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CNN NEWSROOM

Pope Demands Action at Landmark Vatican Summit on Child Sex Abuse; U.S. And Allies Suspicious Of Huawei's 5G Gear; No Host, No Problem; Polish Director Pawel Pawlikowski Up For "Cold War"; Maduro Regime Rejects Aids; Pope Convenes Meeting on Church Sexual Abuse; TV Actor Accused of Staging Hate Crime Attack; Challenge of Getting Aid to Venezuela; Vatican Sex Abuse Summit; Kenya Court Postpones Ruling on Decriminalizing Gay Sex; Michael Cohen on Capitol Hill; Judge Clamps Down on Trump Associate Roger Stone; United Kingdom's Messy Divorce; Deadline Looms for China-U.S. Trade Talks; Trump and Kim Meet Next Week in Vietnam; Adventures in Space. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 22, 2019 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A U.S. T.V. actor arrested for allegedly staging a hate crime and playing a victim. Closed borders and fiery rhetoric, Venezuela's opposition and its supporters abroad are facing an uphill battle as they try to get humanitarian aid to those who needed most. Also ahead this hour, the Vatican's first ever summit to address the horrors of child abuse by clergy. Some say survivors, they say it's a too little too late.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm George Howell. The "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

Around the world, good day to you. The sitting president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, is doing all he can to blockade from entering that country. He announced that he's closing the border with Brazil where aid is being stockpiled and along the Colombian border. Venezuelan troops are closing roads and stopping aid deliveries. Those closures are creating major traffic jams like the one you see here. At one road block, soldiers clashed with lawmakers who are trying to drive trucks to the Columbian border.

Despite Mr. Maduro's attempt to reject western aid, he though seems open to accepting aid or help from Russia. A shipment carrying medicine from Russia had reportedly arrived in the country. In the meantime, a benefit concert for Venezuelans is being set up in neighbouring Columbia. Thousands of people in fact are expected to attend. It is being hosted by billionaire Richard Branson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD BRANSON, BILLIONAIRE: We were asked to do this concert by Juan Guaido, and he will be coming to the other side of the bridge with maybe a million of his supporters. And I suspect both sides will be handing flowers to the military and the people guarding the bridge and seeing whether they can be persuaded to do, you know, what they must realize is the right thing. They will have -- the military have relatives that are suffering as well. They know people who are suffering. So, we hope and pray that sense will prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Branson there, speaking about the self-declared president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido. He has promised to distribute the relief supplies on Saturday -- by Saturday. Thousands of Venezuelans have signed up to help with that delivery. Our Isa Soares has their story for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the center of Caracas, a group of closed neighbors are preparing for their biggest test yet. They're marching to Juan Guaido's orders, volunteering to help bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela. They may be unconventional but their looks deceive you. They are organized and determined. As we sit down, I asked them how confident they are the aid will be allowed in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNTRANSLATED).

SOARES: The success of the aid delivery means only one thing for this group, President Nicolas Maduro's imminent loss of power. But mention his name too often and tempers quickly begin to flare.

You told me the aid is coming through one way or another. Are you prepared, each one of you, to put your life on the line for that aid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNTRANSLATED).

SOARES: Years of separation and struggle fuel their fire, with most family having already fled the country, 25 between them, they tell me they've got nothing left to lose, even going so far as to call for U.S. intervention.

President Trump says all options are on the table. Do you want to see the military intervention and U.S. boots here on the ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNTRANSLATED).

[02:05:02] SOARES: But talk of boots on the ground leaves them wanting some fresh air, so I try my best to ease their nerves.

When you think of Juan Guaido, what does he inspire in you? Hope. Strength. Optimism. Courage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNTRANSLATED).

SOARES: Get your family. Union. To get your family together. Trust. Olga. Love for Venezuela.

Emotions they too will need to tap into if they're to face off this coming Saturday. Isa Soares, CNN, Caracas, Venezuela.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Now, to Pope Francis, who has a stern message for the leaders of the Catholic Church, saying the holy people of God are looking at us and expect more than simple condemnations. Day two of the Vatican summit on church sex abuse gets under way next hour, the theme for Friday's meetings accountability. Our Rosa Flores reports. That's exactly what the victims want.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Carol Midbow (ph). I'm a survivor from Austin, Texas.

PETER SAUNDERS, SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVOR: My name is Peter Saunders. I'm a survivor of childhood abuse from the United Kingdom.

LEONA HUGGINS, SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVOR: I'm Leona Huggins. I'm a survivor from Vancouver B.C., Canada.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Survivors from across the globe have descended on Rome for the unprecedented bishops meeting on clergy sex abuse with high hopes that abusers and those who cover up abuse will be held accountable.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

FLORES: Pope Francis kicked off the four-day event with a prayer and in short order set a firm tone, asking for bishops to come up with concrete guidelines.

