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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  January 31, 2022 9:00am-10:00am PST

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. good day, this is "andrea mitchell reports" in washington. today the biden administration is putting russia on notice on the world stage for its massive troop build up in ukraine. at a u.n. security meeting requested by the u.s., u.n. ambassador linda thomas-greenfield. >> russia's aggression today not only threaten ukraine. it also threatens europe. it threatens the international order this body is charged with upholding. if russia further invades ukraine, none of us will be able to say we didn't see it coming, and the consequences will be horrific. >> translator: where did you get the figure of 100,000 troops that are deployed as you state
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on the russian/ukrainian border. that is not the case. we have never cited that figure. we've never confirmed that figure. >> russia support bid china tried to block the meeting from even taking place but the u.s. and its allies voted them down. we'll have a lot more on their fiery objections. president biden expanding his list of black women to replace justice breyer on the supreme court as senators from both sides stake out their positions. and a stunning admission from former president trump saying his vice president mike pence could have overturned the election on january 6th, although we know that the vice president had no such authority under the constitution or election law. the former president said if he's elected in 2024, he would consider pardoning the january 6th rioters. >> if i run and if i win, we will treat those people from january 6th fairly. we will treat them fairly. and if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons.
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>> but we begin this hour with the looming crisis in ukraine. joining me now is nbc chief foreign correspondent richard engel. ben rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to president obama, and michael mcfall, former u.s. ambassador to russia during the obama administration. richard, you are there on the front lines. certainly seem to be differing opinions and fears about a russian invasion depending where you are in ukraine. we saw a strong statement against russia saying if you don't plan to invade, i'm paraphrasing, then why don't you prove it, pull back your forces. what are you hearing and seeing there where you are? >> reporter: so here in mariople it's different than kyiv or other parts of eastern ukraine. there's more tension. people are visibly nervous. we speak to people on the
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street. they're concerned, they're more volunteer classes where people are learning first aid. a few people we spoke to today are planning to move their families out, have bags packed by the door. one person we spoke to now has bought a gun which he keeps in the family home. it's not panic. things are functioning as normal. restaurants, stores, public transportation, all up and running, but you do feel much more concerned here than i felt in other parts of the country in part because of this location, this city is right between russia, the russian held separatist areas, and crimea, and if russia were to invade this country and were to use the separatist areas as either a spring board or to use those forces to, as a spearhead in the operation, and they were heading toward crimea, they would very likely have to go through this city to get there.
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but when you were talking about the diplomacy today, it was quite shocking, and i know you have two other esteemed guests that could talk about this with personal experience. it was almost like they were talking about two different subjects. when you heard the russian representative and the representative from belarus, it was almost like what troops, they wanted to talk about internal conflicts in ukraine, western hysteria, that the west is creating this crisis out of nothing, and they didn't want to talk about the forces that are amassed around ukraine. >> you were so correct about that. it was really stunning. mike mcfall, give us a better understanding also of ukraine's president zelensky and his friday disagreement, the contradiction with what president biden told him in their lengthy conversation thursday night about the russian threat, and zelensky coming out, blaming the u.s. for, as he says, trying to panic his
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people, saying there's no threat, you know, there certainly seems to be a disconnect between what ukraine said at the u.n. today, frankly, what we're hearing from ukraine's defense establishment and intelligence and what president zelensky is saying. sort it out for us. >> well, president zelensky is in a tight spot. on the one hand they want the world to know about the threat as you just pointed out the united nations in phone calls, and getting more assistance, military assistance, which zelensky has been frustrated about for months, he has been seeking this assistance for a long time. you may remember even from president trump and on the other hand, he wants his society to stay calm. he doesn't want the economy to collapse. he doesn't want thousands of people rushing banks to get their money out, buying apartments, renting apartments in other countries to leave. so to me it's very rational that publicly he's trying to keep
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people calm and he sees the comments from western leaders and president biden as undermining his plea for calm within the country. >> ben rhodes, with so much now surrounding so many russian troops, missiles in belarus, warnings from linda thoms a -- linda thomas-greenfield, there will be 30,000 russian troops in belarus this week, what is the way out here? we know lavrov and secretary blinken will be speaking, this is the written response to putin's impossible demands that nato completely pull back and bar ukraine from ever becoming part of nato. so where do you see some path for diplomacy? >> well, andrea, the reality is that the only way out remains a shift in the diplomatic
