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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle , 4/5/22

Guests: Mykhailyna Skoryk, Peter Baker, Nic McKinley, Katie Benner, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Robert Gibbs

Summary

In a scathing address, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy accuses Russia of war crimes for the deaths in Bucha and challenges the U.N. Security Council to act. It comes as the White House plans to unveil a new round of sanctions and send $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Ivanka Trump virtually testifies with the Jan. 6th committee for roughly 8 hours. Former President Obama returns to the White House for the first time since leaving office.

Transcript

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It is to quote a famous American a pretty big deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

[23:00:30]

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, horrific accounts from the city of Bucha. Survivors, saying Russians went house to house executing loved ones in the streets. President Zelenskyy making a powerful plea to the world at the UN/

And Ivanka Trump interviewed by the January 6 Committee for eight hours today. But will her testimony mean anything to the investigation?

Plus President Obama back at the White House today for the first time since leaving office, as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Tuesday night.

Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. We are about to enter day 42 of Russia`s invasion. Ukraine has accused Russian forces of carrying out a campaign of terror against civilians in the town of Bucha.

Today, Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy took his nation`s case to the UN. In a scathing address to the Security Council, he described the massacre in graphic detail and challenge the UN to take immediate action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If this continues, the countries will be rely only on the power of their own arms to ensure their security and not on international law, not rely on international institutions.

The United Nations can be on simply closed. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to close the UN. And now we need decisions from the Security Council for peace in Ukraine. If you do not know how to make this decision, you can do two things either remove Russia as an aggressor and a source of war. Or if there is no alternative and no option, then the next option would be dissolve yourself altogether.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: And despite mountains of firsthand witnesses and evidence, Russia has repeatedly denied responsibility for what happened in Bucha. And its ambassador to the UN added this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VASILY NEBENZYA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UN (through translator): During the time that this the town was under the control of the Russian Armed Forces, not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: NBC`s own Richard Engel went to Boucher and we warn you some of the stories and images in his report are disturbing. But they need to be seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukrainian troops kick the Russians out of this Kyiv suburb and once again are in charge. But for five weeks, Russian soldiers occupied Bucha destroyed much of it and imposed a reign of terror.

Today, residents were coming out of hiding. In front of their building, Valentina and her friend said Russian soldiers went apartment to apartment, mostly searching for men. They were breaking open doors with axes and sledge hammer, she says. If you talked back, they shot you. A few feet away was a grave. Valentina dug with her friend.

You put up a cross. You bury four people here. Two were our neighbors, she says, we don`t know who the other two are, but bury them anyway. She says all four of them are machine gun by Russian troops. She doesn`t know why.

Please don`t let this happen again, she says, we are regular hard working people. Ukrainian troops estimate hundreds of civilians were murdered in Bucha. They are still finding bodies after a wanton disregard for human life here that even in war is a crime.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

RUHLE: We are over a month into this conflict and there are virtually no signs of a potential peace deal. Today, U.S. military officials gave a sobering assessment of what is likely ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I do think this is a very protracted conflict. And I think it`s at least measured in years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Years. Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending Ukraine an additional $100 million in Javelin anti-tank missiles. And there are new efforts to squeeze the Russian economy. The EU has proposed banning Russian coal as part of a new round of sanctions. And the U..S is making efforts to force Russia to drain the dollars they hold in Russia.

Tomorrow, the White House will unveil its latest round of sanctions against the country and also tonight, we are following the latest on the January 6 investigation. The House committee heard from the former president`s daughter Ivanka Trump earlier today she testified for almost eight hours.

[23:05:09]

And while we do not know what she said, we`ll have more on those details ahead.

Let`s turn out to my good friend Ali Velshi. He joins us now from the Lviv where he has been reporting now across Poland, Hungary, Ukraine for weeks. Ali, extraordinary reporting. We are so lucky you`re there. Tell us what`s happening tonight, because it hasn`t been a peaceful night where you are.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It hasn`t only this evening, you know, the air raid sirens go off several times a day. But what we had earlier tonight was something that felt closer and bigger and about 40 miles from here. There was some sort of shelling we have not yet determined what was hit. But there was some activity tonight, which of course, in the course of the last couple of days has been -- has taken on a different tone.

