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Pro-Government and Anti-Government Protests Erupt in Venezuela; Rolling Power Outages Continue in Venezuela; Former Ambassador to Venezuela Charles Shapiro Interviewed about Trump Administration Policy towards Venezuela; Plane Diverted Due to Possible Internal Fire; Congressman Denny Heck (D) Washington Interviewed about Michael Cohen's Testimony before Congress; Potential Democratic Presidential Candidates to Attend South by Southwest Festival; Paul Manafort to Face Second Sentencing Trial; Former Owner of Day Spa in which Robert Kraft Arrested for Solicitation Spotted in Photos with President Trump and Trump Campaign Officials. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 9, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:14] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We are following breaking news out of Venezuela, where thousands of demonstrators are flooding the streets of the capital of Caracas. Some of the groups are out showing their support for embattled President Nicolas Maduro while thousands of others are protesting his regime and calling for Maduro to step down. Maduro fired off a warning ahead of the protests, telling the U.S. that any imperial aggression will be met with what he called a strong response.
Self-declared acting president Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition, promised in a tweet that his supporters won't be scared off by any threat. This all comes as the country slowly recovers from a massive power outage covering most of Venezuela.
Paula Newton is in Caracas. So Paula, you have been hearing reports that Venezuelans are seeing some pretty serious effects from that blackout. Describe conditions.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And it has been so tantalizing to have power for even a half-an-hour or an hour for some of these people, and yet what can still be described as a national blackout continues. Those blackouts are rolling, but the issue, Fred, is how it impacts people's lives.
Remember that the meagre food that someone had in their refrigerator by now will have spoiled. They are desperate for water, going wherever they can in order to even look for natural spring water somewhere, medicine. If you have anyone in the house who has even had a fall, we saw a little girl about two years old yesterday that had a fall. The mother took her to emergency and did not know if she could get care. These are the kinds of issues that everyday Venezuelans are dealing with, Fred, as they continue to protest here on the streets. I was at the pro-Maduro rally, I was at the opposition rally. At the
pro-Maduro rally, you're absolutely right. We were hearing chants of "Yankee go home," and "Hands off Venezuela." Again, President Maduro being quite tough in saying we will in fact react to every utterance by the so-called imperialist forces to get their hands on what he calls Venezuela's natural resources.
I was at the opposition rally, Fred, and that is incredibly different. I can tell you, there were tens of thousands of people on the streets of Caracas right now. They are all being confronted by the National Guard. The National Guard is keeping them from getting to that one place where Juan Guaido, the opposition leader, is supposed to give a speech. There have been some sporadic issues with confrontations with the National Guard. But what I witnessed was both the opposition leaders, the protesters, and the National Guard trying to come to some understanding.
Suffice it to say, Fred, that these are incredibly tense times not just within the city but throughout the country. And each side knowing that whether it's the blackout or whether those political slogans, they need to find momentum so that they can keep their movement. And for President Maduro, he wants to stay in power so they can feel that the momentum is on their side.
I have to tell you, though, Fred, it's not just tense. People are absolutely exhausted, especially when they have no idea how they are going to drink clean water or get food even within the next 12 hours. Fred?
WHITFIELD: Paula Newton, thank you so much. Extraordinary conditions there.
Let's talk further about this. With me right now is Charles Shapiro. He was the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela under President George W. Bush. So how dire do you see the situation here. Paula says people are exhausted. They are exasperated. There isn't enough food, et cetera. How bad is it? And at what point does that trickle into Maduro's military family?
CHARLES SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO VENEZUELA UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: That's the key question. So, it's dire. It's getting worse. Oil production is falling rapidly. The money coming in the government is decreasing rapidly. One thing I disagree with you with, more countries recognize Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela than Maduro as the president of Venezuela.
WHITFIELD: So Maduro is feeling very threatened then. When he says to the U.S., when he says your imperial aggression will lead to his strong response, what is he saying?
SHAPIRO: That's what he's got to say to his own supporters because there's little that he can do. He's got to hold on. He's got nowhere to go. He's got to keep the military behind him. And the pressure is increasing.
WHITFIELD: So he doesn't feel he has the upper hand? SHAPIRO: I don't think so.
WHITFIELD: But he's behind the power outages, likely? Right?
SHAPIRO: I don't know that anybody knows that. Look, their system fails every year at this time.