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conversations from exchange from nato and the open door policy to more specific discussions about the contested areas in eastern ukraine where russian separatists have been active, to questions around european security writ large, whether there can be greater transparency, greater arms control reduced to the tensions between the united states and nato and russia. thus far we have seen little interest from the russian side in that kind of diplomacy. today, look, it's not new, andrea, and i was struck in the later obama years when russia shifted to a posture at the u.n. being totally comfortable outright lying, shifting the conversation to what aboutism that they blame all the problems on the united states. that's a diplomatic attack they used to prop began diaz at home,
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and to appeal at home, and to a global audience, the information the united states and others provide about russian troop build ups. the russian posture in their diplomacy, public statements and propaganda gives vladimir putin the maximum space to operate and to potentially move into ukraine and to blame the united states or the west in some fashion for not taking his diplomacy seriously. until we see the russians pivot to a substantiative negotiation, that continues to be the scenario that we have to be prepared for. >> and to richard engel, we've now confirmed reports over the weekend that russia has started to bring blood supplies, plasma, to the front lines for potential conflict. is that another signal? is that part of the sigh war or some demonstrable proof that they are getting closer to a decision and possibly a decision to use force?
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>> reporter: well, it is very hard to know what is part of the psychological war and what is preparation for actual war. they have moved in a lot of forces. it is expensive to keep these forces here. once you start moving in medical supplies, blood, perishable goods, it shows a degree of seriousness, whether that is because they intend to use them or more of the psychological campaign, well, we will see or we won't see fairly soon because the military activity does seem to be escalating, and will escalate over the next couple of weeks even further as those military exercises will ramp up in belarus to the north. >> and mike mcfall, we now are going to have boris johnson talking to vladimir putin later today. we've got the french initiative. we've got germany still not permitting weapons to be sent. does president zelensky's comments criticizing the u.s., does that undermine the u.s.
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efforts to try to keep the allies together? >> well, it's difficult. and, you know, i don't think either washington or kyiv likes the back and forth publicly. but i think, you know, i'm impressed by what the biden administration has done in terms of unity, not the other way around. yes, there's noises, yes, there's differences between different allies, presidential macron floating his peace proposal in the middle of this, reminds me of georgia, 2008. and yet, you know, compared to what, i think it's a pretty unified front. they have made their proposals, and now the ball's in putin's court, and i think that's exactly where you want to be at this moment in the crisis, and a small little tidbit, when they talked to putin, we get a read out. the read out of the macron call says he was studying our proposals. that's good news. >> mike mcfall, that's why you're the diplomat, and i'm a reporter here.
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thank you very much. and richard engel and ben rhodes, and ambassador mike mcfall, and joining me now, connecticut democratic senator, chris murphy, a member of the foreign relations committee. senator murphy, thanks very much. what is your take, is putin going to go in? do you think there's some window for the diplomacy that secretary blinken and the other foreign ministers are trying so hard to pull off? >> that was an excellent panel you just had, and i agree with ben rhodes take on the state of negotiations. so far we haven't seen any level of seriousness about vladimir putin sitting down across the table for the americans ukrainians to come to a diplomatic agreement. apart because his grievances are imaginary. he believes nato, the united states, presents a territorial threat to russia. that is simply not true. it is russia that has moved into
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ukraine and georgia. the u.s. and our allies have no interest in moving nato troops across the border into russia. i think it is much more likely that putin comes to the conclusion that the cost of this invasion will be much greater than the benefit, that the blow to the economy will be significant, but also he's going to meet up with a resistance in ukraine that is going to be beyond just the army. it's going to be a long-term insurgency with the ukrainian people rising up and perhaps dealing, you know, a long-term blow to the russian army. and to putin himself. so i think that calculation is one that he still needs to make and hopefully in the next few days we can continue to raise the costs for putin as he makes this final determination. >> and do you think that there is some window on, you know, arms control, missile placement, things that he might be interested in to try to find
