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Search for a New British Prime Minister; E.U. Leaders React to Theresa May's Resignation; Trump Visits Japan; U.S. to Send Additional 1,500 Troops to Middle East; Kenyan High Court Upholds Law Banning Gay Sex; "Traffic Jam" Blamed for Deaths on Mt. Everest. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2019 - 03:00   ET





THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The British prime minister announces her resignation and now the race is on to choose Theresa May's replacement.


VANIER (voice-over): And in just an hour, President Trump is expected to land in Japan, the first foreign leader to meet the new emperor. He leaves behind a slew of political problems.

And a human traffic jam on Mt. Everest creates deadly conditions for climbers.

We're live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier and it's great to have you with us.


VANIER: The U.K. is gearing up for a political fight, another one, as a search for Theresa May's successor gets underway. The prime minister accepted her failure, unable to deliver on Brexit and is to resign as the Conservative Party leader in two weeks. Now the battle to replace her is on. CNN's Bianca Nobilo has the latest.


MAY: It has been the honor of my life to serve the country I love.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An emotional retreat, as Theresa May finally bows to intense political pressure from within her own party and announces she'll shortly step down.

Her tenure may be characterized by a single issue and a single word, Brexit.

MAY: They decided that we should leave the European Union.

NOBILO: May put her proposed Brexit deal to a vote on three occasions. It was rejected by the House every time, by devastating margins, reflecting a political system in stalemate and a nation divided.

MAY: I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.

NOBILO: Britain's leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted his approval, saying she was right to resign.

JEREMY CORBYN, U.K. LABOUR LEADER: She was offering what had already been put on the table. Yes, we want to prevent a no-deal Brexit. And we will do everything in parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit. But the reality is, a new conservative leader isn't going to solve the problem. NOBILO: May's announcement ignites a frantic race to secede her.

Boris Johnson, the former secretary whose personality politics have been compared to Donald Trump command significant support among grassroots members of the party to replace May.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Boris Johnson I think would be a great prime minister.

NOBILO: Johnson bitterly opposed a withdrawal deal that May negotiated with the E.U. and resigned from her cabinet over it. On Friday, he described May's statement as dignified and said, it is now time for her to follow her urgings, to come together and deliver Brexit.


NOBILO: May's failure to unite her party or garner enough cross-party support behind her deal proved her undoing. Her successor will seek to find consensus where she could not -- Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


VANIER: The E.U. says Prime Minister Theresa May's resignation doesn't change its position on Brexit. But the chances the U.K. could crash out without a deal have gone up. CNN's Erin McLaughlin has the reaction from Brussels.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Following the news of British prime minister Theresa May's resignation, leaders from across the E.U. took the opportunity to praise her courage and her determination.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister went further than that, saying the problem with Brexit is not Theresa May; the problem is the Tory red lines. Take a listen to what he had to say.


MARK RUTTE, PRESIDENT, THE NETHERLANDS: The problem, of course, is not Theresa May, to the country. I believe she is courageous and she was great as prime minister. She still is for the next few weeks. Our personal relationship is excellent; I trust her.

I think the problem is not Theresa May and the problem is the situation, in which she had to work within the red lines of the Good Friday agreement, the U.K. not wanting to stay as a member of the customs union, not wanting to stay as a member of the internal market.

And given all those red lines, it was almost impossible to come to something which would command a majority in the House of Commons.


MCLAUGHLIN: Those very same parameters are waiting to meet Theresa May's --


MCLAUGHLIN: -- successor, a point not lost on the Spanish government spokesperson for the Spanish government, today saying that the U.K. crashing out of the E.U. is, quote, "almost impossible to avoid," also predicting a, quote, "new hard Conservative leader and a hard Brexit for the U.K.," acknowledging publicly what many here in Brussels have been telling me privately, that this process seems to now be barreling toward that dreaded no deal eventuality, seen as catastrophic for both sides of the English Channel.

I was texting an E.U. diplomat no long ago, who said, quote, "Boris can only go one way. So putting money on an October 31st no deal, that cliff edge weighing on people's minds here and maybe on people's minds in Brussels is Boris Johnson." -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.



VANIER: It's the third day of European parliamentary elections and polls are open now in Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. But most countries will see ballots cast on Sunday, the last day of voting; 28 countries are choosing 751 members of Parliament.

Their choice will shape the European Union for the next five years and represent more than 500 million Europeans. Be sure to join CNN as the European election results start to take shape. Our special coverage hosted by Hala Gorani kicks off Sunday at 8:00 pm Brussels time, don't miss it.

