How U.S. lawmakers are reacting to the escalating Ukraine crisis

As the United States on Wednesday warned Ukraine to be prepared for an imminent Russian invasion, we take a look at how U.S. lawmakers are reacting to the latest situation in Ukraine. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we will take a look at how other leaders in Washington are reacting to this escalating crisis in Ukraine.

    For more on all this, I'm joined by our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    So, hello, Lisa.

    Let's start with the president's own party, the Democrats. What are they saying about the president's actions?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's important to talk about these other leaders, because they're hearing from their voters, hearing from their constituents.

    And, today, we some members of both parties actually agree on one thing, that the president's new sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, essentially waiving — getting rid of the waiver that he had for those, that's a good thing. That's where everyone agrees.

    But talking about Democrats, they really are in two camps. First, the one that you hear about publicly, leaders like Nancy Pelosi, supporting President Biden as mainly getting through the world — getting the world through a very tricky navigation of these issues.

    Here's what she said today, talking about President Biden as someone who has unified allies, even as some of the sanctions he's imposing could harm some of our European allies.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

    The steps that the president are taking — is taking appropriate. The Europeans feel the pain more than we do of sanctions. It is not without any collateral impact in their countries.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Now, there is no Democrat who is publicly criticizing President Biden.

    But speaking to senior Democratic aides and Democratic members of Congress, I can tell you this. There are many Democrats who believe President Biden should be doing even more and that he should do it now.

    One of those — one Democrat who we should be watching is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That's Bob Menendez. He said yesterday, for example, that he thinks this should not be the end to sanctions.

    I also spoke today to another important Democrat, Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He supports what President Biden has done so far. But he says nothing else needs to happen, that Russians are occupying Ukrainian territory, and that the U.S. should impose sanctions, more sanctions at any time.

    One other group of Democrats to watch, Judy, progressives. They are watching the war footing of this country. Look at this statement from Representative Barbara Lee of California.

    Even as she also is supporting President Biden in general, she wrote this. She says: "It's important to stress that any new military deployments must be done in full compliance with Congress' constitutional war powers."

    Of course, what she's saying there is, we don't want another war.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, meanwhile, Lisa, Republicans are being publicly more critical of the president, but we know they too are divided. Tell us what you're seeing and hearing from them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We see in all of this the complicated nature of this situation. And there is a different kind of divide among Republicans.

    First, the ones we're hearing from the most, those who again say President Biden has not done enough, that he waited too long to do what he has done.

    I want to play sound from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina speaking on this theme yesterday.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):

    President Biden, you said a couple of years ago that Putin does not want you don't win, because you're the only person that could go toe to toe with him. Well, right now, Mr. President, you're playing footsie with Putin, and you're losing.

    He is walking all over you and our allies.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It is notable that some Republicans in press releases have criticized President Biden more than they have criticized President Putin in terms of what's been happening.

    However, again today, President Biden's decision to fully deploy those sanctions against that Russian pipeline, that is something that Republicans, even his strongest critics, like Ted Cruz of Texas, are praising. They're saying that is something, the direction they want things to go in.

    Now, what is the divide in the Republican Party? It is with others, like former President Trump, who are saying things that seem to be more positive, in fact, are more positive, about President Putin.

    Here's some words from President Trump, former President Trump, yesterday. He was speaking on a talk show.

    And he said: "Putin says, you know, I'm going to declare a big portion of Ukraine independent." In President Trump's words, he said: "You got to say that's pretty savvy."

    There are a few other Republicans who are indeed echoing this idea that perhaps President Putin isn't so bad, maybe he's smart.

    But talking to a wide spectrum of Republican lawmakers today, they see that as an outlier position and even dangerous. What are they getting phone calls about today, Judy? They say they are getting calls insisting that there should not be any troop movement, the U.S. should not send troops into Ukraine, that there are concerns about domestic policy.

    Where is everyone united, Republicans, Democrats? That the U.S. should send more aid to Ukraine. And we should be watching the next week or two to see if, in fact, we do get a new aid bill, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars more for Ukraine. Congress is waiting on President Biden to say exactly what he thinks is needed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting. And we will see how that evolves as events move along.

    Lisa Desjardins talking to members of both parties.

    Thank you, Lisa.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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