POPE FRANCIS, HEAD OF CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SOVEREIGN OF THE VATICAN CITY STATE (through translator): The holy people of God are looking at us and expect of us not simple condemnation but concrete and effective measures to put in place. We need to be concrete.

FLORES: Normally, we would need to read between the lines to figure out what the pope means by concrete measures. But this time, he released a list of 21 guidelines.

HUGGINS: I'm disappointed by what we saw today on that list of reflection points. Number one is we're going to create a manual or a handbook. I thought they already had the handbook.

SAUNDERS: Concrete measures mean zero-tolerance. It is not just a word. Zero tolerance means excluding priests and other religious who rape and abuse children from ministry permanently.

FLORES: Behind the scenes, Pope Francis has been meeting with survivors. In an encounter with Polish survivor Marek Lisinski, Pope Francis kissed his hand and looked visibly emotional. He told CNN, 'Emotions rose up inside of me and it was like roller coaster. I was able to say I am a child abuse victim from Poland. I was holding the photo of myself as a teenager. The pope took my hand in his hands. He looked at me, and I could see he was teary-eyed.'

FLORES: Survivors say they relive their trauma every time they share their stories and hope this historic meeting means they never have to tell their stories again. Rosa Flores, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Rosa, thank you. Back here in the United States, just a week ago, the American actor, Jussie Smollett, gave his first detailed account to the media of what he says was a hate crime against him in the city of Chicago. He also addressed rumors that he was not telling the truth about that alleged attack. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: Who (bleep) make something like this up or add something to it or whatever it may be? I can't -- I can't even -- I'm an advocate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Defiant statement of denial from the actor who police say was the mastermind behind his own alleged attack. Investigators say Smollett arranged the whole thing, even rehearsed it with the two men he hired to allegedly assault him. Police say he did it in an attempt to enhance his career. They charged him with filing a false report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I'm left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve.

[02:10:01] I only hope that the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention that the hoax did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: After Smollett's court appearance on Thursday, he met with the crew from his television show to apologize for "any embarrassment they may feel over his legal issues." Smollett denied any wrongdoing and repeated his lawyer statement that he is right to be presumed innocent and had been trampled on by the legal system and the media.

CNN was at Chicago's Cook County Jail when Smollett was released on Thursday. Our Nick Watt has more on the twists and turns in that case and the fallout it is causing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jussie Smollett known for his starring role on the hit T.V. show "Empire" tonight, trying to avoid the spotlight, captured by cameras walking out of a Chicago jail house. He posted bond, given up his passport, now officially charged with a felony for filing a false police report after allegedly staging an attack designed to look like a hate crime, all police now say in an attempt to make more money.

JOHNSON: Why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. He concocted a story about being attacked.

WATT: Prosecutors say he knew his attacker, Abel Osundairo. He hired him.

RISA LANIER, ATTORNEY, COOK COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: During the course of this friendship, defendant Smollett and Abel socialized together, exercised together, as well as worked on the Fox television series "Empire."

WATT: Smollett allegedly asked Abel to recruit his brother, Ola.

LANIER: Smollett asked Ola if he could trust him. When Ola said he could, Smollett detailed his plans of the attack to the brothers.

WATT: He allegedly told them to shout "this is MAGA country." Prosecutors say initially the plan was for them to throw gasoline on Smollett. Later, that changed to bleach.

LANIER: Defendant Smollett further detailed that he wanted Abel to attack him but not hurt him too badly and to give him a chance to appear to fight back.

WATT: There were also allegedly numerous phone contacts before Smollett and the brothers before and after the attack. Smollett's lawyer told the court he was supposed to be on the "Empire" set earlier this afternoon. Instead, he was in a real life courtroom hearing prosecutors meticulously lay out how he wasn't attacked. This wasn't a hate crime.

Police say they tracked the two alleged attackers using surveillance footage from around the city, identified the men, one of whom had appeared on "Empire" with Smollett, found out they flown to Nigeria after the attack on return tickets, arrested them on arrival back in Chicago last week. Eventually, they confessed and were not charged.

JOHNSON: It wasn't until the 47th hour of their 48-hour hold time that we could legally hold them in custody that it took a change. When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off.

LANIER: The staged attack lasted 45 seconds and it was just outside the view of the desired hereby camera that Smollett had pointed out to the brothers approximately 15 hours earlier.

WATT: Smollett allegedly wanted this attack caught on camera, apparently even telling police to look at the tapes. On Wednesday evening, Jussie Smollett's legal team put out a statement in which they called the court proceedings a law enforcement spectacle. They say that Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.

