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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 4/19/22

Guests: Jason Beardsley, Ivo Daalder, Philip Rucker, Ben Rhodes, David Plouffe, Tim Miller, Barbara McQuade


The U.S. prepares to send more lethal weapons to Ukraine as Russia launches a battle to control the nation`s east. President Biden travels to New Hampshire to sell the benefits of his bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Department of Justice plans to appeal the decision to lift the travel mask mandate if the CDC rules the order is still required for public health.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They try to learn and study but it`s very hard to do now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arena Melia (ph), thank you so much for your time. We see you. We hear you and we`re praying for you all. That is tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR starts right now.


CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the battle for Donbas is underway as Russia continues its renewed assault on eastern Ukraine. And we`re learning tonight there`s another U.S. military aid package in the works.

Here at home, the President hits the road in a key battleground states hoping to sell his infrastructure plan and help his party.

And masks on or off, the confusion over reversing days old CDC guidance. The Department of Justice now says it may appeal a judge`s mask mandate decision but not right away as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Tuesday night.

Good evening, I`m Chris Jansing in In for Stephanie Ruhle. The war on Ukraine enters day 56 with the U.S. preparing to send Ukraine even more lethal weapons as Russia launches a new campaign to capture the nation`s east.

NBC News has learned the White House will announce the latest package of military aid this week. It`s expected this new package of security assistance will be similar in size to that $800 million one announced last week.

This morning President Biden held a video call with U.S. allies to discuss next steps and their support for Ukraine. And earlier today, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this about USA to Ukraine.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We`re doing the best we can to focus on A, the kinds of capabilities we know they need and that they say they want and are using because time is working against us. Now the Russians have prioritized the Donbas area and that`s a whole different level of fighting, a whole different type of fighting.


JANSING: Today, Russia did confirm the next phase of its war. The battle to control Eastern Ukraine is underway. The Pentagon says Russia has surged thousands of troops into that region, and a senior defense official says ground operations have also begun.

Meanwhile, Moscow continues to launch airstrikes against the already besieged city of Mariupol. NBC`s Erin McLaughlin has the latest from Ukraine.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Tonight and what`s left of the battered port city of Mariupol fear that at any hour this strategic city could finally fall completely under Russian control.

We are scared of the unknown, this woman says. This is what scares us the most. Cut off by Russian forces for weeks, people here say they like the basics to survive.

How can we live without water, she says, it`s horrible. The stunning devastation a potentially ominous sign of what`s to come with Russia seizing the city of Kremina and intensifying their assault on the major eastern city of Kharkiv, plus multiple smaller attacks what the Pentagon calls shaping operations.

Still, Ukrainian officials insist they will win, alleging Russian forces are too desperate and weakened to be effective.

But tonight in Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers last stronghold appears to be this steel plants. Like Tuesday Russian state media claimed 120 civilians sheltering inside the plant came out to the Russian military, despite fears that the safe passage promised by the Russians is a trap.


JANSING: Our thanks to Erin McLaughlin for that report. Tonight, the Ukrainian commander in that Mariupol steel plant told The Washington Post that he refuses to surrender to Russia. He sent the post a video pleading for help with evacuations.


MAJOR SERHIY VOLYNA, UKRAINIAN COMMANDER: We might only have a few days or even hours remaining. Enemy forces are 10 times bigger than ours. Mariupol military garrison has more than 500 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians, including women and children. We`re asking to provide us safety on the third country territory. Thank you.


JANSING: Let`s begin in Louis with NBC News` Ali Arouzi. What else can you tell us, Ali, about Mariupol how dire the situation is still for people there? And the Ukrainian forces still fighting, still refusing to get into Russian forces.

ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Chris. Well, tonight President Zelenskyy and his nightly video address said the situation in Mariupol remains very tough and unchanged. And by unchanged he means that the Russians have been pounding that city for 56 days, but still haven`t been able to capture it.

Because of those as all fighters that are still holed up in that steel mill refuse to give up. They don`t want the Russians to take that pivotal city, but it`s a cascading humanitarian disaster there, Chris.