But the discovery of those bodies in Bucha, and in other places there were Ukrainian troops have taken over from Russian troops and have discovered atrocities. It`s making people in this country and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And the United Nations worry about now is how do you deal with this? You heard Mark Milley say this could be measured in years.

Well, if it`s a war of attrition, Russia has got more people Russia`s got more soldiers. And so the West has got to think about increasing the level of sanctions that they`re applying to Russia. And at the same time increasing the amount of weaponry that`s going into the US has announced more money for Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are very effective. The Ukrainians have been using them. They`ve now also announced they`re sending in these Switchblade drones, which can take out tanks.

The Russians still saying, however, that now this is taken on two fronts. One is they want to think about -- they want the world not just to be thinking about war crimes. But the fact that this might be more organized than that, that this might be a genocide. That`s something President Biden hasn`t been willing to say. But the United Nations and Linda Thomas- Greenfield, the U.S. Representative to United Nations, is trying to isolate Russia.

But you heard what the Russian ambassador said Steph at the United Nations after Zelenskyy spoke, it was, I don`t know what better use word for it. There is it was bonkers.

RUHLE: Ali, talk to us a bit more. You mentioned it a moment ago about what atrocities could be in other cities. We know very little about what`s happened in Mariupol over the last few weeks except for the fact that Russians are there in force.

VELSHI: Yes, we`re getting a little dribs and drabs because you see, you hear people who come out who we talked to, or aid workers or you know, Doctors Without Borders. First of all, we know they`re striking health care centers, and we obviously saw the shelter, the theater where children were sheltering. So these are war crimes. But the problem is they`re running out of food, there`s no energy, there`s no gas, there`s no if you do not light your, you know, if you don`t heat your home with a coal or a wood stove, you`ve got no energy, you`ve got no water. They can`t get humanitarian corridors in they can`t get supplies in, they can`t get people out. There`s no supply chain, so they`re very worried.

I spoke to an MP this evening who said we`re counting the bodies in Bucha in the hundreds. When it comes to Mariupol we`re probably going to be in the thousands.

RUHLE: Thousands. Ali Velshi, thank you so much. I want to turn now and bring in the adviser to Bucha mayor Mykhailyna Skoryk. She evacuated with her six-year-old son to Germany on March 4, where she is now coordinating humanitarian efforts. Thank you for joining us this evening, this morning where you are. I can`t imagine what this has been like Do you still have friends and family who are there in Bucha?

MYKHAILYNA SKORYK, ADVISER TO BUCHA`S MAYOR: Yes, there are still a lot of people in Bucha and all my colleagues they are working they are the my asked everybody who is able to leave in the city without water, without electricity, without any mobile connection, without stable mobile connection to come back to help bring life in this city because in fact, Bucha was very modern, very fashionable suburb near Kyiv, very close to Kyiv. There`s lots of young families with lots of kids schoolwork overcrowded but now we -- yesterday my colleagues found by extraction, explosion scene inside one of this school so they are doing the mining job.

And they are collecting bodies now to like to make the city clean after the Russian crimes because the Russians they were killing. They will kill the men. They were killing women. We saw some killed kids. Just -- It looks like just for fun, just to terrorizing civilians inside Bucha.

RUHLE: So what does the recovery effort look like? I mean, it`s admirable that the mayor is calling people back to rebuild.

[23:10:00]

SKORYK: Now all sources, Ukrainian like Ukrainian officials, they are trying to check the city and to clean it from mostly from the mines, because they are still dangerous for the civilians. And we are trying to restore mobile connection because if you drive in, you can`t call anybody. You could just talk orally or find a person orally and talk what you need. We are trying to restore electricity. And then what can gas supply that`s more complicated because all the system is broken. So it will take like two weeks might be one month to restore like basic infrastructure.

And now, we think that not more than 4,000 people left there, instead of 60,000. They were before the war. So the city`s empty, all the flats, most of the houses, they were rocked by Russian. Russians took away like TV sets, computers, money, gold, everything. They will start stealing all that from the houses, from Ukrainian houses and brought to Russia to their families. And that`s also when you come back, you will see nothing inside the ruins that`s like at the moment.

