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Roger Stone Faces Arraignment Tuesday, Says No Evidence of Collusion with WikiLeaks, Russia; Trump Temporarily Ends Shutdown Without Wall Money; Impact of Shutdown Still Lingers for Federal Workers Who Missed Two Paychecks; Roger Stone Says No Evidence of Collusion with WikiLeaks, Russia & WikiLeaks Attorney Says Stone Arrest "Intimidation"; Pompeo Tells Venezuela "Don't Test U.S." & Urges U.N. to Recognize Guaido as President; Steve King Defends Self on Racist Remarks to Constituents. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired January 26, 2019 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:08] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Saturday. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Good to have you with us.

Roger Stone, longtime adviser to President Trump, and the infamous political operative who has the nickname Prince of Darkness and Dirty Trickster, is out on bond and doing a whole lot of talking ahead of the next court date on Tuesday. That's when he will be arraigned on the charges spelled out in a 24-page indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office. Charges that include allegedly lying to Congress about his efforts to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia- linked WikiLeaks.

Team Mueller writes, quote, "After the July 22, 2016 the release of stolen DNC e-mails by Organization One," or WikiLeaks, we know, "a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization One had regarding the Clinton campaign."

Stone defiant yesterday, walking out of a Florida courthouse flashing victory signs as he encountered a crowd chanting "lock him up." He told reporters that he would never, quote, "bear false witness" against President Trump.

CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Stone last night if he thinks his loyalty will earn him a pardon?


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It makes me think that you must believe there's a light at the end of the trouble. You believe that light is not the train but it is the president and he will pardon you for keeping your mouth shut?

ROGER STONE, LONGTIME ASSOCIATE OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I've never had any discussion with him or communication with him regarding that. I have no idea what he might do. The only persons that I have recommended a pardon for, is I wrote a number of op-eds as to why I think Julian Assange should be pardoned because I believe he is a journalist, who does the same thing as the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" do. And I have come out very strongly and written the president for a pardon, posthumously, for Marcus Garvey.

CUOMO: Marcus Garvey.


CABRERA: Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, joins us now.

Shimon, Stone is adamant there's no evidence he colluded with Russia.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. He has been adamant for quite some time when you think about it. He was adamant when he went before members of Congress. And Mueller and his team and FBI agents have found evidence, at least that's what this indictment says, that is not so much the case.

And he went on Chris Cuomo's show last night to kind of parse and defend himself and talk about what he did do. And here's what he said about that.


STONE: First of all, I always said that there could be some process crime.


STONE: There's still no evidence whatsoever that I had advanced knowledge of the topic, the subject or the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures. I never received even of the WikiLeaks disclosures. I never communicated with Assange or WikiLeaks other than the limited communication on Twitter, a direct message, which I gave to the House Intelligence Committee last September, I guess it was.


PROKUPECZ: And, Ana, he's right. There's no evidence. And the indictment is not saying he is directly in any way communicated with Julian Assange. But what they're alleging here he was using intermediates. There's the issue, really, what he is charged with is lying. It's that, why did he hide, if this is true, they want to simply know, why did he hide his contacts, why did he hide that he reached out to intermediaries. And also, as the indictment alleges, why did he threaten a witness who was going before the members of Congress to talk about some of this contact.

CABRERA: Shimon, stay with us.

We know Stone is the sixth Trump associate to be contacted, now, indicted, by Mueller's team.

I want to bring in other voices to discuss. White House correspondent for the "New York Times," Michael Shear, CNN legal analyst and former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa, and CNN law enforcement analyst and former supervisory FBI special agent, Josh Campbell.

Michael, the huge question that we don't know is, who directed that senior Trump campaign official to talk to Roger Stone, about what WikiLeaks might have come down the pike. Realistically, who do you think that could be? Someone directing senior Trump campaign officials.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Right, there's not a lot of people that that could be, right? The Trump campaign was a kind of skeleton operation. There wasn't vast numbers of people. You could imagine it could be Donald Trump, the president, then the candidate. It could be Jared Kushner, it could be Paul Manafort. There were a handful of people who you could imagine would be senior enough that they could direct other senior officials to do it. And I think that's going to be one of the big questions.

