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Trump Tax Returns; Trump Tweets He Is Considering Sanctuary Cities Policy; Netanyahu to Meet with Winning Parties; Ivanka Wasn't Prepared for White House Scrutiny; "Mayor Pete" Hopes to Become President; Cory Booker Kicks Off Nationwide Tour; Inside Assange's World; Countdown to the Finale of "Game of Thrones". Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 14, 2019 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A battle is brewing. U.S. Democrats set a new deadline for President Trump to hand over his tax returns. But the Trump administration says releasing them is complicated.

Is it?

We'll get into it.

Millions of Americans are under severe storm watches across the South. We'll have the latest weather forecast as tornadoes rip through Texas.

Later this hour, living in isolation: we'll look inside the room where Julian Assange spent the last few years before his arrest.

Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: Thank you for joining us.

Well, Monday is tax day in the U.S., the deadline for millions of Americans to file their taxes. But, Donald Trump's taxes face a different deadline. Top Democrat congressman Richard Neal wants Mr. Trump's tax returns for the last six years and he wants them by April 23rd.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says the Justice Department have to weigh in on that request. When he was asked about the deadline, he says, "Those conversations have started but it would be premature for me to conclude how long that will take because, as I said, these are complicated issues."

He adds, "And I think it's more important to the American taxpayers that we get this right than hit an arbitrary deadline."

The Democrats are ready for a fight. Congressman Neal says he has the right to ask for anyone's tax returns. We'll learn more about it from CNN's Lauren Fox.


LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The fight over the president's tax returns escalating today with Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sending a letter to the IRS commissioner, giving him just 10 more days to comply with that request for both the president's personal returns and his business returns.

In this letter Neal writes, quote, "I'm aware concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the committee. Those concerns lack merit. I expect a reply from the IRS by 5:00 pm on April 23rd, 2019. Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request."

Neal has been preparing for this case to potentially go to court and the Trump administration has made it clear they are not prepared to hand over the president's tax returns. They believe the Democrats are overstepping their investigative authority on this issue.

But from the beginning, Richard Neal, chairman of this committee, has been laying the groundwork to go to court. Even while some of the liberals on the committee have been arguing for him to make this request sooner, clearly this letter today, which relies a lot on precedent, is an example of why he waited.

He wanted to be prepared for when this goes to court, which we expect it will, to go to court ready and with a case for why he believes he should have the president's tax returns -- from CNN, Washington, Lauren Fox.


ALLEN: President Trump argues the law is on his side. But it looks like Congress has the leverage. Under the U.S. tax code, Treasury officials have to turn over the tax returns of any federal employee if the chairman of a congressional tax committee makes the request in writing.

Furthermore, it requires a federal employee to do their duty or be removed from office. In other words, comply or be fired. It applies to the president, chief of staff and Treasury Secretary since they are all federal employees.

Meantime, the president denies he offered pardons to a Homeland Security official. It's another major issue we are following. This, after Mr. Trump told this man, Customs and Border Protection chief, Kevin McAleenan he would pardon him if he were jailed for having Border Patrol agents block asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S.

That is a violation of U.S. law, which may be why Mr. Trump tweeted the denial, adding it's his right to close the border and he still may do it. The president wrote, "It's all fake and corrupt news." That's what he says when he doesn't like what he hears, of course. President Trump says he has the absolute right to send undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities. Those cities limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement.


ALLEN: His critics say he is using to move to retaliate against cities that oppose his border wall.

Mr. Trump tweets, "Democrats must change the immigration laws fast. If not, sanctuary cities must immediately act to take care of the illegal immigrants."

Oakland's mayor responded, "Oakland welcomes all, no matter where you came from or how you got here."

How they got there matters to the Trump administration; during a trip to Lima, Peru. secretary of state Mike Pompeo laid out the Trump bid in migration from Central and South America. His words: just stay home.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The responsibility for these refugees lies squarely with Nicolas Maduro, not any policies but any democratic nation is taken with our deep intent to make lives better for the Venezuelan people.

A 100 percent of the refugee challenge that is faced by Peru and Colombia is the direct result of the Russians, the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro. It is our deep hope that we can achieve our objectives quickly, timely, so these individuals will return to their home countries.

