Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Slaps New Sanctions on Venezuelan State Oil Company; El Chapo Will Not Testify in His Own Defense; U.S. Charges Huawei with Fraud, Stealing Trade Secrets. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. ramps up the pressure on Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, sanctioning the state-run oil company and refusing to rule out sending in American troops.

Not one but a series of crucial votes on Brexit set for Britain's Parliament today. The prime minister's expectations are so low she's hoping not for a win but to narrow the scale of her loss.

And allegations of new charges against China's Huawei, the U.S. accusing the tech giant of money laundering and obstructing justice.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: The U.S. government turning up the heat on Nicolas Maduro with immediate sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company and the Trump administration not ruling out military action in its efforts to topple the Maduro regime. The sanctions will cost Maduro's government $11 billion over the next year.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Effective immediately, any purchases of Venezuela oil by U.S. entities, money will have to go into blocked accounts. If the people in Venezuela wants to sell us oil the money, as long as that money goes into blocked accounts, we'll continue to take it.

Otherwise we will not be buying it. And again, we have issued general licenses so the refineries in the United States can continue to operate.


VAUSE: The leader of the national assembly of Venezuela and self- declared president Juan Guaido is also moving to try to take control of the country's oil industry, calling for nationwide rallies and also wants to win support from military generals who, right now, have backed Maduro.

As CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports from Caracas, the enlisted men may already be on his side.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Only defectors outside Venezuela called on soldiers to rise up. They'll be here from one junior officer that, even when you can't feed your family, it's more complicated.

"I would say 80 percent of soldiers are against the government, some even go to demonstrations. But the big fish is the senior officers are the ones eating, getting rich, while, on the bottom we have it hard. I get a dollar and a half every month promptly, enough for one chicken and a food box from the barracks. Then we have to work magic to make it last like everyone else."

WALSH: Would you or the soldiers you know at your level, would you open fire on resistance people in the streets?

"I'd rather quit. That person could be my brother or my mother. We need a general to flip to make a change."



VAUSE: CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd is with us this hour from New York. Samantha worked at the U.S. Treasury, also served on President Obama's National Security Council.

Samantha, thanks for coming in.


VAUSE: Hey, we saw National Security Advisor John Bolton, he was specifically asked on Monday if President Trump would consider sending U.S. troops to Venezuela to try and topple Nicolas Maduro. This was his answer.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: The president has made it very clear on this -- on this matter that all options are on the table.


VAUSE: You know, that in and of itself is kind of boilerplate diplomatic speak but you know, then there was the handwriting which a lot of people notice on Bolton's notepad, it seems to read Afghanistan, welcome to talks, more notably, 5,000 troops to Colombia.

Should we make the assumption that you know, this is not a slip-up, this is him sort of going on his own sort of way of getting a message out there or is this a slip-up by Bolton, you know, sort of announcing policy?

VINOGRAD: Well, we have really two options here. Number one, the number one option, is that Ambassador Bolton brought classified information in to a security briefing. I helped prep the former national security adviser for those briefings.

You don't take your classified notebook, where you talk about classified policy deliberations, up to the podium to brief millions of people. That's such a massive security violation.

So it could have been an accident or this could have been John Bolton telegraphing what he's been dying to do for decades, which is affect regime change and intervene militarily in a country.

He didn't get do this in North Korea, despite calling for military invention before his national security adviser. He hasn't gotten the president to announce a military option for Iran. So it is possible that Ambassador Bolton is --


VINOGRAD: -- leaning towards a military option for Venezuela, more so than anybody else would.

But regardless, any way you cut it, this is a security violation if he was trying telegraph to somebody that this option was on the table. The state of U.S. psychological operations would be incredibly low and incredibly worrisome.

VAUSE: OK, you draw a direct line from the U.S. sanctions which were announced on Monday in Venezuela state-owned oil companies to military generals and their loyalty to Maduro.

Foreign policy puts it this way. Maduro keeps the loyalty of the armed forces by granting military leaders stakes in the state-run oil company and turning a blind eye to their involvement in illegal activities, including drug trafficking and gold mining; that quid pro quo is bolstered by an anti-American ideology.

So the thinking here is that the generals are the kingmakers. If they are not getting their slush money payments from Maduro, then that dries up. The opposition is off everything you know, the military a sort of "get out of jail" free card with an amnesty deal of sorts.

