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CNN NEWSROOM

Republican Congressman Calls for Impeachment; Biden Delivers Anti-Trump Message at First Rally; Iran Dismisses Possibility of War in the Region; Australia Prime Minister Celebrates Election Victory; Austria Facing Snap Vote after Vice Chancellor Resigns; German Activists Push for Support in "Climate Election"; States Moving Ahead to Restrict Access to Abortion; Netherlands Wins Eurovision; "Game of Thrones" Finale Airs. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 19, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Calls for impeachment. A sitting Republican lawmaker becomes the first in his party to say president Donald Trump should be impeached.

Plus this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whose choice?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our choice.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And the abortion debate heats up in the United States. We look at how what's happening in America could impact abortion rights and restrictions around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL (voice-over): And also ahead this hour. After eight seasons, after 71 episodes it all comes down to tonight. The final episode of HBO's "Game of Thrones" just hours away.

ALLEN (voice-over): I just started the whole series. No chance I'm not going to find out about it.

Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the U.S. and all of you "Game of Thrones" fanatics, we're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): I'm not one. Maybe I'll start now. I'm George Howell.

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HOWELL: 4:01 on the U.S. East Coast. Talk of removing the U.S. president from office has typically been discussed by Democrats as most Republicans have stood together for Donald Trump but now one Republican is breaking ranks.

ALLEN: It is Congressman Justin Amash. He's calling for Mr. Trump to lose his job, saying the president has, in fact, obstructed justice.

Amash writes this, "Attorney general William Barr deliberately misrepresented Mueller's report. The president engaged in impeachable conduct. Partisanship has eroded the system of checks and balances and few members of Congress have read the report."

HOWELL: That's just the beginning. From there he goes on to add, "Attorney general Barr's misrepresentations are significant but often subtle, frequently taking the form of sleight of hand qualifications or logical fallacies which he hopes people won't notice."

He writes, "In fact, Mueller's report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence."

ALLEN: Congressman Amash is from the ultra conservative wing of the party called the Freedom Caucus.

That is key; as our Boris Sanchez reports, this is not the first time he's criticized the president.

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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Congressman Justin Amash is not your typical rank and file Republican. He is someone who has been critical of President Trump in the past and has drawn the ire of a number of Republican congress men, people within his own party as well.

Here's a little background. He's a considered a strong libertarian, a strict constitutionalist. He was elected in 2010, a former attorney, and his criticism of the president has been noted before.

Take a look at the "Huffington Post," where they asked about his criticism of the president.

He said, quote, "I'm not here to represent a particular political party. I'm here to represent all of my constituents and to follow the Constitution."

There's another line of questioning from him that stands out. Back when Michael Cohen was testifying, many Republicans were questioning about Cohen's credibility, whether he was a legitimate source to be testifying before that committee.

That wasn't the position that Amash took. Take a look at what he asked Michael Cohen.

Quote, "What is the truth President Trump is most afraid of people knowing?" Some of these tweets by Amash are scathing, specifically the ones about the attorney general mischaracterizing the Mueller report. So you see someone who is a Republican but isn't in line with everything that the president wants and it is meaningful and symbolic.

But it doesn't represent much consequently because, on the other side, Democrats, namely Nancy Pelosi, while she says the president demonstrates grounds for impeachment every single day, it's not something she wants to move forward on. Despite this being a meaningful statement, it doesn't mean a step towards impeachment though it shows there are Republicans dissenting on Capitol Hill -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.

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HOWELL: The former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden held his first major campaign rally on Saturday in Philadelphia. He targeted President Trump directly. That's a strategy he hopes will solidify his status as a front-runner.

ALLEN: And the location was no accident. Pennsylvania is a battleground state that went for Mr. Trump in 2016. Here's more about it from CNN's Arlette Saenz.

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ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden held his official kickoff rally here in Philadelphia, preaching a message of unity and also emphasizing the need to defeat President Trump in 2020.

