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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 5/9/22

Guests: Peter Baker, Jason Beardsley, William Taylor, Harry Litman, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Matthew Dowd, Ruth Ben-Ghiat


After weeks of rising fears of an escalation, Russia`s Victory Day unfolded relatively quietly in Ukraine. It comes as Pres. Biden signs a bill reviving a World War II-era program aimed at quickly getting military support to Ukraine. Senate Democrats tee up a doomed vote to protect abortion rights this week as the Senate`s top Republican said a nationwide abortion ban is "possible."



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Clarence Thomas recused himself from any Supreme Court cases involving the communications of his wife or the presidential election, generally since his wife was a participant in it at the highest levels with the White House Chief of Staff.

ERIC HOLDER, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, that is a no brainer.


O`DONNELL: And that is what former Attorney General Eric Holder told us earlier in this hour. THE 11TH HOUR WITH STEPHANIE RUHLE starts now.


ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: -- gets underway on this Monday night. Good evening, I`m Alicia Menendez in for Stephanie Ruhle. Ukraine has now been fighting Russia`s unprovoked invasion for nearly three months. Today, Vladimir Putin was trying to defend his war. This was Victory Day in Russia when the nation celebrates victory over Nazi Germany. It`s Russia`s biggest holiday.

And during today`s observances, Putin tried to justify the war with false claims of Nazis in Ukraine and so called aggression toward Russia. Yet, amid the images of troops marching in formation, and the military hardware on display, Putin did not declare a new offensive in Ukraine and did not declare victory. While in Ukraine, President Zelenskyy offered up his own message to the Kremlin.

Today, a senior U.S. defense official called Russian efforts on the battlefield incremental is somewhat anemic. Despite that, Russia continues to hammer Ukraine with airstrikes this weekend targeting what Ukrainian officials say was a school being used as a shelter, at least 60 percent to be killed.

NBC News reports that night President Biden told Democrats Putin is a very, very, very calculated man, but that he doesn`t have a way out right now.

Earlier today, the President signed an updated version of the Lend-Lease Act. The program originally used to speed weapons to Britain during World War II will now help get weapons into the hands of Ukrainian fighters.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Everyday Ukrainians pay with their lives, the cost of the fight is not cheap. But caving to aggression is even more costly. That`s why we`re staying in this.


MENENDEZ: Biden has called on Congress to approve another $33 billion for Ukraine. House Democrats say they`ll begin working on that funding legislation tomorrow.

Let`s begin our coverage of the war with NBC`s Cal Perry live for us tonight in Kyiv. Cal, it wasn`t just Victory Day in Moscow, Russian troops also mark the day in Ukraine. Tell me more.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we had this kind of bizarre scene on the eastern part of Mariupol, where we`ve not seen a heavy fighting last few weeks, where Russian officials who have changed the street signs there to Russian took part in a small parade. This was obviously a piece of propaganda used by Moscow. It coincided with that large March that we saw in Moscow.

But bizarre because the fighting on the other side of the city is so fierce, you continue to see that sort of stronghold that steelworks facility where hundreds of fighters are still in that basement area, we understand that a number of them are wounded.

And so to have these scenes play out on the other side of the city is a juxtaposition that a lot of Ukrainians just cannot wrap their heads around. On the other side of the country, you have a continuation in the east of violence the school that you mentioned hit on Saturday night and airstrikes there. At least 60 people were sort of trapped in the rubble at some point but again, it`s hard for rescuers to reach that area just as it was, for example, that theater in Mariupol because the fighting is heavy, because the airstrikes from Russia just continue.

MENENDEZ: Cal, do we have a sense of the status of that steel plant in Mariupol?

PERRY: Not a good one as for an hour by hour basis. We know that as of yesterday, the government was still in communication with fighters there. We think most of the civilians if not all of the civilians have finally been extracted from that site. They`re on their way the last of them to Zaporizhzhia, but we just don`t know how long the Ukrainian fighters can hold out and they`re not sharing with us how many there are remaining in that plan for what they say are operational security reasons.


There`s a lot I think of speculation that the Russians are close to taking that plant because they have swung a whole lot of troops to the eastern part of the country to the Donbas region leaving just a few 1,000 in the city of Mariupol.