Jussie Smollett is due back in court sometime in March. Nick Watt, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Nick, thank you so much for the report. Kenya's high court says it is postponing its ruling on a landmark case in that nation that could decriminalize consensual sex between same-sex adults. The court says it will make its decision on May 24th since the British colonial era gay sex and bi-extension (ph) gay relationships have been illegal in Kenya. Those found guilty face up to 14 years in jail.

Human rights groups say that law contradicts Kenya's progressive constitution which guarantees equality, dignity, and privacy for all citizens.

Still ahead here on "CNN Newsroom," actions have consequences for long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone. The new restrictions ordered by a federal judge ahead for you. Plus, China and the U.S. are quickly running out of time to reach a trade deal. We have the very latest live from Hong Kong. Stay with us.

[02:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back to "CNN Newsroom." We're following the Russia investigation here in the U.S. and the surprise appearance on Capitol Hill by the U.S. president's former attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen is scheduled to testify before three congressional committees next week. He heads to jail in May after he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. No one was saying much about Thursday's visit. Cohen even used a freight elevator to move between floors and try to avoid media.

The U.S. president's long-time advisor Roger Stone is facing new restrictions ahead of his trial for lying to investigators about his contacts with WikiLeaks, all because of an Instagram post. Our Sara Murray has this story for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A federal judge banning Roger Stone from speaking publicly about his case, warning him if he violates the order, it will land him in jail. Stone took the stand to tell Judge Amy Berman Jackson he was heartfully sorry for posting what could be considered threatening image of her to his Instagram on Monday.

He claimed the image which showed the judge with crosshairs over her shoulder was a screw up and a stupid lapse of judgment, and insisted the crosshairs were misinterpreted. But Judge Jackson said the apology rang hollow, adding there is nothing ambiguous about crosshairs. The judge had already put a lenient gag order on Stone. Today, she banned him from talking publicly about the case in any venue, warning him there will not be a third chance. She also banned others from speaking on his behalf.

The judge had ordered Stone to make the trek from Florida and appear in court after his post which included a caption that called special counsel Robert Mueller a deep state hit man, and claimed Stone's case was a show trial. Stone also implied that Jackson was biased because she was an Obama appointee. He rounded out his post with #fixisin. He altered the text about Mueller and added a few more hash tags. That post was also taken down.

The same day, Stone filed a formal apology to the judge. "I had no intention of disrespecting the court and humbly apologize to the court for the transgression." The judge and the prosecutor questioned the sincerity of Stone's apology given his other public comments.

ROGER STONE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT, LONG-TIME ALLY OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (voice-over): When the judge issued a gag order that did not limit my First Amendment rights, the left went completely insane, that's why they have cooked up this false narrative. I threatened no one. I intended to threat no one. I never disrespected the judge or the court.

MURRAY: Stone's legal troubles came to a head last month when he was arrested at his Florida home in a predawn raid.

[02:19:58] STONE: Twenty-nine armed FBI agents, 17 vehicles, all unnecessary expenditure paid for by the taxpayers for the theater of it, to create a public image of me as guilty before I had an opportunity to prove that I'm innocent.

MURRAY: He pleaded not guilty to seven charges of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering.

Now, there are two things that Roger Stone is allowed to say about his case. He can say that he is innocent and he can continue to ask for donations for his legal defense fund. He is also allowed to be out there publicly talking about all kinds of other issues, just not his case. Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Sara, thanks. Five weeks and counting now until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and there is still no deal in sight. No deal in place at this point. British Prime Minister Theresa May has apparently given up trying to get the E.U. to reopen withdrawal agreement.

Instead, she's been in Brussels trying to get assurance that the Irish border will remain open and a so called backstop would be temporary. If the prime minister can get that, she might finally get parliament's approval and avoid a hard Brexit come March 29th.

Billions of dollars are at stake as this crucial trade talk comes down to the wire. This is the second and final day for Chinese and American trade officials. Meeting in Washington and time is short, the clock is ticking. The U.S. is set to hike tariffs on billions in Chinese imports if there is no agreement by March 2nd. But the White House is optimistic. It says a memorandum of understanding will be decided at these talks.

Let's get the latest live from Hong Kong. Our Will Ripley is following this story. Will, MOUs are in play apparently, an MOU. Tell us about the framework, what does it establish and what does it mean?

WILL RIPLEY: Well, an MOU is exactly like an IOU, but it isn't really a legally enforceable agreement. You can kind of compare it to a so- called gentlemen's agreement. And so the key question here is -- if they draft these MOUs in these areas of contention between the U.S. and China which would include things like forced technology transfer, intellectual property, the services industry, agriculture, nontariff barriers, barriers other than trade essentially, then they also have to talk about how exactly they would enforce whatever changes the U.S. and China agree to, and the clock is really ticking, George.

