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Trump Tweets He Is Considering Sanctuary Cities Policy; Trump Tax Returns; Sudanese Military Leader Vows to Uproot Regime; Pompeo Blames Maduro for Venezuelan Crisis; Netanyahu to Meet with Winning Parties; Repairing the Democratic Blue Wall; Tiger Woods Seeks Victory at the Masters; Countdown to the Finale of "Game of Thrones";" Fans Go Crazy when BTS Performs on "SNL". Aired 4-5a ET

Aired April 14, 2019 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Democrats are demanding President Trump's tax returns and they are setting a deadline.

Severe storms rip through the southeastern United States and the system isn't over. We'll get a weather update from Derek Van Dam.

Also this hour, the "Game of Thrones" season premiere, it's finally upon us. We'll dive into some fan theories and what to expect in the show's final season.

Welcome to our viewers. We appreciate you joining us. I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Headquarters Atlanta and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: U.S. President Donald Trump saying he has the absolute right to send undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities. Those are cities which limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement.

His critics say he's using the move to retaliate against cities that oppose his border wall. Mr. Trump tweets, "Democrats must change the immigration laws fast, if not, sanctuary cities must immediately act to take care of the illegal immigrants."

He then went on after the mayors of those cities, writing, "So interesting to see the mayor of Oakland" -- that's California -- "and other sanctuary cities, not want our currently detained immigrants."

Well, Oakland's mayor responded to the president saying, "Oakland welcomes all, no matter where you came from or how you got here."

Meantime the president denies he offered pardons to homeland security officials after Mr. Trump reportedly told Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan he would pardon him if he was jailed for having Border Patrol agents block asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. That is a violation of U.S. law, which may be why Mr. Trump tweeted the denial, adding, it's his right to close the border and still may do it.

The president writes, and we quote, "It is all fake and corrupt news." A constant thing he likes to say. Well, the U.S. House meantime is flexing its muscles on another issue, demanding President Trump's tax returns for the last six years.

That order comes from the Ways and Means Committee, which is controlled by Democrats. The Treasury Secretary says he will consult with the Justice Department to find out if such a demand is legal. For more on all of this, here's Lauren Fox.


LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The fight over the president's tax returns escalating today with Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sending a letter to the IRS commissioner, giving him just 10 more days to comply with that request for both the president's personal returns and his business returns.

In this letter Neal writes, quote, "I'm aware concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the committee. Those concerns lack merit. I expect a reply from the IRS by 5:00 pm on April 23rd, 2019. Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request."

Neal has been preparing for this case to potentially go to court and the Trump administration has made it clear they are not prepared to hand over the president's tax returns. They believe the Democrats are overstepping their investigative authority on this issue.

But from the beginning, Richard Neal, chairman of this committee, has been laying the groundwork to go to court. Even while some of the liberals on the committee have been arguing for him to make this request sooner, clearly this letter today, which relies a lot on precedent, is an example of why he waited.

He wanted to be prepared for when this goes to court, which we expect it will, to go to court ready and with a case for why he believes he should have the president's tax returns -- from CNN, Washington, Lauren Fox.


ALLEN: Let's talk about it with Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University of London and a frequent guest on our program.

Inderjeet, thanks for coming on. Let's begin there with the mystery tax returns that the president does not want to disclose. Republicans claim Democrats are reaching beyond their purview. Democrats believe the president has something to hide.

What if this drags all the way to the Supreme Court?

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Well, if it gets to the Supreme Court, I think there's a really significant legal test. And that is, President --


PARMAR: -- Trump has effectively got a majority on that court. And there's a chance that they will be more partisan than one might expect. And that could then thereby basically get rid of that legal precedent, which has been there since the 1970s and the Watergate scandal.

I think that would concentrate in the hands of the president even more power to withhold information, which is really very strongly in the public interest and which Congress and certain committees have the, at the moment, the legal right to demand.

ALLEN: Some Republicans have questioned, though, would Democrats be doing this against a Democrat president?

They're just trying to embarrass President Trump.

Is any of that at play here?

PARMAR: Well, we know that partisan politics is sort of the real stuff of the Congress. So whether a Democratic committee would ask for the tax returns of a Democratic president, I wouldn't have thought so.

But still, there is actually a law and the law says the IRS must provide, through the Treasury Secretary, to the Ways and Means Committee on demand, the tax returns of the president or the vice president. So that has been precedent now for many, many decades. So that's a legal requirement.

