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Trump Agrees to Reopen Government, Gets Zero for Wall; Grand Jury Indicts Trump Confidant Roger Stone; Brazil Dam Collapse; U.S. and Opposition Crank Up Pressure on Maduro; Interview with Brett Bruen, Former White House Director of Global Engagement; Yellow Vest Protesters Gather in Paris for 11th Weekend. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired January 26, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Giving into the Democrats. President Trump finds a temporary fix to end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and it does not include any funding for his border wall.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, a big move in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. FBI agents haul long-time Russia agent Roger Stone into court for lying and witness tampering, allegedly.
ALLEN (voice-over): Also this from Brazil this hour, dangerous flooding, hundreds of people still missing following the collapse of a mine dam. That's what happened as a result.
HOWELL (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our people here in the United States and all around the world, I'm George Howell.
ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: The 35-day nightmare is finally over for 800,000 federal workers, at least for now. The president suddenly dropped his demand for border wall funding as the price to reopen the government.
Instead, Mr. Trump quietly signed legislation to put government employees back to work, with pay for three weeks and, in return, he got nothing. One of his advisers called it a humiliating loss.
HOWELL: Also on Friday, Roger Stone, his relationship with Donald Trump goes back many decades. Now he has been arrested by the FBI. This exclusive video from CNN, caught in the net of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, now facing multiple federal charges. We'll have more on Roger Stone in just a moment.
But we begin with CNN's Jim Acosta with the very latest from the White House.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's demand for a wall came tumbling down, as he backed off in a standoff with Democrats over the government shutdown and made an unthinkable concession. He agreed to sign a spending bill without money for his border wall.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will sign a bill to open our government for three weeks, until February 15. I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly or as soon as possible. It will happen fast.
ACOSTA: But the president cautioned, the short-term agreement to reopen the government will only last three weeks, warning if he doesn't have his wall then, a shutdown could happen all over again, raising the prospect that he could declare a national emergency.
TRUMP: If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.
ACOSTA: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer welcomed the concession from the White House, but stated Democrats aren't about to give the president what he wants.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I genuinely hope that this process can produce something that's good for the country and acceptable to both sides. We don't agree on some of the specifics of border security. Democrats are against the wall.
ACOSTA: The president didn't sound like he was giving up on his wall as he ad-libbed big portions of his remarks, arguing border barriers work.
TRUMP: I believe drugs, large percentages of which come through the southern border, will be cut by a number that nobody will believe. So let me be very clear. We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier. ACOSTA: At one point in the speech, Mr. Trump sounded as though he's
not dealing with reality, praising federal employees for not complaining about working without being paid.
TRUMP: You are fantastic people. You are incredible patriots. 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.
ACOSTA: But federal workers have been sounding the alarm about the shutdown's devastating effects, including the potential for an aviation disaster, with so many air traffic controllers pushed to the --
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- breaking point.
TRISH GILBERT, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: We are already short-staffed, so now you have added the stress to air traffic controllers and their personal circumstances and they're not sleeping at night. Now we're concerned that they're not fit for duty.
ACOSTA: The president's surrender on the shutdown also reveals a new political reality in Washington, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all but forcing Mr. Trump to eat his own tweets, after he promised no cave just days ago.
All Democrats had to do was point to the video from last month.
TRUMP: I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.
ACOSTA: Now, a senior administration official says the administration is taking steps to make sure federal workers do receive their back pay as soon as possible. That may vary agency to agency.
But the other big question tonight is just how much political damage has been done to the president. Not only is there the president's cave on the shutdown, there is the indictment of his longtime adviser Roger Stone that we saw earlier in the day.
As one Trump adviser put it to me, the White House is in a valley tonight -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
ALLEN: Let's talk about it with Steven Erlanger. He's chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for "The New York Times," joining us from Brussels.
Good to see you, Steven. Thanks for being with us.
STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Hi, Natalie.