RUHLE: You left Bucha in early March. Your husband is still in the country. Do you see yourself reuniting and rebuilding there? Are you going home?

SKORYK: It`s very difficult to say because my husband as lots of Ukrainians, he`s in the army now. So we are staying safe, but we are outside. And that`s not possible for my son to see the husband. Other way, like just call him via Skype or WhatsApp.

I`m sure that we have to fight. Because if we not stop the war, I`m not in safe. My son is not in safe, and the Russians could kill everybody if Ukrainians will stop fights. The war is continuing. And that`s not the end, unfortunately.

RUHLE: Well, thank you so much for joining us and speaking with us this evening.

With that, let`s bring in our expert panel. Peter Baker, Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. He spent years as the Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post and Nic McKinley, former CIA special agent and Air Force. He founded the DeliverFund, which is a nonprofit intelligence organization fighting human trafficking.

Peter, the White House is sending another $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. More sanctions are expected tomorrow, how the reports we`ve gotten out of Bucha sort of put a huge amount of pressure timely pressure on us to do more.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, certainly no, the images out of Bucha are so graphic so horrific, so devastating that of course, obviously that motivates Western governments up their ante, that they cannot let up the assistance to the Ukrainians, the pressure on the Russians, no question about it.

The video that was played today for the Security Council meeting was just something I think that hasn`t been seen in Europe in many, many years. And I think, and not in too many other parts of the world as horrifically as we see it. So I think you`re right, that adds the pressure to it.

What you see in Bucha is unfortunately a pattern of Russian brutality over the years. You think back to Chechnya Grozny, you think about Syria, you think about way back in World War II the Katyn force and the slaughter of the Polish officers. This is a pattern.

We have seen this time and time again. And then the Russians, of course, try to deflect any blame by calling it a hoax. They say, Well, gosh, this is just done by the Ukrainians to themselves in order to make us look bad, which is lying. We have heard of Moscow so many times over the years. It`s amazing that they still think that that works. But this Bucha will be remembered, not just today, not just tomorrow, but for many weeks and months to come.

RUHLE: Then give us a history lesson. Continue that lesson, Peter, if this is what they have done before, what happens next?

BAKER: What happens next, unfortunately, as an escalation, right, more of the same, more of this. They talk about refocusing on the east but Bucha is not in the east. That`s near Kyiv and we do not know in fact, whether they have rescaled their efforts to just the eastern part of the country and even if they had that`s not exactly something reassuring to Ukrainians, who consider the eastern part of their country to. It`s not OK for the Ukrainian government to simply say yes, fine as long as you`re just fine in the East doesn`t really matter.

[23:15:03]

Remember, Ukraine has already been at war with Russia now for eight years. This is an escalation obviously of what started in 2014, when they seized Crimea by force, when they sent separatists and Russian soldiers under the skies, into Luhansk, and Donetsk. And what they have done here basically have said, we`re taking the gloves off, and we`re just going to destroy everything we can`t civilian targets, you know, anybody who gets in the way that we`re going from house to house is exactly what they have done in other places, in other conflicts in the past looking for men of a military age.

This is unfortunately, you know, the beginning of what we`re going to see much more evidence of in the weeks must come up most likely. There are other examples of this we don`t know about yet. But we will learn about as more information comes out.

RUHLE: Nic, for days, for weeks, we keep hearing the U.S. has to do more they need to send different equipment. How important are these Javelin anti-tank missiles?

NIC MCKINLEY, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DELIVERFUND: I don`t want to get into this specific type of weapons. You know, I think that there`s plenty of people in the military that are very well informed on what exactly type of weapon is needed.

But what is clear is that more weapons are needed. And Western militaries have the best weapons. We`re starting to see exactly how underprepared the Russians actually are for this type of warfare.

So, bringing Western weapons in, in whatever form the DoD deems best, and putting them in the hands of the Ukrainians is most likely going to shortcut the war and make it so that we don`t have as many srefugees, and we don`t have as many vulnerable people being created by this war.

