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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 3/23/22

Guests: James Stavridis, Tyler Pager, Yamiche Alcindor, Neal Katyal, James Elder, Michael Beschloss


Biden in Brussels for high-stakes NATO summit. NATO plans to double forces near Ukraine. U.S.: Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine. Ukraine says it has retaken territory from Russia. Zelenskyy calls for global protests to mark one month since Russian invasion.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That is tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR with Stephanie Ruhle starts now.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, President Biden arrives in Brussels for a high stakes NATO Summit. Hours after the U.S. formally accuses Russia of war crimes, we learn more about Russian casualties and more explosions in Kyiv, and the growing humanitarian crisis, the urgent need for aid, millions forced to flee and the 10s questioning of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson as she defends her record from GOP attacks. THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Wednesday night.

Good evening, I`m Alicia Menendez in for Stephanie Ruhle. And as we enter day 29 of Vladimir Putin`s unprovoked war on Ukraine, President Biden is just hours from a pivotal summit with NATO allies in Brussel.

Before leaving Washington, Biden was asked about the possibility of escalation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How concerned are you about the threat of chemical warfare right now, that Russia will use chemical weapons, how high is that threat?

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: I think it`s a real threat.


MENENDEZ: Tonight, the New York Times reports a White House group known as the Tiger Team has been assembling scenarios for U.S. and allied response, should Putin use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Those threats will be discussed at tomorrow`s Summit, as well as plans to double the number of NATO forces posted near Ukraine.

As Russia tries to push forward with its effort to take control of the country, NATO now estimates that seven to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in these four weeks of fighting. And a senior defense official tells NBC News Russian troops are struggling to advance, despite the relentless assault on Kyiv. NBC`s Richard Engel is on the ground in Ukraine.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Drone footage released by local Ukrainian fighters shows the aftermath of what looks like carpet bombing inside Mariupol similar attacks on homes, hospitals and schools led the U.S. State Department today to assess Russian forces have committed war crimes.

This morning Russia fired more missiles at Kyiv, destroying apartments and trying to spread fear. But the people of this city refused to bow down.

(On camera): Russia has significantly intensified its attacks in and around Kyiv over the last 24 hours, leaving more and more homes across the city like this one.

Barbara (ph), a resident and volunteer said Russia has already bombed this area four times but it`s not helping Russia`s advance.

In a government building in Kyiv, two of the capitals top security officials monitor a real time battle map unclassified that shows Russian troops are losing territory around Kyiv. The red areas are under Russian occupation. The blue areas are new territory. Ukrainian forces say they`ve recaptured in the last 48 hours, much of it in the last 24 hours.


MENENDEZ: Our thanks to Richard Engel for that report. Tomorrow marks exactly one month since the invasion and Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy is calling on the world to take to the streets to protest Russia`s action.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I ask you to stand against the war, starting from March 24, exactly one month after the Russian invasion come in the name of peace, came with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, March 24 in downtowns of your cities, all as one together who want to stop the war.


MENENDEZ: Also, today this nation has lost a trailblazing diplomat warned of Putin`s threat to Europe and to the world.

Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as the U.S. Secretary of State died today at age 84. There`s much more on her legacy later in the hour.

But first NBC`s Cal Perry back with us live from Lviv. Cal, it has been another tense night there. How was the city coping after nearly a month of war?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this city in the western part of the country is overflowing with refugees. Life goes on pretty much normal here during the day unless there are air sirens. We haven`t had any air raid sirens about 24 hours. But the city is full of refugees. At least 300,000 of them have flown into this city. And some of them have actually flooded into Europe. The new numbers are just staggering. 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced since the beginning of this war. That is one in four Ukrainians.

More than 3.5 million of them have fled into Europe. It is that backdrop that President Biden is going to be having these meetings. And in the eastern part of the country, you have this devastation in the civilian areas. The city of Mariupol is being wiped from the map. More than 80% of the buildings there have been destroyed and we`re seeing targeted attacks not on civilians as they try and leave but on the lifelines that civilians use, food storage facilities, hospitals.


