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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 3/31/22

Guests: Barry McCaffrey, Eddie Fishman, Philip Rucker, Barbara McQuade, Katie Benner, Heidi Heitkamp, Marsha Ramsey

Summary

Russia intensifies air strikes across Ukraine. NBC: U.S. intel indicates some senior Russian officials disagreed with Putin`s invasion of Ukraine. Biden taps oil reserve to ease gas prices. Jared Kushner virtually appears before Jan. 6 committee. Ukraine: Russian forces leave Chornobyl. Ukrainian refugees escape intense fighting.

Transcript

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight as Russian forces appear to regroup, Ukraine says Putin`s army has handed back control of Chernobyl. Biden making big moves on oil and gas to lower prices at the pump. But will it work and if not, will voters give him credit for trying? Plus, Jared Kushner spends almost seven hours chatting with the January 6 Committee. And with even more clues the DOJ`s investigation is growing as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Thursday night.

Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. Fierce battles continue across Ukraine as Russia`s invasion now enters day 37. U.S. Military officials say that over the last 24 hours, Russia has increased its airstrikes on several cities and continues to threaten the area around the capital of Kyiv, despite a pledge to pull back from the area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Russia has repeatedly lied about its intentions. According to our intelligence, Russian units are not withdrawing, but repositioning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: The U.S. and its allies are now trying to figure out Putin`s next move. Earlier today, President Biden weighed in on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: He seems to be self-isolated. And there`s some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisors. But I don`t want to put too much stock in at this time because we don`t have that much hard evidence.

Thus far, there is no clear evidence that he`s pulling all of us forces out in Kyiv. There is also evidence that he is beefing up his troops found in the Donbass area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Tonight, the White House has released more intelligence about Putin and his forces. One official telling NBC that some senior Russian government officials were not on the same page as Putin about the invasion entirely. NBC`s Richard Engel is in Ukraine with the latest on Russia`s struggle to control the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia`s military has suffered shocking setbacks in Ukraine, some self-inflicted, but today maybe one of the biggest yet. Ukraine state nuclear company says two columns of Russian troops left the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site still contaminated from the 1986 meltdown.

The company said the Russians are leaving after digging trenches in the contaminated soil and receiving significant doses of radiation. The Russian military has said radiation levels have remained within a normal range in the area.

Russia is already striking again near the Capitol destroying this warehouse. Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy, who spoke with President Biden late yesterday says he needs more American help to defend his country including fighter jets and tanks. USAID is essential for us, he said. While President Putin is making new economic threats, saying unfriendly countries, which include Europe and the United States must pay for Russian natural gas in rubles in Russian banks by tomorrow, or risk being cut off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RUHLE: Well, that`s what Putin demanded. But so far European leaders are pushing back on his demands, and not yet paying in rubles. We`ll have more on that in a moment.

The war in Ukraine has also had an impact on gas prices, of course here at home. Today, President Biden announced a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil a day for the next 180 days from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It is the largest release since its creation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Our prices are rising because of Putin`s action. There isn`t enough supply. And the bottom line is if we want lower gas prices, we need to have more oil supply right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Meanwhile, we`re also following the latest in the January 6 investigation. Trump`s son-in-law and former White House Adviser Jared Kushner gave a voluntary interview to the House Select Committee. We`ll dig into that later.

But I want to get back to the war in Ukraine. And bring in my dear friend Ali Velshi joining us live from Lviv. Ali, Russian troops had taken control of Chernobyl, but according to Ukraine, they`ve left. What can you tell us?

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Yeah, it`s a wild story, partner, they went in five weeks ago. They got in very early and took over Chernobyl. They caused all the staff to stay there. But a number of people have told Reuters that they saw these Russian columns coming through territory that is known to be radioactive and polluted, 36 years after that incident, and they were quite perplexed by that when they reported to Reuters, these are workers who said they asked the soldiers, do you know where you are and what`s going on here and they didn`t seem to have any sense of what they were doing. But then suddenly, these Russian soldiers started to get sick. So they`ve pulled out now it`s not clear whether the pullout is because the Russian soldiers were getting sick because of radiation poisoning or it`s because of this so- called repositioning or, you know, focusing on eastern Ukraine.

