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Aired February 26, 2019 - 00:00   ET

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome. Great to have you with us, I'm John Vause, breaking news at this hour.

One of the Vatican's most senior officials has been found guilty of child sexual abuse in Australia, cardinal George Pell is the third highest ranking official in the Catholic church and very close to Pope Francis. This conviction brings the clergy sexual abuse scandal to the heart of the Vatican.

Pell and his lawyers say he was innocent and the trial was just to destroy his reputation. A unanimous jury delivered the guilty verdict days before Christmas last year but a court issued a suppression order preventing any reporting of his conviction to protect the integrity of a second trial -- until now.

Prosecutors have withdrawn their charges in the second trial and say it will not progress, which means CNN is now able to report on his conviction. Pell's lawyers released a statement saying, Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so. An appeal has been lodged and we'll await the outcome of the appeals process.

Anna Coren joins us now in Melbourne.

So this is been an ongoing story that the media has known about but because of the suppression order it's been kept mostly away from the public, there's been a lot of murmurings and rumors about what it was all about. But now he the official word is out.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, and we are starting to get reaction to the explosive news that cardinal George Pell, the third highest member of the Vatican, the Vatican treasurer, has been found guilty of child sexual abuse.

Now the assault dates back to the 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne where we are here. It has do with St. Patrick's Cathedral a few kilometers from where we are standing and two teenage choirboys. One the boys says cardinal Pell forced him to perform oral sex on him and did indecent act to him and a fellow choirboy on a Sunday after mass. He then claims that the cardinal groped him in the hallway about a month later.

This choirboy gave evidence in court and it was just his testimony that convinced a jury of 12 Australians to convict cardinal Pell. Now the other choirboy which the crown proceeded with the allegations, he is deceased.

He died several years ago from a drug overdose and that is what prompted his friend to go forward and report this abuse to police. Now we heard from his lawyer a short time ago, she read a statement from this choirboy, who is now a grown man with a young family. And this is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIVIAN WALTER, ATTORNEY: "Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle. Like many survivors, it has taken me years to understand the impact --

[00:05:00]

WALTER: -- "on my life. At some point we realized that we trusted someone we should have feared and we feared those genuine relationships that we should trust. There are many other survivors and advocates who bravely fill this role.

"I am just a regular guy working to support and protect my family as best as I can."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: That was Vivian Walter on behalf of her client, the surviving choirboy whose testimony brought down George Pell.

Now George Pell, of course, he has lodged an appeal. His defense team has lodged an appeal. They did that five days ago. He still maintains his innocence and says he always will.

George Pell was a boy from Ballarat. He grew up an hour and a half's drive from where we are here in Melbourne and he rose through the ranks of the church right to the Vatican to be part of the pope's inner circle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: It's news that will send shockwaves throughout the Roman Catholic church. cardinal George Pell, Vatican treasurer, found guilty of child sex abuse, the most senior Vatican official ever convicted of child sex offenses. The verdict came down in December but legal restrictions meant it couldn't be reported in Australia until now.

Pell, the country's most powerful Catholic, was on trial for assaulting two choir boys in the late '90s when he was archbishop of Melbourne. The prosecution's case hinged on the testimony of one of those boys. He told the court Pell assaulted them after mass, forced him to perform oral sex on him and committed an indecent act with his friend.

He also testified that a month later, Pell pushed him against a wall and groped him.

He said "I didn't tell anyone at the time. I had no intention back then of telling anyone ever."

The other victim died of a drug overdose as an adult, having never told his family of the abuse. The cardinal called the allegations outrageous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE PELL, TREASURER, VATICAN: I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: He didn't take the stand during the trial. Instead, a video of his interview with Australian detectives was played to the court. He pleaded not guilty and his defense lawyer said the accusations were a fantasy. But a jury convicted Pell on all five charges. One of the sexual penetration of a child and four of an indecent act with or in the presence of a child.

It's a shocking fall from grace for one of the Vatican's top officials who has long been an influential if divisive figure in Australia. He rose through the ranks of the church to become Archbishop of Melbourne, then Sydney then a cardinal, before being appointed Vatican treasurer and a member of the pope's informal council of advisers.

