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Parents Of Otto Warmbeir Give A Sharp Rebuke For President Trump; Michael Cohen Will Return For Additional Testimony; Questions Surround The Methods Used To Get Kushner's Clearance; An Indian Air Force Pilot Is Released After Being Held Captive By Pakistan On Friday; Hamza Bin Laden, Son Of Osama Bin Laden Is Now On The United States State Department's Most Wanted List. The U.S. Is Now Emerging As A New Leader In Al-Qaeda; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In Political Fight Over Corruption Charges; Self-Proclaimed Interim President Juan Guaido Says The Transition Is Under Way Right Now To Remove President Nicolas Maduro From Office. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 2, 2019 - 02:00   ET


NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Grieving parents and their sharp rebuke for the U.S. President after he sided with Kim Jong-un over the death of their son; a U.S. student held captive and tortured in North Korea.

Celebrations in India after Pakistan frees a pilot captured after his plane was downed during a dog fight over Kashmir. And this.


UNIDENTIFIED GHANA CHILD SLAVE: (through interpreter) We work tirelessly and if you go for a small fish to satisfy your hunger, they beat you so badly you regret ever coming into the world.


WATT: Child slaves in Ghana. Nima Elbagir brings us their story.

Welcome to the viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Nick Watt and you're watching CNN "News Room".

In the coming hours, U.S. President Donald Trump is to make his first public comments since returning home empty handed from a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Not only did Trump return to Washington without a denuclearization deal, he also deeply upset the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died after spending 18 months in a North Korean prison. Here's what Trump had to say about his discussions with Kim about that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen. It wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen.

He felt very badly but he knew the case very well but knew it later. He tells me he didn't know about it and I take him at his word. (END VIDEO)

But the Warmbiers wouldn't have it. They lashed out at the president for giving the North Korean leader a pass for their son's death saying Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son, Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that."

But President Trump despite saying those words in public on camera says he was misinterpreted. He says he was the one who got their son out of North Korea and that he does hold North Korea responsible.

You may recall the Warmbiers were the president's guests at last year's State of the Union. Here's what the president said then.


TRUMP: Otto's wonderful parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are here with us tonight along with Otto's brother and sister, Austin and Greta. Please.


You're powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world and your strength truly inspires us all. Thank you very much. Thank you.



WATT: Apparently things have changed since then.

Otto Warmbier was an American college student visiting North Korea when he was arrested for stealing a political sign, accused of spying and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. Eighteen months later, he was sent to the U.S. in a vegetative state and in a few days, he died. The Warmbeirs are not the first grieving family angered by President Trump. In 2016 he criticized the parents of this U.S. Army captain killed in the line of duty. CNN spoke to the Captain Humayun Khan's father about the Otto Warmbier controversy.


KHIZR KHAN, FATHER OF U. S. SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ: Donald Trump lacks empathy. Most unfit person for the office of the President of the United States, time after time. My statement is proven correct. We will continue to be embarrassed as the leaders of -- of our national security have been embarrassed by -- by Donald Trump.


WATT: Meanwhile Kim Jong-un is leaving Vietnam for the long train ride back to North Korea. Will Ripley joins us now from Hanoi. Will, how is this summit being spun by the North Koreans?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well the North Korean state media put out a positive review saying that they made progress here in Hanoi to, you know, deepen their mutual respect, build trust and they talked about the possibility of a third summit between Trump and Kim. What else were they going to say after, you know, all of the glowing coverage and the lead up to the summit. However the true feelings of the North Korean leader according to two sources that I've spoken with today were conveyed more accurately in a press conference when North Korean foreign ministry officials said Kim Jong-un didn't understand the U.S. System of measurement and possibly lost his will to negotiate and perhaps that the U.S. had squandered an opportunity that comes once every thousand years.

Those words were instructed by Kim Jong-un to be delivered to the foreign media because this was something that left him blind-sided. Kim Jong-un exuded confidence when he arrived here in Vietnam on Wednesday, stepping off that heavily-armored train to fanfare and red carpets and huge crowds lining the streets.

He was certain that he was going to leave here with a signed agreement and had no backup plan which is why North Koreans scrambled after President Trump walked out of the talks, cancelled their working lunch and they held their own rare late-night news conference here to dispute his claim that they were demanding all sanctions be lifted. They said he only wanted partial lifting of sanctions. They thought they made a good offer and they really couldn't believe that the U.S. refused the offer and walked out.

