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Humanitarian Aid Showdown in Venezuela; Russia Investigation; Interview with James Boys; R. Kelly Turns Himself In; New England Patriots Owner Faces Charges; Civilians Flee ISIS' Last Syrian Territory; Interview with Lina Khatib, Chatham House; Nigerian Polls Open; 2019 Academy Awards. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 23, 2019 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A deepening power struggle in Venezuela, the Guaido-led opposition rallies for humanitarian aid as Maduro's military pushes back.

The human toll in the fight against ISIS in Syria, thousands of civilians flee the last patch of land still under the terror group's control.

Despite significant delays, polls are finally open in Nigeria. We head to Lagos for a live report there.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: Our top story: Venezuela's humanitarian crisis is heading toward a showdown. In just a few hours' time the opposition will try to bring aid from neighboring nations. But the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, is doing everything he can to stop it.

His government has closed the borders to Colombia and Brazil where that aid is being stacked and ready for deliver but already the standoff near Brazil's border has been violent. Local officials say two people were killed, 17 others hurt when Venezuelan troops opened fire.

More than 50 countries back the opposition and have condemned the Venezuelan president. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says the violation of human rights by Maduro and those following his orders will not go unpunished.

She says the United States urges the Venezuelan military to uphold its constitutional duty to protect the citizens of Venezuela and the military must allow humanitarian aid to peacefully enter the country. She says the world is watching. Meantime, aid is piling up at both borders. The U.S. is sending additional supplies. At the border of Colombia, two concerts will be held. On one side a pro-opposition event and on the other, a pro- Maduro festival in Venezuela.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido attended the event in Colombia, despite being under a travel ban. Our Nick Paton Walsh spoke with the sponsor of that concert, Richard Branson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD BRANSON, CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN AMERICA: We are trying to think of what would be the best way of trying to open the bridge and get humanitarian aid in.

We are hoping that the army standing on that bridge will hear the music and that tomorrow, when people bring white roses to those people on the bridge, that they are left with much needed supplies in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Earlier, I spoke with journalist Rory Carroll and asked him for his assessment of what's happening right now in Venezuela.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RORY CARROLL, "THE GUARDIAN": we have seen already in the past few days, people have died and this could very swiftly escalate. The government senses an existential threat. So it could feel the need to pull out all the stops and try to (INAUDIBLE) representation.

And the opposition I think also feels that the clock, in some ways, is against them. So they have brought this deadline on themselves to try to reach a crunch point, in which case, there will be a cascade of events in their favor.

That's why they are putting all their eggs in this basket.

The question is, the opposition and their backers in the United States and elsewhere, is there a plan B?

What happens if the Venezuelan military don't change sides?

It's unclear to me whether there really is a plan B. We could then enter with the opposition, a dangerous phase where they would lose momentum. The opposition doesn't want to lose momentum. They are really hoping there will be a breakthrough of sorts in the next few days.

The question is, if that happens, will there be violence and, if so, how much?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: That was my conversation with Rory Carroll earlier. We will continue to bring you this developing story in Brazil. To the Russia investigation. We are waiting for an important part of Robert Mueller's probe, a key deadline regarding the sentencing recommendation for Paul Manafort. It's already come and gone several hours ago.

That filing concerning Donald Trump's former campaign chair is expected to outline facts that prosecutors believe the judge should consider when --

[05:05:00]

HOWELL: -- sentencing Manafort last month.

Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. It's possible prosecutors sent the document to the judge already but did not make it public.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department says special counsel Robert Mueller will not release his final report next week as had been previously indicated. U.S. attorney general William Barr will get a look at it and decide whether or not to release it. Democrats, though, want that report to be made public.

Another key Trump player, Michael Cohen, is reportedly giving federal prosecutors in New York new information about the president's family business.

According to "The New York Times," President Trump's former personal attorney offered information on possible irregularities in the Trump Organization and a donor to the inaugural committee. Michael Cohen is set to start a three-year sentence in May for breaking finance laws.

First, he will give testimony to Congress next week. President Trump says he's not concerned with what Cohen may have to say in that testimony. Michael Cohen's testimony is just one of several key event happening next week.

Congress votes on Mr. Trump's emergency to get funding for the border wall and there is a face-to-face between him and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Our Abby Phillip has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) about the release of the Mueller report?

Have you spoken to him about that?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've said nothing within that (ph)?