As we heard from the previous reports there are several 100 people holed up in the basement of that steel plant because there`s nothing left in that city. There`s nowhere else for people to hide. And we`re getting reports from the Ukrainians today that the Russians are using bunker busters, to hit that steel plant to not only had the fighters that are still trying to keep that city from falling into Russian hands, but also to terrorize the civilian population there that have lived under the most appalling conditions for 56 days.

And the Russians keep saying that it`s only a matter of time before they take that city. But their Ukrainians have defied the odds in this war over and over again. So it`s important to see what happens there in the coming days and weeks.

JANSING: Thank you so much for that Ali Arouzi. With that, let`s bring in our experts Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning deputy national editor at the Washington Post Jason Beardsley, a decorated U.S. military veteran, with more than 20 years experience in the Army and Navy, now the National Executive Director for the association of the Navy, and Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Jason, can we start with what we just heard both in that plea from inside Mariupol, as well as the details that we just got from Ali? I mean, there`s a desperate humanitarian situation there. They`re begging for help to get out. Is there any way to evacuate them any way to negotiate some sort of extraction as you see it?

JASON BEARDSLEY, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ASSOCIATION OF THE U.S. NAVY: Well, as I see it, the Russians have sort of played that game before and often use faints, to draw people out into these evacuation corridors, where then they proceed to artillery fire or drop fire on the civilians evacuating. That`s a psychological warfare attack. I don`t look for Russia to try to expedite any evacuation.

But bear this in mind is well, in the beginning of this, Mariupol has been under siege, as you said, for about 56 days. So even though Russia may take the city nominally here in the near term, this is a disaster for Russia to have been really paid the cost to take this city, it`s going to turn Mariupol into their form of the Alamo, increasing the Ukrainian sort of spirit and will to fight, especially when you hear from the commander inside that steel plant saying, Hey, we`re going to fight to the last man, if they make this hard here I Mariupol near the port, near the borders of Russia, close to resupply lines on Crimea. Take a look at that as a strategic blow for Russia, not a victory.

JANSING: So Ambassador Ivo Daalder, earlier today, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul talked about what it would mean, if Putin was able to capture a Mariupol. Here`s what he said.


MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: If he has a whole, you know, Mariupol, that whole place that has giant, negative financial implications for Ukraine and for the global economy.


JANSING: Explain to us those negative implications.

IVO DAALDER, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, I mean, Mariupol is a port and lots of very important materials that the Ukrainian economy produces among wheat. Very importantly, about 70 percent of the global supply of wheat comes from Ukraine is shipped out of Mariupol.

I mean, the good news is that Odesa, another major port remains of course open. Of course, at the same time, the Russian Navy is blockading any shipments of economic means commodities and everything else exports out of out of Ukraine.

So the immediate impact, I think, is quite is going to be relatively minor in terms of the economy of Ukraine, the longer term impact is this is the major city that wants the Russians captures it allows the land bridge between Russia and Crimea to be controlled by the Russians. And that`s really what this is all about.

JANSING: So let`s talk about the immediate situation ambassador, which is the fact that those folks are in there. We don`t know exactly how many, but we know they include children. We know they include the elderly. We know they include the families of the incredibly brave fighters who have decided that they are going to stay and do everything they can to oppose Russia. How do you see this going?

DAALDER: I don`t see it going in, in a good way for any of these people. The Russians have had 12,000 troops more or less pinned down for 56 days to try to take this city. They are clearly not going to allow anybody to escape. They`ve had plenty of opportunity to allow civilians free passage. They have every single time when they promised that they have shut those escape ways down. So I fear that what we`re going to see is really fighting till the very end by the Ukrainians.

But as Jason said, I think this is a strategic defeat, not as a strategic victory for the Russians, even if they control it. They have spent a lot of energy, a lot of material, a lot of manpower that is not available for the fight anywhere else.


And those who are dead and the equipment that has been destroyed won`t be available for anything else. And that I think is what the Ukrainians are trying to do, pin these forces down so they can`t do anything else.