Russian troops remaining in a hospital in Mariupol using patients there as human shields. In the city of Kyiv, in the Capitol, what we have is some remarkable news on the battlespace. It seems as though the Ukrainian army is actually pushing back Russian forces in the eastern part of that city. That is they`ve pushed them back some 15 miles. And according to the United Kingdom`s Ministry of Defense, they put out a nightly summary. They think it`s possible that in the city of Irpin which is just to the north of Kyiv, that Ukrainian troops could surround entire Russian units.

And so you have a very difficult sort of few days ahead of President Zelenskyy as he balances the need for a ceasefire to get civilians out of the worst and hardest hit areas and to get humanitarian workers into those areas, versus what seems to be happening now in a capital, which is the Ukrainian military is inflicting heavy losses on the Russian military. Alicia.

MENENDEZ: Cal, when you are talking to Ukrainians, any sense of what they want to see coming out of this summit?

PERRY: Yeah, they want a no fly zone. They want a no fly zone put in by NATO. That`s not realistic. Obviously, NATO has said they`re not going to be doing that. They`re worried that could only widen the conflict. But when you talk to people here every day, they`ll say they want a no fly zone, especially in the eastern part of the country. That`s where Russian jets seem to be carrying out airstrikes.

The situation over Kyiv is still up in the air. Ukrainian Air Force is fighting. The Russian Air Force every day, but it is in the eastern part of this country where we see that indiscriminate shelling and that`s where people really want to see a no fly zone.

MENENDEZ: Cal Perry live for us in Lviv. Cal, thank you as always.

With us now Adm. James Stavridis, he is a 30-year Navy veteran who retired with four stars, he`s the former head of the U.S. Southern Command and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Admiral, you are NATO`s Supreme Allied Commander, what should we expect out of tomorrow`s summit?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Look for three things, Alicia, first and foremost, look for verbalization of the incredible unity of this alliance. Look, NATO is on a roll. Vladimir Putin has gotten exactly what he didn`t want, which is a unified NATO, unified democracies around the world all standing together. So look for real moment of unity portrayed.

Number two, look for practical steps the alliance will take to put pressure on NATO borders near Russia, meaning moving active military units to those borders, moving warships into the Baltic Sea, into the Black Sea, putting aircraft overhead, not over Ukraine, as we just discussed, but over the borders of the Alliance, all of that designed to send Vladimir Putin signal.

Final thing, Alicia, looked for practical pledges from the NATO nations of what they will contribute to the Defense of Ukraine, meaning more ammunition, more missiles, both stingers, javelins, possibly some air defense systems, look for some very practical military aid. Those are going to be the three keys coming out of the summit.

MENENDEZ: Admiral Stavridis, the President warned about Putin`s potential use of chemical weapons tonight. There`s this report of a contingency plan, what sort of scenarios and responses could they be coming up with?

STAVRIDIS: The President, first and foremost, is trying to send a signal to Vladimir Putin that, you know, we are watching you. And we know you are thinking about this. And that also sends a signal, by the way, Alicia; that we have very good intelligence on conversations happening in and around Putin circle that will help divide that inner circle by the way.

The signal to Putin is we`re aware you`re contemplating this. We are going to shine a light on it. Our biggest weapon may be truth, we`ll document it. We`ll show it and we will take specific responses.

Now, the President isn`t going to lay those out, but I`ll give you a couple candidate ideas. I think if Putin uses chemical weapons, I think you do have to seriously consider a NATO no fly zone. I think if Putin uses chemical weapons or God forbid, a tactical nuclear weapon, you have to look at the potential of putting NATO troops perhaps in and around the city of Lviv. I think it becomes a different ballgame. If Putin reaches for weapons of mass destruction. I think we`re attempting to communicate to him. You don`t want to escalate this any further.

MENENDEZ: Part of the reason that there is that communication is because his current plan is not proceeding as he would have liked the New York Times reporting on problems with Russia`s operation, how some in Putin circle are questioning this war, "The failures of Mr. Putin`s campaign are apparent in the striking number of senior military commanders believed to have been killed in the fighting. Ukraine says it has killed at least six Russian generals."


