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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. and Japan Strengthening Bonds; Tornado Ripped Midwestern U.S.; Controversial Pardon for a U.S. Navy SEAL; Faith Kept a Lost Hiker Alive; U.S. and Japan with Ironclad Bond Despite Differences; Theresa May to Step Down as Prime Minister; European Parliament Election Breaks 25 Years Voter Turnout. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 27, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We are following the breaking news in Tokyo. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump say they discussed North Korea, economy issues and many other topics.

Welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church.

They also looked at the stability of the Indo-Pacific region during their bilateral summit talk just a short time ago.

HOWELL: At the joint news conference they also announced their two countries will cooperate on human space travel and also bring home Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

President Trump made a special point to call out the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his remarks as well. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The essence of our approach is peace through strength. And this is a strong alliance indeed, the U.S./Japan alliance is steadfast and ironclad. We want peace and we want stability.

We continue to hope that Chairman Kim sees as the opportunity to transform his country through denuclearization. It is a country with tremendous economic and other potential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Prime Minister Abe says President Trump supports his decision to hold candid talks with the North Korean leader. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I have to directly see Chairman Kim face to face without attaching any conditions. I meet him and then frankly, and I must have discussion in complete candor.

At the summit talk today, to my resolution as such, President Trump expressed that he will give all out support. He will spare no efforts in rendering assistance to my efforts. It was a very strong support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Now, before the news conference, the two leaders and their wives held an emotional meeting with the families of Japanese citizens who have been abducted by North Korea. Mr. Abe says bringing them home is his top priority.

HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is following this story live at this hour in Tokyo. Again, good to have you with us.

Again, we saw these two leaders on stage putting forward a show of an alliance that is as described by the U.S. president steadfast and ironclad. Mr. Shinzo Abe describing it as an unshakable bond. But beneath the surface there does seem to be some daylight, Ivan, between the two leaders on the issue of security and on trade.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this is a very strong alliance. Let's put this in a perspective. You've got some 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan. The two leaders will be going to visit Yokosuka Naval Base, that's a U.S. navy base here in Japan, on Tuesday before President Trump departs.

That said, they do have differing views on a couple of issues and that came out in this press conference. The Japanese prime minister, for instance, saying that North Korea's launch on May 9th of two short range ballistic missiles was definitely a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

We've heard on Saturday the White House's national security advisor John Bolton say the same. President Trump standing side by side with the Japanese prime minister disagreed, saying that those missile launches didn't bother him, that he believes that the North Korean dictator wants to make a deal and sees that there could be tremendous economic -- a tremendous economic future for North Korea if it gives up its nuclear weapons.

Though they disagree on that issue of whether or not United Nation's Security Council violations were violated with those ballistic missile launches on May 9th, the Japanese prime minister applauded the U.S. president for his new approach, as he put it, to Pyongyang, saying that President Trump succeeded in cracking the shell of distrust by meeting now twice face to face with the North Korean dictator, and also thanked President Trump for raising the issue of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea in those face-to-face negotiations. George?

HOWELL: Ivan, just a bit more as well, on the issue of trade, Mr. Trump pointing out that there is new investment in the U.S. coming from Japan and he has optimism that U.S. exports will gain ground in that country.

[03:05:07] WATSON: That's right. And Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister said that in a span of about a month between the last meeting and the current meeting between these two leaders that Japanese companies had invested a billion dollars in the U.S. economy.

President Trump continues to draw attention to what he says is the unfair, as he puts it, a trade imbalance between the U.S. and Japan, but he expressed optimism that this would be addressed in the coming months in negotiations between the two governments.

The U.S. wants to open up Japanese markets to U.S. agriculture, for example. Japan, for its part, does not want the U.S. to impose tariffs on Japanese exports of auto parts and vehicles to the U.S.

And we'll just have to see if they can come to some kind of an agreement. What we've heard during the course of this visit here was that President Trump has postponed talks of trying to reach some kind of a bilateral trade agreement until after upper house elections are to take place here in July.

