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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/29/22

Guests: Phillips O`Brien, Edward Fishman, Laurence Tribe, E.J. Dionne, Marcus Yam

Summary

MSNBC`s continuing live coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Clarence Thomas is the first Supreme Court justice suspected of violating the law to protect his wife`s communications with the White House. And America is waking up to the shock that there is no code of ethics for Supreme Court justices. The city of Kharkiv and Ukraine has suffered relentless bombardment from Russian cluster bombs, shells and rockets.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good to see you. Thank you very much, Ali, for another important hour of coverage. Thank you.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, sir.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight, we will welcome back to this program one of my favorite guests, "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow, who has not been with us for a few years, but will triumphantly return tonight in his first appearance as an MSNBC political analyst. Charles Blow will be with us later in this hour.

The Supreme Court justice appears to have broken the law in his work at the Supreme Court. That has never happened in our history. Until now.

This is the most important story about a Supreme Court justice in history. No member of the court has been suspected of, or accused of anything as bad as what we already know Clarence Thomas has actually done. But we will not be getting to that story until Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe joins us after the first commercial break, and the only thing that could possibly make a Clarence Thomas story, the second thing we cover tonight is the first war in Europe involving a nuclear superpower that could trip the world into what President Biden calls World War III, and threatened the very existence of New York City, Washington D.C., and the other top targets on the Russian nuclear target list. Nothing less than that could come before the Clarence Thomas story tonight.

And so, we begin our coverage in Ukraine tonight, where the Russian military announced plans to, quote, drastically reduce military activity around the capital of Kyiv, in order to increase trust in cease-fire negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Nobody should be fooling ourselves, the Kremlin is now claiming that it will suddenly just reduced military attacks near Kyiv, or any reports that it will withdraw all of its forces. We believe that this is a repositioning. Not a real withdraw. And that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Biden had a similar response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ll see. I don`t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We will see if they follow through with their suggestion. I had a meeting with the heads of state of four allies in NATO, France, Germany, the United States, and Great Britain.

And there seems to be a consensus that we will just deal with they have to offer. We will find out what they do. But in the meantime, we are going to continue to keep strong the sanctions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Face to face peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators resumed today in Istanbul, Turkey. Ukrainian negotiators offered proposals including that Ukraine will adopt a neutral status, and forgo NATO membership as long as Ukraine get security guarantees from allies.

Ukraine also said it would be willing to negotiate the future status of Crimea over 15 years, but the issue of the Donbas region would be decided by President Zelenskyy, and President Putin. The Russians discussed a possible meeting between President Zelenskyy and President Putin. Something they haven`t ruled out until now.

Ukrainian negotiators called the talks today, quote, a baby step but the biggest step in negotiations so far. Russian negotiators called Ukraine`s proposals, quote, a constructive step in the search for a compromise.

In a video tonight, President Zelenskyy said, quote, the signals we hear from the negotiating platform can be called positive, but these signals do not drown out the ruptures of Russian shells. The Russian forces have to leave the occupied territories. The sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine have to be guaranteed. There can be no compromises regarding the sovereignty, and our territorial integrity and won`t be. These are clear principles, and a clear vision of the possible outcome.

Here`s what Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I would leave it to our Ukrainian partners to characterize whether there is anything, whether Russia is engaged in -- what I can say is this: there is what Russia says, and there is what Russia does. We are focused on the latter. And what Russia is doing is a continued brutalization of Ukraine, and its people. And that continues as we speak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: There is what Russia says, and there is what Russia does. Here is what Russia did today. Today, Russian forces attacked a regional government building, killing at least nine people, and injuring 28. Russian troops continued their unrelenting attacks on Kharkiv, in Mariupol, at least 160,000 are trapped without food, water, heat, or electricity. Officials say another 70 residents were kidnapped from a maternity hospital and forcibly moved to Russia, bringing the total number of people seized from Mariupol and moved to Russia to over 20,000 people.

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces blocked the humanitarian corridors that were open today, forcing evacuating civilians to turn back. And on a day when the official death toll of children killed by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine reached 144, once again, Donald Trump asked Vladimir Putin for a favor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Donald Trump in 2016, asking Russia to leak information about his opponent than Hillary Clinton. Today, he asked what Vladimir Putin to release information about Hunter Biden.

