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U.S. Backed Forces Say 30,000 Fled ISIS Enclave; U.S. Journalist Detained in Caracas, Released Hours Later; R. Kelly in Jail for Not Paying Child Support; Manchester United Beat PSG 3-1 in Paris; FIFA May Expand World Cup to 48 Teams. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 7, 2019 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, everybody, thanks for joining us. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, show and tell on Capitol Hill. Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer, may be a liar but he's a liar with a paper trail that appears to supports some of his accusations.

U.S.-backed forces in Eastern Syria appears to have slowed their military offensive on the last enclave controlled by ISIS to allow thousands of civilians, mostly women and children, try to escape before the worst of the bloodshed.

In a string of hysterical rants and ravings, R&B singer R. Kelly claims he's innocent, a victim, he said, in the first interview since he was arrested and charged of 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

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VAUSE: Donald Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, has wrapped up his testimony to Congress. On Wednesday he gave lawmakers documents regarding his testimony on the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Last week Cohen said his statement to Congress in 2017 about the Moscow deal had been changed by one of the president's attorneys. Cohen admitted he lied about the timeline of the negotiations but only because that's what the president wanted. Cohen spoke briefly after Wednesday's closed door hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: The hearings went very, very well. I believe that all of the members were satisfied with the statements and the responses that I gave to them.

I told them that any additional information that they would want, they should feel comfortable to reach out to my counsel and I would continue to cooperate to the fullest extent of my capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Michael Genovese is the president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. He joins us from Los Angeles.

Here's what Cohen told the House Oversight Committee committee last week about the 2017 testimony he made before the same committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: There were changes made, additions, Jay Sekulow, for one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were there changes about the timing?

COHEN: There were several changes that were made, including how we were going to handle that message.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you finished?

COHEN: Yes, the message, of course, being the length of time that the Trump Tower Moscow project stayed and remained alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: According to CNN sources, Cohen filed new documents showing edits to the false written statement that he delivered to Congress back in 2017. Also last week Cohen claimed the president had directed him to pay hush money to two women that claimed to have had marital affairs with Trump.

That was money reimbursed to Cohen in 11 payments of $35,000 each. Now here's six of those checks signed by the president and obtained by "The New York Times." You see the president's distinctive signature on these checks.

The point here is Cohen may be a liar and going to jail for lying to Congress but he is a liar with documentary evidence that appears at least to support his claims.

MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's an imperfect witness. We know that. But if he brings documents that can support what he's saying, then all of his imperfections can be wiped away.

But there's so many moving parts to this, so many different -- your brain gets full. All day, every day, 24/7, new information and new ideas and new challenges. It is very entertaining. It is very interesting. But it is also overwhelming.

And so therefore we -- we can't lose sight of the most elemental fact and that is that we're talking about the president of the United States and his team possibly engaged in a series of criminal acts.

Now Cohen, as I said, is not the perfect witness. He's lied under oath already. And the Republicans can tear into his character as much as they want. But the documents will speak for themselves.

VAUSE: And -- usually these cases, prosecutors will tell you there's no such thing as a perfect witness, won't they?

GENOVESE: That's right. Especially if you look back at the old mob hearings, when the stool pigeon was one of the people who worked as a mobster.

If you're going after criminal behavior, who better to talk to than the criminals around the person you're going after?

So Cohen has intimate knowledge over an extended period of time of Donald Trump and his behavior and his practices. So while he is maybe not the man of the finest character in the history of the world, he certainly knows what he's talking about. And if they can support his --

[00:05:00]

GENOVESE: -- claims with documents then everything falls into place against the president.

VAUSE: It is also a tough day for the president's Secretary of Homeland Security. Kirstjen Nielsen was grilled by Democrats of the Trump administration's harsh immigration policy. Here's part of the hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Are we still putting children in cages?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage if you mean a cage like this.

THOMPSON: Purposely or whatever, are we putting children in cages as of today?

NIELSEN: Children are processed at the border facility stations that you've been at. Some of the areas --

THOMPSON: And I've seen the cages. I just want you to admit that the cages exist.

NIELSEN: Sir, they're not cages.

THOMPSON: What are they?

NIELSEN: They are areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they're being process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK, so the answer is yes, they're still putting children and people in cages. Why get into this debate over the definition of a cage?

GENOVESE: Remember, John, you know, cages aren't cages. Up is not down. I'm absolutely amazed from watching this testimony this afternoon at how little the secretary knows or admits to knowing.