And I see that as a concession to his Japanese ally to let the Japanese political cycle move forward before perhaps Japan will make some concessions or will be asked to make some concessions to try to balance the trade surplus between the world's first and third largest economies.

HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson has been following this and he's live in Tokyo. Ivan, thank you.

CHURCH: And Natasha Lindstaedt is a professor of government at the University of Essex. She joins us now from Colchester in England. Good to have you with us.

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: So, we just heard from both President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at their joint news conference. Both leaders insisting their bond is unshakable and ironclad, but differences clearly persist, don't they, particularly on the issue of North Korea with Mr. Trump down playing the recent North Korean missile launch. How problematic could this prove to be for their relationship going forward do you think?

LINDSTAEDT: It's hard to say because they did put on a great show. I mean, I think both leaders really wanted to show to the world that they have a very strong personal bond and that the U.S./Japanese relationship is supposedly stronger than ever.

So they were very careful to highlight the areas of cooperation, the fact that the U.S. would be receiving a lot of foreign direct investment from Japan, that the Japanese would be buying a lot of military equipment from the U.S., and in turn that the U.S. would put more of a focus, at least going more directly with the North Koreans about the abduction of Japanese citizens. But it was also clear from this press conference that there were

cracks, that there were issues. They really were not on the same page about how to deal with North Korea.

And as the report already mentioned, they were talking about the fact that the Japanese see this as a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution and Trump sort of dismissed it as this really isn't very important.

But the Japanese prime minister was very clear to keep pointing out that he thinks that Trump's strategy, his new tact might work that there may need to be some patience with this, but I think he's just trying to apply a little bit more pressure on Trump to not be duped by North Korea and really be easily over -- to easily pushed by the North Korean dictator in thinking that their personal relationship is really more important than some of these really important security issues.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, he's very careful there, though, isn't he, the Japanese leader. It's a delicate issue for him not to push Mr. Trump too far.

We saw the two leaders meeting with the families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. Japan wants those people return clearly and sees this as the most important issue for the Abe government.

But what role might Mr. Trump be able to play in this despite the fact that when it comes to these missile launches they have very different views?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, I think the missile launching is really, really important still to the North Korean regime, to maintain its own internal stability. The North Korean leader needs to prove to his legion to his countrymen that he's willing to take a strong stance against the world and that he is not being affected by international pressure.

[03:10:05] But possibly the issue of the abductions is something where Trump might be able to make some inroads. I mean, he was able to return the body of Otto Warmbier. And there's possibly, you know, this chance that he's going to be able to influence Kim to do the same for some of these abductions that had taken place, that they are going to be able to make some improvements in that area because there is this personal relationship.

But, thus far, Trump hasn't really been able to do much in terms of getting Kim Jong-un to stop some of this missile testing.

CHURCH: All right. Still a lot to discuss. We could keep going for hours. But we'll leave it there. Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you so much for your analysis. We do appreciate it.

LINDSTAEDT: Thank you for having me.

HOWELL: All right. In other news we're following around the world, voters send a message to Europe's centrist parties. They lose some ground at the ballot box with results showing fragmented European Parliament.

CHURCH: And the race to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May is heating up. And with Brexit looming, a number of conservatives say they are up for the challenge of a lifetime. We'll take a look at who the front runner might be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:15:00] (WORLD SPORTS)

CHURCH: Well, the votes are in for the biggest multi-country election in the world. More than 100 million people from 28 European countries have chosen representatives to the European Parliament.

HOWELL: Europe's centrist parties lost ground in the European Parliament elections. Nationalists made strong gains in some countries, but overall Europe's populist surge appears to have stalled as millions of voters backed pro-E.U. parties instead.

CHURCH: Yes. Voter turnout was the highest it's been in 25 years at 50.5 percent. Green parties picked up votes across Europe, finishing second in Germany.

HOWELL: Italy's anti-immigrant league, the party of the Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was leading the Italian vote. After speaking with France's Nationalist's Marine Le Pen and Hungary's Viktor Orban, Salvini said the vote allows them to try to change Europe.