[23:05:11]

We`re not sure what`s happened. But they`ve handed it back to the Ukrainian authorities who actually run the power plant, which by the way, is operational. It`s a -- it`s an electrical, it`s a nuclear power plant that creates electricity. It`s still operational, it`s back in the hands of the Ukrainians. But there are indications that the digging of trenches, and the movement of their vehicles through that area has thrown up some, you know, has thrown up some dust that`s radioactive and caused a whole another problem.

As you remember, you and I were on TV a month ago, when that other nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia caught fire after a rocket attack. So this is a very big concern in Ukraine and through Europe about the danger of these nuclear plants and what the Russians do or don`t do with them.

RUHLE: Ali, I know you spoke to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby earlier tonight, how did he assess where Russia might go next?

VELSHI: Well, you know, that the Russians had said that the negotiations with the Ukrainians in Istanbul, that as a show of trust, they`re going to pull back out of Kyiv. They`re not going to continue to put their attention on Kyiv and neighboring areas. John Kirby, who`s very well experienced, he`s a retired Rear Admiral from the Navy had this to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we have seen is a small number, less than about 20% of what we assess, is there assembled force around Kyiv, moving away from the city more towards the north? Well, we don`t believe is that he`s planning to send them home because the majority of the troops that he still has around Kyiv are still there in Kyiv. Now, they`re in defensive positions. They`re not moving on the city. But the city still is coming under airstrikes. So what we think he`s going to do is refit these troops, resupply them, and put them back into Ukraine for offensive operations somewhere else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: So the bottom line is, they`re having fuel problems, they`re having food problems. This may not be a trust building measured by the Russians in terms of their negotiations with the Ukrainians. It may be that they`re repositioning as John Kirby says refitting their troops for another offensive that may be coming, Steph.

RUHLE: Ali, always good to see you. Thank you for joining this very, very late and very early hour where you are in Lviv. Thank you, Ali.

With that, let`s bring in our experts this evening. Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize Winning Deputy National Editor at the Washington Post. Retired four star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, and a former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf. And Eddie Fishman, he served at the State Department as a member of the policy planning staff where he led work on economic sanctions, and he was also the State Department`s Russia sanctions lead during the Obama administration.

General, I want to turn to you first. Biden said today, President Biden that Putin seems to be self-isolating, and U.S. intelligence is suggesting that his advisors are misleading him. What do you think`s going on?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, look, clearly the wars are an inflection point, it`s gone badly. It looks as if probably they`re repositioning to go after and try and destroy the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the east and complete seizure of the Crimea and maritime border, all the way west to Odessa. Having said that, I`m not sure I want to buy into the fact that Putin does know what`s going on. The generals may well be trying to cover up the magnitude of the disaster. But he`s an intelligence officer. He`d been called by heads of government of other nations. He undoubtedly has other sources of information. I think more likely, he`s desperate. He`s scared. He`s running out of good options. You`ve got economic, political and military dilemmas that there are no good answers to.

The only thing I`m relatively confident of, he can`t possibly change his ultimate objective to grab all of Ukraine and reintegrated into Mother, Russia, who he`s really in a hole.

RUHLE: What do you think about some of the problems his military is facing leaving Chernobyl?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, it looks to me like the chain of command just partially melted down and operate, his generals running the theater operations that divisions that tank armies don`t appear know what they`re doing, logistics, communication, maneuver. They don`t have -- at the battalion level, they don`t have camouflage. They don`t have spacing. They don`t -- they abandon armed tanks and leave them by the side of the road. It`s simply astonishing. They appear totally on display. Can you imagine of the tan digging in, in Chernobyl, that means that nobody in that division chain of command had any idea about radioactivity.

[23:10:04]

These people look really pathetic and they`re paying for with their lives, you know. My assumption is now they`ve had 25,000 to 35,000 killed and wounded, and a considerable number also captured. So it`s really an appalling failure of Putin`s modernized military. So he said that he`s worked on for 20 years.

RUHLE: Think about that 25 to 35, possibly killed or wounded. We haven`t even reached day 40. Edie, as I mentioned at the top, you were involved in previous sanction efforts targeting Russian oligarchs and others. Did that experience make the United States better prepared to impose them this time? Or did it make Russia better prepared to avoid them?