Biden argued that the policies that are important to voters and to Democrats -- civil liberties, a woman's right to choose, a bold climate change plan -- that none of that will happen if President Trump is still in office. Biden really portrayed the president as a divisive figure. Take a listen to what he had to say.

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JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Folks, let me tell you something. The single most important thing we have to accomplish to get this done, the single most important thing we have to accomplish is defeat Donald Trump.

As long as Donald Trump's in the White House, as long as Donald Trump's in the White House, none of these things, these critical things, are going to get done.

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SAENZ: Biden also pushed back on the idea that he might be naive for thinking that Democrats and Republicans can work together to achieve consensus, Biden pointing back to his own time in government saying this is a time for people to stop fighting and start fixing things. This event was held in Pennsylvania, which is a state that Donald

Trump won back in 2016 but it's a state where Biden sees a possible opening going forward in 2020. It's clear that Biden is trying to frame this election as a showdown between himself and the president.

President Trump will be here in the state on Monday, holding a campaign rally of his own but, of course, before Biden gets to a general election match-up, if he gets to a general election match-up between himself and the president he still has to make it through that crowded and diverse Democratic primary field -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Arlette, thanks.

Now Scott Lucas is with us, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, England, and the founder and editor of "EA WorldView," joining us.

Good to have you, Scott.

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Morning, George.

HOWELL: Let's start with Representative Amash stepping out as the lone Republican to call for the impeachment of Mr. Trump. He is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus and a strict libertarian.

Could Amash be a canary in the mine for President Trump to lose leverage and appeal with hardline conservatives?

LUCAS: That's the huge question, isn't it?

But I think you need more than one canary in the mine. Remember, we've got almost 200 Republicans in the House of Representatives and, of course, in the Senate, where they have a majority. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, is making sure everything is held in place to prevent pressure on Trump.

Let's see what happens in the next few days. I think right now (INAUDIBLE) really the only way if you get these hearings, especially in the House of Representatives, if you get someone like him coming forward to give us the real story behind the report because the huge barrier in the White House is the attorney general and trying to (INAUDIBLE) to say, look, nothing to see here, let's just move on.

Amash is challenging that but right now he's alone.

HOWELL: Scott, I think we're going to have to pause for a moment. We're having some audio issues. We apologize to our viewers. But we appreciate your perspective. We'll stay in touch with you for more.

ALLEN: Iran is once again downplaying the possibility of war in the region while tensions with the United States continue.

HOWELL: That's right. The Iranian foreign minister told state media his country is not seeking war and that no one else has, quote, "the illusion that it can fight Iran in the Middle East."

Fred Pleitgen is in Iran.

First of all, what led to Iran making this decision, a welcomed declaration, dismissing the chance for war in the region?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie. I think there were two things or three things, I'll put it that way.

On the one hand, I think the Iranians believe it is the Trump administration that has blinked in the latest standoff. They have seen that the U.S. sent aircraft carriers, sent B-52 bombers and then President Trump walked things back, said he actually wants negotiations with the Iranians and would like Iran to call him.

One of the things, you had Iran's supreme leader also said -- and unequivocally said that there's absolutely not going to be --

[04:10:00]

PLEITGEN: -- a war between the U.S. and Iran. As far as practical things, we do think that the Iranians are also trying to deescalate and bring the temperature down a little bit. It was interesting to see on Friday, after prayers here in Tehran, we were expecting extremely fiery anti-American. But it was much more subdued after such a week where you had the aircraft warrior deployment. They say there will not be any war. If there is a war, they will be very much prepared for it.

Finally, this is also very important, once again last night president Hassan Rouhani came out and he said at this point in time, absolutely no negotiations between the Iranians and the U.S.

He says, first of all, the U.S. needs to walk back from some of the very tough positions against Tehran like the pretty harsh sanctions from the oil sector. Right now the Iranians can barely export the oil. And it's very difficult for any companies to invest without facing American backlash.

The Iranians want to see the U.S. get back into the nuclear agreement. As we're talking about that, it's not necessarily something in the cards. Right now you do have pretty consistent messaging coming out of Tehran. They're saying absolutely no war.