From the comfort of his home in Florida, while Vladimir Putin was killing children in Ukraine today, Donald Trump in an interview asked his friend Vladimir Putin, to do him the favor of releasing information about Hunter Biden`s business activities. Donald Trump said, I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it.

In that interview today, Donald Trump did not apologize for saying Donald - - was an act of genius, Donald Trump said that on the first day of Vladimir Putin`s attack on Ukraine, and none of Vladimir Putin`s war crimes have changed Donald Trump`s mind about Vladimir Putin being a genius who you can ask for favors from.

Let`s get right to MSNBC correspondent Ali Arouzi, and on the ground now in Ukraine.

Ali, what is the situation there tonight?

ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Lawrence.

The Russians are saying that they want to radically reduce their military presence around Kyiv, and Chernihiv. But a top Russian negotiator is saying that a scale back does not mean a cease fire, which speaks volumes about the Russian mindset. I think the U.S. and Ukrainian officials at best are very skeptical about anything the Russians have to say.

You heard John Kirby say today that there is only a tiny amount of Russian troops that have left the outskirts of Kyiv. The Ukrainian army is saying that they don`t think that the Russian troops are going to leave around Ukraine, around Kyiv, and this is just a trick by the Russians to throw them off the scent. He said that the withdrawal was probably going to be a little more than a rotation then -- of individual units, and there was a misconception about what a withdrawal actually is.

All the evidence on the ground supports that the Russians continue to hit Kyiv, and is outskirts, as you mentioned earlier, they hit government building in Mykolaiv, President Zelenskyy said that at least eight people were killed there, and 30 others injured. He said those numbers could go up as they pull people out of the rubble.

And, of course, Chernihiv it`s a city that is encircled. They are applying the same besiege tactics there, sparking a humanitarian crisis in Chernihiv. Many people there do not have water, food, electricity, or heating. So, a disaster after a disaster.

And today, Secretary Blinken as we heard earlier, said what`s Russians say, and what they do are two completely different things. And we have seen that again and again from the beginning of this war.

Just on Friday, a Russian general said that they are going to move out of these areas and clearly, they have not.

VELSHI: Ali Arouzi, thank you very much for your reporting tonight. We really appreciated. Please stay safe.

Thank you.

And joining us now is Phillips O`Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He is the author of "How the War Was Won: Air, Sea Power, and the Allied Victory in World War II".

[22:10:03]

Also with us, Edward Fishman who served as Russians sanctions lead at the State Department.

Let me view with you, Professor O`Brien, and the military situation as you assess it tonight. Let`s, first of all, listen to what Pentagon press secretary Admiral John Kirby said today about the Russian losses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They failed to take Kyiv, which we believe was a key objective. Not only did they not manage to take Kyiv, they did not manage to take any population centers, and Ukrainians have been fighting back very hard. So it is hard to see how they are succeeding in any one place, except, except, at the death and destruction they are calling to these population centers, and to the civilian population.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What is -- how do you read the military situation tonight?

PHILLIPS O`BRIEN, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS PROFESSOR: Well, for Russia, it is failure across the board. By any reasonable standard of a strategy that they have had going into this war, they have achieved nothing. They have taken one city, and we don`t even know if they can hold that. They are farther away than taking Kyiv that they were a few weeks ago.

I mean, why are they are going to be saying that they are going to be quiet around Kyiv is that they need quite around Kyiv. It has actually been pushed back from Kyiv in the last few weeks. That is the feeling stalling campaign.

There are some stories in fact that what they are going to do is try to consolidate in one area where they might be able to do a little better than others, which is in the Donbas. But we are looking at something that started as a maximalist campaign, the Russians were planning to take over Ukraine, they wanted to bring Ukraine into Russia. Now, they are left coming up with these sort of minimal strategies of taking a piece here, taking a bit there, and really just killing people.

So, it is a script that has failed. And they are trying to write a new script.