ALLEN: Donald Trump did open the government. Good news for federal workers. But in caving, a resounding defeat. Also Nancy Pelosi taunting him on the Left, Ann Coulter on the Right and throw in a close adviser being indicted.
Was Friday his worst day as president?
ERLANGER: Oh, that's hard to know, there is a long way to go. But it was a pretty bad day, I have to say. When Trump has to give in. I mean, we have talked before about somebody having to climb down from the wall and it was Mr. Trump.
But he really got excoriated from notably his base. I don't know what Ann Coulter represents precisely besides a very loud voice. But she is very upset. Other people who support Trump are very upset.
And for the Democrats, it's a victory. It's kind of a hollow victory, in the sense that permanent employees were damaged. Air traffic controllers were beginning not to come to work. There were delays at major airports. There were questions about security.
So I don't think there is a lot of winners, except in a political sense. And then we have three weeks to see what will happen.
ALLEN: Right. President Trump has often claimed he's the ultimate dealmaker but he basically lost out to Nancy Pelosi.
How did she pull that off?
ERLANGER: Well, that's interesting. Trump used to say, the American people are going to be so tired of winning they won't be able to stand it. Well, it's the Democrats who won.
I think she pulled it off because, to be honest, she controlled one house of the legislature, which is the big change from the midterms.
And what was interesting is there are a lot of Republicans who seemed, as just then went on, it was very, very long, the longest ever I think, getting very nervous about the impact on popular opinion at home because it wasn't popular and people were blaming Republicans.
So Mitch McConnell, who runs the Senate for the Republicans, he's the Republican leader, you know, quietly was pushing the White House to get behind something done, a bill that could reopen government.
Now the interesting thing is, you know, Trump has made new promises that will happen in three weeks if he doesn't get his wall. So, I mean, there is still a lot of interesting negotiations to continue.
ERLANGER: But the combination of this and the Stone indictment, I think, is very bad news for the president.
ALLEN: I want to talk about what happens next.
Do you think that Democrats will offer the president anything vis-a- vis the wall?
Is it time for them to look at immigration differently?
And do you think he would really shut down the government again and put people right back through this?
ERLANGER: Getting back is really hard for the White House to do, to be honest. I think he'd be probably better off, particularly, trying to have this national emergency that he keeps talking about and moving money from the military budget to try to start building the wall.
The problem is that would create an immediate court case and an appeal. But I think that would go over better than actually shutting down the government again.
The Democrats offered the White House more footing for border security. But they have been very stiff about not building a wall. So it's hard to see them climbing down on that aspect. It is worth remembering --
ERLANGER: -- you know the president talked about all the drugs coming over the border. Most of them fly over the border. And most illegal immigrants in the United States come in on visas and overstay their visas. They're not walking across the border.
ALLEN: Yes. Yet, the president still sticks to his guns when he tries to describe to the American people what he sees as happening at the border although report after report shows otherwise.
We always appreciate your insights. Perhaps we'll talk again when he delivers his delayed State of the Union. There could be some drama there. We'll wait and see. Thanks, Steven.
ERLANGER: Thanks, Natalie.
HOWELL: All right, we have been talking a bit about the long-time Trump adviser, Roger Stone. He said he will plead not guilty to many charges. He was arrested Friday in Florida and then released on bond.
Among those accusations is lying to Congress about his efforts to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks, specifically, Democratic Party e-mails obtained by Russia. Jim Sciutto outlines what Stone is up against and how it could affect the president.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Boos, jeers and a defiant smile outside the federal courthouse in Florida after a judge released Roger Stone on a $250,000 bond. Stone flashed victory signs reminiscent of Richard Nixon over a chorus of, "Lock him up."
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ROGER STONE, AMERICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: The charges today relate in no way to Russian collusion.
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SCIUTTO: The longtime friend and adviser to Donald Trump now charged by special counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly seeking stolen emails from WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton, while in close contact with senior Trump campaign officials.
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STONE: I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court. I believe this is a politically motivated investigation.
