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U.S. Immigration Crisis; Sarah Sanders Booted from Restaurant; Atlanta Mayor Orders City Jail to Refuse New Detainees; Protesters Demand Justice after Teen Killed by Police; European Leaders Try to Bridge Divisions over Migration; Turkish Election; Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Women Drivers; 2018 World Cup. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired June 24, 2018 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Protests target a U.S. immigration detention center demanding to keep families together.
Plus, dealing with Europe's migrant crisis, divided leaders are set to gather in Brussels to end formal talks on migration.
And Germany delivers under pressure clinching a victory winning with the comeback goal. We'll have the latest action live from Moscow.
We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We'll welcome our viewers from in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. And CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: At 5:00 am here on the East Coast, the U.S. government now says they have a plan to reunite the children who have been separated from their parents and it has taken some time to get here. The no tolerance policy that led to the surge in separations went into effect in April.
It was only a few hours ago that the Department of Homeland Security released these new numbers. More than 2,500 children have been separated since that policy started. At least 522 children have been reunited with their parents but 2,053 children are still being held and still waiting to return to their parents.
The government says it knows the location of all the children in custody and is working to reunite them with their families. But we do stress here, these reunions won't happen quickly. They will only happen once the parents' legal proceedings are completed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shut it down! Shut it down!
HOWELL (voice-over): There's the scene in Homestead, Florida. This comes as protests happen at different immigration detention centers around the country. Again, the one you're seeing here, many people came together and those protesters are chanting comments that are echoing throughout the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Set the children free! Set the children free! Set the children free!
HOWELL (voice-over): Another scene here, this crowd shouting at a Border Patrol group, the agents there, and police officers, physically blocking a bus loaded with children, leaving from a migrant detention center in McAllen, Texas. The bus eventually did depart with the children on board.
At first officials wouldn't say who was on the bus or where they were going.
In the end, a U.S. Customs and Border Control spokespersons said families were being transferred to the custody of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but it was not clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENISE BENAVIDEZ, PROTESTER: To see a bus full of children that I saw myself, this little girl, (Speaking Spanish), I was telling her, you're not alone, (Speaking Spanish), we are with you (Speaking Spanish).
People are speaking up for her and she put her little hand on the window and, you know, I saw a baby, like a little toddler in there. And I saw like another baby. It was just very difficult to see. I'm a mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Telling them, "Estamos contigo," and "we are with you."
Earlier in the day a delegation from Congress visited the same facility. They described what they saw, one called "a sea of humanity" of little girls, boys and parents. And Border Patrol agents who were, quote, "concerned and very confused."
One of them was Jackie Speier. Listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) CALIFORNIA: In terms of reunification, I have zero, zero understanding that anyone has been reunited with their parents. I think these children have been sent off.
They may have an "A" number but, when they go through the Department of Health and Human Services, they get a different number. So the ability to match them, I think, becomes much more difficult. So I don't believe that they have been reunified and you've got to show me proof.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: The U.S. president did weigh in on the immigration issue. While speaking at the Nevada Republican convention, he cited several of his administration's accomplishments, including his immigration policy. Our Sarah Westwood has more for us.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump addressed the Nevada Republican convention on Saturday, where he was supposed to spend his time talking about the need to expand congressional Republican majorities in November.
But President Trump touched on a number of topics, ranging from his unpopular tariffs against U.S. allies to immigration. The speech came against the backdrop of national outrage over his zero tolerance immigration policy.
President Trump, though, defiant against a wave of national outcry, blaming congressional inaction for problems with the immigration system and previous administrations for allowing the problem to get so bad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's brutal dealing with the Democrats. They want to do nothing, just so you understand, you know what's going on. You love the world of politics. Sometimes you probably go home and say, why do I like it?
But when you think about it, we're dealing with a group of people that don't want to approve anything. If I said, as an example, if we gave them everything they wanted, they would say, don't approve it.
If I said, if we gave them everything they wanted, they would say don't approve it because they think immigration -- being weak on the border, which is therefore allowing tremendous crime --
TRUMP: -- to come into our country, they think that's a good issue for them. I don't think that's a good issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: President Trump also talking about his meeting with Kim Jong-un, the chairman of North Korea, saying that he has made progress toward denuclearization, even though such steps haven't taken place since their historic summit, and looking ahead to his upcoming meeting with NATO members later this summer.