But while his star rose in the Vatican, Pell came in for mounting criticism at home as the Australian church became the center of a global child abuse scandal. A national inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse found seven percent of the country's Catholic priests were accused of abusing children between 1950 and 2010. He's identified nearly 2,000 alleged perpetrator including priests, brothers, laypeople and religious sisters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cardinal had given --

COREN: When he appeared in front of the Royal Commission in 2016, Pell faced questions about whether he had done enough to weed out abuse and get justice for the victims. Now the cardinal himself has been convicted and other survivors of clerical sexual abuse unrelated to the Pell case are elated.

PHIL NAGLE, SURVIVOR OF CHILD ABUSE: Justice is what I thought, justice for the victims. I think that should give everyone that's thinking about yes, whether you'll be believed or whether you will or won't, win the fight. That should give you the courage to come forward and at least be heard. COREN: Pell's conviction will hurt an organization already battling decades of revelations about pedophile priests. The pope removed Pell from his Advisory Council in December, but the damage to the church may be difficult to repair. Now, this global crisis has reached the top of the Vatican.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Now John, as you mentioned earlier, we have been sitting on this story for the last two months. The reason being is because of a suppression order that was issued by the judge, that order was to protect a --

[00:10:00]

COREN: -- second trial that was supposed to take place. However, today it was decided that wasn't enough evidence and that second trial then collapsed, hence the suppression order was lifted.

Now we are getting reaction from all sorts of people, obviously defenders of George Pell, who are in dismay, claiming this to be a miscarriage of justice, hoping that there will be justice from the appeal.

Whilst you heard in my piece, there are those survivors of clerical abuse, who are just relieved. They are elated. They are hoping that this will prompt other survivors to come forward and report their abuse.

Now a little bit earlier, I spoke to David Marr, a fellow journalist and he works for "Guardian Australia," he's also the author of the book "The Prince," which is about George Pell. And I asked him his reaction to the verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MARR, "GUARDIAN AUSTRALIA": It is still extraordinary to see the downfall of such a man. One of the most powerful men in Rome is going to prison tomorrow for child abuse, for sex abuse. And there has been no figure in the Roman church remotely as high as him who has fallen so low.

COREN: It's quite extraordinary. And despite his defense barrister arguing for a new suppression order to be issued, the judge said no, it's lifting today.

MARR: What happened was that Pell's barrister did argue hard for more secrecy and then suddenly, for reasons we don't understand, it was Pell who said let it happen now.

COREN: Extraordinary.

MARR: He's a gay man and today you saw him coming out of the courtroom for the first time surrounded by cameras because, for the first time in seven or eight months, this can be reported. And suddenly there were cameras everywhere and everything was going to

air and he walked through that crowd with that look for those who know him well, it's so familiar on his face, of a kind of a slightly dazed smile. He is one of the great success stories of the Catholic Church. Proof once again that a kid from nowhere can climb right up the ladder to the highest levels of Rome.

And what got him his career was his willingness, in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, to be an inflexible advocate for the toughest version of the sex rules of the Catholic Church.

He stood for the rules, he stood for what he called the hard teachings of Christ. So he was appalling about homosexuals, he was tough on divorcees, he was brutal about single women wanting IVF.

He was absolutely committed to the -- for there to be no contraception in marriage and he was an eloquent, persistent advocate for the virtues of priestly celibacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: That was journalist David Marr speaking to me a little bit earlier. And George Pell has had an illustrious career. Now it is over. Tomorrow morning, John, at 10:00 am , he will walk through the doors here at Melbourne County Court and that will be the last time we see him. He will then be remanded into custody and taken away to prison. He will learn his sentence next week -- John.

VAUSE: OK, Anna, thank you, we appreciate the update and the reporting as well.

Well, the U.S. president Donald Trump is due to arrive in Vietnam later today for his second summit with Kim Jong-un who has already arrived in Hanoi. Just a short time ago Kim was met by crowds lining the streets outside his hotel. It's his first visit to Vietnam and he will see firsthand the results of making a peace deal with America.

Will Ripley joins us now.

Will, if there is any meaningful agreement there are three keywords we need to look for, accountable, verified and enforcement.

What is known at this point about how substantive this final statement might be?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are still in the early stages of this whole process of denuclearization. It hasn't begun yet. So that will be one goal here in Singapore to come up with an agreement and a plan to begin the initial process of North Korea denuclearizing, which could mean revealing its previously undisclosed secret uranium enrichment sites or allowing inspectors in to the Yongbyon reactor and perhaps giving a list of scientists involved in the nuclear program or an accounting of its --

[00:15:00] RIPLEY: -- nuclear arsenal. North Korea has done steps like that before. They demolished the cooling tower at the reactor about a decade ago and we saw how that turned out. The U.S. has been down this road before but at least this time around they are talking about something that hasn't been seriously considered, which is an agreement to formally end the Korean War, a very important step toward building trust and potentially normalizing relations between the U.S. and North Korea -- John.