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this off ramp in the proposal that blinken sent. >> of course there's an agreement here. it's not a one sided agreement. it is true that we have increased our forced presence on the eastern flank of nato since 2014 when vladimir putin marched his army into crimea and eastern ukraine. if putin is willing to pull back and recognize the full sovereignty of ukraine, then of course there will be less reason to be spending $4 billion in u.s. taxpayer money for deploying forces and supporting our partners in the eastern edge of nato. but again, it's not to come with a commitment from vladimir putin to bring his troops back from ukraine, to give ukrainian back their sovereignty in the eastern part of the country and then that can certainly come with some commitments from the united states to draw down our presence. >> now, we're told that this
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bipartisan agreement for a package of sanctions to help bolster the u.s. position is on the 1 yard line. is that correct? how close are you, and are you working with the white house on this or are you on a separate track? >> i think we are very close to an agreement. our hope is to be able to bring a russia sanctions package before the senate as soon as possible. our group met in whole on friday night, late friday evening, and i know senator menendez and senator rich worked through the weekend. you know, the president has existing sanctions authority that he can use but we're hoping to supplement that authority to give him some extra ability to bring to blow, instead of crippling sanctions on russia should they choose to move across the border, and you know, we are considering some sanctions that might take effect immediately because to tell you the truth, russia has already
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taken provocative action that has caused damage to the ukrainian economy that merits consequence. hopefully we'll be able to announce a deal in the short-term. >> very briefly, the white house position has been don't put sanctions on until they do something because otherwise putin will have no incentive to not do anything, if he's already sanctioned. but you think there could be some sanctions, preliminary sanctions because he's already taking threatening actions by his troop build up. >> i think there could be a limited number of sanctions that are made effective immediately. i share the white house's view to be frank with you, that we would be better making crystal clear to putin, if he chooses not to invade ukraine, that he will be spared these sanctions, but in order to get a bipartisan agreement, we are listening to some of our republicans concerns that we'd be better off applying
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some sanctions early. and we think it's really important to get a bipartisan statement of support for ukrainian sovereignty to show that there is no division between republicans and democrats on this issue because you can, you know, certainly look at american politics today and worry that we won't be able to come together on something this significant. >> senator murphy, thank you very much. you are one of the real ukraine experts in the senate having visited so often. we appreciate your help today. >> thanks. and growing list as the white house vets potential supreme court nominees. one gets the backing of a key senate republican. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. a mitchell reports" on msnbc.
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president biden's search for supreme court nominees coming into clearer focus today with more than a dozen candidates who are now reportedly under consideration to fill the seat of retiring justice stephen
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breyer, with a black woman. among the potential nominees, south carolina federal judge j. michelle childs who is backed by a key biden ally, congressman james clyburn and republican senator from south carolina, lindsey graham, influential member of the republican party which signalled what could prove to be critical support on sunday. >> i can't think of a better person for president biden to consider for the supreme court than michelle childs. she's highly qualified. she's of good character, and we'll see how she does if she's nominated but i cannot say anything bad about michelle childs, she is an awesome person. >> but another republican senator, mississippi's roger wicker is under fire for suggesting she and other candidates are less than awesome. suggesting that any black female nominee would not have the credentials of white counter parts. >> the irony is that the supreme court is at the very same time
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hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination, and while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota. >> the white house swiftly pushed back pointing out that ronald reagan put a woman on the supreme court, without facing criticism about affirmative action or quotas. joining us now jonathan lemire, and eugene daniels. getting senator graham on board, if the white house were to pick judge childs, would certainly help in a 50/50 senate because he might bring some other republicans with him, right? >> right, andrea. obviously in a 50/50 senate, there's no margin for error here. look, there's no sign that the biden white house will face any democratic defections. many people watching this show and this network certainly have
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had moments of probable frustration at senator manchin and senator sinema for not going along with the biden legislative agenda but they have been backing his judges. manchin has said so, and today talking to reporters said, indeed, though he wanted of course a thorough and fair review of all the candidates that he would, you know, his inclination was of course to support who the president would want, assuming she, and we do know that it will be a she, qualified. they would like to get republican support. some of the candidates they have floated have received republican backing previously for other positions on the bench, and it's something this is certainly not coordinated with justice breyer, it's well timed for the biden white house, eager to have this, to change this conversation, narrative, away from things like inflation, and the omicron virus, and talk about something that could rally the base heading into a midterm year. >> picking up on that, eugene,