SHAPIRO: They haven't invested in it to keep it working. What is extraordinary this time is how widespread it is. Almost the entire country is blacked out. So you see the reports of people dying in hospitals because the dialysis machines don't work. Doing operations with the flashlights from cellphones.
WHITFIELD: Right. And those people are then going to blame Maduro.
SHAPIRO: Maduro, oh, you bet.
[14:05:01] WHITFIELD: And so when you talk about Maduro has power thus far because the military is backing him, but as soon as that support dwindles, or is compromised, is that when he loses grip and Guaido gains power? Because he --
SHAPIRO: The top level of the military is very loyal to him. You see the National Guard troops out on the street. They are a militarized national police force. The military, military, so far as I know, is really not out repressing people. It's the National Guard. I think they are hesitant to do that. There, the junior officers, the enlisted people, their families are suffering the same effects that everybody else in Venezuela is suffering from. So how long are they going to stay loyal?
WHITFIELD: So what should the U.S. role be here?
SHAPIRO: Well, first of all, we done a very good job, so far, of keeping the international community supporting Guaido, putting pressure on Maduro. I don't know if you saw him this week, Maduro threw out the German ambassador. Huge mistake for him to do that. So we have done very good with that. Some of our language is over the top because it makes it sound like we're going to do stuff that I don't think we're really going to.
WHITFIELD: Such as potential use of military, U.S. military in some way of intervening. You think that is bluster, that's not a possibility?
SHAPIRO: I think that -- I don't want to say it's not a possibility, because obviously it is a possibility. And the president is right to keep it on the table. But unless it is very dire circumstances, the military is shooting people in the streets, I think it's very unlikely the U.S. military will intervene.
WHITFIELD: So both China and Russia have been backing the Maduro regime, blocking attempts to sanction Venezuela any further, particularly at the United Nations. So what do they have to gain from this kind of chaos in the regime?
SHAPIRO: They have very little to gain. The Soviet Union -- or Russia, has something to gain, and that is everything that is good for Maduro is bad for the U.S., so they want to keep them on there because they love seeing us stumble. For China, they have been the major supplier both of loans to Venezuela, and also they're buying Venezuelan oil. China imports almost all of its oil. So for them this has been very useful.
But to have an unstable government doesn't work in China's benefit, and the Chinese want to be repaid. You have to keep that in mind. The Chinese are not in Venezuela for charitable purposes. They are making loans, they want to get those loans repaid. And I think the Venezuelans still owe them $40 billion.
WHITFIELD: Wow. How long do you see this instability, if you want to call it that, is this a matter of weeks or months?
SHAPIRO: I'd bet on months rather than weeks. The economic pressure is tough. There's no direct line between economic pressure and the result that you want to see happen. Remember in South Africa how long we had sanctions on South Africa before the Apartheid government said we need to change our policy? So this could go on for a while. But what's happening is their economy is collapsing. Oil production is down to the level it was in 1947, before even I was born.
WHITFIELD: Wow, that's incredible. Ambassador Shapiro, good to see you.
SHAPIRO: Thank you. Pleasure.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, appreciate it.
And this just in to CNN, we are now hearing the emergency call made to air traffic control as a passenger flight is forced to divert to Newark's airport, and that was just earlier today. That diversion shut down all runways at the airport for about an hour. And as you will hear the pilots fear there may be some sort of fire on board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transat 942, I know you're busy but I'm being asked if you have a confirmed fire or a warning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had an aft fire warning. We have done our checklist to put the fire out, and we still have an aft fire warning even with our discharge on. So we are uncertain as to whether we just have a warning or an actual fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And yes, we'll need the truck full stop, and if the can inspect as quickly as possible, we're not sure if we need to evacuate or not. We'll go on there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone will be there waiting, sir. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So once the plane landed, all 189 passengers evacuated using emergency slides. CNN's Polo Sandoval has been following this story for us. So Polo, take us through all of these steps.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You look at the video there, Fred, and it's clear that there it was a very busy morning on Newark's tarmac there. important to point out that though the initial concern was about a possible fire in the cargo hold of that Boeing 737, it is still unclear whether or not there was any actual a threat to this flight that was headed to Florida from Montreal.
What is very clear, though, is that that crew of flight 942 wasted no time in declaring that emergency and actually putting that plane safely on the ground in Newark to allow for the evacuation of those 189 people.
