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E.U. Agrees To Brexit Delay Until October 31; Barr: "I Think Spying Did Occur" On Trump Campaign; Netanyahu Headed For Fifth Term As Israeli P.M.; The World's Largest General Election; Abortion Ban in South Korea; Vice President Pence at the United Nations; Photograph of a Black Hole. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 11, 2019 - 01:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Is Brexit delayed a Brexit denied. The E.U. pushes the Brexit deadline to October 31st giving British lawmakers more time to hold endless non-binding votes in Parliament and to continue to kick the can down the road.

Spygate is back. The U.S. Attorney General breathed new life into a once debunked conspiracy theory that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign. And William Barr admits he has no evidence at all to back up his claim.

And in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu on track for a place in history, a record fifth term as Prime Minister, and the country's longest-serving leader. Hello, everybody. Welcome to our viewers all around the world, I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

British lawmakers now have another six months to do what they could not do in three years, agree on a withdrawal deal for leaving the E.U. it's a new hither or thither delay. Not the long extension the E.U. leader Donald Tusk has suggested nor is it the short delay the British Prime Minister had wanted.

And staying in the European Union for another six months is likely to enrage hardline Brexiteers to fear a Brexit delay could ultimately become a Brexit denied. But for European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker and many others, the time has come to end this Brexit obsession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: I do rather regret the fact that we only talk about Brexit. I read the European Press this morning, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Melissa Bell joins us now live again this hour from Brussels. So Melissa, you know, just -- the U.K. will still be part of the E.U. next month despite what Theresa May says and hopes. So that means that we'll be taking part in these European parliamentary elections. So what are the check and restrictions will now be placed on the British MMPs -- MEPs I should say.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was something that the French president, in particular, had been strongly arguing for, John. Not just that the extension should not be as long as Donald Tusk was suggesting that is a year up until next March, but shorter and in the end, it was even shorter than we had expected, not until December but until the 31st of October.

And Emmanuel Macron's other priorities as he is he arrived here for negotiations that went on through the best part of the night. They've really only wrapped up in the last few hours. It was a long night for all of us here in Brussels. He was also looking at the conditions that would be attached to the granting of that extension.

Of course, you know that the French President's view has been throughout this that what matters most is that the E.U. is protected, its integrity, its credibility, its cohesion, that has been his priority. This was after the French president who came to power on a platform of being a champion for Europe and his hope is really that post Brexit, he can help be some new life into the institutions and bring the E.U. some of its -- some of the ambition that really had missing over the course of the last few years.

And so he was the one who is arguing at the table last night that it was necessary first of all that the extension should be short, and second of all, that Britain should don't be allowed to sort of go rogue. And if it did stay in the E.U. for longer than it was planning to as a leaving member, that it should not have the same sort of rights as a full member to prevent it from disrupting any E.U. business.

So he had been arguing for those conditions to be placed on it. In the end, the negotiations did not go as far as he had wished. There are conclusions within the agreement that was hammered out overnight that aim to allow the other members to keep an eye on how Britain is doing. And that will be -- that is why they've put into place this June check.

It will not be a negotiation. Donald Tusk was very clear about that, neither will the withdrawal or payment be renegotiated or indeed the timeline. It will simply be an opportunity for the 27 to look at how Britain has progressed and whether it has stood by the spirit of the agreement which is that it stay within the E.U. as a constructive member.

VAUSE: OK, Melissa, thank you for the very latest there and to explain all the ins and outs and what was a very, very long night. I appreciate it. Thank you. Well, to make sense of the senseless, to bring clarity to confusion, CNN's European Affairs Commentator and RESIDENT Brixpert, Dominic Thomas joins us now from Geneva.

OK, so there is a bizarre twist here that the new deadline to end the horror of the Brexit show is also Halloween. And when the European Union Leader Donald Tusk announced this new date, he also had a plea to British lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COUNCIL: Let me finish with a message to our British friends. This extension is as flexible as I expected and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it's still enough to find the best possible solution. Please do not waste this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:05:09] VAUSE: But he also hope for the EU's chief negotiator who made a point in the tweet saying one thing is important. Any extension must be useful and serve a purpose. OK, so here's the question. Can the U.K. government do in six months and 20 days what it has failed to do in three years?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, John, I think it's going to be extraordinarily difficult the statement that was released at almost 1:00 a.m. local time by the E.U. 27 made multiple references in the nine points that were included in there to the withdrawal agreement.

This is an extension for Theresa May to try and get a vote on the withdrawal agreement. There is no way in which the European Union will enter into post negotiations about the future relationship so they've got to find a way to get this through and they have to find way if anything to some kind of compromise that would allow for some opening into the political declaration.

But ultimately this is a deal and this has always been a deal that attempts to try and build consensus across the parties, but ultimately ends up dissatisfying most people that are sitting in the houses of parliament.

