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Opposition Calls For Anti-Government Protests This Week; Schiff: "Why All The Lies" If There Are Innocent Explanations?; U.S. Envoy: Taliban & U.S. Agree To Framework For Peace; WAPO: Trump Property Fired Undocumented Employees; WAPO: Some Of Those Fired Were Long-Time, Trusted Employees. Aired: 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 28, 2019 - 11:30   ET


TONY BLINKEN, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: ... there is a strategy to actually advance a peaceful transition and a plan B if Maduro digs in and lashes out and that's what we haven't seen yet. I hope it's there.

KATE BOLDUAN, ANCHOR, CNN: Yes. Fraud is really kind of the way it looks right now. It's from the U.S. perspective. Senator Lindsey Graham, he told (Axius) that a couple of weeks ago Trump mused to him about U.S. military intervention there. And to be clear, there's no reporting that that is actually on the table but kind of asking Lindsey Graham like what he thought about the idea of military intervention there. What do you think? Do you think it could come to that?

BLINKEN: I hope not. It would be a big mistake. It would be returned to the Gringo wisdom of the past. I think we forfeit the high ground and leadership that we've actually seized. It would be incredibly difficult because there are probably several hundred thousand militia who remain alive with Maduro. There'd be guerrilla war coming in from Colombia. So it would not be an easy situation, but there are things we can do to advance this peaceful transition.

Up the economic pressure on Maduro and everyone around him. The families of the regime, people profiting from corruption, we can do that. We should be finding ways to engage Maduro to make sure that he knows that there's actually a way out of the corner he's put himself into. We can be engaging the military to make clear that they won't be disbanded as institution. We've got to increase the economic assistance, have a real plan to help Venezuela recover from all of this, and we need to globalize the problem, really take it to the UN to make clear that the international community wants to see a change that respects the democratic wishes of the Venezuelan people. That's going to require real sustained diplomacy.

Again, I think the administration has taken a good start in leading the effort to isolate Maduro. But now we need to see a detailed plan to advance this peaceful transition.

BOLDUAN: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, he's been reporting from Venezuela and he's been - his report, I mean, really offering a - painting a really horrific picture of the conditions that people are facing there, I mean, scrounging for food in trash cans. What is the best case, worst case scenario and how this plays out in the coming weeks there?

BLINKEN: Well, I think the worst case scenario is that Maduro digs in and starts increasing the already high level of violence against the peaceful democratic opposition or not even opposition really the recognized National Assembly and that would be a disaster. This could really turn into a major conflagration, so that's the worst case scenario. Hopefully though the military will stand down if Maduro pushes things in that direction. That's really critical, the role that they play.

But it's really important to get other countries in on this. The Russians, the Chinese are propping up the Maduro regime, the Cubans are too. There has to be ways to get them into this discussion so that they can see that their basic interests won't disappear if Maduro does and if democracy is restored.

BOLDUAN: Yet again another moment where an international coalition, international cooperation seems to be the key here.

BLINKEN: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Tony. Thank you.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Kate. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Coming up for us, will Roger Stone cooperate with the Special Counsel? The longtime Trump adviser may have just answered that question once and for all and reversed on his previous remarks. That's next.


Another one of President Trump's advisors is wrapped up in Robert Mueller's probe. In a new interview, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, he wants to know why. Case in point, long time adviser Roger Stone indicted on Friday for lying to investigators, obstruction of justice, among other things, but he is just the latest in a growing list of Trump associates that have honestly been - well, either pled guilty or caught red handed for misleading the FBI or Congress about connections in the Russia investigation.

They include the President's former National Security Adviser, his personal attorney and former campaign chairman and that's just a few of them, all of whom pleaded guilty for their crimes. Now, many want to know if this is really just a witch hunt as the President has said and the fact that there is no collusion as the President has said and why if it that, why if it is not that why lie and why then also is no one charged with conspiracy to fraud the government. Listen to this.


ADAM SCHIFF, CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: ... certainly do have to ask the question over and over again, if there were innocent explanations for all of this, why all the lies, why all of the repeated efforts to get Russian help and, of course, you have this symmetry of interest here where Donald Trump wants help from the Russians with his campaign, he wants help from the Russians to build this lucrative Moscow tower and the Russians want help from Donald Trump. They want sanctions relief and all of this is going on at the same time.