[14:10:04] As you hear more of that chatter between air traffic controllers and the pilots, it's pretty remarkable how cool and calm they are as they try to lead those passengers to safety. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North tower Transat 942 mayday, mayday, mayday, political cargo fire final.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transat 942 north tower equipment and personnel standing by. You're clear to land. Triple-seven just departed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check for turbulence, check the equipment, and we're clear to land, Transat 942.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transat 942, just hold right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're stopped. We're going to stay on the runway, Transat 942.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transat 942, do you plan to evacuate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to see what they have to say to us, Red 1 has to say. Do you see smoke coming out the back?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transat 942, no smoke appears in the plane. Transat 942, shut the aircraft down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: And we know now, several hours after this whole episode, that at one point the decision was made to evacuate, to use those emergency slides to be able to get those people to potential safety here after this concern. As for those passengers, Transat saying in a statement that they are
sending another plane to Newark to try to get those passengers to their their ultimate destination. Transat a very popular airline, particularly in Canada, based out of Montreal. A very popular, leisure airline. Fred?
WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, thank you very much.
Still ahead, Michael Cohen testifies that he never asked President Trump for a pardon, but the president says otherwise. So who is telling the truth? And what could it mean for the president's former lawyer?
And later, the race for the White House heads through Texas. several candidates are at the South by Southwest Festival. Could Beto O'Rourke be next to jump into the race? More coming up.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump is slamming his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, after two weeks of bombshell testimony on Capitol Hill. The president claiming Cohen lied under oath, yet again, this time calling into question whether Cohen had asked for a pardon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't even discuss it. The only one discussing it is you. I haven't discussed it. I know that in watching and seeing you folks at night that Michael Cohen lied about the pardon. It's a stone-cold lie. And he's lied about a lot of things, but when he lied about the pardon, that was really a lie. And he knew all about pardons. His lawyers said that they went to my lawyers and asked for pardons. And I can go a step above that, but I won't go to it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Congressman Denny Heck joining me now. He is a Democrat from Washington state and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for being with us. So the president contradicting sworn testimony from Michael Cohen. Is your committee prepared to further investigate these claims?
REP. DENNY HECK, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Fred, first let me start by saying, I don't think the president is so much upset that Michael Cohen is lying about him. He's upset that Michael Cohen is no longer lying for him. And lying for him is precisely why Mr. Cohen is going to jail.
So just look at the body of evidence here -- 199 criminal charges, 37 criminal indictments and plea deals, and now five prison sentences meted out to the people closest to the president. Independent sources have validated that the president has lied, what, 9,000 times, some astronomic number since taking office. So I trust that the American people will weigh all the evidence and come to the obvious conclusion about this.
WHITFIELD: So just as you said, Michael Cohen admits to lying for the president when he was working for the president, but then wanted to come back and clean it up and tell more about his experience. Did you get the answers that you were looking for? Did Michael Cohen's testimony offer some real clarity for you?
HECK: Well, I would say, in all honesty, we learned just about as much in two full days of interviewing Mr. Cohen as we did in the previous two years of the investigation by the Republicans. He was fully cooperative. Of course, we are not going to take everything he says at face value without corroborating it. And in fact the entire transcript of our interview with him is going to be made available to the public in the not too distant future, and we can leave it to your all judgment as to where the weight of evidence actually lies.
WHITFIELD: So this week, Democrats also requested documents from 81 individuals, groups, and organizations tied to President Trump's campaign, his businesses, and transition into the White House. So, what do you say to people who believe this is a fishing expedition? There are some camps who say you are being overzealous and carrying out your duties of oversight, and then there are others who are saying this is overkill.
HECK: So, I guess I would refer back to what I said earlier, Fred. If this is a fishing expedition, every time we drop our hook into the water, we catch a fish. Again, 199 criminal charges, 37 indictments, and five prison terms. Every time a door is opened, there is evidence of additional problematic behavior. Just this last week, of course, as an example, the New York state insurance regulators have begun looking into insurance fraud on the part of Mr. Trump as a consequence of some of the information that has been brought forth. So I think it's completely a mischaracterization to describe it as a fishing expedition because it has born so much fruit.
WHITFIELD: The president has essentially said going into his finances really does draw the line for him. Among the investigations members of Congress are looking into now, Democrats in particular want to know about bank dealings, specifically with Deutsche Bank giving the president loans when none of the other financial institutions would do so. Deutsche Bank has been accused of Russian money laundering. What kinds of documents, if any, has your committee looked into?