The Times also obtained this audio of Russian troops radio transmissions as they tried to take the town of Makariv. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I urgently need refueling, water, (food) supplies. This is Sirena. Over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Urgently need fuel. Urgently need fuel. Vehicle stalling in the road. Urgently need fuel.


MENENDEZ: You can hear them they`re saying I urgently need full food, refueling, water, fuel. How do you assess the Russian military offensive right now?

STAVRIDIS: They`re failing in three ways. Number one, logistics. And by the way, it`s not just the actual words. It`s the tone of the voice. That`s an exhausted soldier, pleading for help. You know, as a battlefield commander, myself, you get pretty attuned to the tone of your people`s voices. Number two, they`re failing with a terrible battle plan. They came in on way too many axes. They diluted their forces. The Ukrainians are scoring real hits against them. And number three, way too many conscripts, reservists. These are not the kind of hardened shock troops. This is not the U.S. First Marine Division. These are in many cases scared young Russians who have no idea what they`ve gotten into, were fed a pack of lives, morale is declining.

And let me tell you something, Alicia, nothing makes morale decline, like no food, no fuel, no warmth, really hard to keep fighting under those conditions in a Ukrainian winter, things are going against the Russians on the ground.

MENENDEZ: Admiral James Stavridis, thank you so much for being with us.

And with that, let`s bring in Tyler Pager, White House Reporter for The Washington Post, and Yamiche Alcindor, NBC News Correspondent and Moderator of Washington Week on PBS.

Tyler, this NATO gathering is essentially a war time Summit. What is really at stake here, both for President Biden and the U.S. as global standing?

TYLER PAGER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, Alicia, great to be with you here from Brussels. And I think what the White House really wants the President to leave Brussels with is the opportunity to work, to restore and continue to rebuild the alliance that they argued, faltered under President Trump.

And I think European allies and European officials that I`ve spoken with have said that Biden has done quite a remarkable job in keeping the alliance together, keeping it unified almost in an unprecedented manner, to punish Russia and bolster Ukraine for Russia`s invasion.

And I think as he begins these meetings, here now, in a few hours, the task at hand is to chart a path forward, the war is approaching. It`s its first full month, and some allies are feeling like they`re powerless to try to bring an end to this conflict.

And so I think as Biden goes about meeting with allies here in Europe, it`s in part symbolic to show that the alliance is strong, and they`re -- you know, continue to be united. But also logistical figure out what else can this alliance do, to continue to punish Russia and to continue to support Ukraine at the this unprecedented moment in which the continent is facing its largest ground war since World War II.

MENENDEZ: Yeah. And Yamiche, there`s an understanding that symbolism will not be enough here. You`ve been talking to your sources at the White House yesterday, they mentioned deliverables, what is the West Wing looking to get out of this summit? What will success look like?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, let`s remember that this is really one of the most important trips of President Biden`s tenure. And it really comes at a time where the world is watching and looking at the west, to put on this united front, to really double down on the idea that they have each other`s backs. And to really get a sense of exactly what Article Five means, in modern times.

My sense from White House sources, and talking to people who are familiar with the goals there is really to come out with a game plan and a real -- and a real planning for what could happen if Russia continues to escalate this. There is -- while NATO is definitely more unified, now under President Biden than it was under his predecessor, who continuously really insulted NATO and talked about possibly even leaving NATO.

There are still some differences. So there are some countries who do not especially in Europe, who is very reliant on Russian oil, there`s a real question about whether or not sanctions can include. It can include banning Russian oil to Europe. There`s a real question about whether or not chemical weapons changes the U.S. pasture and the NATO posture about not having a sort of military assistance to Ukraine. The President said today that there is a great real threat of chemical warfare.


There`s even talk now, even though it seems to be something that`s not likely that Russia could use a small type of nuclear battlefield weapon that would also possibly change the calculations here for NATO and for the United States. So this is really a strategy session for the West to go in, to really talk about what`s next, to talk about what their options are, to talk about what the United States is willing to do if things continue to escalate.

MENENDEZ: Tyler, part of that strategy we know is going to be sanctions. You`ve also got new reporting, that the President plans to make an announcement involving energy supplies for Europe. Tell us more.

