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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 4/8/22

Guests: Rick Noack


Deadly missile attack at eastern Ukraine train station where civilians were gathering to escape the Russian bombings. White House celebrated historic SCOTUS confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Pro-Trump rally planner is cooperating in DOJ`s January 6th inquiry. GOP is seemingly testing a new style of politics with the rise of the rhetoric branding opponents as pedophiles or pro-pedophile. The result of the French elections could impact the Western alliance.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And a special good night to Yvonne Smith, the 91 years young mother of our booking producer, Linda Lee Smith, who convinced Ketanji Brown Jackson`s college sisterhood to join us here on this program tonight. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Stephanie Ruhle starts now.


STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight, terror at the train station. Dozens killed in Ukraine when a rocket hit a station filled with evacuees trying to flee the war. With new fears Russia will redouble its attacks.

Plus, a Proud Boys leader pleads guilty to Capitol riot charges, while a Stop the Steal organizer is also reportedly ready to cooperate. What it could all mean for the January 6th investigation?

And the moment centuries in the making. The celebration today at the White House for soon-to-be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

As THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Friday night.


RUHLE: Good evening once again. I am Stephanie Ruhle.

Russia`s war on Ukraine is now entering day 45. And in new even more deadly chapter in this conflict is beginning. And while the images we are about to show you are difficult to see, we have to. They`re the only way to convey the brutality of this war.

Ukrainian officials say this morning a Russian missile strike on a train station full of evacuees in eastern Ukraine killed at least 50 people including five children. At least 100 others were injured. Sky News correspondent John Sparks was on the scene shortly after the strike.


JOHN SPARKS, SKY NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You can see some of the windows have been broken. There are shrapnel holes in the walls. Powerful, powerful blast. And it must have been absolutely terrifying. I mean, there will have been thousands of people at the station. I mean, when we were here, we saw hundreds of people here, on the benches, standing with their bags, waiting for the trains to come.

There would have been people sitting here, waiting, completely unaware of what was about to happen. Again, it`s the same thing. Possessions have been left. I can see fruit, apples, water, stuff that people have brought for the journey, anybody would bring for a long journey. And it is a long journey to Lviv.

There is also blood. There is a small crater here you can see. Probably where the explosives hit.


RUHLE: People just waiting for the train. I want you to look at that image. May be the most chilling image from the aftermath of the strike. If you look closely, you can see on the missile, it said the words, quote, "for the children." That was painted on the side. In Russian.

The Pentagon says it has no doubt Russia carried out this brutal attack.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Our assessment is that this was a Russian strike and that the use of shortrange ballistic missiles to conduct it. It is again a piece of Russian brutality and the prosecution of this war.


RUHLE: Our own Gabe Gutierrez has more from Ukraine.


GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was a chaos right after the gruesome attack. The train station in eastern Ukraine, now the scene of a massacre. This was no military target. The missile strike left behind bodies surrounded by suitcases. A stroller.

What did we do to deserve this, this man says. We`re civilians.

Just yesterday, the train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk had looked like this, packed with thousands of people. Mostly women and children. Refugees heading west, warned by authorities to leave ahead of Russia`s new onslaught expected in the coming days.

Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy calling it evil without limits and renewing his urgent plea for more weapons from the U.S., and its NATO allies.

We are told that we have to wait while we are losing hundreds of people every day from Russian strikes, he says.


RUHLE: Russia denying responsibility for the attack and even claiming that Ukraine bombed its own people to make Moscow look bad. One Ukrainian lawmaker summed up their feeling right now like this.


KIRA RUDIK, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: This is one of the next level of Russian crimes. I cannot even describe in words what we feel here. Especially given that we as government officials advise people to evacuate the eastern regions because we knew that Russians are coming there.


There is nothing right now that is stopping Russia from creating more of this just like in Kramatorsk.


RUHLE: The U.S. has announced that today Patriot missile defense system will be placed in Slovakia which borders western Ukraine. It came after Slovakia said it would give Ukraine a Russian-made air defense system.