[14:20:12] HECK: So thank you for reminding viewers that, in fact, Deutsche Bank was willing to enter into lending arrangements when seemingly no other domestic American bank would touch him. And really what we are trying to get at is the why to that. From an intelligence committee standpoint why this is important is to understand if there is any history or pattern of financial entanglement with others that would compromise the president or the candidate for president. And I --
WHITFIELD: Because I remember at first there was a "New York Times" story about that, at first Deutsche Bank wouldn't. But then it ended up doing so. Are you satisfied with the why? HECK: No, I don't think we are at to the why. So an obvious question
in this regard, just to give you an understanding about what it is we would be interested, and I use it only as an example, if nobody else would touch him, if everybody else's loan underwriting practices suggested that this guy who has filed so many bankruptcies, failed to pay so many of his contractors and subcontractors, if Deutsche Bank would then lends him money, is somebody else guaranteeing that loan? If so, who? These are the kinds of questions that we need to get at, and the documents will help us do that.
And Fred, by the way, I also have the honor to serve on the Financial Services Committee, which is also taking part under the chairmanship of Maxine Waters. So both the Financial Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee see this as a legitimate and important line of inquiry.
WHITFIELD: And all of the work, thus far, with the various committees and inquiries have really upstaged the ongoing Mueller investigation. That is still one of great importance. What are your thoughts or even concerns about what point the special counsel will be wrapping things up, what could be gleaned from it, what will either compliment or even conflict with these ongoing investigations in Congress?
HECK: So I have a great deal of confidence in Director Mueller. I have been expressing that for the better part of two years now. He is a professional of the highest standards. So I do have a lot of confidence.
I would caution people that he may not yield a work produce that is a singular long running narrative report, along the lines that Ken Starr did back in the '90s. It may be a series of reports. It may just be that he files these indictments and sends a brief memo to the attorney general. We don't know what he is going to provide.
We do have an obligation, of course, under Article One under the constitution for Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities and to make sure that we are pursuing certain lines of inquiries if there's any reason to believe that Director Mueller may not have considered that appropriate to what it was that he was doing.
WHITFIELD: But, of course, the attorney general could either provide a lot of the findings or can prevent your eyes or anyone else's eyes from ever seeing anything. What are your concerns there?
HECK: The truth will out, Fred. I honestly have no doubt whatsoever that sooner or later we are going to learn this. And we have a variety of ways to do that. We can subpoena the document. We can subpoena Director Mueller. And that's to say nothing of the number of people that will be associated with this who understand that the American public wants to know the truth behind this. This investigation has gone on about a year and a half. It's been comprehensive, it's been thorough, as is evidenced by the number of criminal charges and indictments. And the American people want to know, will demand to know, and deserve to know the fruit of his research and efforts.
WHITFIELD: Congressman Denny Heck, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much.
HECK: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Coming up, the campaign trail runs through South by Southwest. And several presidential hopefuls are on the trail in Texas. But will their appearances at the festival help them attract younger voters?
[14:28:35] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Today, a slew of Democratic presidential hopefuls are hitting the campaign trail across the country. Senator Kamala Harris in South Carolina, Senator Bernie Sanders in Iowa, and multiple candidate have descended on Texas for the annual South by Southwest festival.
One Democrat who is there but has yet to announce his 2020 ambitions, former congressman Beto O'Rourke. He has said he has made his decision on a White House run, but is holding that decision close to his vest for now.
With me is Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Republican strategist Alice Stewart. Good to see both of you. So Hilary, you first. Would this stage in his home state of Texas be the perfect setting in which to make it official? Is he in or is he out?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It might be. He has a movie, he let people follow him to make a documentary during his Senate campaign. And that movie is showing no less than three times here. There are already lines around the block. I just walked past the theater. I think there's a big crowd for Beto here. Howard Schultz did a talk this morning, and it didn't go very well. He got some scattered boos from the audience. I just came from an Amy Klobuchar event where she got some good applause. She actually, I think, acquitted herself well on some of the tough issues she is facing.
