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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/12/22

Guests: Beto O`Rourke, Timothy Snyder, Dalton Bennett, Alex Whiting


Interview with Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman representing El Paso, Texas, and he`s now running for governor of Texas. Authorities captured Russian President Putin`s closest ally in Ukraine. President Biden for the first time today used the word "genocide" to describe what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy tonight tweeting that they were true words.



And the White House counsel Pat Cipollone is someone who I think understands the law, and that he had no possible claim of privilege about - - that would prevent him from testifying to this committee.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That is a very good points. It`s not only that he was involved in some of the key disputes that we`ve heard about within the administration, apparently, but also that is decision to testify saw something about the privilege claims of other people off that they wouldn`t. That is a very good point.

O`DONNELL: And he appears in scenes in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa`s book about this period in the very dramatic scenes and the White House. That the committee already knows about.

They`ve already read the book. They rarely spoken to other people who are in and around those moments. And so, a lot of this could just be confirming information.

But also, a certain amount of this testimony could be trying to make sure that he is not included on the suspect list of people who are committing crimes at the time.

MADDOW: Yeah, I mean, it`s one thing to have anonymous sources or third- party source, or an anonymous narrator in your book describe your behavior in a confrontation over whether or not a crime could be committed, right? It`s another thing for you to be able to speak on your own terms about that. With all of these, you always want to be a fly on a wall, but Pat Cipollone testifying is kind of one I`m most wish to be a fly in the wall about.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, this would be in a good one. We`ll see what happens.

Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, in what could be the most important recent poll about the future of American politics and the future of American democracy, we have the strongest evidence yet that the huge state of Texas is ready to go blue. For the past few election cycles, Democrats have at high hopes for statewide victories in Texas, only to come up short. If Texas can be turned back to the days when Democrats reliably won statewide in Texas, and Senate campaigns, gubernatorial campaigns, and presidential campaigns, then everything about our politics will change.

The Electoral College would disappear as a factor in presidential elections because the Democratic candidate would win in Texas is 40 electoral votes. Which means the kind of election crimes that Donald Trump tried to complete and states like Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, won`t even be worth trying.

In the last election, Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes, Donald Trump won 232. And Democratic Texas away from Republicans and added Texas to the electoral vote count, Joe Biden would have 346 electoral votes to Donald Trump`s 192. And no Republican officials in any Republican controlled states would risk committing federal and state crimes for the Trump. If Donald Trump or 154 electoral votes behind Joe Biden.

Since the Republican Party is now an anti-democracy party, nothing is more important to the future of democracy in this country than defeating the Republican Party. It`s just that simple. Now, this is a new phenomenon. It was not clear that the Republican Party was a fully anti-democracy party until after the loss presidential election when Donald Trump did everything he possibly could to illegally overturn the presidential election.

And on January six, one another nine Republican members of the House of Representatives and eight Republican members of United States Senate voted to overturn the presidential election, and nothing like that has ever happened in our history before that.

And since then, it has only gotten much, much worse. The Republican Party has become only more opposed to democracy, with candidates seeking Donald Trump`s endorsement by publicly stating that Donald Trump was right about the election. Donald Trump won the presidential election. Ketanji Brown Jackson`s confirmation hearing, one of the Republican witnesses who appeared there to testify against her confirmation under oath refused to answer the question, is Joe Biden a duly elected president of the United States. That is how deep and perverse the anti-democracy rot is in the Republican Party, but the potency, the lethality of the Republican anti- democracy movement can be neutralized if Texas votes Democratic.

No Democrat has won statewide in Texas in the 21st century. The last time a Democrat one of the governorship was 1990, when the incomparable Ann Richards won the governorship of Texas.

Here`s Ann Richards at the 1988 Democratic national convention campaign against the then vice president of the United States, George H.W. Bush.


ANN RICHARDS, FORMER TEXAS STATE TREASURER: Poor George. He can`t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.


O`DONNELL: That was my very first national convention. I walked into the Democratic convention in Atlanta just after Ann Richards began to speak, and I will never forget, never forget that first speech that I ever heard in the hall at a convention.