Ukraine is still pleading with the West for more advanced weapons. In an interview that will air on Sunday on "60 Minutes," President Zelenskyy described at this point what is at stake for his country.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): We are defending the right to live. I never thought this right was so costly. These are human values. So that Russia doesn`t choose what we should do, and how I am using my rights. That wright was given to me by God and my parents.


RUHLE: Let`s bring in my NBC colleague, Ali Arouzi, live in Lviv.

Ali, what more can you tell us about this train station attack? People literally believed they were on the path to safety.

ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right, Stephanie. They thought they were getting out of an area where the Russians are going to attack them. Heading for safety, and instead, mercilessly attacked by the Russians again. This time by two missiles, one as you said how did children written on it, and these missiles had cluster munitions on them. That means they explode in midair, causing as much death and destruction with shrapnel as possible.

And as you said, 50 people killed, five of them children, and it is taking such a toll on the children in this war. We`ve seen so many of them killed in this war. But that doesn`t seem to stop the Russian war machine from proceeding forward, and relentlessly battering the Ukrainian people. It`s really devastating to see those scenes of suitcases strewn along there, people trying to get to safety, blood all over that place, it`s just heartbreaking. And you just wonder how much more of this the Ukrainian people can take.

RUHLE: And for how long? Because our own military officials have been saying be prepared, this war could be weeks, months, years. Are you hearing that from Ukrainians? How can they go on that long?

AROUZI: Yes. Yes, that`s what you are hearing from the Ukrainians. But. You know, they`re in this for the long haul. They are saying that, you know, they are going to resist the Russian war machine as long as they can because they want to save their people. They want to save their children. They want to save their sovereignty. But it really does make you wonder when civilians are targeted like this, day in, day out, how much more of it they can take.

It really is grinding them down. You talked to regular people here in Lviv, and you just see their expression of sorrow on their face when they hear things like this happening to their brothers and sisters in the east. And, you know, they wonder how much further this will spread in the country, and then it will start affecting these save zones like Lviv. How much longer will Liviv be a sanctuary for people escaping the war-torn eastern parts of this country?

RUHLE: Well, luckily, it is safe tonight where you are, Ali Arouzi. Thank you for joining us.

With that, let`s bring in our experts, Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, and MSNBC international affairs analysts, and Admiral James Stavridis. He`s a 30-year Navy veteran who retired with four stars on his shoulders. He is a former head of the U.S. Southern Command, and former supreme allied commander of NATO.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on this Friday night.

Ambassador, earlier today, I saw on Twitter, you called what Russia is doing terrorism. And you are criticized for it. Can you explain why? For a civilian like me watching this seeing a missile with for the children painted on the side, I don`t know how else you can describe that but terrorism.

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, let me be clear. I have run out of words to try to describe the horrors that Putin`s killing machine is doing inside of Ukraine. Belligerent, barbaric, heinous, criminal, genocidal, terroristic, and just seeing these sites today with, you know, (INAUDIBLE), written there on the side of that rocket, that missile. I run out of words.

And I`m not an international lawyer, I`m not an expert in these things, but I find it hard to understand what is the difference from when organized groups fly airplanes into buildings to kill innocent people, and you fire a missile to kill innocent people at a train station. Maybe there is a legalistic difference, because one is a state actor, and one is not, but they seem pretty terroristic in my eyes.


And what is more tragic is that it is done by design. Putin is doing this by design to try to kill innocent Ukrainians to put pressure on Zelenskyy to capitulate.

RUHLE: And that`s sort of the thing. By design, Admiral. If the new strategy is right out there in the open, a war on civilians, is that Putin saying sure, hit me with war crimes, I doubled there you?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS, MSNBC CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is a man who has used nerve agents to poison his political opponents. He has worked with a war criminal in Bashar al-Assad in Syria to conduct these same kind of terrorist attacks. He has done the same thing in Chechnya. And by the way, Ambassador McFaul is absolutely correct. We`re kind of out of words at this point. We need to move with actions.

That means bringing more offensive capability to the Ukrainians. Give them the tools they will create the no-fly zone. Give them the additional tanks, they will push against the Russians in their nation. Give them the high- altitude anti-air systems, like the S-300 that your team talked about a moment to go. Give them the tools, they will finish the job.