JANSING: It does take away any efforts they have to make their from their state and territorial director, Phil Rucker, which is now the dawn boss, tell us a little bit more about what we know about this new package from the from the Biden administration.

PHIL RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST DEPUTY NATIONAL EDITOR: Chris, it`s a significant development here in Washington with the Biden administration, committing what is expected to be, you know, in the hundreds of billions of dollars in aid, additional aid on top of what`s already been committed from the U.S. and past weeks. And that`s to keep up with the expanding pace of the Russian offensive into the east of Ukraine.

This is as Pentagon officials outlined to reporters today, a different kind of war and a more intense kind of war in the east than what we`ve seen already in this conflict. And so that`s going to require a different kind of military assistance. So we can look for the US and for other allied nations to be providing more advanced weaponry, perhaps even tanks, sort of the weaponry that would be required for the Ukrainians, to hold their cities and towns for a long period of time over the long haul of this conflict, as opposed to the weaponry that was thought to be needed in the immediate first few weeks of the war.

And so we`re hearing from Biden and others in the administration are real urgency to step forward to provide the kind of help that the Ukrainians are asking for, and to keep up with the pace of the intensifying conflict from the Russians.

JANSING: Give us your take, Jason, on this shift now, because obviously there was this feeling in the beginning Russia was going to go in, there was going to be a blitz, they were going to take everything it was going to be over simple. We all know now, obviously, that that hasn`t happened that way at all.

And there is an analysis from a lot of Western military experts that say this is going to be very methodical now. Having said that, have any of the circumstances on the ground really changed? Is it significantly different than the will of the Ukrainian people, the morale problems within the Russian military? And maybe most of all the organizational problems that they have? How do you see this playing out? How does this look to you as we see this moving forward to the Donbas?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Chris, I think you mentioned some very important variables here, one, communications, the coordination, the control of disparate elements inside the East is still very challenging. General Dvornikov got the mission to kind of consolidate them.

So ideally, they would have great communications in the field. But so far, we`ve seen the Russians are not good at that. Their logistics supply lines have been hampered and beleaguered. Their tanks are not very mobile on a wet muddy sort of terrain.

So the concentration of armor in this ease is going to provide for what the Biden package has now allowed for the massing of artillery by the Ukrainians, those artillery pieces are challenging in themselves. There`s a sort of a two-edged sword, it takes time to get them in place. They`ve got to counter other artillery batteries which is electronic warfare. They are vulnerable to air capabilities of the Russians. So they`re going to need some intelligence from the U.S. or some ground based radar systems.

And just as importantly, this is new for the Ukrainians who have been fighting a mobile guerrilla warfare style tactics so far. Now they`re going to have set pieces in place. How do we defend the artillery pieces? How do we move them? How do we get them in proximity to the Russian armor and Russian artillery pieces. This is a much more difficult sort of strategy.

But the advantage still goes to Ukraine, because they`re depending on their home terrain, they can move those pieces a little bit quicker, and they still have guerrilla tactics that they can employ. Those are the things like the Switchblade drones that will be used to go in and sort of strike these artillery pieces and things like the toes and the javelins and the Stingers.

So the advantage still lies with Ukraine. And again, I`ll point out as you did, Chris, the Russians have had a terrible time in this war. They`ve had their senior military leaders on the ground decapitated, so general after general after general have been killed. This is not a good prospect for them, and Ukraine has done a tremendous job of resorting to will and creativity.

JANSING: And Ambassador Jason mentioned something very critical, which is intelligence. And there is this ongoing debate within Washington circles about how much of it took to provide Ukraine is the US doing enough in terms of providing intelligence?

DAALDER: You know, in part because it is intelligence, we don`t really know whether they are providing but by every indication, we are providing them with the kind of intelligence you want in order to fight this fight, to identify targets, to be able to help the Ukrainians know where the enemy is, know how to strike it, providing with the military capability to do so.


But also the intelligence capability. I think that is all being done on a real time basis on a consistent basis. 24/7. And I think it`s one of the reasons that Ukrainians are doing as well as they have up to this point. Yes, the equipment is important. Yes, of course, the morale is really important, because these are people who are defending their own territory.