PAGER: Exactly. My colleagues and I just reporting today, as Yamiche had said, a big part of this effort is to try to reduce the dependency that European countries have on Russia for energy. The U.S. move quite expeditiously to ban all imports of Russian oil and gas. But many countries in Europe, particularly Germany, have concerns about moving that quickly given the need for oil and gas from Russia.

So what is going to come on Friday is President Biden along with European leaders is going to make this announcement about an effort to expedite liquid natural gas to Europe to try to assist them in a larger, broader effort to reduce their reliance. And in doing so, this is an opportunity to further punish, further isolate Moscow for its invasion. And this issue of Russian energy has been a crucial one as they try to look to sanctions. It`s obviously something that keeps Russia in the global economy and an important part of the equation here. And so anything the U.S. can do to further help Europe wean off its dependency is really critical. And that`s the announcement that the President will be making on Friday.

MENENDEZ: Tyler Pager, thank you for joining us from Brussels, especially because it is about 4:00 in the morning there, I appreciate you.

Yamiche, you`re staying with us, as we break down yet another day of GOP attacks aimed at the first black woman nominated to the Supreme Court.

And later with more than three and a half million Ukrainians on the move, an update of what is being done to help the children.

Plus, remembering Madeleine Albright. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a busy Wednesday night.




JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I understand the need for law enforcement, the importance of having people who are willing to do that important work, the importance of holding people accountable for their criminal behavior. We also have a society that ensures that people who have been accused of criminal behavior are treated fairly. That is what our Constitution requires. That is what makes our system so exceptional.


MENENDEZ: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has finished up a second long day of intense questioning. On Day Three of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing the nominee patiently tried to answer as yet again, Republicans grill term not on substance but on ideological talking points.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER: Do you think it is a bigger determinant to take somebody who`s on a computer, looking at sexual images of children is to supervise their computer habits versus putting them in jail?

JACKSON: No, Senator, I didn`t say versus --

GRAHAM: That`s exactly what you said.

JACKSON: Senator, I wasn`t talking about versus.

GRAHAM: You just said you thought it was a deterrent to supervise them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, would you let her respond?


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER: What I have the ability to be an Asian man, and challenge Harvard`s discrimination because I made that decision?

JACKSON: Senator, I`m not able to answer your question. You`re asking me about hypotheticals and --

CRUZ: Well, I`m asking you how you would assess standing?

JACKSON: I`ve sent in more than 100 people, you have eight or nine cases in that chart.

CRUZ: OK. Judge, you said that before. These are the eight or nine child porn cases. I will say to correct the record --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just say by the Judge, there`s no point in responding. He`s going to interrupt.

JACKSON: Thank you.

CRUZ: She is declining to answer the question.


MENENDEZ: Back with us, Neal Katyal, Department of Justice, veteran and former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration, who has argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Still with us, Yamiche Alcindor.

Neal, I mean, there has just been so much noise the last two days, what have we actually learned?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I think we learned a lot about the Republicans in the Senate. And I think we learned a lot about her. I mean, I`ve known Judge Jackson for more than 20 years. I`ve even argued cases in front of her. And what I saw today, I always thought she`d be a great nominee.

But what I saw today was temperament. What I saw today was grace. What I saw today was scholarly brilliance. And frankly, what I saw today is the best of America. And as far as the Senate, one party is on their way. Well to becoming a joke at this point. I mean, Senator Cruz, as you were just showing Senator Graham, as you showed, but also Senator Josh Hawley, they weren`t interested in asking questions. They were just giving speeches. And if you took out the split screen, so you couldn`t see Judge Jackson, you`d have no idea what kind of -- what -- who`s even the subject of the confirmation hearing, because it wasn`t about her. It was about all sorts of nonsense.

MENENDEZ: Yamiche, she was all of the superlatives that Neal just listed because she knew she had to be. She knew that there was no other option for you watching the past few days. What have you learned?

ALCINDOR: Well, what we`ve seen really is Republicans really leaning into these arguments and these questions that, frankly, critics would, are conspiracy theories and auditions for really, I think political aspirations down the line.