If you are a far-right Brexiteer, there is nothing there that is going to satisfy you. And if you wish to remain in the European Union, the same thing is the case. So we're back to square one invariably with these two political parties that ultimately more concerned about the potential for a general election than genuinely reaching some kind of consensus.

And what was so important in those nine points an indicative that came from the European Union is they never said that they would not consider a further extension. And I think that without that actually being there in an explicit way, there was very little to bring these different camps together and to stop them from not continuing to fight for something that they deeply believe in.

VAUSE: You know, in the meantime, I'm on another planet, Theresa May is still holding out hope for a parliamentary agreement on a withdrawal deal as soon as maybe next month and that means avoiding participation in the European parliamentary elections. This is what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: I continue to believe we need to leave the E.U. with a deal as soon as possible. And vitally, the E.U. have agreed that the extension can be terminated when the withdrawal agreement has been ratified which was my key request of my fellow leaders.

For example, this means that if we're able to pass a deal in the first three weeks of May, we will not have to take part in European elections and will officially leave the E.U. on Saturday the first of June.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK, if Teresa May and the British Parliament continues to solve this problem, expressing deadlock the same way they've been doing for the past three years, and now let's just say they don't hold a second referendum or a general election in the coming months, is that a safe bet we'll all be back here the week of October 31st to do exactly the same thing?

THOMAS: I think that you can safely set your ticket, John, and watch it go down all the way to the end -- to the deadline. Again, if anything this time around she said that if the withdrawal agreement does not make its way through, she would be willing to consider an alternative mechanism, something along the lines of the indicative votes that the government would respect and consider (AUDIO GAP).

That's a big, big, big step for the prime minister to actually genuinely commit to. And as we've watched over the past few weeks, none of those indicative votes have really yielded anything except an absolute lack of appetite for a No Deal.

VAUSE: You know, what we heard before the summit is that you know, Germany's Angela Merkel was tweeting out being flexible while France's President Emmanuel Macron was leading a group of Member saying -- which wanted I think a much harder line with the U.K. Listen to Macron speaking before the summit began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): As far as I'm concerned, nothing is given, nothing, particularly listening to the rumors not a long extension. Today we have to understand why this request is being made, what political plan justifies it and what are the clear proposals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So October 31st has been described as a compromise, a kind of ugly midpoint between Merkel and Macron. It's to heal a rift between those two countries because it's sort of the worst of you know, both worlds. You don't have enough time for any kind of political movement and it just takes the pressure off the British Parliament.

THOMAS: Yes. And it's the -- it's the ultimate definition of a -- of a compromise. It's neither the short version that either Macron with Theresa May was pushing for nor the much longer version that Donald Tusk advocated. It's actually split right down the middle and takes us all the way to October to be able to see whether or not once and for all this Parliament has an opportunity to come up with some kind of compromise.

The most likely outcome I keep coming back to during this period and is the question of trying to get a general election. The Conservative Party lost that option in tabling a vote of no-confidence that Jeremy Corbyn's ultimate goal and that of the rest of the opposition is to have a general election.

VAUSE: You know, the emergency Brexit summit we just saw, it was at least the 18th time E.U. leaders have come together to talk about Brexit and clearly they've had enough. They just want Britain to get out. Just go leave and do not come back.

[01:10:06] THOMAS: That's the person -- the thing that was so interesting about the Macron and the -- and the Merkel position is to really look at the two different places from which they come from. I think ultimately they agree that the Brexit situation is almost irreconcilable. This is a real deep-seated political problem in the United Kingdom. They just have different ways of looking as to how compromise can come around.

And I think that Angela Merkel's position is quite interesting here. Every German politician knows that compromise coalition building is the path forward. This is what they have all had to do in the history of this country. And we saw Merkel do this recently. We saw Merkel even stepped down as the head of the CDU Party in order to allow for transition and for the coalition talks to finally conclude.

But Macron comes from a very different position, a position in a system in which the French presidency has given full authority to him. And so as they look at these particular questions and so on, you see these coming through. But I think that ultimately what Theresa May is being asked to do is to behave much more like a main sort of land European politician and to try and engage in coalition talks ultimately.

But this is an adversarial system in which they're not accustomed to doing this and there are not only differences across parties but as we know major differences between the Labour Party within the Labour Party and the Conservative Party on these questions.

VAUSE: Dominic, we're out of time. We'll leave it there. Thank you. Good to see you.

THOMAS: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: For those who make it a point of avoiding conservative media, spygate probably doesn't mean a whole lot. But for many on the right and beyond, it's a major conspiracy theory which is run wild since the 2016 U.S. election.

At the very center is President Donald Trump victim of Clinton friendly operatives within the intelligence community who illegally spied on his campaign. And when that all failed, they fabricated the Russian collusion hoax as a cover-up to hide their attempted coup. Here's Donald Trump on Fox News just a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can never let this happen again in our country or to another president. I'm not talking about me, I'm talking into the future. We can never allow this treasonous -- these treasonous acts to happen to another president. This was an attempted takeover of our government, of our country, an illegal takeover.