The other question that I suspect they are going to be looking at is, were there other responses? Did the information also being sought also go from the other direction? Were the folks at WikiLeaks trying to communicate back in the other direction, to the Trump campaign, so that they could better time the releases of the information. And if you can sort of imagine Mueller trying to get that two-way communication, that may have been some of what they were looking for, on -- when they raided, when they raided Roger Stone's house and offices.

[15:05:06] CABRERA: Now, I want to go over the time line, because this is really important here. In June of 2016, the DNC publicly announced the hack of the e-mails was done by Russians. A month later, WikiLeaks starts releasing that stolen information. And Roger Stone is working with two intermediaries, according to this indictment, as he calls them, of course, intermediaries. The WikiLeaks, and that is WikiLeaks that is sort of the place that they're all focusing on. This goes all the way through the fall of 2016.

But Stone says in the indictment that it has nothing to do with collusion. Let's listen.


STONE: After a two-year inquisition, the charges today relate in no way to Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration, or any other illegal act in connection with the 2016 campaign.


CABRERA: Asha, does the indictment have nothing to do with collusion with Russia?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It does. It has everything to do with collusion. And at some point, I would love these people who keep saying no collusion, to maybe define the term, because I think maybe they are just thinking of another word or something, that doesn't have the meaning they think it means. A collusion is a secret agreement to achieve an objective. And you know, what we have seen here is basically secret efforts to reach out indirectly by Roger Stone to WikiLeaks, which is, at the time, acting as an intelligence arm of the Russian government. And we know that WikiLeaks was directly coordinating with Russia from the indictment of 12 GRU officers, which Mueller has already filed. So to say that this is not collusion, I think we just have to go back to -- if this was just a completely legitimate thing that any campaign would do, then why take so many lengths, including threatening another witness, in order to cover it up. And so that doesn't make any sense. Also, this was all being done even after the FBI provided a security briefing to the campaign, warning them that Russia was going to be trying to contact and infiltrate their campaign.

CABRERA: But I don't know if I saw the word Russia in this indictment, Josh. And is it possible Stone was in the dark about Russia being the source of these hacked e-mails, that WikiLeaks was releasing, and does it matter whether Stone knew who was behind the hacks?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: If you look through the lengthy indictment, which we have read through all 24 pages several times, there's not mention of Russia or colluding with the Russians. But keep in mind, Bob Mueller doesn't have to tell us exactly what he has at this point. He only has to tell us enough to substantiate the charges in this document. As with any investigation, as you're going through and gathering information, that may lead to additional charges. We don't have that answer to that question, how Robert Mueller views this whole idea of colluding with WikiLeaks who was obviously in collusion with the Russian government.

But that said, it defies credulity to think, if you're Roger Stone, that you didn't realize that WikiLeaks was dealing with stolen information and the cyber intrusion on the DNC. This was an illegal lack by a foreign intelligence service to gather information to exfiltrate it from the Democratic National Committee and weaponize and use it. And to think that you didn't know that was illegal, again, no one really believes that. So whether Roger Stone knew this impacted Russia or whether a nonstate entity like WikiLeaks that was pushing this information out, he had to have known that it was illegal. The question is, what does Robert Mueller think of that? We will have to stay tuned to see if there are additional charges coming down throughout the investigation.

CABRERA: Our time line points out that Russia was part of the picture at the time all of this was happening. And it was months after Russia was directly linked to WikiLeaks, months after, Mueller says in this indictment, that someone directed a senior Trump campaign official to tell Stone to keep getting stuff from WikiLeaks. We heard things like this, from then-Candidate Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable.

Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.

Getting off the plane, they were just announcing new WikiLeaks, and I wanted to stay there, but I didn't want to keep you waiting.

Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.


CABRERA: Shimon, how those significant might those old statements be to Mueller?

PROKUPECZ: No doubt they could be very significant. I think the issue here, we have nothing in the indictment that says what Roger Stone was doing in reaching out to WikiLeaks or using intermediaries to reach out to WikiLeaks. There's nothing in the indictment that says what the Trump campaign was doing to try to get this information was illegal. We have not seen that yet. We don't even know if we're going to see that at some point. There's a lot of legal reasons for that. And I'm not going to bore people with that at this point.

[15:10:08] The issue really becomes, what were people lying about. Did they get to a point where they knew they were dealing with shady characters, as the indictment alleges? Obviously, Roger Stone, they say, was dealing with WikiLeaks, intermediaries, and then when people started asking questions about those contacts and what they were doing, they were lying about it.