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SCIUTTO: Early this morning, it was a tense drama as FBI agents in tactical gear raided Stone's Florida home to arrest him.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FBI. Open the door.
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SCIUTTO: The FBI also searched his New York apartment. The indictment charged him with obstruction of justice, lying and witness tampering but not conspiracy.
However, the 24-page document chronicles a series of communications between Stone, WikiLeaks and senior Trump campaign officials about both the content and the timing of the release of Clinton campaign emails stolen by Russia. According to the special counsel's indictment, after the July 22, 2016 release of stolen Democratic National Committee emails by Organization-1, which CNN has identified as WikiLeaks.
A senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information WikiLeaks had regarding the Clinton campaign.
Neither the identity of that official or the official who gave the direction have yet been revealed. Prosecutors cite as evidence text messages and emails with senior campaign officials about his contact with WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually have communicated with Assange.
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SCIUTTO: One of those texts dated October 7, 2016, after WikiLeaks released the first set of emails stolen from the Clinton campaign's chairman John Podesta and associate of a high-ranking Trump campaign official sent a text message to Stone that read, "Well done."
CNN has identified that high ranking campaign official as then campaign CEO Steve Bannon. The coordination with WikiLeaks is of concern to the special counsel because of the organization's ties to Russia.
In 2016, the U.S. intelligence Community said that WikiLeaks released the hacked emails in a manner, quote, "consistent with the methods and motivations of Russia directed efforts."
The special counsel also indicted Stone for witness tampering. This for allegedly attempting to sway radio host Randy Credico allegedly a go-between with Assange before Credico testified to Congress.
The indictment alleges that Stone said Credico, quote, "should do a Frank Pentangeli," referring to a character in "The Godfather Part II," who lied to Congress.
The indictment also says that Stone emailed Credico to say, quote, "You are a rat. A stoolie."
Stone then said that he would, quote, "Take that dog away from you," referring to his pet.
Stone and President Trump have been friends since the 1980s, when Stone first encouraged Trump to run for president...
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STONE: Trump is someone through the '80s who took enormous risks and succeeded.
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SCIUTTO: -- as explored in the Netflix documentary, "Get Me Roger Stone."
Today, Stone once again expressed his loyalty to Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STONE: There is no circumstance whatsoever under which --
STONE: I will bear false witness against the president nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.
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SCIUTTO: WikiLeaks was not a minor player in Russia's interference in the 2016 election. In fact, U.S. intelligence viewed it as working with Russia. Then director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said in April of last year, the following, quote, "It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia."
It is WikiLeaks that Roger Stone, a friend and ally of the president, was communicating with and repeatedly that part of the significance of this indictment -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: To put all this into focus, let's bring in Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and also a contributor to "The Washington Post," joining us this hour.
Thank you for your time.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks for having me.
HOWELL: After making a statement today when he left the courthouse, Roger Stone spoke to my colleague, Chris Cuomo, today. He's not known for being shy after publicly speaking out on camera. He explained to Chris how he feels about the charges he now faces. Let's listen.
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STONE: Well, first of all, I always said that there could be some process crime.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Yes.
STONE: There's still no evidence whatsoever that I had advanced knowledge of the topic and subject or the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures.
I never received any of the WikiLeaks disclosures, I never communicated with Assange or WikiLeaks other than the limited communication on Twitter, direct message which I gave to the House Intelligence Committee last September, I guess it was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Stone denies any of the guilt in these charges. Given the case prosecutors have built against him and from your expert opinion, how serious is this for him and what does it mean for the man he once advised?
LITMAN: It's pretty serious and it's probably going to get more serious. What he calls a process crime is a series of lies to congressional committees who were investigating the supremely grave topic of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election. This is not a stray or immaterial misstatement to an FBI agent.
But the indictment, in addition, really implicates Stone in conduct involving the coordination and even the instigation of the release of the hacked emails that Russia obtained and then passed through to Julian Assange.
