense demagoguery. There`s Lindsey Graham, of course, who, even though he has voted to confirm Judge Jackson multiple times, raised the question of why the left likes her so much, while also whining about how mean everybody is the white Republicans, blah, blah, blah.

And then there`s insurrection fan Josh Hawley, who spent his time listing her record on child pornography cases, trying in vain to prove a pointedly QAnon is point that even the right-wing "National Review" called disingenuous.

And that`s far from the worst that came out of her hearing today. And we will have more on that after the break.

But today was also very much a moment of joy, as Senator Cory Booker described it, and he joins us next.



REID: Some Republicans used Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson`s historic confirmation hearing to hit as many MAGA talking points as possible, with Marsha Blackburn starting with a rant about trans people, because of course, and then, yes, connecting it to Critical Race Theory.


SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): You served on the board of a school that teaches kindergartners, 5-year-old children, that they can choose their gender and teaches them about so-called white privilege.

And you have made clear that you believe judges must consider Critical Race Theory when deciding how to sentence criminal defendants. Is it your personal hidden agenda to incorporate Critical Race Theory into our legal system?


REID: Ah, yes.

And then there`s Senator Tom Cotton, who went on a bizarro rant about Biden`s America, barely even addressing Judge Jackson, except to mention that he didn`t vote for her during confirmation hearings.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): We are witnessing a breakdown of society. Career criminals are committing violent crimes and going free, under the guise of a supposedly more equitable justice system.

And liberal judges who have more sympathy for the victimizers than for the victims are a big part of the problem.


REID: Judge Jackson was incredibly polarized throughout the hearing, a literal un-Kavanaugh in her temperament, as well as her qualifications.

But the look on her face was every black woman ever. Thankfully, right after that, Senator Cory Booker brought her a moment of joy.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): This is not a normal day for America. We have never had this moment before.

And I just want to talk about the joy. I know tomorrow, in the coming hearings, we`re going to have tough, hard questions, but please let me just acknowledge the fact that this is not normal. It`s never happened before. The Senate is poised right and how to break another barrier.

We are on the precipice of shattering another ceiling.


REID: With me now, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I just want to thank you for letting -- making Ketanji smile. She`s really one of the kindest and sweetest people. I just like seeing her smile. You also made her husband, who is her college -- her -- the love of her life going from college on, cry. So you really did that today.


I just want to get -- what was your feeling and emotion? I know everybody I know it was ugly-crying during her speech. What was your just emotion watching her up there?

BOOKER: I mean, I was overwhelmed.

As soon as she began, I just felt the emotion flowing through me from ancestors and generations that made this day possible.

REID: Yes.

BOOKER: This is -- I know there`s a lot of the normal politics going back and forth, but I just had to call stop for a second.

REID: Yes.

BOOKER: This is a great day in our country. And I just think that she`s going to shine throughout these hearings because she is an exceptional human being, one.

She is eminently qualified, two. And I sat with her. She has got grit and grace. I think she`s going to show America her the power of her character this week.

REID: And eminently qualified. I mean, she is more qualified.

Let`s put this chart up. Hillary Clinton tweeted this out today and is like, seems qualified to be. She literally ticks more boxes and qualifications than the three Trump justices combined and has a first-class temperament, so -- unlike Kavanaugh.

Do you think that any of your colleagues who got up there -- and, to me, they sounded like -- you know the adults in the "Peanuts" cartoons that sound like, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah? That`s what I heard when they were talking.

Do you think any of these people are going to vote for her? Some of them have voted of her before to confirm her. Will any Republican vote for her?

BOOKER: I don`t know.

You know, what is hollow about some of these attacks that you saw is they`re belied by other Republicans or other groups, from the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police union in the country, endorsing her that represents the majority of police, from victims` advocacy groups, to Republican-appointed judges.

She is the model of what we want on the Supreme Court. So there`s going to be a lot of attacks tomorrow. She will not wither under their attacks. She will shine. And, again, the people outside of the political arena that we`re in right now, they are affirming the truth of her character, and the qualification that she has.

REID: One of my favorite parts of her speech is when she referenced Constance Baker Motley, the fact that she -- they share a birthday...


REID: ... and that she patterns herself after her.

That was one of the high points of it for me. And it`s interesting that they`re -- that you have some on the right who are arguing that just the fact that a black woman is nominated is the offense, right, that it is unfair for President Biden to have made that promise, when the idea is there have been, what, 115 justices. There have been no black women. And the decisions that are being made are going to affect black women, whether it`s Roe vs. Wade

You had Marsha Blackburn basically make it clear she wants to make contraception illegal. What do you think is the importance of having a black woman on the court?

BOOKER: Well, I just want to make the point to you that there have been generations of black women qualified for the court.

REID: Absolutely.

BOOKER: And you have had a lot of white men on the court, again, some of the great brilliant legal minds of our nation`s history.

But the reality is, a lot of them didn`t go to law school, didn`t have her experience. So here`s somebody finally affirming what has been the truth, is that this has been an exclusive club for almost its entire existence. And now we are shattering that. And that`s really important to understand.

And my hope is, as much as they want to try to turn this reality on its head, the reality is that Joe Biden did what Ronald Reagan did by saying, hey, look, we have been excluding large percentages of our population, if not the majority of our population. It`s about time we reach deep into the well of quality and genius and talent and credentials for a black woman, and show America that she is like Jackie Robinson was, somebody that was probably overqualified to be in the National Baseball League, but came forward and showed us what the full talent and array of American potential is.

REID: You have a particular talent for making people smile, and you`re a very nice man.

So I don`t want to try to get you to channel the true ugly that`s coming. But Sherrilyn Ifill did a tweet today, the brilliant Sherrilyn Ifill, who should also be on the Supreme Court...