No Democrat since Ann Richards has shown as much strength, statewide in a Senate or race as our first guest tonight Beto O`Rourke. In 2018, he won 48 percent of the vote in his campaign against Senator Cruz, and his current campaign for governor against Republican Governor Greg Abbott, recent polling shows Beto O`Rourke tied with the incumbent governor.

Governor Abbott is polling at 42 percent. Beto O`Rourke is polling at 40 percent, which is a statistical tie within the poll`s 3.2 percent margin of error. The traditional interpretation of polls in campaigns holds that incumbents running below 50 percent in the polls are in trouble because the undecideds tend to break in favor of the new candidates against the incumbent candidate.

And so, being in the low 40s in a tie with Beto O`Rourke in the polls is extremely bad news for the incumbent Republican governor. And that is when incumbent governors and trouble in the reelection campaigns look for stunts they can pull to strengthen their support. And so, last week, no doubt in reaction to Beto O`Rourke`s strength in the polls, Texas governor decided to do Republicans do best, and create chaos as a distraction.

Governor Abbott decides to impose his own inspection process on all trucks crossing the border from Mexico after those trucks have already been fully inspected, examined, and cleared by U.S. Customs officials at the border. And here is the result of Governor Abbott`s new completely unnecessary state inspections of trucks crossing the southern border. According to `The Texas Tribune", the bridge connecting Pharr and Reynosa is the busiest trade crossing in the Rio Grande Valley, and handles the majority of the produce that crosses into the U.S. from Mexico, including avocados, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes.

On Monday, with trucks backed up for miles in Reynosa, for the fifth day in a row, some produce borders and Texas said they days for their goods to arrive, and already had buyers cancelled orders.

Today, at the border, Beto O`Rourke said this.


BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It`s really important that we understand what is happening here in the Rio Grande Valley, and throughout the U.S. Mexico border here in Texas. Because of the crisis and the chaos that Greg Abbott has caused through his executive action last week that mandates 100 percent inspections on all commercial vehicles coming into the U.S. through our ports of entry here in Texas, he has slowed down U.S. Mexico trade to a standstill.


That is causing higher prices, it is causing higher inflation, it is worsening a supply chain problem that we already had in the United States. This is going to lead to problems not just here in the Rio Grande Valley, although we have some serious problems here that Greg Abbott has caused, but it`s going to be very bad for the Texas economy. It`s going to be very bad for the national economy.


O`DONNELL: Governor Abbott has already signed into law a provision that have made it virtually impossible to obtain abortion services in Texas. That law sent many Texas women across the border to Oklahoma for abortion services.

And today, Oklahoma`s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed a law criminalizing abortion, making it a crime for a doctor or anyone else to perform an abortion with a penalty for the doctor of up to ten years in prison.


GOV. KEVIN STITT (R), OKLAHOMA: I promised Oklahomans that I would sign every pro-life bill in my desk. And that`s why we`re doing here today. We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-laugh stain country. We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman representing El Paso, Texas. He`s now running for governor of Texas.

I want to begin by what we just heard from the governor of Oklahoma because so many women in your state of Texas have been looking north, looking to Oklahoma as the closest place they can get two for abortion services. That is now closed to them. What can -- what can Texas women do now?

O`ROURKE: Lawrence, this shows you just how dangerous Greg Abbott, the governor of the state of Texas is, certainly for the people of our state, especially the women who are now prosecuted and forced to flee to other states to make their own personal health care decisions about their bodies and their futures.

But not only does it hurt us here in Texas, this craziness, these fringe policies, are being exported to the rest of the country, including our border state now in Oklahoma. It makes the point that what happens in Texas matters to this entire country, given the outsized role that this state plays.

And, Lawrence, it`s happening at a time where not only the women are denied their constitutional right to seek abortion, but in the less insured state in the country, it`s now even harder for women to get a cervical cancer screening, or any kind of reproductive health care at all, and it is producing a crisis in maternal mortality that is worse in Texas than almost anywhere in the developed world, and three times as bad for black women in the state right now. This is literally killing women here in the state of Texas, and it makes a case for why we need a change and how urgent the need is right now, and why so many people are joining this campaign to make sure that we make it happen

O`DONNELL: To go to where you are today at the border, it seems Governor Abbott is doing everything he can to increase inflation, not just in Texas, but increase prices around the country one of the constant flows across that border, as you obviously know, our automobile parts for the manufactured cars that are being finished in the United States. Manufacturing process is being finished in the United States.