In other words, I think Mueller has begun to lay a predicate for so- called substantive crimes involving effort on Stone's part to really influence the election. He's now suggesting there's a total wall, everything stops there between him and the campaign.
Maybe. But we know he was in regular communication with the president himself during the campaign and there have been searches that Mueller executed today at two different places that are likely to reveal a lot of email traffic.
He wasn't shy at the time about boasting to others; a different tune than he's now gave to Chris Cuomo.
HOWELL: To that point, we did hear the White House press secretary come out and say it has nothing to do with the president or the White House but interesting to hear how interconnected Stone is to the president from the mouth of a man who once headed the campaign as a campaign adviser and is now a convicted felon. Let's listen to Paul Manafort.
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PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Even after Roger stopped being a principal political adviser to Trump, he continued to be an important adviser and is to this day.
Roger's relationship with Trump has been so interconnected it's hard to define what's Roger and what's Donald; while it'll be clearly a Trump presidency, I think it's influenced by a Stone philosophy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: What do you make of their relationship and what it means to have Roger Stone facing charges for lying, tampering and obstruction?
LITMAN: I think it puts it at the threshold of grave jeopardy for Trump. For starters, there's a paragraph in the indictment, paragraph 12, which says Steve Bannon, another person who has cooperated with Mueller, was ordered -- an exquisite use of the passive voice -- was ordered to have Stone get some of these emails.
Well, who is in a position to order a guy like Steve Bannon?
I can only think of one person. So that's an --
LITMAN: -- obvious, ominous threat to Trump in a concrete way.
But more generally, it is just clear, as Manafort says, that they were extremely close all through the campaign. Doesn't stand to reason that Stone, having basically secured this coup of great emails, great dirty tricks, would somehow have stood silent to the campaign and to the president. Seems implausible to me.
HOWELL: Harry Litman, we appreciate your time and perspective.
LITMAN: Thank you, George.
ALLEN: We turn to Brazil next, rescues are underway after a dam burst there. It released mud that buried everything in its path. Wait until you see how they are trying to rescue people. HOWELL: Plus, Venezuelan political showdown: the latest on the power struggle between two presidents and the protesters caught in the middle there. Stay with us.
HOWELL: Just look at what's happening there in Brazil. Part of a town swallowed by mud and sludge. We are getting new reports of at least 200 people missing after a dam at an iron ore mine burst.
ALLEN: You can see how widespread the destruction is. The president of Brazilian mining giant Vale has asked for forgiveness, saying the dam break is, quote, "inexcusable."
HOWELL: At the latest count the death toll stands at seven but it is expected to rise much higher. Our Cyril Vanier has the very latest.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A rescue worker struggles to pull a woman to safety. She's trapped in a thick deep sludge, barely able to hold herself up. Finally with some help, she's lifted onto a helicopter, covered in mud, appearing exhausted.
She's one of those rescued in a deadly disaster that is submerging homes, roads, cars, buses and people.
It began when a mining dam burst early Friday afternoon near Brazil's southeastern city of Brumadinho. Serve flooding followed, sending huge rivers of mud rushing over the city, trapping scores of people. Dozens of rescue workers have been deployed to try and free them, fighting against the dense mud.
Mining giant Vale, that manages the collapsed dam, apologized for the disaster. The CEO asked for forgiveness from those affected. Sadly, this tragedy is not the first of the country's largest mining company or for this region of Brazil.
VANIER (voice-over): Company officials claimed Vale has made an immense effort to improve its dams after a similar collapse in 2015; 19 people were killed and officials called it the worst environmental disaster in the country's history. But Vale's CEO worries the outcome of Friday's disaster could be even worse.
FABIO SCHVARTSMAN, CEO, VALE S.A. (through translator): This time it's a human tragedy because we're likely talking about a large quantity of victims. We don't know how many there are but we know it will be a large number. And the environmental damage will possibly be smaller this time. VANIER (voice-over): The country's newly elected president also cautioned he hopes the worst has not happened, announcing plans to fly over the region on Saturday, he says all possible measures are now in place to control the scale of the catastrophe, with officials working to limit the destruction and rescuers racing against time to save those they can -- Cyril Vanier, CNN.