And therefore the president ought really to comply with it. But clearly this is also seen as a partisan attack, too. And it has that very strong dimension, especially since the Russia probe has kind of gone onto the back burner. This is the kind of financial issue which is more likely to embroil the president into a larger scandal.

ALLEN: Right. And by not releasing them and having this go on and on and on, really it's President Trump who's created this issue.

PARMAR: Well, he has actually, yes. He has lit more fire under it. He's refusing.

But on the other hand, this is a significant question for the Congress to pursue. But it does mean that a very large amount of time and effort and attention is paid to a particular kind of palace politics, which is the critique many people have of congressional politicians, that it's all about them, it's all about them and the president, all about the kind of drama of congressional committees.

Meanwhile, very, very large number of other things kind of are not being dealt with as a result. Those affect a large number of people's lives, too.

ALLEN: Absolutely. All the issues in this country. And we're talking about the president's tax returns; that's a very good point.

Let's pivot to a huge issue right now in the United States and that is immigration. I want to talk to you about your thoughts on the president's latest brazen threat or strategy or however people see it, to send migrants straight to sanctuary cities. It's almost his, OK, Democrats, you won't build a wall, here, take them.

It's not legal but clearly he's trying any tactic to stop the influx and win this wall, this thing that he wants.

PARMAR: Yes. I think what is an electoral ploy, that is, kind of make something very televisual, that is, sanctuary cities, real places in real time, and possibly show the emptying of buses and so on, of immigrants, there. I think that's the superficial level. That is 2020 electoral politics.

But I think this signals a much deeper change in American politics and American government now and that is, it's all centered around the president. The president is acting more and more in authoritarian ways. He's got more acting secretaries and other appointees than anyone else has ever had.

He's gone around the Congress in declaring a national emergency when he couldn't get them to spend money on the wall. He has actually derided (ph) the rule of law on the border by separating families, stopping asylum seekers and so on. This is actually a much more draconian move, which suggests that the president is developing a kind of personal dictatorship, that whatever he says, goes, that effectively there are no checks on his power, that the Congress is not a check on his power.

He's declared the media enemy of the people. And actually he's ramping the American system of government away from constitutional protections and far more towards a presidency and particularly around himself.

His argument is, he is the people, he is the president and nobody has the right to stop him from doing anything that he wants. And I think this is much more than sanctuary cities. This is about presidential power within the system of constitutional government. And I think he's ramping it way to the authoritarian right. That is a very serious issue indeed.

ALLEN: That is serious --


ALLEN: -- when he continuously shows disdain for the laws that support separation of powers in the United States. We always appreciate your perspectives, Inderjeet Parmar, thank you.

PARMAR: Thank you very much.

ALLEN: It's been almost one year since the photograph of a little girl showed the face of President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy. And here it is. And now the World Press Photo Foundation has awarded this picture its top prize, Photo of the Year. It is a haunting scene. A 2-year-old Honduran girl crying uncontrollably as U.S. Border Patrol agents search her mother. The two entered the U.S. at a time the Trump administration was forcibly separating children from their parents, a policy, of course, that sparked fury in the U.S. and around the world.

Earlier we spoke with John Moore. He's the photographer who took this picture.


JOHN MOORE, GETTY IMAGES: Having covered the border and immigration issues for more than 10 years, this picture really resonated with so many people, I think, because it touched them on an emotional level.

Really, when, as you can imagine, every single day, we see thousands of images in one form or fashion, whether it's video or stills, and it's very hard to make a connection with people who are often seeing these photographs and swiping them on their phone, seeing them for very little time.

So if you can really touch people and bring them into the photograph and spend time to learn more about the story. I think that's what this picture did and that's why it was so widely distributed and seen by so many people.


ALLEN: John Moore there, award-winning photographer for Getty Images, talking with us earlier.

Now we turn to Texas. Two children have died after powerful storms ripped through the eastern part of the state. Officials say it happened after a tree fell on the children's car. Earlier our Ana Cabrera spoke with a sheriff's captain about what happened.


CAPT. ALTON LENDERMAN, ANGELINA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: A family that was driving down one of the residential streets in the northern part of the county, unfortunately, a tree, as they were driving down the street, fell across their car, falling across the rear passenger car.

The driver and passenger in the front, the parents, received no injuries. But unfortunately an 8-year old and 3-year old were in the back and they were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is so, so heartbreaking. So you said this tree came down.

Was there a tornado where you are?

Or just heavy winds and hail?

