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United States Charges Assange With Computer Hacking Conspiracy; Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested in London; Sudan's President al- Bashir Forced Out in Military Coup. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 11, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, a dramatic moment seven years in the making,

Julian Assange is arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy. He's appeared in court already. We'll have the latest.

Also, tonight. A dictator toppled after three decades of rule. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been arrested and forced from power in a

military coup. And it is the never-ending story that is not ending, but Theresa May is defending her decision to agree to a Brexit delay until the

end of October.

We begin tonight with a dramatic arrest here in London, extraordinary scenes earlier. Julian Assange's 7-year stay at the Ecuadorian embassy

came to an abrupt end and a startling end. The WikiLeaks founder was arrested and forcibly removed from the building by British police. It

comes after Ecuador's government withdrew his asylum.

Clarissa Ward is live for us tonight with the very latest for us tonight. She's outside the Ecuadorian embassy with more. Clarissa how did this come

about today?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, this was an extraordinary scene, I'm sure you're playing it to our viewers now,

seven years that he spent in this embassy behind me, to see him finally emerging, looking extremely disheveled, apparently trying to shout

something, carrying a copy of a Gore Vidal book, the "History Of The National Security State."

Apparently contributing to the theatrics of this whole sight. Essentially what happened, the Ecuadorians got fed up, according to several Ecuadorian

ministers, his behavior had become aggressive toward other members of staff, he was keeping people awake at all hours of the night. He was

discourteous, paranoid. There was one minister who said he went so far as to smear the walls with feces. Clearly painting a picture of a man who

wasp, essentially beginning to lose his mind.

The Ecuadorians were telling the story, they were afraid for his mental health. After seven long years they agreed to open the doors and let the

metropolitan police come in and arrest him.

GORANI: The U.S. Justice Department called this one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history. His lawyer by the

way, spoke outside court today this is what she said, listen.


JENNIFER ROBINSON, JULIAN ASSANGE'S LAWYER: I've just been with Mr. Assange in the police cells, he wants to thank all of his supporters for

their ongoing support. And he said, I told you so.


GORANI: What are his legal options now? Because he's already made a court appearance, and there's an extradition hearing.

WARD: That's right, he made the court appearance, he was calm, confident, he entered a not guilty plea. It was interesting to see that the judge

breaking with traditional protocol was quite frank about his opinion on this matter, he described Assange as a narcissist who cannot go beyond his

selfish interest. The judge said a May 2nd date for the extradition hearing, that on the charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

The U.S. has 65 days to lay out their case in full as to why the U.K. should extradite Mr. Assange.

You talk about what Julian Assange's lawyers said, also present at that press conference was the co-editor of WikiLeaks, he said this isn't about

conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, it's about conspiracy to commit journalism. WikiLeaks and Julian Assange reporters keen to show this as

freedom of press, he was trying to disseminate information that should be in the public doe mate. The reality is much more complex than that, it

would be interesting to see how this U.K. judge proceeds.

GORANI: It sure will, I'll be speaking to one of his friends, Vaughn Smith, who visited with him only last Friday, about the state of mind, he

said some of the things he's been hearing about his behavior, he doesn't believe. We'll have that interesting interview a little later this hour,

Clarissa Ward.

[14:05:05] The U.S. is accusing Assange of working with former intelligence analysts Chelsea Manning to hack into computer systems. Let's get more on

those charges. Kara, it wouldn't just be that, the State Department is saying there is the possibility that other charges will be brought forward.

Let's talk about the one that they are including in this indictment. Tell us about what the implications are, and whether or not the U.S. government

has evidence here?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Hala, these charges that were announced today were actually filed under seal last March. So under

seal for more than a year, charging Assange with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. That relates specifically to this relationship

with Chelsea Manning. Now, according to these charges, the big question looming in the U.S. for years has been, would the U.S. government charge

Assange with publishing the contents that he received as a result of this hack.

And the charges today are not doing that they are not making this a first amendment issue. Which is the thing you had heard and you just played of

Assange's lawyer playing that framing it as a first amendment issue. The charges that were announced today by the government are much more narrow,

they're saying this wasn't charging him for publishing it, but they're saying that Assange was actually involved with the crime saying that

Assange had helped Chelsea Manning crack the pass code so they were able to enter a classified U.S. government computer, so that is the distinction

here from the bigger picture that everyone has been noodling over, would Assange be charged?