BOLDUAN: Here with me now to talk more about this CNN Legal Analyst, Elie Honig, and CNN National Security Analyst, Steve Hall. It's great to see you guys. So Ellie, they've lied to the public, they've lied to Congress, they've lied to the FBI and it's the list when you put it together it is worth repeating. The President's former campaign chairman, his deputy campaign manager, his former National Security adviser, his long time personal attorney and a foreign policy advisor but now add into that you now have Roger Stone, his long time adviser. In your experience as a Federal Prosecutor, could this all be just dirty politics the way that they're conducting themselves or are the people around Donald Trump lying more than others would?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The lies always tell us a story, Kate. In the law, there's something called consciousness of guilt and when a judge is instructing a jury, he will tell the jury.


If you find that somebody lied, you can find that that's for a reason. It's a very common sense notion. People don't lie for no reason. Now, these are lies that are sort of all over the map. These lies are fairly concentrated and look at the story they're telling us, they all have to do with Russia, they all have to do with election assistance, WikiLeaks, the hack, they all have to do with the Trump org's business, the efforts to build the hundred million dollars worth of building in Moscow, the Moscow project and they all have to do with sanctions.

And I think when you look at that, it's telling us a story about coordinated efforts to deal with Russia, to get aid from Russia and then to cover it up.

BOLDUAN: And Steve, with that lingering key question of why much lying and why almost always about the one topic of Russia, from your perch of formerly running Russia operations for the CIA, what do you make of it?

STEVE HALL, RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Kate, from a counterintelligence perspective which really is nothing more than looking at patterns of things that happen and then trying to find out the best explanation for them, the why question is really critical. I mean, why do we have all of the line, what is the narrative behind that and, of course, as Elie was just talking about, I mean, there is a narrative that explains that. Is Donald Trump somehow and his team somehow being involved with Russia and acting in his benefit?

There's also some other really weird things that you have to look at that the President has done that just don't make any sense, but fall into that pattern which then causes us again to ask why. I mean recently we, of course, just - a couple of days ago, we saw the whole conversation about Oleg Deripaska and his company and are sanctions going to be lifted. Okay, so why would that happen? Montenegro, why does he talk about the tiny Balkan country Montenegro except for the fact that Russia is concerned about it.

So all of this behavior has to coalesce somehow and the explanation for why the administration and Trump is acting this way in my view leads back to Russia and not in a good way.

BOLDUAN: Not in a good way. Elie, let me play what Roger Stone - he just said this morning about the idea of the question of the concept of cooperating with Robert Mueller. Let me play this for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to cut a deal with Mueller to avoid getting the case going to trial?

ROGER STONE, TRUMP ASSOCIATE: I don't answer hypothetical questions. I have no intention of doing so however.


BOLDUAN: That does seem to be the opposite of what he said yesterday when he said, "If there is, but I would certainly testify honestly if there would be a reason for him to do so," for Robert Mueller, what does this do?

HONIG: He's still leaving the door. But look he's a bit shell shocked right now. He went from months of open defiance of Mueller, right?


HONIG: Openly saying, "I'll never talk to them," and attacking them and then getting applauded by the President who tweeted, "Oh, he has guts because he's never going to testify against me." Then he gets hit with an indictment. That is a real slap in the face. That is a moment of sobriety. This is real now. He's 66 years old. He's looking at an indictment that he is not going to get out of. That indictment is airtight. He's looking at four to five years in prison I think realistically and his options are starting to narrow.

So I think either on his own or with some good counsel, he's been told, "Hang on, let's maybe keep this option open." He seemed very open to it yesterday morning. This is a bit of a walk back. Maybe he didn't like the notion of potentially being seen as a cooperative. Look, I've seen a lot tougher guys than Roger Stone cooperate. I've seen guys who have taken blood oaths in the mob against cooperators cooperate. So if they can cooperate at risk of their own lives, Roger Stone, I think can cooperate at the risk of President sending some mean tweets about him.

BOLDUAN: It seems like Roger Stone might be in the beginning steps of a long journey at this moment. HONIG: Let's see.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Elie. Steve, it's great to see you. Thank you.

Coming up for us, a possible breakthrough in the nation's longest war in the U.S. The U.S. and the Taliban have been in talks reaching an agreement to a framework for potential peace in Afghanistan. Is this a real step towards peace? Is this a real step towards United States leaving Afghanistan? What are the implications now for the 14,000 U.S. troops that are currently there? We'll be right back.


A potential breakthrough today in America's longest war. The war in Afghanistan which began in the aftermath of 911, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan confirming to CNN that the U.S. and the Taliban have agreed in principle to a peace framework. A sign of a big step forward, but still huge challenges ahead. CNN National Security Reporter Kylie Atwood has the details on this. Kylie, what are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, CNN: Well, we know now that the talk last week led by Ambassador Khalilzad who as you said is the special representative to Afghanistan from the U.S. His talks with the Taliban were at least in part fruitful because they did come to an agreement about what a possible peace plan could potentially look like. He told the New York Times quote "We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement. The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals."

