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Indian Air Force Pilot Abhinandan To Enter India Anytime Now; 20,000 Children Living In Slavery In Ghana; House Panel To Question On Sater On Trump Tower Moscow; Michael Cohen Describes Trump's Mafia- Like Style; U.S. and North Korea Put Positive Spin on Summit; India Awaits Captured Pilot's Release by Pakistan; Questions Over Kushner's Security Clearance; Netanyahu to Face Criminal Indictments; Venezuela in Crisis. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 1, 2019 - 02:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[02:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: -- disagreement over the key sticking points.

The prime minister of Pakistan is offering what he is calling goodwill gesture to India after days of violence and heated rhetoric.

Plus, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is facing looming indictments on multiple corruption charges just weeks before he seeks a fifth term in office.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers all over the world. I'm George Howell. "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

Around the world, good day to you. We start this hour with the fallout from the nuclear summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. No formal agreement was reached and now the U.S. president is back in Washington, D.C. He and his top advisors are trying to put a positive spin on the whole thing but there's still that disagreement with North Korea over why things fell apart. Pyongyang says it offered to permanently dismantle a major nuclear site. This in exchange for the partial lifting of sanctions, but the United States wouldn't agree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHOE SON-HUI, NORTH KOREAN CHIEF NEGOTIATOR (through translator): I have felt that Kim Jong-un may have lost the will to negotiate. The U.S. not accepting our proposal is missing an opportunity that comes once in a thousand years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: But President Trump and U.S. negotiator say they walked away from the summit because the North demanded that all sanctions be lifted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: You have to remember that these sanctions aren't American sanctions, these are U.N. Security Council resolutions passed by every country, voted affirmatively on by every county on the Security Council. So these are global demands for the denuclearization of North Korea and we are anxious to get back to the table so we can continue that conversation that will ultimately lead to peace and stability, a better life for the North Korean people, and a lower threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The summit is over now. Let's try to piece it all together with our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson, following the story live in Hanoi this hour. Ivan, so this discrepancy as to whether the North wanted all sanctions removed or just as North Korea says, it was a matter of removing part -- a partial amount of sanctions. Both sides do seem to agree. There are still good feelings between the two.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yeah. I mean, both governments, both leaders continue to express affection for one another, continue to insist that they made progress, but that doesn't get you over the hump of the fact that they didn't come to an agreement.

So there has been a pretty remarkable situation here where they have been kind of expressing their positions in public. And so we had a very unusual situation where senior North Korean officials addressed some journalists in a surprise midnight press appearance here in Hanoi and kind of spelled out their position with the North Korean foreign minister saying, look, we didn't ask all the sanctions to be lifted, we asked for five of 11 sets of sanctions to be lifted. And he went on to say that this is pretty much the best deal that North Korea could have offered. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RI YONG HO, NORTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): This proposal was the biggest denuclearization measure we could take at the present stage in relation to the current level of confidence between the DPRK and the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: And he was basically saying that if the U.S. removed some of these sanctions, five out of 11 sets, that North Korea would permanently dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear development facility. Well, we have since heard from the State Department as well and they conceded that some of the sanctions would be requested to be removed excluding the sanctions that stop the export of weapons to North Korea, but that North Korea didn't offer enough because it wasn't offering to stop all, dismantle all of its weapons of mass destruction development facilities.

He basically argued, the State Department official, that if you remove some of these sanctions, you would consequentially be pumping billions of dollars back into the North Korean economy which would in other words be underwriting the existing weapons of mass destruction facilities that would still be functioning and that was one step too far for President Trump and hence the fact that both leaders were unable to bridge the gap here.

[02:05:00] HOWELL: Mr. Trump, Ivan saying that the United States could not do. But, you know, Kim Jong-un did stay an extra day as the U.S. president returned to Washington D.C. I'm curious to know if you heard any other reaction from Vietnam. What else are you hearing about this summit?

WATSON: The South Koreans are big stakeholders here. We know that President Trump on the tarmac basically called -- here in Hanoi and taking off on Air Force One called his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, to fill him in on this. South Korean officials expressed real surprise and shock when they heard that no agreement would be reached.

President Trump has asked the South Korean president to help serve as a mediator to help at some point bring the U.S. and North Korean positions back together sometime in the future. So that is pretty important. The North Koreans dispatched a delegation almost immediately to neighboring China to presumably update the Chinese on where the negotiations stand right now.

So we already see signs of these two governments kind of reaching out, trying to find out what their allies have to say about this.