There is no incentive for them if they continue to support Maduro or disincentive not to back the opposition. That sounds great but it seems kind of simplistic.

VINOGRAD: Well, I worked on sanctions policy under President Bush and under President Obama. And the point of sanctions is to try to either punish bad behavior or in effect to change in behavior.

Right now we have a country that has more oil than Saudi Arabia and 90 percent of the population is living in poverty. And as you just pointed out, top military and security brass are having their pockets lined with oil export revenues.

So it may seem simplistic, but if you cut off that money, my question back to you, John, is what incentive do the military and security officials have to remain loyal to Maduro when they know that are -- have assets frozen overseas?

If they're sanctioned because of their continues work with him, they are not getting paid by him and they could face legal repercussions by countries around the world if they retain that loyalty.

So while it may seem simplistic, I actually think that it has a chance of working. It may not be a question of days, it may be a question of weeks, but I think that this is a wise move.

VAUSE: Well, this is the sort of the argument of why this may not work. Just a few hours ago, Maduro appeared on state-run television blaming the U.S. president for all the anti-government protests and well as the surge in violence and any future violence. This is what he said.


NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT, VENEZUELA (through translator): I hold Donald Trump responsible for any violence that can take place in Venezuela.

It will be you all, Mr. President Donald Trump, responsible for this policy of regime change in Venezuela and the bloodshed that may happen in Venezuela. It will be blood on your hands, President Donald Trump.


VAUSE: So could the sanctions, U.S. sanctions play to the narrative which Maduro has been trying spin that you know, it's the United States trying to force him from power. He's the victim of a U.S. conspiracy and the U.S. economy continues to get worse. He now has someone to clearly blame. It's all -- it's all America's fault.

VINOGRAD: Right. And this is Maduro's favorite taking point, right?

The United States is intervening in Venezuela. Vladimir Putin likes to echo that taking point as well. And all the woes that the Venezuelan people are suffering are the result of external enemies, external actors.

But the fact of the matter is that Maduro has been mismanaging the Venezuelan economy since he came to power. Venezuela has been in gross economic decline.

The Venezuelan people have been suffering long before U.S. sanctions were in place. And so regardless of what Maduro says on state-run television, I think the Venezuelan people are deeply aware of when their economic decline started and why. They have been living this for years.

VAUSE: Yes. OK. They know. They have been living it -- this downward spiral to oblivion for some time. Very quickly, the number of countries recognizing Juan Guaido as president continues to grow. We also have Russia and China the main players here backing Maduro.

Here's part of what the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday about the U.S. involvement in Venezuela.


DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY, KREMLIN (through translator): What is going on in Venezuela is dangerous, but what is more dangerous is that it's happening upon the United States direct interference. It's not just allowing it to happen, it's directly interfering. No one even bothers to hide it.


VAUSE: Which is that line which you said that Putin you know, likes to parrot all the time.

But given where Moscow stand right now and you know, are they likely to help you know, help Maduro financially to try and stay in power?

And beyond what they're currently doing right now, does that you know, does that sort of lock the United States and Russia into some kind of Cold War stance over Venezuela?

VINOGRAD: Well, John, I'm sorry, I'm just rolling my eyes because the idea of Russia accusing another country of intervening in someone's domestic political affairs is just mind-boggling at this point, based upon the range of countries that they are interfering in as we speak.

But you raise an important point, which is who is going to continue supporting Maduro diplomatically, financially and perhaps militarily if it even came to that?

And the question is whether Russia, China, Turkey and others that are still backing him extends some kind of lifeline to Maduro such that he has access to cash while his export earnings --


VINOGRAD: -- are drying up and while countries around the world like the U.K. have frozen his assets.

And that's something that we need to keep an eye on over the coming days, particularly when it comes to countries that have a lot of cash available like China, like Russia and others.

And Maduro is going to make a plea for money to offset any money he loses from sanctions so that's a real possibility.

VAUSE: Yes, China can continue to buy, you know, trade, you know, whatever they want for their -- for their oil and they have been doing that in the past. So yes, there -- he has options still. It's not end of days yet for Maduro. VINOGRAD: He does, but I do think these sanctions could be a game changer if they do dry up Maduro's ability to pay the military and security official in the near term.

VAUSE: Sam, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much. Good to see you.