They say, however, they would be prepared if one breaks out but absolutely no negotiations under these circumstances with the Trump administration -- Natalie.

ALLEN: That's good news. However, Fred, there is a war of words with Iran leadership occurring on Twitter.

PLEITGEN: Yes. Yes, there absolutely is. Maybe the troll wars, if you will, that seem to be continuing to go on. Members of the Trump administration and the president himself who have been highly critical of Iran itself. Then you have the president on late Friday saying -- I think he was

blaming it on the media. With all of the different messages, the Iranians have no idea what's going on.

Then Javad Zarif came out on Twitter and said we know exactly what's going on. What the Iranians are trying to do on social media, you have the Iranian president, the Iranian foreign minister, he's taken the lead, trolling the U.S. administration, if you will.

He's saying, look, they believe that on one hand you have President Trump, who does not want an escalation with Iran but they believe that there are others in the administration, President Trump's advisors, who are more so inclined or who are sort of moving towards a further escalation with the Iranians.

They keep talking about national security adviser John Bolton. It is something that U.S. media has been talking about. There appears to be some sort of disconnect and at certain times that President Trump seems to feel his senior advisors are moving way too fast, way too forcefully for what could be another escalation with the Iranians -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Since he became president he hasn't always been on the same page with his advisors there in the White House. Again though, United States happy to try and put the squeeze on Iran but Iran saying they won't talk. Fred Pleitgen, we appreciate your insights and reporting from Tehran. Thanks, Fred.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, an election stunner down under. The surprise ending on Australia's vote for parliament.

The biggest election in history wraps up today in India. We'll take you live to the country's capital and tell you what that's about.

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ALLEN: And welcome back. Australia's prime minister is celebrating a surprise election victory. Scott Morrison looked set to retain his post after his liberal national coalition won the most votes Saturday.

HOWELL: It may even have the 76 seats needed to form a majority. Right now it's a close call. Don't let the name fool you. The liberal national coalition, it's center right. Polls have predicted a win for its chief rival, the center left Labor Party. Now Labor leader Bill Shorten says he's stepping down after a stunning loss.

Political scandal is triggering snap elections in Austria.

ALLEN: The vice chancellor has resigned after the release of a compromising video.

Our colleague Cyril Vanier has more on what it means for European elections.

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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Seated beside a woman whose face is obscured, a man in glasses casually discusses investments worth millions and plans to control an Austrian media outlet. It appears to be Austria's vice chancellor, offering government contracts to a woman who claims to be a Russian investor.

Standing is a member of the vice chancellor's far right Freedom Party. The video was allegedly filmed in secret in 2017, three months before that year's elections which brought him to power.

First published Friday in German media, its origin is unclear but the fallout unequivocal. Chanting snap elections now, thousands demanded new leadership in front of the chancellor's office, targeting his governing coalition with Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who resigned Saturday.

After yesterday's video, "Enough is enough," says chancellor Sebastian Kurz, ending a controversial alliance between his conservative party and Strache's far right. The Austrian president agreed, with calls for early elections, describing the video of Strache as "shameful."

ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The main task now is to restore the trust in our institutions from both the inside and the outside. This is unprecedented disrespect to our citizens and such disrespect I will not tolerate.

VANIER (voice-over): As he stepped down, the vice chancellor referred to the footage as "a targeted political attack" and denied doing anything illegal. But he apologized for the behavior that was caught on tape.

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HEINZ-CHRISTIAN STRACHE, FORMER AUSTRIAN VICE CHANCELLOR: It was typical, alcohol-fueled macho behavior in which --

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STRACHE (voice-over): -- yes, I also wanted to impress the attractive female host and I behaved like a bragging teenager. And with that, I ultimately deeply hurt the most important people in my life, particularly my wife.