One very important point though is that amid this kind of kind statements coming out from both the U.S. and North Korean governments, there were some warnings coming from the North Korean vice foreign minister who we heard from earlier in your intro there, George, who also went on to say -- this is Choe Son-Hui -- that Kim Jong-un may have lost the will to negotiate, after she went to say that the U.S. missed an opportunity that comes along just once in a thousand years.

So North Korea is definitely telegraphing affection on the one hand, but impatience on the other. George.

HOWELL: Ivan Watson, following the story for us live. Ivan, thank you.

Let's talk more about all of this now with David Rohde, a CNN global affairs analyst and the executive director of the New Yorker website. David, we appreciate your time with us this hour from New York.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thank you.

HOWELL: So depending on which side of the aisle you view this from, David, some would say the president deserves credit for walking away from a bad deal. Others would say the man who claims to be the best negotiator failed to cross the finish line. So, what happens next? Is the pressure now back on those lower level negotiators to see if progress can be made?

ROHDE: I think the pressure is on low level negotiators but this was a real setback for Donald Trump. I want to give him credit. He takes enormous risks in foreign policy, you know, going with this summit approach was a big risk. Many people said it wouldn't work.

The idea was that his personality, first the threats toward North Korea to bring to the table and then persuasion and flattery of summits would seal a deal, you know, that brand of Donald Trump diplomacy has failed here. This is a big setback for him. So, yes, there is big pressure on lower level negotiations, but Trump's style diplomacy has failed with North Korea.

HOWELL: David, Mr. Trump has indicated he feels good. The two men have a good relationship but they weren't quite ready to make a deal this time. The president's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, summed it up like this, saying, "President Obama refused to walk away from a bad deal with Iran. President Trump refuses to make the same mistake with Iran, North Korea, or anybody else. President Trump will always put the safety of the American people above politics."

All of that aside and here to your point, the president's style of diplomacy here with the E.U., with Iran, Russia looking on, what does this say to them?

ROHDE: I think it shows a weak president. I think this is a sign that North Korea essentially is going to wait out the remainder of Donald Trump's term. If you look at the Trump administration's diplomatic record, there are no great achievements. There are no deals. There is a lot of pressure. We will see.

China, I think that the trade negotiations there will be a big test if the president's public threats work. In terms of Europe and Iran and North Korea, no one has sort of succumbed to the threats. This effort, this very high-profile summit meeting hasn't worked either. So, I think talks with China are now crucial.

HOWELL: And for the leader of South Korea, what sort of pressure does this put him under?

ROHDE: It is very important. The truth here is that it is Korean lives that are at stake. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans would die in any kind of conflict on the Korean Peninsula. It is many for Americans to talk tough whether they support President Trump or not about what is going to happen on the peninsula. So, South Korean president put tremendous political capital under this process working. This is a big setback for him. I think he will work very hard to get these low level negotiations going.

[02:10:01] Lesson has been learned that you sort of do -- you lay the groundwork for agreements at the low level before you bring in the leaders.

HOWELL: David, then to the issue around the death of the American student Otto Warmbier, Mr. Trump had said that when he was speaking with Kim Jong-un, he raised the topic. Listen to what he had to say when responding to a reporter about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly. He knew the case very well. But he knew it later. He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: David, it seems to be reversal, the president's initial reaction to Warmbier's death, which was more critical of North Korea and its leader. What do you make of Mr. Trump's response essentially letting Kim Jong-un off the hook?

ROHDE: It is astonishing, frankly. Otto Warmbier never should have been detained by North Korean officials. He suffered brain damage. When he came home, he died. It was really a disappointing answer from the president. He is so tough on Canada and Mexico, long-time European allies. But again, he goes easy on Kim Jong-un.

There's no way that this young man was arrested in North Korea and suffered brain damage and Kim Jong-un didn't know about it. This is what undermines the president's credibility. He's inconsistent and it was a mistake. I was surprised and disappointed he gave that answer.

HOWELL: David Rohde, joining us from New York. Thank you, David.

ROHDE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Now to rising tensions between two nuclear armed neighbors. India is waiting for one of its Air Force pilots to be released by neighboring Pakistan. This after his plane was one of two shot down over the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday. It was a dog fight in the sky between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets. Pakistan's prime minister said the pilot would be released Friday as a gesture of peace.

There is a lot to talk about on this very delicate story. Covering all angles, we have our Nikhil Kumar live in New Delhi along with Ben Farmer. Ben is joining us in Islamabad with the Daily Telegraph. Ben, we start with you in Pakistan and the release of this pilot from India. How does this play into these rising tensions?

