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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 4/6/22

Guests: Eric Schmitt, Jeremy Bash, Julia Friedlander, Jackie Alemany, Melissa Murray, Heidi Levine


Ukraine: Russia escalating attacks in the east. New images of Russian atrocities in Ukraine. Russia is trying hide evidence war crimes. U.S. to ratchet up pain for Putin. Garland warns Russian oligarchs and hackers the DOJ will find you. Bucha massacre will not be forgotten. House votes to refer two Trump aides for contempt of Congress.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The abuse committed against women, against children. It`s horrific, and there has to be accountability for it.

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

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, absolute horror, Mariupol`s mayor say 5000 civilians have been killed in his city, hundreds of them children. As we get new images of the country, we`re live across Ukraine. And the U.S. hits Russia with another round of economic sanctions, this time targeting Putin`s adult daughters and blocking Russian banks.

Plus, the House asks the DOJ to criminally prosecute two more former Trump aides for defying subpoenas as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Wednesday night.

Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. Russia`s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is now entering day 43. Officials there warn that Moscow appears to be escalating attacks in eastern Ukraine as strikes on the port city of Mariupol continue. The mayor there says over 5000 civilians have been killed, including at least 210 children. More than 100,000 residents are still trapped there. And the Red Cross now suspending ongoing efforts to even try to enter the city. A senior U.S. defense official says there are no Russian forces around Kyiv, but warns that the city is still under threat.

Meanwhile, we are learning more about Russia`s brutal massacre just outside Kyiv. NBC`s Richard Engel is in Ukraine with the latest. And again we warn you the images you`re about to see are disturbing.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their destroyed tanks are all that remains of Russia`s occupation of the town of Borodyanka outside Kyiv. And the holes in the skyline. Yawning gaps in rows of apartment buildings.

Today, Ukrainian rescue workers weren`t digging for survivors here. They were trying to recover bodies. Local officials believe hundreds of civilians many of them women and children were hiding in shelters beneath these buildings in tomb under the remains of their homes.

Residents today came back to salvage mostly memories. Photos, glass can be saved. In nearby Bucha, Russian troops killed civilians up close shooting people in the head. In Borodyanka, most were killed by airstrikes. But as many or perhaps more civilians died here deliberately attacking civilians is a war crime unless Russia can somehow prove these were military targets.


RUHLE: President Zelenskyy accusing Russia of now trying to hide evidence of potential war crimes. As Russia claims that what happened in Bucha, what you just saw on your screen, Russia`s claiming it was faked.

The U.S. responded today with new sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow, including banning new investment in Russia. Putin`s two adult daughters were also sanctions, along with other Russian elites. President Biden leaving no doubt about where his administration stands.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: There`s nothing less happening than major war crimes. We`re going to keep raising the economic cost and ratchet up the pain for Putin and further increased Russia`s economic isolation. Steps, we`ve already taken, are predicted to shrink Russia`s gross domestic product by double digits this year alone, just in one year our sanctions are lucky to wipe out the last 15 years of Russia`s economic gains.


RUHLE: It comes as the Justice Department stopped a cyberattack by Russia and charged the Russian oligarch with violating sanctions.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It does not matter how far you sail your yacht. It does not matter how well you conceal your assets. It does not matter how cleverly you write your malware, or hide your online activity. The Justice Department will use every available tool to find you.


RUHLE: The Attorney General also says U.S. prosecutors are working with investigators to gather evidence of Russian atrocities across Ukraine. Secretary of State Blinken told our own colleague Andrea Mitchell, that the U.S. is committed to finding those responsible.


BLINKEN: The wheels of accountability can move slowly, but they move, and someday, someway, somewhere, those who committed these crimes and those who ordered the crimes will be held accountable. But it takes time, and part of this is building the case, part of this is, which we`re doing and others are doing.



RUHLE: Unfortunately, Ukrainians don`t have time. I want to bring in my dear friend and colleague Ali Velshi back with us from Lviv. Ali, talk to us, because we`re hearing that Russia is now focused on eastern Ukraine. What do you know about that?

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Yeah. Well, there is speculation that sometime within the next three to four days, they will do what they have been saying they were doing. So if you remember, when they were in Istanbul, negotiating with the Ukrainians, there was some talk of pulling out of Kyiv and the neighboring areas, as a show of trust, and a lot of Intel expert says got nothing to do with trust. It`s the fact they were bogged down. They`re not getting anywhere in around Kyiv. So they`re pulling out, regrouping and trying to figure out what to do.