WATT: And Will, this is a region you know well. This is a regime you know well. Is there any way on earth that Kim Jong-un didn't know everything there was to know about Otto Warmbier? This is an American student being held in his country. Is it at all plausible that he, as Trump believes, that Kim Jong-un just didn't really know until later?

RIPLEY: No, that's the short answer. Look, Kim Jong-un may not have known that Otto Warmbier or the circumstances that surrounded him getting this brain injury and there's a lot of things that are speculated; none confirmed about how Otto Warmbier - how the oxygen flow was cut off to his brain. There are reports that he might have had food poisoning and choked and then was given a sedative and therefore couldn't wake up, and that's what happened.

But what Kim Jong-un certainly did now about and was complicit in was the deception that followed, the many months that Otto was kept strapped up to a machine under the care of North Korean physicians when the right thing to do would have been to immediately disclose, to the United States, thought the Swedish Embassy which acts as an intermediary and then get Otto into the care of Western doctors with more advanced technology who may have been able to something to save him before he suffered irreparable brain damage and died six days after being released by North Korea.

So Kim Jong-un certainly was aware of the deception and the fact that the Swedish embassy wasn't allowed to see him. Every time we went into North Korea, we asked about Otto and we never got a response, which was unusual because previous detainees we had always been granted interviews with. And then, of course sadly, I learned when I was inside the country what exactly had happened because Otto was handed over when we were also in Pyongyang shooting a separate story. Heartbreaking, tragedy and possibly could have been prevented had Kim Jong-un authorized things to be handled differently.

WATT: Will Ripley in Hanoi, thanks very much for your time.

Now it has been a bad week in Trumpland. In addition to the North Korean summit that ended with a whimper, President Trump is also struggling with a multitude of legal and political problems here at home. In dramatic testimony this week, his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen said that over ten years Trump order him to threaten individuals perhaps 500 times and instructed him to lie about Trump business dealings with Russia and his extramarital affairs.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'm ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He's a racist. He is a con man and he's a cheat.


WATT: Cohen will return to Washington to offer more testimony next week. There's also the issue with Trump's son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner. Now the "New York Times" reports that the president ignored intelligence chiefs and ordered his erstwhile Chief of Staff John Kelly to get Kushner top-secret security clearance. Kelly disagreed with the decision and so did White House Counsel Don McGahn. And here's the problem, well one of the problems. In the past President Trump and his daughter Ivanka have both denied that the president interfered at all in the security clearance process.


IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So no special treatment?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House Security to (inaudible)...

DONALD TRUMP: No. I don't think I have the authority to do that. I'm not sure I do.


DONALD TRUMP: I - I wouldn't -- I wouldn't do it.


WATT: Now will the president talk about Cohen, security clearances or Otto Warmbier in that speech later today?

Joining me now is Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, also a professor at the school. Larry, let's start with Trump, Kim Jong-un and Otto Warmbier. Why is President Trump giving Kim Jong-un a pass on Otto Warmbier?

LARRY SABATO, FOUNDER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: The kindest explanation would probably be that he had just had an unsuccessful summit with Kim Jong-un and he was trying to maintain some cordiality in the hope that an agreement could be reached in the near future. Otherwise it's - it's almost impossible to understand why he said what he did although he does have a fairly lengthy history of taking care of authoritarians and justifying the outrageous acts that they perpetrate on others.

WATT: I mean that was going to be my next question, I mean he gave Mohammed bin Salman a pass on Jamal Khashoggi. He said that he takes Vladimir Putin at his word about 2016 election meddling. Why does this pattern exist? Why does the president give these guys these authoritarian rulers, why does he give them a pass?

SABATO: Well Nick, I wish I were a psychologist instead of a political scientist and I would probably have a better answer for you but it's pretty obvious to anybody who has studied Trump's career, pre- presidential as well as presidential that he is authoritarian by nature. He enjoys the company of other authoritarians. I think he wishes he had powers equivalent to theirs. And so in a way he looks up to them and he respects them in a way that most of us would not.

