A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, March 27, 2022 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR (voiceover): Show of force.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia.
KARL (voiceover): President Biden wraps up his trip to Europe with a blunt warning to Vladimir Putin.
BIDEN: Don't even think about moving on one single inch of NATO territory.
KARL (voiceover): Just hours after Russian missiles strike western Ukraine. Terry Moran joins us live from Lviv this morning. Plus, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Olga Stefanishyna, and former CIA director, General David Petraeus.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Many of Judge Jackson’s responses have been evasive and unclear.
KARL (voiceover): After some bizarre questioning from Republicans, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson moves one step closer to confirmation.
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, FORMER VICE CHAIR OF THE UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION: I hope that you will see how much I love our country and the rights that make us free.
KARL (voiceover): Senator Amy Klobuchar, a key member of the Judiciary Committee, joins us live.
And, shocking texts.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): She's trying to do exactly what Vladimir Putin failed to do.
KARL (voiceover): Newly revealed messages show the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas urged The White House chief of staff to overturn the 2020 election.
Our Powerhouse Roundtable tackles the fallout.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week." Here now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL (on camera): Good morning and welcome to “This Week.”
It was Joe Biden’s most consequential trip as president yet, back-to-back-to-back summit meetings in Brussels with the European Union, the G7 and NATO, all designed to unify our most powerful allies against Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine.
The president also traveled to NATO’s eastern border in Poland where he met with some of the 100,000 American troops now stationed in Europe. That's the largest U.S. Military presence in Europe in 20 years.
In a stark reminder of the peril of this moment, while President Biden was still in Poland, Russian missiles struck western Ukraine bringing destruction and massive clouds of black smoke less than 50 miles from NATO’s border. Hours later, Biden delivered an address that invoked the weight of history, putting the fight against Putin’s aggression in broader terms, declaring the battle between democracy and autocracy as the test of all time.
Biden also issued a blunt warning to Vladimir Putin, that any attack on NATO territory would be met with the full force of the alliance’s collective power. And he denounced Russia’s leader with what seemed to be a call for him to be ousted from power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase the people’s love for liberty. For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: The White House quickly clarified issuing a statement that despite what he said, President Biden is not actually calling for regime change in Moscow.
Our Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran was with the president for part of his trip. He starts us off from Lviv.
Good morning, Terry.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jon.
This city has taken in hundreds of thousands of people who fled their homes elsewhere in Ukraine and you can see it and feel it here. The streets are thronged with people, traffic at a standstill in many places. But those missile attacks here yesterday, one just about a mile north to us, the other a mile south to us over here, they're the fiercest attacks yet.
The mayor of Lviv calling them, quote, “Greetings from the Russian aggressor to President Biden” who was across the border in Poland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORAN (voiceover): At Warsaw Castle in Poland, President Biden declared that today’s war in Ukraine is --
BIDEN: The battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.
MORAN (voiceover): -- the president summoning free nations to a new cause -- a new and dangerous 21st century struggle.
BIDEN: History shows this is the task of our time, the task of this generation.
MORAN (voiceover): After more than a month, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is stalling on many fronts and, in some places, it's in reverse. So now in what may be a major change in strategy, Russia says its main goal is simply to take control of the Donbass Region in eastern Ukraine. That's a far cry from Vladimir Putin’s vow to demilitarize and denazify all of Ukraine. Which sounded a lot like regime change.
But Putin's forces have proved badly led, poorly trained, and inadequately supplied. Determined Ukrainian forces have gone on the counterattack. Russian troops once threatening the Capital of Kyiv, have been pushed back more than 30 miles and are now digging in, according to U.S. defense officials.
So now Russia has turned to long-range, indiscriminate and merciless bombardments of urban centers. Kyiv is being hit almost daily by artillery and missile strikes, residential areas mainly taking the brunt of the attacks, the deadliest so far coming this week. Video verified by ABC shows the moment a missile hit a shopping mall on the edge of Kyiv. Russia claims this site was being used by Ukrainian forces to launch missiles.
Today, more and more of this antient European capital looks like this. But Russia's main effort now is in the east and south in Donbass, Kharkiv, and, above all, in Mariupol’. As the fighting rages there, Russia is inching closer to capturing the key port city. Several missile strikes targeting the city of Lviv, where so many refugees have fled, joined by most nation’s diplomats.
In Brussels this week, a show of unity and determination by the Western allies and a sense that suddenly everything has changed in Europe.
JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL OF NATO: It's a pivotal moment in history.
MORAN (voiceover): I asked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about growing concerns that Russia might use chemical weapons.