LENDERMAN: Just heavy winds and hail. We felt like this is a straight-line wind. It was just a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, unfortunately, for this family.


ALLEN: In the town of Franklin, Texas, a tornado with winds up to 140 miles an hour, that's 225 kilometers per hour, destroyed homes, uprooted trees and caused multiple injuries. The winds are part of a major storm system moving eastward in the coming hours.



ALLEN: All right, in Sudan, some protesters fear the new boss looks like the old boss. Why a military coup hasn't stopped calls for a regime change. We'll have a live report.

Also, the human toll of Venezuela's crumbling oil industry. We'll show you how the crisis has turned a once-thriving oil region into a ghost town.






ALLEN: The downfall of a dictator hasn't stopped the protests in Sudan. The military toppled Omar al-Bashir on Thursday, putting an end to his three-decade rule. That means the strongman's former generals are now in charge. They're running the country in what they say is a transitional military council.

They're making concessions, vowing to free prisoners and lift a curfew. They've also promised civilian rule but that could take two years. For many protesters, that is not fast enough.

CNN's Farai Sevenzo is following developments, live in Nairobi, Kenya.

It seems two steps forward in Sudan, one step back, as this country roils over its future.

What's the latest you're hearing?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a very good way to put it. What we're hearing at the moment, there was a great deal of activity Saturday with the new man in charge of the military's transitional council, Leftenant General Abdel al-Fattah Burhan. He was trying to say he needs the two years for transition government.

He promised he would be having a dialogue with all the stakeholders in Sudan's empires. That means that umbrella body we talked about, the Sudanese Professional Association, all the political parties, the protesters themselves. He said he would empty the jails of everybody who had been imprisoned for political reasons by Mr. Al-Bashir.

Of course this has led to maybe three steps forward and one step back, if I may put that it way. Now a dialogue has started to happen. The protesters are staying on the street. Sudan is a multi-cultural, multi-faith country. Today being Palm Sunday for Sudan's Catholics, they want to hold their mass at military headquarters.

The inclusivity is there in terms of the protests. The determination to stay is there. We're also hearing from Mr. Al-Bashir's national Congress party which rejects the decisions of the leaders, that basically all the people we arrested on Thursday, April 11th, they want them all released.

They condemn the military council's steps to remove al-Bashir as unconstitutional. Some might say they are now on the wrong side of history and things have moved on beyond them.

But it remains to be seen now whether or not the new rulers will do what they say and have done with all the stakeholders and the stakeholders, whether they will accept that or want to move straight away to civilian government.

ALLEN: Three steps forward, one step back. That sounds a tad more hopeful, Farai, thank you. We hope they have a peaceful Palm Sunday.

We turn to new developments in Venezuela's political crisis. In another attempt to cling to power, embattled president Nicolas Maduro has announced plans to expand his civilian militia.

Mr. Maduro says he wants to raise the number of militia members from 2 million to 3 million by the end the year. And this comes as U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo is preparing to tour the Colombia- Venezuela border on Sunday. He's been visiting Latin American nations dealing with an influx of Venezuelan migrants, many people getting out of the country.


ALLEN: In a news conference, he blamed Mr. Maduro for the crisis.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The responsibility for these refugees lies squarely with Nicolas Maduro, not any policies but any democratic nation is taken with our deep intent to make lives better for the Venezuelan people.

A 100 percent of the refugee challenge that is faced by Peru and Colombia is the direct result of the Russians, the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro. It is our deep hope that we can achieve our objectives quickly, timely, so these individuals will return to their home countries.

It's what they want, I think it's what the people of Peru and Colombia and the other countries that are graciously, generously hosting and educating these people today, they want to create the conditions in every country so this migration, these refugees don't need to travel to these places.


ALLEN: Meantime, Mr. Maduro says he is giving Venezuelan workers three days of rest to recover from recurring blackouts.

The crisis in Venezuela has also affected the nation's once-thriving oil industry. Experts say it is on the verge of collapse. And the former oil capital of the country has become a ghost town. CNN's David McKenzie traveled to the area to see how the crisis is affecting the people.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Venezuelan oil workers giving us a rare look inside their crumbling industry. They brought us to the Salinas oil fields. It's risky speaking out, they could be fired or detained by Venezuelan intelligence. But they want the truth to get out.

"Populism finished all of this," he says.

"Do you see this? Nothing works anymore. The government finished us completely."

They say successful Venezuelan regimes used state oil company PDVSA as a slush fund for socialist programs and their own personal gain.