It's what they want, I think it's what the people of Peru and Colombia and the other countries that are graciously, generously hosting and educating these people today, they want to create the conditions in every country so this migration, these refugees don't need to travel to these places.


ALLEN: Let's bring in Scott Lucas, a familiar face on our program. He's from the University of Birmingham and founder and editor of "EA WorldView."

I want to begin with Mr. Pompeo, what he was saying about Venezuela, saying we want to create conditions so people want to stay in Venezuela and not leave. Yet the U.S. is pulling aid from other countries, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries that were, according to statistics, making gains on stability and crime just as the aid was pulled.

So these are countries seeing citizens amass on the U.S. border. I want to get your perspective on that policy by the United States. SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: I think there's two separate issues. One is the Venezuela crisis. That is more than 3 million Venezuelans, about 10 percent of the country has left amid the economic catastrophe. But they have gone to neighboring countries, by and large, Brazil and Colombia.

Pompeo argument is more the United States and others have been trying to get aid into Venezuela but the awful Maduro government is blocking it.

It's more this battle that Washington is pursuing, let's be honest, for regime change, even though there are very, very real problems in Venezuela, why that regime may not be legitimate.

The hypocrisy you pointed out is, when it comes to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, that the United States, under Donald Trump's order and those of his advisers, like Stephen Miller, have cut all assistance, assistance to anti-violence programs, job creation programs, anti-poverty programs.

Precisely those programs that would help create the conditions for people to stay, rather than fearing they have to flee the violence and the depravation and come to the United States.

ALLEN: You mentioned Miller. That's Stephen Miller, the 33-year-old senior adviser to the president. He's believed to be the one that wants to really crack down on border issues and he has the ear of the president.

The president's latest move, we know, to send migrants right to sanctuary cities, it's not legal but a new tactic. He continues to look at ways to get around Democrats who won't support his wall. Bottom line, he's not going to give up.

Where could this go, Scott?

LUCAS: Bottom line is, there's a combination between Stephen Miller and his hardline anti-immigrant policies and the Trump campaign for 2020. That is, they are willing to do everything. They are willing to cut aid to Central American countries. They are willing to block the border, at least part of it, and they're willing to break the law. And I do mean break the law.

Despite Donald Trump's Twitter denial, let's be clear what he said to Kevin McAleenan, the acting director of Homeland Security. He said, if you tell agents not to let asylum seekers in, I will pardon you.

Then in a separate meeting, according to multiple sources, Trump told those border agents, you can't let these people in because they are -- the U.S. is at full capacity. If you prevent them from coming in and a judge objects, tell that judge the U.S. is full. In other words, he told those agents to break the law.

They went to their superiors who said, no, you have to uphold the law. If you break it, it's your own personal liability. So this is happening in terms of Trump defying the courts, defying Congress -- [05:10:00]

LUCAS: -- and ultimately defying the Constitution to try to get re- elected in 2020. Simply because some of his advisers hate immigrants.

ALLEN: Let's talk about, where else can we go with this?

As the president is looking for brazen moves that many people question, where is Congress?

Where are the Republicans and the Democrats in trying to skirt Donald Trump and find some way out with implementing new policies that will work and treat people humanely?

LUCAS: First of all, let's be honest. Many Republicans in Congress are now co-dependent with Trump, whether it's for their own political benefit in 2020 or whether they are afraid to challenge Trump, especially the Senate. They carry water for him. They will not take moves against this anti-immigrant policy.

In terms of the Democrats in Congress, they have limited what Trump has done by not providing specific funds for the wall. They have provided funds for border security and agents. But they are asking for funds from more judges, which is where Trump draws the line. He doesn't want more judges. He wants the crisis to build.

Where does this wind up?

In the courts. You mentioned Trump's tax returns. That's where it will wind up. In the case of trying to deny asylum to immigrants, trying possibly to separate children from parents, which Donald Trump is advocating once more, it will be the courts that are the last line of defense between this president and his inner circle like Stephen Miller.

ALLEN: It's going to be a long haul, isn't it?