BEN FARMER, CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Well, the two countries, Pakistan and India, found themselves in a dangerous situation. We had several days of rapidly escalating tension where they -- we had air strikes and we had an aerial dogfight over Kashmir. It is against that backdrop that Imran Khan has said he would release the Indian pilot who was captured on Wednesday.

Imran Khan said it is going to be a peace gesture. He said that he doesn't want more and he wants to talk with Modi, his counterpart in India. So after all these tensions, there is some hope that this could be a chance for the two nations which after all are pointing nuclear weapons at each other to take a deep and step back from the brink.

HOWELL: Let's bring in our own Nikhil Kumar. Nikhil, I heard you last hour really putting this into perspective. Look, so, there is hope for de-escalation but at the same time there's concern with a more assertive India in this disputed region. Help us to understand. NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: That's right, George. It is like as if a chessboard has been reset. All of this began this time because on the 14th of February, Valentine's Day, there was a massive car bomb attack in Indian Kashmir. Forty Indian paramilitaries died. It was the worst attack on Indian Forces there in several decades.

India has seen other terrorist attacks over the years for which it blamed militants, terrorists acting from Pakistani soil. They are also blaming the Pakistani stake. This time, India has said that Pakistan had a direct involvement but Pakistan denied it. In response, instead of going down the diplomatic route, India said enough is enough. It said that, look, we've been pointing out that there is a problem with terrorism here. We've been giving you evidence over the years after the Mumbai terror attacks from 2001 that hit the Indian parliament.

Nothing has been done this time that is why we sent our jets across the line of control, the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region, and that sets the whole new doctrine in place, the doctrine of preemption. India is saying that, look, it is not enough anymore for us to keep calling out this problem, a problem that you may deny, but we have evidence, and it is not enough for us for you not to do enough and go after these actors. We're going to come after them even if they're on your soil.

That means that even if these current tensions are resolved, that new doctrine means that if there's a future terrorist attack, we really don't know what happens, and most likely it will be another escalation. As Ben pointed out, we're talking about two countries with nuclear weapons. The risk is always no matter how a conflict begins the risk is always where will it end?

HOWELL: That is the scary part.

[02:15:00] Ben, to that point, the military in Pakistan certainly carry a great deal of weight when it comes to these issues. What more are you hearing just from officials about what happens next, where this goes?

FARMER: We are expecting a handover later this afternoon. The military here says that it is still on high alerts. It is still ready for any eventuality. They're not stepping down yet by any means. They say if there is any more Indian regression, then they will respond. We are just hearing as well recently that a little bit more about when the handover will be, we are expecting the handover to be at the Wagah border, the border between India and Pakistan in about three hours.

There's a lot of expectation about that handover. The Wagah border is the place where the two powers translate their military standoff every day into a sort of a ceremonial standoff. They choose their biggest soldiers and they march off against each other in a very theatrical display. Later today that's going to be the scene of the handover.

HOWELL: And just for our viewers, to show the map again, this disputed region between these two nuclear-armed countries. This is the area of concern and again we will continue to follow the developments between these rising tensions. Ben Farmer and Nikhil Kumar, we appreciate the reporting and insight of you both. We will keep in touch.

Still ahead here on "CNN Newsroom," U.S. Intelligence officials consider President Trump's son-in-law a security risk. How did Jared Kushner end up with top secret clearance? We will have that story ahead for you.

Plus, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will run again for that office, but criminal indictments could interfere with his plans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner is in the Middle East right now. He's there to promote a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, but a new wrinkle might undercut his diplomacy there. The New York Times is reporting that Kushner's top secret clearance only came about because President Trump demanded it, overriding concerns from Intelligence officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: What we were told is that Jared had numerous problems. They went back to the very beginning of the administration.

[02:20:00] The president said to give him a security clearance. John Kelly understood it to be an order. He wrote a memo about it at that time. In addition, Don McGahn, the White House counsel, wrote a memo outlining the issue here. And yet he is the president. He definitely does have the authority to order somebody to be given a clearance. Mr. Kushner and Ivanka Trump both got their clearances.

There were numerous concerns raised by the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, about Kushner's dealings with foreign businessmen who had ties to their own country's intelligence services, concerns about his judgment, whether he had the proper discretion to be trusted with American secrets, whether he had entanglements overseas and potential business opportunities that would create situations in which he could potentially be compromised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: On Capitol Hill, Democrats want to know more. Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement this. "I'm concerned the president has jeopardized our national security by putting clearances in the hands of unscrupulous people, and against the recommendations of background investigators."

