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U.S. Turns Up Pressure On Maduro With New Sanctions; Whitaker: Mueller Probe "Close To Being Completed"; White House Won't Rule Out Another Shutdown; Chris Christie Book Sheds Light On Russia Probe; Cost Of Govt. Shutdown: $3 Billion; Lawmakers to Debate and Vote on Changes to PM's Plan; Extreme Temps to Impact 220 Million People; Prosecution Rests in El Chapo Case; thousands of Strangers Help Give Airman a Proper Burial; Trump Associate under Fire from Fashion Police. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The U.S. ramped 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 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 new allegations, new charges, against China's Huawei. The U.S. accusing the tech giant of money-laundering, obstructing justice, and a whole lot more. Hello and welcome to our viewers all -- from all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The U.S. is targeting Venezuela state-owned oil company with period of sanctions and is calling on the military to switch sides and support the self-declared president. It's the latest attempt by the Trump administration to force Nicolas Maduro from power. And senior White House officials are not ruling out the military option. The economic sanctions are intended to cut off a major source of revenue for Maduro. The U.S. accuses the oil company of funneling state funds to politicians, generals, and businessmen.

Meantime, National Assembly leader and self-declared President Juan Guaido is also trying to take control of the oil industry. He's also calling for nationwide rallies. Nicolas Maduro, meantime, is blaming Donald Trump for the anti-government protests and says any bloodshed in his country will be his fault. CNN's Michelle Kosinski has more now from the State Department.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: You see the administration now take this very big step. This is something that they've held off on for a very long time. We've seen them incremental ratcheting up the pressure on Maduro, sanctioning people within his regime, people close to him. The U.S. then took the extraordinary step of sanctioning Maduro directly but they still held off hitting Venezuela's oil until this moment. So it is telling they feel like now is the right time. They waited

until they felt like this was the final bit of pressure that they could put on Maduro for him to leave in their hopes peacefully. I mean, today, members of the administration said this means $8 billion worth of assets seized immediately. This is a loss Maduro will face of $11 billion at least over the coming year. Listen.


STEVE MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF TREASURY, UNITED STATES: PDVSA has long been a vehicle for embezzlement, for corruption for Venezuelan officials and businessmen. Today's designation of PDVSA will help prevent further diversion of Venezuela's assets by Maduro and will preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela where they belong.


KOSINSKI: Venezuela sits on the largest proven oil resources on the planet, but now approaching 90 percent of its population is living in poverty. Oil is how the Maduro regime has survived. The U.S. is its biggest customer. So of course, the risk by taking a step like this is that you hurt the people further or that you disrupt oil markets. But the Trump administration has said that because U.S. oil production has been so great, they don't feel like this would have a huge effect within the United States. But of course, they're watching the situation on the ground in Venezuela.

What the U.S. would like to see now is a peaceful transition of control over oil production to the person that the U.S. sees as the new legitimate President of Venezuela Juan Guaido. And again, the administration feels like this could be the last bit of pressure necessary to get Maduro to do that. Michelle Kosinski, CNN the State Department.


VAUSE: Venezuela's military might just have the final word at how this power struggle ends. Right now, the generals are backing Nicolas Maduro but as seen as Nick Paton Walsh reports, that support may not run through the lower ranks.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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.

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.


[01:05:12] 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 briefly. 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 accidents, 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 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 company to military generals and their loyalty to Maduro. Foreign Policy puts it this way. Maduro keeps the loyalty of the armed force 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 minding that could 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 points of sanction to try to either punish bad behavior or in effect to change in behavior. Tight 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.

[01:10:02] 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 Dimitri 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 ideas 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 everybody 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 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 Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos and now Roger Stone.

The White House has been unable to answer crucial questions about Stone's abilities to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks and just how have the Trump campaign those efforts 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 Intelligent Committee next week.