They don't know the numbers. They don't know where people are. They don't know the number of families that are separated and they don't know where people are going. Now either they're so incompetent that they need to be removed from office or they're misleading the public.

But this is utterly amazing. You're talking about human lives here and they treat them just like puppets and props. They don't even know the basic facts of what they're doing.

VAUSE: The other story out of niel's testimony was the number of arrests at the southern border in February surged last month. niel said the U.S. is on track to apprehend 900,000 migrants at the border this year. For context, 2006 was the last year to reach over 1 million apprehensions.

Total apprehensions have remained under half a million since 2010, way down from the figure 1.7 million in 2000. But the point here is this is a surge in number of a train which was downward spiking until now. So this is a problem which Trump owns.

GENOVESE: And the numbers, if true, are alarming and they should be cause of concern. You can't have a purely open border. But how you treat people as they come in as they are asylum seekers who are not even getting hearings, as they're asylum seekers who are being turned away.

So you've got a mixed-up group here of people who want to come for economic reasons, people who want to flee poverty and flee oppression, violence, families that want to come here.

So there's multiple people, many of whom are asylum seekers, and they're not getting what the law demands that we give them.

VAUSE: You look at this failure to stem the illegal immigration, which was a big Trump campaign promise. The past week or so, the president failed to get a nuclear deal with the North Koreans and failed to rein in the North Koreans, it looks like.

It almost shows he's failed to actually do anything about the trade deficit, which has hit an all-time high, a record high. This is a very long losing streak on some very big issues for the president. This is the man who campaigned on being the can-do guy. He was the out of the box, he was going to strike all these deals. He's struck out big time and that says a lot about what he can and can't run on in 2020.

GENOVESE: I think you're wrong there, John. I think he'll run on whatever he chooses to run on. He'll say whatever he wants to say, whatever he thinks will work for him. Reality has never been an impediment for Donald Trump in his campaigning or when he's running the government.

So he'll look for what sells. He's a salesman, he'll try to sell. His base is already in his back pocket. They will follow the pied piper anywhere.

The question is, will the Democrats put up a candidate who can match him, not in verbiage but in substance?

If they can, they can beat him. If not, Donald Trump could very well be reelected in 2020.

VAUSE: We're out of time but his approval numbers are very similar to -- to Obama and I think George W. Bush around this time. Yes, certainly he could be looking at a second term. Michael, thank you.

GENOVESE: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Huawei has fired the latest volley in its longstanding dispute with the U.S., the Chinese tech giant suing the U.S. government over a law that bans federal agencies from buying Huawei products. CNN business reporter Sherisse Pham joins us now from Shenzhen in China.

What are the details of this lawsuit that Huawei is watching and hoping to win?

SHERISSE PHAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Some details are that they're specifically challenging parts of the National Defense Authorization Act, which specifically names Huawei and some smaller rivals like ZTE and bans federal agencies from pretty much doing any business with these Chinese companies and pretty much buying any products from these Chinese companies.

Here's the big thing. You know this. You lived in Beijing. Huawei has for years been known as a company that is notoriously media shy and today they held a lengthy press conference, all in English, trotting out --

[00:10:00]

PHAM: -- very, very fancy and expensive lawyers all to defend itself against the United States. This is a shot across the bow.

I want to play a sound bite from the chairman. Essentially he is calling out the United States, who has long worried about Huawei's ties to the Chinese Communist government and calling the American officials' stance on cyber security essentially hypocritical. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUO PING, HUAWEI DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: The U.S. government has long branded Huawei as a threat. It has hampered our service and the story on emails and the source code. Despite this, the U.S. government has never provided any evidence supporting the accusation that Huawei poses a cyber security threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHAM: So once again, calling out, look, United States, you have said that we pose a cyber security threat but from what we can see on the record it is you who attacked our servers and our source code. So really aggressive language coming out of Huawei in Shenzhen.

VAUSE: The backdrop press conference you couldn't miss it. It was obviously a big deal for Huawei. Maybe they'll have a few more. Always a good thing. Sherisse, thank you.

Now to a stunning revelation from a U.S. military hero. Senator Martha McSally was the first American woman to fly in combat. She told a Senate military hearing on sexual assault she was raped while serving. Kyung Lah has her story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: So, like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Survivor and senator, representing Arizona now and revealing today that she was once a young Air Force member who felt she couldn't speak up.

MCSALLY: In one case, I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer. I stayed silent for many years, I didn't report being sexually assaulted. Like so many women and men, I didn't trust the system at the time.