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let's talk about senator wicker's comments, painting any potential black female nominee with a broad brush being chosen for tokenism, is this a fight the white house welcomes as a way to try to recoup support of black women voters in particular? we're so critical to the president's selection, and according to the polls many are disappointed he has not delivered on key promises like voting rights and police reform. >> i think so and i think when they look at it as a fight, they see it as something that many of the aides i talked to is racist. that is what they are saying. when you think about how people of color, black women, specifically, are treated in this country, you know, people sometimes see the idea of putting diversity first and foremost when you're going on a job search as if you're lowering the bar, and that is obviously not the case. all of those women on there, if you become a judge, they have
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the credentials. president biden would not put someone on that list, talk about someone if they weren't qualified. that's part of it. what senator wicker said, we're going to hear quite a bit through this process. you have started to see republicans complaining about that. but like you said, president reagan, while he was a candidate in 1980, saying he wanted to put a woman on there, there wasn't any push back then. and even the same thing with then president trump, when he said he was going to replace rbg with a woman, and while he was a candidate giving out an entire list of the folks that he was going to look at if he got a supreme court seat open, and we know he got three. this is something that the white house, i think, like you said, i don't know if they welcomed the fight. i think it's a fight they're willing to have for sure. >> and jonathan, the former president alluded to this at the top of the show, former president trump saying sort of out loud the quiet part,
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claiming that vice president pence could have overturned the 2020 election. we know that's not true legally, constitutionally, and that statement was made a day after the president dangled potential pardons for january 6th defendants if he runs for reelection. what's been the reaction from the party? >> there were three ominous statements from president trump between the rally and the statement about mike pence, indeed. acknowledging right there, there it is on a plate that he wanted his former vice president to indeed overturn the results of a free and fair election. republicans, they don't want to talk about that. they're looking to talk about 2022 and 2024. i don't think we should overlook the other two things the president said, you mentioned one of them, floating the idea of pardons, that has received
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swift push back from republicans who say that's not acceptable. the other thing the president did was point out all the investigations into him right now suggesting they're illegal, and if they are illegal, perhaps being conduct bid racist prosecutors, prosecutors who largely are african-american. he called on his supporters to protest in large numbers, larger than january 6th, across cities in the united states. therefore, potentially, recreating january 6th, an event for which he just floated pardons, certainly an intimidating concept here being put forth by president trump, and at least one prosecutor, one in atlanta has already called for extra security for herself and her staff. >> thanks for pointing all of that out, jonathan. thanks, eugene, always great to see you as well. the hunger crisis, afghan children starving after foreign aid left with the u.s. military. a rare look inside a remote region and those most at risk. that's coming up.
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course, american aid to the country all dried up because of sanctions, because the taliban is not recognized as legitimate rulers. now the u.n. says afghanistan is hanging by a thread. aide workers are making desperate appeals for staggering $8 billion to keep the country from collapsing and its people from starving. nbc's kelly cobiella got a closer look at how children in some of the most remote corners of afghanistan are struggling just to get enough to eat. >> reporter: we drove two hours, the car in front are taliban security, traveling with unicef to some of the most remote parts of afghanistan where few cameras have been and where unicef is trying to save those most at risk this winter, children. these boys and girls keeping warm in a unicef funded school, the worry, what happens when they go home. >> and so when we say, did you have breakfast today, and they shout yes, their breakfast.
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>> they probably mean black tea and bread. and lunch, if they're lucky to have lunch. >> reporter: the u.n. says more than half of afghans can no longer afford enough food and it's having a disastrous effect. at the local hospitals neonatal wing, all six tiny babies are here because they're under weight, born to malnourished mothers. >> about 300 or 350 women come for delivery here a month. >> reporter: and are many of them now malnourished or under nourished? >> most of them. >> reporter: most of them? >> most of them are malnourished. >> reporter: in the hospital's child malnourished ward, all the beds are full. 2-year-old weighs 17 pounds, half of healthy boys his age. her mother tells us she's worried about her other children still at home and hungry.