And in the end, what this may all be about is that people were trying to protect the president, politically, and so they started forming these kinds of lies. We've seen this in the Michael Cohen investigation, where he lied to members of Congress about the Moscow project. We're seeing this now with Roger Stone. We've seen it with Michael Cohen -- with Michael Flynn, excuse me, when he lied about his contacts with Russia.

So what is going on here really? We don't really have obviously a full picture yet of why people were consistently lying to investigators when they would be asked about their dealings with shady characters. And so we have yet to see. What ultimately does the law say about WikiLeaks, what they knew in terms of where these e-mails were coming from, those are big questions.

CABRERA: So, Michael, the other question then, is the president directly connected to Stone's indictment in some way. Because the statements that are coming from the White House, as well as the president's personal lawyer, is that the president has nothing to do with any of this. Take a listen.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Roger Stone, the president's long-time political adviser, placed under arrest. What's your reaction?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, my first reaction is real simple, this has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House.


CABRERA: And here's the point I want to make out of that. Stone is now the sixth Trump associate to be indicted.

So, Michael, are we to believe that Trump, as a candidate and the leader of a campaign, just never knew what anybody was doing ever?

SHEAR: Yes, I mean, look, I think the statement that she made, she was obviously trying to parse this in such have very, very specific way that you could sort of imagine that she is talking about, you know, this particular set of facts that maybe the president didn't know about. And the point that's been made before, I think, earlier now, is that, is that we don't know what more Mueller has. And there may well be more evidence that could directly connect the president to some of these indictments.

But stepping back, it doesn't matter because this is all happening because of the president. His candidacy for the presidency, and now his election, and the fact that he is president, it's all connected to him, in that bigger sense. And none of this would be happening, we wouldn't have this panel talking about this, if this wasn't, if this wasn't people who were intimately connected to the president. And this is not a George Papadopoulos, who maybe could, they could have argued, was only sort of tangentially a part of the Trump campaign. This is Roger Stone, who has been one of his closest friends and advisers for years, if not decades. So I think it is just laughable that the White House and Sarah Sanders are trying to distance the president from somebody like this. It is just not credible at all.

CABRERA: Asha, that dramatic early morning raid that we saw, showing up before dawn, search warrant in hand, no interviews, no contact with Stone ahead of time, no opportunity for him to turn himself in. How often does it go down like this?

RANGAPPA: I think it is standard operating procedure. You arrest people very early in the morning. It actually increases the safety for everyone involved because you have someone who is -- you're getting them unexpected. And in this case, especially, we have somebody who by, we know from the indictment, was trying to conceal the nature of his activity. And has also threatened another witness, including that person's dog. So you know, there's a reasonable belief that this person may act in a desperate way, and/or may try to destroy evidence, which is a concern when you're also executing a search warrant. So I think that the early morning raid, which was normal, as well as having a number of people on hand to execute it, which is also typical, but I think in this case, also based on some very reasonable concerns about how Stone might have reacted, had he had a heads-up that the FBI was coming.

CABRERA: This indictment, Josh, actually includes some Mafia lingo, which is somewhat comical as you read what Stone was allegedly sending in these messages between him and one of these intermediaries, Person Two, as you see, outlined there. This is I believe Credico, who was an intermediary to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. He tells him to do a Frank /Nantegali (ph), a reference to a character in the "Godfather, Part Two," who lied to Congress. And the indictment goes on to say Stone actually threatened that same witness, calling him a rat, saying he would take away his therapy dog, also a reference, and even saying prepare to die. What's your take-away from that, Josh?

[15:15:08] CAMPBELL: Well, so, obviously, we know that Roger Stone is a very colorful person. And it is important, as a former investigator, when you're looking at individual subjects, what you have to do is what we call norming them out. What is a person's normal behavior and how does that square with some new revelation? So if this was any one of us that would have been using this language, it would have given me pause. Not so much with Roger Stone because we know he is very over the top and very hyperbolic. And I think what it will come down to, other than the inartfulness, what was he trying to accomplish? Was he trying to intimidate witnesses, as alleged, and tampering with the investigation?

