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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 5/18/22

Guests: Philip Rucker, Dave Wasserman, Barbara McQuade, Jonathan Greenblatt, Ben Hodges, Josh Brown, Jake Ward

Summary

PA GOP Senate Primary too close to call. Far-right candidate Doug Mastriano wins GOP nomination for Pennsylvania Governor. Biden invokes Defense Act to boost baby formula supply. Buffalo, NY mourns 10 killed in racist shooting. Ukrainian forces push Russia back from Kharkiv.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Ira Shapiro`s book is The Betrayal. THE 11TH HOUR with Stephanie Ruhle starts now.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the uncounted votes in a tight Pennsylvania Senate primary as the former guy suggests his candidate, just go ahead and declare himself the winner, sound familiar?

Plus, the growing threat of violent extremism all around the globe. Why are these ideas especially dangerous here in America?

And Wall Street sees its worst day since 2020. While Elon Musk seems to be trying to tweet himself out of his takeover deal. We`ll break it all down as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Wednesday night.

Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. 174 days until the midterm elections. Right now a race that is crucial in the battle for the Senate Majority remains undecided. In Pennsylvania`s Republican Senate primary TV Dr. Mehmet Oz holds a slight edge over former hedge fund executive David McCormick, but it is possible that can now go to a recount.

Dr. Oz has the former president`s endorsement. And today Trump took to his own social media site to say this, "Dr. Oz should just declare victory, it makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they just happen to find."

So let`s fact check that. This is just an effort by Trump to discredit this race, something we`ve all seen him do before. Please know there is no evidence or allegations of cheating in this election. End fact check.

Fox host and Trump ally Sean Hannity was also vocal in his support for Oz. Hannity spend a whole lot of airtime going after another Republican candidate in Pennsylvania`s primary, Kathy Barnette. She is currently in third place. Well, Barnett and Dr. Oz both had messages for Hannity as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MEHMET OZ, (R) PA SENATE CANDIDATE: I want to thank Sean Hannity. Sean is like a brother to me. When Sean punches through something, he really punches through it. He understands exactly how to make a difference. And he`s been doing that this entire campaign, much of it behind the scenes, giving me advice on late night conversations.

KATHY BARNETTE, (R) PA SENATE CANDIDATE: Never forget was Sean Hannity did in this race. Almost single handedly, Sean Hannity sow the seeds of disinformation, flat out lies every night for the past five days and that was just extremely hard to overcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RUHLE: Behind the scenes and on national television every night for a week, Trump`s backing may have helped though Doug Mastriano win the Republican that nomination for Pennsylvania Governor. Remember Mastriano was at the Capitol on January 6, but more importantly, has continued to push claims of a 2022 election, which we all know is not true. He`ll now face off against current Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro in November.

And what`s President Biden up to? Well, he is dealing with a real problem affecting real Americans right now. Today, he announced he would invoke the defense production act to boost production of baby formula.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: The Defense Production Act gives the government the ability to require suppliers to direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: And tonight, the House passed a pair of bills meant to combat the shortage. Those bills now head to the Senate.

With that let`s bring in our experts this evening. Phil Rucker, a Pulitzer Prize Winning Deputy National Editor at the Washington Post. Dave Wasserman, Senior Editor for The Cook Political Report. He analyzes U.S. House races and is considered one of the nation`s top election forecasters. And Barb McQuade joins us. A veteran federal prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with the DOJ during the Biden transition, and she`s currently a professor at the University of Michigan`s School of Law.

Mr. Rucker, to you first. These primary races were not about, the voters care about education or health care or inflation. They`re all about, is Trump your boy or not. So when you look at them, when you look at the president`s influence a day after, what`s your takeaway?

[23:05:00]

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Steph, the President clearly has extraordinary influence on the Republican side. You saw him lift Dr. Oz into what appears to be sort of a neck and neck dead heat right now in Pennsylvania. We`ll see what the final outcome is there. But in some of the other races last night, on the ballot in Pennsylvania and down in North Carolina, Trump candidates did very well.

And even more importantly, I think then allegiance to Trump has been allegiance to the big lie, to the falsehood that the election in 2020 was rigged. We saw a number of candidates, including the Republican -- now Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, really push that agenda forward and claim voter fraud when of course, there`s no evidence that any of it existed.