Those parts now are delayed. People are waiting for cars at dealerships now in America. It`s very hard, with the supply of new cars, used cars are really under pressure.

And this is just one of the examples of the inflationary and demand pressure that are increased by what`s happening at your border.

O`ROURKE: That`s absolutely right. These trucks that Greg Abbott has blockaded from coming in the United States are carrying parts. They`re destined for the factory floor in San Antonio where we build Toyota Tundra and Tacoma, to factories in Ohio and Michigan and other parts of this country. That`s going to jeopardize jobs throughout this state, but throughout the United States of America for that matter. It`s going to increase prices at our grocery stores even higher. And it`s worsening a supply chain problem that we already had.

And this didn`t have to happen. It`s a decision of one man and one man alone, Greg Abbott. Some kind of political stunt that does nothing to improve the safety or security at our border because these inspections are for, Lawrence, things like the tire pressure, or the way that the engine might be running in that 18 wheeler. Those DPS inspectors are not allowed to look inside, to look at the cargo for illegal drugs or human trafficking and, so this does nothing but hurt the economy of Texas in the United States.


And it`s killing businesses here. Some have already relocated to Nogales, Arizona, 1,200 miles away from where I am in McAllen tonight. And they`re taking jobs and economic growth to that state and leaving Texas right now. This is hurting the people in Texas.

O`DONNELL: People have been looking to you as the hope and the Democratic Party to win statewide in Texas. First, against Senator Cruz a few years ago, now again in this governorship.

And so, this race has much more at stake both for the Democratic Party and for democracy and America than we`ve already talked about, which is the difference between a Democratic governor and a Republican governor in the state of Texas. If you can show that a Democratic candidate can, again, win statewide in Texas, that really would eliminate the Electoral College as even a factor in the outcome of the elections because the popular vote would never disagree with the Electoral College outcome at the same time.

Do you feel about the pressure was to have this breakthrough for democracy which in Texas and how realistic now do you think it is?

O`ROURKE: I tell you, I think the people of Texas and really the people of this country understand whether it`s the chaos that Greg Abbott is creating on the border, or this attack on democracy, making it harder to vote and register in Texas than it isn`t any other state, if we want to do something about it, we have to win this next election and in so doing, get focused again on the things that are important to all of us, great jobs, world class schools, the ability to see the doctor, Republicans, Democrats, independents, in the state, and I know because I`ve listened to them everywhere across Texas. They can agree on that much.

But first, we`ve got to win. And, Lawrence, I`m encouraged. More than 61,000 people have signed up to volunteer to knock on doors to reach those voters who are the very targets of voter suppression and voter intimidation in the state of Texas, and I think there will be some profound justice on election in November of this year, when those same voters who have been targeted for exclusion become the margin of victory when we win this thing. And we are going to win it because we have our fellow Texans out there knocking on their doors and bringing into this democracy.

I wish that the Department of Justice would intervene on voting fights right now. I wish the Supreme Court would do the right thing on the woman`s right to choose. But we cannot hold our breath, or wait for the cavalry to arrive. We`ve got to depend on one another.

But I`m encouraged because, as I travel to state, people are stepping up to be counted, going out there, getting after it, and doing the work that will win election. So I actually feel really good about things here in the state of Texas, Texas stepping up to fix our problems and to make sure that we overcome these challenges, and win this for the people of Texas, and give them the impact for the people in the United States.

O`DONNELL: Before you go, I have to ask, what is the difference in this campaign? What is the difference between the campaign where you came up short against Senator Cruz, and this campaign against Governor Abbott? Why do you have a better chance now?

O`ROURKE: One thing is that the person we are running against, Greg Abbott owns everything that has happened in the state of Texas. The power grid failure, it was his fault, that killed hundreds of our fellow Texans, and raised every single person`s utility bill in the state. We call that the Abbott tax.