And the larger issue, you showed a graphic earlier with all the people, the sixth person in the Trump orbit charged by Robert Mueller. These people continue to say that they are involved in so-called process crimes, but process crimes are still crimes. And beyond that, why are you lying? Why are you committing a felony? What are you trying to hide? Again, if this happens with one person, maybe they're trying to help themselves. But when it happens with six people and you continue to see this pattern, it becomes easier to start drawing lines through something. And, again, that's what we will have to wait to see from Robert Mueller, how does this tie together and, more importantly, what does he openly do with that.

CABRERA: Josh Campbell, Shimon Prokupecz, Michael Shear and Asha Rangappa, good to have all of you with us. Thank you.

Coming up, the art of the cave. After 35 days of people sleeping in cars, going to food banks, and not be able to pay their bills, the president announces a temporary deal to end the government shutdown, the same deal the president could have had more than a month ago. Was it worth all of the heartache?



[15:20:47] TRUMP: We'll end the shutdown. We'll reopen the federal government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ah. It has been more than three weeks. (INAUDIBLE).


CABRERA: After 35 days of missed bills and lots of stress and anxiety, a sigh of relief for federal employees. The government is back open, at least for now. The president, who vowed to keep the government closed until he got his border wall money, didn't get a dollar in the end. He agreed to reopen the government for three weeks while the battle over border security continues. And the reaction was swift. The "New York Daily News" with two words, "cave man."

And this from the Democratic leadership.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Hopefully, now the president has learned his lesson. We cannot, cannot ever hold American workers hostage again.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Unity is our power. That's maybe what the president underestimated.


CABRERA: CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us from the White House.

Boris, what was the breaking point for the president to agree to end this shutdown with no wall guarantee?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, there were several different factors. For one, the president was watching his disapproval numbers climb. Poll number for him were sliding. Secondly, on Thursday, he got a call from Mitch McConnell, according to a source, who said the Senate majority leader told the president he was unsure how much longer he could hold Republicans together on this issue. Some in the GOP became frustrated by what they saw as a lack of a plan from the White House to end the government shutdown. And then third, yesterday, you had so many airports with delays, because air traffic controllers were calling in sick over not being paid, because of the shutdown. So ultimately, the president decided to concede and move forward, giving Democrats what they had been asking for, for weeks, and not getting a single cent for his border wall.

Now the president is trying to spin this. But let's focus on exactly why we had this government shutdown to begin with. And how the president said he would move forward, the only way he would move forward and reopen it.

Listen to this from President Trump just a few weeks ago.


TRUMP: I can't tell you when the government is going to reopen. I can tell you it is not going to reopen until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it. I will call it whatever they want.


SANCHEZ: So now, the Democrats are emboldened by this. They appear to be united, as Republicans are trying to figure out how to move forward in negotiations. And the president is playing cleanup. Look at this tweet he sent earlier this morning, writing, quote, "21 days goes very quickly. Negotiations with Democrats will start immediately. Will not be easy to make a deal. Both parties very dug in. The case for national security has been greatly enhanced by what has been happening at the border. And through dialogue, we will build the wall."

Despite the president insisting he didn't concede on this, the man who wrote the "Art of the Deal," did not win this round -- Ana?

CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, that is the truth. Thank you.

Again, the good news here is the longest shut down in history is over but the pain and the impact runs deep. The financial stress still lingers for hundreds of thousands of these federal workers missing two paychecks.

I want to talk to Alex Hutchins, a TSA screener at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta.

And, Alex, thanks for being with us.

I know you have four children, five grandchildren. What's on your mind now, and how are you feeling about things today?

ALEX HUTCHINS, TSA SCREENER: Ana, I'm kind of feeling a little frustrated even though we're opening the government back up temporarily. So pretty much, what you're doing is, you're kicking the can down the road. We are trying to plan and live our live, not by 21 days.

CABRERA: The big question now is, when do you get your paycheck. Are you getting any official guidance from the agency on a firm date when you will finally get paid?

HUTCHINS: As of this morning, they sent out a text message letting everyone know that we should, if funding goes properly, we should start collecting our money by around Thursday.

CABRERA: Thursday? Not until Thursday?

HUTCHINS: Yes. I know, right?

CABRERA: What was your reaction when you heard that? That's my hearing it.

HUTCHINS: I said the same thing. I said, Thursday, are you serious? I need my money today.

CABRERA: No kidding.


CABRERA: Share with me what you have been going through, what you and your colleagues have had to endure during this shutdown.