RUHLE: Let`s talk about those vulnerable people and your work, Nic, with the DeliverFund. Can you explain for us the connection between the displacement of so many people over 6 million refugees, primarily women and children? Should we be concerned that the next crisis we`re facing is about human trafficking, sex trafficking?

MCKINLEY: Well, it`s not the next crisis, it`s the current crisis. We need to keep in mind that refugees actually are a weapon of war. If you send a bunch of refugees, primarily women and children into another country, in this case, Poland, Moldova, Romania, you start to overwhelm the resources of those countries.

And that is really just a market opportunity for lack of a better term for human traffickers. These are predators who take advantage of the chaos that the Russians are creating through this war. And they use that chaos as cover for their illicit practices of really luring women and children into their networks and then selling them off either in commercial sex sells in Western Europe, or they are selling them off in adoptions. And really, we have seen both with the work that our team has been doing on the ground.

RUHLE: So what can and shouldn`t be done right now?

MCKINLEY: Right now, what we need is, we keep talking about the UN and NATO stepping up and helping the Ukrainians but also, Poland is a is a country that we have already agreed to wrap it -- to wrap around. And so we need to wrap around Poland, we need Romania, Moldova, and actually give them the resources that they need, both in terms of expertise, technology.

What my team is doing on the ground right now is actually providing a lot of that technology and doing a lot of the coordination to make sure that all of the different players are talking to each other. We need governments to start doing that in a really big and meaningful way. So that it doesn`t just overwhelm the Polish, and they just decide that they can`t do anything about it. And so they`re going to leave these people vulnerable. Or same thing with the Romanians of the Moldovans.

We need to do our part as the West to go in there and help these governments protect these people and where appropriate, we actually need to start taking on some of those refugees and taking responsibility for them here in America.

RUHLE: Then before we go one more question about big and meaningful action, Peter, the United States, trying to get Russia suspended from the UN Human Rights Council. How serious is that? And what would it really mean?

BAKER: Well, it`s more symbolic than anything else. Of course, we`ve had complaints about the UN Human Rights Council for years, it`s always been stacked with a lot of human rights violators, which has made it of course, a very dysfunctional organizational problems actually, you know, enforcing any kind of standards.

And I think that Russia`s presence on it obviously stands to, you know, make clear how pointless the council can really be if it`s supposedly investigating the very people who are doing the human rights violation.

But it`s a point of principle. It`s a point of symbolism to say that we don`t consider Russia to be, you know, a responsible actor in the international community, we`re isolating them further. They do not deserved to be part of an organization such as that and that`s the sign that the signal the message that`s trying to be sent here.

[23:20:05]

RUHLE: But isn`t symbolism meaningless if there`s no consequences?

BAKER: Well, symbolism goes along with consequences. I mean, you know, obviously, Stinger missiles and Javelin anti-tank, weaponry and so forth are more tangible, more concrete and necessary. Symbolism is part of it. You know, symbolism is part of an overall panoply of responses to Russia, you can`t ignore that because it does, you know, to leave them on the Human Rights Council was sending the opposite message.

But you`re right, if that were all they were doing, they will be open to plenty of criticism. And I think you hear President Zelenskyy pushing again and again, saying, you know, sympathy is nice. Support, you know, is great, but what we really need is ammunition in effect, the line that he was famous for way back at the beginning, I don`t need a ride. I need ammunition. That`s still his message. And he`s been telling that to the west again and again, and every venue he can he can find.

RUHLE: All right, thank you both for joining us this evening. Peter Baker and Nic McKinley. Coming up, Donald Trump`s daughter talking to the January 6 Committee for hours. But what is she actually saying? We`ll ask a former Trump White House Insider if all of this is part of a PR campaign.

And later, our series on the fleecing of America continues fraud on a stunning scale how scammers used COVID relief funds to buy luxury cars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:26:13]

RUHLE: Earlier today, the January 6 committee heard from the former president`s daughter, Ivanka Trump herself, who was actually at the White House during the January 6 riot. She voluntarily appear remotely in a meeting that lasted roughly eight hours. That is less than a week after investigators interviewed her husband, Jared Kushner, but the details of those conversations are still unknown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MI) JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I mean, she`s answering questions. I mean, you know, not in a broad, chatty term, but she`s answering questions.

GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC REPORTER: Has she invoked her 5th amendment rights?

THOMPSON: Not that I`m aware of.

HAAKE: Or any other privilege for that matter? Executive privilege?

THOMPSON: Not that I`m aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s really valuable. And we have the opportunity to, you know, ask questions of people who were in the room on that day.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Chair Bennie Thompson said afterwards that that she was a cooperative witness and in that sense, she exemplifies the vast majority of the people who we have contacted who have come before the committee essentially people are cooperating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Back with us to discuss Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter for the New York Times, and former friend and advisor to Melania Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Welcome to both. Stephanie wrote the book Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady.

Katie, who knows what Jared said last week, who knows what Ivanka said today. But, the fact that the former president`s senior advisors and family members did not invoke privilege, they did not take the fifth as far as we know. And they spoke for 14 hours total. That`s a giant story. We have never seen that before. So what do we know about what happened?

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Listen, I`m not going to be able to say what happened in the room. I think that`s to be seen. And when the committee writes its report, we`ll have a really full accounting of what happened in that room. So I think it`s probably unwise to guess too much.

But we do know as the committee said that she was forthcoming and that she did not dodge questions. She answered questions to the best of her ability. And what both she and her husband can do is fill in blanks if they so choose, because a lot of people were contacting them both leading up to January 6, and during the riot, contacting them, asking for help both to stop and overturn the election for help in stopping the plot to overturn the election.

And on the day January six, to help, you know, imploring Ivanka Trump to please tell her father to tell the rioters to go home. So they would have an accounting of what people are saying to them, and what they said back and for Ivanka Trump should be able to say what she thinks was going on in her father`s head.

Now keep in mind, just because somebody spends a lot of time with a committee, does not mean that all questions would be answered. I think a great example of that is Jeff Rosen, the former Deputy Attorney General. He spent a lot of time with the committee.

But when you read through the full transcript of his testimony, which has been put online. You can see that there were a lot of questions that he really just felt he could not answer any stuff within the type parameters, and exactly what he felt that he knew, leaving the committee still searching for information.

RUHLE: To the best of her ability, that`s what I keep finding myself underlining, Stephanie, you know, Jared, and Ivanka very well. And let`s be honest, they have been on a PR tour since the day Trump took office trying to convince the world that they`re the good guys inside, softening his edges, tempering him from what he could really do. But we didn`t see one ounce of evidence of that, besides Ivanka, his own team on a constant loop leaking to all of us how good she was on the inside.

Do you believe that what we saw today is just an extension of that PR tour?

STEPHANIE WINSTON WOLKOFF, FMR. FRIEND AND ADVISOR TO MELANIA TRUMP: I think Ivanka is in the moment right now trying to whitewash her past and which will again it`s not possible. She and Jared know exactly, I mean they were toe to toe with Donald.

[23:30:05]

And being inside and watching the manipulation, deception, the pure ability for her to control the situation, how she wanted it to play out. And for the rest of all of you the press to hear about it was something she did on a daily basis.

They`ve got their bases covered. They didn`t do this lightly Jared and Ivanka. They know exactly what they`re doing. And I think what this is going to lead to is many of the people that have not shown up and have not spoken up. Donald, Ivanka and Jared and the rest of the family know that they`re putting everyone else in a really, really difficult position. They`ve got to show up and answer questions.

RUHLE: Could this be the first we see Jared and Ivanka breaking from Trump not turning on him, but they don`t necessarily need him anymore. They don`t need to be his human shields. You have not seen Ivanka speaking at rallies, going on Fox News, since he left office like her brothers do.

They are quietly leaving -- leading a very, very wealthy life in Florida, while Jared takes all of those international contacts he made while they were in office, and he`s raising money?