MENENDEZ: Cal, I wonder which area of the country are Ukrainian officials most worried about at this point?

PERRY: Well, certainly Mariupol because they don`t have a good grasp of how many people have died there. Officials think it could be in the tens of thousands, in the eastern part of the country in the Donbas region, in the Luhansk area that`s where that school is the fighting is fierce.

I should say the Ukrainian government is really proud of gains that`s making in the Kharkiv region, that`s to the north, that Kharkiv, you see there, region east of where I am from the north of the country, six villages have been liberated by Ukrainian forces.

So the Ukrainian army is on the move in the northern part of the country. It seems like they`ve stalled the Russian invasion to the east. And then in the southern part of the country, its cities marred by massive bombardment, you know, the city of Maricopa has basically been wiped off the map.

The city of Odesa, I should say, in the last six hours has come under cruise missile fire, at least seven rockets landing in the city of Odesa. So a lot of fear about what could happen in Odesa as well because it is, of course one of those black sea port cities,

MENENDEZ: NBC`s Cal Perry live for us in Kyiv. Ukraine. Cal, as always, thank you.

With that, let`s bring in our experts Peter Baker, Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. He spent years as the Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post closely watching the rise of Putin. Jason Beardsley, a decorated U.S. military veteran with over 20 years of experience in the army and navy. He`s now the National Executive Director for the Association of the Navy. And William Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is also the United States Institute of Peace Vice President for Russia and Europe. Gentlemen, it is good to see you all.

Peter, I want to start with you. Wasn`t a lot to take away from today`s victory day in Russia. But we did hear this from the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, take a listen.


AMB. JOHN SULLIVAN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: It`s also difficult to know what President Putin is planning, it`s difficult to speculate because his decision circle is so small. If I were a betting person, I would say it`s most likely that President Putin is doubling down on his special military operation in Ukraine.


MENENDEZ: Peter, Putin tried to defend the war today. Why do you think he chose to refrain from making any major declarations about what is next for Ukraine?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think first of all, of course, the reality on the ground is such that it makes any kind of pronouncement along those lines pretty hard to sell. Even in a country where the Kremlin controls the media where the information is under the state auspices. There`s a lot of reality still there in Russia. They see the body bags coming home. They hear the stories from their loved ones on the frontlines. They know what`s really going on, at least a lot of them do.

And I think that it would be hard for him to sell a story of victory at a time when there`s clearly nothing like that.

Secondly, I think I don`t think I`ve answered what Ambassador Taylor thinks, because obviously, he knows that part of the world really well. I think that he enjoys being unpredictable. I think he probably enjoys having tweaked us for the last number of days, thinking that something big was going to come and then watching us get all worked up and then showing Ah, see, I didn`t do what you thought I was going to do. I`m not, you know, so easily categorize.

But that doesn`t mean that something big can`t happen. It doesn`t happen to happen -- it doesn`t have to happen on Victory Day for him to decide. He`s going to escalate or in some way, make this war even more deadly and devastating and it`s already been. So we get worked up about the holiday. But it`s the days after the holiday we should probably be thinking about.

MENENDEZ: Ambassador Taylor, Peter Baker wants to hear from you. And that means so do I.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Alicia, Peter, it`s great to great to be able to talk to you, I think Peters right. I think Peter`s right. President Putin had two bad options. People were debating whether he would choose one or the other that is doubled down or back down, declare victory and try to settle it down. He couldn`t really do either. He didn`t have a choice. There was no good option for him.

So he chose no good option. He is afraid, Alicia. He`s afraid of his people. He doesn`t want to ask them to sacrifice. He knows that they`re already starting. Peter`s right. They`re already the people in Russia are already beginning to feel the pain. And they`re beginning to bury their sons and fathers and brothers when they come back from Ukraine.

So Alicia, Putin is worried about his standing with the people, a dictator or not, he`s got to worry about the people.

MENENDEZ: Jason, I want you to take a listen to what we heard today from a former adviser to President Zelenskyy. Here it is.


IGOR NOVIKOV, FMR. ADVISOR TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: I`ve got that sense that Putin blinked today in you know, there were no ultimatums. There are no victories announced, it looks like you know, they don`t know what to do. He`s scared. You know, with the Lend-Lease bill signed, I think it`s Ukraine`s to win now.