You know, March 1st, one week from today, is the deadline unless President Trump decides to change the deadline. That's when tariffs would more than double on 200 billion dollars-worth of Chinese imports into the U.S., goes from 10 percent to 25 percent. Another issue that they have to tackle or to try to tackle is the trade deficit. It hit record highs just last year.

When you have a trade deficit of more than $380 billion, even if China pledges to buy tens of billions of dollars more in, you know, for example, U.S. agricultural products, soybeans probably number one, wheat corn, that sort of thing, still that leaves a huge shortfall which is one of things that President Trump has most vocally complained about. So, we really have to see what happens in the coming hours when President Trump meets with China's Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office.

HOWELL: You know, well, there was some talk that the president of the United States might relax that deadline if a deal was in sight. There was talk of that. But, again, we're getting no details on what is happening and where things stand. So, it is anyone's guess as to how this plays out. Will Ripley, live for us in Hong Kong. Thank you for the reporting.

U.S. President Trump is set to meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong- un next week in Vietnam, a followup from their first summit. Our Alex Marquardt has a look at what can be expected there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the sequel to a move we've seen before, and as with all sequels, will it live up to the hype? Following President Trump's historic the historic summit with Kim Jong-un last year in Singapore, round two is designed to actually follow through on the commitments made the first time around but have not quite gone anywhere. BRUCE KLINGNER, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: What has been cited as success really has not been either unique or meaningful. We have had no denuclearization since Singapore.

MARQUARDT: The White House announcing today that the president will meet one-on-one with the North Korean dictator to kick off their meetings in Vietnam's capital.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've made a lot of progress. We've made a tremendous amount. That doesn't mean this is going to be the last meeting because I don't believe it will. But we have subjects to discuss which will be very fruitful, I believe.

MARQUARDT: The president's message, the White House says, is to talk about what North Korea could gain should it commit to fully denuclearize. One first problem, the two sides haven't agreed what that even means.

KLINGNER: We see it as North Korea abandoning its weapons as it is required to do under the U.N. resolution and North Korea sees it as negotiating what they want to remove what they say is the U.S. hostile policy.

[02:24:59] MARQUARDT: American negotiators say they also hope to focus on three other broad priorities.: transforming the relationship between the two countries, establishing a peaceful regime on the peninsula, and getting the remains of American troops missing and killed in the Korean War.

Preparation is fully under way. National security adviser John Bolton is due in South Korea this week for meetings while the State Department takes the lead.

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a long and difficult talk. We've been negotiating hard.

MARQUARDT: As with all international summits, the president will arrive on a gleaming Air Force One. North Korea's fleet of Soviet-Arab planes, however, is a little out of date. At the last summit, Kim Jong-un had to borrow a jet from China.

This time, it is believed he will instead choose to take a multiday trip on one of his famous but slow bullet-proof trains all the way from Pyongyang through China to the Vietnamese border, almost 2,400 miles. From there, he will drive the remaining 100 miles to Hanoi, where he will find a city trimmed up for his arrival. One barber offering Kim's famous cut for free, as well as President Trump's signature swept- back (INAUDIBLE).

The White House says it is looking for what they called major steps from North Korea at the summit, but the president is already warning that there may be more meetings to come. The North, of course, wants those harsh U.S. sanctions lifted. And if you listen closely to what the president and Pompeo are now saying, it sounds like they may be willing to start lifting those sanctions if they start to see what the president is calling meaningful progress. But we are still a very long way from the president's announcement last summer that North Korea is no longer is nuclear threat. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Alex, thank you. Japanese space scientists are celebrating after the spacecraft Hayabusa-2 successfully touched down on an asteroid. Not only that, it is also going to bring back valuable samples as well. The space probe fired a projectile into the asteroid to loosen some debris which Hayabusa will bring home. It is the first time scientists will get to study samples from an asteroid of this kind. They expect it to be rich in water and organic materials, hopefully unlocking some celestial secrets about life.

In the meantime, an Israeli team is aiming for the first privately- funded spacecraft to land on the moon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Three, two, one.

HOWELL (voice-over): And on Thursday, that dream got a little closer to become a reality. The robotic moon lander called SpaceIL launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX rocket. The mission cost about $100 million dollars and the spacecraft should land sometime in April.

Senate investigators have some questions for an American businessman with ties to the U.S. president. What they want to know about the future president's trip to Moscow back in the 1990s.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:25] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers all over the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. Thank you for being with us. The headlines we're following for you this hour, Pope Francis wants the leader of his church to take concrete measures in dealing with the scourge of sex abuse by clergy members. He spoke during the first day of an unprecedented four-day summit at the Vatican. The second day of meetings he's set to begin soon.