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VANIER (voice-over): The scandal and subsequent blow to Austria's far right agenda come at a key time in the European Union. Elections for the European Parliament are just days away. And anti-immigrant populist leaders appear to be gaining momentum, forcing more moderate groups to ask themselves a difficult question. SKA KELLER, EUROPEAN GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE: As European partners (ph), we need to take a decision.

Are we collaborating with those extremist forces?

VANIER (voice-over): It also highlights concerns about Russia's interests in meddling in foreign elections. Speaking from Croatia, German chancellor Angela Merkel said of the scandal, Europe must fight against the quote, "purchasability" of politics -- Cyril Vanier, CNN.

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ALLEN: Well, in India the final phase of the country's massive six week election, well, it's wrapping up right now.

HOWELL: Voters right now are deciding whether prime minister Narendra Modi will stay in power for another five years. The race is considered the biggest ever and has been marred by violence at times. The vote counting process will begin this Thursday.

New Delhi bureau chief Nikhil Kumar is with us at this hour.

Good to have you with us.

So should this election go to Narendra Modi and his party?

What would it mean in comparison should his rival and congressman Rahul Gandhi take the election?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: I think a way to try to answer that is compare the campaign with one that ended to the one we saw in 2014 when Mr. Modi took office. Mr. Modi emphasizing that the economy, progress generating jobs for millions of young Indians who enter the work force every year.

They talked about those things this time as well but critics say the main theme has been Hindu nationalism, the founding creed of the BJB, Mr. Modi's party, that belongs to the Hindu right wing movement, something that makes many minorities very nervous.

They point to one of the candidates in Central India, a hard line Hindu, who is in fact currently facing terror charges connected to attacks on Muslims several years ago. She denies those charges. She's currently out on bail.

But the fact that she was selected as a BJB candidate, for many liberals and minorities, that points to something very troubling, that if the BJB comes back to power and Mr. Modi can consolidate his grip, it could point to this country making a violent lurch towards the right.

The congress and other opposition say they're offering an alternative. They want to offer an alternative that is more inclusive, that protects the rights of minorities and the founding creed of this country, pluralism and secularism. We have to wait until the 23rd to see which way Indians have voted. HOWELL: What are some of the other driving issues behind this election?

KUMAR: In addition to the Hindu nationalism, which has been a central theme, national security ahead of the election in February, we had a skirmish between India and Pakistan and some are saying the BJB are the only people who can protect India.

Many critics have talking about the economy because in 2014 that was the main talking point and critics have pointed out that many of the promises made back then, new jobs will be generated, that they haven't been realized. The BJB disputes this but that's one of the other main battlegrounds in this election.

HOWELL: Nikhil, thank you.

ALLEN: Next week's European elections won't just shake the future of the union. The results will reverberate at a time of global turmoil.

HOWELL: Two of the big issues: climate and nationalism. Atika Shubert reports they've sparked grassroots movements growing in Germany.

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ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Fridays for future climate strikes have become a weekly happening in cities across Germany, especially Berlin. Luisa Neubauer is here every week, organizing and mobilizing tens of thousands of student protesters across the country. Now she wants to translate that to votes.

LUISA NEUBAUER, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: So we are saying the new election is a climate election. Come (INAUDIBLE) and then going (INAUDIBLE). And what has happened is that this turned into a (INAUDIBLE) strike (INAUDIBLE) not just the E.U. but it's the E.U. with many of the globalist fears about the world community (INAUDIBLE).

SHUBERT: Immigration used to dominate the headlines but this election --

[04:25:00]

SHUBERT: -- climate change is the number one issue, according to national broadcaster ARD. And after years of low voter turnout, a whopping 63 percent of respondents say they are closely following this election. That is a big shift.

It's not just climate change that's mobilizing grassroots movements. Volt Europa is the first pan-European party to contest elections, pushing back on the resurgence of nationalist populism.

MARIE-ISABELLE HEISS, VOLT EUROPA: The direct reaction to Brexit that was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back because we realized that politics are turning backwards. Nationalists are becoming stronger and stronger all across Europe and then in Brexit there were decisions by the British people to actually leave the European Union that to most (INAUDIBLE).