These culture war issues that he`s involved the state in, pitting us against one another, further dividing Texans, when we should be coming together over creating jobs, world class schools, and the ability to see a doctor. And then in our part, we`re making sure that we`re investing in data to target those voters who are truly persuadable are those likely Democratic voters who need a nudge to turn out or better yet, Lawrence, those voters who have been functional, disenfranchise, knocking on other stores to bring them into the election and prosecuting the case, fighting this guy, day in and day out, making sure that he`s on the back foot and against the ropes, owning everything that is gone wrong in Texas because he`s been the governor for the state for seven years.

So if it`s the inflation and the higher prices, and the job killing policies that he`s currently implementing on the border, if it`s the fact that we are sliding in educational attainment losing teachers by the thousands, as he attacked them in the state, I`m going to make sure that every single Texan, Republican, Democrat, independent, and otherwise, understands who was to blame. We are going to make sure that we fire Greg Abbott, and change the state for the better.

We were not prosecuting the case this aggressively against Ted Cruz and I know that we left votes on the table. We are not making that mistake this time. We`re going to make sure why every Texan knows why they need change, and then we`re going to turn them out to vote so that we actually get it.


O`DONNELL: Beto O`Rourke, a bit older and claiming to be a bit wiser about campaigning statewide in Texas, polling in a tie right now with the governor -- thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

O`ROURKE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, President Zelenskyy says the Ukrainian military has captured Vladimir Putin`s puppet in Ukraine, the person who Vladimir Putin hopes to install as president of Ukraine. Yale professor Tim Snyder will join us next.



O`DONNELL: And tonight, Putin`s puppet is in custody. Tonight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has a very important prisoner of war who he has told Vladimir Putin he is willing to trade for the return of Ukrainian boys and girls who have been kidnapped.

This is Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Putin politician in Ukraine. He was recaptured by Ukraine`s security service today after escaping house arrest for treason at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. "The New York Times" reports, Mr. Medvedchuk`s arrest will be a significant blow to President Vladimir Putin of Russia who is reported to be the godfather to Mr. Medvedchuk`s daughter and counts him as one of his closest allies in Ukraine.

CNBC reports that some experts have speculated that if Putin had plans to install a puppet leader after toppling Ukraine`s government, Medvedchuk would be on the shortlist.

Oliver Carroll of "The Economist" tweeted a picture of the handcuffed Putin puppet saying, quote, I think I know who the audience for this photo is meant to be. And surely, Vladimir Putin has by now seen that photograph of his puppet in handcuffs.

In a new video released tonight, President Zelenskyy said that Mr. Medvedchuk was captured after hiding for 48 days and attempting to escape Ukraine into Russia while wearing a Ukrainian military uniform.

President Zelenskyy said: I find his use of military camouflage particularly cynical. He tried to disguise him self like that. What a soldier, what a patriot.

Well, if we Medvedchuk chose a military uniform from himself, he falls under the rules of wartime. I proposed to the Russian Federation to exchange this guy of yours for our boys and girls in Russian captivity.

Vladimir Putin traveled about as far away from Ukraine as he could today while remaining in Russia, 5,000 miles from Ukraine in eastern Russia, at a space launch facility.

Vladimir Putin said that cease-fire talks had reached, quote, a dead end. He justified his war in Ukraine saying, quote, the main goal is to help people. We were forced to do it. We couldn`t put up with it any longer.

A clash was inevitable. It was just a matter of time. We did not have a choice. This was the right thing to do.

And joining our discussion now is Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. The expanded audiobook version of his best selling book, "On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century" is out next week.

Professor Snyder, those words a Vladimir Putin that today that I just quoted, that apparently is what he wants Russians to hear and believe.

TIMOTHY SNYDER, YALE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: Well, I`m struck by the incoherence of it all. The idea that you have to attack a neighboring country which was no threat to you on the logic that at some point, it had to happen is pretty unconvincing. I think with time, they`re going to have to come up with a better story to tell about a war which is heading towards its second month. a war which tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have not returned, a war which -- most of the world sees as an exceptionally cruel kind of action.

