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Modi Wins Re-Election as India's Prime Minister; Day Two of European Parliament Elections Kick off Soon; Same Sex Weddings Begin in Taiwan; Tornadoes and Floods Devastate Central U.S.; Stern: Trump Ran for President as Publicity Stunt; U.K. Prime Minister Facing Pressure To Resign; WikiLeaks Founder Assange Charged Under U.S. Espionage Act; Donald Trump Falls For Nancy Pelosi's Trap; Trump Announces $16 Billion In Aid To Farmers As Trade War Continues. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and thank you so much for joining us. I'm Anna Coren live in Hong Kong. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, a critical day for Theresa May. The British prime minister heads into an important meeting under increasing pressure to quit.

Plus Julian Assange is hit with more criminal charges raising new questions about press freedoms. But the U.S. government argues that the WikiLeaks founder is no journalist. And Donald Trump sets up his feud with the U.S. House speaker calling her crazy and a mess. Nancy Pelosi says the president needs an intervention.

The end may be near for Theresa May. Her Premiership hangs in the balance as Brexit devolves into further chaos. A fourth vote on her wildly unpopular Brexit bill is no longer scheduled for June 3rd. It comes after a prominent conservative, a senior cabinet member resigned because she opposed the deal.

In the coming hours, Mrs. May is to meet with Graham Brady who heads an influential conservative committee likely to discuss her future. But the U.K. Foreign Secretary says the Prime Minister's not going anywhere just yet. He says she will still be in office during U.S. President Donald Trump's state visit in June.


JEREMY HUNT, FOREIGN MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Theresa May will be prime minister to welcome him and rightly so, and we are absolutely at one with the United States on the threat of cyber.


COREN: For more on all of this CNN European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas joins us from Los Angeles. Dominic, there are some reports out there that Theresa May will announce her departure in a matter of hours. There's obviously been no confirmation from Downing Street as yet. It's obviously just gone 6:00 a.m. in London. What are you hearing?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: The same -- exactly the same kind of reports because the Conservative Party wants to keep the narrative. They want to keep control over the situation. And so by meeting with the 1922 group, my understanding is she will essentially be told that they would go as far as to change their own party regulations in order to have a vote of no confidence in her.

But the ideal scenario would be for her to agree to a departure date somewhere in early June after the state visit of President Donald Trump to give them the time to organize an internal leadership competition and race.

The last thing the Conservative Party want to do is to keep going and with Prime Minister May and the thing they fear the most at this stage would be a general election. So by getting her to announce that she is stepping away, it allows them to save face you know, in what will be you know, some disastrous electoral results coming out later at the weekend and to keep the momentum going for them.

COREN: Yes. And the Trump visit, I guess there is a reason for her to stay on until that. It shows a semblance of order of normalcy and what has been a perpetual state of chaos for the British Parliament.

THOMAS: Well, yes, it has. But I think it's you know, it's quite a difficult situation in many ways. Donald Trump has you know, made all sorts of you know, complicated and undermining statements about Theresa May in the Brexit process arguing that he would have handled it very differently.

And let's not forget that some of the people that Donald Trump has spoken of the most favorably or have in many cases being his cross- Atlantic interlocutors are actually people like Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson.

And so one could also already imagine the sorts of ways in which the you know, the Donald Trump visit could be shaped by as some of his activities on Twitter and some of the things that he will have to say about the Brexit process and it certainly will not help things.

COREN: As you said, Theresa May is due to meet with Graham Brady, Chairman of the Tory backbenchers this morning. What can Theresa May can expect to take away from that discussion?

THOMAS: Well, I mean the discussion and ultimately the questions you or she will be asking you know, as the sort of as a waiter if anything tried to sort of rescue her position is what do they really think things are going to be like should she step down. This does not solve the divisions in Parliament.

The agreement that she has proposed has thus far not been able to make it through. She moved to the center to try and compromise and this has alienated people in her party. So one of the only -- the really the only questions she can say to them is how do they see the outcome of this and how do they think that they can shape this conversation.

[01:05:14] COREN: Dominic, who is in contention to replace her for the leadership.

THOMAS: Well, this is what is going to be you know so interesting if they do that. The MPs, there are 317 of them from the Conservative Party will be the ones that will deal with the list and try to bring it down to two candidates so that then the Conservative Party membership can end up voting on them.

You have a lot of personalities. You have of course Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, you have the current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the current Environment Secretary Michael Gove and the list just goes on.

Essentially it's not so much about personalities I would argue, but the camps within the Conservative Party. You've got the hardcore Brexiters and you've got the more centrist, and you've even got some remainders within the Conservative Party. The balance and the trickier is going to be to get some kind of leader around which there will be consensus.