Scott Lucas, we appreciate your insights, thanks very much.

LUCAS: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: Let's turn to another story we are following. There is a danger to many people in the United States right now. A major storm system moving across the southeastern U.S. It's already turned deadly. In Texas, two children were killed when a tree fell on the car they were in. One man at the scene spoke about what happened.


JOE SPANGLER, ANGELINA COUNTY RESIDENT: When I went inside, my dad is in a wheelchair, he lives with us. I told him to get in his wheelchair and get in the hall. So he got his wheelchair and got in the hall.

And I was going back in the hall and I heard someone was knocking on my door. It was the lady, the mom. She was like, help me, help me. So I pulled her in the house. And I saw down on the road, her husband was down there. So I ran down there to see what was going on. And that's where I noticed that the tree had fallen.


ALLEN: Such a tragedy there. Look, this is the town of Franklin, Texas. A tornado with winds up to 140 miles per hour, that's 25 kilometers per hours, destroyed homes, uprooted trees and caused multiple injuries. And it's not over yet.



ALLEN: Protesters in Sudan say their revolution is hardly finished. Why they say the end of a dictatorship isn't enough.

Also after the Israeli elections, it's time to put together a new government. The newly reelected prime minister faces corruption changes. That could complication things. We'll talk about it.




ALLEN: Welcome back.

On Monday, Israel's president will hear from delegates of the parties that won Knesset seats in last week's elections and will ask for recommendations on who should form the new government. The certain choice is prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But it is complicated because Mr. Netanyahu faces expected corruption charges which could come in the next few months. Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem with the latest.

Where is the process right now?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tomorrow morning, the president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, will meet with all the different political parties to see who they recommend for prime minister.

Based on the results, we know it's going to be prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as he won a record fifth election term. This is where the political game begins.

What can they get from Netanyahu in exchange for their support?

His Likud Party came out so much bigger than the other parties, Netanyahu has so much leverage here. The smaller parties likely to be in his coalition are talking amongst each other.

Do they unite?

How do they play to pull as much as possible out of him?

As you pointed out, in the background the corruption investigations with a preliminary hearing for Netanyahu coming up this summer and then potential charges coming sometime after that. So as the political parties try to figure out what they will demand of Netanyahu, he is saying, I will give you this if you protect me from an indictment, if you promise to support me through the legal process.

So all of that is part of the calculations the political parties are making right now to try to figure out how to play this. For example, one of the political parties, the right wing party of the former defense minister, he is, again, reportedly demanding the defense ministry. So that's part of the game that will start to play out.


LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu has 28 days for negotiations to how the government looks and it's fully expected he will ask another two weeks because that's how it always happens here. So over the next six weeks, we'll get a sense of what Netanyahu's new government will look like and if he's able to find some sort of arrangement to protect himself from potentially indictments -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, we'll be watching it. Oren Liebermann, thank you.

The downfall of a dictator has not stopped the protests in Sudan. The military toppled Omar al-Bashir Thursday, putting an end to his three- decade rule. That means the strongman's former generals are now in charge. They are running the country in what they say is a transitional military council.

They are making concessions, vowing to free prisoners and lift a curfew and they've also promised civilian rule. But, that could take two years. For many protesters, that's not going to cut it.

CNN's Farai Sevenzo is following developments from Nairobi, Kenya.

Hello again to you. What's happening in Sudan, there's potential for tremendous change.

The question is, will the military thwart the people's hopes?

What are your thoughts?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is everybody's thoughts across the continent. To give you an indication of what's happening at the moment, it's Palm Sunday. Sudan, being a nation of multicultures and multifaiths, the Catholics in Sudan would like to hold their Palm Sunday mass at the military headquarters.

So it's this entire revolution. The aspirations of these people are spread across all sectors. The fact they are still at the military headquarters indicates they may think the same, that the military will thwart their aspirations.

Of course, we heard yesterday from the Leftenant General Abdel al- Fattah Burhan, the man who is now in charge of the military council. He is urging for dialogue. He promised many things, including freeing of prisoners, the curfew we spoke of. That is no longer in existence.

But the real issues, of course, as a military council, can they bring about this change in those two years, they ask?