BOOKER: Oh, she`s amazing.

REID: ... talked about the fact that all of the whining that a lot of Republicans did today about the treatment of Brett Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of a sexual assault, and that is why he was crying and saying he liked beer and complaining about Bork and all the rest of it.

How ugly do you think this is going to get, given that they are in full grievance mode on the other side?

BOOKER: I -- you know me. I`m a prisoner of hope.

REID: Yes.

BOOKER: We`re going to be prepared for it, because, as you have already seen, when black women are elevated, from Kamala Harris to the judge, they`re going to be attacked in ways that are awful.

But I`m hoping that we`re going to see some comity, not comedy, but comity, and that we`re going to see above the board. Look, these are equal members of the United States Senate`s Judiciary Committee. There`s going to be attacks that I don`t agree with, that I think are out of line.

But as far as the general civility of this, I don`t think we`re going to turn this into a -- this is going to be turned into a circus at all.


REID: I will try -- I`m not a prisoner of hope. I`m a prisoner of cynicism, so I`m going to wait, because I think it`s going to be comedy with a D.



REID: But we`re going to see what happens.

Senator Cory Booker, always great to have you.

BOOKER: I will be texting you. I will be texting you during the hearing.

REID: Yes, please, text me, but just the funny parts.

Appreciate you, man. Thank you very much, Senator Booker.

And up next: The State Department is stepping up efforts to gain access to WNBA star Brittney Griner, after she was detained in Russia. The latest on her detention and efforts to bring her home.

That is next. Stay there -- straight ahead.



REID: Brittney Griner, one of the most dominant WNBA players ever, remains in custody in Russia.

The Phoenix Mercury center was detained after arriving at a Moscow airport, reportedly in mid-February, for the alleged possession of vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis. A drug offense could get her up to 10 years in a Russian prison. Aside from this booking photo that circulated in early March, Griner has not been seen since.

Today, the State Department said during a briefing that there has been no change to Griner`s case, as well as the cases of Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, two Americans also detained in Russia, but that the U.S. is stepping up its demands for consular access to the three Americans, which is an obligation under the Vienna Convention.

And joining me now is Nayyera Haq, host of "The World Tonight" on BNC News and former senior State Department adviser.

And, Nayyera, yes, there`s a Vienna Convention that says that our government should get access to Brittney Griner and these two other gentlemen, but we`re talking about Russia here. We`re talking about Vladimir Putin. He doesn`t exactly go by any conventions, including the Geneva Convention.

He`s murdering civilians right now. What can the State Department do if Putin is unwilling to abide by international law and let Americans talk to Brittney Griner?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: This is the challenge that we`re facing right now with Brittney Griner, is that she is an American citizen effectively in a war zone run by a country that is our adversary right now.

It would be different if this was the United Kingdom, for example, a strong ally, and she`d been accused of committing a small misdemeanor there. Usually, diplomatic channels end up working out where it`s either a slap on the wrist or the person returns home and has some consequence in the United States. At most, right, they -- you`re told you`re no longer allowed to visit that country.

But when it comes to an adversary like Russia, Iran or North Korea, every U.S. citizen ends up being part of a much larger geopolitical play. She`s not the only one still in custody. We have two white men, both former Marines, who are still in custody, one for espionage charges, and the other one for getting in a brawl on the street.

Each of them now is part of this card or this hand that Putin can now play about leveraging American lives to try to get concessions from the United States.

REID: And Brittney Griner, unlike these other two men, there`s something also that`s unique about her. Not only is she a woman. Not only is she a black woman.

And Putin is very sensitive to the ways in which you can exploit racial division. He`s been doing it in this country for a very long time, including in our elections. She`s also a queer woman. And so that is -- and he`s -- it`s not exactly like Russia is very friendly to LGBTQ people.

How does that make her situation -- does it make it more precarious? I should just be blunt.

HAQ: She represents for Putin everything that he and the Russian Orthodox Church say is wrong with Western states and Western allies culturally.

So not only is she demanding freedom. As a minority, she openly wears Black Lives Matter clothing when she`s out on the road. But she is married to a woman. So she`s gay and proud about it. In Russia right now, they the entire country effectively operates under a don`t say gay mechanism.

And it is illegal to promote a gay lifestyle in Russia right now. So, LGBTQ people live under fear every day. But, Joy, let`s talk about why she was there to begin with. She`s there because of a problem in the American system. She makes $200,000 a year as the star player of the WNBA. The minimum a rookie at the NBA makes is $900,000 a year.

REID: Wow.

HAQ: So to achieve pay equity in her field, she went to an authoritative regime, where she risks her identity every day to entertain Russians.

I mean, that is an American challenge in a nutshell.

REID: Yes. Yes.

And so President Biden is heading to Europe now. Is there -- I mean, given the fact that he`s already called Putin a war criminal, is there any leverage that the president might have to be able to even just talk to these three Americans, Brittney included?

HAQ: So, technically, we still have a relationship with Russia. The entire embassy has not shut down. They are trying to get access to her to at least affirm that she`s OK.

All we have right now are the equivalent of hostage videos and information released by Russian state media. They claim she was carrying vaping equipment. Again, we don`t know. There are harsher penalties in Russia for marijuana use. So that is considered a significant crime there.

But Vladimir Putin just the other day through his Foreign Ministry said that, if President Biden didn`t take back calling him a war criminal, that they would sever all ties. So that implies there is still some relationship there worth keeping, worth maintaining.

REID: Yes.

HAQ: But, again, she is now a high-profile pawn in this massive political game.

REID: Nayyera Haq, thank you very much. We are all, of course, praying for Brittney Griner.

That is tonight`s REIDOUT.