RUHLE: And he`s still claiming that voter fraud, Dave, so talk to us about that governor`s race in Pennsylvania. The Cook report, now has that election leaning democratic, why the change?

DAVE WASSERMAN, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT SENIOR EDITOR: Look, Doug Mastriano is a flawed candidate on the Republican side for a couple of reasons. But he`s easy to - they`re big lie proponents. But then there are people who are actually at January 6. And my colleague, Jessica Taylor, at the Cook Report moved this race because Josh Shapiro is now in a pretty good position to portray Doug Mastriano as outside the mainstream.

Now, of course, there`s risk here for Democrats. It`s a pretty Republican year. And so there`s a chance that some deeply flawed candidates could make it across the finish line, and Democrats dismiss his chances at their own peril.

RUHLE: Phil, the Bulwark points this out. If the GOP now gets behind insurrectionists, like Mastriano, it is January 6, forever. So they make a really good point. Do these two candidates basically represent where our democracy is right now?

RUCKER: They could. And Steph, this Pennsylvania governor`s race could become a real battleground for the future of democracy. There`s one thing to keep in mind about Pennsylvania. And my colleagues at the Post have a smart story on this tonight, that state`s governor has the power to appoint the Secretary of State who would administer elections in the state of Pennsylvania in a lot of other places, that position is an elected position. But in Pennsylvania, it`s appointed by the governor. So if this candidate were to become the governor in 2022, this fall, he would be overseeing effectively, or his surrogate would be overseeing the 2024 presidential election and have the ability to do the kind of acts that Trump wanted, states like Pennsylvania to do back in 2020. So it really does put democracy under threat.

And I would point out one other thing about this race, Democrats would count him out at their peril, as Dave was just noting. We should keep in mind that the Senate is filled with the number of Republican senators who Democrats believed wrongly, were to outside the mainstream to win general elections, and they went on to win. So there`s clearly a path here for some of these candidates.

RUHLE: Just think about that, the fact that this is taking place in the birthplace of our democracy, and now it could all be in question.

Dave, I want to play this from -- I`m going to call it firecracker Claire McCaskill earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Oz is negative or sky high in the Republican Party. I don`t see him driving record turnout. I don`t see that happening. Whereas I think John Fetterman is going to do a very good job of relating to some voters that maybe had drifted away from the Democratic Party lately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: So even if it`s not us, even if it`s McCormick, if he ends up being Fetterman`s opponent, what`s Fetterman going to be like to run against? Dave?

WASSERMAN: Well, first of all, you can`t make this up, because right now, Oz is clinging to a razor thin lead. And what is McCormick`s path to race that it`s mail-in ballots against Trump`s endorsed candidate. So we the best case scenario for Fetterman here is that a dispute over this Republican race drags on for weeks, and it`s not resolved. And there`s courtroom battles. Of course, it`s too soon to say. We don`t know what the final official -- unofficial count is going to be.

But look, Democrats went with their gut. This is a cathartic election year, both parties bases are angry for different reasons. Republicans obviously hostile at Biden, to the same level that Democrats were hostile towards Trump in 2018. But Democrats, they are not embracing electability to the extent they did in 2018 or more moderate candidates. They`re going with people who they think are authentic. Democratic primary voters, they like John Fetterman, and believe that he can tap into that working class, ancestral appeal in parts of the state where Democrats haven`t done well recently. And he`s got a good foil if Dr. Oz comes out of there as someone who is still registered to vote in New Jersey and has lived in cliffside park.

RUHLE: Or if it`s hedge fund manager, Dave McCormick who`s been living in Greenwich Connecticut for the last decade or so and they won`t, McCormick kind of have egg on his face if these two, if Oz and McCormick end up in some sort of legal battle over the next few weeks over mail-in ballots. Will McCormick had the egg on his face when just days ago, he was unwilling to say who won the last presidential election when we all know Princeton alumni, Harvard alumni, West Point Grad, Dave McCormick knows exactly who won the last election.

[23:10:30]

WASSERMAN: Yeah. This is part of the reason why you saw three Republican candidates end up with less than a third of the vote in this race that Republicans couldn`t really figure it out -- figure out who was for real here. They distrusted Oz and McCormick for different reasons. But for one reason in common, and that`s they were from out of state. And so they started to flirt with Kathy Barnette until Trump and Sean Hannity, you know, put an end to that. And so you end up with this split verdict. And we may not know for some time who the Republican nominee is going to be.