President Trump did however make mention of Senator Dean Heller, a Republican, who's very vulnerable in November and warned that a vote for his opponent would be a vote for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi's agenda -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, Las Vegas.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: All right, Sarah, thank you for the reporting.
And now to Steven Erlanger, the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for "The New York Times," live via Skype from Brussels.
It's good to have you on the show this hour, Steven. We'll start with the new plan announced to reunite families.
Steven, is this the real solution or is this the government quickly trying to mop up a mess?
STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, they are trying to mop up a mess. That's better than leaving the mess there. It works -- and I don't really know. What strikes me as so interesting is just as we figured, Trump is using this border issue for the midterms. That's why he's doing it.
He's attacking the Democrats for supposedly being weak on the border, i.e., I'm strong on the border. And that's what he's trying to push. And I frankly think the policy matters less to him than the politics.
HOWELL: Let's listen to that. Again, the president is breaking this down to a very simple binary. Democrats, weak on the border; Trump, Republicans strong on the border. He spoke about that in the state of Nevada. Let's listen; well talk about it on the other side, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But if we did that, everybody come, if we did that, you would have -- you're right -- the word is overrun. We will have millions and millions of people pouring through our country with all of the problems that would cause, with crime and schools and you would have millions -- all I have to do is say, yes, we want to take care of everybody, we want everybody to come.
Do what you want to do, even if they saw weakness, if they see any weakness, they will come by the millions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: The binary, "Weak, strong."
The question, we see these protests building. We see the images, we hear the sounds of children sped, all this on full display.
The question, does this hurt or help the president heading into the midterms?
ERLANGER: Well, we'll have to see. I think frankly it helps him and that's a very cynical thing to say but the president seems to be obsessed with weakness. The worst thing you could call him would be weak. He uses his own notion of facts.
In fact, if you look at the facts, the number of crimes among immigrants certainly and illegal immigrants are much lower than among the native population, I mean, that's a simple fact.
You don't have millions of people waiting to come in and, quote, "infest," unquote the United States.
At the same time, you should control your borders, no question. But you have to do it with a sense of the law and decency for other human beings. And that has been what has outraged people.
You cannot detain children indefinitely, so the government has created itself a big problem. Now it's trying to get out of it but it's trying to get out of it in a way that doesn't hurt Republican chances in November. And that is the cynicism of politics.
HOWELL: It is interesting; you used the word, "infest," which has been used, which, by dictionary definition, "used for insects or animals."
ERLANGER: Well, yes, that's the problem. These are emotive words being used by the president. And therein, in some ways, some people have called them demagogic words. But he seems to believe in them.
That's the question, one is really never sure when he speaks like that, whether it is coming out of his soul, out of his heart or whether he just sees them as buttons to push for his political ends.
HOWELL: Democrats are seizing on the issue but, politically speaking, many Republican voters do back the president's aggressive approach toward immigration.
The question is, are Democrats being overly optimistic here or will this rally that base?
ERLANGER: Again, it's hard to say. November is quite a long way away. And we'll have other issues to talk about and other problems. But it does seem as if the Democrats do have a reasonable chance at winning control of the House.
I doubt the Senate, though they will try, but even losing one House will change the nature of the Trump presidency. You remember President Obama, whatever you thought of him --
ERLANGER: -- almost everything important was done in the first two years when the Democrats controlled both houses. Afterwards the Republicans blocked much of what he wanted to do, much as Donald Trump is saying Democrats want to do.
If you remember back to the Obama period, Republicans refused to pass many, many things that many Republicans cared about because their job was to make Obama fail. And I think the Democrats, perhaps unfortunately, have learned the same lesson.
HOWELL: Very quickly, the administration has reportedly been looking into additional space for housing undocumented immigrants, presumably preparing for the long game here> Does that leave the people we have been seeing in these images, the
people trapped in the detention centers, stuck in a political limbo?
Or will all the protest, the pressure make a difference for their fate?
ERLANGER: Well, I think the reaction is already making a difference. I mean, it's not just Democrats here. You have lots of normal mothers and father who really are upset by what they're seeing.
And you have a lot of confusion among the border guards, who are trying to do their job. The important thing is to stick to the law, to stick to the protections that all people have, to use the ports, if necessary, and to keep up the political pressure on any government to do the right thing.
HOWELL: Steven Erlanger, we appreciate your time and perspective, live for us in Brussels. We'll stay in touch with you.
ERLANGER: Thanks, George.