There was relief on Friday and hopes of a negotiated settlement when President Trump caved and the longest shutdown in U.S. history came to an end. But that optimism it seems did not survive the weekend with Donald Trump once again demanding $5.7 billion for his border wall with Mexico and seems it's non-negotiable. Here's CNN's Jim Acosta.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to have a wall. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's as if President Trump has been hiding in a cave. He's largely been out of sight ever since he backed down in the standoff with Democrats over his quest for a border wall. And with just 18 days and counting before yet another government shutdown, the President doesn't sound optimistic telling the Wall Street Journal the offs reaching a deal to prevent another lapse in funding are less than 50/50 which is why top White House officials are warning the President is prepared to declare a national emergency so he can try to go around Congress.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What I do know is if they don't come back with a deal that means Democrats get virtually nothing that will make the President and force him to have to take an executive action.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It's better. John, to get it through legislation. That's the right way to do it. But at the end of the day, the President is going to secure the border one way or another.

ACOSTA: Despite days of complaints from conservative allies that Mr. Trump was taken to the woodshed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi --

LOU DOBBS, HOST, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: She has just whipped the President of the United States.

ACOSTA: The White House is trying to insist the President somehow won the stalemate.

[01:14:56] SANDERS: The negotiations are still ongoing and I would argue that Conservatives that actually have influence have supported the President throughout this process. This is a simple fix. It's easy for Democrats to sit down and come to an agreement and work with us to get border security.

ACOSTA: Democrats already sounding worried about the prospects of reaching an agreement with the president.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think the 35- day long federal shutdown was completely senseless. I think, for the president to take us back into another shutdown would be senseless. But the point of compromise is to not begin by saying, absolutely no at this end or this end. It was the president who caused this shutdown by demanding $5.7 billion for a wall.

ACOSTA: The shutdown appears to have done some political damage to the president with the latest CNN poll, of polls showing less than 40 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump's job performance.

Russia investigation likely isn't helping with his longtime advisor Roger Stone sending mixed messages about whether he might cut a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller after the Nixon-era dirty trickster was indicted last week. Stone telling ABC News Sunday.

ROGER STONE, FORMER POLITICAL ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: I would certainly testify honestly. I'd also testify honestly about any other matter including any communications with the president.

ACOSTA: And then today, just 24 hours later.

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

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

ACOSTA: As he ask with other targets of the Russia probe, the president is downplaying his relationship with his close friend. Tweeting over the weekend that "Stone didn't even work for me anywhere near the election."

Another friend of the president, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is out with a new book, claiming that Mr. Trump thought he had put an end to the Russia investigation when he fired former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. An assessment shared by son- in-law, Jared Kushner.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: He said, "You know, listen, Flynn's the only guy who spoke to the Russians apparently." And he said, "So, you know, I think this is going to end it, and I just laughed." And I said, "Mr. President, it's unfortunate that I have to tell you this, but having done this myself for a living, we're going to be talking about this on Valentine's Day, February 18." And they laughed out loud and Jared told me I was crazy.

ACOSTA: The White House was asked whether the Trump presidency was somehow endangered by the growing number of aides and associates ensnared in the Russia investigation.

Roger Stone last week, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, are you concerned -- is the president concerned that have more and more of his associates, former aides are brought into this investigation, are indicted, plead guilty in this investigation? That this presidency is in danger.

SANDERS: Not at all. In fact, I think nothing could be further from the truth. The more that this goes on, the more and more we see that none of these things have anything to do with the president.


ACOSTA: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders didn't really knock down the idea of a presidential pardon for Roger Stone. Meaning that remains a live option for Mr. Trump. Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

VAUSE: So, now get ready for government shutdown, the sequel. Simulcast same plot line, almost nothing has actually changed. Except to House Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi has been emboldened and President Trump left politically weakened. His poll numbers taking a beating.

Donald Trump plays there's not much chance of striking a deal with the Democrats, and at the first White House media briefing in 41 days, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would not rule out another shutdown.


SANDERS: The president doesn't want to go through another shutdown. That's not the goal, the goal is -- were security. I'm protecting the American people. Ideally, Democrats would take these next three weeks to negotiate in good faith as they've indicated that they would. And come up with 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 has been counted in the billions. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says, "Overall, the economy took $11 billion hit. And while $8 billion will be recovered, $3 billion, it's gone forever. So, too it seems is $2 billion in tax revenue because of reduced enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service.

Global business executive Ryan Patel, and 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 chances 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 and what? 35 days. And that this --


[01:20:09] 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. I mean, that is from last year being a three percent to possibly less than two.

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 days 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 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.

[01:25:02] VAUSE: Well, Chinese tech giant Huawei, facing a list of charges. The U.S. government accusing the company of using lies and deceits gross business for more than a decade. So, how this impact the Trump administration's efforts to end its trade war with China.