EDDIE FISHMAN, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT RUSSIA SANCTIONS LEAD: It definitely made us much better prepared. In 2014, we had never sanction economy as large as Russia. So it was a very novel enterprise. And now many of the same folks who were involved in 2014, who have had eight years to really reflect on that experience are back. And so I do think that we`re actually better prepared this time around.

The thing that I will say, Stephanie, is that Russia did try to build this fortress economy. But it didn`t expect the United States and Europe to go as far as imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Russia. The best evidence for that, Stephanie, is that they left $400 billion worth of assets denominated in dollars, euros pounds and yen. I think if Putin had expected that the West was going to sanction Russia`s Central Bank, it wouldn`t have left all of those assets exposed. At the same time, you know, those sanctions now were imposed on almost a month ago, right? So there has been a bit of adaptation that`s gone on in the past weeks. But I think if the U.S. were to escalate sanctions again, I think Putin would be back on his back foot.

RUHLE: Well leave your euros and dollars over here. And I want to talk roubles, because tonight Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group posted this, "Putin demanded rouble payment for gas quickly realized he`s not in a position to make demands and backed off. Suspect we are going to see a lot of that going forward."

Now, we know that existing contracts are still good. Gas is still flowing Russian gas into places like Germany and other countries. So Putin`s move basically failed. They said rubles, guess again, we`re sticking to the contracts. What does that reveal about Putin`s position, Eddie?

FISHMAN: So Putin is definitely in a weak position economically. You know, the Russian economy is something like 1/20 on a good day as big as the United States and European economy combined. So Russia definitely doesn`t have very much leverage at its disposal. At the same time, though, Stephanie, I want to stress that the United States has imposed an embargo on Russian oil, but Europe is still paying Putin billions of dollars every week for Russian energy, oil and gas. So the Russian oil and gas exports remain a bit of a weak spot in the sanctions. I think we have to be really candid about that.

And I think that if the United States and Europe not increased sanctions on Russian oil and gas in the coming weeks, I think the Russian economy may well recover a bit. So I think that one thing I want to just let the viewers know is that this is a weak spot in the sanctions. And it`s something that we should be asking when and why are the United States and Europe not imposing stronger sanctions on Russian oil exports.

RUHLE: But if we do, let`s say, go to 10, don`t we forget that there`s a lot of unintended consequences that could hurt us and other Russia -- and other NATO allies?

FISHMAN: Of course, you know, there are always unintended consequences. And I think President Biden has done a great job acknowledging that sanctions against Russia are not cost free, right? This isn`t sanctioning North Korea, you know, an economy that was already isolated. And I think that`s - - we have to also respect the challenge. But at the same time, the Ukrainians remain under heavy fire. And it`s really challenging for the West to support the Ukrainians with the full force that they`re able to, while really funding Putin more effort through buying Russian oil and gas.

It`s a hard task, Stephanie. I don`t want to -- I don`t want to say that it`s not hard. But at the same time, I do think that it`s incumbent upon United States and Europe to find a way to do it. And I will say we did find a way to do it against Iran. We cut Iran`s oil exports from two and a half million barrels a day down to less than 500,000 barrels per day. So I think a very similar campaign could be used against Russia in the weeks ahead.

RUHLE: Mr. Rucker, the White House knows there`s a cost at home. The President addressed it today with his plan to release oil from the strategic reserve. Do they think it`s going to have a real impact on gas prices? Or is it more they just need to do something?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it`s a little bit of both stuff. I think there`s hope that by releasing this huge amount from the strategic petroleum reserves, by the way, this is the largest such move in the history of this reserve, the 40 plus year history of this reserve, that over time, it could help alleviate the price of gas at the pump all around the country. But there are other measures as well that are under consideration.

[23:15:04]

Look, Biden and his advisors are keenly aware of how this is pinching American families across the country and what that could mean politically for his Democratic Party in the November midterm elections.

One of the things we`re seeing the president, and the people around him do is rhetorically tried to pin the blame on the surge in gas prices, on President Putin. In a 14 minute speech today about this major oil announcement, Biden invoked Putin`s name some dozen times, saying it was Putin`s hike at the pump, it was Putin`s gas problem, and trying to just hammer the idea that this is the fault of the Russians, and therefore Democrats should not be blamed politically for it.

RUHLE: Do you think that is working with the American people, Phil, this Putin`s price hike? Are they paying attention to it, when they go to get gas, when they go to the grocery store, or they say, man, it`s Putin, or they just annoyed about it, full stop?