For example, the head of the rapid support forces, a man called Mr. Hamid Mohammed (ph) is now the deputy of that military council. So the fear for the people is that with al-Bashir gone, the men in uniform are still in charge.

ALLEN: Right. They are still on the streets trying to change that.

I want to ask you, though, what about other countries in Africa and the region?

Are they offering support to citizens, to the protesters, at all?

SEVENZO: Well, we heard way back on Thursday -- it seems like history is moving so fast -- from the chairperson of the African Union, who expressed the military takeover is not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan.

Of course, you remember, al-Bashir had a lot of friends in the region. He had a whole belt of North African countries, Arab speaking countries, great friends with Egypt's al-Sisi and then also, indeed, all the Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, are all offering support for the process that is now in place, the military council's transitional period.

But as for the support of the people, that's coming, mainly, as far as we are telling, from organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, they are saying, the people are right to be skeptical. More prisoners must be freed. All those people that were killed, someone must be made accountable.

ALLEN: Yes. There's so much to watch in this story and so much hope on the streets. We hope it continues. Farai Sevenzo, we appreciate your insights, thank you so much.

Elsewhere in Africa, Ivanka Trump has landed, the daughter and adviser to President Trump, kicking off an African tour, promoting working women. Her first stop is Ethiopia and she will tour a female run factory then attend a conference with high-profile women.

Our Kate Bennett takes a look at the first daughter's work inside the White House and also the scrutiny she's faced.


KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Ivanka Trump struggling to keep her personal brand intact as her public persona takes a hit after working in the White House. This according to a story in "The Atlantic." The White House has not always been a friendly place for her, even with her dad as boss. PRESIDENT TRUMP: Whenever Jared had any difficulty with me in a couple of points, he would send in a real power named Ivanka. And she would call me and she would say, --


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Daddy, you don't understand, you must do this, you must -- and I said, all right.

BENNETT: The familiarity didn't go over well with former chief of staff John Kelly, who said, more than once, he felt Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, who never held government or diplomacy jobs prior to the White House, were "playing government."

Kelly was brutal, according to a source close to Ivanka, quoted in The Atlantic, saying, he kind of walked in and looked at Ivanka like, "What the bleep is Barbie doing in the West Wing?"

Trump, who the story says sometimes calls his daughter the nickname "Baby" during White House meetings, doesn't share Kelly's feelings, telling "The Atlantic" he thinks Ivanka would have been great at leading the World Bank because she is, "good with numbers," or that she could have been U.N. ambassador after Nikki Haley's departure.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think Ivanka would be incredible, that doesn't mean I'd -- you know, I'd pick her, because you'd be accused of nepotism, even though I'm not sure there's anybody more competent in the world, but that's OK.

BENNETT: Trump even saying, "if she ever wanted to run for president, I think she'd be very, very hard to beat. What her qualifications are for that role, again, remain unclear. But what Ivanka hasn't been is the moderate voice in the White House. Instead, Ivanka has lately channeled her portfolio to important women and family-centric issues.


BENNETT: Like the child tax credit and paid family leave, most recently, global economic growth for female business owners.

I. TRUMP: Today the White House is launching an exciting new initiative, the women's global development and prosperity initiative.

BENNETT: "The Atlantic" writer Elena Plott saying, Ivanka believes her father is never in the wrong.

ELENA PLOTT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE ATLANTIC": She really, as my source said, retains a view that her father is good and only good.

BENNETT: Her father's loyalty to his daughter is just as strong.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: So I just want to thank you, honey, great job, really great job.

BENNETT: The likability factor is important to Ivanka. Before the White House, he brand is how she ran her business. It will be up to time to decide whether or not that brand still holds after the White House -- Kate Bennett, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: We are not even close to the 2020 U.S. presidential election but the Democratic candidates are off and running, including this man, Cory Booker, trying to set a fire under his supporters. We'll have that for you, coming up.

Another Democrat gaining popularity, set to add his name to the list. He has had some leadership experience. Ahead, what Pete Buttigieg's hometown has to say about him.





ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world, appreciate you watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.