I was speaking to a conservative judge who said he was disturbed by the politics that have now become part of the Supreme Court nomination process. And I was texting with a White House official, who said that they -- that Republicans are grasping at straws, and that they were essentially -- and I`m going to read it, auditioning far right conspiracy theories.

We saw also, Judge Jackson remain poised. I talked to a number of people who know her, especially Lisa Fairfax, who introduced her, Nina Simmons and Antoinette Coakley, who are three of her really closest friends from Harvard and Harvard Law. And they all describe someone who has been working very hard her entire life, who has been training for this moment, they even talked to her about her, saying she was sort of like an Olympic athlete, who was exhausted, but who was also ready for this moment.

So this is really I think, in some ways, for people who no Judge Jackson, part of who she is, which is someone who works very hard, who will not be deterred by noise. And also a lot of people who are close to her are very proud of her, frankly. And the White House said today that President Biden himself was very proud of the way that she handled all this.

MENENDEZ: Yamiche, there was sort of this remarkable moment today between Judge Jackson and Senator Cory Booker, I want to play it for our audience. Take a listen.


SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D) NEW JERSEY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: They`re going to accuse you of this and that heck, in honor of your personal shares your birthday, you might be called the communist. But 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.


MENENDEZ: Yamiche, I want to talk, I want to hear from you about why that moment was so significant and what you`re hearing from the White House about Judge Jackson`s confirmation, are they still fully confident?

ALCINDOR: White House officials are very confident based on my conversations, and Democrats want to see her confirmed by April 8, which is before the Senate goes to recess for Easter.

But I want to also just mark that moment. What Senator Booker did there was really to honor her. He said that not only don`t worry, God has you, but he also called her a great American. He also said that you earn this that you are worthy. And I`ve been talking to a number of black women who watched Judge Jackson answer questions from Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, and a number and Lindsey Graham and a number of other Republicans and felt like she was being disrespected, who felt like she was not being treated with the respect that she deserved as a nominee to the Supreme Court.

So there are a lot of black women who watched Cory Booker and said, this is someone who came to really give her the sort of flowers that she deserved. This was not of course, going to be an easy and easy task for her to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. But there are a lot of people watching the confirmation hearing really feeling like it had devolved into a very, very low sort of argument about child pornography and all of these distractions, when in fact, she is the first black woman in 233 years of our nation to come before this Committee to be a nominee of the Supreme Court.

So what Cory Booker did there really resonated with so many people because he brought it back to what so many people who want to see are confirmed are feeling and that is joy. That is appreciation that is proud. There`s also this touching photo of her daughter looking on smiling at her during this confirmation process. That was the same daughter who wrote a letter when she was 11 years old, asking former President Obama to put her mother on the Supreme Court. So for people who know Judge Jackson, this was also a full circle moment. People are saying, people closer are telling me they knew that she could become the first black woman. The Supreme Court and they are ecstatic to see her there. So that was Cory Booker channeling some of the emotions for people closest to her.

MENENDEZ: And that photo with her daughter such a moving foil to the judges own comments about not always getting the work motherhood balanced, right?

Neal, I got to make sure we get this in the New York Times tonight also obtaining the resignation letter of one of the lead prosecutor in the Manhattan DA`s Trump investigation. In that letter he argues the twice impeach former president was, "guilty of numerous felony violations" your take?

KATYAL: Yeah, so Mr. Pomerantz is one of the most serious prosecutors around. I`ve worked with him and if this guy says, a felony was committed, a felony was committed. If he says multiple felonies were committed, multiple felonies were committed.

So I`m at a loss to understand what happened with this district attorney. I understand it`s an ongoing investigation and no final decisions have been made and my I hope remains that Mr. Pomerantz` work and memo and the further investigation will proceed because we`re talking about the President of the United States, having, you know, having a very serious prosecutor saying this person committed multiple felonies. That isn`t something you can just sweep under the rug.


The essence of the rule of law is that nobody is above it. And Trump has skated by because of frankly, weakness on the part of investigators in the past. And, you know, it`s high time at this point to get the show on the road.

MENENDEZ: Neal Katyal, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both so much.