He goes on to say, "To ensure our deepest secrets are protected, we will work to ensure clearances are granted based on trust, not by blood or bond."

Israel's attorney general says that criminal indictments are now pending against the prime minister of that nation, Benjamin Netanyahu. No charges are expected until after April's general election but the cloud of corruption could hurt him at the polls. CNN's Oren Liebermann reports. Mr. Netanyahu, the stakes are high.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in a political fight of his life as he seeks a fifth term in office. A major blow dealt to him by his attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who announced his intent to indict the Israeli leader on charges of bribery and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.

Netanyahu fired back immediately, calling the investigation a media- driven witch-hunt.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): For years, they are carrying out a political persecution, a witch hunt with one objective, to topple the right-wing government and crown the left- wing government. They have a huge amount of continuous pressure, I would say, inhumane pressure on the attorney general. So he would say that he is considering an indictment against me with a hearing even when they know there is nothing.

LIEBERMANN: In what's known as Case 1000, Mandelblit intends to charge Netanyahu with breach of trust. The case involves expensive gifts like cigars and champagne Netanyahu allegedly received from billionaire friends in exchange for tax breaks and political favors.

In Case 2000, Mandelblit also announce the charge of breach of trust. This case involves alleged negotiations between Netanyahu and the newspaper owner for more favorable coverage.

In Case 4000, arguably the biggest case facing the prime minister, Mandelblit said he intends to charge Netanyahu with bribery and breach of trust. Investigators say Netanyahu advanced regulatory benefits worth nearly $300 million dollars to his friend, a wealthy businessman. In exchange, Netanyahu received favorable coverage on a news site owned by the businessman.

Netanyahu's main challenger in the upcoming election, his former chief of staff, Benny Gantz, called on him to step down.

BENNY GANTZ, BLUE AND WHITE PARTY LEADER (through translator): Benjamin Netanyahu, I turn to you this evening, get over yourself and show national responsibility. Resign from your position.

LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu still has the support of key right-wing parties crucial to his chances of success in the upcoming elections. But if he loses even a few seats to his rival, it'll be a serious blow to Netanyahu's chances of winning another Israeli election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: And now, Oren Liebermann joining us live from Jerusalem. Oren, with an election in view in the balance, how soon might there be any polling or any indication about how public reaction is playing out with this news around Netanyahu?

LIEBERMANN: We expect election polling a little later on today. Friday is the traditional day to release that polling, heading into the weekend and then the start of a new week. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this may be the closest or the most closely watched election polls in quite some time, certainly of this election season.

It is worth noting though some of the key right-wing parties have supported Netanyahu. One of those parties remained silent in another issue to sort of lukewarm encouragement of Netanyahu, lukewarm endorsement of Netanyahu saying he has the right to run just like any other citizen. So it seems like two critical but smaller parties are keeping their options open. They want to see these election polls as well to see which way the public is going here.

HOWELL: And Netanyahu's opponent, he is calling for him to resign which doesn't look likely given the statements we heard from the prime minister. Tell us more about him and his chances.

LIEBERMANN: He is Netanyahu's former chief of staff who served as chief of staff during the 2012 and 2014 Gaza wars. He has a name as Mr. Security, essentially.

[02:25:00] He is challenging Netanyahu's reputation as Mr. Security. His party -- this is Benny Gantz, his party, the blue and white party, also has two other former chiefs of staff. They are going after that sort of security mantle. Does he have a chance here? Well, polling at least before today shows Netanyahu still has a root to particularly right-wing coalition even if he doesn't have the biggest party on election day.

That is why these polls are so important. That is why it is important to see where and how public opinion has changed. Netanyahu has that right-wing coalition or at least he has had it in recent polls. But if he loses even one or two seats to his challenger, to Benny Gantz, that could be all of the difference it takes to crown Benny Gantz as the next prime minister.

HOWELL: All right. Oren Liebermann will be following it all for us live there in Jerusalem. Thank you, Oren.

Now to the deepening humanitarian and political crises playing out in Venezuela. Two U.N. Security Council resolutions on how to respond to the crises both failed on Thursday. Our Richard Roth reports the stalemate (ph) once again highlights major divisions among world powers on the best way forward for that nation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: A strongly divided U.N. Security Council played veto games at the hands of the Venezuelan people in a meeting Thursday afternoon in the chamber at the U.N. The United States had a draft resolution, calling for presidential elections in Venezuela and unimpeded humanitarian food and aid access. However, the Russians did not like the U.S. draft.