This is something the Obama administration had grappled with, sources tell us this decision making began to change, when they uncovered these

communications, only somewhat recently, between Assange and manning, that showed he had a more active role in this, he wasn't just the recipient of

the hacked information, but was actually involved in it, Hala.

GORANI: Is that why it took seven years? Or was there some sort of renewed appetite here under the Trump administration versus when Obama was

President? Why did it take seven years?

SCANNELL: Our sources tell us, under the Obama administration, this was an issue that they had just saw as really -- perhaps a first amendment fight.

You could have this issue of any journalist who published classified information whether it was CNN or The New York Times that they could be

charged and that would set a precedent. Sources tell us both current and former law enforcement officials that the matrix changed when they

uncovered this evidence that showed Assange was an active participant. And that really changed the dynamic here. And that is what led to these


Officials tell us it is likely they will add to the charges, and that's going to be the real interesting question here. Did they add charges

related to this manning related hack and what charges are those? Or did it expand into different areas. Such as related to the 2016 U.S. election?

GORANI: Interesting. Thanks very much for that live report. By the way, Julian Assange when he was dragged out, shouted this is unlawful, I'm not

leaving, and he was carrying a copy of Gore Vidal's "History of The National Security State."

Let's talk about the U.S. legal implications here for Julian Assange. Today the U.S. charged him with helping former army intelligence specialist

Chelsea Manning access Defense Department computers in 2010. As we were discussing here, more charges are expected. In the U.K. he's been found

guilty of breaking his bail conditions after his arrest. At the Ecuadorian embassy, Mr. Assange entered the embassy in 2012 after a judge said he

should be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations. The extradition request was dropped.

The lawyer representing the alleged victim is saying that the case could be revived and said that if indeed the prosecutors decided to reopen it, the

statute of limitations extends to August 2020, which gives them time to do that. In 2010, Julian Assange was asked about those very sexual assault

allegations. He wasn't happy with the line of questioning. Here's how he reacted.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You describe yourself as a lightning rod. One aspect of that has been the legal situation for yourself and

Sweden, you're now facing charges.

JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: I don't want to talk about that --

SHUBERT: It does affect wiki leaks?

ASSANGE: Yes, but this interview is about something else. I will have to walk if --

SHUBERT: Do you still --

ASSANGE: I'm not going to -- I will terminate this interview with questions about my personal life.

[14:10:00] SHUBERT: You said it was a dirty tricks campaign.

ASSANGE: I am going to walk if you are going to --

SHUBERT: You don't want to address whether or not you feel this is an attack on WikiLeaks?

ASSANGE: It's completely disgusting.

SHUBERT: I'm asking whether or not you feel --

ASSANGE: I'm going to walk if you're going to contaminate us revealing the deaths of 104,000 people, with attacks against my person.

SHUBERT: I'm not. I'm asking if you feel this attack on WikiLeaks. Julian, I'm happy to go on to the next question. All I'm asking is --

ASSANGE: You blew it.

SHUBERT: In what sense? I have to ask that question, Julian.


GORANI: There you have it, this was in 2010, before he entered the Ecuadorian embassy, of course, you'll remember that Donald Trump, his

appreciation for WikiLeaks, especially in 2016 during the campaign was quite different from what we heard from the U.S. President today. When

asked whether he still loved WikiLeaks, this is what Donald Trump replied today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still love WikiLeaks?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know nothing about WikiLeaks, it's not my thing. I know there's something having to do with

Julian Assange. I've seen what's happened with Assange, that will be a determination, I would imagine mostly by the Attorney General, who's doing

an excellent job, he'll be making a determination. I know nothing about him. It's not my deal in life.


GORANI: That's not what he said over the last several years, especially in 2016. Listen.


TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You got to read it. Amazing what's coming out on WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is

fascinating. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove. Getting off the plane they were just announcing new -- WikiLeaks wanted to stay there, but

I didn't want to keep you waiting. I love reading those WikiLeaks.


GORANI: Today I know nothing about WikiLeaks. Renato Mariotti is A CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. He joins me now live from

Chicago. Renato let's talk about what's included in this indictment, the allegation that Assange engaged in a conspiracy to assist Chelsea Manning,

to crack a password. This isn't about what was published, it's about the way that the prosecutors of the Justice Department of the United States is

saying Julian Assange assisted manning in this effort.

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly. It's very important distinction here in the United States, the first amendment protects the

freedom of speech and freedom of the press. If the government was indicting Assange for classified materials, there would be a significant

constitutional challenge. This sidesteps that issue, because regardless of whether you're a journalist or you sell hot dogs on the street or pizza on

the street. You should not be hacking into servers or hacking into people's passwords.