VAUSE: An end may be in sight to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and alleged collusion with the Trump Campaign. Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker says he's been fully briefed and is looking forward to Mueller's final report.


MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: You know, I've been fully briefed on the investigation and you know, I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report.

But right now, you know, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed and I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as we -- as possible.


VAUSE: The 20-month long investigation has seen 37 people and entities, mostly Russian, charged with a number of crimes. And then there have been the plea deals and guilty verdicts and charges for a number of Trump associates, including one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, there's Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and now his long-time close associate Roger Stone.

The White House has been unable to answer crucial questions about Stone's efforts to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks and how high up in the Trump campaign those efforts actually went or whether Mr. Trump will pardon Stone if he's convicted.

And another Trump associate charged by the special counsel, the president's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week.

After an unprecedented 35-day partial shutdown of the U.S. government, get ready for the sequel. Return of the shutdown, same cast, same plotlines; almost nothing has really changed except House Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi has been emboldened and President Trump left politically weakened, his poll numbers taking a beating.

And it seems Donald Trump might just be willing do it all over again, telling "The Wall Street Journal" there is less than a 50-50 chance a deal can be made with the Democrats on border security before the government runs out of money in less than three weeks.

At the first White House briefing in 41 days, press secretary Sarah Sanders would not rule out another shutdown.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president doesn't want to go through another shutdown. That's not the goal. The goal is border security and protecting American people.

Ideally, Democrats would take the next three weeks to negotiate in good faith, as they've indicated that they would, and come up a deal that makes sense that actually fixes the problem so we don't have to go through that process.


VAUSE: The hit to the U.S. economy from this past shutdown is being counted in the billions. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says overall the economy took an $11 billion hit. While $11 billion will be covered, $3 billion is gone forever and so, too, it seems, $2 billion in tax revenue because of reduced enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service.


VAUSE: To Los Angeles now and global business executive Ryan Patel, a senior fellow at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.

We gave you the big title tonight, Ryan.



PATEL: Great to be on.

VAUSE: Great to have you with us. OK, the CBO acknowledges that eventually, the cost of the shutdown may not be as bad as they forecast, or it could be worse.

You know, they caution the numbers do not incorporate other more indirect negative effects of the shutdown, which are more difficult to quantify but were probably becoming more significant as it continued.

If they're referring to stuff like businesses which couldn't get permits or approvals, or you know, approvals for new products. That kind of stuff or maybe even loans, delays which might mean investment and hiring can actually be put off or postponed.

If you read that, it seems to indicate they're leaving much more towards the worst side of the scale rather than possibly the better.

PATEL: Yes, I know, I mean, I think -- listen to this. Think about people who are workers -- average workers going into this going from December, knowing -- not knowing what's going to happen in generally. They're going to spend less.

And even with the government coming back, if I'm one of those families or leaving -- thinking about, well, should I spend my paycheck on the extra consumable spending?

They're not going to, why would they?

You know, with 50-50 chance that you mentioned that Trump's talking about shutdown again, we can't have that. And this -- for it to be the worst -- you know, the worst shutdown in what, 35 days?

And that this --


VAUSE: Yes, 35 days.

PATEL: And this is not something that is not an option for any side. And economically, you know, Morgan Stanley is talking about in 1.9 percent in the GDP ray (ph). I mean, that is from last year being a 3 percent to --


PATEL: -- possibly less than 2 percent.

I mean, I heard White House officials all day today talking about well, it's not that big of a deal. Well, listen, if you -- if American citizens losing money more than a dollar, that's a big deal. It doesn't matter if it's a billions or in a hundred millions. It's a big deal.

VAUSE: Speaking of White House officials, here is the response to that CBO report from Larry Kudlow, who played an economist once on television.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: No I don't -- I won't acknowledge any of that right now. And you know, in a $20 trillion economy, it's awfully hard to make even the best guesstimates of those kinds of small fractions of numbers. That's what you're looking at here.

Let's see how it rolls out. Look, we'll get a GDP report about a week for Q4. It will take longer for the first quarter. As I've said many times that I think you have just a whole bunch of very temporary factors. And now that the government is reopened, the switch goes right back on. There's certainly no, no, no, permanent damage to the economy.


VAUSE: This is a bush baby, native to Africa and when they see something that scares them, or they feel under attack, they fold up their ears and they close their eyes. So, did Larry Kudlow just pull a bush baby?


VAUSE: Yes. Seriously.