RUHLE: Barb, I hope you wore your January 6 committee decoder ring because we need help with this one. All right, the Justice Department has now asked to see the house committees transcripts of its closed door interviews. What does that tell you about the progress of both of these investigations?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think it says that the Justice Department is prepared to show the world where it is and its investigation. I think there`s been some commentary that suggests that only now are they beginning to expand the scope of the investigation. My hunch is that they have been doing so covertly for some time, and they`re now at the stage where they`re willing to go overt and that is asking for these transcripts.

Typically, what prosecutors will do is gather all the records first, using Grand Jury subpoenas, court orders and sealed search warrants to get things like the content of email records and text messages. And then once they have that, identify the witnesses that they`d like to talk to you.

With the January 6 committee, having interviewed about 1000 people, it seems like the Justice Department can utilize that work to narrow its own path of who it wants to interview independently. So I think it tells us that the January 6 committee no doubt has done a tremendous amount of work. And the Justice Department would like to piggyback on that.

RUHLE: Barb, let`s switch topics. The New York State Attorney General is now opening investigation into certain social media companies following the mass shooting in Buffalo. I know that gets people excited saying something`s going to happen, you know, they`re going to pay for their responsibility. But be realistic with us, are there any laws that they likely broke?

MCQUADE: I think not. I think it`s legitimate to investigate to find out what happened and how this all work together to determine whether there are needs for improved regulation or other laws. But under current law, there`s something known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that says, social media platforms are not responsible for the conduct, the content that is posted there. Sometimes people refer to that as the 26 words that created the internet because it allowed for all this innovation. Platforms didn`t have to worry about getting sued. So they were able to allow anybody who wanted to, to come on their sites. But the consequences we see is that it allows all of this nefarious conduct to occur really unchecked until we get meaningful federal regulation. I don`t know that there will be any crimes charged here or even any civil lawsuits.

RUHLE: Dave, this one`s a head scratcher for me. I keep hearing that Republicans don`t like how far some of their candidates have gone to the right. But just a week ago, there was not a single Republican in Congress who voted to codify Roe versus Wade, when you think about where repealing Roe versus Wade are protecting women`s reproductive rights falls on the political spectrum. That`s pretty far right. So what are they talking about?

WASSERMAN: Well, Stephanie, most voters are somewhere in the middle on abortion, to be honest. Most voters don`t believe that abortion should be legal in all cases or zero cases. And so it`s Republicans who favor flat bans on abortion that could be in general election trouble. And when you look at the Senate playing field, problem for Republicans, as a lot of these primaries are so late, that they`re dragging the Republican fields to the right. We still aren`t sure where Herschel Walker stands when it comes to exceptions. And so that could be a line of attack for Democrats to go after voters who believe that the extreme position of flat bands is too far.

RUHLE: Phil, before we go, let me ask you about the president enacting the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of baby formula. That`s certainly going to help get formula on shelves. But what`s the lag time going to be?

RUCKER: Well, Steph, clearly, the formulas not going to be on shelves tomorrow based on the President`s act today, it does take time for production to ramp up. But it could have an impact over the next several weeks. And I think for Biden most importantly he`s communicating not only within his government, within the federal government here in Washington, but to the American people that this is a priority issue, that it`s a health concern for millions of Americans and families and that he`s taking it very seriously. And using his actions as the president to get this done on, you know, the day before he heads out of the country on a foreign trip to Asia.

[23:15:27]

RUHLE: And after this, perhaps it`s time to look at regulations, open up the playing field, so there could be more competition.

RUCKER: Yeah.

RUHLE: Phil Rucker, Dave Wasserman, Barb McQuade, thank you for starting us off tonight.

Coming up, a look at the threat of white supremacy after Saturday`s mass shooting in Buffalo. Hate is not unique in America. But easy access to big guns is.