GORANI: Would that say to you that there's some sort of evidence because they -- for them to include that specific wording in the indictment that

they have in their possession?

MARIOTTI: There needs to be evidence and they need to prove this guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I will say that on the face of this, I have

significant questions about whether they can meet their burden. One of which is that the other alleged co-conspirator is not cooperating. So who

knows what she's going to say, she could say there's no conspiracy, could make it challenging to prove. What I expect is, I think you alluded to,

there will be other charges that are added, and I think one of the interesting questions here is, how is that -- what will those charges be

and how will that affect the strategy going-forward.

GORANI: What kind of other charges could they bring forward if they won't go down the road of, you know, trying to put Julian Assange on trial for

the content of what was published? There could be as you mentioned a first amendment challenge to that.

MARIOTTI: The first thing I would say is, the leverage that the United States has in this situation grows once Assange is brought here and he's in

custody, so they could then decide that they do want to take on those constitutional challenges, and I don't know exactly what additional

evidence they have as to other acts. I will say that the treaty between the U.K. and U.S. would prevent them from bringing charges related to other

factual scenarios that are not related to this.

[14:15:00] But the U.K. government could waive that and I would have an incentive to do so, because the United States government has more to offer

them than Assange going-forward. I think Assange and his lawyers might have to think about cooperation. So there will be a lot of pressure

brought to bear on him. From a practical perspective, we'll see the charges grow, and it will definitely change the landscape of this.

GORANI: And his lawyer, this is what his lawyer by the way said outside the courthouse today about what this means for other journalists, listen.


ROBINSON: The precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States, for having published truthful information

about the United States.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WIKILEAKS: This is journalism, it's called conspiracy, it's conspiracy to commit journalism.


GORANI: Does she have a point here? Saying any journalist can now be arrested for publishing confidential or classified information? That the

U.S. government is unhappy to see published?

MARIOTTI: With due respect to her, and I understand she's representing a client. That statement is not accurate, I mean, it's not what Mr. Assange

is charged with. He's charged with helping someone essentially defeat a password on a Pentagon server, that's a crime no matter who you are. And

really, I do think that people can argue the mere fact that he's being charged, the motive behind indictments we don't know. And they are often

questions that are raised regarding the motives behind a government indictment. On the face of it, this appears to be Mr. Assange doing

something that would be illegal if I did, if you did it, if anyone down the street did the same thing.

GORANI: Thanks very much. Always a pleasure having you on.

Still ahead, the people he long ruled with an iron fist are celebrating the unthinkable today. Sudan's dictator has been ousted. But protesters are

refusing to accept what the military wants to happen next. What is next for Sudan? Coming up.


GORANI: Today will go down in history until Sudan. Protesters say their popular revolution is not over yet. People celebrated in the streets of

Khartoum after al-Bashir was ousted. He had ruled for three decades. He's accused of war crimes and genocide against his own people.

[14:20:00] The military announced it will hold on to power for the next two years. It also imposed a temporary state of emergency. We've heard that

story and other countries by the way in the region. Protesters who organized an uprising against al-Bashir say they will not leave the streets

until his entire regime is replaced by civilian rule.

CNN's Farai Sevenzo is following developments from Nairobi. What's the latest from the streets of Sudan, it was that glimmer of hope when the

announcement was made that Bashir would be stepping down and was arrested and his deputy.

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Hala, you have to remember, it almost feels like a hijacked revolution for the people on the streets.

At the moment we've seen people all over Khartoum holding up banners, one of them reads, just to give you a taste of it, feeling the sentiment that

will they removed a thief and brought another one. It was toppled once and will be toppled again. They made a statement to confirm that Mr. al-Bashir

is gone.

He's still under sanctions for the United States by leading the military intelligence in places like dare fewer, a great deal of that whole military

cabal is so under question about those events way back in Darfur, the feeling on the streets. Sudanese professional is a body of nurses,

lawyers, doctors, journalists, even, are all claiming that they will still stay on the streets until what they want to happen does happen. What do

they want? They want a civilian transition, at the moment they haven't got that, they have two more years of the military, they put a curfew, they

were all gathering at night.