MCKENZIE: This entire coastline is just covered in oil sludge. The regime blames the collapse of the oil industry on the U.S., but it's been collapsing for years.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Trump administration sanctions could make it worse. The U.S. was PDVSA's biggest customer. In March, the U.S. bought zero barrels of oil, the first time since the '70s.

And the retired oil workers who helped build this company say they gave decades of their lives for almost nothing. Some say they are forced to eat dog food. They say their pension's worth around $5 a month.

"It's outrageous, look at us," he says. "We don't have money for medication, for food. Soon, we'll have to bring our dead colleagues to this protest. Normal? Not normal if you're living in this country," he says.

"I want America to take up Maduro, to get him out of here," he says. "He's stealing from the people. He's taking food from us."

Now, they're taking for themselves. Last week, looters ransacked this pharmacy looking for medicine. In nearby Maracaibo, a mob spent two days tearing a hotel apart. They even ripped out the carpets. The true scale of Venezuela's crisis becomes clear when the sun sets.

Business leaders say it's like the walking dead, a zombie economy with 80 percent of businesses closed here in this energy-rich region. People are left to shelter in their homes in darkness -- David McKenzie, CNN, Maracaibo, Venezuela.


ALLEN: Almost seven years of isolation. We're learning more about Julian Assange's life at the embassy in Ecuador. We'll share that with you next.





ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. And around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM from Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen.


ALLEN: On Monday Israel's president will hear from delegates of the parties that won Knesset seats in last week's elections. He'll ask for recommendations on who should form the new government, although the certain choice is prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But it is complicated because he faces expected corruption charges that could come in the next few months. Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem for us with the latest.

And hello to you, Oren.

Where are we in this process?

What happens next?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the next stage begins tomorrow morning, when Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, will begin meeting with political parties and ask for their recommendation on who forms the next government.

All those political parties are talking amongst themselves to better position themselves for the negotiations in forming a coalition, essentially to extract as many demands as possible from prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party when negotiations begin.

There's all kinds of speculation about what might happen. Some smaller parties, right-wing parties or religious parties, might band together to try to get more strength, more leverage in the negotiations with Netanyahu's Likud Party in terms of what they demand from him for joining his coalition, for supporting him.

That's how this process plays out over the next few days until the president officially says it's Netanyahu who forms the next government. Then Netanyahu has initially 28 days to figure out how his government looks and then everyone asks for a two-week extension so it ends up being six weeks. That's how this will play out. A key question here is what happens to those corruption --


LIEBERMANN: -- investigations if and when the attorney general here hands down charges against the prime minister?

That will be one of the key questions in these negotiations -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, thank you.

We are just learning about Julian Assange's life inside the place he called home for almost seven years. As CNN's Salma Abdelaziz says, it was a sad and isolating existence that took a severe toll.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): In the summer of 2012, Julian Assange arrived here, the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The WikiLeaks founder would not again set foot outside the property for nearly seven long years.

His home became a roughly 200 square foot room, where he kept a workspace, a treadmill and bed alongside all his personal possessions. This footage is of an artist's replica of that room. The living conditions were challenging, Fidel Narvaez, a former consul of Ecuador, and a friend of Assange, said.

FIDEL NARVAEZ, FORMER CONSUL OF ECUADOR: It's an apartment suitable for offices. It's not a residence. Some adaptations need to be done.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): From his tiny space, Assange found ways to stay busy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you decide to do your own show?

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): He launched a show on a Russian state TV network in 2012 and entertained celebrity supporters from Lady Gaga to Pamela Anderson. He even got a tie-wearing cat named James to help him pass the time. But, his supporters say, it was a lonely existence.

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: This is a victory that cannot be denied.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Other than his occasional balcony statements, Assange rarely got sunlight or fresh air. He complained in a 2014 interview of the impact on his well-being.

ASSANGE: It is an environment in which any healthy person would find themselves, soon enough, with certain difficulties.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): The conditions took a toll on the 47-year old. He suffered shoulder pain, depression and a toothache.

NARVAEZ: It was a very, very hard and difficult environment for him to cope for so long.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): In 2018, Ecuador's newly elected president Lenin Moreno, imposed a new set of rules on Assange. No phones, no Internet and only visits from his lawyers.

NARVAEZ: That's a very, very huge difference between the first six years and the last one. He was isolated.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Assange did not respond well to the changes. Ecuadorian officials accused Assange of aggressive and hostile behavior. One minister even said Assange had smeared feces on the walls.