TRUMP: I have not. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump answering questions about the looming Russia probe report. While behind scenes, the White House prepares for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to hand it over and ends his investigation.

TRUMP: There was no collusion. There was no on obstruction of. There was no anything. So I look forward to seeing the report. If it's an honest report, it will say that. If it's not an honest report, it won't.

PHILLIP: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says once the final report is done don't expect the President to weigh in on whether it should be made public.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, the President is going to leave that decision up to the attorney general. Just because he hasn't made that call he is following the proper process.

PHILLIP: She says the White House is ready whatever the outcome, but insists staffers aren't focused on the probe. Those comments coming just hours after the President tweeted that there is no collusion and the witch hunt so bad for our country must end.

The Mueller report is just one of several possible headaches facing the White House as Trump heads overseas to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un the same day as the Trump-Kim summit. Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is set to testify on Capitol Hill both publicly and behind closed doors.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'm done with the lying. I'm done being loyal to President Trump.

PHILLIP: On Tuesday, House Democrats are expected to vote on a resolution of disapproval, aimed at blocking the national emergency Trump declared to build a wall on the southern border.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: There is no emergency at this border. If there were, we'd all be there with him.

PHILLIP: Then there's President Trump's trip to meet with Kim, which could also prove to be a disappointment. As White House officials are now tampering expectations for the summit, a mid doubts about whether Kim is serious about denuclearization.

SANDERS: We're taking those one step at a time. We're continuing to see positive progress and we think that's a good thing, but we're not going to be naive in the process. We know we have a long way to go.

PHILLIP: President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office he would 100 percent veto the resolution of disapproval House Democrats will vote on next week. As for trade with China, he plans to meet with children leader Xi Jinping at Mar-a-lago next month and talks about a trade deal between the two countries -- Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Let's talk more about all of this with James Boys, a professor of political studies at Richmond University of London, joining us this hour from our London bureau.

A pleasure to have you with us.

JAMES BOYS, RICHMOND UNIVERSITY: Good to see you, thank you for having me on this morning.

HOWELL: Let's start with the attorney general, expected to be the first to see Robert Mueller's report.

How do you see that playing out, James, with Democrats pushing to make this report public, as public as possible?

BOYS: Well, it's fascinating, isn't it, quite frankly, here we are over two years into the Trump presidency. For the first time ever he has a full time attorney general who is not in anyway tainted by allegation of involvement. Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself; we've had various individuals trying to take place in the part to get away from that.

Now we have William Barr, frankly, about to take possession of this report. Nobody knows when it's coming in. There had been suggestions the report was coming in the next couple days in the next week. We expect that is now pushed back.

The attorney general will be the reporting line --

[05:10:00]

BOYS: -- for Robert Mueller. So it will be understandable that he would get the first look at this.

The great question is what happens then?

Because, of course, we all want to see what's in it. Democrats want to see what's in it. Whether the White House wants us to see what's in it is a very different situation.

Of course the American Constitution and the relationship between the attorney general and the United States is an interesting one. For far too long, I think, many people thought Donald Trump saw the attorney general as his attorney somehow and not the attorney general of the United States.

Of course, it's not the attorney general's job to protect the American president but to preside over all investigations and to be America's chief law enforcement officer.

The extent to which we will see that will tell us a great deal about William Barr's political independence. If there are any moves to try to prevent its release, there will certainly be a strong pushback from Democrats especially in the House of Representatives, of course, to either get it released or potentially subpoena I think Robert Mueller to find out what is in that report.

HOWELL: So many people will be watching and waiting to see what happens with that. Through court filings, interesting; we have been getting key insights into Mueller's investigation. It's as if he has been writing his report in public for many.

Do you think we can expect any surprises when that report is finally released?

BOYS: Yes, I think so. I think most people I think will acknowledge that Mueller's team has run a tight shop. There has been a distinct lack of leaks in many ways with regard it to.

That has been frustrating for many, particularly in the media who would like to know what is going on. But, of course, it is exactly the right way to run such an investigation.

I think if there had been a whole series of leaks, those being investigated would quite rightly state that this is being an inappropriate way of dealing with that situation. So when the report comes out, it will be fascinating to see the level of indictments, if, indeed, indictments are to follow and to see the exact content.

But right now, it's the ultimate guessing game, I guess.

What's in the report?

When will it be made public and who will be named within it?

HOWELL: That's a lot happening in D.C.

BOYS: Oh, yes --

(CROSSTALK)

HOWELL: -- meeting between the U.S. president and the North Korean leader.