STOLTENBERG: Any use of a chemical weapons will be totally unacceptable. It will be a blatant violation on international law and will, affirmatively, change the nature of the conflict.
MORAN (voiceover): But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging NATO to do more, asking in an address to Ukrainians last night, what is NATO doing? Is it being run by Russia? What are they waiting for? It’s been 31 days, we are only asking for one percent of what NATO has, nothing more.
Near the Polish border, President Biden mingled with Ukrainian refugees, listened to their stories.
He’s promised over $1 billion to humanitarian aid for the crisis and opened the doors of America to 100,000 Ukrainians. But that resettlement process can take years. And the war might still be grinding on.
That was one of the president’s main messages here, this crisis which has changed so much so fast is far from over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORAN (on camera): That fight will be fought here by all Ukrainians because as the missile attacks near Lviv show, there is no real safe haven in Ukraine. And while Ukrainian forces have checked Russian advances mostly around the country, they are taking heavy losses too. And that's why President Zelenskyy keeps asking for more because if this war grinds on, those forces will need more weapons, more help, a lot more.
KARL: Terry Moran in Lviv this morning. Thank you, Terry.
Joining us now is Ukraine’s deputy prime minister and top adviser to President Zelenskyy, Olga Stefanishyna. Madam Deputy Prime Minister, thank you for joining us.
You heard President Biden’s words, his declaration, we stand with you, period. Speaking to you, speaking to all of Ukraine. Do those words match the actions that we're seeing from the United States and from NATO?
OLGA STEFANISHYNA, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINSTER: Well, first of all, this address was to the Ukrainian people, not only to the Ukrainian leadership. And it was really important because in this time of the severe war and nearly all possible war crimes have been committed against the country, but also the eastern Ukrainian people, it was really important to have the sense of an international leadership and an understanding of the tragedy which is happening there for us.
We have also heard a very important message related to the war crimes committed in our territory and the clear understanding and readiness to form the anti-war coalition leaded (ph) by the strongest democracies in the world to stop the war and to stop the aggressive, terroristic regime in Russia.
KARL: But there’s a clear frustration that we’re hearing from President Zelenskyy. I mean, just yesterday he was saying -- he was expressing frustration with NATO, even saying is it being run by Russia? Why can't he get all you need?
What more do you need? You, as you stand there right now in Kyiv, what more do you need to defend yourselves against this aggression?
STEFANISHYNA: Well, first of all, all this messages -- they should not be precepted as an emotion. It’s really different what do we feel and understand right now happening in Ukraine when the dozens and hundreds of civilian people and children are dying. We see the situation in the field.
While for the leaders outside Ukraine and in Europe and transatlantic, it takes more time to build the consensus on the face (ph).
So we feel very much concentrating and understanding what we need. The no-fly zone we were requesting, because the understanding that sooner or later this decision will be taken. But it will be taken by massive cost of civilian deaths in the Ukraine. That’s why it’s not an emotion. It’s the understanding of need and our willingness to wait for proper political moment to that.
While we have these discussions, it’s really important that the West and the leaders of European nations, most of them are there already, understand that Ukraine should get any possible assistance, including military, to be capable to defend itself and to hold the European sky safe while the broader political consensus of how to stop this aggression is there.
So everybody should be concentrated over one goal, to make sure that Ukraine is capable, financially stable to resist and defend until the political solution, how to restore the territorial integrity of our Ukraine and a peace around Europe, is there.
KARL: What can you tell us is the latest out of Mariupol? We hear just horrific, horrific reports of no electricity, of no food or water -- food or water running out, Russians taking over neighborhoods, taking people out of the country. What is -- what is the very latest?
STEFANISHYNA: I would start by saying a couple of very important elements of pretext. First of all, it’s more than 80 towns and villages around Ukraine which are in more or less the same position. While Mariupol is politically for Russians, a full force of the control over the whole Donetsk region.
And secondly, for Russians, war is, some language (ph), their ordinary business. The wars Russians has been doing all around the world for decades. And they’re extremely skilled in manipulating. That’s why they do it with the U.N. system, the Red Cross organization, and what I can confirm as an insider of some parts of this negotiation is that they do not really care about a single life of a person who died or suffers there.
So, for them, this has nothing to do with the humanity.
In Mariupol, the situation is extremely complicated, although we managed to take out of there more than 150,000 people, but too many of them still remain there. They don’t have access to water, to any food supplies, to anything. More than 85 percent of the whole town is destroyed. So, it simply does not exist anymore.
While people there and they -- some of them have been forcefully displaced to Russian Federation. And this is even worse than being in a humanitarian crisis in a city.