ALLEN: Another Democrat is expected to make his way into the packed presidential race. That's Pete Buttigieg, who will make it official on Sunday. Get used to his last name. People call him Mayor Pete because that's easier. He is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. But he is fast becoming a household name in the country.

But in his hometown, there are mixed feelings, questions about whether the city's revitalization efforts under his tenure delivered results for everyone. Vanessa Yerkovich went to South Bend.

VANESSA YERKOVICH, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Downtown South Bend, a bustling main street with upscale restaurants and shops. But, not long ago, it was desolate, after the manufacturing industry fled the city.


All right. Whoa! Look at that.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): Now as Buttigieg readies his official announcement for president, he's pointing to his leadership of this midsize city as the right kind of experience for the White House.

BUTTIGIEG: We would be well served if Washington started to look more like our best-run cities and towns, rather than the other way around.

See you later. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): Mark McDonald owns LaSalle Grill downtown.

MARK MCDONALD, RESTAURATEUR: This is the heart of the city. The neighborhoods may be the soul of the city but this is the year. You got to have a pumping heart to have anything else.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): A conservative that voted for Donald Trump, McDonald doesn't always see eye-to-eye with Buttigieg but he still gives him credit.

MCDONALD: I still feel he's a straight shooter. He's honest. He's whip smart. Seems to be very organized and very business oriented.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): But as downtown South Bend improved, people who lived in neighborhoods outside the city center started asking, what about us?

REGINA WILLIAMS-PRESTON, SOUTH BEND CITY COUNCIL: We were easily dismissed, it seems.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): Like city council member Regina Williams- Preston, who ran for office after Buttigieg launched an initiative in 2013 to demolish 1,000 neglected homes in 1,000 days aimed at revitalizing the city's neighborhoods.


WILLIAMS-PRESTON: We understand development. But if you do what you have always done, you will get what you've always gotten. And what we have always gotten and what cities all over the country have always gotten is displacement of poor people and people of color: gentrification.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): After pressure from the community, Buttigieg compromised, allowing for 40 percent of the homes to be refurbished instead, a metric he points to as a success story.

BUTTIGIEG: The most heartening news out of this initiative is that 657 of these properties, almost half, have been repaired rather than torn down.


WILLIAMS-PRESTON: So what I said to him at that time is, you know, we are going to challenge you. We are going to put this pressure on you. You need some battle scars.

YERKOVICH: Does he have those battle scars?

Is he ready to lead in a new way?

WILLIAMS-PRESTON: I think we might have given him a few. YERKOVICH (voice-over): In a neighborhood on the edge of town, resident Stacey Odom had her own run-in with the mayor -- literally.

STACEY ODOM, RESIDENT: He told me, I'm on my way to a meeting. I said, I understand but I just have a couple quick questions for you.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): Her house was one of the 1,000 on the chopping block. She wanted off but hit roadblocks with the city.

YERKOVICH: When you stopped the mayor on the street and he gave you his card and he said, give us a call, we'll help you, did you really think that he would help you?

ODOM: Actually, I did. I was a little skeptical but I thought at least he would get back with me.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): And he did. And Odom was able to refurbish her home.

ODOM: That's what turned me. That's what said to me that this is a man that has the potential to be president.

YERKOVICH (voice-over): Vanessa Yerkovich, CNN, South Bend, Indiana.


ALLEN: Another candidate, Democratic senator Cory Booker, is trying to build momentum for his run. He held a rally on Saturday in Newark, New Jersey. That's where he was the mayor and told supporters why they should back him. CNN's Rebecca Buck was there.


REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Cory Booker kicking off a two-week national tour Saturday in Newark, the city where he served as mayor roughly a decade ago, but also kicking off the start of the second phase of his campaign, picking up the pace, stepping in the stoplight and flesh out his campaign narrative.

The theme, justice for all and all parts of confronting injustices across the economy, education and more. Take a listen to what he had to say.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we will bring our country together. I believe we will achieve things that other people say are impossible. I believe we will make justice real for all people. And that is why I am running for President of the United States of America.

BUCK: This was, potentially, an important day for Booker. He's been lagging in polls not only nationally and also key primary states, Iowa, New Hampshire and also lagging in fundraising. He reported raising $5 million, versus some of his rivals, who raised more.