And later, important headlines from Ukraine. The American flag raised in Kyiv as Finland and Sweden make moves to join NATO. We`ll be live in Ukraine. The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Wednesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:20:40]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": You had the Ku Klux Klan, even they would cover themselves with hoods, now you have racial terrorists that live stream themselves killing us. There`s no shame. We can`t afford to sit back and wait on some precinct captain or some week member of the established Democratic Party to speak up when we get live stream lynched.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Even the Klu Klux Klan wore hoods, think about that, underscoring the urgency of the current danger in America. And analysis from the Anti- Defamation League over the past decade, found that more than half of the murders connected to political extremism, were tied to white supremacists.

With us tonight to discuss Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. His new book is titled, It Could Happen Here: Why America is Tipping from Hate to the Unthinkable and How We Can Stop It.

Jonathan, every single time you`re here, it`s after horrible news.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE CEO & NATIONAL DIRECTOR: Yeah.

RUHLE: Help us understand how the threat of violence is tied to white supremacy, how and more specifically why it`s growing over time?

GREENBLATT: Well, we have certainly seen unmistakably the kind of rise in domestic extremism tied to white supremacy in ways we`ve just never seen before.

RUHLE: Why?

GREENBLATT: Well, I think there are multiple reasons. I think, first and foremost, we have seen the normalization of hate when political figures and pundits have literally launder these lies and move them from the margins right to the mainstream, Stephanie. You know, you can go back to President Trump, who was a big progenitor of this. They can look at people like Laura Ingram, or Tucker Carlson or others, who every single day on their radio shows, and places like Fox News, and outlets like Facebook continue to push prejudice because it drives their ratings, right?

I think secondly, we`ve watched other extremists embed themselves in the political process. We have QAnon enthusiast and radical anti-Zionist running for office today, spreading escape stereotypes and scapegoating as their main political argument.

RUHLE: Baratunde Thurston from Puck News shared some of these similar sentiments earlier today. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARATUNDE THURSTON, AUTHOR, PUCK NEWS: We need other people talking to these young white men. We need Tucker Carlson offline. But we also need other voices online. We raised people over generations to not know the true history. We deny them access to the emotional tools and skills to be in touch with anything other than a violent response to fear and confusion and a sense of loss. We got to do better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: We got to do better. What does that look like? Because let`s be honest, Tucker Carlson, he`s not going offline. So who are these voices we need to raise up?

GREENBLATT: Well, Baratunde is a friend. And he`s totally right on the money here. We need to offer the kind of off ramps to young people so they don`t get radicalized. They don`t by themselves down rabbit holes. But you know, there`s no silver bullet, right? There`s no magic wand, we can wait. We need a whole of society strategy. So one of the things again, I think that Baratunde is talking about is how do we elevate these alternative voices.

RUHLE: And?

GREENBLATT: And we have these people. We have people like Christian Picciolini, like Damien Patton, like former White supremacist who kind of come in from the cold that I think could share their stories, but we need to give them platforms to do that.

RUHLE: How? What does that look like? What can the White House do right now? We`re not going to say gun law. Like let`s be honest, we`re not seeing gun laws change tomorrow, the next day or next month. So you run the ADL, what do you want to see done tomorrow?

GREENBLATT: Well, we want to -- the ADL has gotten together with the Urban League, the National Action Network, LULAC American -- Asian Americans Advancing Justice, to call for a White House Summit on hate crimes. It`s going to -- well, and I know you might say, well, what goodwill that do?

RUHLE: Yeah, I mean, like, no offense, I get it. But none of those groups speak to young white supremacists.

GREENBLATT: Right. Well --

RUHLE: Right, you need to speak to them.

GREENBLATT: We do. So one of the things I think we need to do is, again, bring together faith leaders, bring together the kind of businesses they engage in. The kind of role models that matter to them. The pop that icons from pop culture, to whom they look to for guidance and who they`re trying to emulate as role models, that matters. There are voices that they do listen to, but there`s something else. You know we talk a lot. And we`ve talked before on this show or on your other show in the morning about the role of social media.

[23:25:10]

And I heard what Barbara was saying about Section 230. We need that. That`s going to take forever. No, there`s something that could happen tomorrow.

RUHLE: Tell me.