PATEL: I mean, I mean, for it, OK, I'm going to give him one thing. One thing, yes, this is a temporary -- you know, the switch is going to come on and we're going to see that percent as you come back in the second quarter.

OK, he's assuming that we're going to have a deal. That's one, I'll give him that piece. But what about this, this air is a negative effect. This is there is a whole bunch of indirect effects that can cause consumer spending, consumer confidence and jobs. You know, he's talking about the macroeconomy, that $3 billion.

He's not -- may he may not agree with the $3 billion number. OK, fine.

What is it, $1 billion?

It's still -- it's still 0.1 percent. Quite a few basis points that could change the outlook for the rest of the quarter. And I guarantee you, this deal that, you know, Trump had to end this government shutdown, it wasn't like he wanted to. He had no choice.

They needed to have these three weeks to kind of figure something out. Again, I think, he's still bluffing a little bit when it comes to 50- 50 chance. Imagine to have like you mentioned, sequel part two of government shutdown.

VAUSE: Yes. Well, exactly. And you know, the hits keep coming and they self-inflicted. You know, they self-inflicted economic hits, you know. The administration had this 35-day shutdown. OK?

And you look at the numbers. There's this looming threat of another slowdown, but we have the slowdown in economic growth, which hit the economy by 0.02 percent for the year. That's not huge, but it could be worse and many believe not necessary.

Then, there are the trade wars in tariffs. That's expected to take 0.1 percent off growth for the next decade. And now, of course, with this looming threat of another shutdown, they could have a much bigger impact on the economy especially in terms of consumer confidence, as well as business confidence as well.

So you know, if they go down this path again, it will be so much more devastating than what we've seen.

PATEL: Well, economically that we've put -- the U.S. has put them self in a bad spot. You talked about the trade wars, you talk about these things that the timing of a government shutdown is really poorly.

How are you going to get a deal done when you've shut down China, the deadline coming up in March?

You're not going to get it done.

And on top of that, you're already going to have a lower economy number, already coming into 2019. And you're going to put more self- inflicted pain to macroly (sic) come out of it, not where you want to be, not in a position to be in the strong foot to be able to come out of this trade piece.

And you know, if I'm China -- I hate to tie China into this, I'm looking back and going, let the U.S. figure itself out and then come to them.

VAUSE: If we should note that, you know, this has been the second longest economic expansion, the one of the U.S. ever. So, it's not surprising that there would be a slowdown, you have the tax cut back in -- was a juicy economy back in 2018. As you say, the -- you know, the economic growth went up of 3 percent. This year expected to be -- you know, around to 2.1 percent I think actually for 2019. And then, from 2020 to 2030, got an average, 1.7 percent.

And as for those tax cut, remember the promise, who's going to pay for itself? Well, guess what, it worked. Debt levels will be way about historic levels. In fact, it's going to be over a trillion dollars and that's the tax cut. Very quickly, on a scorecard, one being terrible, 10 being fantastic. How Trump's scorecard on the economy

PATEL: As of today?


PATEL: I'd say, a negative number for the time being.

VAUSE: Wow, below one.

PATEL: I mean, listen, because he, he, he, put himself in this position. It's not like -- it's not like this was something that the economy took a tank. He further accelerated to it. So, for that, I grade on that because he was the one in charge of this.

He didn't have to do this, he tried to make a point and it hurt his numbers. You know, he didn't -- he didn't do it -- there you go.


VAUSE: Take a shotgun -- take a shotgun, aim at foot, pull trigger.


VAUSE: Ryan, thank you.

PATEL: Thanks.


VAUSE: Deal or no deal, Britain is dancing on a knife's edge with 60 days to go until Brexit and today lawmakers must decide what comes next if they can agree on anything at all.





VAUSE: British prime minister Theresa May is set to face Parliament after a rally rejected her Brexit plan two weeks ago. Lawmakers are set to debate and vote on amendments to the deal, all of this as time is running out. Deal or no deal, the U.K. is set to leave the E.U. in just two months. CNN's Bianca Nobilo has more now from London.



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All eyes will be on Westminster Tuesday when the prime minister will yet again face the House of Commons. This time Parliament gets a say and will express support for various Brexit scenarios. It will do that through amendments.