VAUSE: Well, just days ahead of renewed trade talks with China, the United States is targeting Chinese tech giant, Huawei. The Justice Department filed two sets of charges accusing Huawei trying to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile, and deceiving banks and the government in doing business with Iran.

The U.S. accuses Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou of playing a key role in Iran scheme. Meng was arrested in Canada and has been fighting extradition to the United States. CNN's Steven Jiang joins us once more live from Beijing.

So, Steven according to China's industry minister, these charges, he says are unfair and immoral. That's the sort of talk which seems like no -- they're not willing to sit back and let this play out. Especially, with those trade talks just around the corner.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right. But I want to quote you one more, a colorful and interesting quote from state media, the Global Times newspaper editor in chief tweeted that this U.S. indictment is like -- it's like putting legal lipstick on a pig of political suppression. It's disgusting. So, that's really the prevailing sentiment here in the state media. And also, we're reflecting the official position. Now, both Huawei, the company and the Chinese government have responded very quickly and firmly, the company really has denied all wrong -- any wrongdoing and they're saying it was very disappointed to learn these charges and believing that the U.S. court system would eventually clear its name.

The government on the other hand as you mentioned has responded from several different agencies as foreign ministry spokesman actually has accused the U.S. of trying to kill normal business operations of Chinese companies like Huawei through politically motivated charges.

Now, that spokesman called on the U.S. to drop these charges and again urged Canada to release Miss Meng, right away. But all things considered, John, these statements from the Chinese government seems to be relatively restrained. I think, one reason for that is as you mentioned, a senior trade delegation has arrived in Washington from China, ready for the next round of talks.

Now, the Beijing leadership probably does not want to derail these talks before they even start. But the, but these -- the indictments are really another sign of the dis consensus within the U.S. government. As well as between the U.S. and its allies on the danger of using Huawei's technologies.

And on top of that, of course, these concerns over the theft of intellectual property is also a very much -- a very important of revealing especially considering that's a sticking point in the ongoing trade talks and a long complaint by Mr. Trump himself against China.

So, all these things are really interconnected in a way, and it's going to be very intriguing. But some would say worrisome to watch what happens next. Especially on the charges impact on the trade talks. John?

VAUSE: OK, Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang, there live in Beijing. We'll take a short break. When we come back, 60 days and counting. The clock ticking down on Britain's departure from the E.U. And once again, Parliament and whole the series of crucial votes today and the most likely outcome seems to be just more uncertainty.


[01:32:14] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

I am John Vause with an update of the top news 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 in Venezuela.

The acting U.S. Attorney General says he's been fully briefed on Robert Mueller's investigation and says he thinks it's close to being completed. Matthew Whitaker says he hopes the report from the Special Counsel will come in as soon as possible.

The U.S. has filed criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei. The Justice Department says the company tried to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile and to (INAUDIBLE) banks and the government do business with Iran. Huawei denies violating any U.S. laws.

And two weeks after Theresa May's Brexit plan was rejected by the biggest parliamentary vote in British history, lawmakers will get their chance to vote on amendments to that plan later today and maybe, potentially, possibly, but probably not at all break the deadlock.

CNN's Hala Gorani has a look at what we can expect.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We each have a solemn responsibility to deliver Brexit.

JEREMY CORBYN, OPPOSITION LEADER: The government is in disarray.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Competing voices in the British parliament coming head to head for what many hope will be the final showdown.

MAY: I commend this notion to the House.

GORANI: The outcome of voting could redirect the course of Brexit Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Division. Clear the lobby.

GORANI: A key proposal and perhaps a lifeline for Theresa May seeks to salvage her existing deal by doing away with the bit everyone hates -- the Northern Ireland backstop.

GEOFFREY CLIFTON-BROWN, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: I think the best future we have for this country is outside the E.U. trading with growing nations around the world. We cannot do that while we're stuck in the backstop.

GORANI: Although a word of caution, there is little sign from the E.U. side that removing the backstop is even remotely workable.


GORANI: Next up, the opposition Labour Party will be pushing for parliament to scrap May's deal and go back to the drawing board.

CORBYN: There is a deal that could command support in the House.

GORANI: It wants a much closer relationship with Europe post-Brexit.