We saw incredible images of gunfire and crowds, they did not move, they stayed at the very symbol of al-Bashir's power, the military is saying

again this raises the stakes. Watch what happened now with a curfew in place, with three months of a state of emergency. Will the new forces that

are there -- let's remember, people put to the death -- human rights groups that have died since 2008. This Saturday alone, Sudan's doctor's union

have been killed. Whose responsible for that, which part of the army? Will they try themselves? All those questions are out there, and, of

course, it is -- what we remember, after Bashir is gone, it's a very long way for people to be satisfied.

GORANI: We've seen so many similar scenarios in other countries. We'll be asking that of Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group in a moment.

Just weeks ago, this thing seemed unthinkable. Security forces were detaining, torturing even shooting people who dared to protest. And

journalists risked their lives to show the world what was happening. Our Nima Elbagir is one of them. Here's some of her reporting from just last



NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This evening's government doesn't want the government to know what's happening. Any

journalists caught demonstrating risks life in prison and death penalty. I try to stand back and film with secret cameras and smart phones and hope

I'm not spotted.

You can smell the tear gas they've been releasing on the demonstration further away. The people are starting to get tense. Some of the

demonstrators start shouting national security agents are on their way. Oppressive, infamous for their brutality. We have to leave.


GORANI: Nima is Sudanese and this story is personal for her, she shared her thoughts on the coup, a short time ago.


ELBAGIR: I was 11 years old when Omar al-Bashir came to power. I have known no other government in a real sense. Overnight our lives changed.

We went from having a normal life, girls wearing shorts to play sports, running around with your head uncovered and we were children. We were not

even teenagers. And overnight, these women with their faces covered invaded our schools and were holding up measuring tapes to see how long our

skirts covered.

[14:25:00] Suddenly there were morality police on the streets questioning who you were standing next to. I remember those first few hours and days

and how empty the streets were, and how everyone was watching and waiting to see what was coming next. And I think about in a lot. I thought about

that a lot. Because I think I never really believed he would go. So many of the people we've been speaking to hoped and prayed. But more

importantly believed that al-Bashir would go. And what's extraordinary is that most of those that were demonstrating against President Bashir are his

children, the generation that grew up under him.

The majority of Sudan's population is under 30, and that is the majority of the people that were at that sit-in, and yet in spite of the fact that they

have known nothing other than him. Nothing other than the infrastructure of his rule and oppression, that they had no real freedom of expression or

freedom of the press or freedom of assembly. They still were able to dream it and they were able to visualize it. Even now, many of those that we're

speaking to on the ground say they will not leave the sit-in sites until they are guaranteed a peaceful civilian transfer of rule, that what they

want is democracy. In spite of never having experienced it, what they have fought for is something they believe they deserve, and that is freedom.

And that is what they are going to continue to fight for. They are cognizant of what happened in Egypt after the ouster of Mubarak. They have

seen what is possible in Algeria with the declaration of a civilian transition and of elections there, that is what they want for themselves

and their country. And we hopefully will be watching and waiting as they continue to push for that.


GORANI: Thanks, we'll be watching indeed. Let's talk more about the fluid situation in Sudan. We are joined by Robert Malley, President and CEO of

the International Crisis Group. Should we be hopeful about what's going on in Sudan with the military in charge and imposing the state of emergency

for several months?

ROBERT MALLEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Well, I think the first thing to note is that we're witnessing a series of what I

would call military assisted transitions, we've seen it in Algeria, Sudan. We saw it in Egypt, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. That's the way that security

forces, the army is trying to respond a little bit to the demands of the people, and then keep as much of the power as they can. And the lessons

that we've learned from these experiences in the past, number one, never underestimate the power and courage of people to protest, to come out, and

not know whether they're going to be met with success or bullets. But don't underestimate, the power, the resilience of security forces that will

do what they can to stay in power. That's the competition. Huge change, huge achievement by the protesters, everything remains to be done.

GORANI: Everything remains the same, it's just the figure head that's changing. In Egypt, the country has become more repressive after the

revolution and then you have the Muslim Brotherhood rule and they were taken out of power. And the military installed leaders again. And in

Algeria should we be hopeful there? Bouteflika in the end, an old sick man who will replace him with the army still in charge?

MALLEY: Exactly. That is why I call these military assisted transitions. These are the military forces that see popular pressure boiling, and

they're trying to find ways to hold on to power, their interest, these are countries where the security services, the military are deeply embedded in

the economy, had a stake in the status quo, and so they're trying to salvage it by throwing some concessions to the people. Getting rid of

Bouteflika or al-Bashir is only one step. Who would have thought a year ago, six months ago, this would have happened, but really far from the end

of the story?