O`DONNELL: Edward Fishman, as the peace negotiations go on, the incentives for about obviously the way the military campaign is going, and the way the Russians are failing, that is one thing that brings them to the table. The other thing that brings them to the table our sanctions, which are not within Ukraine`s power to change in these negotiations.

As the discussions go on, what do you expect to hear about sanctions in these negotiations?

EDWARD FISHMAN, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT RUSSIAN SANCTIONS LEAD: Clearly, Lawrence, sanctions are really hurting Russia`s economy. Projections suggest that Russia`s economy can contract as much as 15 percent this year. That would wipe out 20 years of economic gain that Russia has made. So, clearly, it is a high priority for Putin to remove sanctions.

But I think from the West perspective, rule number one, this is very important, Lawrence, is not to get in front of the Ukrainians. This is a peace deal that would have to be negotiated between Ukraine and Russia. So, the only conditions towards sanctions could ever be lifted should be and one where Ukraine has a satisfactory deal.

That will not just conclude an end to the war. Russia has already inflicted untold billions, hundreds of billions probably, of damage to Ukraine`s critical infrastructure. Not to mention all of the lost live. I think there will be some reparations as well.

And remember, the West has frozen nearly $400 billion in Russian assets already. So that is a really key piece of leverage. But the key thing here is the West cannot get out in front of Ukraine. Ukraine will decide what unacceptable peace agreement looks like.

O`DONNELL: And, Professor O`Brien, one of the things that we are seeing here our reports on Russian generals being killed. I don`t remember in the coverage of any war it being a recurring phenomenon that generals were being killed in the line of combat.

O`BRIEN: No, Lawrence. That is exactly right. It is a sign, by the, way of the chaos that is going on in the Russian war effort. The Russian military is a very top organization. The junior officers are not normally expected to show a lot of initiatives. It is the senior officers that are going to take command.

And if things go wrong, the senior officers from what we can tell, actually have to show up. They have to go to the front. They have to see what is happening. So it is one, there is chaos on the ground, but it also speaks to the fact that there seems to be fundamental problems in communications security.

The normal things you would think should be absolutely taken care of by advanced military with the ability to operate systems. The Russians are having trouble with that. We are hearing cases they are communicating on clearly, without any kind of scrambling.

So, it speaks to a problem for the Russian military across the board, these generals are getting killed. And each one of them that gets killed, actually then leads to more spaces for the army, because they have to replace that general. And in a top-down kind of system, if you lose a senior commander, it takes a while for the new person to get up and running.

[22:15:08]

O`DONNELL: Philips O`Brien, and, Eddie Fishman, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight. Thank you.

Clarence Thomas has taken in your place in history as the first Supreme Court justice suspected of violating the law to protect his wife`s communications with the White House. No Supreme Court justice in history has been suspected, or accused of anything worse.

Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: We turn now to the most important story about a Supreme Court justice in the history of the court. No member of the United States Supreme Court has never been suspected of, or accused of anything as bad as what we already know Clarence Thomas has actually done.

[22:20:04]

Federal law says that no Supreme Court justice or any other federal judge can participate, quote, in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Clarence Thomas participated in the Supreme Court case involving his wife`s communications with White House chief of staff, and others. Not only did Clarence Thomas participate in that case, but he was the only justice who tried to prevent those communications, that could include communications to and from his wife, from being handed over to the House Select Committee, investigating the January 6th on the Capitol.

The attack on the Capitol was an insurrection against the government of the United States of America. And Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas tried to prevent America from discovering the full truth about that insurrection. And that is what we already know Clarence Thomas has actually done.

Another provision of the same federal law says that a Supreme Court justice and any other federal judges not allowed to participate in any case if, quote, he knows that he, eat individually or as a fiduciary, or his spouse has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding. The interest that Clarence Thomas`s wife had in the proceeding that Clarence Thomas ruled in was her own communications with White House chief of staff, and others.

Clarence Thomas`s wife did not want her communications with the White House chief of staff to ever become public. And Clarence Thomas in his role as a Supreme Court justice did everything he could to help his wife`s communications remain hidden from the public.