But there are a lot of questions, of course, how is the Taliban going to keep out these international terrorist groups like ISIS, like al- Qaeda that we know have deep roots in the country. And we are learning that there were also discussions over a ceasefire and pulling out U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but the details of that are yet to be determined.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and a big part of this, a big part of any final deal would be the Afghan government and we've heard from the President Ghani today after he met with - U.S. officials was briefed from the U.S. team, what is he saying about this?


ATWOOD: Well, he said that the talks are part of an Afghan owned strategy for peace in Afghanistan. But, of course, the reality here is that the U.S. is sitting down with the Taliban and the U.S. is sitting down with the Afghan government. The three parties are not yet at the table. That's going to be pivotal for establishing a final agreement, especially if the U.S. does pull out their forces and the Afghan government is lead left there to lead.

The other factor to consider is that the Afghan government knows that the Taliban are an extremely fractured group and they're not sure that everyone who the U.S. is talking to is going to able to keep a commitment for the Afghan - for the Taliban writ large just because they're such a large group and have many different leaders across the country.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and also then what does this mean for any desire from President Trump to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan? So many questions but signs of progress and that should be noted. Great to see you, Kylie. I appreciate it. Coming up, they were trusted employees, now they're out of a job. Why dozen workers at one of President Trump's golf clubs - why they were fired? The story up next.


The Washington Post is reporting one of Donald Trump's golf courses fired about a dozen undocumented employees. Their lawyer says they were pushed out last week without warning and without severance. Mind you, this then means that this was all while the government was shut down over the Presidents fight against illegal immigration. Listen to one of the employees who spoke to the Washington Post.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH INTERPRETER): For them to tell you, from one day to another, "You know what? This is over and that is it." They change your life from one day to another without thinking. How can they be so cruel to as to simply say that it is over after so many years of employment?


BOLDUAN: Joining me now to discuss is one of the reporters who broke the story, Josh Partlow, of the Washington Post. Josh, thank you for being here. Here's the thing that struck me as I was reading through this. They are just undocumented immigrants working at the President's businesses. These are undocumented immigrants who were working for the President for these golf club for years and up until 10 days ago, what more did these fired employees tell you?

JOSHUA PARTLOW, MEXICO CITY BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think that's true. They've been there for 10 to 15 years. Many of them they had a lot of experience of the club and they've done pretty difficult jobs, greens keeping, housekeeping, working in the restaurant. I think the general feeling among the workers is that they feel a little bit betrayed. They were valued employees for many years and from one day to the next, they got fired with no notice.

BOLDUAN: Let me read from your piece for perspective on how it match these workers were in the Trump organization. This is just from part of your piece. "They had spent years on the staff of Donald Trump's golf club, winning employee-of-the-month awards and receiving glowing letters of recommendation. Some were trusted enough to hold the keys to Eric Trump's weekend home. They were experienced enough to know that when Donald Trump ordered chicken wings, they were to serve him two orders on one plate." What do you make of the timing of their firing then? If they've worked there for years and had been so enmeshed in the organization?

PARTLOW: Yes. Well, what we know is in December, The New York Times published a piece about two undocumented workers at the Bedminster, the Trump Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. After that story came out, some of the workers at Bedminster, undocumented workers were also fired and then on January 18th, a Friday, about a dozen workers at the Westchester golf course were called into an office and a Human Resources Executive for the Trump organization talk to them one by one and basically said, "We've done an internal audits of our company. We've discovered the papers that you used to apply for this job were not genuine and therefore today will be your last day with the company."

BOLDUAN: Eric Trump gave you all a statement in response - in part saying, "We are making a broad effort to identify any employee who has given false and fraudulent documents to unlawfully gain employment. Where identified, any individual will be terminated immediately. He added that it is one of the reasons 'my father is fighting so hard for immigration reform. The system is broken.'" Have you heard yet from the White House?

PARTLOW: No, we haven't heard any comments or any tweets from the White House yet. No.

BOLDUAN: Did Eric Trump answer any of your additional questions though on - about their firing or why they were employed there in the first place or why they continue to work there for so long?

PARTLOW: No. I think he didn't go much beyond the statement. What we heard from the workers is that how this would work is they would generally - through their network of immigrants in New York, they knew that they could get documents in Queens, and then would use those to apply, and then were told by the staff that that's fine, and they never raised it again until this week.

BOLDUAN: Until this week, yes. Josh, thanks for your reporting. Thanks for coming on. I really appreciate it. Josh Partlow of The Washington Post.

PARTLOW: Thanks a lot.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for joining me today. Inside Politics with John King starts right now.