MENENDEZ: Jason, do you agree?

JASON BEARDSLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERT: Yes. And by the way, both Peter and William have it right here and really Putin didn`t blink today.


He`s been blinking for the entire invasion, every step of the way. He`s been beleaguered and hampered by logistics, poor supplies, bad leadership. They tried to knock out the Ukrainian communication networks. Elon Musk stepped in with Starlink. They tried to knock out Ukrainian weapons, the United States stepped in with howitzers with all kinds of ammunition and munitions. So that`s when -- that the Ukrainian forces have been fighting. They`ve been creative. They`ve been using guerilla style warfare plus combined arms strategy. They are really on the cusp of being able to open up a seam in this battlefield. That doesn`t mean this is over soon.

Putin as the two guests already suggested, he did what he could today a show of certain let`s call it theater, it was farcical. Everybody knows that. The reason he didn`t brag and complete this or call this a war, it`s a bit of a technicality. He does not know he cannot rely on the Russian people by declaring a general mobilization because that will put them in a whole different worlds. Right now he`s trying to limit this and try to save face as much as possible.

MENENDEZ: Well, Ambassador Taylor, it`s in such sharp contrast to what we are seeing from President Zelenskyy, that powerful video walking the streets in response to Russia`s Victory Day talking about being a free people. What are you hearing from your contacts in Ukraine about how the government views the war at this point?

TAYLOR: Alicia, President Zelenskyy used his words, he mobilizes his people, and they mobilize him. He`s -- He really represents them. The Ukrainian people are strong, are tough. They`re determined to be free. They`re interpreted to be independent. And he is leading that. He is -- he grows on that. He absorbs that. And he projects it and it`s a very positive projection. So it is a great combination President Zelenskyy and Ukrainian people that are so tough.

MENENDEZ: Peter, we also saw evidence on Russian media of anti-war sentiment. There was hacking on Russian TV instead of a display of the usual channels and message took over the screens that read, quote, the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands. The Kremlin has made it a crime to express anti-war sentiment, people have been arrested. Could a protest like this hack prompt the Kremlin to crack down even harder?

BAKER: Certainly, yes, absolutely. They`re very, very jealous of the information space they have over the years, repeatedly cracked down on any information, you know, source that got in their way as they saw. They`ve been incredibly repressive since this war began with these new law threatening 15-year lifestyle, or 15-year sentences in prison for using the word war to describe the special military operation. They have arrested hundreds, if not thousands of people over the last few months.

They`ve successfully, you know, tamp down a lot of the street actions up until now. But the more and more, you know, information gets through. And more and more, you know, Russians feel that they are losing, you know, their loved ones for a cause they don`t necessarily believe in. I think the more dangerous it becomes for him. Ambassador Taylor`s right that there isn`t backed up the popular, you know, will that matters even in a dictatorship. That`s what happened in Afghanistan, what happened with Chechnya, there was, you know, people at home saw the cost of war in their own communities that you can`t hide funerals.

And I think that, you know, over time, you know, he is worried about losing that public support, which is why he`s playing the nationalist drum so heavily in order to try to keep up, you know, some sort of sense of patriotic duty in fighting a war that many Russians don`t understand because it`s against remember, they`re a Slavic brothers, these are not against Chechens, or Afghans or people they consider to be foreigners Ukraine. Ukrainians to them are like, you know, fraternal relatives, and they -- and I think it`s very confusing for a lot of Russians why they`re at war in a family like that.

MENENDEZ: All right, Jason, to that point, tonight you had the President expressing concern about Putin not being able to find a way out of this war. What Is the President worried about here aside from the conflict not ending soon?

BEARDSLEY: Desperation. What we`ve seen from the beginning is because Putin hasn`t been able to decisively defeat the Ukrainians on the ground, you`ve seen these aerial bombardments of the cities, the atrocities and Bucha, places like that. You`re going to see more of that the longer Russia is in play.

So I think what President Biden is worried about is essentially adding to that. So the real key here, President Zelenskyy has got to mobilize his forces, the new munitions that are being surplus inside of Ukraine, get them to the front lines and combine their strategy with the so far guerrilla style sort of hit and run tactic warfare. The Ukrainians have been doing and they need to hand Russia some decisive blows.