[14:30:00] This is kind of an elite audience, in a way. It is a young audience, but they're influencers in tech, in media, in film and music. And the things that get the biggest applause lines are really when people talk about beating Donald Trump.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. So, Alice, among the influencers we were on the campaign trail, we're also talking about a couple hopeful, Democratic hopefuls who are under the age of 40. And they might be very attractive, particularly to the very important young voter base. So how will Republicans counter that potential advantage on the left of those who are rather young?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think focusing your message to the young people is critical, certainly for Democrats. They have a large newly elected young generation here in Washington, D.C. But what's just as important as who you are messaging to, it is your message. And across the age spectrum, people want to make sure the economy is strong, that we are a safe and secure country, and that the policies that the person you represent are executing them. And Hilary is right in the heart of where, I think, is a perfect place
for Democratic candidates to be. As she said, this is left leaning millennials. It's a great opportunity for them there to road test their message and engage millennials. And also fundraising. So it's exciting to see Democrats there at this event, catering to the young people. But at the end of the day, it's not just what you are saying, who you are saying it to, but it's exactly the message that you want to convey and how it resonates.
But I would strongly encourage Democrats not just to focus on who is going to be the best candidate for them in the primary, but they need to find someone that is going to be able to go head-to-head with Donald Trump.
WHITFIELD: Right, so that under 40, we're talking about Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Swalwell, 39. So Hilary, Democrats had a rather challenging week, particularly in light of Congressman Ilhan Omar's controversial comments about Israel. Listen to what Senator Amy Klobuchar said about it last hour. You mentioned she got a lot of applause, but then, on this particular topic, this is how she addressed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D-MN) PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: I did not agree with what the representative said there because I believe you can be true to your country and advocate for another country. Whether it is Israel or Canada or Ethiopia, there are many Americans that feel strongly that they love their own country, but they advocate for, maybe it's a country of their own ancestry or maybe it is another country that they care a lot about. So I didn't like what she said there.
But what I do believe is that the president has ignited, in his own way, a string of things against other people. It is everything from anti-Semitism on the rise to anti-Muslim rhetoric on the rise. And I try to go back home and look at how we have handled some of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And Hilary, interesting on a few fronts. Klobuchar and Omar both Minnesotans. At the same time, we saw some candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris come to Omar's defense this week. But Klobuchar taking a rather different approach.
ROSEN: No, no, no. She didn't, though.
WHITFIELD: You don't see it that way.
ROSEN: If you kept going, and I was in the room, she actually talked about how Ilhan Omar is a Somali refugee. She has a different perspective, it's an important perspective, and we need to listen to it. She did say she just disagreed about loyalties, but she in no way suggested that she needed to be rebuked or that she was piling on. I think that's a misimpression. Listen, there are -- there's a new, diverse caucus in Washington, but
there's also a new, diverse Democratic primary field of voters out here. And I think that all of these candidates are looking around saying, you know what, those standard things that we used to say aren't the conventional wisdom anymore. We are not going to be kneejerk supportive of Israel. We are not just going to be kneejerk focused on the middle class. We are going to talk about the poor. We are not going to be kneejerk about violent crime. We want to think about sentencing reform. So there are a lot of pitfalls right now for Democrats in this primary season with the diversity of the voters.
WHITFIELD: And so Alice, how do you see these candidates handling candor?
STEWART: I think this, condemning Congresswoman Omar's comments took too long. But at the end of the day, it's a sad time in Washington when we have to legislate decency and kind words to other people.
[14:35:00] I agree that she needs to be held accountable. I think she should be taken off of her committee assignments with regard to showing some kind of consequences for this kind of anti-Semitic behavior. Israel is one of our greatest allies. And if the people of Israel and the Jewish people were offended by that, then there needs to be consequences for that.
I think you can strongly disagree with certain Israeli policies, but if you are making statements that are anti-Semitic and hurtful to people, there certainly needs to be consequences for this. One thing --
WHITFIELD: Where --
ROSEN: I'm Jewish, and I wasn't insulted. I don't think that's a uniform view.
WHITFIELD: Where has that consensus been when there has been some criticism and observations of the president who has used inflammatory language?
STEWART: I've condemned his statements many times. I think a lot of what he says is not helpful. It is mean-spirited. But that is the president that ran for office and people elected him and voted for him anyway. And we had a congressman who was facing some allegations for making some unkind statements. Republicans stepped forward and took him off of his committee assignment. So Republicans have shown there are consequences for mean-spirited language and rhetoric, and the Democrats should certainly do the same thing with Congresswoman Omar.
ROSEN: My friend Alice has been consistently condemning hateful word words out of Donald Trump's mouth for years, so I appreciate her for that. This isn't about her.
But this congressman, she referenced Steve King, had 15 years of racist remarks. This is a young Democratic freshman who made a mistake and apologized. Let's be realistic. She is in no way a threat to American policy toward Israel.