SHUBERT (voice-over): Protests are one thing. Getting out the vote is another. The real test will be at the polls -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Abortion rights are under fire again in the United States but as the U.S. goes, often goes much of the world. We'll talk about what the current U.S. trend might mean for women and girls around the world -- coming up.

HOWELL: Plus, tens of millions of Americans are now in the path of a severe weather system. We'll see the damage it's already caused and where it may strike next.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell with headlines we're following for you.

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[04:30:00]

ALLEN: Abortion rights have again become a battleground issue in the run-up to the 2020 election. The procedure has been legal in the U.S. for 46 years but anti-abortion activists think they can get that changed.

HOWELL: The U.S. Supreme Court has shifted dramatically since the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling back in 1973. Court justices, including two picked by President Trump, are now in the majority.

ALLEN: A tweet from Mr. Trump late Saturday affirms it will be an election issue even saying abortion rights advocates are, quote, "imploding," according to the president. That is likely a reference to the numerous states that have passed or are considering strict anti-abortion laws.

Now abortion remains illegal in many countries and abortion laws across the world, it's complicated. Countries shown in red prohibit abortions under any circumstance or, in some cases, to save the life of the mother.

Countries in yellow allow abortions under certain conditions, such as in cases of rape or incest or to protect the health of a woman.

And then countries shown here in green, abortions are available.

Joining me to talk more about this is Jamie Todd-Gher. She's a legal advisor with Amnesty International.

Thank you for being with us.

JAMIE TODD-GHER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Great to be with you.

ALLEN: At a time in the United States where we're seeing Republicans push to restrict, maybe even ban abortion, talk to us about trends around the world when it comes to abortion.

TODD-GHER: Well, it's a great question. It's really interesting because in the last 60 years more than 30 countries have actually liberalized their laws and currently 74 countries, approximately 60 percent of the world population, lives under abortion laws that are liberal, allow access without restriction.

And so the U.S. by contrast is going in a very opposite direction.

ALLEN: I want to ask you about that. If the U.S. reverses abortion laws and outlaws it for the entire country, if that were to happen, would that have an effect on abortion law trends globally?

Many times the U.S. is a leader in progressive issues.

TODD-GHER: Absolutely. We're a leader in progressive issues and regressive issues. The U.S. really sets the trend for laws and policies around a range of issues but in particular around sexual and reproductive health issues. It would set a terrible trend because you often see other governments mimic what the U.S. does and often the U.S. government hinges funding and support for other countries in accordance with whether they comply with our laws and policies. So it is very troubling for the world as a whole.

ALLEN: Well, if states succeed in the U.S. and this goes to the Supreme Court which is more conservative now and if Roe v. Wade were turned back, what would that look like, what happened before when women were restricted and what might happen in today's world?

TODD-GHER: It's a very dark and dire picture, I would have to say. Evidence shows and the World Health Organization confirms, you know, year after year, that when you restrict access to abortion, what happens is that women and girls and all pregnant people end up having to resort to unsafe and clandestine abortions.

So in reality, if you are actually trying to reduce abortion rates we actually increase women's and girls' lives are at threat. But if we actually liberalize abortion laws, research shows that you reduce the incidence of abortion ending in more positive pregnancy outcomes.

So if the intent is to actually reduce abortions, this is not going to be the best way to go. And we're just putting our women's and girls' lives at threat.

[04:35:00]

ALLEN: Meantime, legalized abortion doesn't necessarily mean easy access to abortions. Clinics are closing. Women are intimidated who try to go. In some countries where abortion is legal, what ways can abortion opponents make access to abortion difficult?

TODD-GHER: Well, you know, for decades, even since Roe v. Wade passed in the United States, advocates who are anti-choice and pro- life have made access difficult. It's not just around the world. In this country, there's an onslaught of laws and policies that are aimed at restricting abortion access in terms of closing down clinics, you know, requiring non-medically indicated requirements and access to abortion requiring parental consent laws that even if the parent has been involved with violence which has led to impregnating an adolescent, they would need get consent from their parent to actually terminate a pregnancy.