One of the big risks, of course, is that it ends up being a Brexiter, an unelected leader of the Conservative Party who will take control of the process. The big risk with having a Brexiter in place is that they would rather leave the European Union with a No Deal than leave with any kind of negotiated deal.

And so that ends up being back on the table. And the question will be as to whether or not the Parliament will have an opportunity to put forward a vote of no confidence should the Conservative Party come up with somebody that they've believed is just simply not representative of the way that the British people see this situation right now.

So there's a lot of unexpected and uncharted terrain that we have lying ahead of us in this process.

COREN: And the reality is that May's departure won't solve Britain's Brexit problems. Her successor is going to inherit this mess.

THOMAS: They will inherit this. But I think that the evidence is quite clear right now that the British public is blaming the Conservative Party for what has been going on. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn is far from being popular. His position on Brexit is ambiguous, but the local elections showed widespread U.K.-wide dissatisfaction with the conservative party. The E.U. elections are an opportunity for the British people to weigh in and express their dissatisfaction.

Now, of course, the Brexiters will spin the outcome of the E.U. elections by pointing to the fact that the Brexit party performed very well but that's only part of the story. The Brexit party is running in the European Union elections, they're not a party that currently sits in the U.K. Parliament even though much of their opinion is there.

But the thing to not forget about the Brexiters, they want Brexit no matter what. And so even though they may not be able to get any kind of withdrawal agreement through the Houses of parliament, the default position remains there no deal, and that may just be enough to satisfy the Brexiters on this and they may even be willing to sacrifice that for a general election so long as they are able to get their Brexit deal through first.

And the general election is really the most frightening thing right now for the Conservative Party that's why they're so eager to control this story as it moves forward.

COREN: An interesting a few hours ahead. All eyes will be on 10 Downing Street. Dominic Thomas, as always, great to have you with us. Thank you. Well, a new indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has raised major questions about press freedom in the United States. The U.S. charged Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act accusing him of disclosing secret government information.

It comes a month after he was removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on a U.S. extradition warrant. WikiLeaks responded to the new indictment tweeting, this is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the First Amendment.

But the U.S. government argues that this is not an attack on journalism. Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Demers said Thursday Julian Assange is no journalist. Well, Greg Barns is a Barrister and Legal Adviser to Julian Assange. He joins us now from Australia to discuss all these matters. Greg, good to have you with us.

When we spoke last month following your client's court appearance in London, you said that you feared more charges were on the way. Were you expecting this 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act?

GREG BARNS, AUSTRALIAN LEGAL ADVISER TO JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, it comes as no surprise really given the way in which the U.S. has conducted itself in this matter. I should point out too my new role with the campaign is now running the scientists trading campaign to puts the pressure on the Australian government to getting back here. And it's fundamentally important that happens because this is an extraordinary indictment.

It's the very reason why Julian Assange feared as he did seven years ago that this would happen and now it's come to fruition.

COREN: And this really goes beyond your client Julian Assange. It now raises profound First Amendment issues in the United States. What is at stake for press freedom there?

[01:10:01] BARNS: What's at stake is that any journalists anywhere in the world who publishes something about the United States which it doesn't like can find themselves subject to an extradition request to come before a U.S. Court and face up to life imprisonment or more. It's a very, very serious issue and it's an issue for Australian journalists, it's an issue for journalists anywhere in the world, and it's an issue for whistleblowers particularly all around the world.

COREN: Greg, the Obama administration debated whether to go down this path and charge Assange under the Espionage Act, but decided against it. Why do you think that the Trump administration view this differently? Could they have new evidence? BARNS: Well, there's no suggestion that they've got new evidence. I think they're emboldened in the Trump administration and I think they think with the U.S. Supreme Court now stacked in its favor, this matter will end up there and they'll get a ruling in its favor.

But the question, of course, is whether Britain will extradite in those circumstances and I think English judges are going to take a very long look at this particular extradition request given the fact that there is enormous disproportionality in the sentence 145 years he could get. No person in the U.K. or Australia would get 145 years for publishing information even that relating to national security.

COREN: Greg, as we heard from John Demers a short time ago, he said that Assange was no journalist. But seeking and publishing secret information on national security matters, I mean that is something that investigative journalists do.

BARNS: Well, that's right. And I think every journalist in the world ought to be alarmed by this indictment. And I think the United States any sympathy had had in the Assange case is now gone. Now certainly in Australia, they've been a real alarm raised by a number of journalists here today and by members of the Australian community.