And they`re reverting to their original goal, which was eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. So there`s a sense that there`s going to be an increased offensive in those areas. Sometime in the next two to three days. Now, we`ve been seeing remarkable images when we can get them out of Mariupol and places like that at one wonders how much more damage can you do, but there is actually more damage to be done.

Those areas are without heat, there without water, there without supply chain, there without food. I did speak to a city council member from Mariupol, who said he thinks that the Russians are actually supplying both a way out and food and supplies to people who are Russian or who have implied that they would be OK with resettling in Russia. But if you are identifying as Ukrainian, they`re not letting you out. And as you reported, the Red Cross is abandoning efforts to even try to get back in there. So we`ve got the Red Cross, we`ve got doctors with that borders, and certain other groups who are saying we can`t even get in. Doctors with our borders, they took fire while trying to help out.

So there`s some sense that something more is coming. And then the second part of that is, as we`ve seen what`s happened in Borodyanka, or in Bucha, when we`ve gone in, and the media has been able to go in and see the damage. It`s much worse, the deaths are far greater than what we expected. And you talked about a number, the mayor saying maybe 5000 dead in Mariupol. And again, the city council I talked to said could be worse than that, it could be, they think that there are Russians taking mobile crematoriums and burning the bodies of people so that there isn`t evidence of these war crimes, because as the Russians pull out of a place, everybody moves in with their cameras to document and their recorders to interview people. So as much as it seems to our viewers, sometimes this can`t get much worse. It looks like it could get worse in eastern Ukraine in the coming days.

RUHLE: Then let`s talk about that. If there`s this feeling that things are getting worse, if Russian troops are regrouping, what are Ukrainian forces doing?

VELSHI: Well, look, Ukrainian forces are emboldened, right. They`ve had what appear to be some remarkable victories, either real victories where they forced out the Russians or places where the Russians are bogged down out of fuel, out of food, unmotivated, not quite sure what they`re doing and have orders to back out. So there`s one sense that there`s just not a battlefield commander here. There`s not somebody in Russia on the Russian side who`s got sort of battlefield genius and some sense of what things are on the ground. The Ukrainians have that. They continue to recruit more people keep on joining the Ukrainian Armed Forces, more civilians are joining the Civil Defense, and they`re getting more weaponry with each passing day. So for the moment, it`s exhausting, it`s depressing, but they`re not demoralized. Ukrainian forces seem ready to continue this fight. The fear of course, Steph is that some people are saying this is not a matter of weeks or months, it might be substantially longer.

RUHLE: Extraordinary resilience. Ali Velshi, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

With that I want to bring in this evening`s experts, Eric Schmitt, a Senior Writer for the New York Times covering terrorism and national security, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Putin. Jeremy Bash joins us, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon and Julia Friedlander, she was a Senior Policy Advisor for Europe at the Treasury Department where she focused specifically on sanctions. Now, she`s the Deputy Director for The Atlantic Council.

Eric, talked to us about the status of Russia`s focused on the east. And what`s the Ukrainian government telling civilians there to do?

ERIC SCHMITT, THE NEW YORK TIMES SENIOR WRITER COVERING TERRORISM: Well, as Ali said in his report, just now you see a group, many of the Russian forces that were north of Kyiv, as many as 40,000 have basically fallen back into Russia and to Belarus to rearm and regroup there. It`s unclear when they may move out again, but the Pentagon believes there`s a good chance they`ll move into the East because of that, and because of the threat of a major offensive by Russia there. Ukrainian officials are telling people in the east, it`s time to get out. It`s time to flee the kind of destruction and mayhem the Russians have been inflicting there that you`ve seen in some of these other reports. So it`s -- everybody`s kind of gearing up for a major battle in the next whether it`s in the next several days or next few weeks but U.S. officials believe it`s coming soon.


RUHLE: And the question will be, is Ukraine ready?

Jeremy, President Biden has been criticized for not getting the right type of military assistance there and not getting it there fast enough, but I want to share what he said. And the Secretary of State said about all of this earlier today.


BIDEN: Just today, I signed another package to send more javelin missiles, those shoulder mounted missiles that can take out tanks and armored vehicle. Advanced weapons and ammunition are flowing in every single day.