American actor Jussie Smollett insists that he's innocent. This is after being charged with making a bogus complaint to police. Chicago authorities say that he paid two men to stage an attack on him last month in an attempt to allegedly enhance his career. Under Illinois law, filing a false report is punishable by three years in prison. Kenya's high court says it is postponing a ruling, a landmark ruling on a case that could decriminalize consensual sex between same sex adult.

The court says they will device come May since the British colonial era, gay sex and by extension gay relationships had been illegal in Kenya. Sources tells CNN, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has some questions for an American businessman based in Moscow, a man with a long standing tie with the U.S President Donald Trump. Witnesses say that David Geovanis could shed light on Mr. Trump's past commercial and personal activities in Russia. Our Nina dos Santos reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia will continue --

(CROSSTALK)

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to talk to this man. An American who once escorted Donald Trump around Moscow to see if he can confirm claims that Russia has embarrassing material on the president according to multiple sources. David Geovanis has been based in the Russian capital for almost three decades. At one point taking this picture in front of a Joseph Stalin portrait surrounded by scantily clad women.

Sources tells CNN that Geovanis has known Donald Trump since at least 1996 when he helped organized meetings like this. But the now president and man who would go on to become donors to his 2016 campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been the best business year of my life.

SANTOS: This Russian news report from the time emerged online a month ago. It shows Geovanis looking on as Trump meets with Moscow's deputy man. By his side, real estate mogul's Bennett LeBow and Howard Lorber. According to the New York Times, Donald Trump Jr. called Lorber after his now infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin connected lawyer in 2016.

TRUMP: Behind me, I have to say we have some of our great businessmen of the world, Howard Lorber, Ben LeBow.

SANTOS: Lorber did not respond to several requests for comment. The 1996 trip was part of a long held plan to explore building a Trump Tower in Moscow. Geovanis also has close ties to another figure of interest in the investigations, Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian mining magnet whose ties to Trump's former campaign chief, Paul Manafort have been scrutinized.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTOS: When reached by CNN, Geovanis said he has no comment to make on his whereabouts or on the Senate Committee's interest in him. The president's legal team declined to comment on his relationship to Geovanis and the lawyer for the Trump Organization also declined to comment. Either way, though, here you have a new intriguing character who's being investigated and one whose links to the president and Russia go back much further than other characters whose names have been mentioned with various probes underway thus far and because he remains in Russia, he won't have been interviewed despite speculation that the Mueller report will be out soon.

Nina dos Santos, CNN London.

HOWELL: Now to Spain where the leaders of the failed 2017 Catalan independence movement are on trial facing numerous charges including rebellion. Our Michael Holmes reports the case has sparked protest and anger throughout the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Tensions run high in Central Barcelona as police batten charge demonstrators protesting the trial of separatist leaders. Violent clashes erupted across the region with pro-Catalan independence protesters blocking roads and confronting police. This burning barricade is from Girona where tires were set on fire to block the main road connecting the city to nearby Barcelona.

[02:35:01] Sparking the latest round of unrest is the trial of a dozen Catalan leaders in Madrid which started on February 12th. They face a number of charges including rebellion and misuse of public funds in connection with Catalonia's failed attempt to secede from Spain in 2017. Some place up to 25 years in jail, all 12 deny any wrongdoing. You may remember these violent scenes as Spanish police grappled with voters and local election officials after Catalonia's government went ahead with a referendum on the region's future despite warnings from Madrid that the vote was unconstitutional.

They also seized the ballot boxes pictures of polling stations under siege shocked Europe and Madrid's representative to Catalonia later apologized for the violence. In the end, 90 percent of those who voted opted for independence. But turnout was low and pro-Madrid parties boycotted the referendum. When the Catalan Parliament subsequently voted for independence, Madrid cracked down. Several of the leaders were arrested.

Others such as the former Catalan President fled the country, a wanted man in Spain he's calling on the European Union to intervene from his new home in Belgium.

CARLES PUIGDEMONT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF CATALONIA: My Europe as in like your Europe defends fundamental human rights even if I can understand and the silence of the European Parliament with regards to impendence of Catalonia even that, I'm shocked at by the passivity of Europe in front of political trial that (INAUDIBLE) to condemned peaceful and democratic political leaders that use of rebellion and sedition to act to 25 years in prison.

HOLMES: A panel of seven judges are hearing the case against the 12 Catalan leaders. Some 500 witnesses are expected to testify and the trial is being broadcast live. It is expected to last three months and a decision not expected before late June. Michael Holmes, CNN Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, more pressure on the Chinese tech firm Huawei as Britain considers its 5G network, but doesn't carry a security risk or threat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back. We are following the story of an American T.V. actor Jussie Smollett who's been charged with filing a false police report after claiming that he was a victim of a hate crime in Chicago.