WATT: And does that then give these kind of rulers around the world license to do what they please if they don't believe that the White House is going to be a kind of moral arbiter in the world. This must embolden rulers such as Kim Jong-un.

SABATO: You would think so. And of course this is the fear. It's also true that because he attacks the free press so much, not just domestically but on foreign soil, that he's giving a free rein to foreign dictators to do what they wish to their own press corps. I don't know whether President Trump understands the effects of what he says or if he understands it and just pretends not to know.

WATT: Now moving on to another Trump topic for the day, this issue of his involvement in Jared Kushner, his son-in-law's security clearance at the White House. Now the president has the authority to steam roller essentially and have that approved. So why is this a big deal? Is this a big deal because Trump and Ivanka lied about it? Why would they lie if he's allowed to do this?

SABATO: Well, I think there are two separate issues. First is whether Kushner should have gotten the top secret clearance. Apparently there are a lot of people in the American intelligence community who believe that he should not have and they had some good reasons for it, though I will admit, for those of us outside the intelligence community, those reasons have been somewhat opaque.

But the more immediate question is, why did Trump and Ivanka lie, and they clearly lied. There's no question about it. In Trump's case, in Donald Trump's case, it is because he lies even when he doesn't have to. He's accumulated more lies than any other politician in my life- time much less a president. In Ivanka's case, I suppose she was defending her husband, but it is not a pretty picture in either case. WATT: I mean might they be lying because they don't want the reasons

behind not getting the clearance, they don't want those reasons coming out. Is that possible?

SABATO: Oh, that may be part of it as well though surely after half of Trump's term they realize that there are people in the government, in the intelligence community who will eventually find a way to get it out there.

WATT: And finally, I mean this was a pretty bad week overall for the president. I can't remember who said it but somebody today said that the best part of the week was the 20 hours he spent in the air going to Vietnam. Michael Cohen's testimony - I mean how damaging is that for Trump? It was very odd seeing democrats taking Cohen seriously and republicans trashing him although he has been the president's right- hand man fixer for so long. It was a strange political flip. What damage potentially is that testimony going to do for Trump?

SABATO: The damage would come in the House of Representatives because democrats now have a majority and impeachment under the constitution only requires a simple majority of the House; of course the Senate is another question entirely. What it really demonstrated to me once again, I guess the thousandth time in Trump's presidency is how deeply polarized and divided partisanly(ph) we are. Not a single republican had real questions for Michael Cohen and it must be said no democrat went after Cohen in other ways even though he had stuck with Trump in some very unflattering ways for ten years.

WATT: But the testimony doesn't bring us any closer to impeachment.

SABATO: I believe the testimony opens some doors to further investigation and already some House committee chairman are jumping on those opportunities. So I wouldn't say it didn't bring us closer; I'm not sure if it will happen and if it happens I think it will end badly frankly in the senate.

WATT: Larry, thank you very much for your time and your insights.

SABATO: Thank you very much Nick.

WATT: Cheering crowds greeted a freed Indian pilot on Friday but his release is not likely to quell the tension between Pakistan and India. That story after the break, plus U.S. officials say there is a new leader taking over the terror group Al-Qaeda and you'll likely recognize his last name. Details just ahead.


WATT: An Indian air force pilot back in his home country after being held captive by Pakistan. Wing Commander Varthaman walked across the border from Pakistan into India on Friday. He was met by the Indian military then rushed to the hospital for examination. Huge crowds turned out to celebrate the homecoming. Pakistan calls his release a gesture of peace. He ejected from his fighter jet on Wednesday during a dog fight with a Pakistani Air Force over the disputed Kashmir region. The Kashmir border has seen an uptick in military skirmishes in the past week. Let's discuss this with our panel. Our Nikhil Kumar joins us now from New Delhi and Ben Farmer of the "Daily Telegraph" is in Islamabad.

Nikhil, let's start with you. Imran Khan and Pakistan seems a little more conciliatory, Narendra Modi in India seems a little more kind of belligerent here. Is this just Modi electioneering or do we have some real problems here?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: I think it's a little bit of both here. So it is absolutely true that India is close to an election and all of this began because of what happened on the 14th of February in the part of the Kashmir that is controlled by India. Forty Indian para militaries were killed as a result of a very large, devastating car bomb; the worst attack on Indian forces there in several decades.