RUHLE: Well I want to share than what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said today sort of about the same topic.


LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET), FORMER DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We are going to see a lot of Buchas. We`re going to see a lot of crematories. We have not even had the full reporting of the things that have unfolded in Mariupol where thousands of people are recorded killed. I think we need to recognize that the U.S. has the ability to help end this conflict.

And if we sit on the sidelines the way we have for the previous six weeks, we are going to see a lot more of this for the coming months.


RUHLE: But are we sitting on the sidelines? I mean, today alone, the U.S. said it was sending a patriot missiles defense system to Slovakia after provided after Slovakia provided an air defense system. I mean one would think those things could --

STAVRIDIS: We are doing anything but sitting on the sidelines. That is a ridiculous comment. The United States has been deeply involved in this. We have sent 17,000 Javelins, enough to take out 10 times over the number of Russian tanks. The U.S. has been intimately involved in this, as have our NATO allies. We are completely involved in this. And I think we will continue to be so. The scenes that we are seeing unfolding will only reinforce that appropriate policy response.

RUHLE: Ambassador, we`re going to leave you with even less words, my colleague Ali Velshi earlier today talked to some young people living in Ukraine. Their parents live in Russia. And their parents are supporting Putin`s invasion. I want to share with you what one young woman said about her own mom.


KRISTINA FRIMOVA, UKRAINIAN RESIDENT WITH PARENTS IN RUSSIA: She lives in Russia, and she watches Russian TV. And she says that she doesn`t believe that Russian troops are here and that they are bombing our cities, and killing our people. She does not know where is the truth.


RUHLE: You know how the Russian propaganda machine works. What do you make of that?

MCFAUL: First, I watched that in real time. And let`s just give our props to Ali. He`s been doing some fantastic reporting.

RUHLE: Sure has.

MCFAUL: And we need that kind of reporting and that`s exactly the kind of reporting that most Russians don`t see. I have students just like that young women. One of them from Russia. Just yesterday was talking about the disagreement she now has with her father in Perm where they literally can`t talk because they see two different kinds of news. And that`s where I think in addition to more weapons faster, like Admiral Stavridis said, in addition to more sanctions faster, every week we put sanctions in place, but every week we have to put more sanctions in place.

And in addition to shoring up our allies, I think we`re doing great on that, I think the weak spot in our strategy is on the communication side. We`re not doing a better job of getting news into Russia, and that`s where I think we have to think creatively. It`s hard, it`s a really hard thing to do, but I think we`ve got to put more effort into that for the long haul. It`s not going to change minds --

RUHLE: But how? But let`s get serious, right? I mean it was only a few weeks ago Putin changed the law that independent journalists will be imprisoned. When you say get creative, how would we do that?

MCFAUL: Subsidize VPNs. Advertise VPNs. They`re not being downloaded as much as they should be. Expand communications on social media platforms so that they can do other kinds of things without getting into things I shouldn`t say beyond what they`re capable of doing.


And third, there are 200,000 refugees, various types, many of them are journalists. Two dozen of them live here in Palo Alto where I live. They don`t have jobs, they don`t know what to do, help them to do their reporting from here, and they will figure out a way to break -- it`s not the Chinese firewall. It`s a much more porous wall. We`re going to help them do the reporting from abroad to penetrate inside Russia.

RUHLE: Admiral, I wanted to see you all week to ask you this question, because Putin -- excuse me, Politico said this about Putin. "The growing concern is that Putin has something the Western alliance lacks, time. The Russian president has the political leeway to tolerate setbacks and absorb a prolonged bloody engagement."

What do you make of that? I mean, he`s gotten soldiers dying right, left, and center. And his economy is crippled. How does he have time and we don`t?

STAVRIDIS: I disagree with the comment. And I`ll go back to economics. He is bleeding out. And you know, General Sherman of our own nation in the civil war said, war is hell.

Stephanie, you`re the economist, war is also expensive. He is spending, spending, spending. His capital stocks are being destroyed. His manpower is being deleted. 15,000 Russians killed. That is twice as many as the U.S. lost in 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of that imposes enormous cost on him. He can do this for two to four months, and then he will run out of capability to move forward.