VAUSE: There still seems to be some confusion over what President Trump believes when it comes to North Korea's nuclear threat. Here is the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think North Korea remain a nuclear threat?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes.

TAPPER: But the president said that he doesn't.

POMPEO: That's not what he said. I mean, I know precisely --

TAPPER: He tweeted it, that there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.

POMPEO: What he said is that the -- what he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore, this commitment that Chairman Kim made, have substantially taken down the risk to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: No, he didn't say that, here is the tweet, "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

He said that after the first summit and since there's been no shortage of U.S. intelligence that indicates that the North Koreans are pushing on with the development of their nuclear and missile programs.

So this everything to do with domestic politics which is raising concerns about how willing he might be to strike any kind of deal for a political boost at home.

RIPLEY: Certainly he's coming here looking for a win. And the North Koreans are aware of that. There's going to be a split screen moment in Washington with some damaging testimony happening. So he wants to make a big headline.

North Koreans can use that to their advantage. They are bringing a bigger team of negotiators that they did for the summit it Singapore. All of these people have been preparing to get the best deal out of President Trump.

There is concern that he will give large concessions without getting much in terms of meaningful progress on the key issue of denuclearization.

VAUSE: And before leaving for Hanoi, the U.S. president at one point he played down expectations then he had an optimistic tone.

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TRUMP: Right after this meeting I leave for Vietnam, where I meet with Chairman Kim and we talk about something that, frankly, he never spoke to anybody about but we are speaking and we're speaking loud and I think we can have a very good -- a very good summit. I think we'll have a very tremendous summit. We want denuclearization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Can we just clarify once and for all, getting the North Koreans to the negotiating table was not a big achievement. Other U.S. presidents were beating them off with a stick.

RIPLEY: Sure. I mean, you know, you talk about nearly a dozen U.S. presidents over some 65 years. All have failed to make peace with North Korea but certainly a meeting with the sitting U.S. president is something that the North Koreans have been seeking for quite some time. It was a goal that eluded Kim Jong-un's two predecessors, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. President Clinton came close to meeting with Kim Jong-il near the end of his term but the timing didn't work out. He sent his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, instead.

Jimmy Carter event met with Kim Jong-il later on, after he had already, you know, left the presidency. And the same is true for Bill Clinton as well, when he went to bring back a couple of detained American journalists.

But sure, legitimacy that a meeting with a sitting U.S. president provides has been a major coup for Kim Jong-un and has resulted now in four meetings with the president of China, Xi Jinping, several meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and more summits on the way and world leaders like Vladimir Putin and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, lining up to sit down with Kim Jong-un, who, not that long ago, was considered a global pariah.

VAUSE: At the same time all that international sanctions order, punishing and putting the squeeze on the North Korean, has been weakened substantially. Next hour, we'll talk about the something for nothing demands that the North Koreans make. Good to see you. Thank you.

Iran's foreign minister took many by surprise by announcing his resignation. Mohammad Javad Zarif was the key architect of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. He's not given a reason for stepping down but he faced a lot of criticism from Iranian hardliners for signing the nuclear deal and the Trump administration pulling out of it. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It is certainly one of the more uncommon resignations that we've seen in Iran. One of the things to one would think would happen in a high- profile resignation like this is that Javad Zarif maybe would have gone to Hassan Rouhani, to the country's president to formal hand in a letter of resignation or possibly even to the country's supreme leader.

Javad Zarif, however, went to his Instagram account and posted there saying that he was no longer able to serve.

Now one of the things that's no secret is Javad Zarif was certainly under fire at home. We speak a lot about how unpopular the nuclear agreement is in the Trump administration and President Trump obviously pulling the United States out of the --

[00:20:00]

PLEITGEN (voice-over): -- nuclear agreement and putting sanctions back on Iran was pretty unpopular and is pretty unpopular among Iranian hard liners as well.

And they have been attacking Javad Zarif for it. Some of them even calling him a traitor. So, he certainly has been under a lot of fire. And the big question now is whether or not Iran will actually stay in the nuclear agreement or whether or not it might pull out.