HOWELL: Public anger over the president's policies and actions is being felt by his own staff. The White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted she was kicked out of a restaurant in Virginia on Friday night solely because she works for President Trump.
The owner of The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington defended her actions to "The Washington Post, she said that she asked Sanders and her party to leave at the request of her staff and said she would do it again.
Sanders' father, the former governor of the state of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, was outraged over his daughter's treatment. He accused the restaurant of bigotry but then earlier Huckabee created his own controversy with a tweet that some are calling racist.
It shows gang members that Huckabee sarcastically labeled as Nancy Pelosi's campaign committee to take back the House. Pelosi is the highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.
Around the world, You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Take a look here, the city of Atlanta making news now, taking a stand on the immigration crisis. We speak to Atlanta's mayor, who says that she no longer wants her city detaining immigrants.
Plus this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: This is how Central American migrants cross the border. As you can see, we are on a makeshift boat. This is the Suchiate River, which serves as a borderline between Guatemala and Mexico.
HOWELL (voice-over): CNN will take you to Central America, where desperate people risk life and death to reach the United States. Stay with us. (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you! Shame on you!
HOWELL (voice-over): A scene of protest in McAllen, Texas, Saturday. A number of immigration detention facilities there, this one in McAllen. You see the protesters blocking a bus leaving the center. Through the darkened windows, our reporter could see children inside.
Earlier in the day, a delegation from the U.S. Congress visited the same facility. They described what one called a sea of humanity of little boys, little girls, parents there and Border Patrol agents there, who were concerned and confused.
For his part, President Trump was at a Republican Party gathering in Las Vegas, talking tough on immigration and attacking Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have to be very strong. I like the issue for election, too. Our issue is strong borders, no crime. Their issue is open borders, let MS-13 all over our country. That's what will happen if you listen to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: One city leader is fighting back against the Trump administration's immigration policy. That would be the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who signed a executive order prohibiting the city jails from accepting any new detainees.
But there are no plans to move the some 200 detainees currently inside the jail.
HOWELL: Joining us now to talk about this is Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms.
It's a pleasure to have you with us here on the show. To explain this executive order, you made the decision for the City of Atlanta that this city will no longer accept ICE detainees. Explain the process here.
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, MAYOR OF ATLANTA: It really was about taking a look what our role is as a city in this crisis that we're facing as a nation. And, for us, it was consideration of our policy to detain ICE detainees in our city jail.
And for me, it was really looking through the eyes and the lens of my children and being able to say that the City of Atlanta did something.
We are a welcoming city. We hold about 200 detainees, with an agreement with the U.S. Marshals' office in our city jail. We have said we will not accept new detainees and we will press the pause button and take a look at what our policy will be going forward.
HOWELL: Can a city legally, in fact, do that, given that the government has pushed this policy?
BOTTOMS: This is a mutual agreement that we have with a city-owned facility. So certainly we have the ability to take a look at that agreement and decide if it is the appropriate agreement. There will be budget implications for the City of Atlanta because we receive roughly about $7 million a year to house detainees.
And I was personally conflicted because, in the City of Atlanta, we set aside funding to help with pro bono legal services. It is proximity for many people to family members. There are two other facilities in the state of Georgia;; they are under investigation for human rights violations.
So I am concerned that by sending detainees to other places they won't have access to resources because it is not a matter of if people will be picked up, where they will be housed, but right now in the City of Atlanta, we are saying that we are stopping. We will not accept new detainees to make sure that we are not somehow complicit in this inhumane policy.
And still calling upon our federal leaders to make meaningful change.
HOWELL: OK. So, clearly, Atlanta is sending a message here.
But do you expect other cities to look at what you did here and possibly follow suit?
BOTTOMS: It's my hope that other cities will look at what their role is on the surface. I wouldn't automatically think that the City of Atlanta would somehow a part of this policy.
But in looking at our operations as a city and our relationship with the U.S. Marshals' office clearly we are playing a role. And so I think that cities need to look at where we are on this issue.
And changes that happen in our country often start with small --
BOTTOMS: -- acts. But I know that already the U.S. Marshals' office is having a concern about where ICE detainees will be housed. So certainly that's opening up a conversation that we otherwise wouldn't have with our federal partners.
HOWELL: You follow the story clearly; looking at the images that we have seen in recent days, the sounds, the audio that we have heard of children crying out for their mothers and their fathers, how did this affect you personally? BOTTOMS: It is heartbreaking. I have four children. And as I was preparing last evening, my daughter was reading over my shoulder and she asked me and said, "Mommy, what does sobbing mean?"