So I think that the pressure we put on him in the military dimension, the diplomatic dimension, the economic dimension, my good friend Mike McFaul is exactly right, in the information dimension. It`s critical to causing him the pain that will lead him to the conclusion that we have got to come to the negotiating table. We can do this. We just need to stay steady.

RUHLE: Gentlemen, thank you both so, so much for joining us on this Friday night. Two smart guys to spend a Friday night with.

Coming up, another historic day in Washington and for the country. What we heard from the president and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson after her confirmation to the highest court in the land.

And later, why one of our guests says some Republicans are testing a disturbing new style of hate mongering politics.

THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this Friday night.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m honored to officially introduce to you the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ketanji Brown Jackson.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judge Jackson, you will inspire generations of leaders.

JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, NEWLY CONFIRMED SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States. It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. But we`ve made it.



RUHLE: You know you`ve made, the presidents has his aviators on today. The Biden administration celebrating history with Judge Kentucky Brown Jackson, the first black woman to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. The White House released the first official portrait of her. Judge Jackson will take the bench later this summer, when Justice Stephen Breyer officially steps down. Now legal scholars are eager to see what new perspectives she`ll bring to our nation`s highest court.

Back with us tonight to discuss, two of our favorites, Eugene Daniels, White House correspondent for Politico and senior MSNBC contributor, and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former federal and state prosecutor here in New York, she also clerked for Merrick Garland and Justice Sandra Day O`Connor.

Tali, you know Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson well. What are you expecting for when she takes the bench?

TALI FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN, NEW YORK FEDERAL AND STATE PROSECUTOR: Well, I am expecting her to be as she has been on the bench for the last decade plus, which is a moderate, a relatively conventional justice, and I mean that as a total compliment because she has every credential that we wanted her to have, and she went through this hearing and demonstrated the only thing she could which is her temperament and her good judgment, and her brilliance. And all of that is going to carry forward.

RUHLE: President Biden actually talked about what she went through in that confirmation and really spoke about the conduct of some Republicans during the confirmation. I want to share what he said.


BIDEN: I knew the person I nominated would be put through a painful and difficult confirmation process. But I do have to tell you, what Justice Jackson was put through was well beyond that. It was verbal abuse. The anger, the constant interruptions, the most vile, baseless assertions and accusations.



RUHLE: Eugene let`s get real. Senate Republicans knew from day one they had zero chance of stopping this confirmation. Did they just want these hearings to amplify their new universal message of don`t vote woke for the midterms?


RUHLE: Woke which she`s not, by the way.

DANIELS: Right, exactly. They`re moderate like you were saying. You know, these hearings are a lot of theater. And what we saw with Ketanji Brown Jackson was someone who, you know, every black woman I know that has seen this before, people yelling at you, you have to stay calm because had she, you know, lost her temper, had she said something out of line then that would have been what we`ve been talking about for a long time. Republicans have made it very clear that they`re not really looking to work with President Biden on anything and that includes this.

RUHLE: They`d said that crazy woman.

DANIELS: Yes, exactly.

RUHLE: If she defended herself at the same level she had been attacked it would have been her the crazy one.

DANIELS: Exactly. And that was something she knew that she wasn`t going to allow herself to do. Her friends have talked about that publicly just with Lawrence O`Donnell. And I will say, you know, talking to black women in my family all around the country, ever since she was announced is them seeing themselves in that. Even when she said we`ve have made it, right, talking about not just herself being the Supreme Court justice, but all of the black girls who see that. There`ll be black girls born this year who will see a black woman of the Supreme Court for the last time.

RUHLE: There will be black boys who will say that could be my mother. That could be my wife. I want to switch gears, Tali, because -- and talk January 6th. A Proud Boys leader, we learned today, pleaded guilty on charges related to the riots and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. At the same time, in a different case, somebody involved in the Stop the Steal, one of the organizers, he too is cooperating with prosecutors.

What does that tell you about -- not just the whole January 6th investigation, but all of those involved who are not cooperating?