And if it were the other way around where I was doing it to President Obama or a Democrat, it would be virtually the maximum sentence that you can find the matter where you look in whatever legal book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Spygate is totally nonsensical. A paranoid delusion which has been investigated and debunked, but on Fox News they often call it the lead story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: This is Watergate on steroids. Remember the Nixon scandal, it was about a third-rate burglary? This is a deep state political hit job now spying on an opposition party campaign. FBI spies during an election and it gets worse. The deep state isn't even trying to hide it and what they did, they're now bragging about it.

The former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is actually saying spying on the Trump campaign was a good thing. Has he ever heard of the Constitution?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And on Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations Hearing, the man Donald Trump picked to be Attorney General gave spygate its most credible and authoritative endorsement yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): So you're not -- you're not suggesting though that spying occurred?

BARR: I don't -- well, I guess you could -- I think there was -- a spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.

SHAHEEN: Well, let me --

BARR: But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting it wasn't adequately predicated, but I need to explore that.

I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I'm saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it. That's all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: For more, joining us now from Los Angeles CNN's Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. You know, Ron, words matter and when you're the Attorney General of the United States, words really matter. It seems now to draw any other conclusion and William Barr knew exactly what he was saying and more importantly he knew who would be listening.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Look, I think very quickly William Barr has established himself as the most partisan Attorney General and certainly the Attorney General who most sees his client as the president rather than the country and the Constitution says John Mitchell in Watergate.

I think he is -- he has instantly kind of moved himself not only through this but through his initial handling of the -- of the Mueller report. And what you have is something essentially moving from Sean Hannity monologues to the mouth of the top law enforcement official in the United States. And I think this is just a very ominous moment it kind of gives you a sense of where we are headed over between now and the November 2020 election.

[01:15:09] VAUSE: You know, what we saw there in that sound bite: we saw, you know, about throwing this out there, that's Spygate in sort of walking it back, he did this throughout the hearing.

BROWNSTEIN: Well --

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) I want you to listen to this. Because here he is talking about, you know, (INAUDIBLE) as any evidence of this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Have you any evidence that there would anything improper in those investigations?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no specific evidence that I would say right now. I do have questions about it.

REED: So, this panel you're putting together is --

(CROSSTALK)

BARR: I'm not putting together a panel.

REED: So, you just have some interest in this. You don't have any evidence.

BARR: I have concerns about various aspects of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, he doesn't have made evidence, he's going to find the evidence. He's not investigating, but he is putting together a panel, but he is not. You know, he later said that -- you know, he has no evidence that it happened at all.

So, you know, this is sort of exactly kind of enough out there to get the Spygate aspect into the headlines, but the part about having no evidence actually never makes it.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, look, I mean, and it really isn't designed necessarily to as we talked about before as many things in the Trump administration. It's not necessarily designed to convince voters who are not already in the Trump camp.

I mean, this is really designed just -- this is just gasoline on the fire that they're constantly trying to stoke among their -- among their core supporters. You know, Donald Trump has followed the kind of the twin terrors of conservative populism since World War II. It has always been a kind of the virtuous "real Americans" are under siege from forces above and below.

And in his case, it's some combination of coastal elites who disdain you, the deep state that is trying to mute your political impact by going after me, and then, these kind of threats that he portrays from immigrants and -- you know, black NFL players who protest the national anthem, and so forth. That kind of twin threat on people in the middle is Donald Trump's argument every day. And that he is the only one who can protect them. And you see William Barr today, rather incredibly kind of enlisting in that crusade.

VAUSE: And he's an example of how his words are already being politicized. It came -- comes in a tweet from the chair of the Republican Party to refer to the FISA process, which is the legal proceedings used to get a warrant for domestic surveillance.

And she tweeted, "Attorney General Barr said that he's investigating the abusive FISA process," he said he's not investigating. "That helped launch these baseless investigations into Donald Trump." They weren't baseless. This is a great step forward in figuring out how the Obama administration and Comey's FBI abused FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign.

You know, and from this point, doesn't even matter there is any fall off from the Attorney General.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

VAUSE: It's out there. Now, in that, you had tweet -- you know, from the chair of the Republicans. It's just so wrong on every level.

BROWNSTEIN: Well look, we have been patting ourselves on the back in the United States around the idea that our institutions have withstood the challenge from Donald Trump and his instincts to shatter both the norms and in some cases, the legal restraints on the ability of the president to unilaterally exercise power. I think that is very premature.

And you know, whether it's through the incredible number of acting officials to the comments that are on Jake Tapper reported the other day about him telling Border Patrol agents to ignore the law to what we are seeing from the Attorney General. And the fights that we are headed toward over congressional oversight really with the administration resisting on essentially every front.