I blame myself. I was ashamed and confused. And I thought I was strong, but felt powerless.

LAH: McSally's story even more astonishing because of who she is. McSally crushed military and societal barriers, America's first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. She sued the Department of Defense over a policy requiring all women to cover themselves off base in Saudi Arabia, a policy that the DOD would change.

A proud veteran, McSally told me as she launched her Senate run how central her military career was to her identity, but when she eventually reported the assault to her superiors --

MCSALLY: I was horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences were handled. I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years over my despair. Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again. But I didn't quit.

LAH: McSally had survived assault before joining the military, telling "The Wall Street Journal" that at age 17, her high school track coach sexually abused her. The coach denied the allegations to "The Journal."

MCSALLY: Are you going to be a fighter pilot?

LAH: During her unsuccessful run for the Senate as a Republican, McSally talked about the hard times she suffered as a younger woman. Now as a U.S. senator appointed to fill the late Senator John McCain's seat, she is fighting for change in the military on behalf of survivors like her.

MCSALLY: We must fix those distortions in the culture of our military that permit sexual harm towards women and, yes, some men as well.

LAH: The Air Force released a statement after McSally spoke in that subcommittee hearing writing, quote, "The criminal actions reported today by Senator McSally violate every part of what it means to be an airman.

"We are appalled and deeply sorry for what Senator McSally experienced and we stand behind her and all victims of sexual assault. We are steadfast in our commitment to eliminate this reprehensible behavior and breach of trust in our ranks." -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, a pause to flee. Thousands of civilians leave the last ISIS enclave in Syria.

But where will they go?

And who's now responsible for their well-being?

Also embattled singer R. Kelly says he is the real victim and hysterically denies sexual abuse allegations. More from that jaw- dropping interview later this hour.

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VAUSE: The U.S. trade deficit surged last year hitting a 10-year high and grew by $69 billion to reach more than $891 billion. There were tariffs on Chinese goods that helped slow China's economy. The president's threatened tariff increase sparked Americans to import good before the hike went into place.

Number three, the U.S. tax cut that triggered consumer spending on imports and finally a strong dollar that weeakened demand for American goods overseas.

As an economic indicator the tdefc is mostly noise. It's always been that way since the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, wrote in "The Wealth of Nations," "Nothing can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade."

But these numbers matter to one person in particular, the president of the United States who campaigned on reducing America's trade deficit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We have racked up $13 trillion in trade deficits over the last two decades. But those days are over. We will no longer tolerate such abuse. We will not allow our workers to be victimized, our companies to be cheated and our wealth to be plundered and transferred. America will never apologize for protecting its citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So if it matters to the president then it matters to everyone else. Joining us now from Los Angeles is comedian, actor and, most importantly for us, economist Ben Stein.

Mr. Stein, good to see you.

BEN STEIN, COMEDIAN, ACTOR AND ECONOMIST: Nice to see you, sir.

VAUSE: OK --

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: -- as a comedian I'd be more relevant than as an economist but --

(LAUGHTER)

VAUSE: -- that's the point, right?

The trade deficit is kind of useless. It is an indication where the economy has been rather of where it is heading.

STEIN: Well, it's not an indicator of anything important at all. It is just an indicator of the fact that we like to buy a lot of things from foreign countries and those foreign countries usually can make good quality products at low prices.

There's a good reason we buy things from India and China and Brazil. These things don't just happen by accident. There's a reason for it. And the reason happens to be a compelling reason. It's just the law market supply and demand.

VAUSE: Exactly. Quick numbers, if you look at the imports, exports are up 6 percent, imports are up 7.5 percent. Compared to the previous high --

[00:20:00]

VAUSE: -- 10 years ago, when the U.S. was importing a lot more oil back then. So it seems like this has been a real surge in imports. The argument is that everything that Trump has done, all the policies he's implemented to reduce the trade deficit has actually had the opposite effect.

STEIN: I don't think it has effect one way or the other, sir, I think it is just happening. Mr. Trump can't change it. He can't change it except by the most draconian measures, which would have a very, very negative effect on American consumers. It is just happening.

It's like saying, oh, it rained more in Los Angeles in 2019 than in 2016. Well, yes, that's true but you can't attribute that to Trump and you can't attribute the trade numbers to Trump, either. It's just the fact that some countries make things more cheaply than we can and therefore we buy those products from those countries. It is nothing very complicated or sinister and there's not much Mr. Trump can do about it.