WEINSTEIN: Yes. So cooperation means different things in these two cases. The Proud Boys cooperation I think is really pivotal because that`s traditional cooperation. He has pled guilty to crimes, and when you do that with the Department of Justice you have to tell them everything you`ve ever done. And we see that in statement of facts that the Department of Justice put out today to a company`s guilty. A TikTok of January 6th, him taking him through it. So they`ve broken things over.

It`s obviously terrible news for his co-conspirators who are going to go trial. But I think that this is somebody that they`re really going to be able to use. The other cooperation, from the Stop the Steal is interesting because it tells us something about what the Department of Justice is up to.

RUHLE: OK. This is what we want.


RUHLE: This is usually where I`m leaning in. Yes.

WEINSTEIN: So he`s asserting his innocence. So he is not an insider who`s going to tell us how various crimes occurred, he`s saying I actually didn`t commit any crimes, I was a political organizer. But it`s interesting that he got a criminal subpoena from the Department of Justice about pre- planning. So now we know that they`re not just looking at what happened that day, and crimes that occurred that day, but they are looking at the whole scope of how these various groups got to Washington. And why were they there?

And he has said that I was talking to members of Congress about creating an atmosphere of pressure to I think he said change Republican hearts and minds. So he has given us some insights into what they are looking for now. Are you leaning in?

DANIELS: Yes, I`m still leaning in.

RUHLE: The politics at play here, I mean, is the White House basically just hanging tight, trying to say nothing until we know more?

DANIELS: No, absolutely. They don`t want to get ahead of the DOJ. As soon as President Biden was sworn in, he tried to make clear that there was going to be that separation between him and Merrick Garland because for four years we saw during the Trump administration how the DOK was politicized. So they`re very cognizant of that. But there is, you know, if you talk to some folks, there is some frustration about the slowness or the perceived slowness at how the DOJ is working through the process.

RUHLE: OK. But this is where I need Tali. Is it slowness? We feel like it`s slow because we don`t live with the wheels of justice every day. You do. Is this process actually slow?

WEINSTEIN: I don`t think it is. And you know, Stephanie, you and I have talked about how we`ve become so addicted to leaks, that if we are not getting them, right?

RUHLE: Yes. That`s what keep this man in business.

WEINSTEIN: And so when we`re not getting them, we think that something is wrong. But there have been 800 arrests, I think, connected to January 6th. We see that there are offshoots everywhere. So we have this North Carolina plea today, we had Stop the Steal somewhere else, they`re looking in these different directions, the scope is growing. And we also know that President Biden picked an attorney general who knows what he is doing. Who knows what he`s doing, who knows how to handle a sprawling investigation, who understands the threat of violence inside the United States and political violence. And so I think we should take him at his word when he says I`m working on it.


RUHLE: All right, everybody out there who`s getting frustrated, Tali just told you, hang back, it`s happening. The guy knows what he`s doing. And she knows what she`s talking about. As for Eugene, you should try to find some leaks. That`s what his job is.

Eugene Daniels, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, thank you both.

Coming up, why are some Republicans so obsessed with calling people pedophiles? The disturbing rise in rhetoric ripped straight from the QAnon corner of the Internet. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.




SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): I want to make certain that we protect children and that we continue to do our best effort to protect children.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Significant concern has been raised by myself and others about Judge Jackson`s pattern in sentencing criminal defendants guilty of either possession or distribution of child pornography.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): We`re talking about 8-year-olds and 9-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and 12-year-olds. But you say this does not signal a heinous or egregious child pornography offense.


RUHLE: During last month`s confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Republicans repeated over and over baseless smears that sound a whole lot like QAnon conspiracy theories. Marjorie Taylor Greene went further when she tweeted, "Murkowski, Collins, and Romney are pro- pedophile. They just voted for KBJ."

Jean Guerrero summed it up in her latest column for the "L.A. Times," with the headline, "Stirring up a new Satanic panic, the GOP wants voters to see pedophiles all around us." She writes, "Last month Florida Governor Ron DeSantis` spokeswoman linked the pro-LGBTQ community to pedophiles," tweeting that anyone who proposes the bill prohibiting public school instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity is probably a groomer.