[02:40:10] Smollett denies any wrongdoing but his story has prompted CNN's Brian Todd to ask experts about other cases where people may have faked attacks on themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: I'm offended --

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A visibly angry Chicago Police Superintendent says it, "Pissed everybody off in the police department when they discovered a possible motive for Empire actor Jussie Smollett's allegedly fabricated attack." Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett did it because he was dissatisfied with his salary that he took advantage of the pain of anger of racism to promote his career.

JOHNSON: Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who's in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city.

TODD: Smollett's lawyers promised an aggressive defense against the charge. But if Smollett did staged the attack, he wouldn't be the first. In September 2015, authorities in Fox Lake, Illinois initially thought police officer Joe Gliniewicz had chased three suspects into a remote area and was shot by them. He was found dead with a gunshot wound to his chest. Police later said Gliniewicz had staged his own suicide after thousands of dollars from a charity he helped run.

Experts say covering up their own crimes is sometimes a powerful motive for people who stage attacks on themselves.

DANIEL LIEBERMAN, PSYCHIATRIST, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I think that when somebody is guilty of a crime, they stop thinking in rational ways. Guilt, shame, these are powerful emotions and emotion and rational thought often oppose one another.

TODD: But Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a psychiatrist who has work on criminal cases says cover-ups are among several motives for why people stage attacks on themselves or make false claims of attacks.

LIEBERMAN: Well, we're confronted with a victim of attack. We reach out to them. We want to help them and that's a wonderful thing and I think that people appreciate that, and sometimes they will stage an attack in order to get that when they can't get attention or sympathy in other ways.

TODD: Lieberman says that dynamic may have been at play in 2014 when a woman identified only as Jackie claimed she'd been raped and beaten by several men at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone magazine did a long investigative report on the claim, but the woman's story was discredited when police said they found no evidence that a rape had occurred. Still, she continued to stand by her account. But sometimes experts say the motives for false claims become more aggressive than a simple desire for attention or sympathy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another reason could be revenge. Somebody is

angry at a spouse or a domestic partner and decides I'm going to lie and say that they did something that they didn't.

TODD: Analysts say Jussie Smollett whether his alleged motive was self-promotion, sympathy, or money is caught up in a recent American social phenomenon, the culture of victimization and the power it can brings.

LIEBERMAN: Being a victim gives one ammunition to go on the attack and whether or not that's a constructive way to do politics I think is an important question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Law enforcement experts and psychiatrist say there's all sorts of fallout from alleged cases of fake attacks. They say in some cases, it could make it harder for real victims to get justice and in other cases it could lead to dangerous retaliation like in the Smollett case. They say someone taking on the role of vigilante could have targeted an innocent person to retaliate for the crime that he alleged. Brian Todd, CNN Washington.

HOWELL: Brian, thank you. You saw snow there on the ground in D.C. where Brian was. Nothing unusual there, but snow in Las Vegas? That city literally turned into a snow globe this week as the first flakes in more than a decade fell across the region. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is following that story. Derek, that's just odd to see.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Yes, quite a sight there. That's for sure. You can see an incredible show in the Sin City. You can eat incredible food at the buffet dinners here. You can go gamble for instance at the casinos, but the best show yesterday in Las Vegas was clearly outdoors because we had snow falling from the sky, the first time as you mentioned in over a decade that snowflakes flew in the Sin City and it's all thanks to a storm system that continues to wrap up across the four corners of the Western U.S.

All thanks to this large trough that continues to rotate across the region bringing mountain snows. In fact, impressive snowfall totals over the past 48 hours. Flagstaff International Airport, 84 centimeters, that's in a two-day period. But in 24 hours alone, they received over 80 centimeters of snow. And so, blanketing that area with heavy snow, disrupting travel conditions as one could expect. The storm system is slowly starting to exit the region.

[02:45:00] But there are still winter storm warnings and advisories in effect for much of that area including Las Vegas as well as the mountains of Southern California. And look at how that moves into the plains, as well the storm system is going to transfer its energy across the plains and into the western Great Lakes and provide a full- on snowstorm for that region late in the weekend. Here's the latest radar, you can see it's rain in Phoenix, but just to the north and Flagstaff, that's where it continues to be heavy at times. They still have another 12 hours of the white stuff falling down on the ground. So we're going to add to those snowfall totals going forward. Look at how active the entire country.

As the good news here is that California, three years ago was in 95 percent of the state was under some sort of drought conditions. Now we're only at four percent. So, a significant reduction in that. And that is good news for people in California because it has been an extremely dry period for several years, but now that has changed. George?

