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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 5/23/22

Guests: Patricia Murphy, Tom LoBianco, A.B. Stoddard, Nse Ufot, Alex Kliment, Carlos Curbelo, Robert Gibbs


As voters head to the polls in four states Tuesday, the spotlight will be on Georgia where endorsements are pitting Trump versus Pence in the GOP race for governor. The fight over votes in Pennsylvania`s too-close-to- call Senate GOP primary is now headed to the courts. President Zelenskyy calls for "maximum" sanctions in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.



ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That`s tonight`s "LAST WORD." MSNBC is going to have complete coverage of tomorrow`s primaries including Georgia starting tomorrow night seven Eastern. THE 11TH HOUR with my friend Stephanie Ruhle begins right now.


STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the future of elections and personal freedoms on the ballot tomorrow in key battleground primaries, including in the state at the epicenter of the big lie.

And the split screen endorsement test in Georgia, Mike Pence boldly breaking ranks from his former boss, could Trump`s grip on the GOP be slipping.

And as Russia`s war enters a third month, Ukraine`s President asks corporate leaders in Davos for maximum sanctions, saying it is time to decide whether brute force will rule the world as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Monday night.

Good evening. Once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. A lot has happened today. So let`s get smarter. In the eve of another big primary day with critical elections tomorrow in four different states, that includes the battleground state of Georgia where polls are set to open in just a few hours from now.

There are two men battling for the Republican nomination for Governor incumbent Brian Kemp and challenger David Perdue. Tonight, this race also highlights the very clear rift between Donald Trump who endorsed Purdue and his former Vice President Mike Pence, who was very clearly backing Kemp. Pence spoke at a rally for the governor earlier today. And here`s what he said.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It is great to be back in Georgia with so many patriots paving the way for historic Republican victory six months from now, when we will win back the House, win back the Senate and reelect Governor Brian camp for four more years at the State House.


RUHLE: Polls show Kemp leading Purdue by double digits, which is obviously well ahead of the 50 percent that`s required to avoid a runoff. Trump is said to have distanced himself recently from Perdue as those poll numbers dropped.

But tonight the former guy had a telephone rally for Perdue, where he yet again pushed the absolutely false allegations of the 2020 election, calling it fraud and telling voters this, Kemp allowed the Georgia election to be rigged and stolen. Well, obviously, again, those words from the former president are an absolute lie.

The candidate Trump is supporting was asked whether he planned to accept the results of tomorrow`s primary. And here`s what he said.


DAVID PERDUE, REPUBLICAN NOMINATION FOR GOVERNOR: What depends on the fraud or not. This is straight up election. I`m going to support the witness because my number one objectives make sure Stacey was never going to Georgia.


RUHLE: Stacey Abrams is expected to be the Democratic nominee for governor in the general election. You recall, she ran against Brian Kemp back in 2018 and lost. This weekend, Abrams made headlines with this assessment of how things are going in her state under campus leadership.


STACEY ABRAMS (D) CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA GOVERNOR: I am tired of hearing about being the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live.

Now, somebody`s going to try to politifact me on this, let me contextualize. When you`re number 48 for mental health, when you`re number one from maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that`s on the rise and wages that are on the decline than you are not the number one place to live in the United States, but we can get there go next. You think Georgia is capable of greatness? We just need greatness to be in our governor`s office.


RUHLE: While those comments left a lot of people speechless. Not David Perdue. He had a lot to say about Abrams and her comments during a radio program he was on earlier today. Listen to this.


PERDUE: You don`t see what Stacey said this weekend. So that Georgia is the worst place in the country to live. Hey, she ain`t firm here, let it go back where she came from. She didn`t like it here. Don`t think she wants to be president United States. She doesn`t care about the people in Georgia. That`s clear.

You know, when we saw in `18 what she did what she said, Are we going to have a blue wave we`re going to do it with documented and undocumented workers. You know, I don`t think a lot of people in Georgia understood that what she told black farmers, you don`t need to be on the farm. And you she told black workers and hospitality and all this. You don`t need to be -- she is demeaning her own race when it comes to that.


RUHLE: Demeaning her own race. Well, no surprise. She was asked about it earlier this evening in a conversation with my colleague Joy Reid. And here`s what she had to say.