Russia right now they`re creating their bodies on site. They`re trying not to push bodies back to Russia. So they are trying to hide this from the people.


But information is leaking out. And again, all credit to two Ukrainians for one, putting this effort together and to the White House for getting the weapons in here. The big lesson is they should have been in before the invasion. We had six months of previous intelligence. So here`s an opportunity for the President to get in front of the next kind of occasion Taiwan, looking right across the street to China.

The time to do weapons supplies is not in the middle of a fight. It`s prior to it. And by the way, the Green Berets, the Special Forces have been successful since 2014 training the Ukrainians on these tactics, which is why they`ve operated differently than they did in Donbas region prior to that. This is going to be success.

MENENDEZ: Ambassador Taylor, this all comes as we heard this alarming news from the Pentagon today, take a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We certainly have seen indications that Ukrainians are being moved from Ukraine into Russia. I can`t speak to how many camps or what they look like, but we do have indications that Ukrainians are being taken against their will into Russia.


MENENDEZ: Ambassador your thoughts?

TAYLOR: Alicia, war crimes. This forced movement of people who don`t want to these are Ukrainians. They want to go into Ukraine. They want to go into where free Ukraine is. And Putin is moving them, is almost kidnapping them, taking them back and putting them into what people are calling filtration camp. We`re talking about reeducation. We`ve heard this, Alicia. This is terrible that we`re going back to this.

So this just indicates why Ukrainians have to win. Why the Ukrainians have to be able to beat the Russians and their counter attacks are an indication that they can do this. They`ve succeeded on the ground. They succeeded on the sea with their own missiles, on their own anti-ship missiles, they can do this. They need to win so that these atrocities stop.

MENENDEZ: Jason, I take your earlier point about the need to have gotten these weapons there sooner given where we are given that we have already sent billions in weapons. What else do Ukrainian forces need now?

BEARDSLEY: Well, they`ve gotten a lot of good intelligence from the United States, communications is huge. You can`t fight on multiple fronts without those robust networks. That`s where again, Musk with the Starlink network came in and patched a gap that`s made Ukraine very effective in this. What they need now is to be able to integrate the new weapons. The United States is training them in other countries, that`s been great. It`s now getting those forces into play, because as Ambassador Taylor suggests, the opportunity is now to break the will of Russia, the only way to do that is you got to knock out their armor, you got to knock out their artillery.

They`re doing that now a steady supply of that has helped. But again, I think the United States needs to be smart here. We`ve got our own issues trying to compete in the naval fleet against China, against Russia. So it`s time to look at how do we get in front of these rather than behind them.

And I would suggest that the White House has got a great opportunity, while the American people are very supportive of a strong defense. It`s better to do this and avoid a war than to get inside of one and have to end it.

MENENDEZ: Peter, to that sense of urgency, the President is pushing Congress to immediately approve more aid to Ukraine. He says it needs to be done before trying to secure and more COVID funding, the House taking up the measure tomorrow. What should we be watching for?

BAKER: Yes, what`s striking, of course, as the President knighted states came to Congress said I need $33 billion to help Ukraine with his military humanitarian aid, and Congress is bidding him up. They look like they`re going to add another $7 billion to which indicates, by the way, I think a certain bipartisan consensus here in Washington, which is rather remarkable given everything else. They`re telling the United States we not only support what you`re doing in terms of helping Ukraine, we want to do more.

So that`s going to be I think, on the table starting tomorrow. The question is whether the Republicans and Democrats have completely agreed on the specifics of the bill that they want to move forward. They don`t want to let this get bogged down by tying it to this COVID bill, which is tied up in an immigration fight this unrelated because they do feel there`s some pressing need to get this out there that if they don`t do that, there`ll be a slowdown on the weapons that Jason Beardsley talking about and that`s something neither Republicans nor Democrats won.

MENENDEZ: Our thanks to Peter Baker, Jason Beardsley and Ambassador William Taylor. Coming up. Critics of Roe argue abortion is an issue states should get to decide. But those critics may not be planning to stop there.