CORBYN: A strong single market relationship and a guarantee. A guarantee to keep pace with European Union rights and standards.

GORANI: Another popular proposal which has support from MPs on both sides is to extend Article 50, essentially kick the can down the road and postpone Brexit for a few months giving more time for negotiations.

YVETTE COOPER, BRITISH LABOUR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: -- for the sake of businesses and jobs and people across the country. To seek an immediate extension of Article 50.

GORANI: And if after MPs have emptied and filled the chamber for vote after vote, no proposal gets majority support --

[01:35:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As many as are of that opinion say "aye".

GORANI: -- and MPs find no path through the deadlock --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All to the contrary, "no".

GORANI: Britain is still on course for the cliff edge, exiting the E.U. March 29th with no deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the nos have it.

GORANI: Hala Gorani, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Dominic Thomas joins us now from Los Angeles with more on this. He's CNN's European affairs commentator.

Ok. This issue of the backstop -- this is the big sort of sticking point here. It's the peace deal in Northern Ireland which says there can be no physical border or barrier with the Republic of Ireland but the E.U. is demanding some kind of border there because that's where the E.U. will now meet the, you know, non E.U.-U.K.

So, if you look at the chances here of Europeans actually giving any ground to the British Prime Minister. And Adam Hills, the host of "The Last Leg" on Channel 4, kind of summed it up this way.


ADAM HILLS, HOST, CHANNEL 4: Theresa May is hoping the no-deal Brexit might force her hand. I don't know how that's going to work. One E.U. official said this week that's like saying do this or we shoot ourselves in the head and you might get some blood on you.


VAUSE: Really does seem to sum up the leverage that Theresa May has right now with the Europeans.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean the European position is that the fundamental integrity of the European Union is organized around this question of the border and the insurance policy that they want in place to make sure that if no deal is struck or that they end up, you know, being able to have this insurance policy which essentially will create a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and for many reasons the Good Friday agreement and so on and so forth they don't want that.

So one of the amendments that potentially could be taken up by the Speaker of the House of Commons tomorrow concerns a revision to that. In other words, to come up with an alternative arrangement that would prevent that on the one hand being a hard border. And secondly, essentially reopen the withdrawal agreement and go back to the European Union with that.

What's so paradoxical about that entire argument is that all along Theresa May has been going to the European Union to try and strike a deal which she subsequently brought back to the Houses of Commons and faced the worst defeat as you mentioned, you know, in British history.

And now she's potentially going to go back to the European Union with something which they have repeatedly said to her is a red line, which is to take away the insurance policy which is what's so key here and going to the European Union for something that they won't agree to.

So on both ends of the spectrum there is a kind of tone deafness here that is defining these kinds of talks. And for the European Union this border is so important because of the question of the circulation of capital and people, goods and services that are the four freedoms of the European Union. And they don't want to compromise those any more than the Brexiteers and others want to compromise the integrity of the U.K. by separating or having a different deal for Northern Ireland versus the rest of the United Kingdom.

VAUSE: You know, the hurdles here are so high for Theresa May or the expectations of success are so low, you know, she's actually not hoping to win again like it was just like last time. But there's this hope that maybe, you know, that margin of defeat, you know, she can narrow it down in a significant way.

And the theory is, you know, to go back to Brussels and say look, I've got movement even if, you know, fewer people don't like this but it's a majority does but it's a smaller majority. I mean how is that actually expected to play in Brussels, you know, with the E.U. just standing so firm and being opposed to doing anything that reopens, you know, negotiations?

THOMAS: Yes. I mean, of course, you know, what we've talked about too, is the fact that, you know, so far really except for, you know, the parliament weighed in much earlier on, on requesting a meaningful vote there actually was consensus on triggering Article 50 two years ago. So the parliament came together over that.

As far as the European Union is concerned, 27 countries are united and signed off on the withdrawal agreement. If anything, the only way that this serves Theresa May is to essentially stigmatize the E.U. and to say that the E.U. it's their problem. It's sort of like the, you know, the standoff and government shutdown in the United States.

The E.U. Is facing some very serious pressures and with the May parliamentary elections coming up and with the problems that they have with the countries like Poland and Hungary and the far right and Italy and so on, things have shifted in Europe. And the last thing the European Union wants to be held up accountable for preventing something like Brexit.