But the kind of intelligence we`re giving them, allows them to pinpoint where the tanks are, where the offensive is coming from, and to react accordingly. And I think that`s one of the reasons for seeing the successes to date. And we hope that that will continue in the days ahead.

JANSING: All of this, of course, Phil, strategy, what`s happening on the ground, the amount and kind of weaponry that the United States is providing all critically important, but you can`t remove the politics from this.

So Biden did meet with U.S. allies today to talk about the war. But he does it as the drumbeat of the midterm elections is getting louder. What is the White House weighing is this war shows no obvious signs of ending?

RUCKER: It think, Chris, the most important political question for the Biden White House is what is the effect on the domestic U.S. economy and specifically on inflation and gas prices? We`ve seen the White House tried to react to what has been a spike in gas prices the last few weeks or months rather, and they`re keenly focused on that inflation figure and creating an economic environment between now and the November midterm elections, where voters feel like things are sort of under control and that the inflation has subdued.

And if it continues to rise, and we continue to see prices go up. That could spell a lot of trouble for Democrats, because remember, Democrats are in the majority to a slim majority in both houses of Congress and so voters are going to naturally fault the party and power.

JANSING: Phillip Rucker, Jason Beardsley, and Ivo Daalder, thanks to all of you. Coming up, a look at the Allied response to the war in Ukraine as fighting in the East intensifies why our next guest says we need to be prepared for a very long conflict.

And later, the president hits the road to sell his infrastructure funding and address surging inflation. Our friends David Plouffe and Tim Miller are here on Joe Biden`s midterm messaging, THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Tuesday night.




REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The atrocities committed by the Russians, I think have really made the world and the United States and our NATO allies more willing to consider other options for the Ukrainians so they can keep up this fight.


JANSING: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, member of the Armed Services Committee on the ongoing efforts to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces. In fact, during a video call hosted by President Biden today, he and (INAUDIBLE) leaders discussed providing more support for Ukraine and imposing severe economic costs on Russia.

Reuters reports the U.S., UK and Canada all pledge to provide artillery support. And a French presidential adviser said the allies also discussed how to provide security guarantees to Ukraine after the war, if it is not a part of NATO.

With us tonight, Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser for President Obama, his latest book is "After the Fall: Being American in the World We`ve Made." Always good to see, Ben.

So look, as the Ukrainians continue to outperform expectation the U.S. and allies are stepping up support they`re sending. We talked about this in the last segment, longer range weapons like Howtizers anti-aircraft systems, anti-ship missiles, armed drones. Frankly, those are things Ukraine has been asking for, for a while. So, do you think the US waited too long? Or is what you see coordinated well timed aid?

BEN RHODES, FMR. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think it`s coordinated well time date. But I also think, Chris, importantly, this is shifting into different types of needs for the Ukrainian military. So when Russia was trying to undertake this kind of Blitzkrieg strategy, where they decapitate the Ukrainian government, trying to take Kyiv, there was a lot of defensive weaponry that we were pouring into Ukraine, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft, missiles, small arms, the kinds of things would allow them to fight off an invading army that is trying to move in and then circle territory like around key.

Now the action is shifting over to eastern Ukraine, where keep in mind, there has been a grinding conflict since 2014. You`ve had the frontline shifting a little bit back and forth, east and west, between Ukraine and Russia, you`ve had major ground combat, you`ve had thousands of casualties in that conflict.

At this point, Ukraine is not to be matching Russia on the ground, and they`re going to want to be taking back territory if Russia moves into a town. Ukraine didn`t want to take that back. So what does that mean? It means you`re not just talking about defensive weaponry, you`re talking about, are we giving them artillery, are we giving them howitzers, are we giving them tanks? Are we giving them helicopters? Are we giving them the kinds of things in the ground war, they can go on offense in reclaimed territory that Russia has occupied in eastern Ukraine. That is a different kind of aid package.