So there`s something odd about this justification. It didn`t really sound like much of one.

O`DONELL: Will the Russian people notice the way the American people will notice a change in the justification list? It used to be denazification and now it`s something else.

SNYDER: I think the general idea that the Russian media have settled around is something like the Ukrainians aren`t really a nation. They have somehow provoked us.

The hate speech term, Nazi, is still very consistently applied. But it`s applied in a very general way. It doesn`t have any content. It`s not in a specific political criticism.

It`s basically imperialist language saying they`re not really human, they`re not really people. They`re just Nazis. We can do whatever we want to them. So there isn`t really a strong logic here.

The Russian people are also being told, of course, that they are winning and that that`s an argument that I think is going to be harder to sustain as time goes by.

O`DONNELL: I want to get your action to President Biden for the first time today using the word genocide to describe what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine.

President Zelenskyy tonight tweeting that they were true words.


President Zelenskyy said, "Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil. We are grateful for U.S. assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities."

What does President Biden`s introduction of the word "genocide" mean in this war now?

SNYDER: Well, first of all, I think it`s plainly true. I mean The Genocide Convention of 1948 spells out five things that you can do in order to commit genocide. One of them was already mentioned on this program, Article 2 (INAUDIBLE) is about the deportation of children and having the children raised in a different social environment.

Pretty much every one of those five things that you can do to commit genocide has been done in Ukraine at this point. The only questionable part would be the intention. And Mr. Putin keeps delivering evidence that the intention is to make sure that there is no Ukrainian nation and state.

He consistently talks about how the Ukrainian nation and state do not really exist. And that is genocide talk. And we see, as we see the evidence of what these towns and villages look like after the Russians pull back, where that kind of hate speech leads at least in a situation where soldiers planned or unplanned carry out acts of violence including rape, which you know, in the end I think amount to a case for using this word.

I mean I`m not sure what -- it`s an illegal war of aggression, that`s the one thing. War crimes have certainly been committed. Crimes against humanity also. But we save the word "genocide" for when there`s an intention to do something to a people. And Mr. Putin unfortunately again and again makes it clear and other Kremlin publication, including the kind of genocide manual that was published about a week ago, make it clear that there is an intention to prevent the nation of Ukraine from existing into the future.

O`DONNELL: Professor Timothy Snyder, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SNYDER: Glad to be with you.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to be joined by a former war crimes prosecutor later in this hour about this issue of genocide.

And coming up, Eddie Glaude will join us on the challenge America must confront with the pro-Putin wing of the Republican Party led by the Republican leader Donald Trump who called Vladimir Putin`s invasion of Ukraine "genius".




BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin has always been ruthless against his own people, as well as others. He has always been somebody who`s wrapped up in this twisted, distorted sense of grievance and ethnic nationalism. That part of Putin, I think, has always been there.

What we`ve seen with the invasion of Ukraine as him being reckless in a way that he might not have anticipated.


O`DONNELL: In a new piece, George Packer, staff writer for "The Atlantic" writes less than two months ago, democracy in American and elsewhere seem to be drifting towards its own expiration. Then the Russian invasion and unbending Ukrainian resistance delivered a shock to the democratic world that restored it`s heartbeat.

In this country, Ukraine has done what nothing else, no election or insurrection, no pandemic, no environmental catastrophe could do. Shown the difference between right and wrong, heroism and barbarism, truth and lies with such clarity that most Americans are in agreement.

But in the House of Representatives last week, 63 Republicans voted against a House Resolution affirming support for NATO against Vladimir Putin. They voted the way Vladimir Putin wanted them to vote. And of course, no one should ever forget that at the beginning of Vladimir Putin`s invasion of Ukraine, the leader of the Republican Party Donald Trump said that the invasion was an act of genius by Vladimir Putin. And that Vladimir Putin is a genius.

Joining our discussion now, Eddie Glaude, chair of African-American Studies at Princeton University and an MSNBC contributor.

Professor Glaude, where do you see where we stand tonight in this country as we watch what is happening in Ukraine?