Some of Mrs. Thomas`s communications with White House chief of staff were already handed over to the January 6 ix committee when Mark Meadows was cooperating with the committee. The subpoena that eight members of the Supreme Court agreed should be in forest was for the rest of Mark Meadows communications, and the rest of the White House communications, generally sought by the January 6 committee.

Eight Supreme Court justices said the January 6 committee, and eventually the American people, should have all of that information, and Clarence Thomas said no. Clarence Thomas tried to block the January 6 committee from getting communications that could include his own wife`s communications. And those communications were about criminally overturning an presidential election. That is what we already know Clarence Thomas has done.

There have been precious few scandals, in fact, about any sort involving any of the 115 people who have served as Supreme Court justices. 99 percent of them never come close to anything in their judicial conduct that could be called scandalous. And 100 percent of them have never come close to anything as bad as what we already know Clarence Thomas has done.

Joining us now is Laurence Tribe, university professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard Law School, he has won 35 cases in the United States Supreme Court.

Professor Tribe, I`ve been eager to get your reaction about what we know of Clarence Thomas`s involvement in this case.

LAURENCE TRIBE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Well, as you said, Lawrence, what we know is that his wife had a direct interest, not simply as a cheerleader, but as a participant in the strategy to overturn the results of an election, to prevent the transition of power. Something that Judge Carter, just a couple of days ago, said it was a serious crime on the part of the president, or at least probably was.

The only possible answer that I suppose Justice Thomas might give is, I had no idea what my wife was up to. Of course, we do not always assume that people know if their spouses are doing, but the law that you quoted contains a provision saying that it justice is obliged to inquire of his spouse if there is doubt whether his spouse has an interest in the proceeding.

And here, the interest was not exactly secret. It has been widely known that Virginia Thomas is actively engaged in the groups that were trying to overturn the election. She was involved in the text messages that Clarence Thomas would have hidden from the public if his solo dissent had been the view.

[22:25:11]

Those text messages show that she was involved in the strategy itself, telling them that they should get Sidney Powell to overturn the election. That they should put pressure on vice president Pence. She and Mark Meadows, who worked closely together all the way back to the days of the tea party, we`re basically in cahoots. He was the chief of staff, not just a by standard, and she was working with the chief of staff.

And the communications that Clarence Thomas would have kept secret were ones that he should have had no voice in keeping it from the American public because this law, contrary to what a lot of people say, is not optional. I have heard supposed experts say it applies only to lower court judges. But Supreme Court justices are exempt.

No, they are not. It specifically says that no justice shall participate in a matter where he have reason to know that his spouse, or her spouse has an interest. And the interest here was very direct.

Now it is true that there is no clear enforcement mechanism. But that does not change the fact that would Clarence Thomas did was illegal, and if he continues to participate in matters that arise from the attempts to get information to the January 6th Committee, or anything related to the 2020 election, he is going to be violating the law again.

I would assume, because this hurts the whole Supreme Court, not just him, it is not just a -- on his reputation, that the other justices are going to whispering the chief justice`s ear, Mr. Chief Justice, you better do something about this, and there are things he can do.

He can make it clear to Clarence Thomas that if he does not from now on workers in all of the matters that arise out of the attempted coup of the insurrection, that he will be assigned the most boring of all of the -- chief justices have sometimes done that for petty reasons. This would not be a petty reason. It is not likely when the chiefs and the majority and have the idea to decide for the court, it is not likely to give Clarence Thomas any assignments until Justice Thomas begins complying with the law.

Now, there are going to be calls for his impeachment as a practical matter that is not going to go anywhere. But the Constitution is clear that justices hold their seats only during good behavior, and violating an act of Congress 28 U.S. Code Section 455 is not exactly good behavior.

The threat of impeachment is a hollow one now, but it underscores the seriousness of what Justice Thomas has done. As you say, it is not something that our history indicates other justices have done. There have been scandals, but nothing like this.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Not that long ago in Washington, there would have been bipartisan, instantaneous bipartisan calls in the House and the Senate for some action here, whether it be action by the chief of some sort, and absolute demands that Clarence Thomas recuse himself, and an impeachment would not have been out of the question in the past for this.