When it comes down to this meeting, how important will it be to see concrete moves towards denuclearization?

More than optics?

BOYS: Well, I think that if Donald Trump is to come out of this with anything tangible, there needs to be some moves in some tangible direction.

Give the president his due. He has, I think, made great strides with regard to having these talks. They are talks, I think, if somebody had said two years ago were to happen, many people would be quite incredulous. So let's give the president credit for that.

But for them to be meaningful, they have to lead to meaningful developments. And we have seen I think this president be someone who is very dubious about any agreements he has not been personally involved in. We've seen in recent weeks pushback against the INF Treaty most

recently. So it will be vital I think if we are to see denuclearization and a restoration of peace in that part of the world. For moves I think to end the North Korean nuclear program.

The great question, of course, what will North Korea demand in exchange?

And will President Trump be in a position he feels able to address those, that tradeoff without betraying the South Koreans?

HOWELL: James Boys, we appreciate it. Thank you so much.

BOYS: Thank you.

HOWELL: Surrendering to police. Singer R. Kelly is in jail facing multiple charges of sex abuse. And many say it's been a long time coming. The details on that story ahead.

Plus Catholic leaders gathered at the Vatican, confronting sexual abuse by priests. CNN is live in Rome with that story. Stay with us.

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SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think these women are lying?

STEVE GREENBERG, ATTORNEY: All of them are lying. One involves to be the victim from an earlier case. Double jeopardy should bar that case. A jury acquitted him fair and square, it's over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And that was the attorney for singer R. Kelly. He spoke moments after his client turned himself in to Chicago police. Kelly is facing sexual abuse charges and could be facing up to 70 years in prison. He has repeatedly denied similar accusations over the years. Our Sara Sidner is following this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Stunning developments here in Chicago. R. Kelly is now in police custody. We now know the state's attorney has -- has a warrant put out for his arrest. A no bail warrant, which means if the judge does agree to it, he won't be let out of jail until his trial.

We should also mention the counts.

[04:20:00] SIDNER: The charges, there are 10 of them. They're 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse against four women. The state's attorney detailing what those were by using the women's initials.

We know three of the women in those counts were under the age of 17. So sexual abuse of a minor in those cases and one that was later on the person was of age.

What we can also tell you is that R. Kelly left his studio on Friday night. We were there and captured that and then he came straight here to central booking in Chicago and our photographers also captured the moment when he walked into custody.

This has been -- there have been decades and decades of women coming forward, saying that R. Kelly abused them. Some have said they were minors at the time. Some of those cases had gone to court but then were settled out of court. Fast forward to 2019. And you see these indictments come 11 years after he was on trial on 14 charges of child pornography. He was acquitted in that case. That case involved a videotape that prosecutors said had a girl on it who was underage and R. Kelly engaged in sex acts with her. But they lost the case partly because the jury was not able to believe it was R. Kelly on the tape nor the girl on the tape. They were unable to positively identify either of them. And that was part of the reason why he was acquitted in that case.

There's another tape, a tape uncovered by attorney Michael Avenatti that was handed over to the state's attorney's office last week. We know a grand jury was convened and witnesses came in front of the grand jury and now we're here today and R. Kelly is in police custody. A very big development in Chicago. Certainly he was a top R&B singer and now that singer is in police custody awaiting his bail -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Sara, thank you.

Now to the billionaire --

[05:20:00]

HOWELL: -- owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, he's being charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution. Police say Robert Kraft paid for sex acts twice at a massage parlor in a strip mall. The charges stemming from a months-long sting operation that snared 24 other men.

A spokesperson for Kraft issued a statement saying, quote, "We categorically deny Mr. Kraft engaged in any legal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."

But police say they have pictures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DET. ANDREW SHARP, JUPITER, FLORIDA, POLICE: The video that we have obtained shows the acts that took place on every gentleman that you have a listing of, the acts that took place is recorded on that video.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Three women have been arrested so far in what police are calling a human trafficking investigation. The current arrests are, quote, "just the tip of the iceberg on this."

Survivors of sexual abuse by priests marching through Rome this hour. They are demanding justice. This is day three of the Vatican's historic summit on clergy sex abuse. The theme around the talks this time is transparency.

Some 200 church leaders around the world came together in at the Vatican, their singular goal to tackle scandal that has rocked the church for decade, it comes at a time when the church is facing increased scrutiny from law enforcement. About a dozen states are investigating alleged misconduct by Catholic priests.