BLINKEN: Between the United States and other allies and partners, for every Russian tank in Ukraine, we have provided or will soon provide 10 anti-tank systems, 10 for every single Russian tank.


RUHLE: How do you think the administration is doing, Jeremy, at getting this aid out? And how critical are weapons like javelins?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER, CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, there`s been $1.65 billion worth of military assistance that have gone to the Ukrainians. This is the largest indirect war that the United States has ever fought. And we`re not only fighting it alone, we`re fighting it alongside at least 30 countries in NATO and other countries like Australia and countries from around the world who are supporting the Ukrainians.

More advanced systems are going in including surface to air missiles. The Puma unmanned aerial system, which is basically a drone you hand launch has been going in. Courtney Kube had a report earlier tonight on this network about the switchblade drones that are going in. And not only is the equipment going, but we`re also training Ukrainian servicemembers outside of Ukraine here in the United States and elsewhere, potentially in Europe.

So, this unprecedented indirect military campaign by the United States has absolutely changed the battlefield geometry. It`s assisted the Ukrainians in rolling back the Russian aggression, and this light infantry effort by the Ukrainians to attack rear guard against the mechanized armored by the Ukraine -- by the Russians has forced the Russians to absolutely abandon Plan A. Plan A was to take the cities and decapitate the central government, that plan is out the window. And now they`re falling back to try to retain what they started before they launched this latest onslaught in the east.

RUHLE: Julia, I want to talk about sanctions, because I understand why sanctions are imposed in phases, especially on things like oil and gas, given Europe`s dependency. But to sanction Putin`s daughters today, what in the world took them so long by now? I think it`s safe to say those two girls, they cleared out their Charles Schwab accounts.

JULIA FRIEDLANDER, SENIOR FELLOW & DIRECTOR ATLANTIC COUNCIL: That`s possible. Thanks for having me. I think again, as you say, ramping up the pressure is important for sanctions policy. You have to reserve measures to use in the future and many believe that whose daughters are, as you say, conduits for money laundering and for Putin`s assets.

RUHLE: Yeah, so why wouldn`t you sanction them day one, if the whole idea is hit Putin where it hurts? I think his daughters would be that. This is why many people feel like, what are you doing? Why is it taking so long?

FRIEDLANDER: Yeah. I mean, I think it`s a question of, firstly, when after Putin, that was normal sanctions parlance, that`s a signal of regime change. And going after the family is actually considered an escalation, because you`re going after the assets abroad. And how close it gets to the heart of those individuals. That`s also why you saw Lavrov`s children also the exemption.

RUHLE: So what do we have left in terms of economic pressure? What haven`t we done?

FRIEDLANDER: What haven`t we done? I mean, if you`re focused on the one thing, which is energy, but that`s up to the Europeans, and I think the Biden administration is very right to understand that this is a key aspect of their economy, and how much it would hurt. One thing that the U.S. really has to consider is whether to employ secondary sanctions. And that`s when you sanction third parties who work with sanctioned entities. So that means is the U.S. going to consider sanctioning India or Russia -- or China for .

RUHLE: Now that --


RUHLE: -- would be interesting. Eric, I found something fascinating today. The Pentagon now training Ukrainian soldiers here in the United States to use specific weapons to attack Russian tanks. Can you explain this?

SCHMITT: Yeah, so what happened here is you had -- the Pentagon was already sending several 100 drug, switchblade drones. These are basically drones that come in a backpack, and you can do called Kamikaze drones. They`re basically strike armored vehicles, tanks, those kind of things. It turns out there were about a dozen Ukrainian soldiers here in the United States, well, before the invasion started in February, who are here on an educational assignment.

The Pentagon decided they were sending these switchblade drones over to Ukraine anyway, so why not train up these guys on how to use them. John Kirby, the Pentagon`s Chief Spokesman said today it takes about two days to train them. So they`re being trained at a U.S. military base in the south, on how to use these. They`ll be used as a cadre basically to help train their fellow soldiers over there. So when these switchblade drones arrived, and they`re going to be arriving the next several days and more on the way, the Ukrainian soldiers who will be able to use them much more effectively.

RUHLE: Jeremy, you saw Secretary of State Blinken talking Andrea Mitchell about war crimes and consequences and these things take time, what needs to happen to convict Putin of war crimes?