There certainly are some forces, especially among the hard liners who want to do exactly that.

And one of the things that we've heard from Javad Zarif over the past couple of weeks the past couple of months is he wanted Iran and wants Iran to stay inside the nuclear agreement, but he does feel, for instance, that the Europeans need to do more to make that happen.

So, certainly, it's going to be some interesting times ahead for the Islamic republic of Iran to see whether they stay inside the nuclear agreement and quite frankly, what their political course is going to be going forward -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: White House senior adviser Jared Kushner says Iran is the biggest threat in the Middle East, in an interview with Sky News Arabiya, Kushner said Iran is working to destabilize the region, which hurts economic opportunity.

Trump's son-in-law is on a five-nation Middle East tour to brief allies on U.S. efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He's due in Saudi Arabia later this week where he could meet with crown prince Mohammed bin Salman for the first time since the murderer of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Taliban are laying out their plans for the country. An exclusive look at what the future may look like. CNN's Clarissa Ward gets unprecedented access inside Taliban held territory. That's next on CNN.

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VAUSE: Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan are wrapping up in Qatar. The U.S. envoy heading up the talks tweeted Monday he met with one of the Taliban's founders.

Zalmad Kalazar (ph) wrote earlier, this could be a significant moment. The talks could lead to a U.S. troop withdraw but many hurdles still remain. The U.S. wants to know that the Taliban will not harbor terror groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

They have been hesitant to deal with the U.S.-backed Afghan government. A new report says more civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict in 2018 than at any time since the U.N. kept records.

More than 3,800 in 2018, up 11 percent from the year before, including more than 900 children. More than 7,000 were injured and all civilian casualties jumped 5 percent compared to last year. And in the past decade more than 32,000 --

[00:25:00]

VAUSE: -- civilians killed and 60,000 injured. So who is responsible?

The U.N. blames 63 percent of anti-government elements, including the Taliban and ISIS and pro-government forces including international troops were responsible for a quarter of the casualties and the rest by other groups.

As the U.S.-Taliban peace talks move forward, the Taliban are eager to show that they are not just terrorist fighters but effective civic leaders. CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward got a rare look inside Taliban territory, where Western journalists almost never go. Here's part of her exclusive report but a warning: some of this will be disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our first stop is a clinic that has been run by the Taliban since they took control of this area almost two years ago. A plaque at the door reveals it was a gift from the Americans in 2006.

Suddenly, a young girl outside is hit by a motorcycle. A boy rushes over to help her. The driver is a Taliban fighter. He slings his gun over his shoulder and wanders over, apparently unconcerned.

Life here is brutal. The girl is rushed inside, her frantic mother following behind.

Is she okay? Is she okay? Are you okay? But no one seems as shocked as we are. The doctor gives her mother some painkillers and sends her away. After years of fighting here, he has seen much worse.

Who's in charge of the hospital? Who's managing it?

He explained that the Taliban manages the clinic, but the government pays salaries and provides medicine. This sort of ad hoc cooperation is becoming more and more common and

there have been other changes.

So this is something you wouldn't expect to see in a clinic under control of the Taliban. It looks like some kind of sexual health education, talking about condoms, other forms of birth control.

22-year-old midwife Fazala (ph) has worked under the Taliban and the Afghan government.

What has been your experience working under the Taliban here?

"The Taliban never interfere in our work as women" she says. "They never block us from coming to the clinic."

In the waiting area, these women say it's war and poverty that makes their lives miserable.

Has life under the Taliban changed now from what it was before? No?

"We are trapped in the middle" the woman says, "and we can't do anything."

It's just so sad to see how desperate people are here. The women telling me they don't have enough food to eat, they don't have the proper medicines to treat their disabled children. All they want is peace and some improvement to their quality of life.

It's getting late and we need to get to our accommodation. The Taliban turn off cell phone service after dark. This is when we are most vulnerable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: And see all of this exclusive reporting, 36 hours with the Taliban coming up later here. A short break. When we come back, the drums of war are growing louder. The U.S. vice president traveled to Colombia to deliver a thinly veiled thread to Nicolas Maduro.

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause with an update on the top news this hour,

[00:31:13] Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell is appealing his conviction on child sexual abuse charges. A jury in Melbourne, Australia, found him guilty back in December, but a court order kept the verdict secret until now. The charges against the 77-year-old Pell date back to the 1990s.