VAUSE: A sure way of narrowing the trade deficit is what happened 10 years ago, by having a recession. Given the tough policies and you will close the trade deficit.

STEIN: I know but we don't want to have a recession. The last thing we want in the whole world is to have a recession. We want to have a robust economy and if people want to sell us lots of things at good prices and they're good quality products, why not buy them from those people and let those people take the money they make and buy U.S. Treasury bonds instead.

We need to sell a great many Treasury bonds in order to fund our federal deficit. So why not do it by the sensible way of buying products from Japan and China and India and Brazil and so forth?

Why not do it that way?

That's the way it's always been. That's what Adam Smith would have recommended. There's no reason not to do it that way.

VAUSE: I'm glad you mentioned the federal deficit, because that is a far more important number, it ballooned for the first four months of the fiscal year compared to the year earlier, up by 77 percent to $310 billion.

I'm no expert but when the government cuts taxes and it doesn't reduce spending, this seems to be a fairly predictable outcome.

STEIN: Well it's -- I hate to say this because I am actually -- I voted for Trump. I'm probably the only person on your show that has said that I'm proud that I voted for Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: But this idea that somehow you could lower taxes and collect more revenue has never been a winner. It has never worked. It didn't work under Mr. Reagan or Mr. Ford or either of the Bushes. It doesn't work, period. You have to raise taxes if you want to collect more revenue.

And Americans just don't want to have their taxes raised but they must eventually do it. We're running up a federal budget deficit at the rate of over $1 trillion a year. At this rate we're going to be bankrupt very soon.

Generally accepted accounting principles base us, we're already bankrupt. Now this is not Mr. Trump's fault. This is because of projections that started long before he was president and he dreamed of going down that escalator and becoming president.

It is just set up that way. We have enormous entitlements and enormous ways of spending money and we keep cutting the ways of taking money in. It is going to be a disaster. There's just no ways around it.

I know my dear friend and my idol, Mr. Buffett, said it is not going to be a problem. Well, it's not a problem for him because he's 88 and he's the second or third richest man in the world. But for most of Americans it will be a real problem when the government says, sorry, your Social Security are going to checks bounce. That's going to be a problem.

VAUSE: We have a situation that, just as the Trump administration is racking up and blowing out the national credit card, it seems Americans are doing the same thing in their personal lives. 2018 closed with a record amount of credit being owed by Americans, almost $900 billion, close to $1 trillion.

Do you see that as an indicator that there is trouble on the horizon for the economy?

STEIN: That doesn't worry me at all because that can be controlled. If people take in their belts a bit, that can be controlled. But it is the federal government deficit that is the real problem. That's the one which is going to be a major shock when, one day, "The Wall Street Journal" has a big headline saying, a U.S. denies ability to pay debt or the U.S. ability to repay debt in doubt. That's going to be a tidal wave of shock through the world. The U.S. debt has been considered the ironclad, rock solid indicator of value in the world for almost 100 years.

If it is going to suddenly stop. it is going to be a real problem.

VAUSE: Yes, it is coming as the Federal Reserve is looking to increase rates as well. The era of cheap money is coming to an end which complicates a whole lot of things.

[00:25:00]

VAUSE: Mr. Stein, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.

STEIN: Honored to be on your show, thank you, sir.

VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, thousands of civilians getting out while they can at the end of the ISIS caliphate, now just a question of when.

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VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour. (HEADLINES)

VAUSE: The last vestige of the ISIS caliphate is slowly shrinking to nothing. But the fighters remain in the Syrian town of Baghouz are said to be the most battle hardened and determined. No one imagined the place held so many people.

U.S.-backed Kurdish forces say more than 30,000 have been evacuated since February, 9,500 in the past three days alone. Among them, hundreds of ISIS fighters that have surrendered or been captured.

Aid workers saying they're struggling to care for thousands of women and children, many of them weak and injured in an overcrowded camp in the Syrian desert. The International Rescue Committee says dozens of infants have died.

Barbara Walter is a professor of political science at the University of California/San Diego. She has expertise in international security as well as civil conflict and she joins us on the line.

Barbara, it is remarkable and surprising to see all of these thousands of civilians walking out, many just giving themselves up. Listen to part of a report from CNN's Ben Wedeman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The victor leads the vanquished. Boys and men of the so-called Islamic State now in the hands of their enemies. Tuesday, thousands of men, women and children were trucked out of ISIS' doomed domain. The numbers fleeing the sinking state, well over 6,000 in the past two days, have taken the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces by surprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Barbara, is this one of the major reasons why this military operation is not over? A full-blown assault seems to be on hold until all of these civilians are clear.