VASILY NEBENZYA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): Western experts said that they would not work on our texts and U.S. colleagues immediately tabled their draft of the vote. Where is the diplomacy here? Where is the quest for compromise? This is all a combination of publicity largely dictated by domestic political concerns and agendas. We regret the fact that the Security Council has once again been dragged into this.

ROTH: Soon, Russia then vetoed the United States draft along with China. The United States then vetoed a Russian draft resolution.

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR VENEZUELA: The United States will remain steadfast in our support for the legitimate Guaido government and the National Assembly. We look forward to genuinely free and fair elections and to a government that reflects the will and aspirations of the Venezuelan people.

ROTH: The U.N. Security Council is the home for peace designed to protect the international peace and security. But once again, whether it is Myanmar, Syria or Venezuela, sharp differences among major powers don't give any hope to the outside world and call into question the relevance of the organization.

Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Richard, thank you. While the U.N. remains divided, Venezuela's opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president says he will return to his country by Monday. This is despite threats against him and his own family. Juan Guaido was in Brazil, lobbying for international support. The Brazilian president says he will do everything within the law to help ensure democracy is established in Venezuela. Guaido's next diplomatic meeting is Friday. That will be with the president of Paraguay.

Two neighboring countries both armed with nuclear weapons. Again, we will talk about the simmering tensions and the dangerous possibilities that are playing out there.

Plus, wounded women and children flee last ISIS enclave. Despite severe injuries, many refuse medical help. We will explain why. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:55] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers all over the world, you are watching CNN Newsroom and we are glad to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines. We're following for you this hour. The U.S President is back in Washington D.C., this is after his summit with Kim Jong-un and despite the lack of any formal agreement both sides are putting on a positive spin around these talks but North Korea pushing back on Mr. Trump's claims that negotiations fell apart when they asked for all sanctions to be lifted. Israel's attorney general says criminal indictments are pending

against the prime minister of that nation. No charges against Benjamin Netanyahu who are expected, though, until after the general election which will be in April but the cloud of corruption could hurt Mr. Netanyahu at the polls. An Indian Air Force pilot captured by Pakistan is expected to be released in the coming hours.

His plane was shut down over the disputed region of Kashmir Wednesday, during a dogfight in the sky between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets. Pakistan's Prime Minster calls the release a gesture of peace. India's military remains on high alert. Very important story and we want talk more about this delve deeper into the tensions here with our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.

Nic is following the story for us live in Abu Dhabi. Nic, good to have you. We are talking about two nuclear armed neighbors in disputed territory, India showing a more assertive approach to the toward the Kashmir region with regard to terrorism. How does that raise the stakes here and in already tensed relationship?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, I think the indications that India has been willing to have airstrikes across the border inside Pakistan as a response to a terror strike inside India that killed close to 40 Indian military officers, soldiers. But that shows that India is not going to take what it claims as Pakistan being used as a base by these terror groups to strike inside India.

It's the first time that it sort of launched aircraft across the border into Pakistan since 1971. So, that gives you a very clear indication that in their minds a line has very clearly been crossed here. What the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, continues to say -- and this is what we hear from Pakistani officials, that if India actually has evidence that Pakistan is being used as a base by terror groups to perpetrate attacks inside India, then India needs to provide the proof and not at -- not act as judge, jury and executioner in all of this.

It is of course something that sound -- may sound familiar for the audience because the United States accuses Pakistan of also harboring the Taliban who are fighting them inside Afghanistan. So, it seems perhaps that India more closely allied these days, you could say, with the United States feels emboldened by the United States position taking a tougher line these days under President Trump on India.

But the Foreign Minister went speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, it was very clear that Pakistan says they will investigate these claims that India makes but pushes back firmly on them. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: If they give us evidence which is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan. After all, we will have to justify, they will go to the court and if they have solid in inalienable evidence, share it with us so that we can convince -- we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: So, what the -- what Pakistan's people seem to be convinced of at the moment is that their prime minister's decision to hand back the pilot to Indian authorities that's expected later today, it's a good step because of people want peace. And I think that's obviously a very clear recognition in both countries that the stakes on this as they are always, when India and Pakistan get into confrontation, very, very high, George.

[02:35:07] HOWELL: That's true. It looks so, Pakistan of course denying any involvement in terrorism but with regards to that, Nick, did this raise the, you know, raise the alert of people who -- those groups that say Pakistan is not doing enough on this front?