And to have to explain that to my 7-year-old daughter and to know what it feels like to have your children hurt and not to be able to protect your children, I don't know how any parent can think that that this policy is just and right.
And it is my hope that President Trump will look at it from the lens of a father and a grandfather and think about what if it were his children and his grandchildren. And that he will have a change of heart and will really work with our congressional leaders to come up with some meaningful solutions.
HOWELL: What about those people who say the immigration system as it stands now is not strong enough?
What we're seeing, these people believe he's effective.
Your thoughts to them?
BOTTOMS: I think we have to have comprehensive immigration reform in this country. There are things we can do, big and small, right now. Congress can take a look at the allocation that we have for funding so that we can fund access to public defenders, so that we can fund access to give people an opportunity to actually have a hearing.
People are trekking for miles and months to get to the border. People don't enter a decision like that lightly. And certainly, as a country, as a country full of immigrants, we should not play with their lives in the name of politics.
HOWELL: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, with the City of Atlanta, we appreciate your time.
BOTTOMS: Thank you for having me.
HOWELL: The debate about immigration continues to rage on but one critical issue tends to get overlooked. It's the question of why people in South America are escaping their homes, running for safety in such large numbers. And there are many reasons but key factors remain the same. Our Rafael Romo gives us a firsthand look.
ROMO (voice-over): We found them just below a bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala. When we first witnessed these scenes in 2015, it was clear that the border was wide open for migrants and anything you want to smuggle. Little has changed.
ROMO: This is how Central American migrants cross the border. As you can see, we are on a makeshift boat. This is the Suchiate River, which serves as a borderline between Guatemala and Mexico.
Something that caught my attention is that you can't really see any migration authorities or the military or police.
ROMO (voice-over): A former Guatemalan official told us their priority is not detaining migrants but fighting drug traffickers. There are more than 400 border crossing points where authorities have little or no control.
ROMO: We're flying over the Guatemalan highlands. We are on our way to the province of Peten. Peten is an area known by people in the region as a migrant transit point, not only for people from Guatemala but also El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.
ROMO (voice-over): Why are entire families fleeing Central America?
We traveled to a city in Honduras that has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
ROMO: This is the Chamelecon neighborhood in the city of San Pedro Sula. Authorities say that many people had chosen to leave because they were fleeing the violence.
Operations like this one by the military police are seeking to restore confidence in authorities so that people can return to their neighborhood.
ROMO (voice-over): But those who leave have no intention of returning. At the end of the day, they told us, they only have two options: facing a gun-toting, ruthless member of the criminal gang known as MS-13, who will kill your son and your family if he doesn't join in, or risking their lives to reach the United States, traveling by land through Mexico and crossing the border illegally.
The prospect of a life in America, albeit remote and even if they're temporarily separated from their children, will always be preferable to imminent death at home.
HOWELL: Rafael Romo, thank you so much for the reporting.
We have been following the demonstrations in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. People demanding justice there in the --
HOWELL: -- shooting death of Antwon Rose, the unarmed African American teenager, who was shot three times in the back by a police officer. The protesters say they will continue to march until their demands are met. Our Ryan Nobles filed this report.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the fourth straight night, demonstrators took to the streets of Pittsburgh to protest the death of Antwon Rose Jr., a teenager who was shot by a police officer in a neighboring suburb of East Pittsburgh. These protests were peaceful for the most part. There was some tension at certain points but the protests were making it very clear that they want to see swift action in this case. In particular they would like to see the officer involved in the shooting arrested and taken off the streets right away.
They would also like to see the district attorney of Allegheny County step down and recuse himself from the case and hand it over to the state's attorney general. Now they came to the south side of Pittsburgh, a popular entertainment district and shut down the main thoroughfare.
Organizers told me it was to make sure that their message was had you heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Stephen Zappala is watching, I'm looking in your eyes and I speak for the city of Pittsburgh. And everybody I speak for -- Antwon Rose's family. You need to step down and remove yourself. So if you don't, this is what will happen all night.
And for our local and elected officials who standby and support this man you will also be put on notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Now in terms of their demands, at this point they're not being met. The attorney general in the state of Pennsylvania has said that that he has no jurisdiction in this case unless he is referred to by the district attorney. And the district attorney has said it is well within his purview to prosecute and investigate this case and has said that they can handle it in a unbiased fashion.