Members of Parliament have tabled amendments to represent the full spectrum of the Brexit debate. Some members that got the biggest amount of attention in the British press include one tabled by the prime minister's back benches, the so-called Brexiteers, which seeks to address that controversial issue of the backstop, the insurance policy to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit.

Another amendment that has a lot of attention has been tabled by the Labour MP Yvette Cooper. That amendment would seek to take no deal off the table. If Parliament had not agreed on a Brexit plan by the 26th of February, they would have to ask the European Union for an extension of negotiations.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not the E.U. would grant that. But it's important to remember that these amendments and the votes on them are not legally binding but they will heap an enormous amount of political pressure on Theresa May. And many hope at least give us some idea out of this Brexit impasse -- Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Live of the Los Angeles and Dominic Thomas, CNN's European affairs commentator.

This isn't just one vote but a series of votes; once again, Theresa May not expecting a win but rather trying to reduce the number of lawmakers opposed to her Brexit deal. She wants to have that narrowed loss, as she went to Brussels, win a few concessions, it sounds like the same plan as last time.

But there is a key difference, MPs will actually be voting for something as opposed to against something.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, you are right. When it comes to Brexit, looking beyond the votes of no confidence that she faced both before the December break and afterwards, we are now actually talking about something a bit more indicative when it comes down to Brexit itself and that MPs have been voting against things and now they have the opportunity to show their colors.

What's so ironic about this is one of the aspects of it will have to do with the backstop, which we know that the --


THOMAS: -- European Union has said that they are not interested in looking at or, for that matter, of reopening the withdrawal agreement.

So if up until now, Theresa May has been crossing the channel and going to Brussels to bring a deal back from Brussels that she couldn't get through the British Parliament, it now looks as if there is a very good chance that she will be taking something with MPs' support back to Brussels.

But the Brussels will not be interested in supporting and we end up yet again with kind of paralysis around these -- around this kind of question.

VAUSE: You know, the foreign secretary warned British lawmakers, if this deal goes down, don't assume there's something better just around the corner.


JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We can no longer assume that by rejecting this deal there will be a better shade of Brexit. And what is more likely, if this deal is rejected, is that we have the risk of Brexit paralysis.

And when that happens, no one knows what might happen. And the big risk and what people worry about is that we don't actually deliver what people voted for.


VAUSE: I thought a bigger risk and more worrying would be if they crash out without this deal and there are reports the prime minister could implement martial law; the warnings of food shortages, of pharmaceutical shortages, big price increases for everything, that seems to be far more worrisome that implementing the rule of people from a referendum that most people didn't really understand two years ago.

THOMAS: It actually is and it's back to that animal you were showing earlier, covering their eyes and ears and so on, too. I think this is where Parliament tomorrow has a role to play, Parliament will most likely, depending on whether the speaker of the House of Commons selects these particular measures -- and it looks that, out of the spectrum -- Bianca Nobilo pointed out to a moment ago -- that the most likely is that they will address this question of the no deal.

And I think that that's a very important one. The Conservative Party is pretty much in agreement that Brexit must happen. The Labour Party remains divided, terrified about the potential of not following the outcome of a referendum, should they face a general election.

But they also have many in their rank that would rather not see this go ahead. But by at least discussing the question of the no deal, those sorts of terrifying scenarios that are there and will be back -- will be removed and they'll have an opportunity to think about that.

The big question, though, is how long is this going to go on for. We haven't even got to the point of Brexit. We haven't even got to the period beyond it, where we start to look at a transition period and the deals that are in place.

And there is still so much uncertainty around these particular questions. But I do think tomorrow that we are starting to take the pulse of Parliament and get some kind of tangible sort of idea as to where we are going.

VAUSE: But with all the variables and everything that could happen, it's still possible that, you know, Tuesday comes to an end and Parliament has approved no plan at all.

THOMAS: Right. And the most likely outcome then, once again, you know, is to end up a no deal and a no deal is still Brexit and, you know, one has to wonder, given the sort of the limited time that we have and the concerted desire, one would say, you know, on the part of the Conservative Party, to actually achieve Brexit, that that is the worst case scenario.

But it nevertheless is Brexit for them. The question is whether or not Parliament will tolerate it. That's why the vote tomorrow will be so important because if a no deal, it is just an amendment, that the amendment puts extraordinary pressure on Theresa May because she already has known what happened with her first time around, with the withdrawal agreement, she will have to listen to this.