And it`s also the kind of aid package, there`s not just a one off, this could be many months of intensive fighting on the ground, and a stop and start fashion. And so part of what we`re doing is coordinating not just the types of assistance and heavy weaponry and offensive weaponry that might go in Ukraine. I think the question is, how do you sustain that if this is a many, many months, even years long, endeavor.

JANSING: years long, Ben.

RHODES: Keep in mind, Chris, that this conflict in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine began in 2014. Now the most intense fighting was in 2014- 2015, you`ve had a stop and start nature to that conflict. You`ve had ceasefires negotiated. So it`s possible that we`re not talking about constant fighting.

But there`s not really a light at the end of the tunnel here an end in sight, a diplomatic resolution to this conflict. And so we have to recognize that while things may not be quite as intense as they`ve been in recent weeks. There`s a possibility that this becomes a grinded out protracted conflict in which Ukraine is going to need a significant amount of assistance and the kinds of things that have felt like emergency measures, sanctions, military assistance, and millions of Ukrainian refugees who need safe haven.

Those kinds of policies, the widest is going to to have to shift to how do we sustain those over long periods of time, so that they`re not just emergency measures. They`re just part of the landscape.

JANSING: Well, let me ask you about sanctions, because there has been conversations as recently as today, apparently, among the allies about additional sanctions, how many more options, for example, does the Biden administration have? I mean, is what we`ve imposed so far having the intended effect?

RHODES: Yes, and no, it`s having the impact of putting a dent in the Russian economy, it`s having impacted denying the inputs to the Russian economy that they need to keep their factories running, to keep their supply chains running.

What we haven`t yet really done is strangled off the revenue sources for Russia, because a lot of that is the hundreds of millions of dollars that Russia is pocketing every day from the sale of oil and gas into Europe.

And so I think the big question becomes, at what point are you really trying to deny Russia, the revenue to sustain its war machine. We`ve taken a hit on that. I mean, we`ve definitely managed to set back the Russian economy. But at the same time, you still have some business as usual in terms of money flowing into Russia, in exchange for the oil and gas, it`s flowing into Europe, the U.S. has cut off those exports.

So in this case, it`s less what we can do. And it`s more how far is Europe willing to go in absorbing an economic impact on their own populations in order to cut off that revenue to Russia?

I think it`s also the case the United States of going around the world in enforcing those sanctions, because part of what happens over time, when you have a sanctions regime in place, is that a country under sanction finds ways around what you`re doing, finds ways to shift trade that is cut off to the United States and Europe and make up for it elsewhere. So that`s another piece of this long term puzzle that the Biden administration I`m sure it`s thinking about.

JANSING: And, you know, Ben, speaking of finding ways around. I mean, one of the questions I get, and I`m sure you get is about does Putin ever feel anything? Does he ever get it -- does he ever -- is he ever held responsible for what he`s done? And just one example is tonight we learned to employees of the Kharkiv zoo, they stayed behind the care for the animals were shot dead by Russian soldiers, their bodies were found barricaded in a room, more innocent, slaughtered, we`ve seen it in Bucha. We`ve seen it in Kramatorsk. All across Ukraine, genocide, war crimes, whatever you want to designate it. Does anyone ever pay for what`s happening?

RHODES: Well, I think that the big question that this war raises is, in the long run, are the people going to pay for this who are guilty of these war crimes?

Clearly, in the short term, Vladimir Putin is going to be sitting in the Kremlin, and he enjoys some support inside of Russia. But this is why in the long run, yes, the fail. And the reason it`s so important to document these war crimes and send the message from Putin on down, down to the people carrying out these orders, down to the people committing those war crimes, those people will be pursued for the rest of their lives. If they leave Russia, they will fall on the arms of international justice.

It has to be a message that we will never relent in bringing those people to justice. Because what`s at stake here is whether or not in the 21st century, that kind of behavior is rewarded, or that kind of behavior is punished.

That`s why in the long run, Ukraine has to prevail in this conflict and maintain their sovereignty. And that`s why the people who carried out these kinds of war crimes, have to know that the world is not going to rest so long as they`re alive, and so long as there`s a possibility of bringing them to justice.