And later the world`s addiction to oil has been blamed for fueling autocratic governments for years. Could the tragedy of Ukraine finally end the dependency? THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Monday night.




CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: You`ve just said that you believe life begins at conception. If there is legislation brought to you to ban contraception. Would you sign it?

GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, I don`t think that`s going to happen in Mississippi. I`m sure they`ll have those conversations in other states --

TODD: But you`re not answering the question.

REEVES: As is always the case with thing -- well, that`s always the case. There`s so many things that we can talk about.


MENENDEZ: Justice Alito is leaked opinion overturning Roe v Wade has many fearing what`s next. Take for example, Mississippi`s Governor refusal to rule out a ban on contraception. Some Democratic candidates for state attorneys general now promising to help. Just today New York`s AG announced new legislation to boost funding for women`s clinics in the state.


With us tonight, Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas. She is also an MSNBC political analyst.

Harry, if Roe v Wade is overturned, there is already concerned access to contraceptives could be next, what else is on the table, how much of this is going to play out in the courts?

HARRY LITMAN, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: On the table is a really vast array of things we`ve come to take for granted, Alicia, same sex marriage, into race, marriage, private, consensual behavior, even the ability to educate your children. All of these things are completely put into play by the Alito leak.

Now, the leaked draft says, Well, this is only about abortion. But judges don`t declare winners or losers. They give reasons, they give principles. And just as you can say, as to abortion, well it used to be a crime in the 18th century. That`s why we can overrule it today, you could say the exact same thing, exact same thing about marrying someone of another race, marrying someone of the same sex.

So, it`s just completely at the grace of these five, whether or not that something new like that will come up and be shot down. And of course, as the Mississippi Governor makes clear, there`s a lot of people in the country who will want to be pushing them in that direction.

MENENDEZ: Vicki, as I listened to Harry lay out everything that could possibly be on the table and lay out the power of these five justices. I have to wonder to what extent is the politically galvanizing argument here about health care, access to abortion, access to Plan B, contraceptives, and to what extent it`s about a broader argument on judicial overreach and the variety of rights that could be impacted that will actually motivate voters?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think that what we`re seeing here to take a step back, Alicia, is a shifting of a rallying point for so many decades, essentially, since 1973. We`ve seen Roe v Wade be a rallying point in the GOP and a momentum. And we`ve reached this point.

So when we`re looking at these other things that Harry put on the table, the question is, will they be sufficiently effective in rallying folks to push forward, right? I think that that is the question. And I think it`s also going to differ by region, right.

So when we`re talking about the curtailment of rights, and taking back these rights, we see it at the national level in terms of the justices acting in this way. But I also think that we need to keep our eye on what`s happening in our region in our individual state, for example, what we`re seeing in Mississippi right now, so I think it`s an overall issue that we need to keep our eye on in terms of judicial overreach, but also what is happening at the state level in the courts, but also the legislature.

MENENDEZ: Harry, I want to shift gears a little talk about the 1/6 investigation. The Washington Post has more on the role that Mark Meadows played in advancing Trump`s efforts to overturn the election. The paper reports quote, Meadows granted those peddling theories about a stolen election, direct access to the Oval Office and personally conducted some with the President. He pressed the Justice Department to investigate spurious and debunked claims. He also pushed the Justice Department unsuccessfully to try to invalidate the election results in six states through federal court action. Has been nearly five months now since the House found him in contempt. So why hasn`t the Justice Department charged Meadows yet?

LITMAN: And by the way, it`s not just that he`s also with Trump the entire afternoon of 1/6, and even after he`s repeatedly told don`t do it, he goes ahead, that report is really harrowing, why not? Well, some have posited that there`s a memo that makes it makes -- it seem as if maybe there`s a claim that he doesn`t have to show up, because he`s so close to Trump, that there is so called testimonial immunity.

The courts have rejected that, Alicia. But the idea might be that it`s giving the department pause before charged him with a crime. But what I`ve suggested they ought to do is re subpoena him tomorrow and have it only apply to things that have nothing to do with his official duties. For instance, the campaign and everything about the 1/6 rally because the argument if it exists back there is that it`s only for our official duty.