And this may -- the next step may be that this becomes a bill that is subsequently passed into law and that would be quite an achievement for Parliament, to ahead least get through that tomorrow.

VAUSE: Yes, it would. Dominic, thank you, we'll check in with you next hour.

THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, still to come here, stolen trade secrets, violations of sanctions and money laundering just a whole lot more. U.S. unveils charges against China's Huawei.

What will that mean for already tense trade talks with Beijing?

And three-quarters of the United States about to get hit with subfreezing temperatures, how low could they go? Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


[00:30:00] VAUSE: Thanks for staying with us, everybody, welcome back. I'm John Vause with an update on the top stories this hour.

The Trump administration has imposed new sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company that would keep more than $11 billion in assets from Nicolas Maduro's government over the next year. U.S. officials are also refusing to rule out military options for Venezuela.

The prosecution has rested in the case against repeated drug lord, Joaquin Guzman, better known as El Chapo. The defense is up next. Guzman's lawyers tell CNN he'll call just one witness which will not be El Chapo himself, he (INAUDIBLE) including drug trafficking, conspiring to murder and money laundering.

The death toll continues to rise after a dam collapsed at an iron mine in Brazil, 65 bodies have been recovered, hundreds of people remain missing. Outrage is being directed at the Brazilian government and operators of the mine. More than $3 billion in the company's funds have been frozen to help the families of the victims.

At a critical moment in U.S.-China trade relations, Washington is taking aim at the Chinese tech giant, Huawei. In two sets of charges, the Justice Department accuses Huawei of trying to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile and violating sanctions against Iran.

U.S. accuses Huawei's Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, of playing a key role in a scheme to conduct business with Iran. Meng was arrested in Canada and has been fighting ex-tradition to the United States.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: As the indictment charges, the alleged fraudulent financial schemes used by Huawei and its chief financial officer, were not just illegal, but detrimental to the security of the United States. They wilfully conducted millions of dollars in transactions that were in direct violation of the Iranian transactions and sanctions regulations.

And we will not, as a country, tolerate efforts to circumvent U.S. sanctions to support an odious regime that sponsors terror and threatens the United States and our allies.


VAUSE: CNN's Steven Jiang joins us now live, from Beijing with the very latest. So, Steven, Beijing thought the charges are -- which already laid against the company's CFO were linked to these trade talks and were, sort of, politically motivated by the U.S. somehow. How will these new charges impact those negotiations? STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, John, both the company, Huawei, as well as the Chinese government actually have now responded to these latest indictments.

The company said it was disappointed to learn these indictments, adding in a statement that the company denies that it or its subsidiaries or affiliate have committed any of the asserted violations of U.S. law set forth in each of the indictments, is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng, and believes that U.S. courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion.

Now, the Chinese government response sounds much stronger with the foreign ministry spokesman accusing the U.S. of trying to kill the normal business operations of the Chinese companies like Huawei, through these politically motivated charges, as you mentioned.

The spokesman, again, called Canada to release Ms. Meng immediately, but also ask the United States to drop these charges. All things considered, though, it sounds relatively restrained. I think, primarily, because as you mentioned, there is a trade delegation that has just arrived in Washington. They probably don't want any over the top statements to derail these very important trade talks.

But one thing these indictments show is, there is this increasing consensus both within the U.S. government, but also between the U.S. and its allies about the danger of National Security implications and cybersecurity implications on using Huawei's technologies.

[00:35:00] And on top of that, as you mentioned, there is this rising concern over the theft of intellectual property, there's actually some very revealing detail in these indictments, including Huawei actually having a bonus program to reward employees financially, for stealing competitors trade secrets.

And that, of course, is one issue that's been a long complained by the White House against China, and it's going to be a very thorny point in these talks. So, in a way, it's really all interconnected, John.

VAUSE: Steven, it's all complicated, interconnected and obviously, getting more connected and complicated. Thank you.

The lowest temperatures, in a generation, are sweeping across the Central United States and into the East Coast this week, already frigid air will get even colder in the coming days. Some 220 million people, about 3-quarters of the continental U.S. population could be exposed to record-shattering lows.

It's about wind chill factors here, down to 51 degrees Celsius, about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That's below zero. Weather experts are warning a possible life-threatening danger. They say those who are 25 years old or younger have never experienced such extreme temperatures in the region.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with more on this. OK, this is brutally cold. PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. It's very dangerous. You know, this sort of a pattern, we don't see it every single day. Certainly the last time we had anything this cold, John, it was -- you go back to the middle 1990s.