Rosa Flores is live in Rome.

Rosa, today it's all about transparency.

How is the Vatican framing that proposal of transparency?

And what are some of the differences that it would mean from the Catholic Church?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, George, we're getting a very candid explanation about what this means from Cardinal Marx. He is the archbishop of Munich. He delivered a very candid speech today, talking about transparency, how it requires traceability, documents, files, spreadsheets.

And he said that, you know, a lot of the times those files are needed in an administration. Now survivors have been talking about this for years. The fact that some of these documents created by the church or not created by the church to document the abuse has been destroyed.

And in a pivotal moment in Cardinal Marks' (ph) speech, he actually admits that some of these documents have been destroyed. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL REINHARD MARX: FISA (ph) could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed or not even graded. The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offenses were deliberately not complied with but instead cancelled or overridden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Now I am very curious to know if civil authorities from around the world are listening to this particular speech because we know that there are civil authorities around the globe conducting their own investigations in the church.

In the United States alone, we know of more than a dozen attorneys general doing their own investigations, from talking to the Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro's officer, they have told us at least 46 states in the United States have contacted that attorney general to ask him how they can conduct their own investigations.

We know of local investigations going on as well and at least two federal probes, one in Pennsylvania, another one in New York.

And so, George, when we have a cardinal speaking candidly how files were destroyed, I know survivors are listening to this and we want reaction as we speak because there is a demonstration going on not too far from here. So we're trying to get reaction from them.

This is something, I am telling you, this is something that survivors have been screaming at the top of their lungs for decades. The fact that the church could have been destroying, that the church had been destroying records and, of course, a lot of the times they were not believed.

And so this is a pivotal moment in this summit, the fact that a cardinal is admitting that some of those files were destroyed.

HOWELL: That is highly significant. Rosa Flores, following this story live in Rome. We'll keep in touch with you.

The U.S. president is changing his position on this, of bringing all U.S. troops home from Syria. Why he still says there is a net win for his presidency.

Plus, thousands of civilians --

[05:25:00]

HOWELL: -- on the run from ISIS' last stronghold in Syria. How coalition troops are trying to get them out ahead of the last battle there. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

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HOWELL: In Syria, the U.S. president --

[05:30:00] HOWELL: -- has agreed to keep about 400 U.S. troops on the ground even after most U.S. forces come home. The troops will be a part of a multi-national force to keep the peace, target ISIS remnants there and prevent the terror group's resurgence.

Mr. Trump says his decision is not a reversal. He says even though all American soldiers aren't coming home, he has achieved a great victory anyway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I heard Lindsey Graham this morning congratulating me on having defeated the caliphate. Frankly, I'm getting a lot of congratulations, at the same time, we can leave a small force along with others in the force whether it's NATO troops or whoever might be so it doesn't start up, I'm OK. It's a tiny fraction of the people we have.

A lot of people like that idea. I'm opened to ideas but the 2,500 people we had there will be going to different parts of the world. They may be going over to Iraq, a base that costs becomes and frankly we'll be using.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The map is showing ISIS fighters clinging to their last holdout on a scrap of land along the border with Iraq. This video of ISIS taken by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces,, the terror group is squeezed into a half square kilometer or a fifth of a square mile. They're surrounded but the SDF has paused their artillery.

They believe ISIS is using thousands of civilians as human shields and the coalition wants to take them to safety before they defeat ISIS.

For the civilians trapped with ISIS, trying to escape the terror group isn't their only concern. Human Rights Watch says the coalition fighting ISIS hasn't done enough to protect civilians. Take a look here at this satellite image. It shows the sheer number of coalition airstrikes and shelling that they've suffered.

Now to a time-lapse satellite image. Several showing the migration of thousands of people toward the river as they escape the ISIS stronghold. These pictures show movement in a month's time, from February to January of this year.

The people who flee ISIS end up in refugee camps in Northeast Syria. Now to these pictures taken from December to February. They show how fast one camp has grown. The aid group Save the Children reports 2,500 camp residents are foreign children from ISIS territories whose families are associated with the terror group.

Save the Children says those children have spent months or years without medical care and adequate food and even now face life- threatening dangers. Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, has been following all of this from the front lines and has this story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For the second time in three days, dozens of trucks went to that last speck of territory still controlled by ISIS just outside the town of Baghouz al-Fawqani in Eastern Syria. As many as a thousand people were evacuated, women, children, also men of military age.