GORANI: What is the end -- what is the answer here in these countries?

MALLEY: In these countries, the real answer is the civilian transition. That's what we hope to see in Egypt and now the question is wide open in

Algerian and the Sudan. The question is, are the protests going to continue and every evidence we have from our folks on the ground, people

are determined to continue, and what will the military do? Will they shoot or understand that they're going to have to make more concessions than they

thought they could get away with?

[14:30:00] And international pressure will play a role, not just from the U.S. but from Europe and Gulf countries and both those places, they need

economic support, they're counting on support from some of their regional allies, they need to send a message that a transition hijacked by the

military is no transition at all. Not clear whether that is the message they are going to receive.

GORANI: How hopeful are you? Especially given the aftermath of the Arab Spring, where you had such repressive backlashes to people's legitimate

demands for democratic transparent civilian government.

MALLEY: On the one hand it's hard to be indifferent to the pictures you're showing about Sudan. And you could see the same in Algeria, it's hope

inspiring. But we've learned from experience again, in all the cases that you mentioned, there are people in power who will do what they can, to hold

on to power, what's remarkable about Sudan and Algeria, they remain peaceful.

[14:30:00] These are non-violent -- so far, non-violent successes in getting rid, at least, of the leader. And can they stay non-violent and

will the military stay -- will the military also refrain from using greater violence? Those are the questions. I don't know that it's a matter of

being hopeful or not. One has to understand the lessons from the past and then do everything we can to make sure that Algeria and Sudan don't go the

way of Egypt.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group, thanks so much for joining us. Always a pleasure. Good

speaking to you.

MALLEY: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

GORANI: Still to come tonight. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is on the move forced from asylum in London, and now facing extradition to the

U.S. We will retrace his steps and look where he is headed. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Recapping our top story. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is now locked up in a London police station. He was dragged, this morning,

from Ecuador's embassy in London after his asylum status of nearly seven years was revoked.

There he is in the white beard, with white hair looking gaunt. Certainly he's lost a lot of weight.

Assange has already appeared in court for skipping bail in the U.K. Next month, he will be facing extradition to the U.S. for allegedly conspiring

to hack government computers.

Nina dos Santos traces how this all began for Assange.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR (voice-over): An unexpected guest who brought crowns outside this small diplomatic mission in Central London.

WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, surprise everyone by entering the Ecuadorian embassy seeking refuge in June 2012.

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: United States must renounce its wish action against WikiLeaks.

DOS SANTOS: A Swedish prosecutor had opened an investigation against him, and to question his interrogation in Sweden. Two women had accused Assange

of sexual assault.

Assange denied the allegations, claiming this was retribution on his work with WikiLeaks.

ASSANGE: BY the tabloid press.

The courageous black American nation took a stand for justice.

DOS SANTOS: So Ecuador granted him political asylum. Politicians, activists, and celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Pamela Anderson visited

him during his long stay. He even got a mascot.

Swedish authorities dropped their investigation in 2017. Assange was questioned in London, arguing that there was no practical way to continue


ASSANGE: Today is an important victory. But by no means, erases seven years of detention without charge.

[14:35:04] DOS SANTOS: But Assange didn't leave, he remains the subject of an arrest warrant in the U.K. for violating his bail conditions. He

insisted the United States had asked the U.K. for his extradition.

Former U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said that Assange's arrest was a priority of Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, called WikiLeaks, "A

non-state of style intelligence service."

In November 2018, prosecutors in the eastern district of Virginia mistakenly revealed references to possible secret charges against Assange

in a court filing. The spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said that the court filing was, "made in error," and called the mention of Assange an

administrative error.

And after years of co-existence with his host, the relationship with Ecuador's government deteriorated. They cut Assange's internet access at

the embassy, temporarily, in 2016, after WikiLeaks published e-mails from the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee affecting the U.S.

electoral campaign. In March 2018, his internet was cut indefinitely.

Ecuador's president, Lenin Moreno, put his guest and his asylum an inherited problem and imposed new rules on Assange. His isolation


LENIN MORENO, PRESIDENT OF ECUADOR (through translator): If the British government guarantees his life, I think it is in his best interest to hand

himself over to British justice.

DOS SANTOS: Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.

GORANI: Julian Assange has not had a lot of human contact in the last seven years, hold up in that embassy. I just spoke with Vaughan Smith, a

friend of Assange, who let him live in his house, in fact, back in 2010. Vaughan Smith met with him as late as last Friday, and told me he would

visit him every two weeks.