Regardless, protesters say that they're going to continue to come to the streets and make their voices be heard. Antwon Rose Jr., by the way, scheduled to be laid to rest on Monday -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Pittsburgh.
HOWELL: And Ryan, we will continue to stay in touch as you follow the story.
Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM worldwide, can European leaders reach a new deal on migration?
They were set to gather in Brussels to talk about that crisis. We'll have details ahead.
Plus, voting now underway in the nation of Turkey as its leadership faces a crucial test. Stay with us. More information straight ahead.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:30:00]
HOWELL: 12:30 pm in Ankara, Turkey. I'm George Howell with your news headlines this hour.
HOWELL: The European Union leaders are scrambling to find a solution to the migration crisis that is gripping much of Europe. They were set to gather in Brussels on Sunday to try to resolve the visions over what to do.
The thorniest issue?
How many refugees and asylum seekers should each country take in?
The European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, tweeted that he was conveying Sunday's informal meeting so that heads of state can find solutions ahead of next week's European Council summit.
The German chancellor Angela Merkel, who is under political pressure to cut the number of migrants coming into her country, wants fellow E.U. member states to take in more.
So does French president Emmanuel Macron. He is also pushing for the same. There have been more than 51,000 arrivals in Europe this year alone, many of THOMAS: by sea. Greece has received the most people this year, more than 20,000.
To talk more about this, let's bring in CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas in Berlin, he's also the chair of the department of French and Francophone studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
A pleasure to have you with us, there in Berlin, thank you for your time. We've seen this division across Europe; some countries like Spain that have taken in migrants, others like Italy are closing their borders. We have heard from the British singer and actor, Sting, criticizing Europe's mixed response to this. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STING, MUSICIAN, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: We have the refugee crisis -- and thank God for Greece because you have shown the way. You have shown how to treat refugees. When other people are building walls and children are being taken from their mothers and put in cages, you are acting with compassion and generosity and common sense, because our so-called leaders, the sad parade of half-men and cowards, is not the solution. You have the solution. Once again, Greece has shown us how to be civilized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Sting really talking about the big picture, I think, touching on what is happening here in the United States as well, presumably.
But the question here, does Europe continue to grow apart on this issue?
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, it does, George. And the meeting that's taking place in Brussels this weekend is in anticipation of the meeting of the heads of state scheduled for Thursday and Friday and later this week.
And what they're trying to do ahead of that meeting, is to iron out the major differences so that they can make some progress, some constructive progress on this question that has been shaping European Union politics for at least the past --
D. THOMAS: -- three years. The problem, as always, with meetings is to look at the attendance list. You have got about 16 countries that are there. And what is most indicative of the greater problem that the European Union faces today are the countries that have refused to attend, most notably the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.
And in the case of Hungary, that has been completely uncompromising on the question of resettling of asylum seekers, refugees and so on.
And until they can address the broader question which is shaping national politics within the individual countries of the European Union and driving these nativist, far-right kinds of policies, it's unlikely that this new round of discussions is going to lead to any kind of real conclusion.
HOWELL: It is a global issue for sure but, as the saying goes, politics is local. And what we're finding in many places is that people find it problematic to see this influx come into their countries.
France, though, putting pressure on other E.U. countries that refuse to take in migrants by pushing for financial sanctions.
Dominic, what do you think the impact will be from that?
D. THOMAS: Well, yes, and there's also, as the Italian minister of interior pointed out, a degree of hypocrisy here to the extent that the Aquarius ship that Salvini refused to allow to dock in an Italian port made its way on to Spain and was not allowed to stop in France.
So there are some inconsistencies. Bu really, what we're seeing is that those countries that have external borders that are particularly impacted by the global refugee crisis, those that are impacted by migrants coming in from Syria and Afghanistan and in areas like Italy, that are dealing with migrants coming in from Eritrea, Sudan, the DRC and so on, are looking to the European Union to get additional assistance with processing these migrants.
Yet what we're seeing is, even political allies of the far right in Italy, that are saying in Germany, Austria, Hungary and elsewhere, they don't want to take migrants or asylum seekers that have been processed elsewhere or that don't want papers.
And this has been driving through this toughening of local policies and putting additional pressure on places like Greece and Italy, which, of course, are using this to their advantage in local elections and bringing these far right leaders to power.
And so this is a real challenge that Europe is facing right now.