KARL: Given all of that, is there any sign of any even glimmer of hope on negotiations with the Russians? And you’ve heard people speculate, you know, that -- you know, perhaps NATO -- perhaps Ukraine needs to make concessions, rule out joining NATO, or even ceding Crimea or the territories in the east.
Could you -- is any of that on the table, the idea of rewarding the Russians for all this by ceding territory in the east?
STEFANISHYNA: Well, Russians has naturally putting everything on the table while there are like absolutely clear red lines for Ukraine. And these are red lines, first of all, for Ukrainian people but also for the whole world, because now we have the decision (ph) on being International Court of Justice abiding Russian Federation to stop the military operation and to refrain from any military action. So, this is one point where no discussions are possible.
Second element there’s no discussions which are possible as regards to territorial integrity and sovereignty and of inevitability of Ukrainian territory and, of course, Ukraine will never step up for any element of discussions which would anyhow legitimize all the war crimes which has been committed in Ukrainian territory.
KARL: Yeah. Thank you, Madam Deputy Prime Minister. And thank you for your resolve and your bravery. Appreciate your time.
Let’s bring in former CIA director and retired four-star general, David Petraeus.
General Petraeus, first of all, let’s pick up what we just heard there, the idea that giving any concessions as part of -- as part of negotiations with Russia would be rewarding basically their terrorism that they’ve rained down upon the Ukrainian people.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yeah. I mean, it indicates that the Venn diagrams if you will what’s acceptable, in other words, to President Putin and also President Zelenskyy, there’s still very little overlap if any.
Basically, what you have is a president in Moscow who’s watching his economy, his financial system, his inner circle, and his business community be seriously damaged, in some cases irreparably so. And then, of course, another president in Kyiv who’s watching his country slowly be damaged, parts of it destroyed, terrible loss of innocent life, as well as of his forces.
Although the battlefield situation is a bit of a bloody stalemate, the Ukrainians actually having halted the Russians around Kyiv, Kharkiv and some others, and even pushing them back a bit in Kyiv.
But then you have the situation in Mariupol, which has become a bit of a Ukrainian Alamo at this point in time. It’s fighting to the last defender, and pinning down multiple Russian battalions in so doing, very heroically but, ultimately, it looks as if it’s going to have to collapse. It’s going to be taken.
And when it does, that is a moment of some peril for Ukraine, because now that port can be used by the Russians. Remember, they were using a port just to the west to that where a ship was hit and destroyed, a Russian ship. They’ll now have quite a good port on the Sea of Azov out to the Black Sea.
And then it will free up a number of battalions that were the ones that have been closing the circle, closing the noose on Mariupol, who can then push further north and perhaps enable Russia to achieve what it has now said, as it’s redefined its objectives, to taking control of all of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, provinces if you will, and then solidifying its grip on the land corridor from the Donbas, from those two oblasts, all the way to Crimea.
So, this is going to be very tenuous period the next few days as we see what happens in Mariupol, what the Russians are able to do as a result of it, and then haw the Ukrainians can respond, because that’s a very long distance from anywhere where they might have forces that they could possibly spare.
And, of course, in the meantime, very understandably, President Zelenskyy, who despite hearing this extraordinary commitment from President Biden and from all the leaders of NATO at the summit this past week, nonetheless wants more. And I fully understand that.
I mean he’s like a battlefield commander, and no commander has ever had enough forces, drones, air force, whatever it maybe. And that’s the position in which he finds himself. And we should understand.
And what we need to do is provide everything we can that can be provided without needlessly provoking a direct confrontation with Russia. I very much understand President Biden’s concerns about that.
KARL: Well, let me -- let me ask you about that because we saw President Biden’s speech in Warsaw outline this basically as the struggle, the fight of our time. But there was that line at the end of his speech where he said flatly that Putin must go, that this man must not remain in power.
Obviously, that’s not -- I mean, that’s not the policy. But how does something like that, a very -- it made headlines all around the world -- how does complicate the efforts to resolve this situation?
PETRAEUS: Well, I mean, it reminds us that message discipline has its virtues. That was reportedly very clearly an unscripted moment, in addition in the emotion of that very emotional moment. And, you know, it will cause some challenges down the road.
It will be -- disappear. You know, the headlines will move on to something else within a few days. But in the mind of Putin, he’s someone who has, you know ,watched and rewatched, you know, old videos of Gadhafi being taken and killed, this kind of thing, it will play on his mind, and it could complicate matters going down the road.