We -- you know, this is going to get rockier. And I think, you know, in part, because so much as I said, of the political strategy of the administration, is convincing their voters that they are under siege.

VAUSE: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: They are under siege from forces coming to get them whether it's at the border or at the upper reaches of the FBI and that I alone can fix it, I am the human wall who can hold back all of the forces that are out to get you. You need to create these kinds of confrontations. You need to create these kinds of conspiracies so that you can be fighting against them.

VAUSE: Very quickly, Ron, I want to think of that point you made about, you know, the institutions and the norms in this country. Because there was an interview in The Washington Post by the chairman, of the House Intelligence Committee Adams Schiff. He talked about the bigger picture here.

"The post-Watergate reforms are being dismantled, one by one. The Trump precedent after only two years is that you can fire the FBI director who is running an investigation in which you may be implicated as president. You can hire an attorney general who has applied for the job by telling you why he thinks the case against you is bogus. That new attorney general can then selectively edit the work of an independent or special prosecutor and allow the Congress and the public to see only parts of it. And that new attorney general can also initiate inquiries into the president's political opponents."

I mean, you know, do you see Schiff is sort of getting this correct the way he sees it? What are the options here if he is right for Democrats for the next two years if it anything before getting to impeachment?

[01:20:05] BROWNSTEIN: I think he is right. And there is no one more step that he didn't say that you can do all of those things and your political party will bite its lip or actively defend you in the case of Lindsey Graham, and Nunes, and others as long as you meet their demands on the rest of the agenda: Of cutting taxes, cutting regulation, appointing conservative justices.

I mean, what we are seeing is that all of our Constitution -- all of the protections that we thought -- you know, kind of limited the ability of any single individual including a president to shred our constitutional norms, are flimsier than we thought.

They all rely, they all depend upon a concerted congressional, I think, effort to uphold those norms. And you know, the courts in some ways are imposing restraints but it's not clear how far they will go.

Ultimately, many of these questions are going to come down to what John Roberts is willing to accept or not accept at the Supreme Court. And, you know, all the things that are mentioned, let's say, let's add the president's tax returns. Full access to the unredacted Mueller report. Information about the granting of security clearances. All of these questions are heading into the courts. And we do not know how our institutions are going to come out of this test.

But as I said, it is very premature to be patting ourselves on the back that we withstood this unprecedented -- really unprecedented challenge before we get to the final Bell. I think there are many, many uncertainties ahead.

VAUSE: Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, I guess, will -- you know, have a lot to answer for one day, I guess. Ron, thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Still to come, Benjamin Netanyahu makes history in Israel. Now on track for a record fifth term as prime minister, proving it's good to have friends in right-wing places.

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VAUSE: Benjamin Netanyahu is on track to become Israel's longest- serving prime minister after winning an unprecedented fifth term. It was a surprisingly tight race. His main challenger was a political novice. But on Wednesday, Benny Gantz, former military chief of staff conceded defeat.

As of now, the prime minister's look good party and Ganz's blue-and- white party will both control 35 seats in Israel's parliament, the Knesset. But Netanyahu has the advantage in forming a coalition government fully in support from ultra-Orthodox and smaller right-wing parties.

CNN's Michael Holmes standing by, live for us again this hour in Jerusalem. So, I guess the question now is for Netanyahu. He's made all these promises to these far-right religious parties to get them into the coalition. What does it now mean for -- you know, way he has to give up and how is he going to be able to sort of govern moving forward?

[01:25:21] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, always that horse trading going to get those parties on side. Some of them even smaller right-wing parties may make big requests of Mr. Netanyahu. And to have them on board, he might have to deliver.

One of the interesting ones was that settlement promise that we heard before the election making a major promise on the eve of the election, highly controversial, basically saying that all settlements would come under Israeli sovereignty as seen in his attempt by Netanyahu to steal last-minute votes away from some of those right-wing parties. A spur- of-the-moment campaign ploy perhaps.

But yes, now that he is likely to be prime minister again, he's going to be getting a lot of pressure from some of those coalition partners to follow through. You've got a lot of factors in play on that one.

You've got Mr. Netanyahu who facing corruption allegations that could -- it could be indicted later this year. There's actually been speculation that he might want some of those Knesset partners to help him with immunity from those, those potential charges. But in return, they might demand the deliver on that controversial settlement promise. Some, you know, also what the U.S. and the broader international community would make of him annexing those settlements if he did.

We certainly know the Palestinian position that it would all but kill the notion of a two-state solution. As I said, it's a -- it was a campaign promise, but one with potentially huge ramifications if he is pushed by coalition partners to deliver on it in return for their support on something like his legal woes. John.

VAUSE: You know, we had Donald Trump, you know, basically doing almost everything he could to help Benjamin Netanyahu in this election campaign short of handing out how to vote cards the Likud Party.