I don`t want you to think we`re dogging on or picking on Republicans. What I want to do right now is understand what in the world is going on.

With us tonight, Jean Guerrero, an opinion columnist for the "L.A. Times" and Charlie Sykes, our dear friend, editor at large at the "Bulwark" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Jean, you say in this piece that some Republicans are testing the strategy of branding anybody who disagrees with them as a pedophile. A pedophile. I mean, one of the sickest most twisted things you can be. What in the world is behind this?

JEAN GUERRERO, LOS ANGELES TIMES OPINION COLUMNIST: Well, you know, it`s a strategy of conjuring up the viellist of villains. You know, the worst type of person that you could imagine as their opponents because, you know, they`re using this to prey on the universal protective instincts that we as humans have for children. Stoking existing homophobic and racist bias to create this impression that anyone who`s in favor of the LGBTQ community, in favor of, you know, enhancing opportunities for communities of color, that these are all linked to pedophiles.

And it`s an expansion of QAnon, an expansion of pizza-gate, where it`s not just about a cabal of Democratic elites who are allegedly engaged in satanic rituals involving children, it`s now, you know, everyone like the neighbor on your block. You know, the person who teaches your child that white supremacy exists. Suddenly, this is something that they are using to villainized, and vilify anyone who opposes them because they have to. Like this is a party that has organized around the destruction of democratic norms. A party that wants to destroy this planet`s climate for future generations, for our children, for our grandchildren.

That attacks black and brown children through systematic family separation. That has backed people who are incredibly accused of molesting and even trafficking children and teenagers. This is entirely a ploy of projection and vilification because they know that there`s nothing else that they can do to gain votes except to create this fantasy.

RUHLE: Charlie, it is a really small number of Republicans who are saying these vile things, the QAnon dog whistles. And these members of the party, they`re not senior, they`re not leading legislative agendas. It`s just a, you know, circus of inappropriate behavior. So why aren`t more Republicans clearly condemning them? What do they have to lose?

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE BULWARK: Well, that`s an excellent question. I mean, you can go back to the 1970s when the issues of gays in the schools was very, very hot. Ronald Reagan spoke out against a referendum on all of this. So one time Republicans were willing to do all this.

Look, this is much more widespread than you and I would like to think. You can see that this is really the center of the new culture war. In 2016, Donald Trump organized anti-immigrant sentiment to get himself elected. This year, 2022, 2024, it will be anti-immigrant and anti-gay. But the really extraordinary and dangerous flex is the conflation of being gay or teaching in a school, and being a pedophile. Talking about these issues and trying to groom children. This is a very dangerous and extraordinary move. And you are right to connect it to QAnon.


But keep in mind, the QAnon didn`t just come out of nowhere. There is a long ancient pedigree for this kind of conspiracy theory. You know, the idea that there`s a global cabal out there that is conspiring to get your children. In the Middle Ages people believed that Jews would drink the blood of Christian children. That was updated by the protocols of the Elders of Zion. And then again, adapted by QAnon.

And now you see it moving from the fringes of the right into the mainstream of the right. You played soundbites of members of the United States Senate, you had a quote from the spokesman, from the governor of the state of Florida. So rather than pushing against this, what is happening is that we have seen this, Stephanie, over and over and over again over the last six years, how the fringes then merge in with the mainstream. And what the Republican Party does not push back against it.

RUHLE: OK, but take the --

SYKES; And it`s very dangerous.

RUHLE: Take the fringes away, and just take me to everyday voters, Jean. Most of whom don`t even care about politics. But why would something like the "Don`t Say Gay" law become such an important agenda item? Right? If I live in the state of Florida, I don`t know, I would care about Medicare, Medicaid, climate change. Who is it that`s saying I need don`t say gay, this is the most important thing in my life?

GUERRERO: Well, the Republican Party is turning it into a primary preoccupation for ordinary Americans because they are creating this bogeyman of, you know, people who support these policies are trying to groom your children, they`re trying to harm your children. So they prey on this basic instinct that we have to protect kids. And this is not just happening, you know, with the pro-LGBTQ legislation. It`s happening whenever Republicans talk about the border.