BASH: Oh, there`s a whole international war crimes tribunal process. I mean, in essence, it`s going to be litigation that`s going to play out over many years with people gathering evidence and prosecutors pulling together cases and trying to go after Putin personally.

But what I think is interesting and interesting development is that the Russians made a demand in Istanbul that if they were going to withdraw their forces, they wanted three things. They wanted sanctions relief, they wanted the ability to retain their forces in the East and the Donbass region. And third is they wanted the international community to call off and the calls for war crime prosecutions.

Well, obviously, in light of Bucha, in light of what we`ve seen, around the country, the war crimes have unfolded. I think that deal is never coming back. There`s no way the international community is going to give up on this issue. And so Russia`s efforts for that peaceful on ramp are effectively dead tonight.

RUHLE: So then, let`s say he gets convicted, even if it takes years, what would the punishment look like?

BASH: Well, I mean, if he can escape jurisdiction by staying in Russia, not much, but obviously he would be unable to travel and unable to go anywhere. And he would be, you know, person totally isolated. He can control billions of dollars, but he would have very little ability to deploy it. But of course, if he were to be actually physically grabbed, like a Milosevic would have been, was grabbed. And he could be brought to the Hague for war crimes tribunal, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

RUHLE: That would be noteworthy. Julia, I want to go back to sanctions in oil and gas, what if Europe made the decision, will suffer the economic pain, and they truly cut Russia off? Because right now, Russia is still getting billions of dollars every day for their precious oil and gas? What would it look like if they got cut off?

FRIEDLANDER: Well, I think we would see an immediate reduction in Russia`s account. Now, Russia entered this crisis in a very good fiscal position. Again, they`ve been doing a lot of things to protect themselves from U.S. sanctions after 2014. And so --

RUHLE: Very good ish, it`s still a very small economy when you think about it?

FRIEDLANDER: Well, it`s the 11th largest economy in the world.

RUHLE: Yes, but they think they`re our peer 11th and number one, number two, that`s a far reach.

FRIEDLANDER: Right, but they have a very key live port of leverage over oil and gas markets. And not only over Europe, but on the global price. I mean, the oil is a globally traded commodity. So you cut Russian oil off of the market, it`s more costly for the United States. It`s more costly for the developing world. So again, it`s a question right now the policymakers need to make is that do we need to force Russia into a default in order to force them back to a mythic negotiating table? I think my colleague here has clearly said that that`s further off now than we thought. But do we need to essentially fully destroy the Russian economy in order to empower the Ukrainian forces? That`s a question that no one really has an answer to.

RUHLE: Well, the ruble has already recovered. What does that tell us?

FRIEDLANDER: That`s capital controls. The Russians are very good. Their central banker is a real expert, you should give her a lot of credit for what she`s dealing with right now. I mean, they`re using domestic dollars, and did the denomination of export revenues, converting them to rubles, and using them to prop up the ruble. But again, that can`t last forever, because again, it has major inflationary pressure. And so the Russians are still on buying a bond on bought time. And again, the measures that the Biden ministration put today in order to prohibit Russia from repaying its debt in dollars, makes it very close. That they are really on the edge of a sovereign default.

RUHLE: Eric, Jeremy, I have bad news for both of you, Julia wins the smartest guest tonight. Thank you both for joining. I appreciate it. We`re going to leave it there.

Coming up, Liz Cheney calls out Donald Trump`s, "frivolous election fraud claims," as the House votes on contempt charges for his former aides. But will there actually be consequences?

And later, what one district attorney called the biggest fleecing of America, we will ever see. How scammers claimed billions and billions in bogus COVID unemployment benefits that was meant to help people who are out of work during a once in a lifetime pandemic. Man, THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Wednesday night.




REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D) MARYLAND HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6: If 90% of success in life, is just showing up, then 90% of acting in contempt of Congress is not showing up. The rest of contempt is not turning over documents you have been ordered to produce an acting with open disregard and scorn for the rule of law, Congress and representatives of the American people.

REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: The election claims made by Donald Trump were so frivolous, and so unfounded that the President`s lead lawyer did not just lose these cases, he lost his license to practice law.


RUHLE: Just moments after we heard from members of the January 6 committee, the House voted to refer former Trump aides Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress. The only Republicans to vote in favor are representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who of course are both on the committee.