President Trump arrives soon in Tokyo for a four-day state visit that's an opportunity for Mr. Trump to cement his relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (sic), one of his closest global allies. Mr. Trump also will be the first foreign head of state to meet with new Japanese emperor.

The president leaves behind a host of political problems, including a controversial move to declassify U.S. intelligence on surveillance of his election campaign in 2016. We get more on that from CNN's Kaitlan Collins.


TRUMP: The attorney general is one of the most respected people in this country.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, President Trump defending his decision to give the attorney general sweeping new powers.

TRUMP: I declassified everything.

COLLINS: After he signed a memo granting Bill Barr free rein to declassify any intelligence related to the beginning of the Russia investigation, including FBI surveillance of his 2016 campaign.

TRUMP: People have been asking me to declassify for a long period of time. I have decided to do it. And you're going to learn a lot.

COLLINS: The move is unprecedented and could lead to a showdown with the secretive intelligence community, who have been ordered to assist Barr in his review.

TRUMP: It's the greatest hoax probably in the history of our country. And somebody has to get to the bottom of it.

COLLINS: Trump signed the directive just hours after he falsely claimed yet again that those who led the investigation committed treason.

TRUMP: That's treason. That's treason. They couldn't win the election and that's what happened.

COLLINS: But, today, he insisted he's not looking for payback.

TRUMP: This is about finding out what happened.

COLLINS: The memo reveals how much Trump trusts his attorney general, who has broken with the head of the FBI and backed up the president's claims.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that spying did occur.

COLLINS: Sources say Barr is leading the review into the investigation, along with U.S. attorney John Durham. That's in addition to the Justice Department's internal watchdog conducting his own investigation into how the FBI obtained surveillance orders for former campaign aide Carter Page.

His report is due next month. Democrats say the attorney general is doing the president's political bidding. REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It's part of the Trump and Republican plot to dirty up the intelligence community.

COLLINS: The Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Mark Warner, saying today that: "Selectively declassifying sources and methods in order to serve a political agenda will make it harder for the intelligence community to do their jobs."

Democrats still want to hear from the special counsel, who they say wants to testify behind closed doors.

NADLER: He's willing to make an opening statement, but he wants to testify in private.

COLLINS: Trump has insisted Robert Mueller's appearance is up to the attorney general, but today he questioned why he should even testify at all.

TRUMP: He just gave that report. Why does he have to testify?

COLLINS: Now it's not just Democrats who are skeptical of the president's new decision to grant Bill Barr these powers. But it's members of the international community as well.

Earlier, Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement, talking about this decision, quote, "I am confident that the attorney general will work with the intelligence community in accordance with the long established standards to protect highly sensitive classified information that, if publicly released, would put --


COLLINS (voice-over): -- our national security at risk."

Clearly you can hear the concern in his statement about the attorney general's next moves and the questions are going to be, is this going to bring us to a showdown between the attorney general and members of the intelligence community? -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, traveling with the president in Tokyo.


VANIER: That is the U.S. politics side of things. Let's get the perception on what this trip is actually about with CNN's Ivan Watson; he is also live from Tokyo.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Cyril, a senior administration official at the White House has said that this is going to be a visit that's going to focus more on ceremony but with that said, there's clearly some policymaking and important talks going on in the background.

The U.S. national security adviser John Bolton is here in Tokyo ahead of the arrival of President Trump, held a roundtable with journalists here in which he came out saying that North Korea's recent short-range missile launches earlier this month were clearly violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, going quite a deal further than President Trump himself did in the wake of those short-range missile launches and aligning the U.S. position or at least the national security adviser's position with Tokyo, which had also said that this was a violation.

Bolton also went on to say that he would support a face-to-face meeting between the Japanese prime minister and the North Korean dictator, a meeting that could take place without preconditions as well.

That said, we are hearing that the face-to-face meeting of the two leaders of these two military and economic allies, Japan and the U.S., will focus very much on the ceremony here, the latest chapter in the bromance between the Japanese and American leaders.


WATSON (voice-over): On the first lady's birthday last month, the U.S. president welcomed Shinzo Abe (sic) to celebrate at the White House.

TRUMP: Mr. Prime Minister, you're my friend.

WATSON (voice-over): Before they departed for dinner and cake, Japan's prime minister invites Trump to Tokyo to be honored as the first official guest to meet a newly crowned emperor.

TRUMP: And I said, gee, I don't know if I can make it. Let me ask you a question.

How big is that event compared to the Super Bowl for the Japanese?

And the prime minister said, it's about 100 times bigger. I said, I'll be there if that's the case, I'll be there.

WATSON (voice-over): Making good on his promise this weekend, Trump's arrival launches a four-day visit to Japan, an honored meeting with the imperial couple, it is just one of several events in that carefully tailored schedule.