ROBERTSON: It certainly puts it back under the international microscope, if you will. President Trump has been very clear that if Pakistan wants to continue to have the support from the United States that it's had in the past, then it does needs to dissociate itself with supporting the Taliban who are fighting U.S. and Afghan forces across the border inside Afghanistan. India as well for a long time has maintained that Pakistan does harbor training camps for terror groups that would attack inside India.

So, this is -- this puts it all under the microscope again, and it is a test for the new Prime Minister Imran Khan and he's decided and it seems clearly here to try to sort of gain the upper moral hand, if you will, by deciding to hand over this -- the pilot without, it seems as far as we know at the moment without any reciprocal demands from India. But I think it's very telling, when we look at the Organization of Islamic Corporation conference under way here, 59 different states here in Abu Dhabi today.

But Pakistan has decided not to send the senior level delegation including a foreign minister, because they say that India has been invited to the event and there are outstanding issues between the two countries that still have to be resolved and that inviting India is inappropriate. So anyone that thinks that diplomatic temperature on this has come down, the underline trends are all still there and over reactive.

HOWELL: All right. That is alarming to say the least. We'll continue to follow the story with you, Nic. Thank you. Now, to a move that surprised a lot of people. The U.S President Donald Trump declared that U.S. back forces have retaken 100 percent of the territory once claimed by ISIS in Syria. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the Caliphate in Syria, now it's 100 percent, we just took over 100 percent Caliphate. That means the area of the land, we just have 100 percent, so that's good. We did that in a much shorter period of time than it was supposed to be. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Well, not quite. Not quite in line with the Syrian Democratic Forces who say they are still on the ground fighting ISIS in their last stronghold. An SDF official says, more than a thousand civilians have less -- left Eastern Syria in the last 24hours, but others are still there. And the U.S. says that's slowing the effort to fully retake the territory. Some wounded women and children escaping ISIS last stronghold are resisting help from aid workers that they see as infidels.

Our Senior International Correspondent, Ben Wedeman has this report from Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Day after day, trucks plied the dusty track from Baghouz, delivering a cargo of misery, pain, despair and humiliation. The only aid and comfort here provided by volunteer medics from the Free Burma Rangers.

JASON TORLANO, FREE BURMA RANGERS HUMANITARIAN GROUP: She came out of the front line and she's missing her left leg above the knee and she's missing another part of her foot on the right and she's also got some other shrapnel wounds throughout her body. And her whole family was killed.

WEDEMAN: Most of the badly injured are children and women. But some still resist help from those that they see as infidels.

TORLANO: You see, you can smell it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. I think she's saying that she's waiting for her husband to come and her husband wouldn't agree with this.

WEDEMAN: Resentment quickly surfaces (INAUDIBLE) husband is still with ISIS inside Baghouz, she says she fled only because medicine and food are no longer available.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Planes and mortars are bombing us every day killing children, she tells me. They're not dropping milk and chocolate on us.

WEDEMAN: Thousands have left ISIS' last enclave and more are expected to come. These are some of the men who have surrendered to the Syrian Democratic Forces, but it's still not clear how many men, how many fighters, how many women and how many children are still left inside that tiny encampment that is what remains of this state that called itself Islamic.

[02:40:08] Disease, war, hunger and death now stalked the last speck of land controlled by ISIS. Its subjects willing or otherwise cast off in its dying days. Ben Wedeman, CNN in Eastern Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Ben, thank you. In Ghana, thousands of children stared down death every day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You die, you have no option. The fearful part is that you might not come back. That's what I fear most.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Still ahead, a CNN Freedom Project report exposes the fear and horror of slavery.

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HOWELL: In Ghana, thousands of children have been stripped of a normal childhood. They aren't going to school, they don't play, they don't get to have fun. Instead, many are slaves and they're forced to work from dawn until dusk in deadly conditions. In this exclusive report our Nima Elbagir shows us what childhood means to them.

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NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lake Volta, Ghana just before the dawn. A column of boys heads off to work. All of them slaves. The International Labor Organization estimates there are 10 million children living in slavery around the world. 20,000 of them they say work here on this land. CNN was granted unprecedented access onboard a boat where these child slaves labor daily.

Some so young, it's almost unbelievable. Typically, the children tell us they're shouting for Samuel, the man they must call, master.

Without cameras trained on these children, Samuel only cast a watchful eye, as the boys look back fearfully. A fishnet snags on underwater branch. Without a word, Adam who doesn't know his own age understands what he must do. These underwater dives can be deadly. Children are set to get caught up in the nets or tree branches and often drowned. There's no telling how many unnamed bodies lay at the bottom of this lake.