GREENBLATT: Google and Apple control the app stores, all right? So there are platforms that these individuals use, like GETTR, or Rumble, or Odyssey or Weenie, and I know you don`t know these services, but the white supremacist do. The right wing extremists do. Apple and Google could cut off access tomorrow. Because these platforms don`t have moderation. They don`t have Terms of Service, and they violate the ethics of these companies. It is not censorship, for Barnes and Noble to say, I don`t want to stock my income. And it is not censorship for Tim Cook to say, I don`t want to have GETTR in the Apple Store.

RUHLE: Tim Cook I hope you`re watching. I know we`re out of time, but I have to ask guns. Hatred is on the rise around the world. But the problem that is unique in the United States, as opposed to other countries, access to big guns, how much is that a factor?

GREENBLATT: There`s a through line, from Pittsburgh, to El Paso to Buffalo, and the access to semi-automatic weapons, the access to body armor, the access --

RUHLE: I want you to know you`re like the ninth person in the last week to do that. It`s not you, we need new mugs.

GREENBLATT: Thank you, that`s the case. But look like if we can get our hands around these guns, we can mitigate the damage dramatically.

RUHLE: I am so grateful you joined us tonight, and grateful for the work that you do. Always good to see you. We will get you a new note. Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you.

Coming up, more setbacks for Vladimir Putin in Ukraine as Finland and Sweden apply for NATO membership. We are live in Kyiv when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:31:26]

RUHLE: We`ve been covering plenty of important headlines from here at home this week. But as we enter day 85 of Russia`s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, let`s catch up on big developments there. Today, U.S. diplomats went back to work and keep raising the flag over the reopened embassy.

Today, also saw both Finland and Sweden formally apply to join NATO. While on the ground in Ukraine, Russian forces have been pushed out of Kharkiv. But in the city of Mariupol, Russia says 700 more Ukrainian defenders have officially surrendered after a lengthy, lengthy fight.

We begin our coverage in Kyiv with NBC News correspondent Cal Perry. Cal, I`m always grateful for your reporting and to see you still there. What more can you tell us about all of this?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So in Mariupol, which is where the eyes of the nation have been, where the eyes of the world in many ways have been, we know now that it`s close to 1000 Ukrainian soldiers, that according to Russian Defense Ministry sources who say they have "surrendered." We don`t know how many people remain inside. But we have this pretty remarkable footage that was released yesterday again by the Russian Defense Ministry that shows Ukrainian soldiers turning themselves and handing themselves over to Russian forces.

Now originally, Ukrainian sources, Ukrainian government sources said there would be some kind of a prisoner of war swap that these individuals wouldn`t be in Russian hands for very long. But today on Russian state television, we`re hearing from commentators and members of the government there that these folks could be put on trial for what they`re calling crimes against civilians. You can expect that will be a show trial, it will be for the eyes of people in Russia. And again, the Russian government has claimed, long claim that it was denazifying Ukraine and that this regiment was full of Nazis. There is no evidence to support that, but that will be used for public consumption.

Here in Kyiv, you have the trial of a young Russian soldier. 22-years-old sergeant who has pled guilty to killing a 62-year-old unarmed man, just four days into the invasion. And even though he pled guilty yesterday, Stephanie, we will hear from one of his comrades who will testify against him. So you can start to see those dueling narratives taking place on television.

And then finally, Stephanie, a big battlefield gain and some stunning video from Ukrainian forces in that Kharkiv area, that`s north of where I am. They actually broke through Russian lines, started pushing Russian troops back on the Russian side of the border, according to the Pentagon troops flowing into the Russian side of the border. But these Ukrainian troops taking photos and videos of themselves at the Russian border with that Russian-Ukrainian border post, Stephanie, it has to be unnerving, even though the Russian people will likely not see that video, has to be unnerving for military officials and for Vladimir Putin to see that video.

Now, this is of course a Russian army that thought it could take the capital that I`m in and it is now flowing back across its own side of the border, Stephanie.

RUHLE: They certainly couldn`t take the capital. And here we are, the U.S. Embassy reopening in Ukraine. How significant is that?

PERRY: Certainly, symbolically it is huge. The U.S. joining a couple other Western nations, raising that flag, showing the support here to President Zelenskyy and everybody in Ukraine. It will offer full services, Stephanie. They`re saying full consular services for American citizens. The hours might differ because, of course, this is a city at war. This is a city that still comes under air raid sirens, but it is a huge, huge supportive, Steph, for the Ukrainian government.