Coming up, they`re the littlest and most vulnerable victims in the month long war. UNICEF`s James Elder has an update on helping the children when in the 11th Hour continues.



MENENDEZ: More than 3.6 million refugees fled Ukraine, nearly half of them children and millions more are displaced within Ukraine`s borders.

Back with us tonight, James Elder, a Spokesman for UNICEF, the U.N. agency that helps children worldwide.

James, it is my understanding you were in a makeshift bunker under a hospital in Lviv just yesterday with doctors, with pregnant women. What were you hearing from people there?

JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: It was a really gut wrenching scenario, Alicia. Yet another set of air raids, that of course, expected moms have no choice but to protect those unborn children. So what you`ve got is, you`ve got mothers who, you know, seven, eight months pregnant, most of them are looking at premature babies because of the amount of stress that they felt and they`ve been ripped away from all loves ones. They`re not from where I am here. They`re from other parts of Ukraine. Night after night, morning after morning, three in the morning, three in the afternoon, they go down with the weight of their pregnancy to a cold, it`s not a bunker. It`s a basement. It`s got dirt floors, it`s got makeshift surgical equipment there. And they sit waiting for the air raid sirens to go there.

They`re scared. They`re this wonderful moment has turned into a horror moment. They don`t know where they will be ultimately with their children because they`re living in makeshift housing as well. And they bring babies into a time of war. So this is the reality for so many of those women right now. And it`s a complete contradiction to of course, the beautiful moment they hoped when they were finally going to meet that little, you know, that little person they`ve been carrying around eight or nine months.

MENENDEZ: Yeah, no, it`s especially cruel. Meanwhile, UNICEF has been sounding the alarm about the heightened risk of human trafficking. Axios reports more than 500 unaccompanied children were identified leaving Ukraine and entering Romania as of March 17. But the actual figure is likely much higher, according to UNICEF. So what kind of safeguards should countries have in place to protect these children?

ELDER: It`s a very good question. You said at the start there 1.8 million children have become refugees in this country in just a month today, unfortunately, is that awful anniversary, if you will of when the war started. But 1.8 million children, Alicia, is basically 50 children become refugees every single minute from this country since war began. That incredible influx means that yes, children are separated, there are unaccompanied.

I`ve seen fathers have to pass children to border guards, because moms and dads have decided the only safe place is for their child to be out of the country. And again, you understand that when we see the deaths of children. So the presence of borders has to be transformed to a protection presence.

Governments need to understand the risks organizations like UNICEF, share messages widely to families about what to look out for. But there`s ton of chaos. For example, with so many people offering lifts to absolute strangers, we need to stop that, you know, of 99.9% of volunteers, a warm hearted, that tiny fraction can mean hundreds of children traffic, so we need a better presence of borders, a better protection presence, more police, whether it`s a borders or train stations where people are ending up and just greater information to families about unfortunately, their harrowing journey is not over just when they leave Ukraine.

MENENDEZ: James, NATO leaders are meeting in what is now a matter of hours. We have talked about the military options they will have on the table. We have talked about arms, we have talked about sanctions, what is the conversation you want those leaders to be having about the refugee crisis that is unfolding?

ELDER: I think the key part is clearly remains two things that the war has to stop. I know that can sound glib given where we are but if that`s whatever reason not possible, then at the very least these indiscriminate attacks on hospitals, on schools, dozens of hospitals, potentially hundreds of schools, all places that should be saved for children and are not. They need to stop.

And at the same time these discussions have to bring in some reality to humanitarian corridors. You know, it seems that in the last years particularly now, that warfare has changed and the frontlines of where large civilian populations are, that has to end. And organizations like UNICEF and many other agencies need that safe passage in to get a critical water into Mariupol and many other cities under siege.


And whilst we`re doing that medical supplies and water and all those things UNICEF is supplying across the country, whilst we`re doing that to cities under siege, those civilians need to be allowed to get out. But we keep hearing about this. And time and again, it`s not being respected to the horrendous detriment of children, and, of course, to the inability of agencies to get into those people with really, I mean, water food, lifesaving.