So, you know, with that in mind, you've got Netanyahu's making these promises -- you know, in the -- in the last -- you know, dying moments of the campaign for the annexation of the West Bank settlement.

And then, you got the White House about to unveil this grand -- you know, vision of a Mideast peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. How is this all going to come together? What are the consequences here, you have Donald Trump now since it's certainly tied to Benjamin Netanyahu closer than any other U.S. president that I can think of?

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. That Netanyahu-Trump relationship during this campaign, certainly significant. You know, we saw Donald Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He declared the Iranian National -- Republican Guard, a terror organization. All of that, a massive help for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Now that Trump deal of the century is he's called it. The peace plan is meant to come out soon. Said he'd do it after the election. You can't imagine Netanyahu acting on his settlement promise before that happens. And, in fact, it's interesting, John, because Netanyahu later said after making that promise, he would only implement it in consultation and with the mutual agreement of the U.S.

Now, in some ways, that's an out for him if the U.S. plan doesn't include something as extreme as annexing every single settlement, you can't imagine it does. That Trump plan depending on what's in it.

It could spell trouble for Netanyahu because he's going to have that right-wing coalition that would likely oppose any land concessions for Palestinians in a Trump plan. And he's then, going to have to balance that with the reality of maintaining relations built with Trump, and what his right-wing coalition might want him to do with that campaign promise to annex. It's going to get complicated in the next few months.

VAUSE: And it's going to be complicated because, you know, this is kind of like what Netanyahu set up. This is sort of like, you know, the -- you know, the end result of making these campaign promises. Getting elected, and now you've got to govern which is always at the trigging part in Israel. Michael, see you next hour. Thanks, Mike.

We'll take a break. When we come back, the world's largest democratic election underway right now in India. With all the details of what's at stake and why this will actually take by long weeks. Live report, that's next.

Also ahead, the U.S. vice president leaving a stern warning about Venezuela to the United Nation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:31:51] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, everybody. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will get another six months to try and get a Brexit deal through parliament. E.U. leaders in Brussels approved another extension, this time until October 31st, Halloween. They will also get a chance to review the U.K.'s progress in June.

The U.S. Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers he believes the Trump campaign was spied on even though he has no evidence to back up that claim. Barr said he wants to look into the origin of the FBI's counterintelligence investigation to ensure no unauthorized surveillance occurred. Democrats have been outraged saying Barr is mischaracterizing the probe to appease his boss, Donald Trump.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed for a record fifth term. As of now his Likud Party on track to win 35 seats in the Knesset, the same as rival Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party. But Netanyahu's Likud is expected to secure a majority of 65 seats in a blow up (ph) with other right wing and cultural orthodox groups.

Five weeks, five long weeks of voting are now under way in India. Nearly 900 million people are eligible to cast a ballot. This is the world's largest general election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party seeking a second term after their landslide victory in 2014. Polls had them leading but only just. Their main rivals include the Indian National Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi (ph) a descendant of India's most influential and famous political dynasty.

The biggest battleground though is in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (ph) where 80 parliamentary seats are up for grabs. And that's where Nikhil Kumar is with us once again this hour.

I guess, Nikhil, you know, we have tens of millions people voting, this is a very, very long process It's spread over weeks. So explain why it takes so long. And are the issues the same across the country or are they specialized in just individual regions?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: So, John -- it takes so long really because of the size of this whole exercise. You mentioned, the largest election in the world. And Indian election is always the largest election in the world. And you see where I am, Uttar Pradesh state.

I'm just outside a polling station. It's central to all of this. More than 200 million people making sure that all of these people can vote safely. That the process goes off without any hiccups, without anyone raising questions later on.

involves a lot of officials, a lot of logistics. More than 10 million officials in fact are involved in pulling this exercise off. And the logistics of moving those vast human resources around this vast continent-sized country is why it takes so long.

Today is the first of seven stages. And as I say, I'm in Uttar Pradesh today. We are in just one section of the state which is voting.

This is the polling booth. You can see it's already quite full. People have been coming all morning. They'll be voting late into the afternoon. And this state could really decide it

As you mentioned, this sends the largest number of MPs to the Lower House of parliament which decide who becomes prime minister.

And you also mentioned, it's Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is seeking reelection. Until recently, until last year this looked like it was going to be a cakewalk for him after the 2014 landslide.

But it's turned into a contest or a question about his handling of the economy. There are questions about whether he's delivered all the promises he made in 2014. And he's facing challenges from people like Rahul Gandhi, the head of the Congress. But also a bunch of other regional parties.

[01:34:59] The big question is, can Mr. Modi either replicate his majority or get close to that number? Or is one of the opposition parties going to displace him or possibly even a coalition of parties? This country has a long history of that.

So lots of questions and a lot of it, as I say, hinges on this state where we are today -- John.

VAUSE: Nikhil -- it's going to be a long five weeks for you. That's my prediction. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Australians also are going to the polls with federal elections May 18th. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement after visiting the Governor-General, Queen Elizabeth's representative in Australia.