[02:45:13] ADAM, TRAFFICKED CHILD, GHANA (through translator): When he says, you should dive, you have no option. The fearful part is that you might not come back. That's what I fear most.

ELBAGIR: Back on land, Samuel explains how he justifies putting children like Adam in such danger.

SAMUEL, SLAVE MASTER AND FISHERMAN, GHANA (through translator): If one of them dies while working on the lake, I sat down with the parents and we talk. We all know that working on the lake is very dangerous and anything can happen. In this world, if you don't set a trap, you can't catch fish. ELBAGIR: Despite the dangers and the laws in Ghana against slavery and forced child labor, rescues here of children facing violence and abuse remain few and far between. PACODEP, a local nonprofit does its best to identify and rescue trans slaves. Pulling up alongside fishing vessels and with the help of a policeman, forcing their way on board.

With so many children on the lake and sparse resources to liberate and care for them, George achieved his job can seem overwhelming. But by day's end, Samuel agrees to release all six boys under his control. Instead of fishing, Samuel will become a farmer.

GEORGE ACHIBRA, JR., PROJECTS COORDINATOR, PARTNERS IN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME: Well, I think this is the best way. If we give him anything like money, nets, or anything, it means we're encouraging him to go for more children. But if you are taking him off the lake into grass wake, it means he's not -- he can't go for trafficked children and youth on the lake anymore.

ELBAGIR: But in the long term, the children here will need much more. The government of Ghana needs to commit funds to register every vessel on this lake, and those working on them to end this scourge. Nima Elbagir, CNN.

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HOWELL: Troubled waters, a CNN "FREEDOM PROJECT" exclusive documentary. It airs on Friday, here on CNN. That's 2:00 in the afternoon in New York, it's 7:00 in the evening in London.

Still ahead, when we come back. It's not over yet for the U.S. president's former attorney Michael Cohen. More on his testimony ahead.

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HOWELL: The U.S. president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen will be back on Capitol Hill next week for more testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

And as we saw Thursday in the session there, it will happen behind closed doors. The panel investigating a number of claims against the U.S. president, including his efforts -- well, into the 2016 campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The committee will also hear from Felix Sater, a one-time business associate of Mr. Trump who also worked on that project the president has repeatedly tried to distance himself from Sater, but Michael Cohen tells a different story.

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REP. HARLEY ROUDA (D-CA), HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE: Isn't it true that because of Mr. Sater's relationship to the Trump Organization that he had an office in the Trump Tower?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER TO DONALD TRUMP: And on the 26th floor. Mr. Trump --

(CROSSTALK)

[02:50:03] ROUDA: And the 26th floor is important, why?

COHEN: Because it's Mr. Trump's floor.

ROUDA: So, he had an office on the same floor as President Trump.

COHEN: In fact, his office when he left became my office.

ROUDA: It is that also true that convicted Russian mobster, Sater even had business cards indicating that he was a senior advisor to Donald Trump as reported by The Washington Post?

COHEN: Yes.

ROUDA: Did convicted Russian mobster, Sater, pay rent for his office?

COHEN: No, he did not.

ROUDA: So, based on those facts, isn't it true that President Trump misled at best or worse lied under oath?

COHEN: Yes.

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HOWELL: Cohen's public testimony left many observers wondering if Donald Trump was more of a businessman or a mafia boss. Our Brian Todd has this report.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Through the eyes of Michael Cohen, working for Donald Trump is a lot like working for Tony Soprano.

COHEN: Everybody's job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day, most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him onto something.

TODD: Members of Congress are calling it a mob mentality. Comparing the accusations' Cohen made against the president to the same tactics used by organized crime.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?

COHEN: Quite a few times.

SPEIER: 50 times?

COHEN: More.

SPEIER: 500 times. COHEN: Probably.

TODD: Trump himself hasn't held back on insulting Cohen.

TRUMP: He's a weak person and not a very smart person.

COHEN: Mr. Trump called me a rat for choosing to tell the truth, much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government.

TODD: In his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Wednesday, Cohen described an environment inside Trump Tower, focused entirely on the boss, someone everyone calls, Mr. Trump. A place where Cohen didn't have to be told what to do because everyone speaks the same language.

COHEN: He doesn't give you questions, he doesn't give you orders. He speaks in a code and I understand the code because I've been around him for a decade.

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI), HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE: And it's your impression that others who work for him understand the code, as well?