ABRAMS: I think it was an artfully delivered. My point was -- what point that I`ve made many times and my passion and making this point is important, because we`re listening to Brian Kemp give up -- give narrative about a record that does not reflect reality. I think that regardless of which Republican it is, I have yet to hear them articulate a plan for the future of Georgia.


RUHLE: We are also still keeping a close eye on the Republican Senate race in Pennsylvania between Mehmet Oz and David McCormick. Nearly a full week later, it is still too close to call and likely headed to a runoff.

Tonight, NBC News reports McCormick is now suing to try to make sure certain undated mail-in ballots are not disqualified in the vote count. So stay tuned there.

With that let`s bring in our lead panel this evening Tom LoBianco, politics reporter for Yahoo News. He`s also the author of the Mike Pence biography, "Piety and Power." A.B. Stoddard joins us, veteran Washington journalist and associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics. And Patricia Murphy, political reporter and columnist for the Atlanta Journal- Constitution.

Patricia, you`ve got the home court advantage being down there in Georgia, talk to us. David Perdue ran a campaign focused based on Trump`s absolutely false allegation of stolen election.

And then today, despite being down double digits in the polls, he actually hedged on whether he`s going to accept tomorrow`s results. And I want to remind people, this is what he said during a debate with Brian Kemp.


PERDUE: First off, folks, let me be very clear tonight, the election in 2020 was rigged and stolen. All that started right here in Georgia when our governor caved and allow radical Democrats to steal our election.


RUHLE: So tonight, Purdue is way, way, way back in the polls. Is tomorrow`s election, really a referendum on the big lie?

PATRICIA MURPHY, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it is. I think it`s a referendum on the big lie. And it`s referendum on Donald Trump. And it`s a referendum on whether there is space in the Republican Party in Georgia and around the country to be a conservative, to be somebody who supports Donald Trump`s policies, but does not support Donald Trump every step of the way. That`s the very narrow path that Brian Trump has been, excuse me, Brian Trump, Brian Kemp has been trying to carve at this -- with this huge feud going on against Donald Trump.

We`ve seen David Perdue put the big lie at the very center of his campaign. And that has not been enough to knock off this governor. It hasn`t even been enough to slow down this governor. And so David Perdue did not do more than that. He didn`t do enough. And we`re hearing from Republican voters, independent voters also. They`re so tired of this narrative. They want to look forward they don`t want to look back anymore. And David Perdue and Donald Trump are only looking back.

RUHLE: Two career Republicans that Donald Trump doesn`t like very much Brian Kemp and his former VP pence. Tom, I want to share what Trump said today about Pence, his one-time vice president now supporting the guy Trump wants to see lose Brian Kemp.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I`m very disappointed in Mike as a lot of people are and he is -- he just very greatly disappointed me. He had a great opportunity and all. He had to do is send it back to the legislature`s.


RUHLE: On one hand, you don`t have to be that brave to back Brian Kemp. He`s way ahead. But on the other, help us understand what went into Pence`s decision to break with Trump and how much has this gotten under Trump`s notoriously very thin skin?

TOM LOBIANCO, YAHOO NEWS POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, really fascinating. There`s a lot of things. You know, it was interesting about that it held the demure Trump was in that answer. He never really goes entirely hard at Pence after these things. You know, when Pence said that Trump was wrong at the Federalist Society speech a couple of months ago.

You know, what Pence is doing is what he`s always done, which is campaigning very methodically, and very deliberately. And what was interesting tonight, I mean, look at the lead into this, right. So when did he actually announced that he`s going to go down there for Brian Kemp. This is right after the Nebraska primary, where an establishment Pete Ricketts, the big GOP donor family, got behind an establishment pick, and they beat back the Trump endorsed pick there, Charles Herbster, who`s one of the people you know, in addition to the sexual assault allegations out there on was also part of the January 6 events.

And Pence does this. But when he actually goes tonight to Georgia, he doesn`t talk about it. Instead, he talks about he launches attacks on Stacey Abrams. He does his dad joke routine. He talks about, you know, kind of blends it with the politics, you know, the -- he says the far left hand -- the left hand doesn`t know what the far left hand is doing.