[15:25:07] HUTCHINS: It has been very difficult. I mean, a lot of screeners, you know, we're trying to actually do a job, professionally. But you also have in your mind that it's hard to do your job when you're stressing and trying to understand that you're not getting paid, you're not getting bills, constantly on your mind. But you're trying to maintain a standard and do your job professionally. And a lot of organizations actually reached out to us. Saint Vincent DePaul, an organization like that, Delta Airlines, those guys. Southwest Airlines, they was great. They did a lot of things to actually try to make it easier for us, like providing meals and providing light bills and stuff like that, paying light bills and stuff like that. But it was stressful. I have to go apply for food stamps. And these are prideful people. And it is a shame the federal government has you in a position to suck your up pride and decide whether or not you are going to ask for federal assistance or state assistance that you don't feel you should have to do that. That's why you work. You work to avoid doing things like that.

CABRERA: You work in a job that is in service to this country. I want you to listen to the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of you have suffered far greater than anyone, but your families would know or understand. And not only did you not complain but, in many cases, you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and about its border security.


CABRERA: Alex, I know you're worried that another shutdown standoff could still be brewing. And do you think we're going end up right where we started February 15?

HUTCHINS: Yes, I think February 15, we're going to be right back where we started off. You cannot solve a 21st century solution with a medieval problem. The problem that we have, come on, seriously, it doesn't, it doesn't require all of this. You know --


CABRERA: What is the message you have to Washington, to the president, to Congress, who now go into this period of negotiation?

HUTCHINS: My message to them is understand this, that this country was founded based on a premise of freedom for all, even though we went through our issues of not allowing everyone to have that same freedom, that their motto was. But understand this, though, immigration is not your problem. The problem is we're dealing with in America, it is an oppression. Oppression is what is driving people to the opioids. People don't want to accept the fact of saying, hey, I got problems. And so until I would get to -- until we as a country get to a point where we can actually sit down and have a dialogue and understand that diversity -- that's what this future, that's the future of the world, is about diversity. No one can get in their own little homes anymore and say, I am going to just deal with people within my circle. You got to reach out. If the only time you come across a Mexican is when you get Mexican food, something's wrong with you.

CABRERA: So what I'm hearing you say is border security and specifically a wall is not worth another government shutdown, correct? HUTCHINS: No, it's not. A wall is not worth this. No. Not with the

technology that we have. Like I said, we got technology right now that can recognize the fact that tunnels are being dug under the ground. We have that kind of technology in this country. But we're, Americans, we're resolved. We will go through a lot and we will deal with a lot, but at the end of the day, we will fix ourselves and move on from this.

CABRERA: You talked about the pride people have and the work you do. And government jobs have had always had this reputation of long-term security and stability. That's exactly why some people are drawn to this kind of work. Did this shutdown ordeal change your perspective on that front?

HUTCHINS: No, it didn't change my perspective on that point because that premise still exists. The problem is this right here. People have got to get out and vote. You cannot sit on the sidelines any longer and watch the world go by. Because there are consequences to not voting.

CABRERA: Alex Hutchins, I appreciate you being with us. Good luck, and we wish you the absolute best. Glad you will be paid soon.

HUTCHINS: Thank you. I appreciate.

CABRERA: Thank you.

[15:29:19] Hacker, fugitive, founder of WikiLeaks. A closer look at the role Julian Assange plays in Mueller's indictment of Roger Stone.


[15:34:04] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to turn back now to the indictment of Roger Stone, the Trump associate who is now accused of seeking stolen e-mails from WikiLeaks that could damage then-Candidate Trump's opponent, while allegedly coordinating with senior Trump campaign officials.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, calls Stone's pre-dawn arrest "intimidation" and says the, quote, "military-style arrest was wholly unnecessary."

Stone also playing down his arrest and insisting he never sought the stolen e-mails in coordination with any senior Trump campaign officials.

We are joined by CNN's Phil Black, at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where Assange remains holed up.

Phil, what have you learned about the extent of this alleged contact between Stone and WikiLeaks?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the WikiLeaks view, Ana, is that Stone's indictment proves what it says it has always maintained, which is that there was no direct communication between Stone and WikiLeaks, or between Stone and the organization's founder, Julian Assange. The view of WikiLeaks, and Assange's supporters, is that Stone wanted access to WikiLeaks information, and it was -- and he was very happy for some people to think he could get it. But he deliberately promoted himself as a conduit to WikiLeaks and to Assange, perhaps via a back channel, even though WikiLeaks insists no such line of communication existed.