Now, the question is, what will the DOJ do with that criminal referral? So let`s discuss, and bring in NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray, she worked as a law clerk for Sonia Sotomayor on the federal bench before her nomination to the Supreme Court and Jackie Alemany, Congressional Investigations Reporter for The Washington Post.

Jackie, the DOJ has not acted on house`s criminal contempt, referral from Mark Meadows, any reason to think we`re going to see real action with Navarro and Scavino?

JACKIE ALEMANY, THE WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, Steph, thanks for having me on tonight. That is a question that everyone is wondering right now, especially the lawmakers on the January 6, committee investigating the attack on the Capitol who realize that they`re taking a little bit of a gamble here as these contempt referrals are piling up.

There`s former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows now Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro, all of which have yet to be decided on by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who will have to say whether or not the Justice Department will ultimately decide to prosecute these cases. But we -- my colleague, and I took a look back at some former legal opinions that were issued by the Justice Department today, many of which actually sided against the committee and said that Congress ultimately does not have the power to force and compel the testimony of the President`s top aides. But what you saw today was people like Liz Cheney, and Adam Schiff remotely and others make the argument that the Justice Department is compelled to do so. And that is a clear cut case. So it`s something that we`re going to be watching closely even though we have reported the Justice Department is currently stonewalling the committee when they have asked for some guidance here.

RUHLE: Melissa, explain this one to us. Steve Bannon has been charged by the DOJ with contempt of Congress. But now, a federal judge ruled that he cannot argue that he`s not guilty, because he was following the advice of his lawyer. Why is that significant?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: So I think this is significant. And again, it shadows these other cases of potential contempt prosecutions that Jackie is talking about, because Steve Bannon has essentially said it`s a defense that he was following the advice of his lawyer who advised him that because of executive privilege, he was not compelled to provide testimony to the January 6 Special Committee. That of course, led to a charge of contempt of Congress, which was referred to the DOJ, which that has begun a prosecution.

One of the things that separates the Bannon case from some of these other cases that it`s unclear whether Bannon would actually count as an advisor to the president who would be covered by executive privilege during this period while he was doing this work in the January 6 efforts. So that`s one significant thing. But again, the fact that Bannon no longer has a defense, according to this district court judge means that he`s either going to have to go to trial and put on a defense or he`s going to have to plead guilty. And this of course, is a charge that carries up to a fine of $100,000 or a year in prison.

RUHLE: Jackie, your colleague Josh Dawsey reports, the Trump and all of his old cronies reunited at Mar-a-Lago yesterday to relate (ph) the 2020 election. They repeated the big lie, they all sat around, drinking, will Trump wasn`t drinking wine, but drinking Trump wine and eating shrimp cocktail sort of vintage Trump administration. If there are not consequences for any of these people for defying congressional subpoenas, then what?

ALEMANY: Yeah, it was pretty remarkable to read about Peter Navarro palling around Mar-a-Lago last night, like nothing has happened in the year and a half since the insurrection. And it`s clear that the former President himself has been hardly chastened by a lot of the conversation about potential criminal liability that has been swirling around. But I highly recommend that you that everyone go ahead and read, my colleague, Josh Dawsey`s dispatched from Mar-a-Lago last night where the President doubled down on his claims that have been disproven over and over again that the election was rigged. And I think that scenes like this, the more and more they`re highlighted, the likely are you`re going to hear outcry from the January six committee to maybe push a little bit harder to make that criminal referral. While it doesn`t have any actual legal bearing, it does carry some political weight to the Department of Justice. And maybe that could potentially influence the Justice Department going forward as well, although they have tried very hard to remain as apolitical as possible and really adhere to the firewall between the politics of the January 6 investigation that has separates them from the committee.

RUHLE: Do you think any of this will influence the DOJ, Melissa? I mean, when you look at these people, yucking it up, no sense of fear whatsoever. Does the DOJ think about the danger of no consequences?


MURRAY: I`m sure they`re thinking about it. May also be the case that they`re thinking that being forced to drink Trump wine is punishment enough by itself, but they certainly have to be thinking about all of this and the optics of it and what it looks like for the American people. And again, the DOJ has been prosecuting many of the individuals who are involved in the January 6 insurrection a lot of these are low level individuals. So a lot of these are property crime infringements, trespassing invading Congress.

But the real question is, how far up does it go? Where do you get to the head of this snake? And that is the real question. I think that`s what everyone is looking at. So of course, the DOJ is thinking about it, because this looks like a flagrant disregard of the rule of law.