And what he does with this is he uses his actions to and to what Patricia was saying earlier, and this is what I`ve seen to the Republican voters so far is they want to move past that, you know, the election why is when you look at it in the polls, it`s accepted and believed by a large number of Republicans. But it`s not a defining issue, this cycle at least.

And it`s just not, you know, look, as you guys said earlier, right. David Perdue built his campaign around that, and he`s, you know, just flailing in the polls right now. So it doesn`t drive voters. So Pence is very good at the action. Again, the thing with him you got to do is you got to watch what he`s doing. Not what he`s saying.

RUHLE: OK, well, he`s saying A.B. that the left hand doesn`t know what the far left hand is doing. The right hand knows what the far right hand is doing. They fighting with one another. How important is this specific governor`s race to the non-MAGA Republicans? Would a camp victory give them a huge boost?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMIST: Yes, I mean, I think what Tom and Patricia are saying is true that in Georgia, this incumbent governor was able to shrewdly manage being at the very top of Trump`s enemies list. But run on a record that was successful that please Republican voters, and call in every Chiddy had in order to build up this huge lead.

He was helped by Senator Perdue, who`s run a lackluster campaign and doesn`t really seem like his heart is in it. But I think that people who are looking for him escape from big lie. Republicanism are going to be very excited about the margin that Brian Kemp wins by. I know that President Trump, former President Trump will end the season of these primary contests with a mick record.

But I do think it`s also just fantasy to say that in that, on the whole, the Republican primary electorate is ready to move past Donald Trump. He`s still controls the RNC. He has a huge following and a huge influence. And it`s really hard to say that something like Brian Kemp winning big tomorrow, while it will give comfort to Chris Christie, and Mike Pence, and others who want to run in 2024 and move past this, it doesn`t mean that Donald Trump is going to step away with his big foot from the primary electorate. And the Republican Party that makes most of these decisions.

RUHLE: He`s not going away anytime soon. There`s also someone else he is supporting Jody Hice. And this is in the race for Secretary of State. Hice is running against the current Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. We all remember him. We know him. He`s the guy who famously resisted Trump`s attempt to get him to find, quote, 11,000 votes, remember that that phone call find 11,000 votes? What does that race look like tonight, Patricia?

MURPHY: That race is looking dead even in all of our polling. And that is a much better result than we expected out of Brad Raffensperger. These two gentlemen need to get over the 50 percent threshold that`s likely to go to a runoff.

But at the very beginning of this election cycle, I wrote a profile of Brad Raffensperger and I called around to other Republicans who I knew were allies of heads and said, could you just give me something on the record about working with Brad Raffensperger, you like Brad Raffensperger and make his in this huge fight with Donald Trump, not one Republican in the state look on the record to support Brad Raffensperger. He was just seen as a dead man walking.

And so for him to be in this race, neck and neck, this is probably the most important race on the ballot when you`re talking about the referendum on the big lie because that`s all this race is about. It`s about the election machinery, who`s going to oversee the next election. That`s what this is about.

And so we actually have spoken with a number of Democrats who have crossed over to vote in this Republican primary just for Brad Raffensperger. Talk to voters like I can`t vote for Brian Kemp. Can`t do it. But I don`t want Jody Hice with his hands on the wheel here. So this is a hugely important race, probably the most important after Governor and so we`ll be watching that really, really carefully.

RUHLE: Is Hice the kind of guy who would have found those 11,000 votes?

MURPHY: He would have listened to the president. He has said that he supports Donald Trump and said he would do something very different than next time around and he is talking specifically about 2024.

RUHLE: So let`s make sure our audience knows that person Jody Hice is someone who could have not just pushed the big lie would have actually taken action that could have impacted the outcome of the election. Tom, if Kemp wins, should we expect to see a whole lot more of Mike Pence? Is he going to get a lot bolder?

LOBIANCO: Yes, you know, his folks have been touting a New Hampshire trip coming up later this week. We`re just going to go to talk to the Federation of Republican women up there and you know he`s been, again, he`s been doing this periodically.


You know, he tends to pop his head above water periodically and then they kind of go quiet for a little bit. He`s very selective with these things. And one of the things I was talking with about folks today, my Republican sources was about his mastery of stage craft, you know, versus, you know, Trump on, you know, on the other hand, is very good at the media messaging, you know, kind of working us over in the media industry.