But now, we have a Senate where we know we could never get to the two thirds vote necessary. So in the meantime, it is just a question of asking the country to just trust Clarence Thomas`s judgment? Is that all we have?

TRIBE: Well, that is not all we have. Congress can hold hearings on making an enforcement mechanism available, and the very possibility of those hearings. There are statues that have been proposed, the presidents commission on Supreme Court reform on which I served, suggested that Congress might make various disqualification practices mandatory, and put some teeth behind the mandate.

[22:29:48]

The very fact that those things are going to be discussed by people even from one side of the aisle should put the fear of God, if you pardon the expression, into the justices who are ready to fight off the law.

O`DONNELL: Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you very much for joining us once again tonight. Always appreciate it.

TRIBE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

"New York Times" columnist Charles M. Blow will join us next along with "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne to consider the curious case of Clarence Thomas, and the lie Donald Trump told today about his knowledge of burner phones, which might explain the seven and a half hour gap in White House phone records on January 6th.

That is next.

[22:30:36]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I do think he should recuse himself. The information we know right now raises serious questions about how close Justice Thomas and his wife were to planning and execution of the insurrection.

I think there should be some kind of code of ethics for Supreme Court justices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And America is waking up to the shock that there is no code of ethics for Supreme Court justices. And while Republicans completely ignore the now known fact that Clarence Thomas participated in a Supreme Court case that involves his wife`s communications, Democrats are calling for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from all future cases involving the insurrection at the capitol.

Recuse himself, that`s all, not resign in disgrace for being the first Supreme Court justice in history who broke the law in his work at the Supreme Court, not impeach Clarence Thomas for breaking the law as a Supreme Court justice. Just recuse himself from future cases.

Today, we learned that those future cases might involve trying to fill in a seven hour and 37 minute gap. New reporting today by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in the "Washington Post" reveals a seven hour, 37 minute gap in the White House call logs during the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. The White House call logs show no calls to or from Donald Trump for seven hours, 37 minutes on January 6th when others have reported receiving phone calls from Donald Trump.

Woodward and Costa report, "The lack of an official White House notation of any calls placed to or by Trump for 457 minutes on January 6th, 2021 from 11:17 a.m. to 6:54 p.m. means the committee has no record of his phone conversations as his supporters just descended on the Capitol, battled overwhelmed police, and forcibly entered the building, prompting lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence to flee for safety.

Woodward and Costa`s reporting includes Donald Trump`s references to burner phones. Quote, "In a statement Monday night, Trump said, I have no idea what a burner phone is. To the best of my knowledge I have never even heard the term.

Former national security adviser John Bolton said that he recalls Trump using the term burner phones in several discussions, and that Trump was aware of its meaning. Bolton said he and Trump have spoken about how people have used burner phones to avoid having their calls scrutinized.

In Donald Trump`s lawsuit against his niece, Mary Trump, Donald Trump accuses Mary Trump and others three times, of using burner phones.

Today, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield made it clear that President Biden, who is the only person in the world who can claim executive privilege in the January 6th investigation, will not be claiming executive privilege for Ivanka Trump or Jared Kushner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has spoken to the fact that January 6th was one of the darkest days in our country`s history, and that we must have a full accounting of what happened, to ensure that it never occurs again.

And, he`s been quite clear that they posed a unique threat to our democracy, and that the constitutional protections of executive privilege, should not be used to shield from Congress or the public information about an attack on the constitution itself.

And so as a result, the White House has decided not to assert executive privilege over the testimony of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, E.J. Dionne, opinion columnist for the "Washington Post" and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He`s the co-author of the new book "100 Percent Democracy: the case for universal voting".

Also with us, Charles Blow, opinion columnist for the "New York Times", who is joining us tonight in his first appearance as an MSNBC political analyst.

And so Charles, the first question, of course, goes to you. Here we have Clarence Thomas involving himself in a case that involves his wife, which is, of course, a violation of law.

And the best anyone is really asking for is, would he please recuse himself -- since it`s entirely up to him -- would he please recuse himself in the future.

CHARLES BLOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, but as Lawrence Tribe said, you know, there are regulations, but there is no enforcement mechanism. And as you just put it, it is completely up to him.