RUHLE: It certainly is. Cal Perry, always good to see you. Thank you and stay safe.

I want to continue our conversation with Lieutenant General Ben Hodges. He was a Commanding General for the United States Army in Europe. He is also a Persian Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

General, thank you for joining us tonight. Moscow says the soldiers who surrendered in Mariupol have been sent to a Russian Prison Colony. What is in store for them? I mean can you imagine what they`ve already been through?

[23:35:06]

LT. GEN. BEN HODGES, (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY FORCES IN EUROPE: Well, Stephanie, I have zero confidence that the Russians will show any restraint. They certainly have not shown restraint over the last three months. I`m concerned. I mean, the entire world needs to keep shining a bright light just the way you are on their situation. The U.N. Secretary General Guterres needs to be informing the Kremlin that the whole world is watching. Otherwise, there`s no doubt that several of these soldiers will be singled out exactly as Cal just reported. And I`d be concerned.

RUHLE: What about the fate of this first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes, he pleaded guilty, what`s going to happen to him?

HODGES: I`m not sure how this is going to work within the Ukrainian system. And perhaps one day he might even be part of a prisoner exchange. I don`t know that. But it`d be interesting to compare the transparency of how this Ukrainian trial has taken place, and the availability of information to everybody about his situation. Compare that to what happens to these soldiers that were just captured from the Azovstal Steel Plant.

RUHLE: I`m guessing it will be very difficult to compare because Putin is not going to tell us the truth ever, is he?

HODGES: I had -- like I said, I have zero confidence in anything that they say they`ll do. They haven`t lived up to a single international obligation or commitment for months. And look, this is about the information domain warfare test of wills, is a test of logistics. And here the willpower to demonstrate, this is what we`re talking about protecting democracy, protecting liberal democratic values. And that includes judicial systems and includes media, and it includes compliance with international law and people, we need to have our eyes wide open about who it is we`re dealing with.

RUHLE: How about our commitment. Thus far, the United States has sent billions of dollars` worth of weapons to Ukraine. Here we are 12 weeks into this conflict. What did they need for us -- from us now?

HODGES: Well, obviously, what the United States has been doing for the last -- almost three months, my goodness, along with our allies, supporting Ukraine, but Secretary Austin said just a couple of weeks ago that we`re going to have Ukraine win, this is so powerful, 2020 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, not one time, did I ever hear any of our leaders say we`re going to win. And it is such a powerful word when you talk about winning, because that means we`re going to do all the stuff necessary to help them win, whether it`s ammunition, intelligence capabilities. So this is important. And we`re just now starting to feel the effect of all the things that have been provided. Some of these howitzers are getting into action now. So I actually, I`m quite optimistic about what`s going to happen over the next several months as the logistical situation for the Ukrainians improves. And each day, the logistics for the Russian forces gets a little bit worse. And so that`s why I`m overall actually optimistic.

RUHLE: Then I promise, I`m not asking you for a crystal ball or an exact timeline. But given how significant it is that Secretary Austin said, we`re going to win, when he says that in your mind, how long until you think that day comes?

HODGES: Well, so I`m not going to dodge the question, but let me divide it. First of all, I believe that by the end of this summer, around Labor Day, or end of August, Russian forces will have collapsed inside Ukraine. There`s no way that they can sustain what they`re doing in terms of ammunition consumption, the overall logistical system, it was already rotten as we are all -- as we all saw here over the last three months. And this is not something that you can fix overnight. And then their manpower problems.

You know, as I was growing up as a young officer, I would have never imagined that Russia would have manpower problems, but they really do. Almost a third of their forces have been destroyed. They are loath to do a general mobilization because then the criminal would have to tell the public that what was going to be a special military operation has turned into a war and they`re losing. And so it`s only getting worse for them.

In the meanwhile, Ukraine has no manpower problems, they`re getting stronger with each day and getting better and more confident. So that`s what I think by the end of the summer, Russian forces will collapse. And Ukraine is probably, I don`t have access to plans and nor would I -- should I but be ready to go over to the offense. And in more because it is a test of wills at some point, one side cracks and then there`s this, it could become a route. And so I believe that we`re going to have Russian forces out, back to the 23 February line by September.