So on the one hand, it wants to stand firm and protect the integrity of its liberal democratic values. And on the other it's going to have to be very careful for how it goes about dealing with this.

Now, of course one could also argue that the European Union has had enough of the United Kingdom. They have been a problem since they joined over refusing to join the single currency. They were a problem over the Schengen Border Agreement and the European Union made over several years all sorts of concessions to former Prime Minister David Cameron --

[01:40:05] VAUSE: Yes.

THOMAS: -- precisely to ever avoid there being a referendum on Brexit.

VAUSE: You know, they've certainly gotten a lot of special treatment over the years and it still didn't stop that referendum from coming back with a leave vote.

The vacuum cleaner company Dyson, big supporter of the whole, you know, leave the E.U. Brexit, you know, especially during the early days, are now apparently packing up and leaving Britain.

A statement from the company says "An increasing majority of Dyson's the customers and all of our manufacturing operations are now in Asia." This came from the financial report. "This shift has been occurring for some time and will quicken as Dyson brings its electric vehicle to the market. The company said it would also double the size of its technology center in Singapore.

You know, a lot of people -- they say this has got nothing do with Brexit, but seriously a lot of -- this has not gone unnoticed and a lot of people made the comparison rats and a sinking ship.

THOMAS: Yes. Well, absolutely. And people are starting to escape from the unknown course. You know, the irony of this is that this whole Brexit process was as the lead story to this discussion we are having was all about Britain going off, you know, into the world and being able to be the kind of exciting place that, you know, Dyson is now talking about and seeing opportunities elsewhere

The reality of it all is that you cannot be global and engaged while at the same time lifting up the drawbridge and building a wall essentially around the United Kingdom. That's not the way that things work in this globalized and interconnected world.

And those dreams and aspirations and lies ultimately, you know, of the Brexiteers are really coming home now and I think as people are also scrutinizing these kinds of aspects -- the business, the circulation of goods and products and so on, this issue is not going to go away which is why tomorrow it will be interesting to see whether or not the parliament has an appetite for passing some kind of amendment that could potentially lead to a law being passed that would prevent a no deal.


THOMAS: And the pressure is certainly growing in that regard.

VAUSE: Yes. That's sort of the big sort of fact to hear. If they get that no deal Brexit through parliament that opens up a whole new rabbit hole that which we can go down.

THOMAS: There will be.


VAUSE: Exactly. We'll talk to you again after the vote on Tuesday. So thanks -- Dominic.

THOMAS: You bet. Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: The lowest temperatures in a generation are sweeping across the central United States and parts of the East Coast this week. Already frigid air will get a lot cold in coming days.

About 220 million people -- about three-quarters of the continental U.S. population could be exposed to record-shattering lows. And this means wind chill factors down to 51 degrees Celsius -- about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, that's below zero.

Weather experts are warning of possibly life-threatening weather. They say anyone who is 25 years or younger, hasn't actually experienced this extreme temperature in that region.

Let's go to Pedram Javaheri, our meteorologist, for more on this. And, boy, yes. I mean this is all part of climate change. We are expecting, you know, I guess this is going to become more common.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, absolutely. When you see the environment and the atmosphere of the jet stream once that shifts and of course, with extreme climate especially across the northern latitudes you see these patterns really take extreme trends as well which is exactly what is happening outside across the upper Midwestern United States.

And when you are talking 30, 40, 50 below zero just keep in mind at 35 below zero you can throw boiling water in the air, you see that vaporize instantly before it touches the ground. And then you can also see that anti-freeze begins to freeze over at such temperatures. So certainly a dangerous scenario here.

And that's why schools have been shut down across the northern tier of the United States of 35 below zero. About 10 minutes of exposure time to your skin outdoors causes permanent damage to your skin. Bring that down to as low as 45 below zero within five minutes and as John referenced there, over 50 or more below zero possible for a period of time. And of course, climatologically, this is the coldest time of the year. This is when you expect dips into the lowest readings of the year. But you take a look, the free falling temperatures have everything to do with the polar vortex yet again back in action.

It is a phenomenon that takes place every single winter. The cold air bottled up in the northern latitudes of our planet. It's cold there because there is no sunlight to be had this time of year across that region. And when you see the color contour very little variation from the northern latitudes out towards the Midwestern United States that's when you know you are allowing the jet stream to dip farther to the south and bring the polar air with it to the south as well.