RUCKER: You know what, Steph, it`s more than just being annoyed that this is really hurting people`s budgets, their bottom lines. People, in a lot of parts of this country commute for scores of miles every single day. This is a significant impact on the bottom line for families. And it comes by the way in a year when there`s been inflation, for food prices and all sorts of other regular sort of costs that families endure in their day to day lives. And that`s the economic reality that the administration is grappling with. And it`s one of the reasons why public polling throughout this year has shown the Democrats in a great deal of trouble going into these midterm elections.

And so it`s not just a matter of who you blame for it. But it`s the reality that the economy that the household budgets are not working for people, even as the broader economic indicators like wages and job growth, continue to look strong, its inflation, and its gas prices, food prices, et cetera. That`s really the political problem for the president.

RUHLE: Phil, you know, that bigger paycheck doesn`t do anything, if everything in your life costs more. Remember that expanded Child Tax Credits ended at the end of last year, everything costs a lot more just as we`re going back to the office and putting COVID behind us when it costs more to buy lunch, buy coffee, and drive to work. It`s complicated.

Thank you all for starting us off this evening. Phil Rucker, General Barry McCaffrey, and Eddie Fishman.

Coming up, the former president`s son-in-law talks in the January 6 committee. Does Jared talking to the committee mean Ivanka is next?

And later, former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp is here on the President`s plan to lower gas prices. We`ll ask her what`s actually going to take to get some relief at the pump. We`re just getting underway on a Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:21:57]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you characterize whether Jared Kushner ever had any question about the results of the 2020 presidential election?

REP. ELAINE LURIA, (D) VIRGINIA JAN. 6TH COMMITTEE MEMBER: You know, what I`ll say is that, you know, we were able to ask for his impression about these third party accounts of the events that happened that day and around that day. So he was able to voluntarily provide information to us to verify, substantiate provide his own, you know, take on this different reporting. So it was really valuable for us to have the opportunity to speak to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Today the January 6 Committee heard virtually from Trump`s son-in- law and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, in a voluntary interview that lasted more than six hours. A source in the room tells NBC Kushner was cooperative friendly, and he had a lot to say. He also did the talking instead of relying on his lawyers.

So let`s discuss. With us tonight, Katie Benner, Justice Department Reporter for the New York Times and Barbara McQuade, a veteran, federal prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with the DOJ during the Biden transition, and as a professor at the University of Michigan`s School of Law.

Barb, people seem to be really excited about Kushner`s testimony more than six hours, he gave his impression of what happened on the sixth. But let`s be straight here. are we kidding ourselves? Jared Kushner wasn`t there on January 6. He was on a plane. So what Jared thinks and how he feels, that`s secondhand information. What`s that going to get anyone?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I agree with that, Stephanie. And certainly we don`t know all of the content of what he had to say. But he did speak for six hours, and members of the committee did say that he was forthcoming. And I think it`s important to consider that the relevant information is not just that which is confined to that day. But to the extent they`re interested in the planning leading up to that day, the rally that they had, who funded the rally, who organized it, who brought people in, all of those things are important. The pressure that Donald Trump was exerting on Mike Pence, to abuse his authority to certify the election results. All of that was occurring, even in the lead up to January 6, in the months between the election and the insurrection.

And so I think there are things that Jared Kushner likely knows. There`s also the reference in the Ginni Thomas text messages when she is talking with Mark Meadows that she says, I texted Jared earlier today, was, is that you Jared? Was it you`ve texting Ginni Thomas, and what were you talking about there? So I think that besides just the precise events that are occurring during the attack on the Capitol in January six is a senior aide very close to Donald Trump. I think there`s a lot that he could potentially know and share.

RUHLE: Katie, if anybody is going to get the scoop of what Jared was talking about, it`s you. And to Barb`s point, he might not have been there on the sixth. He was there before, he was there after and of course, he is married to Ivanka Trump. Because Jared appeared to be so cooperative today, does that give you a clue that Ivanka could be next to sit down?

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Well, it actually says to me that I`m not sure that they will need Ivanka if she resists because they would have known so much the same information. You know, I think that the fact that Jared came in to testify, that he came in voluntarily, that he did not invoke executive privilege shows that he`s a friendly witness and he is somebody who people were constantly texting, whether they were texting to say we think that what the President -- former president is doing is outrageous, or whether they were texting to say what we think that you should do is help him overturn the election. He was receiving a lot of information. And that`s the kind of thing that could potentially help the committee put together a really fulsome report and connect dots they might not been able to before.