Kim Jong-un has arrived in Vietnam for a state visit ahead of this week's summit with Donald Trump. The North Korean leader arrived by train on Monday. Mr. Trump is also en route to Hanoi. Before leaving Washington, Trump tempered expectations, saying he's in no rush to seal the deal on denuclearization just as long as there's no weapons testing.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says a deal on the U.K.'s divorce from the E.U. is within reach, but her main opposition is throwing its weight behind another referendum. The Labour Party says it's in favor of a second vote to stop what it calls a damaging breakfast [SIC] -- Brexit, I should say.

This comes just over a month before the U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union.

And Cuba's government says voters have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution. It keeps the Communist Party as the only political party allowed, sets term limits for the president, and protects private property and foreign investment. More than 700,000 Cubans voted "no," in a rare sign of dissent.

The Lima Group, which represents 14 nations in the Americas, says it has received word that Venezuela's self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido, is facing serious threats to his safety; and they'll hold the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, responsible for any violence against Guaido or his family.

Guaido spoke at the Lima Group's meeting in Bogota. So, too, did the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence. He said the U.S. stands behind Guaido 100 percent. Pence also announced new sanctions on the Venezuelan leaders and blamed Maduro for violent clashes over the weekend.

Meantime, U.S. defense officials say the military is flying more reconnaissance flights off the coast of Venezuela to gather intelligence.

For dictators, autocrats and strong men, the lesson in recent years for how to cling to power in the midst of a popular uprising could not be more stark. Case in point: Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president for 30 years. But in 2011, in the midst of the Arab Spring, within days of losing the support of his armed forces, he stepped down.

Compare that to Syria, where the military, for the most part, has remained loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad. He is still in power and going nowhere.

Over the weekend, Venezuela's soldiers faced their first significant test of loyalty to President Nicolas Maduro. Fewer than 200 troops denounced him, abandoned their posts, and joined the opposition. The rest followed orders, preventing U.S. humanitarian assistance from crossing the border. Score that round to Maduro. Well, for more on that, Eric Farnsworth is with us. He's the vice president of the Council of the Americas. He joins us from Washington.

So Eric, thank you for coming in.

ERIC FARNSWORTH, VICE PRESIDENT, COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: A week ago, the U.S. president, Donald Trump, he was in Miami. Gave a big speech, and he also delivered a very stark warning to Venezuela's military leaders: allow a peaceful transition or pay a very high price for continued support of Nicolas Maduro. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you choose this path, you have the opportunity to help forge a safe and prosperous future for all of the people of Venezuela.

Or you can choose the second path, continuing to support Maduro.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit, and no way out. You will lose everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Would you say they've now made their decision?

FARNSWORTH: Well, it's a process. I mean, we've seen some begin to defect, and there have been more coming over the last 48 hours, and presumably, there will be still more in the week ahead. It's not a quorum yet.

But we also have to remember that those who may still remain loyal to Maduro probably are doing so out of fear, not because they necessarily love the regime. Their jobs are threatened; in some cases, their lives are threatened. Their families are threatened. And they have to live in the same circumstances as everybody else with a lack of food, lack of medicine, et cetera.

[00:35:19] So there is a real sense that you know, if the individual military person can get over their fear, that they may go toward -- increasingly toward Juan Guaido. But we have to watch that carefully over the coming days.

VAUSE: In Bogota, the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence, escalated the pressure on the Maduro regime. He's announcing sanctions. He also repeated, you know, a veiled threat about military intervention, all part of a much tougher approach coming from Washington. Listen to Mike Pence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What brings us together today is the recognition by all the nations gathered here, that Nicolas Maduro is a usurper with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: "Nicolas Maduro must go." And also over the weekend, Juan Guaido, he put out a tweet, alluding to the need for more radical measures to force Maduro out. Some see that as his support or implicit support for U.S. military action.

But from Latin America and all the way to the E.U., there seems zero support for U.S. deployment of troops. Is that enough, in and of itself, to put a brake on any kind of U.S. military action?

FARNSWORTH: Well, I think the administration has been clear: from the president, the vice president, John Bolton, secretary of state, have repeatedly said that all options are on the table. But that doesn't mean that all options are imminent.

And I think what you also saw in the media today in Bogota was that the vice president and others called for additional sanctions: whether it's removal of visas; whether it's additional steps on asset seizure and forfeiture; whether it's increased humanitarian aid. The United States added some -- some millions of dollars more in humanitarian assistance.