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I think we are still struggling for the heart of our own democracy. You know, I think there are illiberal forces afoot trying to take advantage of liberal processes for illiberal ends.

Authoritarianism reins in large swaths of the country. We heard, you know, Representative Beto talk about what`s going on in Texas and Texas is just one example.

So I think we`re facing anti-democratic forces in a moment where the seduction of normalcy has let some of us to want to look past that in order to ensure that perhaps, or to live in the illusion that perhaps, we`re ok.


GLAUDE: But our democracy is just as much in danger as it`s been in a long time, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And you know, you see as much unity as there is and there is a great deal of unity in this country in terms of the view of what`s happening in Ukraine.

But the idea that there could be 63 members of the House of Representatives who basically side with Vladimir Putin in a vote about NATO, was inconceivable prior to Trumpism.

GLAUDE: Yes. It was. What we know is that Trumpism can carry with for (ph) this, in some ways, attempt to disaggregate, to deconstruct the post-World War II consensus. There`s a sense in which the post World War II world that came into being, Trump and his folk wanted to dismantle.

And so it makes sense, it`s perfectly consistent with the ideology of those three buckets -- you remember what Bannon laid out in the early days of the Trump administration. It`s perfectly consistent.

I think part of what I`ve been struggling with, Lawrence, is that we treat these folks as good faith actors. We treat them as normal, political you know, persons -- personalities in our politics. And in doing so, I think we actually in an interesting sort of way become complicit in deepening the distrust in the process, it seems to me.

I think, you know, as Meadows said that he needed to be more aggressive in prosecuting the case against Governor Abbott, we need to be more aggressive in prosecuting the case against these illiberal actors in the Republican Party.

O`DONNELL: And as we go forward, we don`t know where we`re going to be a month from now in the war in Ukraine. We don`t know what those 63 Republicans will be thinking a month from now.

It`s possible, and only possible, that more horror delivered by Vladimir Putin might bring them back, those 63 back toward the American view of this. But we don`t know if that will happen.

GLAUDE: No. You know, we don`t. And one of the more horrifying moments in George Packer`s piece was he said that America`s attention span is short. And he worries that we will turn our attention elsewhere.

And he says that we have to deal with the Russification (ph) of our own politics. He talks about those oligarchs, those people with outsized money, impacting our elections.

I tend to think, you know, we are looking at Ukraine, Lawrence, as an example of democracy. I was looking at those folks standing in line for eight, nine hours as an example of folk committed to democracy.

We find ourselves at each other`s throats in this country. And it seems to me that unless we call out those people who are really in some ways engaged in all-out assault on American democracy. If we are silent in calling them out, we become complicit in their efforts. And I think it`s really important for us to understand the stakes.

O`DONNELL: Professor Eddie Glaude, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Thank you.

GLAUDE: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, a reporter who was first on the scene of the train station attack in Ukraine that killed 50 people will join us. Along with Alex Whiting who is the former head of investigations and prosecutions at the International Criminal Court at the Hague. That is next.



O`DONNELL: Here is what President Biden said today to reporters about genocide. The camerawork on this is a bit shaky, but that`s what happens when you`re on the run trying to ask the president questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen enough evidence to declare genocide in Ukraine, sir?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I called it genocide. It has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the (INAUDIBLE) Ukraine and the evidence is mounting. (INAUDIBLE) The war efforts (ph) are coming out of literally the most horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine.

We`re going to only learn more and more about the death toll. And we`ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me.


O`DONNELL: "Washington Post" reporter Dalton Bennett arrived at a train station 15 minutes after it was hit with a Russian attack killing 50 people and injuring 98 people. Dalton Bennett found a piece of a missile at the train station with the words "for the children" spray-painted on it in Russian.

Tonight Dalton Bennett is in Dnipro, one of eastern Ukraine`s largest cities where on Sunday, Russian forces destroyed the airport wounding five Ukrainian rescue workers.

And joining us now is Dalton Bennett, investigative reporter for the "Washington Post".

What you saw the train station constitutes a war crime certainly, and the targeting of civilians which is an element of genocide. What is happening now in the collection of evidence for war crimes and genocide in Ukraine?