But upwards of 80 plus million now underneath these wind chill warnings where we have temps as cold as 50 or so below zero and cold enough air to even bring some wintery weather into the southern U.S. as well John, over the next 24 or so hours.

VAUSE: Ok. Donald Trump -- the President of the United States, he's decided to tweet about the weather. This is what he said or wrote, "In the beautiful Midwest wind chill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In the coming days expected to get even colder. People can't last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with global warming? Please come back fast we need you."

Ok, explain -- because this is (INAUDIBLE) -- because people, oh it's cold outside, it's snowing. Well, where is the global warming? It's climate change that's caused by global warming.

JAVAHERI: Absolutely. You know, the different between weather and climate is pretty stark.

[01:44:59] We often talk about weather being kind of like your mood and climate being your personality. So it's essentially a day-to-day basis versus a long-term trend and that's exactly what is happening here.

And when you have extreme patterns whether it be extreme heat, extreme drought, extreme cold, all of this has do with variations in our jet stream and the upper atmosphere. And of course, when that happens you take a look and you broaden the scale here yes, it is extremely cold across portions of the United States. But the global perspective shows you much more orange to be had.

So just because it's cold where you are doesn't necessarily mean it's cold on a global scale. And in fact, even in the United States more than a two to one ratio favoring warmth to cold in this early stage of 2019 -- John.

So yes, you've got to look at it more than just a couple of days at a time to understand this.

VAUSE: Ok. So it's the global picture for the global warming. Ok.

JAVAHERI: Yes. VAUSE: Well, when we come back, tales of bribes and bloodshed for two

months -- a New York jury has heard the case against the accused Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo Guzman. Everything from diamonds- encrusted pistols to a fascination, to a naked escape through a sewage-filled tunnel. What could be next?

Also what was said to be a sad and lonely funeral for a U.S. War veteran with no family or friend, but then total strangers stepped in. That story is next.


VAUSE: Well, a final report from Nepalese authorities has found the pilot in the deadly Nepal plane crash last month was emotionally disturbed. The Bangladeshi-owned BS 211 burst into flames after crash landing in Kathmandu with 79 people on board. At least 49 people died.

Officials say the pilot was stressed. He felt a colleague was questioning his reputation as an instructor. The report notes he was involved in an unnecessary, unprofessional and lengthy conversation even in a critical phase of the flight.

Defense attorneys for reputed drug kingpin Joaquin El Chapo Guzman are preparing to present their case. The prosecution rested on Monday after a parade of 50 witness who painted a dark picture of the accused drug lord. El Chapo's lawyers tell CNN he has just one more witness and that's not Guzman.

Polo Sandoval has details.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the last two months, jurors have listened to tails of bribes and bloodshed, heard testimony about notorious Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin El Chapo Guzman and saw rare images of the drug lord with his diamond-encrusted pistol by his side.

Government witnesses testified how Guzman allegedly smuggled drugs through tunnels, cars, semi-submersibles, even inside cans of chili and fake bananas.

Details from his former associates now cooperating with the government included explosive testimony from fellow Sinaloa cartel member Alex Cifuentes who testified about his former boss' bribes allegedly paid to Mexican officials. Cifuentes claims Guzman once paid former Mexican president Enrique Pena-Nieto $100 million in October 2012 when he was president-elect.

[01:49:55] Pena-Nieto's former chief of staff called the allegations false, defamatory and absurd adding that it was Pena-Nieto's administration who located, arrested and extradited Guzman to the United States for trial.

El Chapo's former IT expert Christian Rodriguez whose photo shown here was obscured by prosecutors to hide his identity revealed how the cartel communicated through a system of encrypted phones. He used spyware to capture conversations with members of Guzman's the criminal organization.

Guzman is facing multiple counts including firearm and drug trafficking charges and faces life in prison. Though the list of charges does not include murder, testimony took a graphic turn when Isaias Valdez was called to the stand. The former security guard turned pilot recalled when Guzman was involved in the gruesome murders of three rivals.

Former Colombian cartel lord Juan Carlos La Chupeta Ramirez also called to court testifying he started working with El Chapo in the early 90s. Ramirez went on to work with Guzman for nearly 18 years and was eventually captured in 2007. He was so hotly pursued by authorities that he underwent several plastic surgeries to try to evade capture.