Look, I think President Biden would be the first -- knowing him, he’d be the first to say, oops, you know, OK, hey, guys, OK, well, let’s get on with it and let -- this should not overshadow what was an extraordinary, important and successful trip to Europe, one that the U.S. really led, as it has done so impressively, really, throughout this entire effort, and pulled together, guided and then ultimately, with this speech, that did -- it was a very, very strong statement, obviously.
KARL: I want to ask you a little flashback here to a statement made by the president of Poland visiting Tbilisi, Georgia, after the Russians invaded Georgia back in 2008. A statement that echoes today. He said at the time, again, this is 2008, today, Georgia, tomorrow, Ukraine, the day after tomorrow, the Baltic states, and later perhaps time will come for my country, Poland.
Obviously, you know, Ukraine did come. Is there a concern here that whatever ends up resolving this, if there is a resolution here with the Russians backing down, that giving them -- rewarding them in any way for this is ultimately a green light for Putin's ultimate plan to -- to rebuild the Russian empire?
PETRAEUS: Jon, I tend to think that this has complicated any ambitions that he might have had very, very considerably. This is going to set back his military for years. It's -- it's showing the whole world that it wasn't the wonderfully modernized force that, you know, everybody thought it might be.
This has been a huge challenge for the Russians. You know, the fact that they've lost seven generals, just because they can't command-and-control sufficiently; they have to get out of their armored vehicles and...
PETRAEUS: ... forward, to find out why are they stopped again, this kind of thing. So I -- I tend to think that his ambitions are going to be seriously set back by what takes place in Ukraine, noting that this is by no means nearing a conclusion.
KARL: All right. General David Petraeus, thank you very much for joining us on "This Week."
Coming up, as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson moves one step closer to joining the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas is facing new scrutiny about his wife's involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election. We'll discuss the fallout with Senator Amy Klobuchar, next.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Justice Thomas has to recuse himself from anything related to the Trump administration, anything related to the January 6th Commission, anything related to our effort to hold individuals accountable for their participation in this attack on our democracy.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Justice Thomas could make his decisions like he's made them every other time. It's his decision based upon law. If he sees it's not upholding the Constitution, he'll rule against it.
KARL: Some reaction to those extraordinary text messages revealing that Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, urged Donald Trump's White House chief of staff to overturn the 2020 election in the days and weeks after the vote, just as Trump and his allies were promising to take their case to the Supreme Court.
Here to discuss that and more is Senator Amy Klobuchar, member of the Judiciary Committee.
Before we get to matters related to the Supreme Court, I want to ask you about President Biden's speech, and that line that we all heard him say very bluntly, "This man, Vladimir Putin, cannot remain in power."
I mean, wasn't he saying exactly what he believed?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): First, the White House has clarified that he was talking about the region and that he was talking about that Vladimir Putin has got to stay out of NATO countries, something he specifically said in his speech. But I think what General Petraeus said was meaningful here.
We know the policy of our country. We know what it is. I think Vladimir Putin knows what it is and certainly our NATO allies and Americans know what it is. We’re part of NATO. We’re doing all we can to protect those NATO countries, doubling the number of troops in Poland that I just visited a few weeks ago. Incredible command there, incredible leadership. Giving them significant military assistance that is so necessary and we have done a lot and we should do more.
But beyond that, our policy is clear. NATO is a defensive alliance. The president has said it himself. And we will do all we can to help Ukraine and you can see the strength of that help coming through with the fact that they’ve literally pushed Russian troops back from Kyiv.
KARL: And that message came through but, as you know, during the campaign -- I mean, you ran against Joe Biden, you know full well what he said, he said the words of a president matter. And that was the headline around the world. That was the message heard in Moscow. That's what the Russians are responding to. And whatever walk back there is, his words -- cannot remain in power --
KLOBUCHAR: Having stood there myself on that border and embraced those kids -- the refugees coming in, hearing about the horror, they leave there with nothing on their -- no -- and leaving everything they have behind, everything, their little stuffed animals and their backpacks, moms with suitcases leaving their husbands behind to fight -- yes, the moment is clear.
Vladimir Putin is a monster. But the position of the United States Government is not to send troop in there. It is to give all the aid we can to Ukraine, which includes Switchblade drones, incredible drones that have done a lot of damage to the Russian army --
KLOBUCHAR: -- Russian planes. You have got Stingers, 800 more Stingers, thousands of more Javelins and we're doing more and more and more, and we must. I have personally advocated for doing more. That's what this is. And it's the humanitarian aid, over $1 billion pledged, taking in over 100,000 refugees, that is what we are doing.