Mr. Morrison and his center right Liberal National Coalition are seeking reelection on a platform of tax cuts and economic stability.

But the vote could deliver Australia its seventh leader in little more than a decade. The opposition Labor Party under former union leader Bill Shorten is mounting a fierce challenge and polls suggest Labor's platform of action on climate change, more spending on health and education is actually resonation with voters. Well, diplomacy in North Korea will be the main point on Thursday at the White House when South Korea president Moon Jae-in meets with the President, the U.S. President. Moon actually may invite Donald Trump to Seoul in the coming months.

And he reportedly wants to broker another U.S.-North Korea summit. It's been less than two months since Mr. Trump's failed summit in Hanoi with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who is now threatening to quote, "deliver a telling blow to hostile forces.

Meantime, the U.S. Vice President Michael Pence is hoping to convince the United Nations that the embattled Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro must go.

For details on that here's CNN's Richard Roth.

We are getting there. Ok. Waiting for Richard to report which is our senior U.N. correspondent. Here is more on this push by the Trump administration which is actually being largely driven by Mike Pence to force Maduro out of office. In fact, Pence has been instrumental in this campaign against Nicolas Maduro and to rally regional leaders against the Venezuelan leader and force him from office. It has actually been Michael Pence, Mike Pence -- the vice president, who has been the one behind most of this.

Certainly the President, Donald Trump has been the public face of everything but behind the scenes it has been the Vice President, the one who has taken a special interest in removing Nicolas Maduro from office.

We now have Richard Roth's report. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Vice President Mike Pence came to the Security Council table to appeal for the United Nations to officially recognize Juan Guaido -- the opposition leader in Venezuela and not the regime led by Nicolas Maduro.

Pence told the Security Council that all options remain on the table for the U.S. government, but pursuing a diplomatic approach, Pence said the U.S. would try again with a resolution here.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is preparing a resolution recognizing the legitimacy of the government of interim president Juan Guaido. And today we urge every member of the Security Council and all U.N. member states to support this resolution.

Stand with the Venezuelan people as they rise up to restore freedom, democracy and "libertad" to their nation.

ROTH: However, a prior attempt by the United States to get a resolution through the Security Council on Venezuela failed. Same for Russia. The U.S. Vice President then told the Security Council the U.N. should revoke the diplomatic credentials of Maduro's U.N. representative. And he told that to the representative.

PENCE: With all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, you shouldn't be here. You should return to Venezuela and tell Nicolas Maduro that his time is up. It's time for him to go.

ROTH: Venezuelan ambassador Samuel Moncada returned fire but Pence had already left the room. He accused the U.S. Vice President of not telling the truth.

SAMUEL MONCADA, VENEZUELAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (through translator): To begin, I think it is incumbent upon us to respond to a broad range of lies and false information that we heard from the mouth of the Vice President of the United States here.

ROTH: Russia and China again defended the Maduro regime. The Russian ambassador saying the U.S. was committing a lawless, thuggish violation of international law.

Richard Roth, CNN -- United Nations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: When we come back, we'll take a look at springtime in the United States which across the country pummeled by blizzard-like conditions. It's a white out in many places. A look at the forecast.

Also, a landmark decision could come soon in South Korea on whether to overturn the country's decades' old ban on abortion.

[01:39:43] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: A powerful springtime blizzard hitting parts of the United States. Heavy snow slamming the Rockies and the Plains. Forecasters in Minnesota say up to 60 centimeters could fall in the coming hours. It's a temperature shock to the region which has been enjoying so much of the warmer conditions until now.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more. That looks plenty cold.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And you know, so often John, we focus on the blizzard and the cold conditions surrounding a storm like this but we have to remember that the winds on the backside of a storm system can often pick up dust and create dust devils or gusts- nados like the storm you see in the video just behind me.

This is a dust devil that moved across a high school in Pueblo, Colorado. Winds there -- get a load of this -- over Category 2 Atlantic hurricane strength equivalent. That's 172 kilometers per hour reported gusts in that part of Colorado.

I mean just an immense amount of wind and an immense amount of energy associated with this system as well. Look at how the winds gust in Minneapolis just shy of 100 kilometers per hour through the course of the morning and afternoon hours on Thursday. You bet there will be some travel delays at that airport, right. Ok. Now, here's the storm developing across the Plains. It is clearly visible on the satellite imagery as well. There's that counterclockwise rotation in the cloud cover, lots of moisture being fed into the Gulf of Mexico. The potential exists for severe storms today, in ahead of that storm right into the Chicago area.

But look at this -- still over 30 million Americans under some sort of wind advisory, watch or warning. And then you factor in the precipitation. The cold, fluffy snow on the north side of the system and it will reduce visibilities with winds whipping in excess of 100 kilometers per hour.