DALTON BENNETT, "WASHINGTON POST": What we`re seeing throughout eastern Ukraine where I`ve been primarily reporting for the past two weeks now is that in various locations where there has been a Russian missile strikes or there has been artillery strikes on villages on towns and that have killed civilians or injured civilians that we`ve seen authorities closely documenting, gathering evidence from those strikes.

So after we had arrived at the police station -- excuse me at the train station 15 minutes after the strike took place immediately we saw authorities there on the ground collecting evidence. They blocked off the location, were taking pictures. They were examining what remained of the munitions themselves in order to gather a document evidence that they said was for an investigation into potential war crimes.

O`DONNELL: And as these attacks continue, there`s so many different needs in the response to them. It seems that investigating for the work crime seems to be on the lower end of the priorities of the authorities trying to respond to this and care for people.

BENNETT: Absolutely and this particular moment, shortly after we arrived, it was just clear the level of devastation and the carnage that was inflicted by this missile strike. We had thousands of people that have been gathering at the train station that day hoping to evacuate the area, heeding the advice of local authorities outside of the train station when the missile struck the area.

There were hundreds of people gathered on the train platform. A train had just arrived, a local train had just arrived there. People that were lined up with their bags and their belongings hoping to leave the area when they were hit by this missile.

And it was clear, just by looking at the carnage and the devastation of the platform, that authorities were completely overwhelmed. We were able to travel to the hospital after the strike had taken place. Their patients were being treated in the corridors.

You had every available hand that was, you know, putting -- applying pressure to wounds, adjusting tourniquets. It was absolutely devastating.

The outside of the train station, shortly after the strike had taken place, we counted 20 bodies that have been gathered by local authorities of which two were children. And they had just died moments before on the train platform.

O`DONNELL: Dalton Bennett, I know you`re joining us from the most dangerous area in Ukraine where you continue to report. Thank you very much for joining us. And we all hope that you can stay safe.

Thank you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Alex Whiting, a former head of investigations and prosecutions at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He currently serves as deputy prosecutor at the Hague and is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School.

What do you see developing now in the evidence base for war crimes and for genocide?

ALEX WHITING, DEPUTY PROSECUTOR AT THE HAGUE: Good morning Lawrence, from the Hague. So, you know, as Dalton pointed out, the investigations are critical in the first moments after these missile strikes. And investigators on these sorts of moments will be focusing on gathering evidence to show the these were intentionally targeting civilians. So, they`re going to want to document, in real-time, you know, as -- just after the strike has happened that there were no military targets in the area. They`re going to try to want to document where the strike came from. Document what kind of weapon was used. And all of that evidence will be critical in showing that the civilians were intentionally targeted. This is not a mistake, this was not aiming at a military target.

Of course, in Bucha, and you`re showing some images there of Bucha just now, that`s a different matter because there, the crimes are more clear cut because of the evidence that civilians executed in the streets, sometimes with their hands bound, mistreated, tortured.

And there, the investigators are going to gather evidence to confirm that the crimes occurred. Physical evidence, forensic evidence, eyewitness evidence, video evidence. Again, in the moments after the attack, that gathering is critical.

But then they`re going to turn pretty quickly to try to determine who`s responsible, who are the direct perpetrators, and how high up the chain of command the responsibility goes.

O`DONNELL: And what happens to someone who is accused of war crimes in the Hague? What will it do, for example, to Vladimir Putin`s ability to move around the world?


WHITING: Well, if Vladimir Putin himself were charged by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, or crimes against humanity, it would be difficult to arrest him because the court`s jurisdiction does not reach into Russia. And it would be only if he traveled to a state party or if the government changed in Russia and they surrendered him.

Those are the only realistic scenarios. And they`re obviously narrow paths to him being arrested.

However, as you pointed out, if he were charged, he would be restricted in his ability to travel. The ICC has 123 states parties so he wouldn`t be able to travel there. And this would hang over his head of, you know, and be part of his legacy even if he are not arrested.

O`DONNELL: Professor Alex Whiting, thank you very much for joining us tonight, we really appreciate it.

WHITING: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: And tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



O`DONNELL: And we`re out of time.