Mr. Modi was under pressure to respond. India blamed the terrorist group based in Pakistan for that atrocity, accused Pakistan of having a direct hand, (inaudible) denied it but Mr. Modi was under pressure to act and the way he acted was the day before the dog fight that you referenced, he sent Indian jets across the line of control; that's the defacto border in the Kashmir region that divides the (inaudible) between India and Pakistan.

He sent Indian jets across that defacto border; the first time that air power has been deployed, in tensions between these two nuclear powers since 1971. And then what followed of course was the dogfight as you mentioned the day after and then the pilot being captured by Pakistan.

His release last night, his return to India, as you say had been widely welcomed here and its opened up a window for de-escalation. You know there's a lot of cheer, a lot of relief here. I want to show you just one of the front pages in Delhi this morning, his name all over the front and, you know, it says a wave of relief across the nation as he returns.

But the events of the past week also mean that we've opened up a whole new chapter in the tension between these two countries. Previous times when India has accused terror groups that it says are based in Pakistan for causing atrocities on its soil; it's gone the route of diplomacy. We haven't see air power. So Mr. Modi seems to set a new precedent. A new doctrine is in place that if India is hit it reserves the right to respond in this way and that means we are in a whole new place with the tensions between these two countries and a much, much more dangerous place.

WATT: And Ben, in Islamabad, how is the release of this pilot going down there? Is it being seen as good sign, this overture of peace or is it being seen as a sign of weakness on behalf of Imran Khan?

BEN FARMER, CORRESPONDENT FOR "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH": I think at the moment it is being seen as a good thing. It has allowed Imran Khan to take a high ground if you like. He's been praised for a statesman-like and measured response. Imran Khan has said that he wants - that he's done this as a gesture of peace and he wants to sit down with Narendra Modi and talk. Now I think that's how it is seen at the moment. How it will come to be seen in the future depends very much on what happens now. If this gesture doesn't result in a de-escallation, if there is still heightened tension and if there's still a lot of rhetoric from India, then I think Mr. Khan will start to receive some criticism that he, maybe, released this pilot prematurely with nothing to show for it.

WATT: A fascinating and potentially terrifying story. Ben and Nikhil, thank you guys very much for your time.

Now. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abdella Ahmad Abdella(ph) all terror leaders wanted by the U.S. State Department and now another infamous name has just been added to that most wanted list. Jake Tapper has the details.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like father, like son. Osama bin Laden's son is now one of the State Department's most wanted. The U.S. offering one million dollars for information on the whereabouts of Hamza bin Laden, the man said to be emerging as a new leader in Al- Qaeda.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heads-up that we're looking for you and we will get you.


TAPPER: Hanza's terrorist pedigree not just from his famous last name, video released by the CIA in 2017 showing Hamza's wedding in 2009 to a senior Al-Qaeda leader's daughter in Iran. And Hamza has appeared in Al-Qaeda propaganda videos since he was a child. U.S. officials say documents recovered from the 2011 Navy Seal raid that killed Osama bin Laden indicated he was grooming Hamza for a leadership role.


PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: His father was writing him fairly extensive letters when he was on the run. He -- he was supposed to be in the Abbottlabad compound in Pakistan where bin Laden was killed the night of the raid.


TAPPER: And it's that 2011 raid that may be driving Hamza.


MICHAEL EVANOFF, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DIPLOMATIC SECURITY: He has threatened attacks against the United States in revenge for the May 2011 killing of his father.

(END VIDEO) TAPPER: The U.S. officially designated Hamza as a terrorist in 2017, and now all United Nations members are required to freeze all of Hamza's assets.

The intelligence community warns that Al-Qaeda which perpetrated the 9/11 attacks is rebuilding, attacks that led to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the nation's longest war continuing today with 14,000 U.S. troops still in the country.

Al Qaeda has been weakened in recent years and the U.S. has been focused on the threat from ISIS and Syria and Iraq. But Al-Qaeda is rebuilding and wants to establish itself as a leader of a global extremist movement.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Al-Qaeda is showing signs of confidence as the leaders work to strengthen their networks and encourage attacks against western interests.

NATHAN SALES, U.S. AMBASSADOR AT LARGE AND COORDINATOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: Al-Qaeda retains both the capability and the intents to hit us.