[23:25:29]

But I don`t know that this means that Ivanka is next because she`ll have her own counsel, and she has a different relationship with the former president who`s her father, so she`ll have a set of different considerations. And she might know more than Jared knew, and she might want to invoke executive privilege, given her close relationship.

RUHLE: Katie, your new reporting says that the Department of Justice is broadening its January 6 investigation into this range of pro-Trump figures. You said today that when the DOJ investigates a mob boss, it starts from the bottom and makes its way up to prove a crime. Is that what we`re seeing?

BENNER: Well, I would say this, you know, what we`re seeing, there`s two investigations play out, one very publicly what semi publicly. So what the committee is doing is extremely public. And they are looking at the world of available public information and drilling down, they`re saying, well, this person looks like they did something suspicious, we want to find something more on this suspicious looking person. That`s really not how the Justice Department investigates people. They can`t investigate somebody just because, for example, they went to a rally that`s a First Amendment protected activity is a very different standard for investigation than what the committee has.

So instead, what the department has done is they started with the break into the Capitol itself, which was a crime, they got process on a lot of those suspects. That means they got their emails, they got their text messages, they got phone records, and they use that evidence to continue to build and build. And eventually they charge, one of the leaders have a far right -- of a far right group with sedition.

Now, what`s so interesting is the timing. That`s also very different from the committee. This isn`t they do not work on a political clock. They do not work to serve political interests. So even in February and March, right after the attack, reporters were hearing, you know, valid and credible information that the U.S. Attorney`s Office was investigating sedition as a charge.

However, it took 10 months for that charge to come to fruition. And it may never have, it took so long that there were reporters who were saying they thought it would never happen. And that just gives you the sense for how long the Justice Department needs to build what it considers an airtight case. In this case against somebody, they`re charged with something very serious sedition, but somebody who`s not a public official, and not a public figure. So think about how much more careful, how much more buttoned up, they would want to be with anybody who even came close to their scription of public figure. How so that`s going to be it`s going to be very different from the committee`s work.

RUHLE: Barb, do you think the DOJ broadening its investigation is a good sign that they`re making a case against Trump? Because think about the investigation in New York, it had tentacles all over the place? And then it disappeared?

MCQUADE: Yes, I think it`s difficult to know exactly what they`re finding. And just because they`re investigating doesn`t mean it will result in charges. But I do find this new reporting to be heartening. And I think, you know, when Merrick Garland talked on January 5, about the scope of the investigation, I think there are two things that`s important for the public to understand about how DOJ does its work.

One is they`re never going to start an open an investigation on Donald Trump, that investigation is already open. On January 7 of 2021, they began an investigation. And they said that they would follow the facts wherever they lead. And so they`re already investigating everybody for anything related to that attack. And if that leads to the doorstep of Donald Trump, and so be it, so they`re not going to start an investigation. They`re already investigating. They have been, you know, for well over a year.

I think the other thing that`s important to understand is they`re never going to announce who they`re investigating. I think that it`s maybe the public got an incorrect perception of how these things work when Robert Muller was appointed, for example, as a special counsel to investigate the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. That was a very unique situation, because Donald Trump was the sitting president, and you had to bring in an independent investigator because the Attorney General was a subordinate to the President.

Ordinarily, though, the Justice Department does not confirm or deny who are the subjects or targets of his investigation. And one of the other things that Merrick Garland said on January 5 of this year, was that it`s important that we follow the norms established in the post-Watergate Department of Justice. It`s not only important to follow those norms in the ordinary times, it`s also important to follow them in the extraordinary times, maybe even more important during the extraordinary times. And I think when we think back to the criticism that was lodged against Jim Comey for announcing publicly that they were investigating Hillary Clinton, and then saying it`s over and then saying it`s reopened. That was a mess. And I think that Merrick Garland is wisely avoiding that course of action. So I think they`re investigating. I think they`ve always been in favor castigating and only when we see public charges, we know who they`re investigating.

[23:30:04]

RUHLE: Thank you both. In a very nerdy way ladies, you are both rockstars, Katie Benner, Barbara McQuade, thank you.