KARL: And it’s not regime change in Moscow --
KLOBUCHAR: That has been made very clear.
KARL: Okay, let's turn to matters related to the high court. You saw those text messages from Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas' wife. I want to read just two of them.
One, on November 6th, she said, “Do not concede. It takes time for the army who is gathering for his back.”
And then on November 19th, “Sounds like Sidney” -- meaning Sidney Powell -- “and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down.”
I mean, my goodness.
KLOBUCHAR: Jonathan, the facts are clear here. This is unbelievable. You have the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice advocating for an insurrection, advocating for overturning a legal election to the sitting president's chief of staff and she also knows this election, these cases, are going to come before her husband. This is a textbook case for removing him, recusing him from these decisions.
And I don't think -- all I hear is silence from the Supreme Court right now and that better change in the coming week because every other federal judge in the country except Supreme Court justices would have a guidance from ethics rules that says you got to recuse himself.
Thomas himself recused himself in 1995 from a case involving a school because his son was going to that school. Justice Breyer recused himself when his wife was on the board of an entity and that case came before the Supreme Court.
KARL: Okay, and if he doesn’t? If he doesn't recuse himself?
KLOBUCHAR: Justice -- I mean, the entire integrity of the court is on the line here. And they had better speak out on this because you cannot have a justice hearing cases related to this election and, in fact, the ethics rules that apply to all the other federal judges say that if it involves a family member, appearance of impartiality, they have to recuse themselves.
So not only should he recuse himself, but this Supreme Court badly needs ethics rules. Chris Murphy’s leading a bill I've long been on -- supportive of, that says basically get your act together. Get ethics rules in place. And I would hope Justice Roberts, who I respect, will stand up and get those ethics rules in place. They’ve got to do that. They should do it themselves.
KARL: Okay. So Ketanji Brown Jackson, I mean, some fascinating questions from your Republican colleagues. But Joe Manchin’s on board. Her confirmation seems to be given (ph). Is she going to get Republican support? What are you hearing?
KLOBUCHAR: I think she is. She has in every other nomination that she's had for very levels of the court.
And I would make very clear here, she's not going to get confirmed in two years, she’s not going to get confirmed in two months. She's going to get confirmed in two weeks. And so much of that has to do with her vast experience, more judicial experience than four of the justices that currently sit on that court, but also the pillar of strength, how she handled those attacks, and just sat there and answered their questions. And she, literally, is the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, when she walks into that court with her head held high, every little boy and girl in America is going to know that anything and everything is possible.
KARL: I mean, it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of Republicans will vote against her.
Lindsey Graham in an interview with "The Washington Post" said that when Democrats, all Democrats, voted against Amy Coney Barrett, they set a precedent.
This is what he said: Is that the new norm? If that’s going to be the new norm, what do you do when party has the Senate and the other party has the White House? How do you ever get anybody confirmed?
I mean, what has happened to this process? I mean, you know -- I mean, we had Scalia was overwhelmingly confirmed. Ruth Bader Ginsburg overwhelmingly confirmed. Sandra Day O'Connor.
Now, I mean, we -- you’re going to have a court where nobody had the majority of both parties.
KLOBUCHAR: I’m not going to relitigate the whole past, but remember the unique circumstances with Amy Coney Barrett where Mitch McConnell shoved through that nomination right before an election. That aside, what we have here is someone who is highly qualified, who has gotten votes of Republicans in the past and those Republicans, at least two of them, have issued positive statements in the months leading up to this hearing.
And so, I believe she will get Republican support. I can't tell you who. I can’t tell you how much. But it think that will be very important to this process.
KARL: All right. Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you for being here on set with us on “This Week”.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. It’s great to be on, Jonathan.
KARL: The roundtable weights in next.
Plus, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver on the political fallout from Judge Jackson's confirmation hearings.
Stay with us.
KARL: The roundtable is here ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): On a scale of one to ten, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?
SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Do you think that these -- that these laws are too tough, that we're too tough on sex offenders? Explain what you meant.
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Can you provide a definition for the word "woman"?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Some harsh and highly unusual questions from Republicans to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearings this week.
But as the parties gear up for midterm elections and beyond, could the sharp questioning backfire on the GOP? We'll discuss the hearings with our roundtable after this analysis from FiveThiryEight's Nate Silver.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Well, let's start with the simple fact. Ketanji Brown Jackson is a popular nominee. According to Gallup polling, 58 percent of Americans want the Senate to confirm her. That's the second highest figure for any nominee Gallup has tested since 1987.