JANSING: Ben Rhodes, appreciate you coming on the program tonight. Thank you.

And coming up, President Biden is on the way road selling the real world benefits of his bipartisan infrastructure law.


We`ll ask our political experts if it`s enough to overshadow recent setbacks for his party when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



JANSING: But as James Pindell of The Boston Globe points out, while he may be there to talk about infrastructure, not campaign politics, it will serve as a planting of the flag and warning to any potential challengers. The President is at least looking at re-election.

Back with this David Plouffe, former Obama, campaign manager and senior adviser to the president, Tim Miller, contributor to The Bulwark and former communications director for Jeb Bush. Hey, guys, good to see you.

So David, you know, you`ve got this ongoing messaging, battling your party, Biden doing the look, we`ve done a lot thing, driving home to folks what he`s done, why it matters, but some other members of the party want a larger legislative agenda, including canceling student loan debt.

If there`s any hope of keeping the House or Senate, do Democrats, A, need to get on the same page, and there`s Joe Biden going around the country? I think he`s got two more stops this week make a difference?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think it does. I mean, you know, presidents still tend to get good local news coverage, on the issues they`re talking about. So I always when we were in the White House, I found those trips to be incredibly valuable. But I think, you know, there was a debate, Elizabeth Warren had an op-ed, listen, my view on this is, I hope the Democrats retain their majority, but you know, there`s a decent chance they may lose one or both houses.

So you want to do everything you can that you think would help people. While you still have the majority. Some of that will be good politics, although there might be more challenging.

I think the big thing, Chris is --

JANSING: But don`t you have to get it done, David, don`t you? You can`t just pursue things that you know have no chance of passing. Do you think that that`s wasted energy?

PLOUFFE: Yes, well, I would definitely tilt it windmill. So if there`s a few things that you think still have a route to passage with 50 Democratic senators and 280 votes in the House and Biden signature you do that. I wouldn`t waste energy and energy. Because if you`re wasting time on that you`re not doing two things. You`re not selling things like the infrastructure plan. And Democrats aren`t creating the contrast with the Republicans, which is to me the most important thing, because the macro political environment may improve, but it`s still not going to be great in November.

So you have to turn this into a choice and make the price of change to Republican steep enough for people. But yes, you should not waste time on things that aren`t going anywhere. You`ve got three things to do get done what you can get done remaining. Sell what you`ve already done. And then I think the most important thing is a searing contrast between the Democrats and Republicans about where they take the country.

JANSING: Well, if you want to contrast, Tim, all you have to look at is Ted Cruz, who sent Twitter into a tizzy defending Ron DeSantis, Florida`s governor of course, who went after Disney for their pushback to his Don`t Say Gay bill somehow for Ted Cruz, it became about Mickey and Pluto having sex. Here it is.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): There are people who are misguided trying to drive, you know, Disney stepping in saying, you know, in every episode now they`re going to have you know, Mickey and Pluto going at it. Like, really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for that image, Senator.

CRUZ: But it`s just like, come on, guys. Like these are kids. And, you know, you could always shift to Cinemax if you want them.


JANSING: So Tim, look, you know, there are Republicans for whom this causes angst, who aren`t crazy about these culture wars, but big picture, is it effective?

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don`t know why you hit me watch that, Chris. Just having to hear what he said about Pluto. And Mickey was enough that I didn`t have to see it as well.

Look, Ted Cruz kind of a weird guy. I don`t think he`s the best at executing this message. I think that there`s potential for Republican overstep here that actually the Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, went at Cruz and DeSantis today with an effective message and other Democrats can use which is -- which was basically saying like, the -- this is authoritarian and socialist and kind of creepy, you know, going after these companies over, you know, cultural issues. And, you know, Mickey and Pluto are welcome in Colorado, essentially, his message.

And I think that that`s right for the kind of suburban Biden voter, you know, the Romney-Biden voter that, that I think Democrats are struggling with right now. I think that polls showing that that`s a good message with them.