COHEN: In most people, yes.

ED MCDONALD, FORMER UNITED STATES FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Mob bosses will not utter words that are likely to get them in trouble. They'll do things by, by inference, by suggestion. And people who have been around them -- you know, in their crew, or their hangers-on, or the people who are their fixers, they know exactly what is meant.

TODD: Ed McDonald would know. He spent 12 years going after mobsters as a prosecutor in the federal organized crime task force in New York. McDonald played himself in the movie, Goodfellas, striking a witness protection deal with a mobster, Henry Hill.

MCDONALD: I think you understand this.

LORRAINE BRACCO, ACTRESS, AS KAREN HILL, GOODFELLAS: I don't know anything.

MCDONALD: Come on, you don't know anything. You don't give me the babe in the woods routine, Karen. I've listened through his wiretaps. And I've heard you want a telephone.

TODD: It's that distinction between the president giving Cohen a direct order such as allegedly encouraging him to lie while testifying before Congress, or Cohen assuming he was doing what the boss wanted that could define if Trump committed a crime or not.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN COMMENTATOR: This is what Michael Cohen was getting at when he was saying, well, I understood what I was supposed to do. You were a better servant to Donald Trump if he didn't have to tell you, cheat this person, lie to that one and betray this one. It was all automatic. And that made him a good (INAUDIBLE) it made him a good consigliere in the Trump mob family.

TODD: McDonald, says after watching how mob bosses operate, he thinks the president seems to almost relish the comparisons.

MCDONALD: We have a president who seems to go through life trying to imitate John Gotti, the former boss of the Gambino crime family. He starts off with the strut. Every time I see him, even in warm weather, he seems to be wearing the overcoat, the open overcoat and he has to strut, the scowl on his face. And the whole demeanor that -- you know, we don't take nothing from nobody.

TODD: The larger comparison is cultural according to Cohen and Trump biographers. A culture they describe inside the Trump organization, of threats, betrayal, and one-way loyalty.

D'ANTONIO: Donald Trump-like most mob bosses, doesn't feel beholden to the people beneath him. If he were loyal, he would have given Michael Cohen a job in the administration. He would have given him a pretty good job.

I believe that Michael Cohen did not get a job because his children, Donald Trump's children saw Michael as part of a servant class. That they saw him as a guy who was good at being a thug.

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TODD: The White House has not weighed in on the comparisons to the mob. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has called Michael Cohen a disgraced felon. And said, "It's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

[02:55:05] HOWELL: Brian, thank you. A state of emergency in parts of California. Hundreds of homes are flooded and more rain is on the way. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam, following the story for us there.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: George, it has been a very difficult time for residents of Sonoma, County. Take a look at this. People having to ditch their vehicles and pick-up kayaks and boats, just to get around their neighborhood.

You can see some of the catastrophic flooding that has inundated so many of these homes. Now, the Russian River which lines that particular community, rose just under three meters on Monday to about 14-1/2 meters on Wednesday.

That is a significant jump and that's what we call, flash flood. And fortunately, it is receding but the rainfall totals from the storm system were impressive. Over 500 millimeters in a 72-hour period.

Of course, this is filling up our reservoirs, which is great as we head into the summer months. That's good for fresh water for places like San Francisco and Los Angeles. And it's great at eradicating the multi-year drought that California has been faced with for the past several years. I mean, we're only at two percent drought across the state compared to 95 percent which was back in 2016. Unfortunately, maybe, perhaps, this is a little bit too much too quick, right?

Another storm system lining up for the weekend and these atmospheric river events are great for just that. Eradicating drought conditions. But sometimes, that snowfall can really pile up. Especially into the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

And fortunately, for this woman, there was a woman trapped in this vehicle. An unsuspecting snowplow driver actually knocked into this parked vehicle that was buried under meters of snowfall.

This just puts it into perspective. This is in Lake Tahoe in California. And if we talk about the amount of snow that they've had across that region, the Squaw Valley mountain resorts which is a ski resort in Lake Tahoe, typically, in the month of February, receives just about 1-1/2 meters of snow.

Check this out. This February, we just closed off the month. They've seen eight meters of snowfall. And so far, this season they have had just under 14-1/2 meters of snowfall. And typical season there would bring about 11 meters of snow. That's an entire winter season. We still have several weeks if not months of accumulating snow ahead of us. So, I really puts it into perspective, George.

HOWELL: All right, Derek Van Dam, thank you so much. And we thank you for being with us this hour for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. Let's do it again. Another hour of news right after the break. Stay with us.

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