Pence is better at the politics of it. And he has a good sense for timing and he`s able to execute it. Well. You know, I think the next thing we`re watching for here is, you know, we`re almost into June, and we`re going to have two big events coming up here that both directly dealing with Mike Pence and you can expect him to play in this but the January 6 committee hearings are coming up in just a few weeks, and just few weeks after that, we`re going to have a Supreme Court more than likely overturn Roe v. Wade. So it`ll be a slow June by 2022 standards.

RUHLE: I have almost no time left. But A.B., I have to go back to this. I don`t dispute that Trump has a huge amount of influence. He certainly controls a lot of media. But let`s look at the facts. Donald Trump lost in Georgia to Biden in 2020. And then right after that, the two GOP Senate candidates that were also running last to Democrats. Why on earth would anyone consider him as a kingmaker in Georgia in 2022? Coming off a triple loss.

STODDARD: In 2024 or 2020. OK, well --

RUHLE: Right now. If David Perdue base -- David Perdue rate -- based his entire campaign on I`ve got Trump on my side. Well guess what just happened in Georgia. Trump lost, lost, lost.

STODDARD: Old voters the system was rigged and they stay home. And the state elected two Democrats in the runoff, something that stunned the Biden administration and the Democratic Party. They did not expect to win those seats and they both parties credit Trump with that.

David Perdue`s argument is those voters who stay at home are going to crawl out of the woodwork than the infrequent voters who love Trump and come out for him. Again, Trump doesn`t care what the logic is here. He just wanted someone to run against Brian Kemp. David Perdue told him at one point a year ago he would not do it and he did it anyway. There`s lots of drama, but I`m not saying Trump`s you know, strategy here was rational. I`m just saying that in Georgia, the non-Trump Republicans will have a success. It doesn`t mean that they can make them go away nationally.

RUHLE: Well, we`ll see what happens tomorrow. Thank you all so, so much, Tom LoBianco, AB Stoddard and Patricia Murphy.

Coming up, early voters in Georgia set records ahead of tomorrow`s primary. We`ll get into why and what it all means.

And later, as the unprovoked war on Ukraine enters a third month, could even tougher economic sanctions help stop it. The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Monday night.




ABRAMS: What is happening is that people are looking at one metric and trying to extrapolate an entire narrative. And the narrative is very clear, voter suppression is not about stopping voting. It is about impeding certain voters from participating.


RUHLE: Stacey Abrams is expected to easily win her party`s nomination in Georgia is primary for Governor tomorrow. Yet as the New York Times points out, there is growing concern that even the strongest candidates might not be able to outrun the current president`s approval ratings. As one democratic voter in Georgia put it quote, I think 2020 was a referendum on Trump. I just don`t know if there`s the same energy in 2022.

So let`s discuss and bring in Nse Ufot. She`s the CEO of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group that was founded by Stacey Abrams. Under her leadership, the group has registered more than 400,000 Georgians to vote.

Nse, I haven`t seen you in quite some time. It is great to have you join us tonight. Early voting turnout in Georgia is primaries has already set records. Now Republicans argue this proves that the election law they passed last year is not suppressing votes. Democrats have argued they`ve just had to work a lot harder, who`s right?

NSE UFOT, NEW GEORGIA PROJECT CEO: I say that leader Abrams is right with the package that you just showed that again, it is not about stopping voting, that it`s about making it more difficult for certain types of Americans to participate in our democracy to participate in our elections.

I will remind your viewers that President Trump the disgraced former president of the United States lost in the great state of Georgia by a margin of less than 12,000 votes. Right. So if Georgia is America`s newest swing state, if it`s America`s newest battleground state, then these 0.0015 percent margins are they absolutely matter and inconveniencing a dozen voters at a few dozen polling locations could absolutely make be the difference maker in some critical key elections in our state.

And I think that that is what their plans are that that is what their ambition is to inject as much confusion and frustration in the process as possible to discourage people from participating and again, inject confusion and to invalidate and cancel enough votes to continue to swing elections. And quite frankly, Georgians aren`t having it.

RUHLE: Over the weekend, my colleague Joy Reid, put up said something pretty interesting where she said black voters vote sometimes in self- defense to preserve their rights including the voting history access to health care, tell me what you see in Georgia because sometimes we hear the argument people aren`t getting enough, they`re not going to vote because their voices aren`t being heard. And Joy argued that sometimes you need to vote to preserve the rights you have.