Britain's vote was also viewed as a referendum on the two main parties, the conservatives and Labour. Nigel Farage's new Brexit party came out on top there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIGEL FARAGE, Brexit PARTY LEADER: If we don't think October 31st then the scores you've seen for the Brexit Party today will be repeated in a general election and we are getting ready for it. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And Greece's leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras called snap elections for next month after a resounding defeat.

Well, years of declining voter turnout came to an end Sunday signaling a renewed interest in European Union policies.

HOWELL: That's right. Our Erin McLaughlin has our overview from Brussels.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, big headlines here at the European Parliament election center was voter turnout. Voter turnout came in at a whopping 50.5 percent, an 8 percent gain on voter turnout from 2014 and the first time in the history of these elections that voter turnout actually increased. They've been on a steady decline first since the elections first happened in 1979. It was a figure I can tell you that will be leave many E.U. officials pleased. Voter turnout, low voter turnout long been seen as a signal of voter apathy.

This showing that Europeans are more enthusiastic about these elections.

Other major headlines from the evening the so-called grand coalition comprised of center right, center left parties for the first time lost its majority.

Now, to put this in perspective, between 2014 and 2019, 74 percent of the legislation that made its way through European Parliament was passed because of the grand coalition. Well, that coalition is grand no more. Now those parties are going to have to be looking at smaller groupings for some sort of coalition to be able to pass legislation.

We've seen big gains from the liberals, the ALDE and the (Inaudible) grouping. We've also seen gains by the Eurosceptics. Strong gains in some areas, but overall this is very much a pro-European European Parliament.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.

HOWELL: Erin there with the reporting. Thank you.

And now for perspective, let's bring in CNN's European affair's commentator Dominic Thomas. Dominic joining us this hour from Berlin. Good to have you, Dominic.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

HOWELL: On Erin's point there, despite the gains in far right in populist parties, Erin points out it is still a pro-European European Parliament. What is your sense of the European project?

THOMAS: Well, I think the European project is in a healthy situation. If you just look back to five years ago, all the things that have happened and have transformed the conversation about Europe, the migrant crisis had not happened, the Brexit referendum had not taken place and President Trump himself had not been elected.

All of those factors, including the critique of the European Union by President Trump, has led to a kind of greater mobilization and conversation about what Europe does. The Brexit saga continues. And I think the European Union has come away from this looking rather reasonable compared to the discussions that took place across the channel.

I think that even though the far-right parties, the populists have been so much part of the conversation, what we see ultimately is a shift towards better representation in the European Parliament, including the Greens, the liberals and so on, which breaks this 40- year grand coalition. [03:20:00] And so, in many ways, the European Union is catching up

with what's been going on for the last five years in the European countries throughout the union where elections have returned coalition governments, a proliferation of smaller political parties and has also seen mainstream parties become weaker and weaker. And so, all in all, I think it's a good thing for Europe.

HOWELL: One of the key leaders, though, of the European project, certainly, Emmanuel Macron, he did see Marine Le Pen gain ground in France.

THOMAS: You're absolutely right. With Marine Le Pen, the situation is interesting. Yet again, back in 2014, what was then the Front National that is now become Rassemblement National. The party has changed its name. It came first once again. But it's still a party that is only scoring somewhere around 25 percent.

And I think with all that's been going on in France with the Yellow Jackets and the widespread opposition to Emmanuel Macron's policies, when the dust settles, I think that all in all he performed rather well. There is opposition in the form of Marine Le Pen but there's no other major political group that emerged from these elections that threatens Emmanuel Macron's project for greater European integration.

And so, I think that all in all he will interpret this as a relatively favorable outcome.

HOWELL: Dominic, you describe some of the issues that challenge the European Union in the past. So, looking ahead, what are some of the issues, the topics that will define the E.U. moving ahead?

THOMAS: Well, it's clear that the way that the Greens performed, not just in Germany but in France as well means that the European Union must take very seriously the question of climate and global warming and so on. This is an issue that has been discussed for a long time in Europe.

We're beginning to see a younger generation increasingly mobilized around these particular questions. And so that's something it's going to have to take into consideration.