So then I think that could slap an immediate new content referral on him and I think that might be an easier road for the Department of Justice. Short answer is we don`t know and it`s a real issue because there`s so much that he is up to his elbows in.

MENENDEZ: All right, Eric Holder suggesting a Trump indictment could be coming. Here`s what he had to say earlier tonight.


ERIC HOLDER, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: By the end of this investigative process, you`re going to find that Donald Trump has done the necessary things to meet all of the elements of a variety of statutes, and also will be have shown to have the requisite intent in doing those. But if nothing else, Donald Trump was a norm breaker and he has taken us to a place where a consideration of a prosecution of a former president and his closest allies considerations of the prosecution so all of those people is totally is totally appropriate.


MENENDEZ: Harry, your thoughts?

LITMAN: You know, Holder is an institutional so am I. I basically coming around as he is to the view that the only thing worse than prosecuting Trump is not prosecuting him. He continues to absolutely propound The Big Lie, whip up all his supporters and maintain the same toxic effect on the country. I just giving him a pass on all of this. Wow, what a message about the rule of law.

MENENDEZ: Harry Litman, as always, thank you so much for being with us. Victoria has agreed to stick around. Coming up, members of Congress are about to go on the record over abortion rights. We`re going to preview a critical vote destined to fail on THE 11TH HOUR continues.




SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): We need to make sure that every single voter understands that the Republican Party and Mitch McConnell does not believe that their daughters, that their mothers., that their sisters have rights to make fundamental life and death decisions. We are half citizens under this ruling.


MENENDEZ: Senate Democrats warning of Republican efforts to restrict abortions nationwide after Mitch McConnell left the door open to a nationwide ban, telling USA Today it was quote, possible. The Senate plans to vote on a bill to provide protections for abortion rights on Wednesday. The vote is expected to fail. Democrats don`t have the support to pass the 60 vote threshold.

Senator Lisa Murkowski one of the last potential Republican supporters of the bill says she will vote no.

Still with us Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, and joining us MSNBC political contributor Matthew Dowd is also a former George W. Bush strategist and founder of Country Over Party. Matt, this vote on Wednesday, it`s expected to fail, why is it still important that they hold it?

MATTHEW DOWD, FMR. CHIEF STRATEGIST TO BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, it`s going to fail. But I also always think politics is always about pointing out and pushing through where you want the debate to be about. And I think Democrats would be smart to make this entire campaign over the next six months of referendum on rights and freedom, not only about pro-choice, but also about voting rights.

And so I think holding a vote, even if you lose begins to build resonance for this in the coming campaign. But there`s no doubt this is going to go down. But I think at this point in time, what we`re talking about from now until November 2, no the first week, first Tuesday of November, is what the campaign is going to be about and Democrats want to make this about that.

MENENDEZ: Right and Vicki, there`s going to be the lived experience that accompanies that larger argument. The LA Times wrote about how even with Roe v Wade in place, low income women struggle to get abortions in Texas, you`ve been covering this years long effort to restrict abortion access in that state. Talk to us, how do we get here?

SOTO: The disproportionate burden as you point out, Alicia, is going to be on for women and especially women of color. And I think that the one strategy going forward and looking at all of the odds being stacked against the Democrats and seeing that something is likely not going to get passed in the Senate, looking at the Supreme Court, looking at various state legislators is looking at public opinion. And I have one word, it`s overreach.

I think that we have really reached a tipping point where we know that first of all, the general American public is supportive of a woman`s right to choose. But beyond that, I`m really zeroing in on two key groups. A, independence, where we see two-thirds of independence, especially women don`t support this total ban on abortion or near total ban, as well as Republicans.

So really interesting among Republicans, it`s very few that you have that extreme case, most Republicans and this is from a recent Pew poll shows that it depends on the length of pregnancy. But what we`re seeing is this rhetoric of a very extreme stance, not even in the case of rape or incest.

So I think that this overreach that we`ve seen is going to pull over certain segments that had been teetering before, and also mobilize those segments of the Democratic base, namely those women of color.

MENENDEZ: Well, Matt, to this point that Vicki is making about overreach, you have McConnell saying a nationwide abortion ban is possible. He has got to know that is not where a majority of Americans are.