What I think we need to do in this campaign and in this country is focus on who do we want to be and how do we want to convey it? But this kind of -- we have to challenge conventional wisdom. We cannot be lockstep for a government of Israel that oppresses its people. And I'm Jewish. We cannot be inconsistent in applying civil rights laws.
So I do think that Democratic voters are going to look at this field of candidates. They are looking at the leadership and saying, yes, we actually want you guys to challenge the status quo. That's why we elected you is because we don't like the way things have been going. We want fresh thinking.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much, Hilary Rosen, Alice Stewart, always good to see you ladies. Thank you.
STEWART: Thanks, Fred.
WHITFIELD: And don't miss tomorrow night's back-to-back-to-back, three presidential town halls live from South by Southwest. Former Congressman John Delaney, 7:00, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, 8:00, and then Mayor Pete Buttigieg is 9:00. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderate tomorrow night starting at 7:00 eastern right here on CNN.
[14:42:08] WHITFIELD: Paul Manafort's time in jail could be extended significantly in the next week. On Thursday a judge sentenced Manafort to nearly four years in prison, far less than the recommended federal guidelines of 19 to 24 years. But in just a few days, he goes to another federal court for sentencing on additional crimes. Here is CNN's Sara Murray.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Critics say Paul Manafort got off easy. But next week, he'll comes face-to-face with another judge who may take a harsher view of Manafort's crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm surprised at the sentence.
MURRAY: Judge Amy Berman Jackson is set to sentence Manafort for conspiracy and witness tampering, crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. In deciding whether to impose that maximum sentence, Jackson could also weigh the fact that Manafort continued to commit crimes even after he was arrested, and later lied to investigators when he was supposed to be cooperating. A federal judge in Virginia Thursday sentenced Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, to nearly four years in prison, far less than the recommended sentence of 19 to 25 years.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: This sentence, in my view, failed to do justice to the very serious crimes that Manafort has committed, as well as his utter disrespect for the law.
MURRAY: The comments Manafort's lawyer made after his client's sentencing only further inflamed Democrats.
KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY TO PAUL MANAFORT: There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia.
MURRAY: Adam Schiff, the Democrat chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, fired back via Twitter, saying "The statement by Paul Manafort's lawyer after an already lenient sentence -- repeating the president's mantra was no collusion -- was no accident. It was a deliberate appeal for a pardon."
In deciding Manafort's sentence, Judge T.S. Ellis called the recommendations excessive and claimed that Manafort lived an otherwise blameless life. But his resume shows a complicated picture. Manafort spent a lifetime enriching himself with lobbying work for dictators and regimes with abysmal human rights records, like former Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos, whose image Manafort tried to bolster in Washington after decades of his brutal rule.
When he was light on cash, Manafort turned to a Russian oligarch for millions of dollars that Manafort never appeared to repay according to witness testimony at his trial. Later, he built ties with Ukrainian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin, and stashed the millions he earned from them in foreign bank accounts. As part of his illegal lobbying work, Manafort even pushed news stories in 2012 designed to paint President Obama's administration as anti-Semitic, according to court documents.
For their part, prosecutors reached back nearly a decade to document Manafort's history of tax fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts, and defrauding banks, leading to his eight convictions in Virginia.
[14:45:00] Even though the maximum that Paul Manafort could face when he's sentenced in D.C. is 10 years, it will be more difficult for Manafort and his legal team to make the argument that the judge should not give him this maximum sentence. And that's because, unlike Virginia, he actually pleaded guilty to the charges he was facing in D.C. And as part of that plea agreement, he acknowledged a number of other crimes he was never even charged with. He even signed a document that of course prosecutors have, saying he deserved 17 to 22 years in prison.
Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, a picture of President Trump smiling with this woman at Mar-a-Lago on Super Bowl Sunday. It's raising a few eyebrows now. The woman is the former owner of the Florida spa where New England Patriot's owner Robert Kraft was caught allegedly soliciting sex.
[14:50:15] WHITFIELD: A picture of President Trump smiling with this woman at Mar-a-Lago on Super Bowl Sunday is raising a few eyebrows. The woman is the former owner of the Florida spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was caught allegedly soliciting sex. This is new reporting from "The Miami Herald" now. CNN's Jason Carroll follows up.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Her name is Li Yang. She goes by Cindy. She has been spotted with the who's who of the GOP, including the president's sons at Mar-a-Lago, Kellyanne Conway at the inauguration, and Sarah Palin. But it is this selfie Yang took with Trump at a Super Bowl watch party that's raising eyebrows. Yang is the former owner of Orchids of Asia day spa, the massage parlor where Florida authorities say they caught New England Patriots owner and Trump friend Robert Kraft on camera paying for oral sex.