UFOT: Absolutely, I cannot underscore how strategic we have found this new generation of voters, black voters, voters of color period, and young voters, that there are things that Georgians want to win for themselves. So they are looking for champions and people to send to Washington, DC, and to send to the state capitol in order to do their work.

The economy is absolutely at the top of folks as minds, access to jobs, housing, we are still in the middle of a pandemic, right. Half of George`s counties don`t have OB/GYNs, the minimum wage in the state is $5.15.

And so when we think about how we train our organizers, right, that we have twice as many ears as you do mouths. And so it is imperative that you listen to Georgians, and you understand what their priorities are. And then we connect the act of voting.

So it`s not a guy that we want to have a beer with, that people are voting for. It is who will co-govern with the people who will listen to Georgians. And I think the other thing is that Georgia actually recognized the power of their vote.

Listen, we have Supreme Court Justice Katanji Brown Jackson, because of the 50 vote majority in the United States Senate. Georgia voters know that they did that. Right. 80 percent of American households got some sort of economic relief through the American Rescue Plan. Right. Georgia voters know that they did that. Right.

And so understanding the power of the vote. Yes, the president`s approval ratings are going down. Yes, the GOP is made up of a bunch of criminals who executed or failed to execute a murder plot against the Vice President of the United States, right?

Yes, there are tons of things that we want to win for ourselves and our families and things that we want to preserve, like bodily autonomy. And we understand that while voting isn`t a silver bullet, it is an important tool that Georgians can use to build a Georgia and to build a country that we feel like our families deserve. People know that and they understand that and they`re showing up to vote in historic numbers as a way to underscore that point.

RUHLE: Which is why what they`re saying on Fox News is so ridiculous and untrue about black voters in the state of Georgia. Watch this.


GREG GUTFELD, "THE FIVE" CO-HOST: The oddest thing about Biden is that he`s right. We are in the worst civil rights crisis in 50 years. It`s called his presidency, because he has divided this country. He`s impugned like the character of half the country. He`s the worst president for blacks.


RUHLE: The worst president for blacks. For facts sake, let`s just break down for our audience. President Biden to your point nominated the first black woman now confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court. The White House says its American Rescue Plan has cut black child poverty by 33 percent. And administrative initiatives have promoted investments in historic black schools and in black communities.

So when you hear the far right make this argument, Biden is bad for black America, to any black people hear that nonsense? It`s a lie.

UFOT: It is absolutely a lie. Listen, what I do know is that the disinformation campaigns that the Republican Party and Fox News, its mouthpiece continue to push are not having the impact that they would like, like folks are getting more sophisticated. Digital media literacy is very much a part of our plan to win, and are organizing and how we`re doing civic education and voter education.

And they`re lying. These are the same people who promoted the big lie, right? These are the same people who essentially gave us Donald Trump as the president. They have zero credibility.

As I remind you that the January 6 plots included a failed murder plot to kill the Vice President of the United States, they identified 535 alternative electors so that they could interfere with the Electoral College vote count. They smeared feces on the walls of the people`s house, right?

And these are folks that are providing them cover and doing everything that they can to bend over backwards to explain away this bad behavior. They have zero credibility. They know nothing about black voters, and we should treat them as such.

RUHLE: And truth matters, but only if you see it. Nse Ufot, thank you for joining us tonight. You got a busy day tomorrow.

Coming up. Ukraine`s leader asks global economic leaders for the maximum punishment to help stop what a Russian diplomat calls them warmongering lies and hatred in the Kremlin when the 11th hour continues.




VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): After their atrocities that they can make it I cannot be too excited about such a meeting or meetings with the intermediaries. So I do not accept any kind of meeting with anyone coming from the Russian Federation about the President of the Russian Federation.



RUHLE: As we enter day 90 of the unprovoked Russian invasion, Ukraine`s President says he will only negotiate with Vladimir Putin himself. And Putin is now facing defections from within his own government.

A career diplomat in the Russian Mission to the United Nations has resigned, saying this, in part, quote, The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world is not only a crime against Ukrainian people, but also perhaps the most serious crime against the people of Russia. That`s major.