BARBARA WALTER, UCSD: This is a really interesting case where it seems like ISIS is about to lose. It has its one last stronghold which it is unlikely to hold onto. Its supporters, the wives of many of its soldiers, are fleeing with their children. And it appears as if ISIS is about to be defeated.

[00:30:15] And that's misleading. They might lose all of their territory in Syria, but the group itself is not defeated. There's going to be a lot of covert soldiers. ISIS has -- has footholds in other countries around the world. This is a setback, but it's not a defeat.

VAUSE: Yes, because there's been reports of ISIS fighters, you know, trying to escape from Baghuz. So I guess get is, if they're trying to escape, where do they go?

WALTER: There's a lot of places that terrorists can go. One of the things that we know from the very good research that now exists on civil wars and its relationship to extremism, is that terrorists thrive in what's called ungoverned spaces. And civil wars are ungoverned spaces.

And if you look at where ISIS's last stronghold in Syria is, it's on the border with Iraq. So they could move into Iraq. They could move into Afghanistan, where the civil war continues there. It could move into Yemen. They already have a presence in Yemen. In Libya, in Somalia, in Central and Western Africa, the Lake Chad basin, in Southeast Asia.

So there's a lot of places around the world that are unstable. Some of those places are already experiencing civil wars like Yemen. Some of these places are Muslim-majority countries. These are places where ISIS can move. As -- as it faces defeat in one place it could move into an area where it can regroup and regrow.

VAUSE: Here's a little more from Ben Wedeman reporting on the offensive by U.S.-backed forces, there to liberate Baghuz, and the counter-offensive by ISIS fighters.

WALTER: I'm sorry. Could you repeat that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we've been seeing this morning is intense bombardment: air strikes as well as mortar strikes, as well. What we saw just a while ago was an ammunition dump, apparently, by the looks of it, that got struck; and there was just one big blast after another.

We also have been speaking to some of the soldiers who are at this forward position, who told us that overnight, there was an attempt by ISIS fighters using tunnels to attack this area. But they were able to repulse it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So Barbara, that was Ben Wedeman reporting, you know, from the front lines of this battle and the offensive and the counteroffensive. What is actually in it for these ISIS fighters to delay, you know, this last -- or to hang onto this last piece of ISIS territory? As you say, there's a belief that eventually -- it's only a matter of when -- this city will be liberated, this town will be liberated. So why delay it? What's the tactic here?

WALTER: Well, the dynamics are going to change. One of the big surprises that happened in this past year was that Donald Trump suddenly announced, to the surprise of even his military leaders, that the United States was going to pull all of its soldiers, and there were about 2,000 soldiers in Syria. And their main purpose was to defeat and degrade ISIS.

Donald Trump suddenly announced that U.S. soldiers were going to withdraw from Syria. This is a game changer. It's a game changer for the Assad regime. It's a game changer for ISIS. Now, the United States hasn't done that yet. And it appears as if

President Trump is backing off from that statement, and he'll probably leave approximately 400 American soldiers there. But that is a reduction. And if you're ISIS and you're desperately trying to hang onto territory, and you believe that the United States is going to significantly reduce its forces, the game is going to change as soon as that happens. So you want to hold on as long as you can, knowing that your position is likely to improve once the U.S. leaves.

VAUSE: OK, Barbara. We appreciate the analysis. Great to have you with us. It's been a while, so thank you so much.

Well, now to Venezuela, and the Maduro government's crackdown on journalists is showing no signs of letting up. On Wednesday, authorities raided the home of an American freelance reporter in Caracas. He was taken into custody, then released a few hours later. A press workers' union says at least 36 journalists have been detained in Venezuela just this year.

And it comes as the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, turns up the pressure on Nicolas Maduro. CNN's Paula Newton reports now from Caracas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Opposition leader Juan Guaido has now spent a full day back to work, back to business here in Venezuela. He was at the national assembly. Really, we were trying to get some indication of what his next moves are.

One of them has to do with, of course, the protests that he's called for on the weekend. But more than that, he has now called for a series of national strikes. This is a very risky strategy.

What he's trying to do, though, is inject more momentum into this movement. The problem is, is that it will be risky if he does not get the participation he's looking for. And more than that, the Maduro government may also claim that what he is doing by calling for those strikes is, again, against the law.