TAPPER: One of the last major Al-Qaeda attacks on the west was the 2005 London bus and subway bombings, killing 52 people. However Al- Qaeda affiliates have been carrying out attacks more recently. In January of this year, Al-Shabaab killed 21 in an attack in a Nairobi hotel. In response to the State Department's action against Hamza, his home country of Saudi Arabia revoked Hamza's citizenship. The U.S. State Department now says they believe Hamza is somewhere on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and could possibly cross over into Iran.


EVANOFF: Somebody like Hamza, a younger guy whose bas been the group since basically he was a child is, I think, a significant threat.


TAPPER: Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.

WATT: And the push against the last ISIS enclave in Syria has begun. This as thousands of civilians get out of the area; the latest on that operation just ahead.


WATT: Welcome back to the viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Nick Watt. Our top stories this hour. North Korea's Kim Jong-un is now on his way back to North Korea following his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. In a few hours, President Trump is to make his first public remarks since returning to Washington. And the parents of an American student who died after being imprisoned

in North Korea have lashed out at the president for not blaming Kim for his death.

Anti-government protests in Algeria have reportedly claimed the life of one man. State-run TV says he died of a heart attack in the nation's capital on Friday. Thousands are protesting against the aging and ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is seeking a fifth term in office.

And celebrations across India after Pakistan returned the captured air force pilot. His jet was downed during a dogfight above the disputed Kashmir region on Wednesday. Pakistan calls the release a gesture of peace. The Kashmir border has seen an uptick in military skirmishes in the past week.

And the so-called Syrian democratic forces say they advanced a little more than a half a mile or one kilometer into the last ISIS enclave in Syria near the Iraqi border.

The U.S. backed militia says heavy fighting is now under way. The operation began Friday after civilians were moved out of harm's way. The spokesperson tweeted on Friday, "after evacuation of thousands of civilians and our comrades held hostage in Baghos, operation to clear the last remaining pocket of ISIS has just started at 1800 this evening.

All this comes despite a claim from the U.S. President who said that all ISIS territory in Syria had already been retaken. CNN's Ben Wedeman is near the fighting in Eastern Syria.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At 6 p.m. local time, the U.S.-backed Syrian democratic forces launched the final operation to clear out that last sliver of land occupied by ISIS near the Iraqi border. Now that operation had been delayed because they wanted to get all of the civilians out of that area.

According to one estimate, since the first of February, as many as 15,000 people left the area of Baghos which is very near the Iraqi border. It is not all together clear however if all of the civilians have left. Now what we know, those who are left inside include some of ISIS's most battle-hardened and experienced fighters, so this is not going to be an easy battle in any sense.

Now we were at the area where the last group of civilians came out; among them there were Russians, there was people from Bosnia and families from Indonesia. Many of them still telling us that they remain committed to the idea of a so-called Islamic state. One problem here is that tens of thousands of people who once lived under ISIS are now in refugee camps and other parts of Syria and Iraq and authorities worry that those people who still believe in the Islamic state could pose a long-term threat to this area. So ISIS yes, is about to lose their last bit of territory but ISIS as a terrorist insurgency is probably far from over. I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Eastern Syria. WATT: Israel's attorney general says he will indict Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption complicating Netanyahu's effort to win a governing coalition in upcoming elections. Now just months ago opinion polls showed Netanyahu's party would likely dominate the elections in April but now as Oren Libermann reports, two brand new polls show how quickly that has changed.

OREN LIBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the 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 intention to indict the Israeli leader in years long corruption probes pending a hearing. In two smaller cases, the attorney general says he intends to indict the prime minister on charges of breach of trust in what is known as Case 4,000, 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 to his friend, a wealthy businessman. In exchange, investigators say Netanyahu received favorable coverage on a news site owned by that businessman.

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


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: (through interpreter) For years they're 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.


LIBERMANN: Netanyahu has doubled down on his campaign message, chose his right-wing government or left wing government supported by the Arab parties. The investigations that hit Netanyahu during his political golden age. With President Donald Trump in the White House and the middle east aligned against Iran, but he's behind in the polls for the April 9th elections trailing his former military Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who called on him to resign.


BENNY GANTZ, MILITARY CHIEF OF STAFF UNDER NETANYAHU: (Through interpreter) Benjamin Netanyahu, I turn to you this evening, get over yourself and show national responsibility, resign from your position.