And the point that we are trying to make to the Australian government is that you've got an Australian citizen here and at the end of the day, that's the one country that can help him because he is an Australian citizen. And there ought to be --they ought to step up because this is a fundamental attack on democratic rights.

COREN: Greg, the actress Pamela Anderson is a friend and a vocal order of Julian Assange. She spoke to reporters at her AIDS charity event in France. We're just going to take a listen.

BARNS: Sure.


PAMELA ANDERSON, ACTRESS: An incredible person that I'm really -- more people should be proud of him because he's ruffled a few important feathers I guess, brought very powerful feathers and so they're not too happy with him at the moment. And so now he's shut off for the rest of the world and we have to speak up for him.


COREN: As she says, he's shut off from the rest of the world. Have you had an opportunity to speak to him how is he coping, how is his mental health?

BARNS: Well, he's remarkably resilient. I haven't spoken to him personally but I speak to his parents almost daily and they are extremely concerned about his long-term health and why wouldn't you be because he's in Belmarsh prison. And the risk, of course, is that while this extradition matter is dealt with in the U.S. courts, it'll take some months if not at least a year and he's detained all that time. COREN: Greg, tell me finally, how will the British courts react to these new charges? Do you believe that it will strengthen or hurt the case to extradite Assange to the U.S. to face these charges?

BARNS: I think some judges will see this is a really political trial and they'll be very, very skeptical about it. Certainly, that would be the reaction of some judges in Australia. This is a political trial and I think English judges as I said earlier are going to take a really good look at it.

COREN: Greg Barns joining us from Hobart, Australia, great to have you with us, many thanks.

BARNS: Thank you, Anna.

COREN: Well, disgraced a movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reached a financial settlement to resolve a civil litigation stemming from his alleged sexual abuse. A source tells CNN the proposed deal gives $30 million to alleged victims, creditors, and former Weinstein company employees. $14 million is for legal fees.

A judge still has to approve it. Dozens of women have come forward accusing Weinstein of sexual assault dating back decades. The criminal case against Weinstein is scheduled to begin this September.

Next here on CNN NEWSROOM, the votes have been counted and Narendra Modi sails to a second term as India's Prime Minister. We'll take you live to New Delhi for the latest. Plus, Donald Trump breaks out some new insults to the top Democrat in Congress Nancy Pelosi. What she's doing to get under his skin?


[01:17:10] COREN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. Well, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is riding the elevator to the top of Trump Tower pushing every button along the way. And Donald Trump is taking the bait. The top Democrat in Congress as the White House is crying out for impeachment. It's her second day of attacks on the President after he walked out of a White House meeting on Wednesday.

Then, she accused him of engaging in a cover-up, and now --


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country. This is not behavior that arises to the dignity of the office of President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From your comments almost suggest you're concerned about his well-being.


(END VIDEO CLIP) COREN: Well, Pelosi has clearly gotten under the President's skin.

At a meeting with farmers on Thursday Mr. Trump couldn't help firing up his insult machine.


TRUMP: Crazy Nancy, she has lost it. She is a mess. It was sad when I watched Nancy all moving, the movement in the hands and the craziness and I watched it, that's by the way a person that's got some problems.


COREN: Well, Pelosi and the President have had a civil and frosty relationship until now. CNN's Randi Kaye has a look at how we got here.


TRUMP: Nancy is in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now.

PELOSI: Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the Oval Office last year, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi butting heads over the government shutdown.

PELOSI: You shouldn't have to do so because of the temper tantrums of the Commander-in-Chief.

TRUMP: The President shot back, calling out Pelosi for vacationing in Hawaii during the shutdown, while he remained in Washington. She wouldn't stand for it.

PELOSI: And the President might not know this, but Hawaii is part of the United States of America, maybe he doesn't realize that. But Hawaii airports and airlines and telephones, so the communication is good.

KAYE: It got so nasty Pelosi insisted the President delay his State of the Union Address until the government reopened. Then Trump yanked Pelosi's government plane just before she was to depart on a trip to Afghanistan and Europe. And when he finally did deliver the State of the Union, there was this moment that spawned a thousand memes. Not long after that, Trump said this about negotiating with Pelosi.

TRUMP: She was very rigid, which I would expect, but I think she is very bad for our country.

KAYE: Despite the President's pension for biting nicknames, until now, he stayed away from giving one to Pelosi.

TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi, or Nancy, as I call her. Nancy knows it. I said, that's good Nancy. That's good. KAYE: Meantime this week, more battle lines were drawn with her tweaking him.

[02:20:05] PELOSI: And we believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

KAYE: And him firing. Back

TRUMP: I don't do cover-ups. You people know that.