WOLKOFF: Well, he is and again, many of those other people that were in the White House as advisors, as well as people that weren`t tied to the White House, but were in the private section really know that Jared right now is getting away with so much more than they`ve been allowed to. I mean, that`s going to come and bite --

RUHLE: Smarter than they are.

WOLKOFF: I think that they`ve connect -- many of these people have connected Jared and Ivanka to the people that they need to be connected to. I mean, Ivanka with her trademarks, Jared with his, you know, billion dollar finances. The international community as well as the foreign influence that played its role throughout the entire presidency, as well as the planning of the presidential inauguration is something that I think we ought to take into account. And I`d be really interested to see and hear what they may have said or not said.

RUHLE: I for one, very, very interested. Katie go bigger picture. What does this say about where the committee`s investigation is headed?

BENNER: Sure, I want to pick up on Stephanie`s point, which is very good. This is a great it`s a coup for the committee. Even if Jared and Ivanka weren`t particularly fulsome in their answers, even if they didn`t give them a lot of information that didn`t already have. It is something that they can hold up and say, even the President`s own daughter and son in law have come in to speak with us. So there`s really no reason you shouldn`t nobody was closer to Trump than these two.

So in that way, it`s really good for the committee as they go forward and try to get witnesses not only to speak privately, but as they prepare to bring us to open testimony public testimony in the coming months.

RUHLE: Eight hours of testimony as careful as one maybe you could slip up. Katie Benner, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, thank you both so much.

Coming up. You do not want to miss this. Private jet flights, luxury homes and sports cars. You know who they were for? People who scammed money from our government, money that was meant for people who needed it for COVID relief. What Fleecing of America when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:37:53]

RUHLE: This week, we`re taking a closer look at what happened to the trillions of taxpayer dollars spent in response to the pandemic. It is part of the NBC News relaunch of the series The Fleecing of America. Tonight, billions of dollars in COVID fraud but as Ken Delaney and reports many of the worst offenders may never ever face consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight authorities call it an astonishing hall. Luxury homes, private jet flights, $100,000 Ferrari all bought they say by people who scam taxpayer money set aside for COVID relief.

A trillion dollars in government programs designed to keep struggling businesses afloat during the pandemic.

HAYWOOD TALCOVE, LEXISNEXIS RISK SOLUTIONS CEO: Some money that`s being stolen. Yes, it`s being converted into Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys and Aston Martin`s.

DILANIAN: And to support high flying lifestyles. This Instagram influencer allegedly used COVID relief money to book a private flight to LA where authorities claim she spent more than $5,000 at this hotel and then brazenly bragged about it on social media. Court record say she intends to plead guilty.

Despite billions loss the Justice Department says just 178 people have been convicted so far. Watchdogs say the fraud could reach $160 billion.

Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions tracks fraud for state agencies. He says even the most brazen lies went unchecked with the government not requiring banks to independently verify loans.

TALCOVE: They were told not to. They were told to get those loans out and suspend processes. How long do you think it does to do a check on a business or a person? It takes about three milliseconds to do a person and it takes about a second to do a business.

DILANIAN (on camera): One fraudster who applied for government help claimed he was running a farm with 10 employees out of this single family home. That was enough to get him $150,000. He got caught but law enforcement officials tell us most people who stole COVID relief money will probably get away with it.

(voice-over): Juan Antonio Gonzalez is the acting U.S. Attorney in Miami who prosecuted that case.

(on camera): To figure that out what did investigators have to do?

JUAN ANTONIO GONZALEZ, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY IN MIAMI: Well once you look at the paperwork and once you saw what it was all it took was a drive to the farm to see there was no farm,

DILANIAN: Just a single family home in the middle of Miami.

GONZALEZ: Exactly.

DILANIAN: Weren`t their due diligence checks made?

GONZALEZ: Well, they`re supposed to be due diligence check made and obviously not all of them were done.

DILANIAN (voice-over): The program which ended last may save millions of real jobs. But prosecutors say alleged criminals kept it from helping even more.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

RUHLE: Ken Dilanian and joins us now with more. Ken, you have got to be a special flavor of Craven to steal from taxpayers in a once in a lifetime pandemic. This PPP program was a finite amount of money. If you took money, somebody else wasn`t going to get any. What was it about this program that led to all this fraud? There was even internet tutorials teaching people how to scam the government.