LIBERMANN: Even a small shift in seats from Netanyahu to his opponent could derail Netanyahu's reelection campaign.

On Friday night the first two election polls came out since the attorney general made his announcement that he intends to indict the prime minister and they're not good news for Netanyahu. In both polls he is trailing his former chief of staff by six or eight seats. And crucially according to both polls he does not have the numbers to put together a governing coalition with only five weeks to go until the election. It will now be a mad scramble as his challenger tries to build on that momentum to grow that lead and Netanyahu tries to reverse the trend and see if he can win another election. Oren Libermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

WATT: Now that long U.S. government shutdown ended over a month ago but some federal workers are still feeling the effects. CNN has learned that many workers from the Transportation Security Administration are still owed back pay. The TSA said in a statement, "Of TSA's 60,000 employees approximately 1,000 throughout the country require some sort of pay correction." The delay is due in part to workers who were given be a partial paycheck during the shutdown. The agency said it is working to fix the issue.

And thousands of enslaved children in Ghana stare down death every day. Coming up, a CNN Freedom Project report that exposes the fear and horror of modern day slavery. Plus letters of support to a little girl fighting cancer. How puppies are lifting her spirits, just ahead.


WATT: Venezuela's humanitarian and political crisis is deepening. Self proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido says the transition is under way right now to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office. Guaido has been visiting several Latin-American countries to gain international support and to legitimize his claim to the presidency.


JUAN GUAIDO, SELF-PROCLAIMED INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA: (Through interpreter) He's the one today making that transition costly in Venezuela, not the opposition who demonstrated their democratic, peaceful and resistant disposition and despite the oppression the political prisoners and the persecution, here we are.


WATT: Meanwhile the U.S. has imposed visa restrictions on dozens of those aligned with Nicolas Maduro. It slapped sanctions on six security officials for obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid into the crisis-plagued nation.


ELLIOT ABRAMS, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR VENEZUELA: Maduro supporters that abuse or violate human rights steal form the (inaudible) people or undermine Venezuela's democracy are not welcome in the United States, neither are their family members.

The U.S. is among more than 50 countries that now recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president. CNN's Freedom Project is shining a light on human trafficking around

the world. The situation is particularly troubling right now in Ghana where an estimated 20,000 children are enslaved, forced to work in dangerous conditions in the fishing industry. CNN Nima Elbagir shows us just how poverty is feeding this cycle of slavery.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Scenes like this of boys playing, chasing dreams of football stardom, happen millions of times a day around the world. But for these children, just the chance to play on this dusty, rock-strewn pitch is a dream realized, (Inadudible)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Through interpreter) I think my God who has touched the heart of these people who came to rescue me and now I'm out of slavery.

ELBAGIR: The Verge of Life School in Kete Krachi, Ghana, is a chance of the traffic(ph) children. A place for only a tiny handful of the 20,000 believed to be working as child slaves in the fishing industry on nearby Lake Volta.

George Achibra(ph) helps run the shelter and school. He says fisherman on Lake Volta buy children from far away villages and bring them to work as slaves. Wisdom(ph) was once of those boys.

WISDOM, FORMER CHILD SLAVE IN GHANA: (through interpreter) We work tirelessly and if you go for a small fish to satisfy your hunger, they beat you so badly you regret ever coming into the world.

ELBAGIR: In Ghana, the minimum age for workers is 15, but the law is rarely enforced, and the practice of buying children is widespread. The U.S. State Department reports nearly a third of all of the homes here contain a child who has been trafficked.

GEORGE ACHIBRA, JR., PROJECTS COORDINATOR, PACODEP: Yes, at least one of the boys we rescued a year ago, Junior(ph) was living with a parent and he lost the father; a six year old boy working on the lake.

ELBAGIR: Achibra says Junior's (ph) mother was destitute while trying to care for eight children as a widow. She said she saw Junior (ph) as a last result, the only boy in the family who could work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE WHO SOLD HER CHILD INTO SLAVERY IN GHANA: (through interpreter) Junior(ph) may be angry with me but it was not my making. It was because of poverty that made me give him out.