KAYE: So what is it about Nancy Pelosi that gets under Donald Trump's skin? Senator Debbie Stabenow think she knows.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): She is very savvy, and I don't think he does well with strong, smart women.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

COREN: Well, joining us now is CNN Political Commentator and Senior Columnist at The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis. Matt, great to have you with us. As your heard from all those insults, the House Speaker has clearly rattled the President. What is it about Nancy Pelosi that's really upsetting him?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one of the things is frankly is that she is a worthy adversary. Donald Trump is amazingly good at rolling over people and really dominating them. And Nancy Pelosi is tough and competent, and she is very worthy opponent of Donald Trump. And I think that is why this has escalated. Usually, he beats people and they stop fighting and she fights back.

And the thing keeps going. She is calling him names too and -- but she is, you know, punching back just as hard as he does.

COREN: Yes. Well, she responded to Trump's rant by tweeting when the extremely stable genius, which of course is what your referred to himself as, start acting more presidential, I will be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade, and other issues. I mean, her language and her tone, when you hear her speak about him, it's extremely measured. She doesn't get in the mud with Trump.

LEWIS: Yes. I think she's found a way to walk the line. I mean, she is to you is like Twitter parlance trolling him a little bit by the "stable genius." So it's not that she's being above the fray and civil and trying to basically do what other people, maybe like Jeb Bush tried to do early on which was just be classy and not fight with him. But by the same token, she does -- you're right, she does it in a measured way.

She does it in a -- I don't know. Is it -- the hard part is right, either you get in the mud with him, and then you get muddy to or you stay above the fray and he destroys you and I think she is really walking that line of dignified fighting. And it's really hard to walk that line and she is very good at it.

COREN: How would you describe the relationship between Pelosi and Trump over the duration of his presidency? Because at times, the President has shown her respect.

LEWIS: Yes. No. I think that there is a grudging admiration there. I think that game recognizes game, and I think Donald Trump has recognized that Nancy Pelosi is a serious professional and has admired her ability to -- for one thing keep the Democratic caucus in line. It's very difficult to do as Speaker of the House. You no longer have all the sticks and carrots that you once had. She has been able to do it.

I think Trump, up until now, has kind of had a grudging admiration but now she -- the two have finally, you know, come to a point where one of them will have to prevail. And I think that Trump is really ratcheting it up right now. This is the first time where I think he has viewed her as his primary adversary. Up until now, she has been one of a few people. Hillary Clinton, obviously, what's his big target. Now I guess it's Nancy Pelosi.

COREN: After the President called himself an extremely stable genius he then called on his staff to defend his mood, his demeanor and sanity in that meeting that he stormed out of -- from -- with Democrats. What did you make of those theatrics?

LEWIS: Well, look, I mean, on one hand, a lot of those staff members have been more than willing to go out on the record and be basically, mouthpieces for Donald Trump and his administration. So, on one hand, I do not feel that sorry for them. But, I have to say. It's a really tough thing for a boss to do it to put you on the spot. For a boss to call up subordinates, publicly, and ask them to kind of vouch for him.

There's no way that they're allowed to be honest. And so, basically, you're forcing somebody, maybe to life or you. I think it was very inappropriate. And it's not exactly the model of leadership that I would think a president would want to exhibit.

COREN: Yes. Slightly embarrassing and somewhat reminiscent of North Korea. As we've been discussing this week, Nancy Pelosi is resisting calling for an impeachment inquiry and that seems quite deliberate. She is playing the long game, surfing Trump out of office in 2020 and winning a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress.

[02:25:05] Do you think this is the right strategy to resist those calls for impeachment?

LEWIS: Well, look, I think it is debatable. Nancy Pelosi believes that Donald Trump is trying to goad the Democrats into impeaching him, that Trump wants to be impeached. And look, I think you could make a good argument that if Democrats want to get rid of Trump, the best thing they could do is focus on beating him in 2020. There's going to be an election rather than trying to go through this impeachment thing.

On the other hand, I think there are plenty of liberal Democrats who say, look, this isn't just about winning elections, it's also about the rule of law, and it's about principle. And we need to impeach him. Pelosi could come back and say, well, great, you could impeach him in the House, he still not going to get rid of him, the Senate is not going o convict him. This is really a huge, huge argument of the Democratic Party.

And the irony is that Republicans are with the exception of Justin Amash, the one Republican Congressman. Republicans are basically united in defending Trump against impeachment, while Democrats are actually fighting each other over whether or not to impeach. That's an interesting dynamic to watch.