It also cannot ignore the role that the far right and the appeal of the far right in different countries. Now, these are not united groups. The situation in Italy is not the same as the Brexit of Britain nor the situation in France. But the fact remains that the European Union has to find a way to deal with some of the grievances and some of the ways in which these populist and far right parties have been able to appeal to the European Union.

And so, the fact that they will be forced now to engage in discussions and negotiations as they legislate on every single issue and only improve the situation in the European Union that is often criticized from being distant and aloof and way too controlling. And in many ways, the grand coalition perpetuated that perception of the European Union.

HOWELL: Dominic Thomas giving us the context and perspective on what we saw with this election. Dominic, thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, British Prime Minister Theresa May will step down as her party's leader next week. So far eight members of her conservative party have announced their bids to succeed her as prime minister. And the winner will shape the future of Brexit.

HOWELL: That's right. Several candidates are in favor of leaving the E.U. with or without a Brexit deal. A hard Brexit like the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who is considered the front runner. But others say they won't consider Brexit without a deal in place.

CHURCH: CNN's Phil Black is in London right out the front of 10 Downing Street. He joins us now live. Good to see you, Phil. So, eight conservatives lining up to replace Theresa May with Boris Johnson in the lead for now at least. What's the latest on this leadership battle and of course the challenges that still exist with Brexit and where that might go?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I think the results that you've been talking about from the European Parliamentary elections are going to be key in shaping the coming leadership contest for the conservative party, because they performed appallingly. It was a historically terrible election result for the conservative party in these European Parliamentary elections. They came in at fifth place.

Now, this was a hit that many in the party saw coming. It was one of the reasons why Theresa May was essentially ousted as leader last week, why so many finally within the party finally decided that it was time for her to go and Theresa May finally accepted that fact.

What it means is that in this coming contest you are likely to see something of an effort by all the candidates to prove that they walk and talk the toughest when it comes to Brexit, that they are going to be toughest in dealing with the European Union in perhaps trying to secure a better exit deal or that they are willing to accept. Perhaps even enthusiastically embrace the possibility of walking away from the European Union without any deal in place when that next Brexit deadline kicks in, which is the end of October.

[03:25:04] You're already seeing that in the contest and you're already seeing over the course of the weekend more of these leading candidates going out of their way to prove that they are willing to show that they are toughest on this subject.

Because as the European Parliamentary election result show, well, they fear, in the words of Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, one of the leading leadership contenders that this is now an existential threat for the conservative party, at least when it comes to domestic publics, because they fear and perhaps rightly so that should those same results in the parliamentary election reoccur in a general election here, well, the party could be wiped out entirely. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And so, Phil, how might the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn play into this leadership battle within the conservative party and of course the challenges that Brexit poses, because the Labour Party does not want to see a hard exit from the European Union, does it?

BLACK: It does not want to see a hard exit from the European Union, it does want a general election in this country as soon as possible. They have done for a long time because they can sniff the potential for victory, but Labour is also a party that is somewhat in crisis over Brexit, again especially following its results in the European Parliamentary elections.

Because, it too was punished by voters. It too performed much more poorly than it has historically and it is seen as punishment by voters because labor has tried to maintain a let's try and please everybody policy on Brexit where essentially talking about one thing to deliver its own vision of Brexit but at the same time still floating the possibility of a referendum on the subject.

They are still trying to maintain some sort of attraction towards people who don't want Brexit at all at a time when its overwhelming membership. And the view of that membership is very much pro-European. So, you can expect to see a lot of debate within the opposition Labour Party in the coming days over its Brexit policy.

And indeed, there has already been something of a fracturing overnight as these European Parliamentary results come in. A demand that Labour does finally look at this and does finally perhaps consider the possibility of openly adapting an unequivocal position in favor of a further referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union. Rosemary?

CHURCH: We'll be watching very closely to see what happens here with Brexit and of course the leadership of the conservative party. Our Phil Black out in front of 10 Downing Street bringing us the very latest on both those subjects. Many thanks.