But Booker's campaign telling reporters, they are happy where they are right now. They are trying to slowly build momentum in this race and peak at the right time. The campaign manager saying, we are trying to win an election, not a news cycle.

Certainly trying to have a moment in the spotlight, maybe building toward a breakout moment. Of course, the race is only getting more competitive from here with a crowded field getting more crowded by the day. We are waiting on a decision from former vice president, Joe Biden -- Rebecca Buck, CNN, in Newark, New Jersey.


ALLEN: Let's look at another candidate, Bernie Sanders campaigning in the Midwest, trying to repair the so-called Democratic Blue Wall, the states that dependably back Democrats but went with Donald Trump in 2016.

He's focusing on middle class, working Americans, many who felt Donald Trump represented them more than Hillary Clinton did. He also laid out his immigration proposals, which don't exactly line up with Mr. Trump's.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Instead of demonizing the undocumented immigrants in this country, we are going to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship.

We are going to provide legal status to the 1.8 million young people eligible for the DACA program. And we are going to develop a humane border policy for those who seek asylum.


ALLEN: Next, how did Julian Assange survive seven years holed up in the Ecuador embassy?


ALLEN: We'll learn about the conditions he endured and the tiny room where he existed.




ALLEN: What was it like for Julian Assange?

His life in limbo, he spent seven years in one building. The WikiLeaks founder is now being held in a prison after he was forcibly removed from the Ecuador embassy in London Thursday. We learned from CNN's Salma Abdelaziz his time there was a sad and isolating existence that clearly took a severe toll.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): In the summer of 2012, Julian Assange arrived here, the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The WikiLeaks founder would not again set foot outside the property for nearly seven long years.

His home became a roughly 200 square foot room, where he kept a workspace, a treadmill and bed alongside all his personal possessions. This footage is of an artist's replica of that room. The living conditions were challenging, Fidel Narvaez, a former consul of Ecuador, and a friend of Assange, said.

FIDEL NARVAEZ, FORMER CONSUL OF ECUADOR: It's an apartment suitable for offices. It's not a residence. Some adaptations need to be done.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): From his tiny space, Assange found ways to stay busy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you decide to do your own show?

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): He launched a show on a Russian state TV network in 2012 and entertained celebrity supporters from Lady Gaga to Pamela Anderson. He even got a tie-wearing cat named James to help him pass the time. But, his supporters say, it was a --


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): -- lonely existence.

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: This is a victory that cannot be denied.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Other than his occasional balcony statements, Assange rarely got sunlight or fresh air. He complained in a 2014 interview of the impact on his well-being.

ASSANGE: It is an environment in which any healthy person would find themselves, soon enough, with certain difficulties.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): The conditions took a toll on the 47-year old. He suffered shoulder pain, depression and a toothache.

NARVAEZ: It was a very, very hard and difficult environment for him to cope for so long.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): In 2018, Ecuador's newly elected president Lenin Moreno, imposed a new set of rules on Assange. No phones, no Internet and only visits from his lawyers.

NARVAEZ: That's a very, very huge difference between the first six years and the last one. He was isolated.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Assange did not respond well to the changes. Ecuadorian officials accused Assange of aggressive and hostile behavior. One minister even said Assange had smeared feces on the walls.

He had gone from wanted man to an unwanted houseguest. Finally out of the embassy, Assange's fate now lies in the hands of U.K. authorities -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


ALLEN: Of course, he may very well be extradited to the U.S., where he faces very serious charges.

On another note about his time in the embassy, well, there was a cat in the picture and it got a lot of attention. Many wanted to know what happened to the cat that was seen in pictures with Assange and sitting in the window looking out from the embassy.

WikiLeaks tweeted the cat is safe and will be reunited, quote, "in freedom with Assange." Assange got the cat in 2016. It, too, was living a life of isolation. We wanted to give you information on that.

We know what happened to the Assange cat but, next here, where are the dragons?

Fans of "Game of Thrones" could soon find out. We look at the final season premiere, coming up.