ELBAGIR: Poverty accounts for the near endless supply of children working on the lake. So Achibra returns day after day looking for other boys like Junior(ph), finding them with disquieting ease.

ACHIBRA: Looking at the ages of the incident, how old are they? He say he doesn't know. He doesn't know the ages of (inaudible).

ELBAGIR: Achiba learns these boys stay in a nearby village called (inaudible) with a master who has bought them and hasn't fed them in 24 hours. The next day he arrives at the village with a police officer. They meet with the man who calls himself "The Master" and negotiate the peaceful release of these children.

ACHIBRA: Already "The Master" of this (inaudible) were panicked yesterday and today when we came we came with some police officers, therefore it made him very soft. So after talking for a while he released them quietly.

ELBAGIR: These boys would later tell social workers (inaudible), but as they waved cheerful good-bye to a village that held so much misery, another man wades into the water offering (inaudible). Evidence of the desperate poverty here on the water or just how easily a child can change hands, we'll likely never know which. Nima Elbagir, CNN.

WATT: Join us on "CNN International" on Saturday. The CNN Freedom Project further exposes Ghana's child slave trade. "In Troubled Waters" a CNN Freedom Project exclusive documentary. That's Saturday at 4:30 in the afternoon in New York and 9:30 in the evening in London, only on "CNN International".

And CNN is partnering with young people worldwide for a student-led day of action against modern day slavery; that's on March 14th. We're asking people what makes you feel free? Here are some of the answers from some of the staff at the American community school in Abu Dhabi.


MONIQUE, ABU DHABI SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: HI, I'm Mo'nique Flickenger(ph) the superintendent.


MONIQUE, ABU DHABI SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: We're both at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi. We feel most free when we get to have a few minutes and take a break together.

JONATHAN JOHNSON, ELEMENTARY PRINCIPAL AT THE AMERICAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF ABU DHABI: My name is Jonathan Johnson I'm principal at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi and I feel most free when I can spend quality time with my family. Join me on March 14th for #MyFreedomDay.

WATT: Tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your story using the hash tag my freedom day.

Now to a -- to a critically important test mission for the private launch company SpaceX at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You're looking at live pictures of the launch pad where the new crew dragon capsule is set to blast off moments from now atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.


WATT: (voice over) Live pictures of unmanned capsule designed to carry up to seven astronauts to the international space station. The first crude mission could happen by July if all goes well with what you're looking at right now. (END VIDEO)

And fierce winter storms are about to hit the U.S. Northeast and it is already snowing and raining in some places. The weather update, that's next.


WATT: Snow, sleet and freezing rain falling across the northeastern U.S. right now. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now. Derek, how bad is it going to be?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well this what happens when two seasons try to battle it out. We've got an early spring on the East Coast but winter trying to make its return and it looks like winter is going to win so check this out.

You got to see the graphics because you notice that the radar is lighting up like a Christmas tree at the moment. We've got just a whole deluge of participitation, a wintry mix - a wintry mess, that's probably the best way to describe it. But that I-95 corridor so heavily traveled from D.C. to Boston, that area is truly the convergence of rain and snow mix. So the further north you travel outside of the New York City metro area, it's all snow, but as you head into the metro and right along the coast, that's that rain and snow mix, that's where things get really, really tricky.

Several million Americans under a winter weather advisory right now. That shading of blue near Williamsport, parts of Pennsylvania, that's a winter storm watch for the next approaching storm system. That energy and all the moisture still across the Rockies and the Plains, they're going to have a full-on winter storm today, but as it garners some energy, we get rid of the first system that's impacting the East Coast right now. We clear things out temporarily and then we reenter the chance of participation later tonight, or I should say late on Saturday night into Sunday for another full-on snow storm for this area. The potential for six inches plus possible for New York City, Boston, and some of the coldest air we've felt in weeks across much of the Eastern half of the U.S. as well.

WATT: Thanks for that news Derek. Finally a bittersweet story about well wishers, puppies and Emma Mertens of Heartland, Wisconsin. The seven-year-old has a rare form of incurable brain cancer and to cheer her up, people around the world are sending Emma letters but as though they were written by their pet dogs. So far Emma has received 80,000 messages with more pouring in every day. Her family says the letters lift her spirits when she's feeling down.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Nick Watt. I'll be back with another hour of news just ahead. You're watching CNN.