RUHLE: Switching topics. The Senate appears to be ready to vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court tomorrow. And I want to play what Republican Senator Tom Cotton is now saying.


SEN. TOM COTTON, (R) ARKANSAS JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The last Judge Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and prosecute the case against the Nazis. This Judge Jackson might have gone there to defend them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t think it was a bridge too far to make the link with Nuremberg and Nazis?

COTTON: No, John, again, in three separate cases, she was representing not American citizens charged with a crime entitled to due process in our Constitution, foreign terrorists.


RUHLE: This is a man who graduated from Harvard in three years. What`s your reaction to what he said, Melissa?

MURRAY: Again, the defense of indigent defendants is a cornerstone of the rule of law and the Anglo-American legal system. Judge Jackson in her role as a Federal Public Defender and as a lawyer in private practice providing pro bono defense to indigent clients was upholding that constitutional commitment that is embedded in the sixth amendment`s guarantee of the right to counsel. So again, to equate this with Nazis -- Nazism genocide, Nuremberg, is really a bridge too far. And I think Senator Cotton probably knows that I`m certainly he knows that if he attended Harvard Law School, or any law school because this is basic stuff that we teach our one else students, everyone knows who goes to law school that the Sixth Amendment is a cornerstone of our constitutional system.

RUHLE: All right, ladies, before we go quick lightning round because I can`t get it out of my mind, Melissa to you first. I`m looking in the upper right hand behind you. Is that a giant picture of Meghan Markle, and I also want to know on your pineapple pillow, what does it say?

MURRAY: So, I think the pineapple pillow is a room raider pillow. And yes, that is a giant head of Meghan Markle.

RUHLE: That`s fantastic. And to Jackie, you know, the question coming, I`m going to need you to turn around and open up the cupcake giant cookie jar. I need to know what`s in it. Every time I see you on television. I want to know what`s in it. And tonight, you`re about to reveal it. Let`s go what is in there?

ALEMANY: It`s very subversive. It`s a cookie jar. And actually we come bearing a joke tonight, which is what is a kitchen island that is not populated by cupcakes, deserted?

RUHLE: Oh my god, you just ended with a dad joke. You just ended this segment with a dad joke. And I`m going to have to end -- as my children would say, you are done. You are done. Jackie Alemany, Melissa Murray, she just gave us a dad joke. Oh, my goodness.

All right. Coming up, scammers stole billions, billions of dollars in pandemic unemployment insurance. The fleecing of America when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



RUHLE: Tonight as part of the NBC News relaunch of the series The Fleecing of America, we take a closer look at how many people took advantage of the billions of dollars meant to help Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Tom Costello has more on the shocking amount of unemployment fraud that took place over the last two years.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Pennsylvania, a horrific case of identity theft caught on camera in a restroom. Prosecutors say a caretaker for intellectually disabled people store their identities and file more than $100,000 in fake unemployment assistance claims. He has not entered a plea.

In California a hospital worker allegedly stole the identities of dying patients for a fraud ring. This guy died a few hours ago. How many names do we need? He texted a co-conspirator. And it`s happening in every city and state, crooks stealing billions in pandemic related state unemployment benefits.

ANNE MARIE SCHUBERT, SACRAMENTO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Claims being made in the names of inmates, Death Row people, dead people, fake people.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Sacramento District Attorney, Anne Marie Schubert.

(On camera): Is this a fleecing of America?

SCHUBERT: It`s the biggest fleecing of America I think we`ll ever see.

COSTELLO (voice-over): And Sacramento is in the middle of it. Unemployment Insurance Fraud is happening across the country. But California is ground zero with an estimated 20 to $30 billion in fraud in just two years. That`s equal to almost 10% of what California state agencies spent last year stolen. Who`s behind it? Everyday Americans and criminals even overseas crime syndicates, cashing in on pandemic unemployment assistance. Many filing obviously fake claims using aliases like Minnie Mouse, Poopy Britches and John Doe. But the state`s ill equipped to audit the millions of pandemic claims we`re also under pressure to issue the checks to prevent mass unemployment and poverty.


Tens of thousands of California prison inmates names were used to file claims and send those checks to addresses nationwide.

JON COSS, PONDERA SOLUTIONS: Any one of these houses could be a drop spot.

COSTELLO: And you`d never know?