But, look, I think that in the short term, the Republicans keep picking these cultural fights because they`re winning them. They feel like they`re on offense in these in these situations. I think that the Democrats are on their back foot. And I think the Democrats need to punch back and use these most extreme examples, like this ridiculousness of the types of things that Ted Cruz is doing.

And some of the I think, worst examples what we`re seeing in red states whether they really are trying to make teachers go back into the closet, you know, they`re bringing Don`t Ask Don`t Tell back for teachers that is a lot of unpopular Republican culture war things that are going on right now.


And the Democrats need to use that to do what David was talking about earlier, which is wedge against Republicans going into the midterms.

JANSING: yes, like banning nap books, David, but again, are the Democrats doing enough?

PLOUFFE: Not yet, because I do think, listen, the economy`s the big thing. Two-thirds of the country lives paycheck to paycheck, with inflation, outpacing wages, you know, the macroeconomic stats aren`t going to matter to those people. So that is the most important thing.

That being said, Tim`s right, banning books, not teaching history, you know, going after these companies that a lot of this is, you know, the Republican primary for president has begun. You know, even if Trump runs, they`re all auditioning. So, you got to make them pay a price for the thing that may work with Republican primary voters in `24, that to Tim`s point is very unpopular swing voters.

So I think you need to go on offense and say, you`re going to get more of this. They`re going to bring on the national state banning books, going after gay and lesbian teachers, you know, not teaching history, basically afraid of everything is I think, a compelling message. So I think Jared Polis was strong today. I agree with Tim on that.

But yes, I think you have to take the fight to places where you know, we have an advantage and all the issues we just talked about, you know. The Republicans who are pushing them are down 20 or 30 points. There`s a big delta with the general electorate.

So yes, I think that if successful democratic candidates will make their Republican opponents sweat on these things. And in swing districts, in swing states, those are not going to be popular issues. We should not confuse things that makes Tucker Carlson, you know, super giddy at night and gets Republican primary voters supercharged up with the general electorate. They are two very different cohorts.

JANSING: Tim, we`re out of time. But I do want to ask you whether you think at some of these more extreme Republican candidates who may well get through the primaries, are they the best possible hope for Democrats?

MILLER: Yes, absolutely. I think that right now the Democrats need extreme candidates. The Democrats can define themselves not defined through Trump but define themselves extreme Herschel Walker in Georgia one example in order to win this November for sure.

JANSING: Tim, David, great to see both of you. As always, thank you so much. And coming up, a closer look at how one young Trump appointed judge can set off mask wearing chaos all across the country when THE 11TH HOUR continues.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s too soon to drop it personally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am super glad that the mask mandate is thrown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that you`re in a confined space. And it`s still the variant is still really strong and I don`t want to get sick so I`m going to be wearing a mask.


JANSING: Just a sample of the national celebration and concern that followed the Trump appointed federal judge`s decision to roll back the mask mandate on public transportation.

Tonight, the Justice Department said it is waiting for the CDC to weigh in. In a statement DOJ wrote quote, If CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public`s health, the Department of Justice will appeal the district court`s decision. That means for now, a federal mask mandate is not in effect.

Back with us 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 is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

Hey, Barbara. So the DOJ believes it -- the mask mandate is a valid exercise of authority Congress has given the agency to protect public health. So why not just appeal the ruling? Why even wait when we all know it`s causing confusion?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, this is one of the things the Justice Department does it assesses litigation risk. So even if it believes it`s the correct result, and that the CDC does have this authority, they have to kind of gauge their likelihood of success.

This case was decided at a Florida the appeals court there is the 11th Circuit. That is one that is populated by a number of Trump appointees and other conservative appointees. And so the worry is, I think, is that if you get an adverse ruling here, you have ensconced this ruling in precedent, it could even go to the Supreme Court, which has recently held that OSHA was unable to mandate either vaccines or testing you may recall.

And so the political climate is not great for pushing this at the moment. So if the mandate is to lapse in May, anyway, it may be best to let this one live for now, so that the CDC preserves its legal ability to act in the event of another health crisis that may emerge in the future.