HOWELL: And here in the United States deadly weather hitting the Midwest part of the country. A tornado destroys everything in its path, touching down in the State of Oklahoma. That story ahead as Newsroom pushes on. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:30:00]

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church. We want to check the headlines for you this hour.

HOWELL: The centrist parties lost seats to populists and nationalist parties in European Parliamentary elections. But the far-right gains were not as large as expected. Pro-European parties will hold the majority there. Voter turnout was the highest in 25 years.

CHURCH: Iran's foreign minister says Iran has proposed signing a non- aggression pact with its neighboring Gulf countries. That's according to Iran's state-run news agency. The comments follow a meeting with his counterpart in Baghdad and come after weeks of rising tensions between Iran and the U.S.

HOWELL: We've been following live events here on the show. In Tokyo, Japan, the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe and the U.S. President, Donald Trump met and they say they discussed North Korea, they discussed economic relations and the stability of the Indo-Pacific region during their bilateral summit talks.

Just a short time ago, they also announced their two countries will cooperate on human space travel and also work to bring home Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

Let's talk more about all of this now with James Boys. James is a political analyst and professor of international politics -- political studies, rather, joining this hour from London. It's always good to have you on the show.

JAMES BOYS, POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, George. Good morning.

HOWELL: Good to be with you. So, look, we saw the leaders of these two countries present a front that there is a close unwavering bond, an alliance between the United States and Japan, but again the issues of trade and security, there was some daylight that seemed to be apparent.

BOYS: Yes. Let's be honest about it. The United States and Japan have had a very close relationship, an alliance for many decades now. And as we discussed some days ago, the issues of trade and national security were always going to dominate this trip.

When you look at issues to do with North Korea, for example, and the suggestion that Donald Trump is in some disagreement with perhaps John Bolton and the United States' position with regard to issues to do with missile testing, there's clearly some daylight there.

I think it was notable that the president was asked about that as he left the room and seemed to indicate that there was actually no disagreement, which of course seems to be a complete contradiction.

But you have to say I think the White House will be very pleased with the way this trip is going. The optics look very good. There are some very interesting developments coming out of this trip, the sale of 105 F-35 Stealth aircraft and new access to the Japanese markets for U.S. beef.

So, so far, I think the White House will be very pleased with how this trip is going.

HOWELL: Let's talk about that. Again, so from the Japanese perspective, we did see the Japanese prime minister roll out the red carpet here. Would you say that this really worked well for Japan?

BOYS: Well, so far you have to say that again from both sides, from the Japanese and the American point of view, this looks like a very well organized, orchestrated trip. I think what you've seen is a clear recognition by the Japanese leadership that personal flattery works very well with this president. That shouldn't be any great surprise.

The way in which Donald Trump has conducted himself in many ways is not dissimilar from how it is that many American presidents have acted in the past. When they find themselves perhaps under siege or under attack at home, they travel overseas and are welcomed as statesman. And I think we see that with this president here.

[03:35:01] From a Japanese point of view, I think they are going to be very happy to have access to the American latest stealth technology. The announcement that the Americans and the Japanese are going to be going into the man's space operation will be a remarkable step forward. I think bringing both American and Japanese technology into the final frontier. So, it's an interesting development coming out of this trip I think, which many people didn't foresee.

HOWELL: All right. And two other issues I'd like to bring to the fore. So, the two leaders also spoke about the trade war that's happening between the United States and Japan saying that is affecting Japan. They also spoke -- Mr. Trump pointed out that, you know, Japan has a relationship with Iran and perhaps Japan could play a role in helping to ease the tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

BOYS: Yes. It's interesting both points, isn't it? It was only it seems like yesterday, although I'm sure it was more that than, of course the United States had very grave concerns about the Japanese penetration of the American market. Now of course those concerns have been switched to China.

The extent to which the United States really wants to get a good trade balance with both nations. That's going to be very, very difficult to achieve, I think. Donald Trump, I think is finding that it's a lot easier to walk away from agreed upon trade deals, as that was agreed by Barack Obama, for example, than it is to strike new deals.