COSS: You never know.

COSTELLO: Jon Coss` software is used to uncover this kind of fraud. He says the total losses are much higher than most states are willing to admit.

COSS: I can tell you that in some states, we saw as many as three out of four applications for some of the federal programs were very likely fraud.


COSS: 75% in certain states really astounding numbers.

COSTELLO: Many claims are filed under stolen identities yours and mine for sale on the dark web. Security veteran Derek Benner (ph) took us inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This person is selling 8000 passports, seven bucks each. And they contain personal information such as social security numbers and dates of birth.

COSTELLO: Some criminals file 1000s of bogus claims simultaneously, the web`s spreading across the country the problem, most states don`t share insurance claim or fraud information with each other. NBC News asked all 50 states how much they`d lost to fraud and how many Americans have been affected? Most didn`t know or wouldn`t say. But Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber was candid. His own stolen identity was used in a fraud scheme.

KEITH FABER, OHIO STATE AUDITOR: We found systemic failures at all levels. We found that the system did not have the proper controls to avoid fraud and overpayments. We think the total number now is over $5 billion in loss.

COSTELLO: We`re going to have to fix this problem, unless America is willing to accept that we`re going to literally send hundreds of billions of dollars to criminals.

(Voice-over): And police, State Street criminals have found easy money and filing fake claims helping to fuel the surge in drugs, guns and violence.

(On camera): A lot of people may think that, you know, unemployment insurance fraud is kind of a victimless crime. You`re just taking money from the government.

SCHUBERT: Well ask anybody on the other side of a handgun, particularly or an automatic weapon or an AR-15 that`s been purchased with unemployment, insurance fraud, ask them that that`s a victimless crime. Ask anybody whose child was found dead in the room because of fentanyl poisoning. When we put astronomical amounts of money into the hands of criminal, this is not a victimless crime.

COSTELLO (on camera): You know, we`ve heard a lot about pandemic fraud, but it`s the unemployment insurance fraud that has exploded since the start of the pandemic when 10s of millions of Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Criminals saw an opportunity and they moved into Cashin, but let`s be clear, this is our money they`ve been taking and we`ll probably never get most of it back.


RUHLE: Hearing the words Poopy Britches said on television would normally crack me up. But this is so disturbing. He can`t even crack a smile. What kind of people do this? Absolute sickos.

Our coverage of the Fleecing of America will continue tomorrow with White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator, Gene Sperling. No doubt we`ve got questions.

Also tonight, a man has been convicted on charges including sex trafficking, and forced labor after moving into his daughter`s on campus dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College back in 2010. According to the indictment, 62-year-old Lawrence Ray allegedly began therapy sessions with some of the students pressuring and extorting hundreds of 1000s of dollars from these undergrads.

Prosecutor said he psychologically manipulated his victims, accusing them of damaging his property and poisoning them -- poisoning him. One woman testified she became a sex worker to try to pay for reparations to which -- to Ray which over four years totaled $2.5 million.

This game lasted almost 10 years. He was found guilty today of all 15 Federal counts against him. He`s set to be sentenced in September. He faces life in prison.

Coming up, a witness to war, will speak to a photographer who is in Bucha documenting the atrocities and destruction from Russia when THE 11TH HOUR continues.




DARYNA VOLOSHYNA, IRPIN EVACUEE: I do believe there could be more. They can help us more, much more than that because they have seen all this photos and videos from Bucha and Irpin and the suburbs and they`re still not doing enough.


RUHLE: Evacuees from Irpin and nearby Bucha are begging for more assistance from the West as more videos and photos are emerging of the horror inflicted by Russian forces. So let`s bring in Heidi Levine, Photojournalist for The Washington Post. She joins us live from Kyiv.

Heidi, your latest photos out of Bucha are really difficult to look at. But how important is it for the world to really see what`s happening?

HEIDI LEVINE, THE WASHINGTON POST, PHOTOJOURNALIST IN UKRAINE: Think -- first of all, I really believe that my photographs and our reporting is showing on our darkest -- one of our darkest periods in history. And are -- my photographs are documents, historical documents that I hope will be used in war crimes tribunal.


RUHLE: I need to warn viewers of the very, very graphic nature of this particular photo you took in Bucha of volunteers that were collecting bodies. Can you tell us more about what you witnessed?