[02:45:46] HOWELL: Derek, absolutely. Thank you so much.

VAN DAM: You're welcome.

HOWELL: The founder of tech giant, Huawei claims that company can't be crushed by the United States and has sales figures to back it up. And with 5G networks on the way, new opportunities are on the horizon, but the U.S. and its allies are concerned that Huawei equipment could compromise national security. Our tech technology correspondent Samuel Burke has more on that story for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: High above the streets of London, a once-in-a-generation Internet upgrade is taking shape. Telecom giants like B.T. are rewiring the city with superfast 5G.

MARC ALLERA, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, B.T. CONSUMER BRANDS: We're seeing speeds of up to one gigabit per second.

BURKE: Put that into context. What is somebody usually have right now?

ALLERA: Well, that's more than 10 to 20 times faster than the average speed that they're getting today. So, this is fiber broadband light speeds on your mobile device.

BURKE: So fast that 5G promises connectivity for a new age of infrastructure where devices like a factory for robots, self-driving cars, and delivery drones can communicate with each other.

ALLERA: That's going to mean millions of more connections connected to the Internet and as an opportunity for us that remains a very large and exciting one. Cashing in on the opportunity, China's Huawei. The company is the world's biggest maker of telecommunications equipment.

In Europe, its conquered nearly 40 percent of the market. Dominance that's caught the attention of rivals.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has also been very clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei.

BURKE: The U.S. says the gear could be used by the Chinese government to spy and is urging allies to ban Huawei from their 5G network. Australia has already obliged. Germany and New Zealand are considering doing so as well. ANTHONY GLEES, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BUCKINGHAM: The risk is that if Huawei were told by the Chinese government, crack the code on that phone, they wouldn't think twice about saying, "Of course, we'll do it."

BURKE: Huawei has denied its equipment poses any security risk and has said the U.S. call for a ban is politically motivated. When it comes to 5G equipment, America doesn't have a heavyweight global competitor.

Broadcasting 5G across a city like London takes a monumental engineering effort. The 5G antenna is heavier and uses more power than previous generations. Plus it emits additional radiation. This is the equipment that B.T. and operators around the world are relying on Huawei for.

B.T. was one of the first companies out of China to use Huawei equipment in their networks.

ALLERA: Over the years that we work with Huawei, we've not yet seen anything that gives us cause for concern. And we continue to work with all of those relevant bodies to answer all the questions that are -- that are being asked right now.

GLEES: B.T. may say, "Oh, we haven't seen any evidence of anything. They wouldn't. That -- that's the point about good espionage, you wouldn't see.

BURKE: The U.K. is weighing its own ban on Huawei for 5G. If it follows the U.S., B.T.'s plans to build 1,500 sites like this one by the end of the year could be in jeopardy. Samuel Burke, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Thank you so much. Still ahead. The show must go on. After missteps, the Oscars are just days away. And this year, there's no host. And we'll talk about what that might look like. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:50:50] HOWELL: From scandals, controversies, and missteps, Sunday's Academy Awards is shaping up to be one big surprise, including who will take home the coveted best picture award Oscar.

The industry's own Guild Awards are usually the best indicator, a predictor. But this year, it seems there are no sure bets. CNN's Stephanie Elam has this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son, it is your time.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This award season, Hollywood, choosing themes of race and diversity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can handle the more mundane. ELAM: Over politics and star-driven films. Once a front-runner, A Star Is Born is now looking like an Oscar longshot.

MATT DONNELLY, SENIOR FILM WRITER, VARIETY: They've been a long, long time contender. And it's hard. It's hard to combat the narrative of up-and-comers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roma.

ELAM: No up-and-comer has more momentum than Roma. Alfonso Cuaron's portrait of a domestic worker's life in Mexico.

MATTHEW BELLONI, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Roma is not an overtly political film, but it's certainly of the moment right now. It really resonates with the debate that's going on right now in America about immigration.

ELAM: The Academy's best litmus test comes from its Guild Awards since many of those voters are also in the Academy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black Panther.

ELAM: The Screen Actors Guild chose Black Panther. The directors chose Roma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you foresee any issues in working for a black man?

ELAM: The Producers Guild of America chose Green Book. The PGA has predicted the Best Picture Oscar 20 of the last 29 years.

BELLONI: There is an older more traditional Oscar voter who loves this kind of film. The kind of voter who went for Driving Miss Daisy, 30 years ago.

ELAM: The Academy further embracing culture and foreign cinema by giving Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, a director nomination for "Cold War".

So many people thought that, that was going to go to Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born. How did you feel when you saw the nominations come out?

PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI, DIRECTOR, COLD WAR: I'm happy. I mean, the Oscars' the main award ceremony in the world -- you know. So, the world should take part in it.

ELAM: With eight nominations, A Stars Is Born can't be counted out. Bradley Cooper, along with Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman hoping their first major award this season is the big one. Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Let's bring in entertainment journalist Kim Serafin to talk more about this Kim in Los Angeles for us. Good to have you, Kim. KIM SERAFIN, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: Look, there's a lot of speculation around what the format of this show will look like especially when it comes to the very critical role of hosts. What do we know at this point?

SERAFIN: Yes, there's been so much drama around this whole Oscar season. As you just had in that setup package, it just really from the very beginning. First, there was going to be a popular Oscar that was scrapped. Then, of course, the hosts as you just mentioned. This is a big deal, not Kevin Hart, obviously. There's going to be no host.

The last time there was no host was 30 years ago, and you've probably saw some of these infamous videos of the 30 years ago Oscars with Rob Lowe and a Snow White that did not work out too well.

So, a lot of people are wondering how this will work out. We don't know. I mean, that's, that's basically the answer. We do not know how this will work out. It could potentially shorten the show that might be good because the show does tend to drag on sometimes.

They are going to have some Avengers, we think. That's, that's one of the things they're talking about. We know there will be performances from all of the nominated songs initially, it wasn't going to be all of the nominated songs so that will -- you know, play into it. No host still. So, we just don't really know what's going to happen.

It really has not been the same I think -- you know, the years of Billy Crystal and Bob Hope hosting. That's, that's a time -- that's times ago, and I don't think we ever will have that ever again.

HOWELL: Right.

SERAFIN: So, we'll have to see how this plays out.

HOWELL: This is going to be interesting to see for sure. Look, another interesting point, the race for Best Picture. Black Panther in the mix, a superhero film, and Roma from Netflix him -- both make history if they win.

SERAFIN: Yes, that you're exactly right. And Roma does seem to have the edge right now. People are saying this could be the year that Roma wins, which could definitely as you mention make history a foreign language film from a streaming service winning best picture would just really be a game changer.

And I think it's just going with what it -- what we're seeing now in Hollywood, whether it's media films, streaming services are changing everything. And if this wins Best Picture, Roma wins, which most people predict it will, I think it really just changes things for the future.

I think a lot of people would really like to see Black Panther win. I mean, this is the number one box-office winner of all of the -- all of the nominees this year. Making over 700,000 here in the United States, here domestically, you know, over a billion worldwide.

So, I think, you know, that, that really tells you that people would like to see Black Panther win. You know, I think we'll have to wait and see who does win. Any of the films really have a path right now to a way to win Best Picture. Black Panther would be great, and that would also be a game changer, the first time a superhero movie with wins.

[02:55:53] HOWELL: Definitely enjoyed watching Black Panther. So, we will see how that all shakes out. What about the category of Best Actress and Best Actors? So, who has the edge in your mind between Glenn Close and Lady Gaga?

SERAFIN: I think this is Glenn Close. You know she's a seven-time Oscar nominee, has never won before. I don't think it's kind of a -- it's not going to be a pity win. But it might be even just kind of a lifetime win. You know she deserves it. She's great in this film. But also it's her time. I think it's a long-overdue Oscar, I think Glenn Close wins this.

Lady Gaga had some momentum at the beginning, but now, Glenn Close has gone on to win several awards leading up to this. So, I think this is her year, it's her time.

For Best Actor, I think Rami Malek gets this. This is -- you know, Bohemian Rhapsody, people love this film, a huge box-office winner. And I think Rami Malek did a great job. He kind of gives that show- stopping kind of performance. I think this is his year to win as well.

HOWELL: All right, and Kim, maybe 20 seconds left here. But all the controversies, what do you think is the biggest controversy here?

SERAFIN: The biggest controversy? You know, there's so many this year. Where do we even begin? I mean I think that the host. That was definitely one of the bigger controversies. I think that one will definitely play out.

And I think, as I mentioned, that they're having the popular film that people thought. Well, let's have this popular film category because that will make people tune in to the Oscars.

But, you know what, I think people are going to tune-in. You have again, a crop of films that made so much money at the box-office. Really popular films from A Star Is Born to obviously, Black Panther.

People want to see these films, and I think people are really waiting to see who will win. It's not the kind of year where you know who's going to win. This year it's kind of a nail-biter. So, I think this could help with the ratings.

HOWELL: Kim Serafin, staying up with us there at midnight in Los Angeles. Three minutes until. Thanks so much for the insight into what's ahead.

And we thank you for being with us for NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. My colleague Natalie Allen is up next with more news for you. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END