I first asked him to react to the images of the arrest of Julian Assange, as he was dragged out of that building in London.


VAUGHAN SMITH, JULIAN ASSANGE'S FRIEND: I was very sad to see it in all this. He's a friend of mine. I've known him for some time. And I didn't

like the undignified way he was pulled out. I understand he was planning to come out on his own accord. But I think -- I think they wanted the

images of him looking like as a fugitive being pulled out --

GORANI: You understand that he was planning on coming out of his own accord. I didn't see that information. Is that something he told you or

how did you learn of that?

SMITH: He was discussing doing that for some time. And I think -- I think he would have done it at some point, yes.

GORANI: And when was the last time you were able to actually speak to him?

SMITH: I saw him last Friday. I went to see him on Friday.

GORANI: What state of mind was he in when you saw him? At that point, obviously, seven years inside the embassy. What did you talk about?

SMITH: He was clearly under a lot of pressure. I mean, he's quite a strong and robust person, physically. But he's lost a lot of weight. And

he's been alone -- when the embassy closed down for the weekend, he was all alone for a long periods of time. And that solitude, I think, has

diminished him. It makes it tough. So he's struggled particularly over the last year.

GORANI: You were concerned for him, and some people have said, you know, including the interior minister, I'm sure you said you heard his account

today that he'd been rude to staff, that he was acting in inappropriate ways, there was -- according to interior minister, an instance in which he

smeared feces on the wall. I mean, are those things that you discussed with him?

SMITH: I seriously doubt about the feces on the wall. I'm so sorry. I really don't think that's in character at all.

His relationship with the Ecuadorians diminished since Lenin Moreno, the president -- and significant, seriously put first. I mean, he was denied

his internet access for about a year. He had two cameras in every room I saw. There were two cameras monitoring him. So he was completely


In addition, to his visitations were upheld and in he was -- so I think that it became particularly grim. And this is really a product of American

pressure to try to deliver the outcome that we have today. I think people would have preferred on his own account.

GORANI: But is it possible that there was so much pressure on him? I can imagine seven years inside that tiny building, that he did start to kind of

act in ways that irritated the Ecuadorians and it led them to then cooperate with regards to his arrest?

SMITH: No. Personally, that's not my view from what I saw. I think it's the other way around. I think there was a lot of pressure from my

government, from your government to -- and I think this is -- I'm disappointed by this, actually. I think this is really slightly

vindictive. I don't think this is really a just way to conduct business.

[14:40:17] GORANI: The U.S. indictment claims that he conspired to crack a password of a secured network. And for that reason, to access classified

information. And for that reason, they're seeking his extradition. You obviously don't agree with the wording of this indictment. You don't think

he should face justice for any of it in the United States?

SMITH: Well -- look, I think it's a matter of trust. I feel that it's quite possible for the Americans. There are extra charges if they get

their man to America.

I do think this is vindictive. But I think what's happening is America wishes to dissuade other people from doing -- other people from, you know,

whistle blowing in the way that they have, because it's embarrassing to power.

And I rather like -- I mean, I don't want to make direct comparisons with Russia, but when Russia does this, they come to Salisbury and they try to

kill people. I think what the Americans are doing is they're trying to sway all the people from doing this.

So, look, it's quite possible because I don't know. And there's some evidence, but, you know -- that he was hacking or helping create password.

But, actually, I'm suspicious of this, I think this is really about muscling Julian and trying to put an end to this WikiLeaks.


GORANI: And that was Vaughan smith, a close friend of Julian Assange, who visited with him over the last several years. He said he tried to visit

with him every two weeks and saw him last Friday. Saying that, you know, obviously there was a lot of pressure on him, that he was feeling very

lonely, especially as he told me the Ecuadorian embassy staff would leave on the weekend and his internet had been cut. And even his cat had been

taken away from him. And therefore, that mentally, of course, it was a very tough time.

We'll continue to follow, of course, the arrest of Julian Assange, and how his case will develop going forward.

Check out our Facebook page, And my Twitter feed, @HalaGorani.

Long lines are just the beginning as India kicks off the world's largest general election to accommodate the nearly 900 million eligible voters.

Ballots are cast in seven faces ending on May 19th.

The big race is between the BJP Party, headed by the prime minister, Narendra Modi. And the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi.

Mr. Modi is projecting himself as the only leader capable of standing up to neighboring rival, Pakistan. This comes as tensions between the two

countries recently escalated over Kashmir.