LEVINE: Well, I saw the corpses of eight males, you could see that some of the men had had their hands tied behind their backs, you could see gunshot wounds at close range. There were eight corpses in this particular area behind the building. And there was no doubt that the men had been executed.

RUHLE: I know you also took photos of Ukrainian soldiers with destroyed Russian tanks. How did even minor victories like that impact the feeling on the ground when everything else around them was just so devastating?

LEVINE: Well, there were civilians that were finally coming out for the first time because they felt safe. I mean, you have to bear in mind that these people had been living underground in total fear. And, you know, the image shows how many -- how much Russian military was on this one particular street where you can see in my photograph. I spoke with one woman, her name was Farah (ph) who said that her son had counted 75 military vehicles on that street. And I mean, people were in shock. They were emotional, they were crying, but there was also a sign of relief that they could finally get out, and that they could leave and be brought to safety.

RUHLE: What is this been like for you? You have been a photojournalist for years and years, explain this experience, how it`s impacting you as a photojournalist?

LEVINE: I think not just for me, but all of the media, all of my colleagues that I meet on the ground, I mean, I`ve been doing this for over three decades. And it is really difficult. I mean, at the moment, I feel like I`m actually like an investigative photojournalist trying to uncover the crime scenes, and find out exactly what happened. And it`s important, and that`s what really gets keeps me going. I really feel that my work is a mission. And people need to know what`s happening to the people here in Ukraine.

RUHLE: And we`re grateful for your work. Heidi, thank you so much for all that you do. I appreciate you joining us tonight.

LEVINE: Thank you for having me. And I want to also thank all the people here in Ukraine that have allowed me to document their stories.

RUHLE: Heidi Levine of The Washington Post, thank you.

Coming up, top oil executives get grilled on Capitol Hill on high gas prices. Democrats put the pressure on, Republicans not so much when THE 11TH HOUR continues.




REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) COLORADO SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Americans today are facing extraordinarily high gas prices at the pump. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline one year ago was under $3. Today, the average is over $4 a gallon. And in some places, it`s nearly $6 a gallon. These prices are straining our constituents budgets and their patience.


RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight pain at the pump. Some of America`s top oil executives were brought, you saw that, before a House subcommittee today to get a grilling from lawmakers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the price of oil coming down. But the price at the pump is still near record highs?

REP. FRANK PALLONE, (D) NEW JERSEY: The American people are getting ripped off as these companies choose to keep production lows so that their own profits stay high.

REP. KATHY CASTOR, (D) FLORIDA: It`s time for the big oil companies to lower prices rather than pad your bottom line.

REP. KIM SCHRIER, (D) WASHINGTON: It feels like gouging. It even feels like profiteering.


RUHLE: But you`ll never guess who the Republicans on the committee thought was actually to blame for high gas prices.


REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) LOUISIANA: President Biden walked in day one with an agenda to kill American energy.

REP. MORGAN GRIFFITH, (R) VIRGINIA SUBCOMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Rather than deflect blame President Biden should consider his own culpability.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS, (R) WASHINGTON COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Today is purely political, President Biden needs cover for his war on American energy that has caused gas prices to skyrocket.


RUHLE: This might be a good time to let you know that members of this very subcommittee received a whopping $383,000 from Big Oil. And according to the FEC 97% of that money went to Republicans. So what did the oil executives have to say about the high prices Americans are paying at the pump? They said it`s not their fault.


RICHARD R. MUNCRIEF, PRESIDENT & CEO DEVON ENERGY CORPORATION: We do not set or have significant influence over the price of our products.

DARREN W. WOODS, CEO EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION: No single company sets the price of oil or gasoline. The market establishes the price.

GRETCHEN WATKINS, PRESIDENT, SHELL USA INC.: Shell does not set or control the price of crude oil. Similarly, shell does not set or control the price that consumers pay.


RUHLE: It is true, they do not set the price of oil. And it is also true that during the height of COVID when oil prices dropped, so that their profits but as oil prices have gone up last year, they made more money than they have in eight years. And since the start of this year, they`re expected to make even more.

But here`s what matters, where are they spending all of that money? On buybacks and dividends for shareholders not increasing production. So please note we have invited all of these oil executives that were on to talk about what they can do about gas prices and what they can do about increasing production. So far none have accepted our offer. But they`re all welcome to join. And we`re going to stay on this because we still have questions and we know you do too.

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