They`re always conjuring this idea that Democrats who are against cruel immigration policies or cruel border policies, they want something more humane, that they are in favor of child sex trafficking. They`re creating this bogeyman when in fact most of these children are being brought over their asylum-seeking parents to seek the right to asylum which they have under federal and international law.

But this is something that`s being used in every arena of politics. This creation of this pedophile, this child trafficker, this child molester. And it`s to distract people. It`s to make people not think about the issues that actually matter to them, and exploit their anxiety and depression, and you know, mental health issues that we all are struggling with in this pandemic, and to give people a sense of purpose.

They`re giving people a false sense of purpose by creating this hysteria around a villain that does not exist. And at the same time distracting from real efforts to combat child sex trafficking. Like what this does is it creates all kinds of, you know, false reports and you know, it exhausts the resources that these actual organizations that want to fight this problem.

RUHLE: Charlie, you have been or you were a Republican for a long, long time. You know a lot of members of Congress, leaders of the party. This isn`t just, oh it`s Trump being Trump. These Republicans in office, they`re OK with all of this? They`re just turning the cheek, they`re pretending it`s not happening?

SYKES: Well, so far they are because they see this as being popular in the base. In Florida, the polls would suggest a strong public support for this kind of legislation. There is real anxiety about they`re casting it as a matter of parental rights, and one of the things we`ve seen is that if Republican politicians think their base is for something, they are going to be reluctant to speak out against it. This is a party that is terrified of their base.

Can I just put out something that`s a little bit strange about this, though?

RUHLE: Everything?

SYKES: Do you remember back in 2016, when Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination, he spoke at the convention? He went out of his way to say that he supported gay rights. This was not inevitable that the Republican Party would go in this direction or go in this ugly direction to not only attack gay rights, but again, to blend it with his fear of pedophilia. And I think it`s an indication of just this prairie fire of conspiracy theories has just gotten out of hand.

They lit it, they played with it, they are afraid to push attack against it, and now they`re looking around and watching one state after another pass this legislation. This is going to become much bigger than it is right now.

And I would also say, speaking of cynically exploiting anxiety. Some of the same entrepreneurs of outrage who pushed the panic over critical race theory, some of the exact same people have now pivoted to saying OK, now that we are shifting to making people worry about pedophiles in the schools. It`s all very much a cynical, how much money can you raise? How many clicks can you get? How many -- you know, how much clout on the right can you get?


But again, we`re playing with fire here. Especially if you convince people that their teachers might be grooming them for sexual abuse.

RUHLE: Well then, Charles, perhaps it is time to put those entrepreneurs of outrage out of business.

Charlie Sykes, Jean Guerrero, thanks for joining us tonight.

Coming up, why is the White House worried about this weekend`s French election? And what it could mean for Vladimir Putin? When THE 11TH HOUR continues. You don`t want to miss this.



RUHLE: Listen up. Politico reporting the first round of voting in the French presidential elections is this weekend, and it has the White House freaked out that Putin`s next big win could be in Paris. Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron`s closest challenger is far-right wing leader, Marine Le Pen.

Jonathan Lemire writes this, quote, "A possible victory by Le Pen, a Putin sympathizer, could destabilize the Western coalition against Moscow, upending France`s role as a leading European power and potentially giving other NATO leaders cold feet about staying in the alliance."

For more I want to welcome in Rick Noack, a Paris correspondent for the "Washington Post."

Rick, this is a very big deal. I know this weekend is just the first round of voting so it`s not over. But if Marine Le Pen were to win, what would this mean? How close is she to Putin?

RICK NOACK, THE WASHINGTON POST PARIS CORRESPONDENT: It really would have major ramifications for European politics. She has been quite clear in the wake of the invasion that she condemns the invasion, she`s condemned Putin, has even cited war crimes in Ukraine, but she has said quite a few things about Putin in the past, and expressed real admiration for him. Said that they share similar proposals and goals. So there is a real concern and a lot of European capitals, too, that this could be a win for Putin.

RUHLE: When you think about NATO in the last three weeks, the way we`ve worked together, coordinated, worked in unison, would all of that be lost if Macron didn`t stay in power?