But as Nikhil Kumar reports, violence remains a reality of everyday life in the region.


NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): In the shadow of the line of control, the de facto border that divides the disputed

Kashmiris in between India and Pakistan, a protest.

These locals in Indian controlled Kashmir want bunkers to protect them, as the two nuclear powers continue to fire artillery shells at each other.

Just weeks after an aerial dogfight, the first such confrontation in almost five decades threatened all-out war.

KUMAR (on-camera): The driving impulse behind these protesters, kilometers from the de facto border, it's fear, fear of cross-border shelling. That's

already maimed or killed innocent citizens.

KUMAR (voice-over): Innocents like the 32-year-old Mohammad Riyad (ph). His voice cracking, he tells me a shell struck his border home in late

February. Shrapnel ripped open his abdomen, his intestines spilled out.

And 16-year-old Mohammad Ansar (ph), the fear in his eyes, this black head wound the result of shelling in mid-March. His brothers, both 10, and his

mother were also injured.

KUMAR: Are you still scared? "We're still very scared," he says. "Every time I hear a loud noise, I panic."

India and Pakistan have already fought multiple wars over Kashmir. And now, as India prepares for general elections, the renewed conflict here has

become a major campaign issue.


KUMAR: India's nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is holding up the recent air skirmishes as proof that he's strong on defense.

The tensions were sparked by February car bomb attack on Indian forces, in which India say Pakistan had a, quote, "direct hand."

Pakistan rubbishes India's claims. As politicians grandstand, fear stalks ordinary Kashmiris.

KUMAR (on-camera): For people here, violence is nothing new. The line of control, the site of so many armed showdowns between India and Pakistan, is

right there, nestled in those mountains. But residents say the shelling hasn't been this bad for several years.

KUMAR (voice-over): Babarali (ph) his family fled their border village earlier this month. A hail of shells drove them out. Huddled together in

temporary housing in the biting Kashmiri cold, they tell me they don't know when they can return home.

[14:45:06] "We were having lunch when the shelling started. The children were terrified. We had to flee," he says. "We had to leave our home, our

possessions, everything. We had no choice."

With Kashmir still tense, they have become refugees in their own land.

Nikhil Kumar, CNN, Indian-controlled Kashmir.


GORANI: The British prime minister says the timeline for Brexit is clear after the timeline change began. What it all means for a long term deal?

And also the big question, is it possible Brexit won't happen at all?

We'll be right back.

GORANI: The former Pope Benedict Xvi has broken his silence on the sexual abuse crisis gripping the Catholic Church.

In a new essay, he lays out a controversial theory on what's caused the crisis. The former pope blames the sexual revolution of the 60s and an

increasingly liberal slant to the church's moral teachings.

Conservative factions of the church celebrated the letter, but some liberal Catholics say using scapegoats will not solve systemic some problems.

Stop me if you've heard this before. But the supposedly final deadline for Brexit has, once again, been changed, delayed. The British Prime Minister,

Theresa May, agreed with the European Union on a new six-month extension on Wednesday. That gives the divided parliament until October 31st,

Halloween, to come to terms.

Earlier today, Mrs. May urged British lawmakers to cooperate to get things across the finish line.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is not the normal way of British politics. And it is uncomfortable for many in both the government and

opposition parties. Reaching an agreement will not be easy, because to be successful, it will require both sides to make compromises. But however

challenging -- but however challenging it may be, politically. I profoundly believe that in this unique situation, where the House is

deadlocked, it is incumbent on both frontbenches to seek to work together to deliver what the British people voted for.


GORANI: All right. Bianca Nobilo is here with me.

So, by the way, the Europeans told the Brits don't think that this delay means you don't have to come up with a plan, and what do the MP's do, they

go on a two-week holiday.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They said don't -- make sure you don't waste this time. That's in the leader of the House

declares that recess is on, so tonight.

GORANI: Its April 23rd.

NOBILO: Exactly, the house adjourns this evening.

GORANI: So it's a funny extension this one. Because it's not short enough to put pressure. It's not long enough, maybe, to give the U.K. time,

really, to come up with an alternative plan. October 31st is a strange one.

NOBILO: That's exactly the point that was made to me by a couple of pragmatist within the prime minister's own party today. They said that had

it been really short, it would have focused lines, maybe the withdrawal agreement would have passed on a full intent. Perhaps with the

conciliatory vote attached with the customs union, but it would have forced M.P.s to compromise.

[14:50:10] GORANI: Yes.