Just ahead, Biden`s poll numbers are down while gas prices are up. Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp is here to weigh in. On it. The big moves on energy can reverse this trend, when the 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:35:00]

RUHLE: To be clear and factual the President has very little control over the gas -- the price of gasoline but today President Biden rolled out his three part plan to try to push them lower. In the latest NBC poll, more than one in five Americans say the cost of living is their top priority. And gas prices are a huge part of that. Well, this afternoon, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said relief is going to come, but it`s going to take time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The industry tells us it`ll take a few months for them to ramp up production and make up the last Russian oil. And so in the meantime, what we`re doing is this release of a million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, that`s a bridge in our supply to get us to where domestic produced oil can make up what we`ve lost from Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE:

RUHLE: Let`s welcome former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, as North Dakota`s first elected female senator, she served on the Senate Banking Committee as well as the Committee on Homeland Security. She`s also the founder of the one country project, a group that helps rural communities.

Heidi, I`m so glad you`re here. President Biden is making these big moves on energy. You`re in a rural state where people drive a lot. Are North Dakotans willing to give Biden some time to see if this plan works. And if it doesn`t, does he get credit for trying?

FORMER SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: I think the simple answer is no. I think that the narrative that`s out there is that this is a problem that`s basically been caused by the Biden administration. You have done a tremendous amount of career work in markets, you know, better I know better. This has been a fundamental kind of shift in how the shell industry has operated in the United States of America. And so when you have the go, go times, overspent over promised investors that stop, we reduced the amount of output that happened even before COVID. We saw this downturn before COVID. And now we see investors saying, look, this has to be certain before we begin to really amp up domestic production. And so right now, I mean, there`s a whole lot of political talk around this. But the reality is that this is not a problem that`s going to get solved tomorrow.

He can -- if he comes out, and Biden politically comes out and says, I`m going to solve this problem by opening up this strategic reserve. I`m going to solve this problem by lowering the primary time period for oil and gas leases on public lands, and nothing happens, which is likely what`s going to happen, that there isn`t going to be a dramatic long term result as a result of that, because we haven`t dealt with the fundamentals. That`s just going to make people in my state, and really people across the country more cynical and not listen.

RUHLE: OK, then to that very point, right? We keep saying it`s a million barrels a day. It`s unprecedented. But we use 20 million a day. And we`re going into the summer when we drive more than any other time of the year. So a million barrels is a drop in the bucket. Plus, president said it today. Maybe it`ll go down 10 cents, maybe 35 cents, even if it`s 35 cents, will that be enough for people, gas prices are well over $1 higher than they were a year ago?

HEITKAMP: Well, I think the administration, Stephanie, is really trying hard to blame Putin. But if you go back and you take a look at what is the margin of growth in oil prices that you could really attribute to the to the war in Ukraine, well, guess what, we had oil prices bumping up by $90 a barrel before there was ever an invasion in Ukraine. And that was because we had a supply demand challenge and on purpose. And today, when you look at and -- you know, you look at the Dallas Fed, they do great work in analyzing the oil industry. They`re basically their survey of their producers basically tell them that these producers say we need $100 a barrel before the fundamentals will actually achieve what we need to do to make the investment and make our investors happy.

Now, in the good news, everybody might have been shocked that Jamie Dimon went to the White House to talk about energy, guess what the investor community has a huge role in this. And if I`m Biden, what I would be talking about right now is how to provide long term, you know, policy stability for the oil and gas industry, so that they can make the investments without having stranded investment so that we can actually achieve goals, set those climate goals, but basically give them a path forward for basically profitability into the future. And if you don`t do that, they`re not going to make the investments.

You know, lot of talk about eliminating intangible drilling costs, a lot of talk about percentage depletion and eliminating that which has been on the tax books since the 1920s to encourage domestic production. And so when we look at all of these things, what I`m saying is, people are going to be cynical because the short term kind of sound bites are not going to get the results people want to get, have a long-term strategy so that come the midterms, you actually are seeing $3 or less oil or gas at the pump.

[23:40:14]

And then people will say, he did it, not oh, yeah, he gave us some promises, and nothing happened. And, and I hate to be cynical about this, honestly. But that, you know, these short term things, shortening lease times, opening up the strategic reserve, are not going to get you a long- term result.