[22:39:49]

And I heard, you know, the previous bit of sound where people are saying, we need Supreme Court ethics laws and rules and people are pretending that they`re shocked by this. But they shouldn`t be shocked by this. We`ve been trying to get the Congress to pass Supreme Court ethics rules for years. Hank Johnson introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act in 2019. It did not get a vote, it died in the House.

They reintroduced it here, Chris Murphy reintroduced it in 2021, last summer, they folded it into HR 1, and then it passed through the house, and it got to the Senate and it died again.

The Congress does not have the intestinal fortitude to pass the rules that would make this enforceable, and that is the problem. It is not -- we didn`t wake up and realize that we didn`t have these rules, we have woken up years ago, realizing we didn`t have these rules. I think what it also crystallizes and underscores is the degree to which we have lived in a bit of a dream for decades, if not centuries, assuming that we didn`t need to put up guardrails around our biggest institutions, like the presidency and the Supreme Court.

That these places will be occupied by the people who would do the right things, and we didn`t have to control them or coerce them, or write laws and institute them to control their behavior.

(INAUDIBLE) the Supreme Court is not equipped to police itself. Even the letter that was sent by Congress -- members of Congress today, kind of had about Elizabeth Warren asked the chief justice to do. And the chief justice -- that would be regulation within the court. We need legislation to control these institutions.

O`DONNELL: E.J., it`s such an important point, Charles reminding us that here`s yet another set of guardrails that we kind of imagined were there. And we imagined them because from time to time, Supreme Court justices have recused themselves. Sometimes, we don`t even know why, because they don`t even have to say why, but they`ve done it.

And it`s given us out here often the feeling, well, they know when to do it and they`re doing it.

Ketanji Brown Jackson in her confirmation hearing, promised to recuse herself already, in certain cases. And here you have Clarence Thomas, in a case involving his wife, and to believe that he didn`t know it involved his wife is to believe that on the evening of January 6th, when they got home after the worst day in the history of Washington, and as long as they live there neither one of them said to the other, you know, what did you do today?

E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": Hard to believe, isn`t it? I mean Trump is actually right that this issue has been around a lot longer than this. This happens to be an extreme and particularly dangerous case.

And you know, he took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

And domestic enemies is just what we saw on January 6th. That was the oath he took. And so yes, I do think we need these guardrails. We`ve needed for a long time.

We can`t count, alas, on justices to do the right thing, some have. And Ketanji Brown-Jackson, by the way, did, did, and she probably went even farther than she needed to in those hearings.

And I think that`s what`s going to justify hearings here. First, if he doesn`t recuse himself, that should be an instant trigger for hearings. But I think this breach is so important, the congress should hold hearings on the need for these, that introducing the bills, obviously, wasn`t enough.

The Congress hasn`t been willing to act and I think Ms. Thomas should be queried by the January 6th committee about exactly what she did, because the extent of what went on here is really as big as you said it was.

And just by the way, we say, correctly, that spouses should be able to lead independent lives, that is gender equality. But that does not give any public official a right to engage in this kind of conflict of interest, and most public officials have recognized that.

O`DONNELL: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said today, Congress must understand that a failure to hold Clarence Thomas accountable sends a loud, dangerous signal to the full court. Kavanaugh, Barrett and the rest, that his acts are fair game.

This is a tipping point. Inaction is a decision to erode and further delegitimize SCOTUS.

Charles, your reaction to that?

[22:44:49]

BLOW: She`s getting at the idea that it should be investigated and if warranted, there should be an impeachment hearing for Justice Thomas.

Even if it is not going to lead to his removal, because the Senate would not go along with the removal, it will be very much like Trump in his two impeachments.

But I`m a very big proponent of impeachment on principle. I think it should have to record for history when something outrageous and egregious has happened. Someone has to make an official action.

And an impeachment is that, it marks, it creates a scarlet letter that lasts. It does not necessarily lead to removal, but it means something.

O`DONNELL: Charles Blow, great to have you back, thank you for joining us tonight. E.J. Dionne`s new book is "100 Percent Democracy".