He had gone from wanted man to an unwanted houseguest. Finally out of the embassy, Assange's fate now lies in the hands of U.K. authorities -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


ALLEN: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders trying to do what Hillary Clinton could not and learning from her mistakes. We'll have a campaign update coming up.

Also, dragons, dungeons and ice zombies. We get ready for the premiere of the "Game of Thrones" final season.





ALLEN: Welcome back.

Bernie Sanders is in the northern U.S. to repair the Blue Wall. Those are the states that dependably vote Democrat but in 2016, swung right, backing Donald Trump. Ryan Nobles reports the presidential candidate is taking his message to areas devastated by a downturn in manufacturing.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Bernie Sanders this weekend continuing a rally across the Rust Belt, hitting five different states that Donald Trump all won in 2016 and talking specifically about the issues of concerns to voters in this part of the country.

But he's doing it without being able to escape the shadow of the fact that he's yet to release his tax returns and the revelation that those tax returns, once he does put them out, will reveal that he is a millionaire. Sanders sounding a bit defensive during an event in Indiana when asked about that new millionaire status.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think so. I didn't know that it was a crime to write a good book.


SANDERS: And my view has always been that we need a progressive tax system which demands that the wealthiest people in this country finally start paying their fair share of taxes. And if I make a lot of money, you make a lot of money, that is what I believe.

So I don't apologize for writing a book that was number three on "The New York Times" bestseller, translated into five or six languages and that's that.

By the way, by the way, this bothers me a little bit. Maybe we might want to talk about Gary, Indiana. Maybe we might want to talk about poverty. Maybe we might want to talk about (INAUDIBLE).


NOBLE: Now Sanders did say we should expect to see those tax returns by Monday, which is tax day in the United States, April 15th. He made a bit of news during his rally in Warren, Michigan. He called on President Trump to scrap the proposed U.S. MCA, the new trade deal that would replace NAFTA.

Sanders has often railed against the plan but today specifically said President Trump should go back to the drawing board, saying he should start all over and renegotiate that plan between Canada and Mexico -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Warren, Michigan.


ALLEN: Another Democrat is expected to make his way into the packed race within hours and that is Pete Buttigieg, expected to move from the exploratory phase to a full-blown campaign. We'll have to figure out how to pronounce his last name.

He's called Mayor Pete, that's easier, in South Bend, Indiana. He's fast becoming a household name. In the early stages of the 2020 race for the White House, he has shot up recently in the polls after starting out as a long shot.

But he still has a crowded field of contenders to get through if he wants to challenge President Trump. And he certainly does.

Meantime, Democratic senator Cory Booker is trying to jumpstart his presidential campaign by kicking off a nationwide tour. On Saturday, Booker addressed supporters at his first major rally in Newark, New Jersey, where he was a two-term mayor.

Since first announcing his candidacy, Booker is working to gain momentum. He's set to hit key states like Iowa, Georgia and Nevada.

[04:45:00] ALLEN: We want to look at sports now because the golfing world is aching to find out if Tiger Woods is about to roar. The 14-time major winner is tied now in second place with Tony Finau at the Masters tournament in Georgia.

They trail Francesco Molinari by two strokes going into today's final round. As you recall, Woods had a messy divorce. He was plagued by back problems that sidelined him for years. It all but wiped out his hopes of beating Jack Nicklaus' 18-win major record.

If a healthy Tiger wins today, it would be his first major since 2008 and his first green jacket in 14 years. We'll be watching.

All right, eight seasons later, it all comes down to this, the final season of "Game of Thrones" just hours away. What to expect and the show's legacy. We'll talk with an expert coming up here.






MAISIE WILLIAMS, ACTOR, "ARYA STARK": I know death. He's got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.



ALLEN: Well, for more than a year, rabid fans of "Game of Thrones" have been asking, where are my dragons?

Is winter finally here?

Who will sit on the Iron Throne?

In the coming hours, everyone's going to find out. The epic fantasy series returns on HBO for its eighth and final season. HBO and CNN share a parent company, by the way, Warner Media.

Let's talk about what to expect and all those fan theories. I'm joined from Los Angeles by Erik Voss, comedian and the YouTube host of "New Rock Stars" and one of the rabid fans.

Erik, hello, thanks for being with us.

ERIK VOSS, COMEDIAN: Hello, thank you for having me.