And so I wonder Is this him trying to cater to the base ramp up midterm turnout? And then he doesn`t actually go through with it on the other side of it. Is this something that could come back to haunt him?

DOWD: I think Mitch McConnell knows in his heart, that if this debate in November is about choice, and is about abortion, the Republicans lose.


I think Mitch McConnell knows that they want the Republicans want this debate to be about the economy and inflation, because in a debate if the election becomes wholly about that Republicans win. And so I think this is Mitch McConnell clearing the deck for now, just saying that going on moving on knowing that he has to make that argument.

But as Vicki said, this is this is a great issue for Democrats to both motivate and persuade because of the vast majority of the country. The issue is, is will Democrats do it? Do it well, and be able to adjust the debate and move the debate from a debate about inflation to a debate about rights? And that really is the fundamental question for November. Can they move this to a broad enough and (INAUDIBLE) enough debate to move the election off the economy?

MENENDEZ: I got to ask you, since you both have ties to Texas, The New York Times points out quote, Governor Greg Abbott said on Thursday that he would seek to overturn a 1982 court decision that obligated public schools to educate all children, including undocumented immigrants.

Vicki, it brings back your point about overreach, it makes me think about California and the way we watch this go down in California in the 90s, when you had a Republican governor who pushed very hard on these same questions of public services for immigrants, could we see a similar swing back in Texas?

SOTO: I mean, if this makes it up to the Supreme Court, Alicia, potentially, it would. And let me just point out the irony that 2001 was the first state in the nation to allow in State College tuition for dreamers.

So I mean, I think what we see here is Greg Abbott, has really been one of the most outspoken folks in terms of abortion and abortion restriction. That fight is being won for him. Now he`s turning to another issue that has really been mobilizing the base. And this is I think, where we`re going to see Greg Abbott really take the stand. He`s won other battles. And the border issue is one that he knows, as we saw with the Trump presidency, in the Trump campaign, can really fire up the base.

MENENDEZ: Yes, I mean, Matt, McConnell may want this to be about the economy, but he`s got Greg Abbott, you know, screaming about undocumented immigrants. He`s got Ron DeSantis picking fights with Disney. There`s a lot of noise in the national atmosphere. Is McConnell going to be able to make this about the economy?

DOWD: Well, I mean, that`s what he has to try to do. But I as I listened to all of this, how far afield we are from what the Republican Party in Texas was 20 years ago, when George W. Bush was governor. George W. Bush could not get elected Governor of Texas as a Republican today. He was pro- immigrant. He didn`t want to argue about a bunch of the social issues at the time here in Texas. He wanted to talk about and focus on the economy and education.

George W. Bush, in just in two decades, we`ve moved from George W. Bush to Greg Abbott, vastly different political parties today, and that`s where we are. Greg Abbott knows if he wants to run for president, which all odds are that he does. He`s trying to make cultural issues. He thinks he`s got this election won. He`s moving on to the next election which he wants to run in, which is for President United States.

MENENDEZ: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Matthew Dowd, thank you both so much for spending some time with us. Coming up, our next guest says Western greed for oil helped prop up Vladimir Putin for years. We`re going to ask historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat if a new plan to phase out Russian oil is too little too late. THE 11TH HOUR continues.




RICHARD STENGEL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe the lesson of sanctions is to get in early and go bigger instead of do a kind of a drip, drip, drip approach. We`ve done a lot already. You know as I`ve said you before Jose the biggest sanction of course is the EU cutting itself off from Russian oil and gas that`s bigger than all the sanctions that we can apply.


MENENDEZ: Despite the heavy reliance on Russian oil from several G7 Member States, leaders promised to phase out or ban imports during a virtual meeting yesterday with Ukrainian president Zelenskyy. In a statement, the leaders promised to ensure that we do so in a timely and orderly fashion and in ways that provide time for the world to secure alternative supplies.

With us tonight, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, history professor at NYU and the author of the book, "Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present." Ruth, you recently tweeted about Putin and other kleptocrats saying Western greed for their oil and money prop them up for years. Ruth, will these new sanctions make a dent?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT, PRFOESSOR OF HISTORY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I hope so they`re actually getting to the heart of Putin`s regime because Putin isn`t just a dictator. He`s a kleptocrat. And his whole regime revolves around control and plunder of national resources above all oil and gas.