RUHLE: But it`s also not cynical. It`s not honest, right? America watch the president pressuring oil and gas companies today. But do people realize those CEO, they don`t work for the President? They don`t answer to him. The truth is whether we like it or not the answer to shareholders and shareholders like higher prices, they like big profits, and truthfully, they want those companies to spend on buybacks and dividends, not on drilling and exploration. That is the ugly truth.

HEITKAMP: Well, and then you have Mitch McConnell, saying this is government regulation. Hey, Mitch, read the report, read what the industry is actually saying. Less than 10% this say this is about government. It`s about government regulation. What they`re saying is we need to have long term profitability before we make long-term investments. So how do we get that done? We know we need American energy.

You know, I was criticized roundly by the people on the left side of my party, because I pushed for oil exports. I thought that was critical not only for energy security, but for our national security, understand the industry, apply the fundamentals, listen to what they`re saying, and then respond so that they can make those long-term investments that are going to get us where we need to go in terms of lower costs, and actually predictable national security, goals and objectives being met.

RUHLE: The balance between ideals and getting practical. Heidi, always good to see you. You always break it down for us, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Coming up, she left Kansas City for the war zone to help feed the hungry, but she has found the need goes so far beyond food. Will meet one of the American volunteers working with the World Central Kitchen to change people`s lives in Ukraine, when the 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:46:34]

RUHLE: The new numbers tonight are staggering. Ukraine`s defense ministry now says more than 10 million people have fled their homes. And for many the journey to safety is long and dangerous. NBC News Correspondent Gabe Gutierrez has some of their stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the heart stopping drive out of southeastern Ukraine as seen from the car of Olga Katrajcova (ph).

(On camera): How hard was the journey from Mariupol?

(voice-over): It was horrible, she says. The city is destroyed completely.

These are more images from her neighborhood now a ghost town.

This man who asked us not to show his face says he was with Mariupol`s territorial defense. His hand shattered by what he tells us was a Russian grenade.

(On camera): Do you think that Mariupol might eventually fall?

(Voice-over): No, never. But he says the Russians captured his father and he hasn`t heard from him in almost two weeks.

Here in Vinnytsia, a humanitarian hub has sprung up of at all places of mall. Organizer, Ana Chernacova (ph) says it`s already helped more than 2000 refugees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When people are coming, I understand that by my heart.

GUTIERREZ: Because she`s been through it. She fled the Donbass region after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never saw my grandma again and she`s died already.

GUTIERREZ: Her brother was a young boy when they rushed out. And the psychological toll it took still haunts her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She didn`t talk for one year. So when I saw these children, I even couldn`t recognize what will be in future with this generation.

GUTIERREZ: Olga Lisachen (ph) came here two weeks ago from the Donbass region with 14 family members, a printing company she built from scratch was leveled.

I don`t know what to do, she says.

Here for so many, the future is uncertain, but they`re holding on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just believes that it`s will be win, a victory for Ukraine. It couldn`t be another way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUTIERREZ (on camera): Just days ago, Ukrainian authorities say that a Russian airstrike targeted the country`s Air Force Command in this area. And earlier in the war, the city civilian airport was destroyed. So officials here are on very high alert. Back to you.

RUHLE: Thousands, still living in the city of Mariupol, have been isolated by the fighting for weeks. But the International Red Cross is hoping to start delivering badly needed supplies there within hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON STRAZIUSO, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS SPOKESPERSON: These residents have been there just struggling to survive. We know that many have run out of food, and we know that it`s a huge struggle to get water.

Andrew, you and I have been seeing this having this exact same conversation for the last couple of weeks and the situation only gets worse every day. That`s why it`s so important that this convoy happens if not tomorrow, the day after.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Organizations are also eager to start evacuating people from Mariupol but until now, the Russians have made the journey out simply too dangerous.

Well, one woman from Kansas City says she can sit and watch stories like this one from Ukraine any longer. That is why humanitarian Marsha Ramsey is joining us tonight from Poland. She`s working as a volunteer with the World Central Kitchen, which is helping to feed refugees once they cross the border.

Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for what you`re doing. Tell me what was it? You were home in Kansas City, what was the final straw that convinced you, you`re going to get on a plane and travel to this war zone?