So i think often people in the U.S. tend to think issues in terms of according to abortion are happening elsewhere but this has been an ongoing issue since the passage of Roe v. Wade, that we've had increasingly year after year increasing laws and policies that greatly restrict access to abortion.

In some states, there's only one or two clinics where people can seek services and, in many states, people are having to cross state lines to seek services. If they can't do that, then they're resorting to unsafe practices.

ALLEN: Well, I want to ask you this. We've seen women who don't normally speak out on abortion rights kind of wake up now to what's going on in state legislatures. Women are sounding off on social media, declaring woe be it to Republicans who pass these laws at the next election.

Do you see the abortion issue making a difference in the 2020 election?

TODD-GHER: You see the abortion issue be a major lightning rod in every election. So no doubt this will be a huge issue in the 2020 elections. It is my hope and, you know, desire that people who are perhaps uncomfortable with this issue, that they personalize it and that they realize that, even if you do have mixed feelings about abortion, if you don't give people access to comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception, access to ability to protect themselves from violence, then you're not putting them in a fair situation where they can actually prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

And then you're also punishing them for having to deal with that pregnancy and having to potentially put their life and health at risk. And so it's a very dark time, I would say, in the U.S. It's not surprising that we're here now but I hope that people who have been, you know, conflicted about this can personalize this in a way that they understand the humanity of people who are dealing with the realities under these restrictive laws and policies.

ALLEN: We certainly appreciate your insights and your time in talking with us about an issue that has fractured the United States. Jamie Todd-Gher, legal advisor with Amnesty International. Thank you, Jamie.

TODD-GHER: Thank you. HOWELL: Dozens of tornadoes are tearing through the American heartland and more destruction could be on the way. We'll have the forecast ahead.

ALLEN: Derek will be by with that. Plus a touch of politics and a new winner. We'll have highlights from a memorable Eurovision finale in Tel Aviv.

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HOWELL: Well, the story stateside is severe weather. More than 70 million Americans are under the threat of severe weather from Texas to southern Minnesota. Dozens of tornadoes have been reported as that region braces for rain, winds and a lot of hail.

ALLEN: One of the twisters tore through the town of Jeronimo, Oklahoma, destroying homes and knocking down power lines.

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[04:45:00]

HOWELL: So we have a winner now in the Eurovision song contest. The victory is long overdue for that country. Hasn't won since 1975.

ALLEN: The night featured its typical level of kitsch and this year a touch of Middle Eastern politics as well. Even Madonna was there.

Hadas Gold was watching all of this. She is in Tel Aviv.

Let's start with the obvious question, who the big winner was.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is beautiful here in Tel Aviv. Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands with his song, "Arcade,", he was the bookies' favorite to win the competition although Italy with their song, a rap in Italian and Arabic, they were the close second runners-up. The Netherlands took it with 492 points.

This, of course, means that Eurovision, that is watched by millions around the world every year, will be hosting it next year.

HOWELL: So obviously the backdrop there was in Tel Aviv. Middle East politics always a hot topic. Even though Eurovision has rules preventing performers from inserting politics into their performances, there were a few instances where politics did take center stage, including with Madonna.

GOLD: George, that's right. Eurovision has strict rules to keep the event apolitical. It's supposed to be about unity and music bringing people together. Last night we saw a few instances of politics. There were calls for people to boycott competing.

But all of them competed. Madonna, at the end of her second song, she made a statement but without any words. Two of her dancers, one of them had an Israeli flag on their back and one with an Palestinian flag, walked off arm in arm.

More controversial, as the vote tallies were being announced, the band from Iceland which had long said they were going to do some sort of political statement, unveiled these Palestinian banners. And that is against the rules of the competition. The organizers said there will be some sort of punishment or reprimand for Iceland.

That can range from a reprimand to banning them from next year's event.