Thank you both very much for joining our discussion tonight.

And coming up, we will get a live report from Ukraine, with a "Los Angeles Times" photojournalist, who has seen firsthand the horrors and the devastation Vladimir Putin is inflicting in Kharkiv. That`s next.

[22:46:05]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The city of Kharkiv and Ukraine has suffered relentless bombardment from Russian cluster bombs, shells and rockets. The morgues have no more room of all the bodies of people who have been killed by Vladimir Putin`s mass murderers, which are now wrapped in plastic and left on the streets.

Hundreds of people have been killed, more than 600 buildings including high-rise apartments, and central service buildings have been destroyed. And the people who have remained are hungry and terrorized.

The "Los Angeles Times" reports, "Outside a post office turned aid distribution center which was struck Thursday as dozens of people waited in line for supplies, a frozen pool of blood, part of a severed human hand and a bloodied cigarette could be seen. Plumes of smoke filled the sky."

The mayor of Kharkiv recently said, "It is not just a war, this is a massacre."

Joining us now, Marcus Yam, a foreign correspondent and photojournalist for the "Los Angeles Times" who has been reporting from Kharkiv.

Marcus, what have you seen there that you have documented in your photographs for the "L.A. Times" that tell the story of what is really happening there?

MARCUS YAM, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, "L.A. TIMES": Hello. We have seen the ebb and flow of war in Kharkiv. We have seen Russian forces trying to circle the city and repelled by he Ukrainian forces. I mean the city itself has been pummeled by Russian bombardment. The destruction is pretty evident. You could drive around downtown Kharkiv, and you can, you know, see whole government buildings destroyed, you know, even in plain sight, even in downtown Kharkiv, I found residents hiding underground in fear.

One woman told me that one day she decided to go upstairs to use the bathroom in her apartment, she got bombed -- her apartment got bombed and debris just like fell on her, and she never wanted to go above ground again.

In the outskirts, you know, I followed the Red Cross workers, reached areas where, you know, residents could not get supplies. They could not even get a cell phone signal to ask for help.

So there are a lot of people who are stranded in the outskirts where the fighting is happening who are starving, and do not have access to medicine. And these places are still getting bombarded.

O`DONNELL: Marcus, I know some of your photographs are of people who have just been lucky enough to complete surgery there after being wounded there. And I know you have to ask permission of those people to take photographs like that.

So you have to have a kind of conversation with them that other reporters don`t necessarily have. And what is it like in those moments? And what makes them decide that they do want these photos of themselves, some of which extremely gruesome to be out there?

YAM: I tell them who I am, and I tell them, you know, what we are doing here. I am pretty upfront about our mission. And I tell them where these pictures will end up.

And more than half the time -- I mean most of the time, people agree to what we do. Just because they understand, and they realize that this is important. That their message, and their stories are important. Because it reflects the war, and the brutality of this war.

O`DONNELL: And what does it do to you as a person when you -- have to deliberately look at things, and focus on things, and aim your camera at things that others would want to turn away from. How do you do that?

YAM: I don`t know what it does to me, to be honest. I am just doing my job. I haven`t quite (INAUDIBLE) everything I have seen here. And I remind myself that we have a responsibility to our readers, and we just have to stay on point right now.

So it is not a great answer, but I know that it is something I am still working out.

O`DONNELL: Marcus Yam, I am one of your readers of the "Los Angeles Times", and I appreciate your work, and I know our audience does too.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. And we hope you stay safe.

YAM: Thank you so much.

[22:54:59]

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:59:38]

O`DONNELL: The "Daily Beast`s" Julia Davis, who monitors Russian media, has delivered this gem today from Russian television with one commentator saying, "It is time for us, our people, to call on the people of the United States to change the regime in the U.S. early, and to again help our partner Trump to become president."

"Help our partner Trump".

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

Tomorrow night at this hour we will be joined by the "Washington Post`s" Bob Woodward with his new reporting on Clarence Thomas`s wife`s communications with the Trump White House and the seven and a half-hour gap in the presidential phone logs of January 6th. Bob Woodward joins us tomorrow night.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH STEPHANIE RUHLE" starts now.