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what can we do she tells me. this is our life. i pray that the government will help us. today, kids are playing in the snow, sledding on plastic jugs used for cooking oil. the roadside bombs and nighttime raid of war are gone but so is the flow of foreign aid and the u.s. has frozen more than $9 billion in afghan assets. 23 million people in this country need urgent humanitarian aid and all chapters of the u.n. here in afghanistan are trying to come together to shore up a country. >> reporter: you said this was unprecedented. >> it is unprecedented. it's overwhelming. the needs are extraordinary, and it needs an extraordinary response. >> reporter: unicef says the taliban is giving aide workers, including women, access to every corner of the country, even helping to hand out supplies, like in this warehouse in kabul where 400 families took home
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rice, wheat and winter clothes. 9-year-old hamad amar told me he came here to collect food for his brothers and sisters. this classroom, one of more than 7,000 community schools funded by unicef across the country. a refuge for tens of thousands of girls and boys. >> do you like school? >> reporter: but the need is endless. >> it's difficult to see children in the snow with no socks, no winter boots. it's a hard place to be a child but unicef is here trying to make it a little bit better. >> just heartbreaking, kelly. nbc's kelly cobiella in kabul, afghanistan. kudos to you for finding their stories and telling us their stories. >> reporter: yeah, andrea, it really is heartbreaking, and to be quite honest with you, the
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stories are not hard to find. this is affecting every aspect of this country, every corner of this country, every part of the economy. people aren't getting paid. there's no money to pay them. a huge part of this economy was a public sector, public sector economy, public sector jobs. those people aren't getting their salaries. doctors, nurses, teachers, sanitation workers, you name it, are going without and their families are really suffering and what aid agencies have told us time and again is they need cash as you mentioned and as you all know, the taliban government, de facto government is under sanctions by the u.s. and many other countries and so that money isn't going to flow into the government. the money is coming in via aid agencies and the help is coming in via aid agencies. andrea. >> kelly cobiella, thank you so much, and i know a lot of people around the world asking why can't the money go through the aid agencies and more of it go
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through the aid agencies. thank you. appreciate your being there for us. and the search for solutions, russia and world powers square off at the united nations today amid heightened tensions along ukraine's border. the french ambassador to the u.s. joins me in just a moment. this is "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. a moment this is "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc.
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ambassador philippe etinne, thank you for joining us. does the u.s. accomplish anything by putting russia on the spot, holding the meeting, despite russia and china voting against it? >> well, thank you, andrea, first, for having me. there is a debate now in the security council. we stay with some priorities, the two are diplomacy and deterrence and on top of that solidarity with ukraine and unity, close coordination. as far as diplomacy is concerned, as well as the other aspects, other dimensions i mentioned, france is very much engaged as you know. we will come back to this. our president had conversations with the two presidents of ukraine, and russia last friday.