[15:35:29] ROGER STONE, LONGTIME ASSOCIATE OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: The charges today relate in no way to Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration, or any other illegal act in connection with the 2016 campaign.

BLACK (voice-over): At the center of long-time Trump associate Roger Stone's indictment, stolen e-mails from WikiLeaks that could damage Hillary Clinton's presidential race in coordination with the Trump cam pain.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Anyone tell you to contact, in the Trump campaign, to contact WikiLeaks?

STONE: No. I've addressed that before. That is incorrect.

BLACK: But the Mueller probe paints a different picture. Back to July 2016, when WikiLeaks releases thousands of stolen documents from the DNC damaging to Hillary Clinton. And then after that, a senior Trump campaign official is directed to ask Stone about more damaging information Organization One, WikiLeaks, might have.

By August, Stone gets an e-mail from Person One, now confirmed to CNN as Stone associate, Jerome Corsi, including these words: "The word is, Friend in embassy plans two more dumps. One shortly after I'm back. The second in October. Impact planned to be very damaging."

That friend, WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange, holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London since 2012, evading FBI arrests on an unrelated matter and potential extradition to the U.S.

Within a few days of the e-mail, Stone claims direct communication with Assange.

STONE: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation. But there's no telling what the October surprise may be.

BLACK: And sends this email to former Trump adviser, Sam Nunberg, "I dined by my new pal, Julian Assange, last night."

Stone would later explain it was a joke. But was it? Both WikiLeaks and Stone's camps deny Stone and Assange ever meeting.

And WikiLeaks maintains there wasn't even a back channel, tweeting Friday, "These are only Stone, Corsi attempts at braggadocio. No evidence of any back channel with WikiLeaks."

Amid all of these conflicting statements, we know Stone and WikiLeaks have communicated directly from these private messages on Twitter. October 13, 2016, Stone messages WikiLeaks, "Since he has been defending them and Assange, they may want to examine the strategy of attacking him." A WikiLeaks staffer replies, in an attempt to distance WikiLeaks from Stone, "We appreciate that. However, the false claims of association are being used by the Democrats to undermine the impact of our publication. Don't go there if you don't want us to correct you."

WikiLeaks tweeted this statement from an Assange lawyer Friday, "The charges against Mr. Stone do not allege that Mr. Stone lied about his lack of contacts with Julian Assange, but rather about his contacts with others and about documents reflecting those communications." And goes on to say, that, "The office of the special counsel has never spoken with Mr. Assange."


BLACK: Ana, as for Assange, he is now well into his seventh year of being confined or perhaps confining himself to the Ecuadorian embassy. And that looks set to continue, because the British police say they will arrest him if he emerges from there. And Assange still believes that if that happens, he is going to be extradited to the United States -- Ana?

CABRERA: All right, Phil Black, in London for us, thank you.

Coming up, the crisis in Venezuela. The international community taking sides. And two men each claim they are the rightful president.


[15:43:00] CABRERA: Welcome back. Looking overseas now, a staggering tragedy in Brazil. And we may not be even close to seeing the full scope of it yet. This dam burst yesterday near the iron mine, flooding it with water and mud. And hundreds were working inside the mine at the time. At least 34 people are now confirmed dead. Their bodies were found. But nearly 400 people aren't even accounted for yet. Dozens of people have been rescued. Some of them literally plucked from the mud. Something similar, by the way, happened about three years ago. A dam burst at a different iron mine in Brazil, destroyed an entire village, killing 19 people.

Now to a deepening political crisis in South America. At least 20 people have been killed in massive anti-government protests in Venezuela. An international power struggle is now pitting Russia and China on one side, against the U.S. and most of Europe on the other. At issue, who's Venezuela's rightful president?

At the United Nations, earlier today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged countries to reject Russia-backed Nicolas Maduro.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays. No more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom or you are in league with Maduro and his mayhem.


CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, why Venezuela? Why is the U.S. willing to get so involved in this case when Trump is constantly wanting to get out of other country's business, I.E., Syria?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: That's a great question. And there are a lot of reasons for it. And first of all, there's the massive humanitarian crisis there. With nearly 90 percent of Venezuelans now living in poverty, the threat of further destabilization. Refugees, already millions of people have left. So that could turn into a much bigger crisis here in the Americas.