Let`s bring in NBC`s Call Perry live in Kyiv tonight. Cal, we`re entering the third month of this war, what is it like in Kyiv, and the rest of the country? You`ve been there?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the heaviest fighting continues to be in the eastern part of the country. That`s where the Russian forces have now concentrated their efforts. It was just a few months ago, when they were trying to get here to the Capitol. They were pushed back they have now pivoted to the eastern part. And the bombardment there, Stephanie, is absolutely brutal.

Just a bit north of where I am. Last Tuesday, there was an airstrike that according to the president killed at least 89 people. If confirmed, it`ll be the deadliest single attack of this war. But it gives you an idea of how widespread the damage is how widespread the death is. According to the president, some 50 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers could be dying every single day on that Eastern Front.

Here in the capital, it really is an interesting juxtaposition. You have people going about their daily lives trying to repair their lives, repair their apartments, reunite with family members. In fact, the government, Stephanie, has brought in the burned out shells of Russian tanks and put them around the Capitol here, because people cannot travel to Irpin or to Borodyanka to where these fighting was because of course, travel is still restricted here. The government wants to get people back on their feet. They want to get the infrastructure built, but they want people to keep in mind how vicious and bloody the war is. Stephanie.

RUHLE: Cal Perry, thank you so much. I want to dig deeper and bring in Alex Kliment. He`s a senior editor for GZERO Media. Before that, he was the director of Eurasia`s research focusing on the political economy, monetary issues and foreign policy of Russia.

All right, Alex, I`m so glad you`re here. As you mentioned, Zelenskyy spoke before Davos today on a video meeting to Davos, these are corporate leaders, government leaders, oftentimes Russian oligarchs, maybe not this year, why that set as he`s demanding more sanctions? No commitment to any banks, no trading whatsoever with Russian oil. Why Davos?

ALEX KLIMENT, GZERO MEDIA SENIOR EDITOR: I think Zelenskyy is worried about something very important, which is that the West may start to lose interest in the conflict. Right. We`re three months into the war, as Carl says, the Ukrainians have shown astounding heroism pushing the Russians back from Kyiv, away from Kharkiv. You know, Russia thought this war would last three days. Three months later, the opera is on and Kyiv again, right.

But what`s happening is that the war is sort of shifting into a more gruesome stalemate type of situation, where the Russians have enough bodies, enough cannon fodder to hold positions in the east and in the south, but maybe not to push further without Putin declaring mobilization, which he seems scared to declare.

And on the other side, the Ukrainians have the heart, they have the determination, and they had the Western weapons to keep the Russians at bay, but probably not drive them out of Ukraine entirely. Right.

So what you have is this stalemate, which starts to lose people`s interest over time, right? People start to wonder, OK, how is this going to end business leaders are wondering, look, what you hear from Davos, everyone supports Ukraine`s right to defend itself. Everyone`s everyone thinks Ukraine is on the right side of history, but how does it end? And at what cost?

And so I think Zelenskyy his task today in Davos was to try to nip those apprehensions in the bud and restore the sense of moral clarity and purpose around this issue.

RUHLE: Well, let`s talk about sanctions. Are they working? Because you`ve got people here, for example, who maybe are losing interest. We`re looking at soaring gas prices, and they`re not that happy, and they`re saying, Oh, we`re paying up for gas? Because we`ve got to do this to Russia, the sanctions, but then you look over at Russia and the ruble, that a lot of people don`t pay attention to? Is it a 52-week high?


RUHLE: What`s going on with that?

KLIMENT: Well, the Russians did a very good job of blunting the initial impact of the sanctions. There`s no question that the sanctions have set Russia back decades in terms of what kind of economy it is. This is not going to be an innovative modern economy in any meaningful sense.

RUHLE: It wasn`t going to be an innovative modern economy long before the war started. Putin has sucked in but besides oil and gas, what else do they export? That`s of note, grain has done nothing in terms of innovation.

KLIMENT: Yes. Well, look, they`ve been set back even you`re talking about arms, their arms export industry has been set back by these sanctions, right. I mean, Russia has been set back decades, right.

But the question is, is this enough to change Putin`s calculus on the war? Right. And so far, it seems like it`s not. The question with sanctions is always this, whose threshold of pain is higher? Western democracies that are concerned about economic issues like inflation that you`ve talked about, or Vladimir Putin who`s concerned about the survival of his regime.