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our minister said he will visit ukraine together with his german counter part and maybe so worried about french and germany on solving the conflict in eastern ukraine which has swrus just been relaunched. >> do you believe that president macron's negotiations, this separate track and european track helps and supports the nato cohesion or undermines it, as far as vladimir putin might be concerned. >> on the contrary, it strengthens, i mentioned the importance of close coordination, and this coordination works in particular with the united states and we consider positive that the u.s. has engaged in this bilateral dialogue with russia, as we have been doing in the last years. no, on the contrary, our discussion with russia are
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closely following the same messages, but also are youthful. i mentioned the normandy format for implementing the minsk agreements, and the helping solve the crisis, this has been launched and obviously there is a close link between what we with germany want to do there and the general effort to deescalate the situation while continuing to -- and having a strong, firm position on our principles, and having also the deterrent side in our action. >> the u.s. says that russia continues to pour more troops in, linda thomas-greenfield reported today, how does putin
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get out of this, after putting so much into it, so much show of force, how does he back down? >> well, i understand your question, andrea, and the situation is worrying with this accumulation of forces. the way out through the use of all diplomatic instruments we have while keeping and preparing our instrument for deterrence, if any aggression occurs, if any invasion occurs, the way out is in particular on the basis of the principles we have reaffirming overtimes with russia is to solve diplomatically political issues and the one in domb a ss is very important, we have the minsk
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agreement, joint statement by the four countries, the first time since 2019, so this would be obviously a good way to advance, to answer your question, and we will continue to work on this and on all of the dimensions in close coordination with our european, nato, and american allies. >> the uk has said they're going to be sending more military support. the president, president biden has said that in the near term, more u.s. troops are going in to support the nato forces. are more french troops going in? >> well, we are already supporting in different ways ukraine, and as i say, the minister said he will visit ukraine, and our president expressed our solidarity when he spoke with the ukrainian president last friday, and they also had a very important conversation on the political
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conversations and the diplomatic efforts, so yes, we are on the side of ukraine of course. >> ambassador, etienne, thank you very much for helping us better understand the european perspective on this crisis. >> thank you. with the resignation of stephen breyer and unyet named nominee, what is the high court going to look like in the years to come. pulitzer prize winning supreme court reporter linda green joins us next. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. you're watching "andrea mitchell you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. hide my skin? not me. and that means long-lasting clearer skin... and fast itch relief for adults. with dupixent, you can show more skin with less eczema. hide my skin? not me.
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conversation before we get embroiled in all the politician. what would a black woman on the supreme court mean when you consider the history of the justices who have served? >> as a number of people have pointed out, this long line of all-white male justices through almost 200 years of the country's history not broken until thurgood marshal went on the court in the 1960s, nobody had much to say about that at the time. so, you know, the fuss about affirmative action and so on just strikes me as a makeway. what would it mean? president biden has told us it's a way of having the court look more like america and it's a way of putting on the court a highly qualified person who just doesn't happen to be a white male. i thought senator collins' remark yesterday i guess it was that this is different from what
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happened with ronald reagan as a candidate said he would put the first woman on the court. this is different. it's not different at all. it's an effort to expand the pool of qualified people who can be supreme court justices. >> and there in particular was a perspective, academic from georgetown law center, who wrote very disparagingly about the idea of a black woman and being a lesser person of qualifications, lesser qualifications than some of the black, white men on the court. looking at the qualifications of women even being considered as laughable. >> you know, sonia sotomayor had to go through this when obama made her his first supreme court nominee in 2009. this is a woman who won the
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highest student award at princeton university and had been a federal judge for 17 years, longer than all but i think two or three other supreme court nominees and she faced the same kind of undercutting back biting. and i think as a country i would like to think that we are beyond that, maybe we're not. but, you know, it's high time. >> your recent editorial was titled "stephen breyer was the right justice for the wrong age, that his belief in the power and prestige was out of step for the age." expand what you meant. >> this is an idea that had been rattling in my head for a long time as i thought about his nearly 28-year career on the court. i mean, stephen breyer is a
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person of for one thing deep curiosity. he'll do his own research. when he asks questions from the bench, sometimes they're a little convoluted but he wants to make sure he's got the factual matter in mind before he delves into all the implications of the law and is out of step with the post factual, counterfactual age that we're living in where there's a search for sound bites and slogans and ideology. so he's a man a little bit out of his time. but in my opinion for the time he's been there, we've been lucky to have him. >> it's always a pleasure to talk to you. thank you so much. >> appreciate it. >> thanks for having me. >> that does it for this edition
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i want my daughter riley to know about her ancestors and how important it is to know who you are and to know where you came from. we're discovering together... it's been an amazing gift. it■s hard eating healthy. unless you happen to be a dog. if it's monday, new efforts by the biden white house to tamp down democrats' mid-term jitters.
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this as the president weighs more than a dozen candidates to fill the supreme court vacancy to deliver a badly needed win. and the former president suggests he'd pardon the january 6th rioters if he won back the white house. >> and russian and u.s. diplomats go back and forth as they weigh sanctions for putin if he invades ukraine. welcome to "meet the press daily. right now democratic party leaders are trying to tamp down on growing turmoil with donors and the rank and file as the party approaches potentially brutal mid-term elections between president biden's stalled agenda and sliding poll

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