HOWELL: Dominic Thomas, we appreciate your time and perspective on this, clearly an issue that will continue to play out across Europe and in many parts of the world. Thank you.
D. THOMAS: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: Voting is now underway for Turkey's landmark election. For the first time, Turkish voters will be voting for both a president and a new parliament. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hoping to hold on to power but faces several opponents.
If no one gets 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be called. Let's go live to Istanbul, Turkey. Sam Kiley is following the story now at a polling station.
Sam, I know you have been speaking to voters there, what are you hearing from people as they make this decision?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, statistically, this is a very close-run election. This is no guarantee for the ruling incumbent, President Erdogan, that he would avoid a second round of the presidential elections.
And that really, from the opposition perspective of even forcing that, could be seen as giving the incumbent a bloody nose. Of course, this is a test, really, for him because he introduced a new constitution in April of last year, having won a referendum that focuses and concentrates power in the office of the presidency and very much weakens the legislature.
From the opposition perspective, this is a very high-risk moment. As a consequence of that, the political energy here right across the country is absolutely extraordinary. Turkey traditionally has a very high turnout but there's been enormous demonstrations bought for and against Mr. Erdogan who has been in control largely of the state- dominated media systems here.
But the whole process here is seen as so critical. People have come from overseas to come and cast their vote.
I'm joined by Ahmed (ph), who is retired engineer.
You've come all the way from Washington, D.C.
Why does it matter so much for you to travel this far?
AHMED, RETIRED ENGINEER: Well, this time it's more significant than ever because,, like you indicated, we are transitioning from a parliamentary system to a one-man rule. And I don't feel too comfortable with that.
Turkey has been a republic since October 29, 1923, almost 95 years. And in the beginning, it was a one-man, one-party rule. But in 1950, when I was a little child working and living right here on the street, I remember transitioning into a multiparty rule. And then --
AHMED: -- there's been ups and downs since then, some problems.
But now there's another significant change in the works. And the significance of that is that we are losing some of the checks and balances and the separation of power, which bothers me.
And we need a strong opposition in our parliament -- in our democratic system. And I want -- personally, I would like to see that preserved. And that is why put special importance in this election, bothering to come all the way from overseas, my homeland and I -- where I was born, as a little child.
KILEY: Mr. Erdogan would argue that what all he's doing is making things more streamlined, more efficient, particularly in a context in which the Middle East is in turmoil. He wants a more structured approach so he can legislate more quickly and actually defend Turkey's interests.
AHMED: Well, that doesn't preclude the importance of checks and balances and separation of power, whatever the reason.
KILEY: Thank you, Ahmed (ph).
I think that's really the crux of these elections. It really boils down for many people to whether or not this is their opportunity or maybe this is their final opportunity to maintain the idea that there can be checks and balances in the Turkish body politic.
HOWELL: Sam Kiley, live in Istanbul, Turkey, following what will be a pivotal vote. We'll continue to stay in touch with you, thank you.
A new era has started in Saudi Arabia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): The kingdom puts the brakes on its ban of women drivers. But the news is not good for everyone. We'll explain.
Plus Mexico is out to prove they're a real contender at the World Cup. We'll recap Saturday's action -- next.
(MUSIC PLAYING) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) so happy. There's no words can explain what I'm feeling right now. I'm just too proud to be, like, doing this right now.
I'm taking the guys with me to my father's house. We live in two different houses. He never has seen me drive before. He just knows I drove in California. And now it will be his first time to see his daughter driving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: And what you saw there, what you're seeing behind me, this is history being made in Saudi Arabia. One woman doing something that she and others in the kingdom could not do until Sunday, driving without fear of prosecution or even jail.
She and others got behind the wheel at midnight on Sunday, as Saudi Arabia finally lifted the world's only ban on women drivers. More now on this historic moment from our Jomana Karadsheh.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the clock struck midnight here in Saudi Arabia and the ban on women driving officially ended, some who waited their entire lives for this moment couldn't wait any longer.
One of these women is Dr. Mona Al-Fares (ph).
You're one of the first women in Jeddah to drive tonight and you invited CNN to come along.
How does it feel?
DR. MONA AL-FARES (PH), NEW SAUDI DRIVER: Great, awesome. Unbelievable. It's like history. So I feel like I'm making history in this country. So it's really good and, actually, like I really enjoyed it, you know, having the freedom in my own country.
KARADSHEH: Did you ever think this would happen?