ALLEN: Pope Francis appeared to take a thinly veiled shot at President Trump in a speech on World Youth Day. The pope told a crowd of thousands in Panama that builders of walls create fear and divide people.
HOWELL: His comments seem to reference the U.S. president's proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The pope added that it was senseless to condemn every migrant as a threat to society.
ALLEN: Donald Trump's style of governing is certainly not like any other U.S. president. But the man who many say inspired his politics is in hot water tonight. Coming up, we take a closer look at Roger Stone.
HOWELL: Plus, no end in sight for the political crisis playing out in Venezuela. Thousands of protesters are caught in the crossfire there as two men continue their fight for the presidency.
HOWELL: Welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.
HOWELL: President Trump could have had that same deal five weeks ago. That's when Democrats first offered that deal to him.
ALLEN: U.S. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said they were relieved the crisis was resolved in the short term.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), HOUSE SPEAKER: Disagreement in policy should never be a reason to shut down government, really shouldn't, especially, again, for a period of time that has an impact on the paychecks. And I'm sad it has taken this long. I'm glad that we have come to a conclusion today as to how we go forward in the next three weeks.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Hopefully now the president has learned his lesson. We cannot, cannot ever hold American workers hostage again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Well, Donald Trump's long-time adviser is now facing federal charges, including lying to Congress and witness intimidation and obstruction of justice.
HOWELL: Those charges stem from contacts he may have had with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign when WikiLeaks released hacked Democratic e-mails. Stone says he will plead not guilty and will not flip on the president.
Our Brian Todd reports, that defiance is typical Roger Stone.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look familiar?
It's meant to. Roger Stone is so proud of his association with Richard Nixon, he's got an image of Nixon tattooed on his back. Stone was still a teenager when he worked with Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign and started to hone his skills in what Stone himself once called the black arts, otherwise known as dirty tricks in American politics.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, NIXON BIOGRAPHER: In some way, Roger Stone is the DNA that connects the dirty tricks of Richard Nixon to what are alleged to be the dirty tricks of the Trump campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, what makes you think you'd be a viable candidate --
TODD: Those who've chronicled Stone and Donald Trump say it was Stone who first put the idea of running for president into Trump's mind shortly after they met in the 1980s. By the next decade, Stone was calling himself a political adviser to Trump saying the real estate magnate was a different breed of candidate for the White House.
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he's not pre-packaged. He's not plastic. He's not scripted. He can't be handled. You know, what you see is what you get. Frankly, I think voters find it refreshing.
TODD: Through the decades, Stone would simply not stop pushing Trump toward a presidential run. And for years, Trump demurred.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Roger Stone, a well-known political consultant...
TRUMP: No, I didn't hire him. Roger is a friend of mine. He's a good guy and he looked at the possibility of it. And I just decided I didn't want do it.
TODD: It was back in the 1980s when Roy Cohn, a legendary street brawling New York lawyer, mentored both Trump and Roger Stone, instilling in both men a pugnacious bearing they still carry with them.
MORGAN PEHME, WRITER: Roger subscribes to this group of (INAUDIBLE) he calls Stone Rules. And if you look at Trump and his presidency, he's very much followed them. One of them that we've seen come up a lot in the Mueller probe is admit nothing, deny everything, launch counter attack.
TODD: From faking campaign contributions from socialists --
TODD (voice-over): -- to planting other false information. Roger Stone wouldn't miss a creative trick in trying to sabotage his candidate's opponents. After working on Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign, Stone teamed up with future Trump Campaign Paul Manafort in a lobbying firm, which represented murderous dictators among others. At times, Stone's personal life derailed his career, if only, temporarily. He had to leave Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign when a tabloid published a story on Stone and his wife being swingers.