COREN: Matt, I got to say, I felt for those farmers standing awkwardly in the background as the President went on his Nancy Pelosi rant. These obviously are the people suffering as a result of Trump's trade war with China but he's delivered this $16 billion aid package to them which he says the Chinese will pay for. Is this like Mexico paying for the wall?

LEWIS: It really is. In the sense that it's either not going to happen or if it does to happen, it's like a bank shot. It would happen over the course very indirectly. But it certainly not as clear as Donald Trump wants to make it out to be. It's -- look, this is like -- I don't know what to call it, like a Rube Goldberg type scheme where like we take on China, China, you know, you know, gets on a war with us, a trade war with a, retaliates, then we have to like pay farmers to keep them from being hurt.

If a Democrat did this, if a liberal Democrat did this, we would call it -- I would probably call it socialism and Donald Trump is doing it and conservative Republicans are cheering him on. But I think the big issue that a lot of Republican see is, it's actually not about economics, it's not about trade, it's not about free markets, they're viewing this as China is now our big geopolitical foe. But Trump is certainly not saying that. He should probably be out there talking about that more.

COREN: Matt Lewis, great to have you with us. Thank you for your analysis.

LEWIS: Thank you.

COREN: 600 million votes later, the world's largest democracy decides, it is quite happy with its current prime minister and gives him another five years in power. A live report from New Delhi, just ahead.


[01:30:23] ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren, live in Hong Kong.

The headlines this hour.

Prime minister Theresa May is barely holding on to her leadership. In the coming hours, she is having a meeting about the future with the leader of an influential conservative group. This comes after a fourth vote on her unpopular Brexit bill was delayed calls for her resignation grow louder.

The U.S. has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act. Prosecutors say he disclosed secret government information and jeopardized the safety of confidential sources. But press freedom advocates say the charges are an attack on journalism.

Donald Trump is lashing out at U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling her crazy and a mess. On Thursday, Pelosi said the White House is crying out for impeachment. She urge Mr. Trump's family and staff to stage an intervention for the good of the country.

Prime minister Narendra Modi has won a second five-year term in India's national election. Six weeks after the first votes were cast, it now appears Mr. Modi's party, the BJP has passed the 272 seats needed for a majority in parliament.

Well, CNN' Sam Kiley joins us live from New Delhi with more.

Sam -- there is no denying that Modi has raised India's standing in the world. But what about job creation? Living conditions -- putting the masses out poverty -- things that weren't achieved on scale in his first term. Why elect him for a second?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I think principally he's been able to really galvanize Hindu nationalism. This is a Hindu majority country and a majority of Hindu seem perhaps to have voted for him. I mean it reflected in this newspaper headline: Moddy and his army blows away the opposition pretty much summed it up -- Anna. They're looking at where these electoral allies, 350 or more seats in 542. Context -- that puts him in an unassailable position.

But what this means for the future of the country, particularly for the future of secularism here is very open the question. As I make clear in this report.


KILEY (voice over): An historic victory, indeed a landslide for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Narendra Modi now set for a second five-year term as prime minister of the world's biggest democracy.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): You have seen it from 2014 to 2019, the people who used to talk about secularism have now gone quiet. In this election, not one political party has been able to deceive the people of India by wearing the label of secularism.

KILEY: Some 600 million people voted over a five week period in 542 constituencies.

(on camera): The number of journalists here outside the BJP Party headquarters is actually higher than the number of people celebrating the Modi victory. Perhaps because it was seen that the incumbent prime minister's victory would be a foregone conclusion. His challenge now, is to unite a country that is increasingly divided. (voice over): His popularity falling six months ago, Modi regain the political initiative in February when he ordered airstrikes against alleged terrorist camps inside Pakistan. In retaliation for an Islamist attack on Indian forces in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Since then he's ignored economic issues in favor of projecting himself as India's tough guy -- chowkidar -- the watchman. Now India's 200 million Muslims who probably flooded to the secular Indian Congress Party have a dwindling voice as the Congress barely survived as a credible opposition.

YAMINI AYAR, POLITICAL ANALYST: Forces have been unleashed and these forces are more certainly going to add energy, pursue the majority agenda in our polity and in our society.

KILEY: Reelected on a populist platform, Modis' natural allies around the world were quick to congratulate him. First was Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu then Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Old enemy Pakistan meanwhile seemed almost to vindicate support for Modi -- launching a Shaheen-2 missile two missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead 2000 kilometers in a training exercise.


[01:34:58] KILEY: Now Anna -- ultimately it is now clear that Mr. Modi has an unassailable position in the politics of this country for the next five years. So it will be very interesting to see whether he continues to pursue that majoritarian ideology or whether he now feels comfortable and dominant enough to go on with the economic reforms that he promised to make back when he was elected by a -- to a majority in parliament with the BJP back in 2014.