It's also true that 30 percent of Americans oppose Jackson's confirmation in the same poll. Still, her net rating of plus 28 is higher than other recent nominees, like Judge Kavanaugh, who was a plus four, or Amy Coney Barrett at a plus five.
In an election where Republicans have a lot going for them, that means they're taking a real risk.
Supreme Court confirmation votes are one of the most important things a Senate does and they can swing Senate races. In 2020, for instance, Maine Senator Susan Collins unexpectedly held on to her seat after voting against Barrett who was relatively unpopular in Maine. And in 2018, several red Democrats, including Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Indiana's Joe Donnelly, may have sealed their fates after voting against Kavanaugh.
Part of the risk for Republicans could be uniting the Democratic base, which has been split over issues like COVID. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats favor KBJ's confirmation, while just 7 percent oppose.
It could also motivate black Democrats, after the party failed to deliver on promises like voting rights. Still, with President Biden's approval numbers among black voters having slipped into the mid 60s, there is room for improvement.
Overall, I'd buy this one, reflexive partisan opposition may be the norm for Supreme Court nominations these days, but that doesn't mean it's politically wise.
KARL: Thanks to Nate for that.
The roundtable is here.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: We must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul. We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after, and for the years and decades to come.
It will not be easy.
There will be costs. But it's a price we have to pay because the darkness that drives autocracy is ultimately no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: President Biden speaking in Poland yesterday. Here to discuss that and more, Ramesh Ponnuru, the new editor of the National Review; former DNC chair Donna Brazile; the Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg; and Wall Street Journal national security reporter Vivian Salama.
Donna, that speech in Warsaw, the White House really raised expectations for it. This was a major address. Obviously, he said "This is the fight of all time."
KARL: Did he meet the moment?
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I thought so. Some people describe it as Churchillian. Some other -- it was -- it was inspiring; it was powerful. He spoke to me; I don't know if he spoke to others, when he said "Be not afraid," quoting Pope John Paul.
He said, "Every generation must choose its battle, and democracy is the battle of our lifetime."
It was powerful. I know everyone is focusing on those nine words, for God's sake. But I think we should focus on the core message, is that the United States is -- will stand with our NATO allies; the United States has committed more resources to help the Ukrainians; and that the country understood its role in this battle.
KARL: Well, we'll get to those nine words in a minute. But, Ramesh, he did outline this as basically the ultimate struggle of our time, and -- and seemed to be saying this is -- this is along -- this is about much more than Ukraine, and this is not going to be over any time soon?
RAMESH PONNURU, BLOOMBERG OPINION COLUMNIST & NATIONAL REVIEW SENIOR EDITOR: The very proud outlines of his policy, I think, command a consensus in the country, that is we are going to support the Ukrainians and we're going to avoid a direct military conflict.
I think the debate in the U.S. has been over the parameters of that. So, are we supporting enough? Do we need to do more? Do we need to do less, and then the execution of it?
And I think that’s where we get back into those nine words, I think that that does -- that did create some doubt about whether President Biden is in control of his own administration or in control of himself at all times. I think that it is not good if you have a (inaudible) speech followed by clean-up from your own administration.
KARL: And, Jeffery, the clean-up. So the nine words, of course, that he must go, he must not remain in power, meaning Vladimir Putin. For God’s sake, he must not remain in power.
And then The White House comes out and says, no, he wasn't calling for --
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE ATLANTIC”: Yes.
KARL: He wasn’t calling for him to be removed from power.
GOLDBERG: At that point, they probably should not have walked it back and just left it out there ambiguously or non-ambiguously, as the case may be. The argument that we're hearing is that he didn't mean what the plain meaning of the words are.
And you know, and it is -- I mean, look, this speech was a very powerful speech. It’s true. It is also true that when you’re calling for regime change in a nuclear state, that's a policy that you might want to think through before you do it. And Joe Biden, as a veteran of the Obama administration, obviously, understood how presidents can get tripped up by rhetorical flourishes. President Obama and the red line, for instance.
And so --
KARL: Which was a response to a question. It wasn't a planned statement.
GOLDBERG: Right. And all sympathy to Joe Biden, these trips are difficult. This was an emotional moment. Of course, how could you not want a monster, a person he describes as a monster, to be removed? Nevertheless, this is a nuclear power and a person who’s in a corner and has nuclear weapons is a more dangerous foe than one who doesn’t feel like he’s in a total corner. So it’s a tough moment.
KARL: And to quote another thing from Biden, a president's words matter. But Vivian, is there any doubt that he was not saying what he believes?