JANSING: Well, let`s say cases do go up and the DOJ decides to appeal. How long could that process take and what the administration`s hands be tied if they wanted to impose a mandate until it`s all settled in court?

MCQUADE: Yes, I think that in light of this court`s ruling right, you to get a judge to grant relief, they could do that if they decided to appeal and were able to get an injunction -- this injunction lifted on appeal so that in the interim, it could exist.

But I think that if this judge`s order is allowed, he`s with authority to enter any kind of mask mandate even if the numbers went up astronomically, it`s about the authority of the CDC not the merits of the decision.


JANSING: I want to read you what the Washington Post Paul Waldman wrote in regard to the judge who issued this ruling, quote, Trump`s judges have embodied his perspective on the American system of government, which is that there is nothing inherently worthwhile about any of it. There are no principles worth adhering to, no systems that should command respect. And no rules worth obeying if you don`t like the outcome those rules produce. Do you share that concern?

MCQUADE: Well, I don`t know that I want to lump all of them together. I`m aware of some jump judges who I find to be very fine judges. But I do think that in this instance, it does seem that the judge expressed some hostility to the authority of the CDC and other administrative agencies.

There has been a push by some conservative judges against what is sometimes referred to as the administrative state, sometimes referred to as the deep state, people who have expertise and career jobs in government who decide things like workplace safety, and passenger travel safety.

And so instead, you know, this is more of the deregulation every man for himself, sort of worldview. But that`s why, you know, elections have consequences. President Trump is permitted to appoint judges that share his worldview. And that is the kind of judge he chose to put in place. And that`s why it`s so important to remember that third branch of government is a very powerful one.

JANSING: Well, let me switch topics for just a quick second, a different federal judge has cleared the way for a lawsuit that wants to disqualify Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for reelection, because of her alleged role in the January 6 attack. Any chance you see that this suit will succeed? One of the issues here?

MCQUADE: Yes, so this is really interesting, Chris, and I think it`s great that at least it`s going to proceed in court so that we can get some clarity on this. This is the issue that is 14th amendment that`s faded in in an insurrection, you can`t run for public office, it was passed. The 14th amendment course was enacted after the Civil War. So the idea was people who, you know, fought for the Confederacy should not be able to run for Congress.

And so there was an allegation against Marjorie Taylor Greene filed with the secretary of state of Georgia to keep her off the ballot there for her role in the January 6 insurrection. So first, there has to be proof that she did indeed participate in that insurrection, but two, how do you enforce this provision of the 14th amendment? It`s in there, but because it hasn`t been tested, there`s really no clarity on how that process would actually play out.

So I think it could be a useful lawsuit for that purpose. For the moment the legal proceeding is allowed to go forward. We`ll see whether the plaintiffs are able to make their case.

JANSING: Yes, it`s so interesting and what qualifies as proof that she has to have to be convicted of something. Barbara McQuade, thank you so much as always.

Coming up, yet another example of the sheer power of music and resilience in the face of unthinkable horrors. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.



JANSING: The last thing before we go tonight, a song for Ukraine. For nearly nine weeks, we`ve witnessed the unity and determination of the people of Ukraine. And sometimes those emotions emerge movingly and memorably in song. The latest, a new video of a Ukrainian refugee singing with Lithuanians in support of Ukraine.

According to the YouTube post, Eliza is a 21-year-old Ukrainian singer. She had to flee her homeland when Russia invaded Ukraine back in 2014. She`s been living and studying in Lithuania since 2015. When Russia re launched the latest war on February 24, her family`s home was destroyed by Russian occupants for the second time in their lives.

According to the Post allies his mom and brother stay behind in Ukraine to fight so she found another way to fight back. She put out a call asking people to join her singing a popular Ukrainian folk song in hopes of drawing attention to the invasion and to the struggles of Ukrainian people. Here is the beautiful result of her efforts.


Eliza and her Lithuanian friends take us off the air tonight with their musical passionate call to stand up for Ukraine.

And on that note, I wish you a good night from all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News. Thanks for staying up late. I see you at the end of tomorrow.