So it's clear that they're prepared to take additional steps before it gets to the military option at that point.

But, you know, if they went to the military option, you're absolutely right, John. Latin America, Europe, and other countries have said they wouldn't support that. And were the United States to do that, without some sort of United Nations authorization, or Organization of the American States authorization, or the like, you'd break up the coalition that right now has been painstakingly put together to try to get Maduro out by peaceful means.

So it's a really delicate process, and I think you're going to see over the next days and weeks, some additional steps to increase sanctions to try to restrict the regime's freedom of action further and hope that the military, at the end of the day, will decide on the ground in Venezuela.

VAUSE: And the news outlet Axios has a pretty interesting behind-the- scenes report on how the U.S. administration got to this point with Venezuela and also the possible use of military force.

It reads, "Trump's senior advisers universally support unseating Maduro. People close to Trump say he takes a markedly different view of Venezuela than Middle Eastern war zones. He sees Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq as beyond help, a waste of American lives and money. Venezuela, in his view, is different. It's a neighbor, and a crisis there directly affects the United States via trade and migration. Trump thinks Venezuela should be rich and peaceful." And that's all great. But if you look at, you know, the sheer

logistics here, Venezuela has a military, what, around 300,000, twice the size of Iraq. It's about the same size as Texas. And keep in mind, Maduro has the backing of China and Russia.

And again, if you look at the logistics here, it's a -- it's a huge undertaking of any kind of unilateral action.

FARNSWORTH: Well, Venezuela should be rich, and it should be peaceful.

VAUSE: Absolutely.

FARNSWORTH: And it's not because of the Maduro regime. But having said that, no, you're exactly right. You know, it's relatively easy for a military action to decapitate the regime and to invade. That's actually not the difficult part.

The difficult part is pacification of the country and what happens the day after. And Venezuela is a very large country. It's very diverse. A lot of of it is jungled and rural. And the fact of the matter, there are armed groups operating all around the country that aren't just necessarily the Venezuelan military.

So even if you take out the military, you still have guerilla groups. You still have drug traffickers. You still have colectivos, which are essentially goon squads that are operating with the indulgence of the government. So it could be particularly messy. And I think that's something that has to be looked out for.

The other thing is, if the United States or anybody were to go into Venezuela with some sort of armed intervention, in the words of Colin Powell, you break it, you buy it. Right? I mean, then it becomes the responsibility of the United States, really, to reconstruct the country. That's going to be a years'-long process, very difficult. And if it doesn't go according to plan and desire, then the United States gets the blame for that.

So I think there is a lot going on here. And, again, you know, before you get to any sort of military action, there are a lot of additional steps that could and probably will be considered.

VAUSE: And it seems like those steps are being taken right now.

FARNSWORTH: Yes.

VAUSE: And the place (ph) is wrapping up, and there are cracks beginning to show. But we'll see where that leads.

Eric, thank you, good to speak with you.

FARNSWORTH: Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: And for information about how to help the people of Venezuela during this humanitarian crisis, head to CNN.com/impact for all the details. Journalists from Univision, including veteran anchor Jorge Ramos, were

briefly detained at Venezuela's presidential palace. The network says they were there interviewing Maduro, but the president objected to a line of questions from Ramos; and government aids confiscated their equipment.

[00:40:12] After Univision contacted the U.S. State Department and tweeted about the crew's detention, they were released.

And with that we'll take a short break. You're watching CNN.

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VAUSE: CNN is partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern day slavery to be held March 14. In advance of My Freedom Day, we spoke to American singer- songwriter George Clinton and asked him, "What makes you feel free?"

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GEORGE CLINTON, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Being able to live my life in the pursuit of happiness without the fear of being funked with.

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VAUSE: How about that? Tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your story using the hashtag #MyFreedomDay. And dress like George Clinton.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us now. WORLD SPORT is up next. You're watching CNN.

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KATE RILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome along to WORLD SPORT. I'm Kate Riley at CNN center.

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VAUSE: Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, CNN can now report on the most senior Catholic official ever to be convicted of child sex offenses. Cardinal George Pell was found guilty last year, but the Australian court issued a blanket suppression order, which has now been lifted.

Vietnam rolls out the red carpet for Kim Jong-un as he arrives for a second nuclear summit with Donald Trump. He'll go two-up -- will he go two-up after besting the U.S. president last year?