VIVIAN SALAMA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: President Biden is going to say what President Biden wants to say and so it is important. And we've seen this, actually, in the last couple weeks. He called President Putin a war criminal before they officially came out and declared from the State Department that they believed that Russian forces were committing war crimes.
He also called him a butcher this weekend. And so you don't necessarily see that reflected in official U.S. policy, but obviously the president is going to go out there and he is going to basically project what he believes -- The White House has said it all along, even with his war criminal comments. They said he was speaking from the heart.
And so this is something that President Biden has a history of doing. But whether or not U.S. foreign policy will officially reflect that, remains to be seen. Something like calling for regime change or even just suggesting the notion of regime change has a lot of land mines.
The U.S. has obviously a dark cloud over it, for a long history of seeming like they are meddling in other countries' affairs. And trying, even suggesting regime change set suggests that the U.S. would somehow get involved in that. And so obviously U.S. foreign policy very, very careful to not suggest that because that creates a lot of problems down the line for the U.S.
BRAZILE: So think about his audience, his audience was the entire world including the Russian people and he spoke directly to them.
KARL: You are not our enemies.
BRAZILE: Right. That’s right. And we all know that Mr. Putin doesn’t like opposition. I mean, he’s eliminated most of the opposition in Russia. I mean, we know what happens when the Russian people stand up against their government and their leader.
So I do believe that this was a really important moment for America to not just lead on the issue of democracy, but also lead the international community. And I think -- I believe, overall his trip was a successful trip. Because he did what we wanted him -- I think, Americans, what we wanted him to do, to show leadership on the international stage.
KARL: It's hard to take issue with his characterization of Putin as a butcher or as a war criminal or even his desire that he be, ultimately, removed from power. But how do you get from those words to a solution -- any kind of a diplomatic solution? I mean, where does this go?
PONNURU: You know, and then the other problem is if you do have an announced policy of regime change or wish a regime change just -- that raises the question, so what's the plan? How are you going to do this? Which is another reason you don’t want to get into this territory.
Right now I think we are looking at continued bloody stalemates and it is -- you know, there are no signs that that is going to change and we're going to be, I think, probably having the same basic kind of conversation next week and the week after.
KARL: Wasn't it just haunting to see those missile strikes in Lviv? You know, just, what, 40, 50 miles from the -- from NATO’s border at a time when Biden had just been there.
GOLDBERG: Right. You know, just to add something to what Donna said, the -- you know, this was an extraordinarily emotional trip for Joe Biden. He's at the end of the trip. He’d seen --
KARL: He’d seen these refugees.
GOLDBERG: He’d seen horrors. And so, it’s completely understandable that you want the monster to go.
GOLDBERG: And, you know -- and just to add on to sort of the framing that you provided that says that overall, it was a successful trip. If you really look back at it, you sort of step back or step up, you know, America in some ways is back.
I mean, I hate to use sort of sloganeering version of that, but European country after European country wants the U.S. behind it, right by its side. The Polish people are very happy to see an American president.
I mean, things have become clarified. And this trip was very, very useful in terms of clarifying who the free people of Europe want on their side and who they're scared of. So, that was all very useful.
And, of course, Putin is playing right into it by firing missiles at Lviv, by behaving like a monster. So, it’s all -- I mean, in the broader context, it was obviously a successful trip and something he should do again and again and again to remind the world that America is fundamentally different than Russia and also China.
SALAMA: Jon, I mean, just to answer that question as well, president Putin knows that he can kind of go up to the line without crossing it and that crossing being to hit a NATO country. This is something that --
KARL: But there is a margin of error. I mean, what happens --
SALAMA: Completely so. And it’s obviously -- I mean, we see he has no real boundaries as far as, you know, invading a sovereign country and just the extent of the damage that he's inflected upon Ukraine.
But this is also something that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been insisting on all along, is that we are not part of NATO. And so, ultimately, regardless of anything, even if he gets within five miles of the Polish border, we are on our own, because we are not part of NATO and NATO will not act unless it is actually hit.
GOLDBERG: We might suggest a correct note. We might see in the fullness of time that the most important thing that Joe Biden said in that speech was not one inch. That was a very direct and forceful reminder to Russia that you cross into NATO territory, all bets are off.
KARL: And that was, let’s face it, a red line even if he didn't say red line.
GOLDBERG: Well, that is, that’s the stated red line. That is a red line that actually exists.
KARL: All right. I want to turn to Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas' wife and her text messages. I want to highlight one other text message. This is one she sent out, sent to Mark Meadows, chief of staff on January 10th.
We're living through what feels like the end of America. Most of us are disgusted with the VP. She’s talking about Mike Pence, and are in listening mode where to fight with our teams.