DILANIAN: That`s right, Steph, and thanks for highlighting this. You`ve been doing a great job on this COVID fraud problem. This program was designed on the honor system, that`s the bottom line. The lenders were instructed to take the borrower`s word for everything they represented, the size of their payroll, how many employees they had, whether they had a felony conviction, whether they were qualified, they just shoveled the money out the door.

So for a lot of these fraudsters, it was like they found piles of cash on the street, literally, like they couldn`t believe their luck that banks were just sending them millions of dollars. In some cases, I mean, people steal 17, 18, $20 million as part of this program by just simply bombarding these lenders with fake companies and fake employees.

And they spent the money on Lamborghinis and Ferraris and mansions and yachts, and probably a lot of other things that we haven`t found yet. Because the reality is that a lot of people have been caught, but many, many more people will not be caught, Stephanie.

RUHLE: OK, then the billions and billions in fraud that people know about, they`re concerned about, is this going to stand in the way of Congress being able to get more COVID relief money approved with so many people knowing there was so much misuse of the almost $5 trillion that went out?

DILANIAN: I think common sense tells you it will give some people pause, some lawmakers pause and maybe it should. I mean, it feels like the country -- we as a country have not come to grips with what a massive scandal this was that bureaucrats and the Trump administration design these programs in a way that they can be plundered. And we`ve known about this for some time.

NBC News is calling attention to it. But these cases have been out there, Stephanie, you`ve covered it. I`ve covered it. Billions of dollars gone. Where are the congressional hearings? Where`s the outrage? Maybe we should get our house in order before we start, you know, sending billions more dollars out and really, we should make sure that it`s not going to get stolen.

RUHLE: Are they actually answering for that because while it was the Trump administration, and while Trump was on sort of this spree to get rid of all different inspectors, generals who would be overseeing these kinds of things at the same time, Congress didn`t staff the Cares Act oversight committee.

DILANIAN: That`s right. And Congress wrote the law that said hand this money out quickly and no, there has not been accountability for that. And while that, well, Trump did get rid of some watchdogs, the Small Business Administration Inspector General was warning just months after this law was passed, that he was seeing fraud. He was warning the Trump administration. He later talk to the Biden administration. There really wasn`t very much done until much, much too late, Stephanie.

RUHLE: Didn`t seem like months after, it seemed like weeks he was writing white papers saying fraud is going to be everywhere. We need to do something. And we didn`t.

Ken Dilanian, I`m so glad you`re here and covering this really important stuff. Thank you.

Coming up next, Barack Obama back at the White House for the first time since he left office. He says Democrats have a story to tells. So how should they tell it will ask his former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs from THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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[23:48:41]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Vice President Biden. Vice president -- that was a joke. I heard some changes had been made by the current president since I was last year. Apparently, Secret Service agents have to wear aviator glasses now. The Navy mess has been replaced by Baskin Robbins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

A lot of smiles in the White House. Former President Obama returned to the White House for the first time since he left office to show his support for a Biden administration initiative to fix a coverage glitch in the Affordable Care Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That ladies and gentlemen is what happens when you have an administration that`s committed to making a program work. And today. Today, the Biden-Harris administration is going even further by moving to fix a glitch in the regulations that will lower premiums for nearly 1 million people who need it and allow 200,000 more uninsured Americans get access to coverage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Let`s welcome Robert Gibbs, former campaign senior advisor and White House press secretary under President Obama. Robert, I watched you smile while we saw President Obama speaking people fired up when they see him there talking about the Affordable Care Act, the huge achievement that it was.

[23:50:09]

But does Obama`s presence alongside President Biden translate into votes? The midterms around the corner?

ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I certainly think it helps with certain voters, it helps with Democrats who are reminded of the things that each of these to accomplish during eight years of the Obama Biden administration.

And I think, look, today`s event is important, as you talked about, this is about reducing health care costs for Americans. That`s top of mind for every voter right now, in this country, it`s the leading issue. And every day, this White House and President Biden are talking about reducing costs on American families is a day they`re talking about an issue that`s top of mind for voters.