CHIEF DANIEL KERR, JUPITER, FLORIDA POLICE: He is being charged with the same offenses as the others, and that is soliciting another to commit prostitution.
CARROLL: Kraft denies any wrongdoing. According to "The Miami Herald," Yang no longer owns Orchids of Asia. The publication reporting, she sold it back in 2013. CNN repeatedly tried but was unable to reach Yang for comment. She did speak with "The Miami Herald."
NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "MIAMI HERALD": But she didn't answer the question of whether she knew that there was sex happening. She simply told us that she's no longer in the spa business, she doesn't know President Trump, and she's planning to move to Washington, D.C.
CARROLL: It should be noted, Yang was not charged in the anti-human trafficking bust that led to misdemeanor charges against Kraft and the closing of several spas in South Florida. The White House declined to comment on Yang, but President Trump did speak about the charges against Kraft.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He's proclaimed his innocence totally, but I'm very surprised to see it.
[10:30:00] CARROLL: As for Yang, she donated upwards of $35,000 to the Trump campaign according to FEC filings. She's a self-made entrepreneur who, according to "The Miami Herald," showed little political interest before the 2016 election, and that she had not voted in 10 years prior.
Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
WHITFIELD: Much more straight ahead in the newsroom. But first, here is this weeks' Turning Points.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Megan Harmon is a natural on the slopes.
MEGAN HARMON, ADAPTIVE SNOWBOARDER: I feel this huge sense of freedom when I'm on snow.
GUPTA: But it took a life-changing accident to get her. In 2009 surgeon's amputated Harmon's left leg after a motorcycle accident.
HARMON: I became an above knee amputee and I went through a pretty bad depression for about a year and a half.
GUPTA: But when her father learned about an adaptive sports program at the National Ability Center in Utah, Megan began to see a new future for herself.
HARMON: I had always wanted to try snowboarding. I was like, this is awesome. I want to do this.
GUPTA: Once on the snowboard, Megan carved a niche for herself. She represented the United States in the 2014 Paralympic games in Sochi, and now competes around the world.
HARMON: Ten, 15 years ago, if you told me I was going to be at the Paralympics, I don't think I would have ever expected my life to turn out this way.
GUPTA: When she's not shredding the slopes, Megan puts her love of speed to work at her job working on rockets.
HARMON: I guess you could say I'm a rocket scientist. I love a challenge physically and mentally. Those aspects really go hand-in- hand.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
[14:58:15] WHITFIELD: Right now, nearly 15 million people are in the path of severe weather. That includes possible tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking the storms for us. Allison?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right. And we actually just got a brand-new tornado watch to tell you about just in the last few minutes here. It's an addition onto a tornado watch that was already valid. Places like Memphis and portions of northern Mississippi, they have now added southern Mississippi, areas that would also include like, Jackson, for example, into the mix.
And the reason for that is you have a lot of these showers and thunderstorms that are really starting to fire up along that portion of the Mississippi. You can see this line right here, just to the north of Jackson, north and east there, that line that's beginning to fire up. That line is firing up because this is the area where we have had a lot more sunshine than some of the other areas say in Tennessee or Kentucky. That heating of the day, it's helping to fire up a lot of these powerful thunderstorms.
You have numerous severe thunderstorm warnings along the back edge of the line as it continues to progress east. In addition to that, look at the tremendous amount of lightning with this particular storm. And the lightning goes as far north as Illinois and Indiana, stretching all the way back towards Texas. We've even had reports of a house fire because of a lightning strike with some of these storms as they continue to push east.
Now, the main threats going forward are going to continue to be the lightning, the potential for tornadoes, damaging winds, and very large hail, not out of the question to get some hail with these storms perhaps up around tennis ball size. So again, that is going to be the threat going forward, Fred. You can see it will continue through the afternoon as well as the evening hours. So before you go to bed tonight, please make sure you have a way to get those emergency alerts.
WHITFIELD: Yes, folks need to stay alert and stay informed. Thank you so much, Allison Chinchar, appreciate that.
And thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you back here tomorrow. We have so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom with Ana Cabrera, and it all starts right now.