MENENDEZ: James Elder, thank you for that sobering look from the ground.

Coming up, historian Michael Beschloss, on what is at stake for the President on his trip to meet with NATO allies, and the challenges waiting for him back here at home in the 11th Hour continues.



MENENDEZ: As we mentioned President Biden is in Brussels to meet with NATO leaders discuss the response to Russia`s invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the President leaves behind important issues back here at home from the Supreme Court confirmation fight to potential new phase of the pandemic.

Back with us tonight, celebrated author and Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss, his latest work in a bookshelf full of works is Presidents of War. Thanks for being with us. I wanted to talk with you about this meetings in Brussels. How do you view the state of the NATO alliance today and what is at stake for President Biden on this trip?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, War and Peace and potentially the survival of the planet, Alicia. Great to see you on this momentous night.

MENENDEZ: Yeah, talk about high stakes.

BESCHLOSS: Yeah, that`s for sure. And historically, this is potentially this night, this week, is like 1948, when Joseph Stalin`s army was threatening Europe, he was threatening to take over Berlin, the capital of Germany. And there was any night, the danger of not only a conventional war, but war in which Americans might be tempted to use our nuclear advantage, fortunately, didn`t happen that way, because of strong leadership by Harry Truman.

1962, when Nikita Khrushchev slipped missiles into Cuba. John Kennedy was under ferocious pressure from our Joint Chiefs of Staff saying we have to bomb the island, invade Cuba, we now know had that happened, there would have been a nuclear war that could have killed 10s of millions of people. God help us if what we`re seeing right now this week comes to that, but it`s possible that night, we`re lucky that we`ve got Joe Biden with half a century of national experience.

MENENDEZ: Michael, I am so struck by the split screen this week of having this historic Supreme Court confirmation hearing. And then this crisis unfolding in real time, in part because this was the exact premise. This was the argument that Joe Biden made to voters when he was running for president that there were challenges here at home, there were challenges abroad, and that Americans needed someone who was ready on day one to address both. So let`s talk about the historic nature of what we watch unfold here at home.

Judge Jackson was asked to speak to young Americans and she told this story about adjusting to life during her first year at Hartford. Take a listen.

BESCHLOSS: Right, right.


JACKSON: A black woman I did not know was passing me on the sidewalk. And she looked at me, and I guess she knew how I was feeling. And she leaned over as we crossed and said, persevere. I would tell them to persevere.


MENENDEZ: Isn`t like a part of the reason we`re focused on the Republican behavior during these hearings is because it is tarnishing what is an otherwise incredible and historic moment.

BESCHLOSS: And we`ve got a historic figure, Judge Jackson, who is rising above that, and the contrast could not be more clear. How could you not love her? Here, we`re in a situation, Alicia, where you`ve got a justice nominee, Judge Jackson, who, you know, our dear friend and colleague Joy Reid put it perfectly earlier this evening. She said some of those Republican nasty senators with her ugly hazing, treated her, Joy said, like, "a black shopper they were following through a store." And I hate to say it, but that is absolutely right.

We also saw the spectacle of several of those senators quite clearly, using this confirmation hearing as a platform to run for president in the future. That`s not what it was there for, you know, for most of American history, we didn`t even have confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justices because it was thought to be a two political.

The departure from that was 1916 when Woodrow Wilson nominated the first Jewish nominee for the Supreme Court, Brandeis, and that was so controversial was thought that it would clear the air to have hearings and they`ve gone on ever since. But we have never in American history seen what we`ve seen in recent decades, which is these hearings, getting into things like discussions of books that were, you know, prescribed in a school that Judge Jackson was a trustee of and other things that were completely extraneous. I think if Senator Daniel Webster came back from the early 19th Century and heard all this, he would cry.

MENENDEZ: I got I`ve got about a minute left before we have to go to break but I do want to know from you, what is success at this summit going to look like for President Biden?

BESCHLOSS: A unified NATO, an effort to convince Putin what he has not been convinced of before that, you know, anything Putin does is not going to split this alliance.