So that means blizzard warnings in effect for the plains specifically from Nebraska into South Dakota and southwestern sections of Minnesota where snow has piled up almost 50 centimeters already. We are expecting at least 75 centimeters in some of the hardest hit areas.

That is going to bring our transportation to a halt across some of the major interstates and highways over the central parts of the U.S. There is the warm sector of the storm over spreading severe weather in Chicago.

Look out for the potential for damaging winds, hail and large tornadoes are potential with this storm system. And by the way, there is the snowfall totals. It will bring Minneapolis-St. Paul to a standstill for the next foreseeable future -- John. Major problems headed that way.

Back to you.

VAUSE: Derek -- we appreciate that. Thank you very much.

VAN DAM: My pleasure.

VAUSE: Well, for more than half a century women in South Korea have been sent to jail or have been fined for having an abortion. It's one of few countries in the world where abortion is still illegal, but that may be about to change.

[01:45:01] CNN's Paula Hancocks, live this hour for us in Seoul. And Paula -- we are expecting a decision by the constitutional court expected any moment now.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- John.

Just in the last 30 seconds the nine judges inside that constitutional court have started to discuss this. Now, they have been deliberating this for some time. So we are expecting a decision on whether or not the ban on abortion in this country is unconstitutional or not.

Now, you can see behind me a couple of hundred pro and anti abortion protestors ready to be very vocal when that decision comes out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANCOCKS (voice over): Kim Zin-ji (ph) was 40 years old when she discovered she was pregnant for the third time. With two school age daughters and stretched finances, she and her husband decide to have an abortion, an illegal act in South Korea.

"It wasn't hard to find a clinic to carry out the termination," she tells me, "but I knew I was committing a crime so it was difficult emotionally. I felt guilty for getting rid of a life, as well. I carried that for a long time. It has left a scar inside me."

Kim says she did not have the physical or psychological support she needed and she had to leave the clinic as soon after the procedure as possible.

(on camera): South Korea is one of the few developed nations where abortion is still illegal, with some exceptions such as if a woman has been raped or if her health as at risk.

So on Thursday, nine judges will decide whether or not that law is constitutional. As it stands at this point, a woman can be fined or she can serve up to one year in prison. The doctor who carries out the termination can have up to two years in prison. In reality, however, very few are ever prosecuted.

(voice over): In a recent government sponsored survey, 75 percent of women polled said they believed the law should change. Less than 4 percent said it should say the same, with 20 percent saying they are not sure.

Anti-abortion protests have grown recently with religious groups, in particular, calling for the ban to stay in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here to save a life, especially the weakest the vulnerable -- no defense.

HANCOCKS: "I think many women struggle before deciding on abortion," this student says, "but I would like to ask them not to take that road. A fetus in the womb is a life, too."

The number of abortions in South Korea is decreasing as birth control improves but the figure is still relatively high. Government figures estimate there were around 50,000 terminations in 2017. One research paper estimates a more reasonable number is more likely ten times that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that it's not covered by health insurance, there is no follow-up after care, you know. A lot of women suffer from mental and physical problems after having abortions.

HANCOCKS: Abortion is an issue that evokes strong emotions on both sides, leading to expectations of more protests no matter which way this decision goes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANCOCKS: So, John, we have just heard the decision from the constitutional court of those nine judges. They have decided that the ban on abortion in this country is unconstitutional which means that that ban no longer exists.

Now you can see behind me, those that are cheering are the pro- abortion protestors. Now, there are certainly not as many of them as from the antiabortion side but they are far more vocal now.

Many women amongst them saying that all they wanted was the right to choose, that they wanted to be able to have a legal abortion if they needed to. They wanted to be able to know that they were safe in having that abortion.

So certainly, this is a landmark moment in South Korea society. The fact that those judges have decided now that that ban on abortion in South Korea will be lifted. South Korea was really one of the very few developed nations left that had abortion as illegal.

So certainly, this is a very important moment for society here, an in important moment for the country, when we're really seeing a number of decisions going in favor of women. Certainly, we have been seeing that over recent months.

But you see on the other side there, the anti-abortion protestors as well are certainly not going to be happy with this. They had been protesting significantly recently saying that they wanted to keep this ban on abortion in place because it made, they believe, the woman think more carefully about whether or not they were going to go ahead with it -- John.

VAUSE: Yes, they're the same arguments that have been heard, you know, in court cases around the world when it comes to abortion. But you mentioned that the number of pro abortion supporters, you know, was smaller than those who are against the ban, I guess.

So what are we looking at here though nationwide? Where is it at? Is this ban on abortion -- is it supported by a minority?

[01:49:56] Does this decision by the court which it just made to end this ban, to overturn this law which has been on the books for 66 years, is that supported by most of the country? Does it have a majority behind it?

HANCOCKS: It does appear to -- John. Yes, definitely. I mean certainly, the antiabortion elements are more religious in their arguments, but what we do have is a survey that was carried out just last year.