[00:35:09] Now, some were surprised that the Maduro government did not arrest Guaido. Maduro himself had said that he had the full right to some kind of justice, because he was contravening the law by leaving the country. But they didn't arrest him.

What they did, though, they did strike back and send a signal to the diplomats that greeted him at the airport. It was a collection of diplomats that offered some support and protection. One of them was the German ambassador to Venezuela. The Maduro government has now said that that ambassador is persona non grata. He must now leave the country.

Adding to the tensions on the ground here, American journalist Cody Weddle was detained for the full day of interrogation here in Venezuela on Wednesday. He was later released. CNN has reached out to his family. His mother telling us that, in fact, she expects him back in the United States on Thursday.

But certainly, a very tense day as he was interrogated and that, at first, the military intelligence had indicated that they wanted to speak to him based on his work and perhaps some allegations of espionage.

It comes as a relief, especially after both the State Department and Juan Guaido and Senator Marco Rubio had all called for his release. Again, something here that has added to the tensions but, as of right now, has not escalated what are already very complicated politics on the ground here.

Paula Newton, CNN, Caracas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, CNN is partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery on March 14. Ahead of My Freedom Day, we asked actress Marina de Tavira, "What makes you feel free?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA DE TAVIRA, ACTRESS: I feel free when they acknowledge me from who I are -- I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your story using the hashtag #MyFreedomDay.

With that, feel free to take a short break, but we will be back in just a moment.

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VAUSE: Singer R. Kelly is back in jail, this time for not paying child support. The accused sexual predator owes his ex-wife more than $161,000. Kelly was free on bail after being indicted last month on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse but is due back in court next week.

And Detroit police are looking into another allegation against Kelly, this one from a 13-year-old girl, possibly back in 2001. All of this on the same day CBS aired Kelly's first interview since his arrest. The singer portrayed himself as the victims, crying, ranting and even pleading to the camera at one point.

Sara Sidner has more now on the explosive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

R. KELLY, SINGER ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: Tell me what this (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): R&B singer R. Kelly exploding with emotion over and over again in his first interview since being charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse against four women, three of whom, prosecutors say, were minors at the time of the abuse. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

KELLY: What women said about me, what women -- So nobody is allowed to be mad at me and be scorned and lie on me.

[00:40:03] GAYLE KING, CBS NEWS: So they're lying on you? That's your explanation: they're lying on you?

KELLY: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel that people have maligned your character?

KELLY: I have been assassinated. I have been buried alive. Buried alive.

SIDNER: It is also the first time he's responded to numerous abuse accusations in the six-part docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly" that aired in January. In it, his former girlfriends, his ex-wife, family members of girls, and people who worked for him all leveled allegations against him, accusing him of extreme manipulation, abuse and starvation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, the turmoil you brought in my kid's life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a little girl in, like, a bad man's world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quit hurting people. Quit hurting these girls.

KELLY: I didn't do this stuff! This is not me! I'm fighting for my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) life! Yo, tell me what this (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I can't help fighting (ph)! (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

KING: Robert.

KELLY: Y'all trying to kill me! You're killing me, man! This is not about music! I'm trying to have a relationship with my kids, and I can't do it.

SIDNER: He also talked about the two women who he is currently living with, calling them his girlfriends. He accused their parents of selling their daughters.

The parents of Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary shot back, denying Kelly's allegation. They say their daughters met R. Kelly as teenagers and have been brainwashed and abused for years. The Savages say they have had no contact with their daughter for two years.

TIM SAVAGE, FATHER OF JOYCELYN SAVAGE: It's just speechless, to hear them saying that we would sell our kids. That's unheard of.

SIDNER: The Clary family sent a statement through attorney Michael Avenatti, saying they never asked for or received money from R. Kelly. And said, "R. Kelly is a desperate liar and serial abuser of young girls, who should die in prison. All of the victims and parents cannot be lying."

But their daughters sided with R. Kelly during the interview.

AZRIEL CLARY, R. KELLY'S GIRLFRIEND: I'm crying because you guys don't know the truth. You guys believe it's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to decide that our parents are insane (ph). This is all (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lies for money.

SIDNER: After Savage and Clary spoke out, something unexpected happened. The Savage family received a phone call from their daughter.

JOYCELYN SAVAGE, R. KELLY'S GIRLFRIEND (via phone): I have told you guys a million, million times that I am OK where I am and I'm happy.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. WORLD SPORT starts after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi, there. Thanks for joining us, and welcome to CNN WORLD SPORT.