RUHLE So right now what`s the answer?

KLIMENT: I think Putin has, you know, is willing to bear an awful lot of pain to do what he thinks he needs to do in Ukraine. For him this is an existential issue. For your average voter in the United States, it`s probably not. And that`s the problem that Zelenskyy is trying to solve, trying to say, look, this does matter. It does matter as a defense of democracies. It does matter. He even talked about the food inflation issue said, listen, part of the reason your food price so high, is because the Russians are waging war on my country. And we`re a major exporter of wheat and cooking oil and things that people use in our kitchen.

RUHLE: How much worse is that going to get the port of Odesa is still closed, Russia is blocking it, and Ukraine is not going to get these grains out not in the near future?

KLIMENT: Right, it can get a lot worse. I mean, the UN has already warned that the war in Ukraine could push close to 2 billion people closer to poverty, starvation. Famine even.

And the issue is that, as you say, the grains can`t get out of Ukrainian ports. But also, Russian fertilizer is not getting out to the world because people don`t want to touch it. And the Russians aren`t sending it to unfriendly countries. There are energy aspects of this that are making prices continue to rise.

And it`s a big problem, particularly for the global south, but also for lower income people in the developed democracies, people`s food bills are going up and it is directly tied to the war in Ukraine.

RUHLE: So where do we go from here? You`ve got one Russian diplomat saying I`m out. But he`s also saying I`m going to hide out here in Geneva. Do you see any more movement on the Russia side?

KLIMENT: Look, it takes an extraordinarily high amount of personal conviction and courage to do what Ambassador Bondinif (ph) did, right. For one thing, he`s given up his entire career. But let`s not forget, you can also go to jail for 15 years in Russia for even calling this a war, right?

So criticism of the war comes a very high personal cost. I think his decision should be commended. We should welcome him as a source of insight and perspective on what`s going inside of Russia. I would not expect boatloads of Russian diplomats to be jumping on boats to freedom over the next couple of weeks.

RUHLE: Alex, you definitely came to make us smarter and you succeeded. Thank you for joining us tonight.

KLIMENT: Thank you, Stephanie.

RUHLE: Coming up. This time tomorrow night we will have a lot more insight into the political clout of the former guy and the big lie he and many other Republicans continue to push more on what to watch for when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



RUHLE: According to an excellent New York Times analysis, at least 357 sitting Republican lawmakers in battleground states have already used the power of their office to discredit or try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which we know was free and fair. And that is why we keep saying it. Democracy itself is on the ballot these days.

With us tonight to discuss, former Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo. And Robert Gibbs, former Obama campaign senior advisor and White House press secretary under President Obama, both MSNBC political analysts.

Congressman, this is a prime example of why local elections matter. I want to share more from the Times that writes, quote, election and democracy experts say they see the rise of anti-democratic impulses in state houses as a clear new threat to the health of American democracy. How worried are you?

FMR. REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R) FLORIDA: Yes, Steph, this is a big deal. While most of us are paying attention to the big primaries, like in Pennsylvania last week, and of course, Georgia is coming up these quiet races that are getting a lot less attention, they can matter a lot. And then they can make a big difference as to whether people`s votes count or not.

So there are a few organizations out there issue one, unite America who are paying attention to these close races and trying to help the candidates that are just for election integrity, meaning that they`re going to respect the result of the election.

But this is a growing chance. And it has to be removed one election at a time. And right now it seems like unfortunately, people on the wrong side of this issue have a lot of momentum.

RUHLE: Robert, the Times also points out though, that false claims about rigged elections and voter fraud have been the basis for several new laws that make it harder to vote. But that -- but at the same time, influential leaders in both parties are still not on board with these restrictions. Is there a chance that this voter fraud push is finally losing steam?

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: Well, look, I think you see the pervasiveness in this just how deeply ingrained this is inside of the Republican apparatus inside of state legislatures. I think you saw it last week in the nomination of the gubernatorial candidate on the Republican side in Pennsylvania.

So I don`t think this is all going away. And I don`t think it`s going to go away tomorrow even if Trump loses a couple of races tomorrow, which he`s almost certain to do. I think there`s an apparatus that it`s built around this lie. It`s built around propagating this lie. And it`s built around making sure that people act differently the next time this election comes around. That`s why it`s so dangerous. These elections are so dangerous for what could happen in 2024 and beyond.