ALLEN: For millions of "Game of Thrones" fans, the wait that seemed like ages is almost over. In just a few hours, the eighth and final season launches on HBO. Based on past seasons, viewers are in for epic battles, shifting alliances and stunning plot twists.

If that's not enough, of course you have dragons, ice zombies and copious amounts of wine. If you missed it, here is a look at the trailer.



Let's talk about what to expect and all those fan theories. I'm joined from Los Angeles by Erik Voss, comedian and the YouTube host of "New Rock Stars" and one of the rabid fans.

Erik, hello, thanks for being with us.

ERIK VOSS, COMEDIAN: Hello, thank you for having me.

All right, I want to start out, full disclosure, I'm one of the losers who haven't seen "Game of Thrones." I'm really sorry, I know, I know. But I'm equally fascinated with most of the world on the show. I have

talked with my colleagues here, Zach and Weldon in the studio, who have been telling me what I've missed and they have said, you've just missed everything, that's all you've missed. So explain the phenomenon of "Game of Thrones" to us.

VOSS: Oh, it's inescapable. Even fans who don't watch the show are now fans of it just by being in this world.

ALLEN: Exactly.

VOSS: HBO just has an unprecedented success their hands with "Game of Thrones" for two reasons. One, you just have a deeply passionate fan base, one of those nerds sitting right here.

The other side of it is you have a book series that's still incomplete by author George R. R. Martin. That's created a scenario where you have these rabid fan theories and online speculation and, until these final episodes air, all of it could be true.

ALLEN: So tell us, you know, those of us that haven't watched it, why is this such an international phenomenon?

What is it about this show that is so addictive and mesmerizing?

VOSS: Well, you just have this rich cast of characters. And no matter who you are, there's someone on the show you can relate to, until they inevitably kill them off. Then you have to find someone new to relate to.

I think that unpredictability has been incredible for people to watch because you really don't know what's going to happen next. As I said, even book readers, who were the experts for years and years on this show, now couldn't tell you anyone who just started watching the show in this final season.

ALLEN: Right, interesting twists of just killing, the deaths of beloved characters.

What about what the show has meant for female leads?

Emilia Clarke certainly revered worldwide. Daenerys is a household name now.

VOSS: Oh, for sure. It's been such a remarkable transition for several of these characters. You go back and rewatch the first season, as many fans have been doing, as we've been preparing for this final season, looking at where these characters started this journey, many of them were captives; they were prisoners, they were forced into scenarios that they weren't -- including people like Daenerys Targaryen, Emilia Clarke's character, Sansa Stark and Arya Stark.

Now by the end, they're the people calling the shots on the show and they're going to be the ones who are really going to be competing for power, it looks like, from everything we've seen in the promotional footage for the final season. ALLEN: What about the sets and the costumes and the dragons as we're seeing, she's riding one right now.

VOSS: It's incredible that this is a TV show. HBO announced that they are spending upwards of $15 million per episode in this final season, making "Game of Thrones" the most expensive TV show of all time.

And fans can tell you that this pays off. It looks like we're watching a real Hollywood movie on TV. And this is production value that no one has seen on a small screen before.

ALLEN: You make several predictions on your YouTube channel, "New Rock Stars." Our producers are obsessed with your predictions.

So who do you think will win the Iron Throne?

VOSS: Well, myself and the whole team at "New Rock Stars" have been debating about this. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to really a debate between whether or not someone will win the Iron Throne or whether the whole existence of the Iron Throne will be gone by the threats of the wounded White Walkers, the real enemies of the show.

Personally I'm hoping that Tyrion Lannister is the one who takes over, Peter Dinklage's character. He's been the most fascinating both for someone reading the books and watching the show. He has the best lines. He seems to be the smartest person in the room. It would be great to see him on top in the end.

ALLEN: Can you even imagine how many people are going to be watching this final episode?

And, yes, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time and your passion, Erik Voss for us, thank you.

VOSS: Thank you.


ALLEN: Happy viewing, everyone. A reminder, it's on HBO. HBO and CNN share a parent company, Warner Media.

I'm Natalie Allen. For U.S. viewers, "NEW DAY" is next. For everyone else, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."