PEHME: Roger is a very unique individual. He is a body building, pot smoking, dandy swinger. He very much is a Libertarian who embraces Hedonism.
TODD: Tonight, a Roger Stone again vows his loyalty to President Trump, critics say, he symbolizes a strong current in the underside of the politics.
NAFTALI: Roger Stone is among that small group of Americans who are unapologetic about subverting our democracy for the sake of their preferred candidates. They don't believe there's a role for morality in elections.
TODD: And analysts say what continues to be remarkable about the arc of Roger Stone is he was never really exiled from the world because of his roles in dirty tricks, in fact, they say, he was often hired because of those roles -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: And another Trump adviser, Paul Manafort, was in court on Friday.
ALLEN: The former Trump campaign chairman is accused of lying to special counsel Mueller in a breach of his plea deal. Mueller's office says he has no plans to bring new charges against Manafort. The hearing is set for next month to hear arguments on whether Manafort breached the deal.
HOWELL: He allegedly lied about passing 2016 polling information to Russians, whom he owed money to.
ALLEN: Want to turn back now to Venezuela. A major power struggle intensified Friday. There two rivals defended their claim for the presidency. HOWELL: Nicholas Maduro, backed by Russia and China, slammed the efforts to oust him but was signaling he is opened to dialogue. In the meantime the self-declared president, Juan Guaido, supported by the E.U. and the United States, told his supporters to continue the fight and urged the military to join them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN GUAIDO, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): If they dare to seize power again, the president is the only legitimate institution that assumed the authority of the constitution.
I ask you to keep us on the path peacefully and nonviolently but with much force in every street and corner of Venezuela, demanding what belongs to us for freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The U.N. Human Rights Agency says at least 20 people have been killed in protests just this week. The U.N. Security Council meeting is set for Saturday.
For more on what's going on in Venezuela, let's bring in Brett Bruen, who was director of global engagement at the Obama White House. He joins us now from Washington.
We appreciate your time. I want to ask you first, the U.S. is keeping the president Obama on and Maduro is indicating he is willing to talk.
Do you believe him?
Is he finally feeling the heat and something in him could crack here?
BRETT BRUEN, FORMER U.S. DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT: Well, I think he is feeling the heat. I don't know how genuine that offer of talks really is.
What we're seeing, I think, is an effort by the American administration to seek out various forms of pressure, both on Maduro but actually more importantly on the military, which is the weak link in this situation. You've got Juan Guaido, who is reaching out to officers in the military, encouraging them to lay down their arms.
ALLEN: You talked about various forms the United States is doing.
I want to ask you, overall, how do you think the Trump administration is handling this?
I've heard you say before that diplomatic efforts by the Trump administration have been amateurish.
But how are they doing here?
BRUEN: I'd give them a B. I think on the one hand they have taken a strong position, which has applied important pressure. It has brought a number of countries into a coalition that is supporting the constitution of Venezuela.
On the other hand, it has been a hasty and a haphazard approach. They've made a series of errors. One notably that they waited 24 hours to order the drawdown of our embassy and encourage our citizens to leave the country. That was reckless.
ALLEN: Any indication that the military staunchly behind Maduro will stand down?
BRUEN: There are. There have been instances, both in the last several days as well as over the course of --
BRUEN: -- the last several months, of military officers that have broken with the regime.
What we haven't seen yet are senior officials who have switched sides. And that I think is going to be a key issue. If they can bring both the senior officials and the troops they command over, that will be a significant indicator that things are changing for Maduro.
ALLEN: All right. We'll watch for that.
I want to ask you also about, what about China and Russia continuing to support Maduro, would that complicate things?
BRUEN: It does. But I think there is a path forward here and I would encourage Washington to consult with Beijing and Moscow and say, we will protect your investment interests in the country. But we need to avoid a quite catastrophic situation if Venezuela is driven off the cliff by Maduro.
So I think it's in everybody's interest to find an option out of this potential crisis.
What is it about Guaido, do you think, that has pushed this, this far?
What has he been bringing to the table?