We begin with a Wednesday night of the highest drama in the European Champions League, not to mention huge controversy, too, in the French capital of Paris.

Now, Manchester United, historically speaking, are used to dramatic comebacks over the years, especially in this particular tournament; but not many in the game giving the Red Devils much hope at all, reversing a 2-0 first-leg round of 16 home defeat to French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

But remember, this is a new United at the moment, a team totally revitalized under their interim manager and revered former player Ole Gunner Solskjaer.

Bear in mind, as well, PSG have never won this competition, and they had an awful start here as United's Romelu Lukaku strikes within the first two minutes there at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night.

No team in European Cup history had overturned a 2-0 first leg home deficit, and when it Juan Bernat leveled, it looked like PSG all the way.

But the Red Devils testing veteran keeper Gigi Buffon, and he would crack under the strain of Marcus Rashford's shot. And Lukaku on hand again to turn in the rebound.

At that point, United still needed one more to advance. Teenage Portuguese Diogo Dalot trying a speculative shot very late on. It seems to be deflected out from corner, but wait. Look at this. The video assistant referee reviews it, decides it's a penalty kick.

The ball had hit the arm of Presno (ph) Mbappe, meaning that Marcus Rashford, with an injury time penalty kick, for the most extraordinary win, cool as you like. He smashes it home so confidently.

PSG crestfallen. United into the quarterfinals. His first ever penalty for the United in competitive play. Well, you wouldn't have known, would you?

PSG beaten in their own backyard. What is it with them in this particular tournament, when it comes to the latter stages?

And United, wow, what a comeback, even when you consider they won this tournament three times already in their history.

Touching moment there, Lukaku consoling Mbappe there.

All right. Remember this, coming 20 years on from United famously winning their iconic treble on a goal score by guess who? That would be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer himself. And look at this, as well: Solskjaer with legendary former manager Alex Ferguson, who was in Paris to watch the big game, and another storied former Red Devils player, Monsieur Eric Cantona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC CANTONA, FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED PLAYER: I love it. I'm so happy. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNELL: Paul Pogba and Patrice Evra there, just basking in the moment of a thrilling United comeback victory. What a story.

All right. The stories just keep on proliferating here, don't they, during this Champions League week. It's been fascinating, because Wednesday's other match featuring another thriller as Porto and Roma went head.

The Portuguese, remember, they're two-time kings of Europe, with their last triumph, in fact, coming exactly 15 years ago. The Serie A tea were two up in the first leg in the Eternal City. But they won at home by exactly that scoreline here to take the game to extra time, and they benefitted from a VAR-awarded spot kick to knock out Roma. Florenzi pulling the shirt of Fernando, who was trying to get on the end of a cross. And the referee, after consulting VR, points to the spot. Alex Telles doing the rest, making no mistake. And it's Porto liberating Roma, and the Portuguese club are through to the quarter finals of the tournament. Now, the next football World Cup in Qatar is about as controversial as any sports tournament could possibly be, and it seems as though it's about to get even more complicated. You try and do the numbers. That's next. Stay with us.

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[00:50:12] SNELL: Welcome back to you now as we continue the countdown to football's next men's World Cup, which will take place in November and December of 2022.

Now eight years ago, FIFA -- that's the sport's governing body -- declaring Qatar as the host nation and, fair to say, the spotlight has been on the Gulf state nation and the build-up to it all ever since. So that now extends to just how many countries will be competing in it.

Not content with the current 32-team format, FIFA president Gianni Infantino wanting to expand it to 48 countries in '22, making Qatar co-host with, potentially, Oman and Kuwait.

Now, an official decision will be made in June. Meantime, "The New York Times'" Tariq Panja breaking the story earlier, speaking with Don Riddell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TARIQ PANJA, GLOBAL SPORTS REPORTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": As far as the Qataris are concerned and most people are concerned, it's been 10 years of negative headlines. And they're almost there. They've been building these stadiums, spending billions over the last five years to prepare for what is supposed to be the last 32-team World Cup.

But Gianni Infantino, for you know, the best part of a year, has been pushing this and pushing this, even -- even when we thought that this isn't going to happen. He's carried on.

What I understand from the Qatari side, at least those who are part of the organizing committee. Very few speak about this openly or publicly. They just want to be left alone to get on with this World Cup, 32-team World Cup. And then -- and then everyone can see the back of it. But it's kind of like a zombie. It just -- this story just doesn't stop.