All right, I want to start out, full disclosure, I'm one of the losers who haven't seen "Game of Thrones." I'm really sorry, I know, I know. But I'm equally fascinated with most of the world on the show. I have

talked with my colleagues here, Zach and Weldon in the studio, who have been telling me what I've missed and they have said, you've just missed everything, that's all you've missed. So explain the phenomenon of "Game of Thrones" to us.

VOSS: Oh, it's inescapable. Even fans who don't watch the show are now fans of it just by being in this world.

ALLEN: Exactly.

VOSS: HBO just has an unprecedented success their hands with "Game of Thrones" for two reasons. One, you just have a deeply passionate fan base, one of those nerds sitting right here.

The other side of it is you have a book series that's still incomplete by author George R. R. Martin. That's created a scenario where you have these rabid fan theories and online speculation and, until these final episodes air, all of it could be true.

ALLEN: So tell us, you know, those of us that haven't watched it, why is this such an international phenomenon?

What is it about this show that is so addictive and mesmerizing?

VOSS: Well, you just have this rich cast of characters. And no matter who you are, there's someone on the show you can relate to, until they inevitably kill them off. Then you have to find someone new to relate to.

I think that unpredictability has been incredible for people to watch because you really don't know what's going to happen next. As I said, even book readers, who were the experts for years and years on this show, now couldn't tell you anyone who just started watching the show in this final season.

ALLEN: Right, interesting twists of just killing, the deaths of beloved characters.

What about what the show has meant for female leads?

Emilia Clarke certainly revered worldwide. Daenerys is a household name now.

VOSS: Oh, for sure. It's been such a remarkable transition for several of these characters. You go back and rewatch the first season, as many fans have been doing, as we've been preparing for this final season, looking at where these characters started this journey, many of them were captives; they were prisoners, they were forced into scenarios that they weren't -- including people like Daenerys Targaryen, Emilia Clarke's character, Sansa Stark and Arya Stark.

Now by the end, they're the people calling the shots on the show and they're going to be the ones who are really going to be competing for power, it looks like, from everything we've seen in the promotional footage for the final season. ALLEN: What about the sets and the costumes and the dragons as we're seeing, she's riding one right now.

VOSS: It's incredible that this is a TV show. HBO announced that they are spending upwards of $15 million per episode in this final season, making "Game of Thrones" the most expensive TV show of all time.

And fans can tell you that this pays off. It looks like we're watching a real Hollywood movie on TV. And this is production value that no one has seen on a small screen before.

ALLEN: You make several predictions on your YouTube channel, "New Rock Stars." Our producers are obsessed with your predictions.

So who do you think will win the Iron Throne?

VOSS: Well, myself and the whole team at "New Rock Stars" have been debating about this. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to really a debate between whether or not someone will win the Iron Throne or whether the whole existence of the Iron Throne will be gone by the threats of the wounded White Walkers, the real enemies of the show.

Personally I'm hoping that Tyrion Lannister is the one who takes over, Peter Dinklage's character. He's been the most fascinating both for someone reading the books and watching the show. He has the best lines. He seems to be the smartest person in the room. It would be great to see him on top in the end.

ALLEN: Can you even imagine how many people are going to be watching this final episode?

And, yes, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time and your passion, Erik Voss for us, thank you.

VOSS: Thank you.

ALLEN: How about another sensation here?

Some people are asking, bigger than The Beatles?

Maybe not yet. But BTS is a legitimate sensation.


ALLEN: The Korean boy band cemented its celebrity status by appearing on "Saturday Night Live" a few hours ago.


ALLEN (voice-over): Maybe you get it now. How about that?

The group is expected to set international sales records with its latest album, which just dropped. Preorders have already topped 3 million, proving K-pop is big business. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Earlier we spoke about the rise of BTS with Jeff Benjamin, senior digital editor at Fuse TV and K-pop columnist for "Billboard."


JEFF BENJAMIN, FUSE TV: Of course, BTS has done an amazing job about really having music and choreography and visuals that are accessible to people, regardless of you speaking Korean or not. But I think it goes a bit deeper than that.

And a main reason that I've written in my writings now is that BTS' messages in their music has always gone deeper than perhaps most pop acts. They're talking about things people their age are going through, anything from mental health struggles to the politics they're witnessing, to school life and bullying.

There's always been a feeling of heart and a feeling of you really get the sense of this is what these guys are going through in their music and that parlays everything from the way they act on social media to the way they meet the fans in real life.


ALLEN: That's our first hour. But there's much more ahead. The day's top stories are right around the corner. I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM will be right back.