[23:50:02]

MARSHA RAMSEY, HUMANITARIAN: Good morning, Stephanie. I don`t know that I can say there was one thing was everything, just to see the women and the children standing in lines for hours and hours. Like, I just felt like I had to do something. It was -- I couldn`t sleep at night. I -- and I thought if I can`t sleep at night, I might as well be somewhere, hoping that I`m not sleeping at night as well. So, excuse me, I got on the web was able to make a flight reservation The following week, I was fortunate that World Central Kitchen had an opening. So it all fell in place. And here I am.

RUHLE: And what kind of work are you doing there every day?

RAMSEY: We`ve been plagued a little bit with a COVID outbreak. So I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I`ve been working 11 hour days, three days in a row. And actually, we`ve been working longer than that, because there`s so much food that needs to go out to the refugees. And we`re also supplying food to volunteers that are working at different stations. For example, yesterday, I drove for about 90 miles to go to remote station to make sure that the volunteers from different organizations there had food, and that they also had food to give to the refugees as they were coming across the border. So there is tremendous amount of work to be done here.

Hopefully I can get more involved with the actual refugees, I have been able to do some purchases as far as luggage and different things like that. But hopefully this weekend, I will get a better feel of what they really, really need. And start supplying that.

I am going to meet a gentleman that is from Kyiv that has been transporting people from there to here on his own, with his own money. And with prices and that long trip. He has no more money. So I`m meeting him at a gas station to fill up his bus tomorrow so he can go make another trip and bring out refugees.

RUHLE: You are an amazing woman. This isn`t your first humanitarian mission, you have done several over the last few years, India, Africa, like this on your own dime. How does this experience now compared to what you`ve done and seen before?

RAMSEY: This is more of a crisis that I`ve seen before when I`ve gone to African India, I just like to spend time to the villages and communities and provide for them whatever they need at that moment. If somebody`s standing in line wanting to buy beans and I can all buy their beans or things like that. This is different. This is a massive amount of people just trying to escape a country with nothing. It`s so heartbreaking to see them standing in line for hours and hours and hours with their animals, with their elderly grandparents, their husband`s away, their young sons away, not knowing if they will ever see them again, not knowing when they will see them.

And recently, I`ve been seeing signs where people have been looking for family members that they`ve lost contact with. So this is a completely, completely different trip on my part. It`s massive. It`s -- the food is here, when you go to India or Africa, a lot of times it`s just making sure they eat. Here there are a lot of agencies making sure they`re taken care of. I`m not any different than the 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of volunteers that are here. It`s just a whole different game here.

RUHLE: Marsha, we`ve got to leave it there. I want to thank you for what you`re doing. It is a reminder to our audience, if you need help, ask for it. But if you can give help, please give it. And if you`d like to help World Central Kitchen with their efforts across the globe, go to DONATE.WCK.ORG. Marsha Ramsey, thank you.

Coming up, another tough lesson in Trump economics for someone who wants to work closely by his side, got burned, that`s happened before when the 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:58:38]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Trump does not allow his staff photographer to capture photographs of life and work inside the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you just stacked up the images of the Obama presidency and the Trump presidency, you would see the two stories of America in the starkest possible contrast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, picture`s worth a lot of money. That clip from the Pete Souza documentary about his life as chief White House photographer pretty much sums up our next story. Souza`s photos became a New York Times bestselling book. So not surprisingly, the chief photographer for the president who followed was hoping to do the same. After all, it`s practically a tradition for the former White House photographers to publish their work. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama even wrote the foreword for Eric Draper and Pete Souza`s books.

And the Trump White House photographer Shealah Craighead apparently had a sweet six figure publishing deal all lined up. But according to The New York Times, that`s when the former guys stepped in, and in a completely on brand move found a way to cash in all for himself.

According to the Times, Trump aides first asked Craighead for a cut of her book advance payment in exchange for him writing the foreword, but then the team reportedly asked that she hold off on her book project altogether. So the Former President could publish a photo book on his own and he did. And as the time points out his book was going for as much as 230 bucks a copy before selling out, and most of the photos in it were hers. Oh, and because those White House photos are considered in the public domain, none of the profits have to go to the photographers. But Shealah did get a brief shout out, along with other White House photographers on the last page of the book.

And, on that note, I wish you all a very good night. From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, thank you for staying up late with us. I`ll see at the end of tomorrow.