BRUEN: Well, he is a young politician, one who we would not normally assume would be placed in this situation. But, quite frankly, he is one of the last promising political leaders that is not in jail or who has not been forced into exile. So he was handed the mantle.
I think he is very much a transition leader and one who, with his youth and his energy, can attract some support and confidence from Venezuelans, who are pretty dispirited after years of economic and political difficulties.
ALLEN: Absolutely. At this point, how much worse could it get?
So we'll talk with you again as developments push forward. Brett Bruen, thank you so much for your time. BRUEN: Thank you.
HOWELL: We are monitoring events in Paris, where another weekend of protests are set to begin but this time the Yellow Vest protesters hope there will be fewer rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
ALLEN: Yellow Vest protesters are gathering yet again in Paris and cities across France for the 11th straight week. The movement is critical of the government, especially President Emmanuel Macron. They say is out of touch with the needs of middle class workers.
HOWELL: But Mr. Macron is trying to ease some of the anger with these protesters with what he calls the great debate, public discussions, where people can air their grievances and help to build what he calls a new contract with the nation. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is covering the story near the Arc de Triomphe.
Erin, what is the feeling there on the streets?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Things are pretty calm here. Let me step out of the way, George, and show you the scene behind me, you have the Arc de Triomphe, where a few hundred people wearing the signature yellow vests have gathered.
I was speaking to some of the protesters a short while ago, they're telling me they're here to protest the French president Emmanuel Macron as well as his policies. They tell me they feel he represents the banks and financiers, not ordinary people in France, something you hear over and over again, speaking to people who come out for these protests.
Security, of course, is an issue here as it has been in past weeks. You can see just that way, some police vans have parked, police with their riot gear are here, monitoring the situation as well. This week, they've actually been equipped with cameras to record the situation.
They've come under intense criticism from protesters, accusation of heavy handedness, especially surrounding the use of rubber bullets as things have gotten violent in past weeks.
In response to that we are expecting a counter protest across France tomorrow, the so-called the Red Scarf protesters will come out to counter the message of the Yellow Vests, specifically on that point of violence, kind of an illustration, if you will, of some people here growing weary with the protests we are seeing. You mention this protest now in its 11th week. HOWELL: Briefly here. Of course, among the protesters there is a dislike of the French president but at the same time the great debate does seem to be gaining some traction. People are liking the ability to air their grievances.
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, that's right. French President Macron has made a concerted effort to engage with the public in a series of town halls he has held throughout France, even making a surprise appearance earlier. He made a surprise appearance at the town hall to the east of France, where he engaged with the public for some three hours.
There have been television debates, a period of time is expected to last three months, giving people the opportunity to air their grievances and him to come to some consensus on a way forward.
But it's not satisfying that protesters here today. I was speaking to a few a while ago. They told me to them it's not enough. They see the great debate as simply a ploy.
HOWELL: Erin McLaughlin, thank you again for the reporting there in Paris.
ALLEN: It is bitter cold in parts of the U.S. Maybe not the best time to protest in some states because that would not be fun.
ALLEN: And it's getting even colder as more arctic air presses in. Ivan Cabrera will have more.
HOWELL: Get ready for a wave of cold, arctic air to sweep the eastern U.S.
ALLEN: For those people, sorry about that, all of you.
HOWELL: We are definitely monitoring, it is going down to the wire at the Australian open. They are now in their third set with two amazing stories, if she wins. Japan's Naomi Osaka will be the first Asian woman to be ranked number one in the world. You'll remember she beat Serena Williams in a controversial U.S. Open final in September. And she is only 21 years old.
ALLEN: Osaka is battling it out right now with Petra Kvitova. It was just two years ago that Petra, the former Wimbledon champ, was attacked in her home by a man with a knife. Now she is back and strong, going after her third Grand Slam title and also a number one ranking.
So pretty exciting stuff down under in Australia.
Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: I'm George Howell. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead. Thanks for being with us.
ALLEN: See you tomorrow.