ALLEN: The acts have been breathtaking to bizarre in past years.

What were some standouts this year?

GOLD: One of them is in Australia. Australia's contestant has a pop opera song. She performs on a two-story pole that sways side to side throughout the entire performance. That was definitely breathtaking. There were some other really interesting performances, including from Norway, which incorporated traditional Norwegian singing.

And then you have your Eurovision kitschy songs with glitzy costumes and outrageous stunts with fire shooting up from the stage. For the big Eurovision fans, this is what they've come for. There was a lot of dancing and cheering and, despite the controversy, they had fun.

HOWELL: Following this event for us, Hadas, thank you so much. Great backdrop. We would trade you the Atlanta backdrop if you are open to it.

No?

ALLEN: She's like, shut up, George.

We get it, Hadas. Thanks so much.

It is more than a TV show. It is a cultural phenomenon.

Can you guess?

And now it's ending. We take a look back at "Game of Thrones" and its impact -- coming next.

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[04:50:00]

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(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: All right. So after eight seasons of breaking records and

inspiring a rabid following, the wildly popular fantasy series "Game of Thrones" ends its run Sunday in the United States. So Monday will not be a good day for millions of fans.

ALLEN: I don't know how they're going to go on with their lives.

HOWELL: I don't know.

ALLEN: A poll even estimates nearly 11 million Americans will skip work Monday after the finale. For more about it, here's Paul Vercammen.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The show that reigned over fantasy drama for nearly a decade is finally laying down its sword.

With the last ever episode of HBO's hit series, "Game of Thrones," an era of television history closes. Since its debut in 2011, "Game of Thrones" has shattered records around the globe with dozens of wins. It is HBO's most awarded show and most watched.

Joining viewers from over 200 countries, last season was seen by more than 32 million in the U.S. alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's exciting, thrilling, dangerous. You never know what's going to happen.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): It's become the most licensed program in HBO history, inspiring countless ads, products and accessories from companies looking to cash in on the massive global hit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not American, we're not European, we're a world that anybody can belong to.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Over its eight seasons, it's become a cultural phenomenon, parodied in late-night comedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just need to know, do people hate me?

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Referenced by the U.S. president and his former opponent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is closer to reality of life in politics, which TV show?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Probably "Game of Thrones."

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): And in European politics as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today now the kingdom looks like "Game of Thrones" on steroids.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): From politicians to pop stars to the press...

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm obsessed with "Game of Thrones."

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): "Game of Thrones" --

[04:55:00]

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): -- fanfare knows no bounds.

COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper. Winter is coming.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): HBO invested heavily in its epic battle scenes, creative storytelling, stunning visuals, reportedly spending an average $15 million per episode in the final season.

The result was a series with a devoted but often outspoken audience. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition, demanding a remake of the final season, claiming the writing and plot twists were subpar.

BRIAN LOWRY, CNN MEDIA CRITIC: This is a franchise people are extremely invested in. They've had a long time to think about where they see the story going. And when it goes in a direction that they don't like, they are not shy about expressing as much.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): While some may be disappointed, others are downright distraught. One company is offering therapy sessions for those grieving its end although that may not be necessary. HBO has already confirmed at least one spinoff series and rumors of others abound. So the fire, drama and fantasy may continue for years to come -- Paul Vercammen, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Paul, thanks. Keeping in mind, CNN and HBO share a parent company of Warner Media.

ALLEN: For the first time in 68 years none of the top three finishers at the Kentucky Derby were present at the Preakness stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing.

HOWELL: Instead it was a horse named War of Will who blazed ahead to win the prestigious race there in Baltimore, Maryland.

ALLEN: And in one of the more bizarre moments, watch Bodexpress (INAUDIBLE) threw his jockey at the gate but that didn't deter the horse from completing the race. In fact, he even took a second lap around the track before stopping (INAUDIBLE). He lived up to his name. I want to say the jockey wasn't hurt.

Today's top stories are just ahead.

HOWELL: Thanks for being with us. Right back after the break.

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