AL-FARES (PH): No, actually, never. I never thought of this. I thought of anything else except this. Like I didn't even have a dream of it.
KARADSHEH: And also tonight, Dr. Mona Al-Fares' (ph) friends showed up. They wanted to witness this moment. They told us.
And here they are.
Ladies, I wanted to ask you, you've been with us for the past couple hours witnessing Dr. Mona driving.
How do you feel? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been waiting for this moment for such a long time and finally it's here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's history in the making.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so optimistic for the future of Saudi women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Saudi Arabia (INAUDIBLE). The sky is the limit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe that I'm just part of this great change. On so many levels, it's amazing.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): Some of the women who, for years, fought hard for their right to drive are absent on this day, detained recently as part of a ongoing crackdown on human rights activists.
KARADSHEH: We probably won't see a very large number of women drivers on the roads in Saudi Arabia just yet. Some of the women that we've spoken to say they're going to wait and see what kind of reaction the first wave of female drivers are going to get from the society.
And a lot of the women that we've spoken to say this is a big step for women's rights in the kingdom but they acknowledge that there is still a long road ahead to equality -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
HOWELL: The scene of history there on the streets of Jeddah, Jomana, thank you so much.
Still ahead, Germany had a comeback goal last minute. Saturday's matches and a look ahead to Sunday.
HOWELL: Germany's champion status was on the line on Saturday in the World Cup in Russia after a stunning loss to Mexico, they faced elimination against Sweden. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): At the start, things didn't look so good for Die Mannschaft. The Swedes took an early 1-0 lead but the Germans fired back with two second-half goals, the winning shot there, this incredible (INAUDIBLE).
In other action on Saturday, Mexico kept its winning streak up. El Tricolor got a 2-1 win versus South Korea. The Mexicans now lead group F with 6 points. Let's get a wrap of Saturday's games and a look ahead to Sunday's. CNN's Alex Thomas live in Moscow.
Good to have you there with us, Alex, there. Let's talk about the defending champions, Germany, a last-minute win to keep them in the championship.
ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, this is the most thrilling match since that 3-3 draw between Portugal and Spain on the second night of the World Cup. This is day 11 of the action here. While you can write off Germany losing their opening game against Mexico as a bit of an aberration, maybe a slow start for them, feeling a bit rusty, to be 1-0 down to Sweden and at that stage heading home early -- and you have to be more than 80 years old to remember the last time Germany failed at the first hurdle in the World Cup, such has been their consistency down the years, defending champions, strong contenders again.
But there was a nervy half an hour between that Swedish goal and Germany's equalizer, which game them hope. And then that late, later winner from Toni Kroos. Never have we had such a late-winning goal in World Cup history in the group stages before.
Kroos' strike was superb. No wonder all the nervous Germany fans back home went wild after seeing that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's crazy. In the 95th minute, Toni Kroos, Toni Kroos, Toni Kroos. Nobody had counted on that. Fantastic. It was a great atmosphere.
It's a great city. We're so happy. We're from Germany and are so happy to be here. Thank you, Russia. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
A. THOMAS: Now Mexico is still top of group F. And Germany level on points with Sweden. So Germany haven't confirmed a place in the next round yet but they are playing South Korea, who are bottom of the group, in their final group match, George. So it's looking much, much better for Die Mannschaft, as they are known. And they seem to have got out of jail (ph).
HOWELL: Die Mannschaft, all right, we'll continue to keep up with them, of course. And let's talk about what is ahead, the big matches, I heard last hour you might have a particular favorite?
A. THOMAS: I'm completely neutral, not cheering on England at all, George. But yes, by the end of Sunday, all the eight of these groups, all the 32 teams would have played at least two group matches.
We saw Belgium confirm their place in the round of 16 with a 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia and the other two teams in that group, England and Panama, World Cup debutantes, playing later on, kicking off in just over two hours' time. England expected to win and also go through with Belgium. And will that just be the two of them in the last group games, see who finishes top of that group.
And then the four teams in group H also play, Japan and Senegal, the two winners from the opening games, play each other. So they will take points off each other and that gives Poland and Colombia, yet to get off the mark, a chance to get back in the mix. Colombia, their best-ever World Cup performance four years ago in Brazil. They were quarterfinalists then. Their star man, James Rodriguez, back from injury and should start that game -- George.
HOWELL: Alex Thomas, live in Moscow, thank you so much.
And thank you for being with us here for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. And for the viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead. Thank you for watching CNN, the world news leader.