And in a kleptocracy, Gazprom, for example, the oil -- the energy conglomerate is treated as a personal tool by Putin and the oligarchs. And its profits are actually kind of plundered. It`s called exfiltration, where the profits are not going back into Russian society, but they`re taken out into the leader and his cronies offshore accounts.


So if you want to strike it this whole system of thievery, you have to strike at do you have to do what the EU is planning to do.

MENENDEZ: OK, but given that, Ruth, let`s talk timeline, what is a, quote, timely and orderly fashion mean? Especially when you have some of them saying, we`re not going to do it immediately. We`re going to phase this out. Does that give Putin time to come up with a contingency?

BEN-GHIAT: I think it would it but there`s already a stumbling block and that Viktor Orban and Hungary just want to go along with this, and there`s nothing surprising about this. But in fact, you know, the whole thing is we`re having a huge reckoning of the relationship of dirty energy, and the enemies of democracy. And for too long, we have made these deals with dictators out of, you know, a thirst for energy for low energy prices.

And the problem is, you know, in the past, especially the Germans, nobody wants to pay the price at home. And, you know, Viktor Orban, he just got reelected on a ticket where he said, I`m never going to, you know, back sanctions on Russian energy, because that`s going to write raise prices for home. So, he actually played this nationalist card.

And so it shows the intelligibility of this, you know, he takes EU money, but he`s very much you know, Putin`s ally, and now he`s holding up this whole thing, and that gives Putin time to have more of a contingency, which is not good for the cause of Ukraine and ending the war.

MENENDEZ: Meanwhile, earlier today, Council on Foreign Relations, President Richard Haas warned of what Putin might do if the rest of the world keeps standing firm against him, take a listen.


RICHARD HAAS, COUNCIL OF RELATIONS PRESIDENT: So if you have a losing hand, you don`t want to walk away from the table that punctuates it, you just keep the game going. So my guess is Putin that I was going to play for time, a low key open ended, military struggle. So there`s no one who can say you lost and you could say I didn`t lose. This is still ongoing, we are going to prevail. He at least has the talking points.


MENENDEZ: Ruth, how does that match with your understanding of Putin as a strong man?

BEN-GHIAT: You know, when I watched this, quote, Victory Parade today, it came to mind like this late communist spectacle with this kind of frozen, rigid leader, and this, you know, these platitudes, this gaslighting, because these are very old themes. He talked about that Russia is the victim of the West. And the war as a defense of Russia has just been grafted onto these old themes.

And the thing is, you know, what, an irony that you had parades of tanks and soldiers, when you know, Putin`s misguided war has cost 24,000 soldiers, 1,000 tanks, but the public, when you have a regime that is propped up by repression and propaganda, what you need is the appearance of victory, not actual victory. That`s what Putin cares about. And he`s in this war to maintain himself in power.

And so just going along and gaslighting the Russian public, which is doing quite successfully his popularity, ratings incredibly rising, and so I could see that what that scenario making sense to him.

MENENDEZ: Ruth Ben-Ghiat, as always, thank you. Coming up, the big award for a pint sized hero in Ukraine when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



MENENDEZ: The last thing before we go tonight, Patron`s presidential metal. You may remember we recently told you about patrolling. He is a bomb sniffing Jack Russell Terrier, saving lives in Ukraine credited with detecting more than 200 Russian explosive devices since February. He has been gaining fans all around the world.

But now he has received a medal from President Zelenskyy himself for dedicated work in the Ukrainian army. Patron`s owner who is part of the Civil Protection Service was also honored.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Zelenskyy in Kyiv for the ceremony yesterday, but Patron seemed suspicious of him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And medal for the dedicated service, a service dog called Patron.


MENENDEZ: Look at that tail wagging. Trudeau checking his pockets for cheese treats for Patron there. It has been an exhausting few days for that famous pup.

Next, Belarusian opposition outlet tweeted a photo of Patron snoozing during a press conference over the weekend. Seems that even heroes need a rest. A very good dog to take us off the air tonight.

And on that note, a reminder you can always catch me on American Voices, Saturdays and Sundays, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, good night.