NOBILO: A really long extension, one M.P. put to me, may have allowed for conservative leadership contest, even in election or a second referendum.

But all of these other options that would require more planning by doing this extension which ends on the 31st of October.

And even though it can be extended more, the fact of rolling extensions means that you don't think in such large terms, in terms of the bigger

picture. So it means that adrift is more likely according to these M.P.s I was speaking to, and it doesn't really incentivize M.P.s to come to some

kind of resolution as soon as possible. Even though the prime minister said we could still leave before the election.

GORANI: So what's the most likely way forward here?

NOBILO: Well --

GORANI: Because I mean, obviously, it's anyone's guess and no one really knows. But I mean, I'm hearing more and more from people who are keen

observers of this whole Brexit process, that this is really opening the door now to a no-Brexit situation in this country.

NOBILO: You said in the introduction, "Stop me if you've heard this before."


NOBILO: But unfortunately, it's Groundhog Day. Because providing this amount of time just gives more oxygen to all of the existing ideals and

causes. You had the DUP, going to Brussels today, to speak with Michel Barnier along with some Brexiteers like Iain Duncan Smith saying, right,

let's address that backstop, seeing that's where the majority is in the House of Commons. Let's get rid of it and replace it.

You then had the people's vote campaign saying, excellent. We've now had six, seven months to legislate for a second referendum. Labour Party

saying, we need to push on with our compromise for --

GORANI: None of the issues are resolved here by granting this delay.

NOBILO: No. And even Brexiteers who by now, it should be clear too that the government and the E.U. is not going to count in to no-deal. We have

that displayed in every action that's possible. They're still not giving up in deciding as they can't get their perfect scenario, they're going to

go for a compromise. That hasn't happened.

GORANI: No. We haven't gone there yet.


GORANI: Bianca, thanks very much. Bianca Nobilo.

More to come, including North Korea tops the agenda as the U.S. and South Korean leaders meet at the White House. More on that, next.


GORANI: A few hours ago, the American president welcomed the South Korean president to the White House, the meeting in the oval office was their

first since Mr. Trump's summit in February, with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un in Vietnam. And North Korea was, of course, topping the agenda


Let's get more on what they discussed from Kylie Atwood in Washington. So what came of this, then? Because the U.S. president is still very much

complimentary of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

KYLIE ATWOOD, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: That's right. They're still both complimentary, they're still both hoping that there's going to be

another summit between the U.S. and North Korea, potentially between the U.S.-North Korea and South Korea.

But, honestly, after today, we're sort of at a status quo. We know that President Moon was coming here to Washington today with a few ideas on his

brain. First of all, he wanted to encourage President Trump to agree to maybe a smaller deal with North Korea, not a big deal.

But when President Trump was asked about that in the oval office, sitting next to President Moon today, he said that potentially a step by step

approach, something smaller could be worked out. It depended on what that deal looked like. But, right now, he's looking at a bigger deal aimed at


[14:55:08] The other thing that South Koreans were actually worried ready that President Moon was going to bring up with President Trump today, was

advocating for sanctions relief for North Korea. And when Trump was asked about that, he essentially said the sanctions are in a good place. He

could have actually increased sanctions, he claimed, but he's keeping them where they are, because he still feels that he has a strong relationship

with Kim Jong-un. So we're not really seeing all that much change, at all, today after President Moon and President Trump met here in Washington.

The big question, however, is, are either of these leaders talking to Kim Jong-un himself? Because we know that North Korea has sort of retreated

when it comes to interactions with both the U.S. and South Korea after that failed summit in Hanoi.

GORANI: All right. And so that was going to be my next question. Why -- I mean, you hear them publicly expressing hope that there will be some sort

of resolution to this nuclear crisis. Why is there a reason to be hopeful now? Because that summit in Vietnam ended unsuccessfully, and as you

mentioned, Kim Jong-un is certainly retreating, rather than displaying progress in terms of denuclearization.

ATWOOD: Yes. Kim Jong-un has retreated, there's been some activity at some of the launch sites for missile to missile engines. But the key point

that U.S. officials and South Korean officials point out is that Kim Jong- un has not taken that provocative step in launching or testing a missile, or a nuclear test, or even testing a satellite, which would still be

something provocative that's not necessarily exactly tied to his nuclear program.

So they are still claiming victory when it comes to this pause from North Korea, and from Kim Jong-un.

GORANI: Kylie Atwood, thanks very much, live in Washington.

I'm Hala Gorani. Thanks for watching tonight. Do stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next from London.