Those who attacked the Capitol are not representative of our great team of patriots for DJT.
I mean, Ramesh, explain, just explain. What is this?
PONNURU: Well, this is a conservative activist who went pretty far down the rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking and apocalyptic thinking, and was encouraged by then President Trump to believe a lot of nonsense about what had happened in the 2020 election.
KARL: Is that -- so Trump was encouraging her or she was encouraging him? Where was the nonsense running to and from?
PONNURU: Well, it may have been one of those eco chamber sorts of things where people spin themselves up and spin one another up.
So, yeah, its’ a very dismaying, and, in fact, she took what was one of the most honorable and shining moments of Vice President Pence's careers when he stood up to the pressure and fulfilled his constitutional duty and said she was disgusted by it. I think it speaks very poorly about her judgment.
KARL: Senator Klobuchar made a powerful case for Thomas to recuse himself. Do you agree with that?
PONNURU: I think whether Justice Thomas recuses himself is going to have to depend on the facts of that case. You know, if it's something that involves specific records involving his wife, then I think he’s going to have to recuse himself.
But there's now also this appearance of impropriety question which is going to affect how he evaluates in any of those future cases. And, frankly, I would not be surprised if the Supreme Court were that much more likely to want to stay out of future cases involving the January 6th Committee, for example.
BRAZILE: You know, when Judge Roberts, Justice Roberts concluded that a press report of the exchange between Mr. Gorsuch and Ms. Sotomayor was an error, the Supreme Court put out a statement.
KARL: Yeah, right.
BRAZILE: I would hope that they will put out a statement. Now --
KARL: A statement saying what?
BRAZILE: A statement to the fact that the judge, Justice Thomas would recuse himself on any cases involving the January 6th --
KARL: But that's not the court to say. It's Thomas to say, right?
BRAZILE: Yes, it is. But I still believe that there needs to be a statement.
Look, I think she was unhinged. I know she's a conservative activist. I’m an activist.
KARL: Yeah, it seemed way out of line.
BRAZILE: But, boy, that -- that went really over the top. Seriously. You've got to look at --
GOLDBERG: You could have a great career on Twitter I think. I mean that would be a good place.
But, you know, the point -- going to your question, Justice Roberts could walk down the hall and just pop in to Justice Thomas' chambers and says, we have a little bit of a mess and I would like to say something about this.
But, the Supreme Court is self-regulating. We know that.
BRAZILE: Oh, yes.
GOLDBERG: The Supreme Court sets its own --
KARL: The only court in the land not guided by ethics rules.
GOLDBERG: Because -- that's why it's supreme, you know?
GOLDBERG: I mean it's the -- it's -- it's -- they are -- they are in charge of their own ethics and they are in charge of their own appearance and they've got a problem.
SALAMA: But to the question of impropriety, there's already this lingering question over Justice Thomas because of the fact that he was the only justice to block the January 6th committee from getting President Trump --
KARL: To vote to block --
BRAZILE: That's right.
SALAMA: Former President Trump's papers. And so you already have this lingering over him. And now, for future cases as well, there's going to be intense scrutiny about any decisions he's making that has any link to what happened.
KARL: And, Donna, before we go, I've got to get your thoughts on -- on the -- on the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings.
BRAZILE: We were promised by Minority Leader McConnell that it would be a fair process, free of rancor. Within 30 minutes or 60 minutes, the first question, on a scale of one to ten, tell me about your religion, your religious -- there's no religious text.
And then, of course, the other one, define a woman. And my -- the best one was -- and, you know, for me, to watch these proceedings, to quote Dr. King, and then to turn Dr. King into somebody who's against the people who are still fighting for their dream, it was -- it was pathetic.
KARL: Yes, no, it's pretty -- but -- but -- but this -- but this focus on -- on child pornography and pedophiles.
KARL: I mean -- I mean it was a message to QAnon, wasn't it? Oi mean these are not major cases. These were -- these were sentencing -- these were decisions.
PONNURU: I think that we had a confirmation process where the conclusion that she's going to get confirmed was pretty much foregone by everybody. And so some republicans, a few Republicans, wanted to take some shots and make some political points. And some Democrats found it in their interest to act as though those people represented the entire Republican Party and that was what the entire confirmation hearing was about, when, in fact, the majority of the questioning was not only normal, but also -- but kind of anticlimactic.
KARL: The majority.
KAR: I mean there was -- there was a lot of questioning on -- on -- on -- on pedophiles.
Anyway, we're out of time. Thank you very much to the roundtable.
We will be right back.
KARL: That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with uh. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and have a good day.