One constant fixture in the courtroom has been Guzman's wife of more than 10 years, former beauty queen Emma Coronel. Coronel helped her husband escape from a Mexican prison according to testimony that came from a former prison guard turned Chapo associate. She's not facing charges at this time and her lawyer had no comment about those allegations.

In their final move to convince jurors of Guzman's guilt, prosecutors showed images of the tunnel that provided his escape. A government expert described it as being just under a mile long, complete with a motorcycle track, said to have been used by El Chapo and an associate for the ride to freedom.

Polo Sandoval, CNN -- New York.


VAUSE: It was just a call for anyone really to turn up. A U.S. air Force veteran was about to be laid to rest in Texas and officials couldn't contact his relatives or friends. Four days later, thousands of strangers were there for a man they never knew.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has that story.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the only image we have of Joseph Walker. He served in the United States Air Force from 1964 to 1968 during the Vietnam War era. Walker died in November.

Not much else is known of his service. But what these people did know about Joseph Walker is that no family or friends were going to show up at his burial.

And the call went out across social media to make sure the 72-year old was honored. And perfect strangers showed up in force. COLONEL CHARLES DROULLARD, AIR SUPPORT OPERATING GROUP FORT HOOD:

It's just a testament to the bond that we share as having served. It just shows you how strong their bond is.

LAVANDERA: An Air Force honor guard escorted the flag-draped coffin to the veterans' cemetery in Coleen, Texas. The front row usually reserved for family members sat empty. But many surrounded the pavilion to pay their respects to a veteran they didn't know.

MARC GEORGE, CHRSITIAN MOTORCYCLISTS' ASSOCIATION: Lord let's not forget the sacrifices that have been made by this awesome veteran. I am so overwhelmed by this show of love and support for someone they have never met before.

LAVANDERA: With no family to receive the American flag, it was presented to Doug Gault with the Texas Veterans Land Board. He helped spread the word about Walker's service.

DOUGLAS GAULT, TEXAS VETERANS LAND BOARD: I was blown away of what I saw today. It just is a good feeling that came through my body. It's one of them that, you know -- wow, this is beautiful.

LAVANDERA: In the end, all that mattered was the uniform and the promise that no veteran will be left to pass away alone.



[01:55:07] VAUSE: It's still an open question just exactly what crimes if any Roger Stone has committed. The long-time associate of Donald Trump is the latest to be indicted in the Russia investigation. But the fashion police, well, they are on to him big time and it seems like it's an open and shut case.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Whether he is giving an interview or flashing the peace sign it's not just what Roger Stone is doing, it's what he's wearing while doing it that sticks. While Nancy Pelosi takes her sunglasses off to talk to the press, Stone puts them on.

ROGER STONE, LONG TIME TRUMP AID: I am going put these on because otherwise I'll squint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I don't blame you.

MOOS: But some blame him for wearing a top hat to President Trump's inauguration. Stone was compared to Villain Snidely Whiplash and Mr. Peanut. He considers himself a dapper dresser with his pocket squares and round glasses even on his legal defense fund page. But when he wears his beret, he tends to get berated. Makes me wonder why he wasn't arrested sooner for his incriminating fashion choices. STONE: Mano a mano.

MOOS: Stone's beret and leather jacket make you want to pull a Paul Manafort with his ostrich jacket and bury your head in the sand.

(on camera): But the most famous part of Roger Stone's look is what he wears under his clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Nixon tattoo is really all you need to know about Roger.

MOOS (voice over): The tattoo is featured in the documentary "Get Me Roger Stone". It's gotten Stone parodied by political cartoonists and lampooned by the Borowitz report.

In ominous development for Trump, Roger Stone gets Mueller tattoo. Stone is actually the men's fashion correspondent for a conservative Web site "The Daily Caller". His best dressed list for 2018 featured Melania and Trump Fox News favorite Jeanine Pirro. His worst dressed list included Beto O'Rourke, "dweeby, washed-out" Stone called him.

And he trashed Michael Cohen for his garish sports jackets, not that Stone would ever wear such a thing. Wonder what he was wearing when the FBI rather than the fashion police woke him up and said you are under arrest.

Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Nick Watt take over for me right after a break. You're watching CNN.