And that this is an alliance that`s a resolve to do two things. Number one, avoid nuclear war. Number two, make it true so that democracy survives in Ukraine. And no country in the future can do what Russia tried to do in Ukraine, which is conquer a weaker neighbor just because it feels like it.

MENENDEZ: Michael has agreed to stay with us.

Coming up, a look back at the life of a groundbreaking Secretary of State, when the 11th hour continues.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madeleine Albright, the first woman secretary of state was always a trailblazer, a warrior for democracy against totalitarianism.

ALBRIGHT: This is a dream come true. Actually a dream I never thought I could have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A beloved Professor at Georgetown when President Clinton tapped her to become U.N. ambassador in 1993. She fought for a military intervention to stop genocide in Bosnia butting heads with then, Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell over his reluctance to commit U.S. forces. They later became close friends. As Clinton`s Second Secretary of State she was later most proud of her work stopping the killing there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, it`s an independent country and there`s a whole generation of little girls whose first name is Madeleine.


MENENDEZ: For more on the life and legacy of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, we welcome back Michael Beschloss, as Madeleine Albright once said, "One of the most appealing talking heads to appear regularly on my television screen." What a distinction, Michael, what do you want us to remember about her?

BESCHLOSS: That she was not only someone who loved democracy, both in the United States and for the rest of the world, but someone who had lived through it and had lost it, and had bade her life once again, as a refugee here, you know, she was growing up in Czechoslovakia. She didn`t know what at the time but she had Jewish ancestors, had she stayed in Europe, there`s a very good chance that she would have herself been murdered in the Holocaust.

So when she did things like wrote this great book a couple of years ago called Fascism: A Warning, which I recommend that everyone who hasn`t read it, please be sure to read this book, when she wrote that this was not just abstract. She loved democracy, she valued it, because she had lost it and had to regain it here.

MENENDEZ: You know, Michael, I`ve heard other people talk about losing her on this week of all weeks, as a tragic irony. And I`m not sure that that entirely gets at what it is they are trying to say that they are trying to express both her worldview, the reason that she was in this fight the way she saw the future of global diplomacy, side by side with the moment we find ourselves in, I`m not sure if you have a better way to describe it.

BESCHLOSS: I think the way to put it, I think you`ve said of dutifully, Alicia, as usual. And here`s a case where, you know, if there is ever a case where we can get benefit from studying and using someone`s legacy. Let`s do it tonight with Madeleine Albright. She has left us just at the moment when we are coping with a land war in Europe, just like the one that was going on when she left as a child, at the same time, as all of us are trying to avoid horrors that many of us could not have imagined in 2022, the possible use of chemical weapons by Russia, perhaps even tactical nuclear weapons. Let`s all redouble our efforts as a memorial to Madeleine Albright to make sure that we get this, get through it, and get through it with a sense of history.

MENENDEZ: You`ve talked about her personal biography, but there`s also a deep impact she had on the world as Secretary of State, what will that legacy be?

BESCHLOSS: Well, she was the first female Secretary of State after almost two centuries, and she had to fight hard for it. She was not necessarily the front runner when she got the job in 1997. And even just 25 years later, it seems a little bit less of an accomplishment, but she felt that every single minute she was secretary of state she told me a number of times, she was establishing precedents for later women who would serve on the job. She didn`t say it but I said it`s almost like George Washington defining the presidency for eight years where there had been none.

MENENDEZ: Michael Beschloss, I have to say as much as we are looking back at her legacy, I can`t help but look forward and think about the glimmer of hope of there being some 11 year old kid right now, who is potentially going to go through this and then change the world. Michael, there`s a picture of the two of you I want to pull it up very quickly. Can you just tell me what this is?

BESCHLOSS: This is, I look exactly the same on the right. She was nice enough to invite me to give the speech at a dinner to rename the State Department after Harry Truman in 2000. You see Madeleine on the left and the yellow dress, and this was very close to her heart because she felt if the State Department headquarters has the name, Harry Truman on it, then people in that building are going to be inspired every single day and know that their supreme job is not only to protect Americans, but to make sure that we always have a democracy and try to extend it around the world.

MENENDEZ: Michael Beschloss, as always, thank you and from all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, thank you for staying up late with us.