We spoke to a Syrian Democratic Forces commander who's based on a roof that overlooks that camp. He says, despite the departure of these civilians, there are still many civilians left inside, including fighters, of course.

He did say that there is some dispute, some clashes between ISIS members who want to give up and leave and those who want to fight to the bitter end. Earlier today, we spoke to a spokesman for the SDF who says that as soon as all those civilians are cleared out, those remaining inside will be faced with a stark choice: surrender or die -- I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Eastern Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Ben, thank you.

Let's talk more about this now with Lina Khatib. Lina is the head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House, a British think tank, joining us this hour from London.

A pleasure to have you. So given the civilians who are either trapped or those people still trying to escape, is enough being done to get people to safety and out of harm's way?

LINA KHATIB, CHATHAM HOUSE: Well, it's a very tough battle because ISIS uses the civilians as human shields. This is why the full taking back of territory from ISIS is delayed. It is not easy. The terrain of this battle is happening in, it's an area of around I think 1 square mile that's left. Yet, it is very densely populated because ISIS moved a lot of civilians to that area.

[05:35:00]

KHATIB: I think the battle is now being conducted with a lot of sensitivity by the international coalition but it's going to be a few days, I think, before we see the end of this.

HOWELL: OK. We are hearing from the U.S. president, now saying he wants to keep some 400 U.S. soldiers in Syria. And from footage that we've seen, ISIS remains a threat there.

Is this conflict truly close to coming to an end, in your view?

KHATIB: We have to be very clear. We're only talking about taking back territory from ISIS. We are not talking about the defeat of ISIS. Just because it loses its territory doesn't mean the group has disappeared. We still have thousands of fighters out there, hiding in the desert between Syria and Iraq. We still have insurgency attacks that are being conducted, especially

against the anti-ISIS international coalition. So having these troops on the ground, I think, is crucial because the battle is far from over against this group. All we are achieving now is taking its areas back but not defeating the group completely.

HOWELL: Your thoughts then to the president's distinction here that, you know, this is a victory, making -- pointing out the difference that you are pointing out.

KHATIB: Well, I mean, he is saying that the United States under his leadership has achieved more in a matter of a few weeks than people have achieved in years. I think this is slightly a myopic interpretation of the situation because ISIS, when it becomes an insurgency, will be similar like Al Qaeda in its heyday.

So we have to bear that in mind. The battle is far from over. And 400 troops is actually not even enough in my view to really fully counter ISIS. We have seen similar situations in the past in Afghanistan. Even in Iraq; whereas rolling back troops to the bare minimum.

And we've had jihadist extremist groups come back. So as I said, the battle is far from over.

HOWELL: What about the situation around ISIS brides or children born into the caliphate, forced to live in these camps that are out there?

What is the path for them in your view?

What happens?

KHATIB: Well, when it comes to those who come from Western countries, like the U.K. or the U.S., I think that they have to be brought back to these countries and face detention, interrogation, probably possibly prosecution, definitely be put in deradicalization programs.

I think all the countries in the West that have citizens who are fighting in these areas or who have migrated to join ISIS, like these women, have to have deradicalization programs ready in order to take them back.

I don't think the solution is to strip them of citizenship and leave them out there because this is only postponing the problem. They are only going to continue to be radicalized. They will raise children who are also going to be radicalized and they will form a threat to the West further down the line.

So I think we have to be responsible for our citizens out there.

HOWELL: Lina Khatib, we appreciate your time and insight on this. We will stay in touch with you.

KHATIB: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead, a critical election in a critical nation. Voters in Africa's largest economy go to the polls days after the election was suddenly postponed. We have a live report ahead for you.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm George Howell.

After a week-long delay, the polls in Syria are now open again. The presidential and parliamentary election was abruptly postponed last Saturday hours before the polls were expected to open.

That sparked finger-pointing among the parties and consternation among would-be voters, many who headed to the polls expecting that they would be open.

That leading to concern also over voter turnout today in what is a critical election for that country in economic turmoil. Our teams are covering every angle of this story today. Right now we have our David McKenzie, who is following this story in Johannesburg.

David, first give us a of what the mood is, given the polls are now opened a week later. Many people were frustrated a week ago.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly there is frustration at the polls today, a delay in the openings with the officials arriving late. But there does seem like broadly across the country polling is going on smoothly, if slowly.