[23:40:09]

Total winning, though, that means also you, Crimea and Donbass, this is going to take longer, and it`s going to take, I hope, as a statement of policy, long-term commitment of the United States to full restoration of Ukrainian sovereign territory.

RUHLE: Sir, you did not dodge the question. You just took us to school. Thank you so much for joining me tonight. I appreciate it. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges.

RUHLE: Thanks for having me.

RUHLE: Coming up. There has not been a day like this since the very start of the pandemic. What is driving the markets down? And what is up with Elon Musk? When THE 11TH HOUR continues

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:45:24]

RUHLE: Stock futures trading lower right now after a very bad day on Wall Street. The Dow and the S&P, so their biggest drop in nearly two years. Stocks fell after Target and Walmart revealed inflation and supply chain problems have taken a big chunk of their profits. So what does that mean for consumers? Let`s dive in with NBC News Tech Correspondent Jake Ward and CNBC Contributor Josh Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of Ritholtz wealth management.

Josh, our viewers are not checking the Nikkei they`re not day traders. They`re thinking right now why Stephanie talking about the Dow, explain to us, why Target earnings, what they revealed about what could be in store on the inflation front?

JOSH BROWN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So target along with Walmart and Costco, three of the greatest companies in America, the best retailers had horrendous news this week, about the state of their customer. And largely if you`re watching this, you already know what`s going on. You`ve got a shortage of staff. You`ve got to pay more for people in virtually every position. Everything cost more to ship back and forth. There are shortages of the things that people want, and on and on. And this is not something that`s going away anytime soon.

So Walmart actually, the stock price suffered its worst one day loss since 1987. Yes, that 1987 and Target`s in the same situation. What we`re what we`re facing here is just a lack of equilibrium. You`ve got 11 million open jobs in this country, and only 5 million job seekers. And on the surface that would sound like hey, this is great. Until you remember that small businesses have to compete with Walmart and Target to try to hire people and they obviously can`t. And it`s just top to bottom, creating this terrible sentiment. University of Michigan consumer sentiment came out this week. It is the lowest reading of consumer sentiment. You have to go back 25 years you cannot find sentiment this low outside of an actual recession. And that`s where we are today.

RUHLE: Consumer sentiment, meaning how people feel about the economy. But why then, Josh, do we continue to pay up? It`s not like demand has slowed.

BROWN: Yeah, so a lot of this is coasting on the fumes of pandemic era stimulus, stock price gains, home price gains, we`ve got balance sheets, household balance sheets, in very good shape. Remember, they spent about 12 to 18 months without anywhere to go and spend money. They were able to pay down a lot of debt at lower interest rates, so that there`s a peculiarity to the way that household balance sheets were able to prepare themselves during the Coronavirus recession, which again, is like the upside down. It`s like nothing we have on record from past recessions. And so we`ve got people who are still willing to spend, and that will continue until they`ve lost enough money in their 401 (k), or their home prices have declined enough on paper that they feel less wealthy. And maybe they don`t need the second vote. Maybe they don`t need that third home, right.

That`s what the Federal Reserve is trying to do. Remember this phrase, demand destruction. Jay Powell, who runs the Federal Reserve, cannot make more oil, cannot stop the war in Ukraine, cannot bring more wheat and dairy into the market, can`t do it. The only thing that he has control over is tightening financial conditions, making it more expensive to get a mortgage. Huge, huge price increase for a mortgage now very quickly, making it harder for corporations to borrow money. So you see weights go up, and making the wealth effect go from a positive to a negative. This process takes time. I wish I could tell you stocks down 20% from the high, that`s it, we`re good to go. It very rarely ends that quickly. And unfortunately, the process will work, you`re just not guaranteed to enjoy it while it takes place.

RUHLE: All right new topic, somebody else who`s no stranger to destruction, especially this week, Jake, Elon Musk, Twitter. What in the world is he doing here? The guy comes in says I want to buy the company. The company says yes. He says I don`t need to do any due diligence. Now, the stock drops with the rest of the market and he says OK, forget it. I`m out what gives?

JAKE WARD, NBC NEWS TECH CORRESPONDENT: It is just the strangest journey he seems to be taking to the possibility of acquiring this company, Stephanie. Even Twitter you have to recall right said at one point, you know, that it really -- I mean, basically indicated that it didn`t want him to take it over it created that poison pill, diluted shares.