And in fact, we're talking about wind chills, as you mentioned, John, 40, 50 below in a few spots in a degree Celsius, that's about 35 Celsius below zero, and 45 Celsius below zero. And these thresholds 5 to 10 minutes of outdoor exposure is all that is required to permanently damage your skin, certainly lead to hypothermia.

And eventually, within a matter of minutes, lead to death, which is by schools have closed pre-emptively across this region. And typically, it's that 35 threshold that really dictate schools shutting down across the northern tier of the United States.

But, climatologically, this is where we end up, right? The latter portion of January, early February, that's the coldest time of year across North America. What is happening right now, that cold air that typically is bottled up across the Arctic region into the Northern Pole, that's polar vortex. It's always there winter. It's bottled up in the winter.

When you have dips in the jet stream that allows that colder air to come straight out of Siberia, notice the color contours, they don't change much as they make their way onto the Northern United States. That's precisely what's happening.

And by the way, the reason it's cold up there, is because they have no sunlight for a period of four months or so, this time of year, so that's why it gets that cold across that region. But we have about 70-plus million now, underneath these wind chills, as 30 to 55 below, again, across widespread areas of the Midwest, John.

VAUSE: OK. So the U.S. President, obviously, with time on his hands, he tweeted this. In the beautiful Midwest, wind chill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder, people can't last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with global waming? Warming. Please come back fast, we need you!

Can you explain to the President of the United States that it's actually, you know, climate change and that means extremes in temperatures caused by a global planet which is warming, a planet which is warming globally?

JAVAHERI: That's what happens with the jet stream taking a nose dive, absolutely. You know, John, what's funny about all of this is, of course, we always talk about weather being essentially like your mood, your personality, is what climate is, it's a long-term perspective of things and that's precisely how things plays out when it comes to this.

But President Trump has tweeted over 100 times with almost the identical theme to this. And in fact, take a look, if you want to just take the weather perspective. Look outside, broaden the scale. Look at the global scale. Guess what, Mr. President, you know, right where across the Midwest and portions of Northern Europe, portions of Northern Asia that's about it.

A large area of the globe is still feeling warmer temperatures and, in fact, in the United States, so far in 2019, 615 record high temps have been set, 259 record low temps have been set.

So, about a little over two to one ratio here of experiencing extreme warm, even amid this cold outbreak here. So certainly, not at all representative of what is happening even so far in these first few weeks of this year.

VAUSE: Climate change caused by man-made global warming is what I was trying to say.


VAUSE: But Pedram, you know much better on this than I am. Thank you.


VAUSE: A short break, when we come back, rules at art museums, is that pretty simple? Look, don't touch and don't steal. One thief obviously did not get the memo, walked out with a million-dollar painting. That story is next, here on CNN NEWSROOM.



VAUSE: In Moscow, a thief walked in to an art gallery, walked out with a painting, took it right off the wall, in broad daylight. CNN's Michael Holmes shows us how it all happened.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The thief appears in the back of the gallery, on the far left of your screen. He slowly approaches a painting and touches it with his left hand. He then grabs the painting with both hands, takes it off the wall and walks off camera, quickly appearing again on the other side of the screen.

He nonchalantly carries the painting through the gallery, strolling past a room full of visitors who appear to assume he's an employee, no one stops him. It happened at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Russian police detained this 31-year-old man who they say is behind the brazen burglary.

He denied committing any crime. The 20th century painting called Ai- Petri Crimea is valued at about a million dollars, according to state television. It was later recovered at a remote construction site outside the city. Luckily, it wasn't damaged.

Museum officials say that it was taken from a temporary exhibition that had not yet been fitted with an alarm. The Russian Minister of Culture says procedures are being put in place at the museum, so this doesn't happen again.

STANISLAV KONONOV, RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE (through translator): The number of security officers has been increased in the halls. Additional fixation measures of the paintings have been taken. All paintings will be enhanced with electric security sensors, as they must be.

HOLMES: This isn't the first incident at this art gallery. In May, of last year, one of Russia's most famous paintings, depicting Ivan the Terrible and His Dying Son was badly damaged after a man attacked it with a metal pole.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


VAUSE: OK. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us now. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN.


[00:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)