The two major candidates have both voted. They are both from the northern part of the country. You are also seeing a troubling instance of two security incidents in states that deal with these kinds of incidents all the time. But it does underscore the importance of security in this election and more broadly in Nigeria.

HOWELL: Stand by, we want to bring in Stephanie Busari.

Stephanie, we have you now, I know you're following the polls, what's it like?

What's the mood there?

Same question to you as people show up.

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN PRODUCER: Long queues are formed finally here and voting is underway in Africa's largest democracy, there have been delays. Last week it was postponed; this morning, there was lots of delays.

But now they are determined, they are out in long lines, it's a very hot day in Lagos. People are telling us they are just determined to be here to make sure their voices are heard, take a listen to a woman we spoke to earlier. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I must believe that my vote shall count, that's why the fight that I'm battling with malaria, I have come here to vote today. I remain positive that things will go well. Nigerians have been very patient. Today it has been very civil here. So I believe if it's the same way everywhere in the country or in most places, we should, what kind of result we get should be fair and we should accept it.

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BUSARI: So many people like this lady, she was ill, she came out.

[05:45:00]

BUSARI: They're all around here, telling us they are determined that their votes must count today.

HOWELL: Stephanie Busari, stand by, if you could, just to get context from David in Johannesburg.

David, Nigeria has seen delays before.

Do the parties trust the electoral commission?

MCKENZIE: The main opposition candidate said he would accept the result of this election as long as he felt it was free and fair. But his party, the PDP, did say they felt this delay could be some kind of shenanigans, as did the ruling party.

The key really here is why is this important?

For Nigerians across this big nation, it is a critical vote, hoping for the limiting of the corruption that has beset the country and kickstarting this giant economy to do better for its people.

But for the region and the world at large, Nigeria has so much potential and can be either a flashpoint in terms of security with an ongoing fight against ISIS-affiliated militia in the northeast and just in terms of economics.

They surpass South Africa as the continent's biggest economy. If they just get a few things right in Nigeria, that country, many analysts believe, could have a very bright future.

But you still have these two candidates in their 70s, who are wanting to rule the country, which the median age is 18. This is a young, dynamic country. Many people I've spoken to over the years in Nigeria feel they want even more of a change.

So whether these leaders, if all goes peacefully in this election come through either the incumbent or the challenger, they will have a challenge to sort of maintain the credibility of an aging political class when most of the country is young and, frankly, quite restless.

HOWELL: All right, David, thank you.

Stephanie, one other question to you.

As you see people lining up there, I mean, is there a sense of focus?

Are people determined to make this day count, given what we saw just a week ago?

BUSARI: Sorry, can you repeat that?

HOWELL: No worries. Again, I want to get a sense of the mood as people have turned out again. Many people who were turned away a week ago.

BUSARI: Yes, the mood here is one of relief, to be honest with you. People are just very happy, smiles all around that they finally get a chance to vote. Last week, many of them turned out before they even found out that the vote was postponed.

The election was postponed. So today there are that smiles, it's a hot day. But they're out in force and you know they're just very happy to be casting their ballots.

HOWELL: Stephanie Busari, thank you again so much for your reporting.

And David McKenzie, following the story in Johannesburg.

Still ahead here, after a historic snowfall in Arizona, there is more expected this week. We will have the latest forecast from across the United States.

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HOWELL: Hollywood's biggest awards presentation, a little more than a day away on Sunday. And people are taking bets on who will win big in this year's Oscars. According to multiple betting markets, "Roma" is the clear favorite for best picture. That's followed by "Green Book."

For best actor, Rami Malek, who starred as Freddy Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody." He's followed by Christian Bale for "Vice" and Glenn Close seems to have a lock on best actress for her role in "The Wife."

Olivia Colman follows for "The Favorite." Of course, we will bring you the highlights after Sunday's Oscars right here on CNN. March 14th is the third annual My Freedom Day. CNN is partnering with people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery. In advance of #MyFreedomDay, my colleague Cyril Vanier explains what makes him feel free.

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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Freedom to me is the idea that I will be able to chart my own path, that whatever I want to undertake, think or dream, that there is enough room for that. There is enough tolerance and there is enough opportunity for it to happen.

But above all -- and this is the most important part -- however we define it, however we define freedom, we cannot allow freedom to be just the for the few. It is and it must be for everyone.

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HOWELL: Cyril Vanier there. And of course, we want you to tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your story using the #MyFreedomDay.

That's it for NEWSROOM. For viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is next. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.