It appears to follow a tradition of what's been called Abe's charm offensive, as U.S. policy in Asia grows more problematic.

On his first full day in Japan, the two leaders plan to play a round of golf, now known as a cornerstone of their diplomacy, Abe once even giving Trump custom gold-plated golf clubs.

After the green, Trump heads to a sumo wrestling match, where he will have a chance to present a Trump cup to the winner. It's to be followed by a dinner where the meat will be prepared just the way the president likes, probably well done, maybe even with a side of ketchup.

On his previous trip Trump enjoyed a similarly familiar fare when he and Abe sat down to eat an American style hamburger. The VIP treatment has led to speculation of a calculated effort to court Trump's favor as deeper policy issues loom.

TRUMP: Japan sends us millions and millions of cars and we tax them virtually not at all.

WATSON (voice-over): After threats of damaging auto tariffs, Abe and Trump are in the midst of bilateral trade negotiations, as one of Japan's largest export markets, the U.S.' partner, Japan, cannot afford to lose as its economy slows.

But Japan may find leverage after a dramatic failure of U.S. trade talks with China this month. On matters of security, North Korea's resumption of missile testing has rattled many in nearby Japan, who rely on defensive support from their U.S. ally.

Trump's inability to strike a deal with Kim Jong-un during his last meeting and stalled talks with South Korea have in some ways left Japan in the crosshairs. Although officials have said this weekend's trip is largely ceremonial, matters of trade and national security could penetrate warm welcomes as Japan's relationship with the U.S. becomes ever more relevant.


WATSON: So nothing could be more Japanese than the plan for President Trump to sit --


WATSON: -- ringside at the sumo wrestling championships here on Sunday. We know that he has been a fan and a participant in American professional wrestling in the past. It is quite a different sport here, sumo, in Japan.

And the Secret Service and the president may need to keep an eye out because, if there is an upset, I am told that the fans get so excited that sometimes they hurl their seat cushions around the giant stadium, something that probably the bodyguards will be on the lookout for.


VANIER: I heard about that, that they needed to devise a plan to maybe protect the president if things get thrown.

Ivan, there's one more thing you told me a couple hours earlier; you got to remind our audience for people who are watching you now. You told me that there is a big financial risk to the president as he goes golfing.

Can you tell us quickly about that?

WATSON: Right, he is going to be playing golf with the Japanese prime minister in Japan, which is also crazy about golf. There is a tradition that, if you get a hole in one, you have to buy everybody at the golf club a round of drinks. And that can be so expensive that it has driven golf players to bankruptcy, prompting many golf players to buy hole in one insurance if they happen to get this hole in one.

We don't know if the American president has that insurance; if he happens to have a major success out on the links, he may be in -- or perhaps U.S. taxpayers will be in for an awful --


VANIER: We also don't know if he has that level of golfing ability, who knows.

Ivan Watson, thank you so much, Ivan live from Tokyo.

Earlier, I spoke with Paul Sracic, a professor of international relations and a visiting scholar in Tokyo. I asked him to explain what Mr. Trump's visit means for Japan's defense needs. Take a listen.


PAUL SRACIC, YOUNGSTOWN STATE UNIVERSITY: Japan does have a significant self-defense force but of course they don't have nuclear weapons. And they face various strategic threats.

If you think about the geography of the area, where Japan is located, you've got North Korea, Russia and certainly China just to the south.

So they're in a strategically very important area. And what the Japanese often stress is that the U.S. has various joint security agreements with other countries. But Japan only has one and that's with the United States.

VANIER: Shinzo Abe (sic) has managed to maintain a very good relationship with Donald Trump.

What's it based on?

SRACIC: I think some people refer to is as a bromance and I think Shinzo Abe -- or Abe Shinzo, as he is now being asked to be referred to, with the family name first -- I believe very early on concluded that it was important to have a personal relationship with President Trump, that those kinds of things are very important to the president.

Abe reached out very early to the president and has continued with this back-and-forth dialogue, this back-and-forth visits and I think he understands that President Trump is very pleased to be the first person greeting the new emperor.

And that personal relationship Abe thinks will help solidify this extremely important security relationship between Japan and the U.S. and perhaps even nullify some of these anticipated tariffs that the Japanese are very worried about.


VANIER: Professor Paul Sracic speaking to us earlier from Tokyo.

The U.S. is sending additional military muscle to the Middle East. The reason: Iran.

Is this a precaution or a prelude to war?

We'll examine the evidence.

Plus no one thinks of conquering the world's tallest mountain is supposed to be easy but with so many people trying these days there are unexpected dangers. We'll tell you about those.





VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to speed up the series of controversial arms sales. They customers are Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo says the move bypasses Congress because the threat from Iran is immediate. But prominent Democrats say that's just an excuse because Congress wouldn't approve the sales. They are worth more than $8 billion.

Word of the arms deals came the same day that President Trump announced the U.S. is sending an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East. Their goal is to help U.S. allies deter and, if necessary, defend against Iran. Many of the newly arriving troops will be engineers, supporting the Patriot missile batteries and reconnaissance planes that are also going to the region.

Meantime, the Pentagon says Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is responsible for the attacks on four tankers earlier this month at a port in the UAE. But the U.S. has yet to publicly provide any evidence of increased Iranian threats.

Let's take a closer look at the deployments with Barbara Starr, who has the details from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Trump administration made the expected announcement. It's sending about 1,500 troops to the Middle East to help provide deterrence and force protection for the United States against what it says is still a significant Iranian threat.

There will be fighter jets now sent, additional Patriot missiles and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, all aimed at keeping an eye on Iran and being able to push back if they were to launch an attack.

Right now the U.S. is watching very carefully. They say that the Iranian aggression really has not turned around. They see chatter, if you will, conversations that are being monitored between Iranian officials still calling for the possibility of planning attacks against American forces in the region.

That is what made the acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, go to the president, go to the White House, brief him on all this and get his thumbs up for this deployment.

He didn't have to approve it per se but they wanted to make sure the president knew exactly how the Pentagon views the situation with Iran. And the door is not shut if the threat continues. There could be additional deployments to the region -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


VANIER: In France, authorities have launched a terror investigation following a suspicious explosion in the city of Lyon. Friday's blast wounded at least 13 people, including an 8-year old child. As CNN's Melissa Bell reports, police are searching for the bomber.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Several people were wounded in Lyon when a parcel bomb exploded just outside of a bakery. A manhunt is underway. Authorities have released a photograph taken from CCTV footage from outside the baker to get any information. They are warning the public that they believe the man is extremely dangerous and they should proceed with caution.

Already the CCTV footage of what was a very densely packed city center at rush hour have revealed the path that the man took to the baker and where he headed off. He is now being investigated as part of an anti- terror investigation and one that is investigating the possibility of a terrorist conspiracy -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


VANIER: And Kenya's high court is upholding a law that criminalizes same-sex relationships. The law make gay sex and, by extension, gay relationships punishable by up to 14 years in prison.


VANIER: The ruling on Friday is a crushing defeat for activists, who fought for the colonial era law to be struck down. They plan to appeal.

People train for years to reach the top of Mt. Everest, to feel the rush of standing on the roof of the world, as it's known. But the path to the summit is so treacherous at least six people are dead or presumed dead so far this season and some of the fatalities are being blamed on a human traffic jam. CNN's Alexandra Field explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Donald Cash, it was the final frontier, the summit of Mt. Everest, the crowning achievement for the 55-year old from Utah, who had met his lifelong goal: reaching the top of the highest mountain on every continent.

But his few minutes on top of the world's highest mountain would a few of his last. His expedition group says Cash died of high altitude sickness.

SKYLER PEARSON, DONALD CASH'S FRIEND: He fell on the way down just below the summit and then they carried him down and helped him down a little ways and then he took his last breaths.

FIELD (voice-over): On the same day during her descent, Anjali Kulkarni took her final breaths. She had trained to summit Everest for six years. She had trekked for 25 years and she was an avid marathoner. Kulkarni's son tells CNN she collapsed and died while caught in a human traffic jam coming down the mountain.

A picture taken on the day of the Cash and Kulkarni's deaths, May 22nd, shows a long line of trekkers along the ridge of Everest's summit in an area known as the death zone. It has raised concerns about the possible dangers of congestion on Everest among mountaineers.

KENTON COOL, VETERAN CLIMBER: And I think you would have to be foolish to say that that queue in or that waiting at such high altitude isn't having some impact on the numbers of deaths that we've seen this year.

FIELD (voice-over): Nepal's tourism board says more than 200 mountaineers ascended Everest on May 22nd after a bad patch of weather cleared, giving climbers a key opening to reach for a dream.

But the tourism board says claims that congestion contributed to deaths are baseless. With this year's climate season nearing a close, at least six people are presumed dead after trying to scale Everest from the Nepal side. There were five deaths on the mountain last year, six deaths the year before that and one before that.

The site of Cash's final climb will likely be his final resting place. It's where bodies of most who die trying to scale Everest remain. Climbers who continue to inspire others to dare to try to reach that height.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he did make it. He actually summitted.

FIELD (voice-over): Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.


VANIER: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier and we will be back with the headlines in just a moment.