RUHLE: Congressman, we have talked though, in the past though, about how Mike Pence is rallying for Brian Kemp. At the same time, Trump is on the phone urging voters to defeat him.


The Washington Post reports that Republican Governors Association spent millions of dollars trying to stop what they call Trump`s vendetta tour in Georgia. So does it give you any hope that tomorrow night could actually be a turning point within the National Republican Party to stop or at least slow the pushing of this big lie? The Republican Party you used to be a part of.

CURBELO: That`s right, Steph. I have a lot of hope. Because already, even before this Georgia primary, where we do expect Brian Kemp to win someone who refuse to go along with President Trump -- President Trump`s big lie, even before Georgia and states like Pennsylvania, we saw that the President`s candidate couldn`t even get a third of the vote of Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina, who the President tried to bail out at the last hour. He couldn`t even get a third of the vote.

So we are starting to see some of Trump`s influence waned, that grip on the Republican Party is starting to loosen and hopefully, even if it`s people who not everyone agrees with, like Mike Pence, who`s very conservative, but it would be a very positive development in the Republican Party of people who are committed to the truth to election integrity, actually start winning the day and we can finally put an end to this dark chapter of lies and manipulation and a division in our country.

RUHLE: Well, then let`s bring up somebody with no commitment to the truth. Ginni Thomas, The Washington Post obtained emails that have Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, urging Arizona lawmakers to quote set aside Biden`s 2020 victory and choose what she calls a clean slate of electors, Ginni Thomas, private citizen.

Robert, are you surprised? Or is this just Jenny Thomas and we`re accepting it?

GIBBS: Well, I`m less surprised, given that we`ve seen the emails that she sent to the White House Chief of Staff largely asking for the same thing. But I hope that we as Americans can continue to be shocked by the depth at which a Supreme Court justice his wife is asking state officials, the White House Chief of Staff people at the highest levels of our government to do all that they can to overturn an election.

Just two weeks ago, Clarence Thomas gave a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, ironically, where the primaries will be held tomorrow, you know, saying that we`ve got to get over people being really angry about things that happen and they can`t change and disagreements that they don`t agree with. And it`s just bonkers. I mean, it is -- it`s -- you listen to -- that`s not even an argument apparently that carries his own household.

RUHLE: It`s not just bonkers. It`s a disaster. Carlos Curbelo, Robert Gibbs, thank you both for joining tonight. This is really important stuff and we got to cover it.

Coming up, in Maverick and the Republican Party poses some very tough questions tonight to all of us. The answers could define our destiny when THE 11TH HOUR continues



RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, our sacred duty as we like to say on this show the truth matters but only if you hear it. While Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney was laying out some much needed truth when she accepted her John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award yesterday, she spoke about the danger this country is in if people continue to believe the lies of the former guy, and we hope her fellow Republicans were listening. Here`s just a portion of her very powerful speech.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): This sacred obligation to defend the peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president except one. Standing on the east front of the United States Capitol on a snowy morning in 1961, President Kennedy said in the long history of freedom, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom and its hour of maximum danger.

Today, that roll is ours. As we face a threat we have never faced before a former president attempting to unravel our constitutional republic. At this moment, we must all summon the courage to stand against that.

The question for every one of us is in this time of testing, will we do our duty? Will we defend our Constitution? Will we stand for truth? Will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics? Or will we look away from danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies and enable the liar.

As we leave here tonight, I ask all of you to remember this sacred duty that is passed to us to remember that in our republic, some things have to matter. The defense of our Republic, the defense of the constitutional foundations of our nation have to matter. In a republic, there are no bystanders, there are no spectators.

As citizens, every one of us has a duty to set aside partisan battles and stand together to perpetuate and preserve our great Republic. Ladies and gentlemen, we are engaged in a battle we must win and with courage and clarity and grit. It is a battle we will win.


RUHLE: I sure hope you share some of her words at the breakfast table tomorrow. Congresswoman Liz Cheney offering some much needed truth during a time of so many dangerous lies, plain spoken honesty, taking us off the air tonight.


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 will see you at the end of tomorrow.