There's about 10,000 women that were polled and of those women, 75 percent -- so three quarters of them -- said that they believe that this ban should be overturned. They believe that there should be a change to the law. And there was only 4 percent that said that they didn't think that that law should be changed.

So, a very small amount. The rest -- the 20 percent said they weren't sure. They didn't have a decision one way or the other. So certainly, what we are seeing from the statistics that are out there at this point is that this is supported by the majority of women here in South Korea -- John. VAUSE: It is a very significant moment in South Korea. They are moving forward in this direction of decisions which many people believe are in the best interests of women.

And, Paula, we appreciate you being there for us and bringing it to us live. Paula Hancocks there live in Seoul with that decision by the constitutional court overturning a 66-year law ban on abortion in South Korea.

We will take a short break here. We're back in a moment. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live all around the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Have you actually seen a photograph of a black hole? Think about it, a black hole where nothing goes. It's like a whole area of nothingness.

Well, apparently scientists now actually have a photograph of a black hole.

Here's CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A grainy, almost inscrutable silhouette. It is humanity's first glimpse of the darkest and heaviest kind of entity in our universe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen what we thought was unseeable (ph). We have seen, and taken a picture of a black hole.

WALSH: Simultaneously released by astronomers and (INAUDIBLE) around the globe, it's the first images from a galaxy 55 million light years away. Resembling a bright halo, is super heated gas circling the black hole's outer edge. The so-called event horizon.

Beyond it exists a gravity force so powerful not even light can escape and all known physical laws begin to break down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black holes are major disruptors of the cosmic order on the largest scales in the universe. (INAUDIBLE) huge black hole mass makes it really a monster, even by super massive black hole standards. So you're basically looking at a super massive black hole that is almost the size of our entire solar system.

WALSH: Images come after years of data collection analysis by 200 scientists. With no single instrument powerful enough to capture a black hole, a network of telescopes spread across the earth worked as one. Named The Event Horizon Telescope Project, it's the biggest experiment of its kind and the results are scintillating astrophysicists worldwide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel like it's a special time. I'm sure Galileo felt he was there at a special time, right. But I think we all feel that this is a special time. WALSH: The particular significance, the images help validate what was

long thought purely theoretical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a stress test for Einstein's theory of general relativity and it has passed with flying colors. So that's what is remarkable. He was unsure that a mathematical solution would actually correspond to something real in the universe.

[01:54:57] He eventually changed his mind, but he did not believe in them because a, he thought they could be just mathematical curiosities and that nature wouldn't be so perverse to actually allow such objects to form.

WALSH: While resolving some questions, now visible evidence of black holes creates new cosmic riddles, blazing a trail for new discoveries to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mysteries abound around black holes. And we do know that there must be something more. You know, the problem of quantum gravity remains unsolved with the current tools that we have. And you know, black holes are one of the places to look for answers.

WALSH: Nick Paton Walsh, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: So apparently the 45th president of the United States has a message for the first president of the United States -- you have to put your name on stuff.

Early last year, when Donald Trump went to Mount Vernon with the French President Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump was unimpressed by the fact that George Washington didn't put his name on everything.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Leave it to President Trump to give George Washington advice. It was about a year ago when the President and his then-buddy, the President of France, went on a tour of Washington's estate.

Politico described it as Trump's truly bizarre visit Mt. Vernon. Politico reports President Trump remarked that if Washington was smart he would have put his name on it -- meaning Mt. Vernon. "You've to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you."

Donald Trump, President of the United States: I love to put my name on things, I have to tell you.

MOOS: The CEO of Mount Vernon who was leading the tour noted that Washington did succeed in getting the nation's capital named after him.

Good point, Trump said with a laugh. The group that owns Mount Vernon Not Vernon didn't deny the reported comments but said they did not properly convey the tone.

Cue Trump critics, yes, if only Washington had put his name on Mount Vernon then maybe people would have remembered him. Yes, maybe we wouldn't need reminders like the one dollar bill or the George Washington Bridge.

(on camera): Is there anything Donald Trump won't stake a claim to?

TRUMP: Trump stakes are the world's greatest stakes.

I have Trump international --

"Trump magazine" --

Trump airline --

MOOS: Not to mention things other people named after him -- Trumpy bear, Trump produced Trump Vodka, Trump wine. Even Donald Trump Jr.

TRUMP: It's going to be a real wall, it's going to be a Trump wall.

Moos: And this could have been the George Washington Colonnade. Political reports President Trump did approve of the bed in which Washington died. Trump felt the bed post and pronounced it a good bed to die in.

The good thing about not plastering your name on things is, you won't feel the pain of people taking it off, like at these Trump place apartments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't it great?

It makes me think of the song, I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair.

MOOS: And what's more, there's no rush to wash out the guy in the wig.

Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN newsroom. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. I will be back with a lot more news after a very short break.

You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END