There are a lot of economic issues that are hitting this country and it will fall on his shoulders to try to sort them out over the next five years -- Anna.

COREN: Sam -- as you mentioned in your piece, Modi calls himself India's watchman. Tell us about the cultures of personality that has been created around Modi?

KILEY: Well, it's quite extraordinary really if you think that India was essentially based about his politics -- was based around a Westminster System with constituency representation, a figurehead president at the executive and legislative power concentrated in the hands of the prime minister. But it was all about really party politics.

But now, particularly through this election and particularly since that terrorist strike back in February and the counter strike by India against Pakistani-based terrorist groups. He has focused attention on himself -- on him being the guardian of the nation, the man who was going to project India effectively internationally but, also domestically.

Now that may hold him in that position over the next five years but it may also tarnish -- you cannot focus indefinitely on a cult of personality when for example the rural population where he is pulled very strongly was prior to the Indian-Pakistan security crisis. Actually launching -- farmers were coming in to Delhi carrying the skulls of fellow farmers who committed suicide for example because of the collapse of the economy in the rural areas.

He's also facing a much wider issues of unemployment in the urban areas. These are not issues that even a strongly focused sort of personality cult can avoid. And he has promised to address them.

The problem of course, for the opposition is that with a majority that big, the BJP securing we think about 303 seats in that parliament really makes it what once was described in the British systems as an elective dictatorship. So long as he hangs on to his support of his party MP, he can do pretty much what he wants -- Anna.

COREN: Here's hoping he delivers for the people over the next five years.

Sam Kiley -- good to see you. Many thanks.

Well, polls are to open soon in Ireland as Day Two of European parliament elections get under way. Over four days 28 countries are electing 761 parliament members. Voters in the Netherlands and U.K. cast their ballots Thursday.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin has more from bristles.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm restricted in terms of what I can tell you about these European elections because reporting restrictions are in place as well as campaigning has stopped in order to prevent any sort of undue influence on any voting currently taking place.

On Thursday, two E.U. member states went to the polls -- the United Kingdom with 73 seats up for grabs; and the Netherlands with 26 seats up for grabs. The number of seats allocated to each state depends on population size.

Lots of questions here about what will happen to the U.K. seats in the event that the United Kingdom should Brexit following in the elections. And we are told that some of those seats will be allocated to other member states, for example, Spain and France will both gain five seats. Ireland for example will gain two seats but the size of parliament itself will contract from 751 seats to 705 seats.

This is the second largest democratic election in the world. The only transnational election in the world. Most of the member states will go to the polls on Sunday and we expect results Sunday evening.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN -- Brussels.

COREN: well, join CNN Sunday night as the European elections results start to take shape. Are special coverage hosted by Hala Gorani kicks off at 8:00 p.m. in Brussels, 7:00 in London. Well, Taiwan is setting a precedent for the rest of Asia by legalizing and now performing same sex marriage. But amid the celebration they're getting to push back from conservative groups.

That's next here on CNN NEWSROOM.


COREN: Welcome back.

Same sex couples in Taiwan are celebrating an historic day. For the first time, they can get married. This is one of the first gay couples in all of Asia to be legally wed. Taiwan's groundbreaking Marriage Equality Bill is now in effect, a week after it was passed.

Activists hope it will spark change across the whole continent, even as some countries are rolling back LGBTQ rights.

Well, Matt Rivers is in Taipei reporting all this for us. Matt -- you've obviously met some of the couples who's gotten married today. I'm sure this is the day they thought would perhaps never arrive.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean there was certainly hope I think for a long time, Anna, that one day Taiwan would here but I think if you would have talked to some of the couple we spoke in the last couple of days, let's say five years ago they would have been a very healthy dose of skepticism. And yet here we are.

It was earlier this morning, behind me at that relatively nondescript looking building that history was made for this island. That's where around three dozen or so couples went through those doors this morning and register to legally get married.

They did the same sort of thing that straight couples do all the time here -- go in, fill out some normal-looking paperwork, and that was that. But for these people this morning, it was truly a momentous occasion and one that was not without controversy, given that a lot of the people on this were not necessarily in favor of same sex marriage. I will get to why that is in a second.

But going back two years, you had a constitutional court decision here in Taiwan which ruled the then existing marriage law on the books unconstitutional. Back then, marriage was defined here between one man and one woman.

Well, the courts said that is unconstitutional, required legislators to change the law. Two years later they did, and here we are. But it was just last November that anti same sex marriage opponents -- supporters rather, held a referendum and in those referendums Taiwan population voted pretty overwhelmingly not in favor of same sex marriage.