[23:50:09]

Now suddenly, with Musk sort of wavering at the finish line here, they`re saying no, no, we`re going to hold him to the proposed merger agreement. That`s what they said in a statement. And in theory, they do have the legal standing to actually hold him to the purchase price, $54.20.

You know, the problem, of course, here for Twitter is as they revealed an SEC filing this week, they don`t really think, and they have known for quite some time that they don`t have another buyer like this. They don`t think somebody else can get through the financial and regulatory hurdles that they would need to get to this. But man, this guy is kicking the tires pretty hard. I mean, you know --

RUHLE: OK, but hold on.

WARD: -- truly damaging the stock price as this happens, you know, unbelievable in that way.

RUHLE: OK, but Josh, is this a strange journey? Or is this a complete scam on the part of Elon Musk because boom, now he`s out there today blasting the president. He goes after him on a podcast on Monday. Today, he tweets that he`s voting for Republicans, saying the Democrats are the party of division and hate. Is all of this just a whole bunch of baloney, because he knows there`s a good chance the SEC is coming after him for all the antics, he`s pulled in the last two weeks. And he`s going to claim all its political, they`re just mad at me because I wasn`t nice to the President.

BROWN: We are living in literally the most insane timeline imaginable. Elon Musk`s net worth has declined by $125 billion in the last few months, and he`s still the richest man on earth. Stop and think about the numbers that I just spoke. It`s wherever every day is more insane than the last. I think the reality is that if Twitter weren`t in the process of negotiating a buyout, over the last few months, this would be a $20 stock, if you just look at the destruction and share prices for companies like Snap and Meta, and all kinds of -- and all kinds of things that Twitter would become to. And Elon is very smart. He understands that.

He has them under -- he has them over a barrel. The reality is they cannot get this stock back to 50 something dollars. There are no other buyers. Everybody that`s ever looked at it over the last nine years has punted, so they probably do have to stay at the table. Because if they don`t, their shareholders have sued them into the stone age. And Musk gets that. So maybe this deal closes at 40. That`s what the market seems to be saying is likely. That`s why the stock is not down at 20 already.

RUHLE: Josh Brown talking to us in front of a full flower wall and he`s calling other people insane. Josh Brown, Jake Ward, thank you both for joining us this late night.

When we come back, Dr. Swift, wisdom from the commencement speaker who says the last time she spoke at a place like this, she was dancing in heels and wearing a glittery leotard, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER, SONGWRITER, MUSICIAN, PRODUCER, AND DIRECTOR: Hi, I`m Taylor. Last time I was in a stadium this size, I was dancing in heels and wearing a glittery leotard. This outfit is much more comfortable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Hi, I`m Taylor. We know who you are. The last thing before we go tonight, advice from Dr. Swift. There was something truly special today at Yankee Stadium. It was not baseball. And it wasn`t just all the pomp and circumstance. Singer, songwriter, superstar Taylor Swift was there to receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree during today`s New York University Commencement celebration. The 32 year old also delivered a heartfelt speech to the graduating class of 2022. She spoke about how the graduates saw their college years disrupted and loomed over by the COVID pandemic. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SWIFT: I imagine the idea of a normal college experience was all you wanted to. But in this case, you and I both learned that you don`t always get all the things in the bag that you selected from the menu in the delivery surface that is life. You get what you get. And as I would like to say to you wholeheartedly, you should be very proud of what you`ve done with it. Life can be heavy, especially if you try to carry it all at once. Part of growing up and moving into new chapters of your life is about catch and release. You get to pick what your life has time and room for, be discerning.

Secondly, learn to live alongside cringe no matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively. Cringe is unavoidable over a lifetime. Even the term cringe might someday be deemed "cringe." I promise you you`re probably doing or wearing something right now that you will look back on later and find revolting and hilarious. You can`t avoid it. So don`t try too.

Hard things will happen to us. We will recover. We will learn from it. We will grow more resilient because of it. And as long as we are fortunate enough to be breathing, we will breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out. And I am a doctor now so I know how breathing works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: This show this hour has always got time for the power of a deep breath, some excellent advice from Dr. Taylor Swift taking us off the air this evening.

And on that good note, I wish you all a 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.