RUHLE: Money is always top of mind. So just think about this. We`ve got unemployment at 3.6 percent and dropping. The cruise industry just had its best week ever. We`ve got a White House housing -- white hot housing market, yet consumer sentiment today is as low as it was in 2009, after the financial crisis.

So clearly, inflation woes seem to be the only thing on our money minds. So what does Biden do? He`s got a lot of good facts, but not many good feelings. How does he solve for it?

GIBBS: Right. Well, Stephanie, I think like we faced in 2009, and 2010, you can`t Jawbone your way into people feeling better, you`re not going to dazzle them with statistics. But I do think continuing to do things that show action and cutting costs.

Just last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill to cap the price of insulin on prescription drugs, garnering even a dozen Republican votes. I think it`s things like that working on gas prices, trying to keep them low, cost of living kitchen table issues, doing not just telling, I think is what is going to get this White House back on track seven months before an election.

RUHLE: Obama also -- President Obama also weighed in on the midterms today, and I want to share what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, what do you say to Democrats worried about the midterms? What do you tell the Democrats worried about the midterms?

OBAMA: We got a story to tell, just got to tell it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: So there you go. Your point, if you`ve got a story to tell, tell it where should he do that, for example, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that`s now law. We don`t talk about it much. And it was huge.

GIBBS: Yes, I think there`s no doubt. I think, you know, I think you`d like to see President Biden out on the road talking a lot about these issues, highlighting where that money is going to rebuild roads and bridges to make infrastructure better. Again, how do we get into -- how to Democrats get into a fight on Capitol Hill about making prescription drugs more affordable, making college more affordable, making gas prices more affordable, all of those things.

I think is a contrast that this White House and Democrats are going to have to put in front of the American people if they`re going to be successful. If not, they`re going to drive by, they`re going to see gas prices, they`re going to see the receipts at the grocery store, and they`re going to be reminded that things are more expensive. So I think it really is not just about telling it`s doing, it`s showing, it`s that action.

RUHLE: Well, former President Obama was also sort of joking, but reminding us sort of America loves regular Joe joking about ice cream and aviators. But can President Biden tap into that regular Joe brand, when right now he`s a wartime president?

GIBBS: Yes, it`s certainly difficult. And I think his travel outside of Washington is likely been curtailed in a whole lot of meetings in the Situation Room and discussions with foreign leaders. But I think as we get closer to this election, and I think even now, as much as the president can get out as much as he can bring that sort of plain spoken, you know, sort of Pennsylvania Joe to the American people, I think those are his best days. I think when he`s empathetic, when he understands the plight of Americans and talks about the plan. He has to deal with it. That`s when it feels good.

RUHLE: Scranton, Pennsylvania, his hometown. Robert Gibbs, always great to have you here. I appreciate you joining us.

Coming up, another Republican led state approves in your total abortion ban ahead of a key Supreme Court decision. This matters. And we are all over it when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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[23:58:50]

RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, reproductive rights in a last minute addition to the agenda with little discussion and no debate. The Oklahoma House voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation making performing an abortion illegal abortion rights supporters went to the state capitol to protest.

Under the bill those who perform abortions could face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. It is a near total ban on abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman in in medical emergency, and has already passed the state Senate and is expected to be signed by Republican governor Kevin Stitt.

Reproductive rights had been under attack in Republican led states across the country ahead of the Supreme Court`s coming reconsideration of the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision.

The State of Colorado however, has taken action on the other side to guarantee the right to an abortion and other reproductive rights. Democratic governor Jared Polis said this at the signing of the Reproductive health Equality Act yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JARED POLIS (D) COLORADO: This bill codifies a person`s right to make reproductive health care decisions free from government interference. In the state of Colorado, the very serious decision to start a pregnancy or to end a pregnancy with medical assistance remains between a person, their doctor and their faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: This matters, a decision from the Supreme Court on the future of Roe vs. Wade is expected this summer, America will be watching.

And on that very serious 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 you at the end of tomorrow.