And so, today is not without controversy. But it went ahead anyway. And the people who were in favor of same sex marriage, Anna, were absolutely thrilled. COREN: Matt -- obviously, there is now hope that other places in Asia

like Hong Kong and Japan -- more liberal societies, will perhaps jump on board and embrace same sex marriage.

[01:44:58] But, as you say, this hasn't been an easy journey for Taiwan. Those conservative groups have vowed to continue fighting and eventually roll back gay marriage.

RIVERS: Yes. And they say they're going to give up their fight. There's legislative elections here in 2020, and that is party platform of a new party actually that was just registered this morning here in Taiwan that says it wants to roll back these laws.

Now whether they can do that or not successfully, that remains to be seen. They're certainly going to have a big fight on their hands going in for people who are in favor of same sex marriage.

But it's interesting you mentioned the rest of Asia as well. And you know, Taiwan is the only place in Asia that this is now legal. This comes at a time when we've seen other countries around Asia -- places like Brunei, China, Indonesia -- really roll back LGBTQ rights.

And so, Taiwan at the moment, is an outlier. Activists here are proud of that. They say that they hope that what has happened here in Taiwan with same sex marriage being legalized could eventually be emulated around the region -- Anna.

COREN: I'm sure there is hope amongst activists, and just everyday people who support same sex marriage that other Asian societies will look to Taiwan as a beacon of inspiration, but how realistic is that in Asia? Not just Asia, but in other countries in the world that have condemned homosexuality, same sex marriages?

RIVERS: Yes. I mean there's only about two dozen or so countries around the world where this is legal, and marriage equality and it's really kind of, at least at this point, a western concept.

And so if you're looking for other countries in this region, maybe look at Japan, maybe Hong Kong, as you mentioned, but if you look to other countries like Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia -- places with a very large Muslim population generally, these are not places that are likely going to legalize gay marriage any time soon, or even really roll back discrimination, let alone grant marriage equality but just rollback basic discrimination against the LGBT communities there.

And that's something that people here in Taiwan are pretty realistic about. But today at least, you know, we asked a couple of people that question and they say, look, we understand the reality, we can only do what we can do in Taiwan. And that is to show that marriage equality is something that is a right for people on this island now that it is, and hope that other countries, the LGBT communities there, the activists there will follow the lead of this place.

COREN: And they just keep flying that beautiful rainbow. Matt Rivers -- great to see you. Thank you for joining us. Kenya's high is deciding on its own landmark case in the coming hours that could decriminalize relationships between same sex adults. Since the British colonial era, gay sex and by extension gay relationships have been considered a felony, punishable with 14 years prison time.

The court was due to make a ruling in February, but said they needed more time. The judges are expected to announce their decision on Friday. If the ban is overturned, it will be a major step for east Africa, where homosexuality is largely illegal.

In the slums of Venezuela, a lawless militia group is working to keep the country's embattled president in power. The Colectivos, as they're known, have essentially become the private army of Nicolas Maduro.

As Patrick Oppmann reports, violence and intimidation are their trademark.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They wear hoods and carry guns. Mysterious figures that seems to be able to attack (INAUDIBLE) protestors in Venezuela with impunity. Witnesses to these shootings say they are the work of Colectivos -- shadowy paramilitary forces that support the government of embattled president Nicolas Maduro at any cost.

In the areas they control, the collectibles operate openly. To learn more about their role in Venezuela's political violence, we go to one of Caracas' sprawling slums and to a radio station controlled by the colectivos that they use to air pro-government propaganda.

Colectivo leader (INAUDIBLE) member agrees to an interview but only if we do it live on air. Mendez (ph) says he has been shot five times in confrontations, and will take up arms if the United States tries to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

"The revolution is going forward", he tells me, and "these people try to step on the Venezuela soil. What there will be here is a lot of lead for them. I'm not afraid of the gringos."

But according to Venezuela's opposition, the colectivos main target these days is not foreign adversities, but their political rivals inside Venezuela. Opposition member (INAUDIBLE) says on three occasions colectivos have come to his house to intimidate him.

[01:50:00] "They come without uniforms", he told me, "carrying weapons of war. Their faces are covered and they break down the door. They aimed a gun at me in front of my kids.

Maduro has called on the colectivos to defend his socialist revolution. And says they're patriots. U.S. Officials call them domestic terrorists.

The group started doing social work in Venezuela's poorest slums decades ago. Then Hugo Chavez took power and envisioned a new role for the colectivos.