And we've heard that there are going to be delays with regard to that, with regard to the Japanese domestic political calendar. If indeed Japan can come around and play a role with regard to helping negotiate a deal with the Iranians -- and it's notable that Donald Trump of course makes -- specifically said they weren't seeking regime change in Tehran, then that I think would be a very positive step forward in that part of the world.

HOWELL: James Boys, we always appreciate your time and perspective. Thank you.

BOYS: Thank you, George.

CHURCH: A powerful earthquake that rattled the nation of Peru has left behind a trail of destruction. The magnitude 8.0 earthquake damaged several roads, houses and other buildings.

HOWELL: At least one person died, 11 others injured across the country. And in neighboring Ecuador another seven people were hurt. Officials there are still evaluating the damage.

More destructive weather hit the Midwestern part of the United States. Very hard. Take a look at these images here in El Reno, Oklahoma.

CHURCH: Yes. And as a result, two people were killed in Oklahoma late Saturday as a twister tore through the heart of the state.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is there.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many people hear in this Oklahoma community still dealing with the aftermath of a deadly tornado that ripped through in a matter of minutes.

There are two places in particular that were really destroyed. One, a mobile home park. Literally, the tornado was so strong it lifted up entire trailers and slammed them back on the ground. At least two people killed there.

And the other set of images we have seen that are just throwing come from a hotel. And really there's no other word to describe it other than decimated.

And as you see those images, believe it or not, there are people that survived to that, were inside that hotel when the tornado came through. We spoke to one of them, who told us that he went to bed like any other the night before and then a little bit later in the evening he woke up when his windows were rattling. They later shattered, so he dove under the bed.

And just a few moments later the entire roof came crashing down. He said if it weren't for the bed next to providing support, he would have been completely crushed. He was able to crawl out of that rubble with nothing on except for shorts, no shirt, no shoes, and into the pitch-black darkness until emergency responders arrived.

Now we got more details about this tornado over the course of Sunday. The National Weather Service saying this was classified as an EF three tornado, five being the most severe. It was on the ground for just a matter of four minutes and you see how much destruction it actually brought through.

And let's remember, this didn't just happen in a vacuum. It comes on a tail end of a week where we have seen deadly tornados, a week where we have seen high flood waters and a week where we have seen plenty of high water rescues including here in the El Reno area.

The mayor telling us they conducted about 46 high water rescues just days ago. And here we are days later on the scene of a deadly tornado.

Omar Jimenez, CN, El Reno, Oklahoma.

CHURCH: We want to go to our meteorologist now. Karen Maginnis joins us with more on this.

And when you look at the extent of the damage it is extraordinary that the casualty numbers are not a lot higher than what they are.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. And an EF three tornado has winds roughly between 136 to 165 miles per hour. That's stronger than what you would get in a hurricane or most hurricanes.

[03:40:01] But surprisingly, only about 5 percent of all tornados ever register at EF five or EF three. But we certainly have seen quite a number of tornados right smack across the nation's midsection, typically thought of as Tornado Alley.

More than 260 tornadoes reported in just the past 11 days. Now right across the United States for the entire year, we typically see about 1,000 to about 1,200 tornados. But in this particular instance an EF three tornado just over central sections of Oklahoma.

But we're not finished yet. This area of low pressure is going to lift towards the north. As it does lift, that's when we'll start to see the risk of tornadic activity into the lower Great Lakes and into Nebraska.

And we're not finished yet. We've got another round of severe weather as an area of low pressure ejects out of the Rockies into the central plains again. That return flow of warm, moist, unstable air. We've got a jet stream. Also, we've got that cooler, drier air behind it and the prime ingredients for tornadic activity to develop once again.

So, severe storms in the forecast with a very dynamic system that is keeping things going over the next couple of days.

In association with that, a ridge of high pressure across the Southeastern United States is producing record setting temperatures like we haven't seen in quite some time.

All right. We go from Chicago to Indianapolis, this on Memorial Day. If you had picnic plans, well, the whole day is not going to be ruined, but you certainly risk the -- certainly, the potential for tornadic activity, also into Nebraska.