DON RIDDELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The idea is they'd share it with Oman and Kuwait. Wouldn't it make more sense to be hosting it with Dubai, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates?

PANJA: Yes, absolutely. In a perfect world, it would make a lot more sense, because the infrastructure is there. It would kind of be a turnkey situation. They just hosted the Asian Cup. They've got the stadiums. They've got training facilities, and we've all flown through their airports. So they're kind of ready to go.

But you know, the elephant in the room, and it has been for the past two years, has been the Gulf blockade, which has been jointly led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. We haven't seen many signs of that easing. It would be very hard.

Can you imagine, under the current circumstances, for the UAE to fly the flag of a Qatar 2022 World Cup? And likewise, we just had the Asian Cup where the Qatari players were pelted with shoes and slippers and God knows what else when they beat the UAE in the Asian Cup final?

RIDDELL: A lot of people might be enthused about the idea of a 48- team World Cup, but I can think of a lot of people who would not be excited, particularly about this one at this time of year. Because we could be talking about 16 more national teams heading to a World Cup during the European season; and God knows how many players would be drawn from clubs who currently didn't think they'd be losing them.

PANJA: Absolutely. When the plan was first voted the middle of last year, the stakeholders had the biggest gripes were the same clubs and leagues that you mentioned. Because obviously, the World Cup in Qatar, because of the heat, got moved to right in the middle of the European season.

And there had to be some serious concessions, including limiting the number of days a tournament has to be played, within 29 days. That's what FIFA promised the European leagues, and that's what got this over the line.

Now we're saying still in 29 days, a load more matches. Can we get -- can we get all of this done? Infantino certainly sees it as something that he wants to. Otherwise, he wouldn't keep pushing it. He hasn't been able to walk pasts a microphone for the past year without saying this is something that he would love to see happen, something that needs to -- needs to happen. Even though he could have just let it slide back in June when it appeared to be put on ice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNELL: A case of watch this space.

Well, 2019 also featuring a Rugby World Cup, with Japan hosting later on this year. But it now looks also as though we could be witnessing a rather radical shake-up to the international calendar as a whole.

That's because the sport's governing body is looking to pit the top six teams from both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres against each other. This would be in a 12-nation global event to be known as the Nations Championship.

The idea is the core of the current Six Nations tournament and the Rugby Championship would be maintained, while adding two more countries. It would even feature promotion and relegation from a second-tier international circuit, which based on the current world rankings, would also also include Fiji and Japan, as it stands at the moment.

[00:55:06] World Rugby, which says it's looking to build a better and stronger game for all, will present its proposals at a key meeting in Dublin next week. Some other big news from the world of Rugby to tell you about

concerning the future of New Zealand captain Kieran Read. The 33- year-old has revealed he's to retire now from international duty. This will be after the tournament in Japan, though Japan is a country he'll soon be starting to get used to. That's because Read will leave his current club team, Crusaders, to play for Toyota Verblitz in 2020.

Read, who's played 118 times for the All Blacks, was part of New Zealand's all-conquering World Cup winning teams that triumphed in 2011 and 2015. Can they make it three straight titles? We'll see.

Now, the next women's football World Cup, that's just about three months or so away in France. England will be heading towards it in pretty confident mood, I'd imagine, having just won the SheBelieves Cup for the first time ever. It's the first trophy, as well, as a manager, for former Manchester United and England player Phil Neville.

The English knew that whoever won their final game against Japan would take the trophy, and England did so pretty comprehensively, as it turned out. Lucy Staniforth putting them one up by just past the ten- minute mark. And it would get better for them, before Karen Carney making it two just about ten minutes or so later.

England had already beaten Brazil and drawn with the United States of America. This Japan team was young and inexperienced and didn't have too many answers but terrific finish from Beth Mead putting 3-0 up; and the game effectively over at that point.

It's funny, a friendly tournament for the record. But nonetheless, it is a trophy for England and a major boost, too, ahead of the World Cup when they'll run into, guess who? That will be Japan again in the group stages.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONI DUGGAN, ENGLAND FORWARD: You know, the major tournament, the World Cup's going to be next level, so we need to go away now. We need to work hard because our job isn't done, you know. We want to go that one step more, and we know it's going to be a lot more difficult.

So yay for the team. We're absolutely buzzing. We've won the SheBelieves, but the next one's the World Cup.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNELL: Well, thanks for joining us today. For the team here in Atlanta, we'll see you again next time. Bye for now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)