Hugo Chavez saw that colectivos be transformed into a private army, loyal to him. He gave them food, weapons and free rein. In many of Caracas is most dangerous neighborhoods, they are the only law.

The colectivos are maduro's most loyal enforcers, says Naldi Mendez (ph). But when asked if things are better after 20 years of socialist revolution, even he concedes that support for the revolution is fading.

"The war has been tough," he says. "They attacked the poor people through their stomachs. They made our food disappear and people got mad and everyone says it's Maduro's fault, but it's not Maduro's fault. It's the United States' fault.

With the conflict brewing, the colectivos say they have thousands of foot shoulders ready to fight until l will fight till the end.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN -- Caracas.


COREN: Next on CNN NEWSROOM, a deadly tornado caused a destructive path through the U.S. of Missouri. It's just one of dozens to hit the region in the last 24 hours.


COREN: Parts of the central U.S. devastated after violent storms and tornadoes tore through the region. One twister slammed right into the capital of Missouri.

CNN's Ed Lavandera checks out the damage in Jefferson City.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Widespread damage in Missouri -- 29 tornadoes ripped through the Midwest in the last 24 hours, killing at least three people and injuring dozens more.


LAVANDERA: The Weather Service raided this massive twister that touched down in Jefferson City an EF-3. Winds up to hundred 60 miles per hour, hurling debris 13,000 feet into the air.

It sounded exactly like you pictured it. It was kind of like a train but you don't expect it, like it just came within seconds. We barely made to the bathroom.

LAVANDERA: It tore off route tops and destroyed a 24-hour daycare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to experience that you know what I mean, like that's crazy.

LAVANDERA: Officials report about 20 people were hurt in the state capitol but remarkably no one was killed here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Had this been during the day, it would've been catastrophic.

LAVANDERA: The storm was nearly invisible at night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know where it's at. You can't see it. All you know is you can hear and you could feel the presence of it.

The three lives lost happened hours away in Golden City, Missouri.

We unfortunately lost three people down in the Golden City area. Karl Johnson was hit just north of Joplin. Coincidentally eight years ago yesterday was the Joplin tornado.

LAVANDERA: The deadly storm system has also brought serious flooding to Oklahoma. In Webber's Falls, two barges that broke free along the Arkansas River struck a dam. Neighborhoods forced to evacuate last night for fear that the dam could be breached. These homes in Crescent, Oklahoma also were no match for the flood waters.


[01:54:56] COREN: Just incredible there weren't more deaths. That was CNN"s Ed Lavandera reporting in Jefferson City, Missouri.

American radio personality Howard Stern has known Donald Trump for many years. Mr. Trump has even been a frequent guest on Stern's program "The Howard Stern Show" when he was a real estate developer.

And Stern is convinced that Mr. Trump only ran for president as a publicity stunt to boost the profile of his own reality TV show "The Apprentice".

Here's what Stern told our Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When you see him now in the White House as president, what do you see?

HOWARD STERN, RADIO HOST: Well, you know, I go into --

COOPER: Just given your history with him and how you know him.

STERN: Well, first of all, it's unbelievable to me and I've documented my thoughts about how this whole candidacy even came about. This was a publicity stunt. I happen to have --

COOPER: You have no doubt about that?

STERN: I have no doubt because I have some inside information.

And the thing is that it started out with "The Art of the Deal" -- the book -- and it was a P.R. guy's idea. He said Donald, what you need to do is -- we'll make a sort of a rumor that you're running for president. And, Donald's like, oh. So all of a sudden he was being interviewed and the book goes right to number one.

When he had a second book came out, that's when he decided to start the rumor that he was going to run for President and then this time around in the last election "The Apprentice" ratings were not what they were. NBC was not going to give him a raise. And what's a better way than to get NBC's interest? I'll run for president and I'll get lots of press -- and I think that's what happened.

COOPER: Do you think he likes being president?

STERN: I don't think he likes being president at all. I think he liked winning the presidency. He likes to win.


COREN: Well, Stern also claims Mr. Trump called him during the 2016 campaign and asked for his endorsement.

60 new satellites are now in orbit around the earth.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one -- ignition, lift off.


COREN: Don't they get tired of saying that. They are part of the Starlink program from SpaceX. And we are on a Falcon 9 rocket that launched from Cape Canaveral on Thursday.

It will now deploy the satellite I designed to beam cheap broadband internet all over the planet. Starlink will eventually put thousands of the satellites into orbit to serve a big part of the world that is not online as yet. Estimated price tag? $Ten billion.

Well, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Anna Coren, live from Hong Kong. Thank you so much for your company.

The news to continues with the lovely Natalie Allen and George Howell right after this.