There's also trade, namely oil. The U.S. is Venezuela's biggest customer. So if we get to the point that the U.S. is going to impose sanctions on the oil, the oil trade, then that could destabilize markets and cause problems for the United States' economy, too.

[15:45:11] And then there's democracy itself. We've seen it nosedive in Venezuela. So there's a vacuum there. The U.S. wants to establish a strong democracy with the help of other nations, if it can. But you have other influences that you mentioned, Russia and China, that could also -- you know, they've been trying to get a real foothold there in South America, in Venezuela. So there's a chance for the U.S. to try to build up influence, continuing on. And we don't know really what the next steps are, either on the -- you know, in Venezuela, itself, with the dueling governments there, and other countries that are trying to change the situation.

CABRERA: The situation is complex. And we don't know where it is going to go. But the U.S. us now locked in. Invested in the outcome.

So, Michelle Kosinski, we know you will continue to follow it for us. Thank you for that report.

Coming up, Republican Congressman Steve King holding his first town hall after being stripped of the committee assignments over racist remarks. Ahead, how he's defending himself to his constituents.


REP. STEVE KING, (R), IOWA: I even think about Brett Kavanaugh, when he went through that inquisition, he at least had accusers. I don't have accusers. Not one soul has stood up and said Steve King has ever acted in a racist fashion.



[15:50:57] CABRERA: Iowa Congressman Steve King coming out swinging today at a town hall, addressing head on allegations that he is racist. He slammed a recent "New York Times" article where he was quoted as saying, "White nationalists, white supremacists, Western Civilization, how did that language become so offensive." He was even removed from his committee assignments after that.

CNN's Sara Sidner joins us now from outside the town hall venue.

Sara, what did Congressman King have to say?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When he came on stage after everyone stood and clapped, when he walked in the room, he said that he wanted to address the elephant in the room, so to speak, and that was the article and the accusations that he has been using racist rhetoric. That is not the first time we have heard racist rhetoric from Steve King. He didn't deny he said those words. He denied, said they were taken out of context. I'll let you hear in his own words what he told the crowd here. We're in the northwest corner of the state in a very small town of about 930 people. About 80 people showed up, not everyone was in support of him, but the vast majority of people were. Those who weren't, some of them, Democrats in the room.

But this is how he addressed what the article said and what he says he thought of it.


KING: It is stunning and astonishing to me that four words in a "New York Times" quote can outweigh 20-some years of public service, 20- some years of giving you my word every day. And not one soul has stood up and said that I ever lied to you or misrepresented anything or given it to you in any spin that's anything other than what I believe to be the objective truth. And I even think about Brett Kavanaugh, when he went through that inquisition, he at least had accusers. I don't have accusers. Not one soul that stood up and said Steve King has ever stood up and said Steve King has acted in a racist fashion. Never discriminated against anybody. There's plenty of evidence out there to the contrary.


SIDNER: But he does actually have accusers. There are some of his constituents, some of them who were inside the town hall area that did believe he was a racist, judging from not just what was in the "New York Times," but some of the other comments he's made along the way. And his retweeting, for example, of white nationalist rhetoric and Neo-Nazi rhetoric in the past. So you certainly did have some folks. Although there were several Democrats, two or three Democrats, that were in the room, they are his constituents, they live in the district, who were concerned he was not going to be able to fully do his job in Congress with what has happened, him being stripped of those congressional committees.

CABRERA: So how did he respond when they asked him about that specifically, about him being stripped of the House committee assignments?

SIDNER: He talked about the fact that he says, look, I'm going to start working with the executive branch. He's going to start working with the president more, trying to get things done alongside the president. He said that this would allow him also to be in Congress for every single congressional vote, that he can speak now for every time that he feels the need to speak on the floor of the Congress. So he said that's how he was going to work around being stripped of those committees. You can hear that he's quite upset about the fact that he is no longer on those committees, if you will, Fred (sic).

CABRERA: He's been sidelined.

Sara Sidner, thank you.

Coming up, the White House tries to distance itself from Roger Stone. The problem is, President Trump and Stone have a history that goes back decades.


[15:54:43] STONE: I am one of his oldest friends. I am a fervent supporter of the president.



[16:00:05] CABRERA: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for staying with me.

Roger Stone a free man today.