NOACK: Well, it would certainly be at risk because Marine Le Pen is one of the French politicians in this electoral campaign who`ve been very critical of NATO in the past. In the past, she has suggested that France should leave NATO. Over the last few weeks, she`s been a little more subtle. She said that France should withdraw from the integrated military command of NATO. But essentially it doesn`t change much about the essence of her proposals.

She is very much critical of the Western alliance and a victory certainly would raise a lot of questions about the future of France`s goal in that alliance and in the Western community.

RUHLE: One of the reasons the White House is so concerned is Emmanuel Macron`s polling, which is weak, weaker than President Biden`s right now in large part because French voters, like American voters, are furious, angry, upset about inflation. Is that what is driving them against Macron?

NOACK: That really does seem to be the case. Just a few weeks ago, Emmanuel Macron rea;;u seemed to be in a very strong position. It seemed like he was going to easily get reelected. But over the course of the last weeks, that has really changed. And what has changed is that inflation, the cost of living really has come to the forefront here. In France a lot of voters are very concerned about it.

And it seems like Emmanuel Macron really missed the point in this campaign where he should`ve jumped on this issue and he should`ve made it his dominant and defining issue, too. But currently, the only politician who really is campaigning on it is Marine Le Pen.

RUHLE: So are French voters saying or doing what a lot of American voters are as well? Saying out loud, I`m willing to pay more at the grocery store, I`m willing to pay more at the gas pump if that is the cost of war, but then when they have to pay more, they`re saying no, I don`t like this, I want that guy out of office?

NOACK: Well, it`s really interesting. There really is a disconnect. I mean, I spoke to a lot of Le Pen voters over the course of the last weeks, and a lot of them really expressed sympathy. And they said France should do to war. They said they might personally be willing to host refugees from Ukraine. But when it does comes down to the sort of on the ground ramifications, there is a very broad concern.

And I think part of that is also because a lot of people do have the feeling that over the course of the past years, their lives have become more difficult in France even though that`s not really aligned with the reality, the economic reality because France`s economy frankly has been doing quite well through this pandemic especially.

RUHLE: France`s economy is doing well, the U.S. economy is doing well, however inflation woes plague both our countries and people don`t like it.

Rick Noack, thank you for joining us this evening. We`ll be watching that election over the weekend.

Coming up next, the senator from Hawaii, he`s had enough. Why Brian Schatz isn`t holding back when it comes to going after Josh Hawley. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.



RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, spare me. Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri is currently carrying out a blanket blockade of all nominations of senior Defense Department officials. Why? Because he wants the Biden administration to admit that on virtually every aspect of foreign policy, they`ve neem dead wrong and he wants to see high-level resignations.

That obviously has not chance of happening, so as a result, important Defense Department officials are going to have to remain unfilled. After Hawley`s latest objection of Christopher Loman, Biden`s choice for assistant secretary for sustainment, Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii went off.


SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): He is blocking the staffing of the senior leadership at the Department of Defense. And this comes from a guy who raised his fist in solidarity with the insurrectionists. And this comes from a guy who before the Russian invasion suggested that maybe it would be wise for Zelenskyy to make a few concessions about Ukraine and their willingness to join NATO.


This comes from a guy who just about a month ago voted against Ukraine aid. He`s saying it`s going too slow. He voted no. And this final insult, is that until, what, Secretary Austin resigns? That`s not a serious request. People used to come to me during the Trump administration all the time, do you think Trump should resign, do you think Tiller -- that`s so stupid. Of course I think all the people I disagree with should quit their jobs and be replaced with people I love.

Of course I think they should all resign. That`s not how this world works. And coming from a person who exonerated Donald Trump for extorting Zelenskyy for withholding lethal aid. They withheld legal aid until -- unless Zelenskyy would release false smears against Joe Biden`s son. And then he voted to exonerate President Trump. And so spare me the new solidarity with the Ukrainians and with the free world because this man`s record is exactly the opposite. I yield the floor.


RUHLE: And on that note I wish you a good night and a great weekend. I`ll see you at the end of -- well, not tomorrow. I will see you late night Monday.