But we've got millions of people expected to see that risk of tornadoes, high winds and hail. And then going into Tuesday it's just a little bit further towards the east. We're looking all the way from Des Moines to St. Louis, Oklahoma City, down across north central Texas could see a risk of tornadoes there as well.

This is the latest radar imagery. Lots of violent winds being reported. Some of the highest wind gusts we've seen occurred right around Wichita. Wichita by the way, has seen staggering rainfall totals, about 11 inches of rainfall just for the month.

Now we go downstream. And this in the Arkansas River, we go from Oklahoma into Arkansas. And look what happens. Going into Tuesday overnight and then into Wednesday we could see epic flooding.

Now they're saying the army corps of engineers they're checking out the levees. They're sending in troops to make sure that everything remains peaceful here as those water levels continue to rise. But it looks like late Tuesday into Wednesday we could see the river rise in Van Buren and in Little Rock into 42.5 feet above flood stage. It has never reached those levels. But Rosemary and George, they're saying that they think that the levees are going to be able to hold it back but they're still looking at three to five inches of rainfall over the next several days.

HOWELL: The rainfall, you know, the tornadoes. Karen, I'm reminded of the tornado outbreak of 2013. You remember that, I remember covering it there. You know, the more tornadoes that destroyed the school on May 20th of 2013 and then the May 31st tornado in El Reno, an EF five -- we're seeing the same type of pattern play out again.

CHURCH: A real worry.

MAGINNIS: Exactly the same type of pattern

CHURCH: Yes.

HOWELL: All right. Karen, thank you.

CHURCH: Thank you.

Well, President Trump is under pressure to pardon a U.S. Navy SEAL accused of war crimes. We look at links between the president and Eddie Gallagher's legal team. That's coming away in just a moment.

[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: It is Memorial Day here in the United States, the holiday honoring fallen U.S. troops.

CHURCH: Yes. And President Trump is said to have considered marking the day by pardoning a U.S. Navy SEAL accused of war crimes.

Here's our Nick Watt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE GALLAGHER, U.S. NAVY SEAL: I'm innocent. I love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Field Chief Eddie Gallagher, war hero held in shackles unfairly, or war criminal, premeditated murderer, facing the punishment he deserves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometimes, they get really treated very unfairly.

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WATT: President Trump was reportedly considering a pretrial Memorial Day pardon for Gallagher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: It's a little bit controversial. It's very possible that I'll let the trials go on and I'll make my decision after the trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Gallagher's court martial is scheduled to begin June 10th. Prosecutors say in 2017 while stationed in Mosul he shot civilians, stabbed a wounded ISIS fighter to death, took a photo with the corpse and sent it to friends. In an almost unheard-of move, members of his own platoon went around commanders turned him in. Gallagher denies all wrongdoing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how do you explain the texts that he sent the messages sent to people, like this one "with my hunting knife, I got my knife skills on"? How do you explain that?

TIM PARLATORE, EDDIE GALLAGHER'S ATTORNEY: That's a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did that mean? A funny joke?

PARLATORE: Well, to guys on the SEAL teams, yes. It's dark humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine what a modern war hero would be, it'd be Eddie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Some suggest the president is feeling pressure to pardon from TV hosts, supporters, perhaps even his own lawyer all of whom have rallied around this navy SEAL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE HEGSETH, FOX NEWS HOST: Including the murder of an ISIS dirt bag.

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WATT: Fox News host Pete Hegseth has been publicly banging the drum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEGSETH: Your message to army leader -- you know, navy leadership to the president to those that have the power to review this case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, something needs to be done. This has to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: A person familiar with the conversation tells CNN Hegseth also privately petitioned the president to issue a pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PARLATORE: I didn't ask him. If he's doing that, I don't have a

problem with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Tim Parlatore, Gallagher's lead attorney has also represented Hegseth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was nothing to do with you getting involved in this case?

PARLATORE: No, he was not. I was recommended to this case by Commissioner Kerik.

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WATT: Commissioner Kerik is Bernie Kerik, Trump accolade, Fox News guest, former cop of New York City and convicted tax evader. A source tells CNN Kerik also recruited Marc Mukasey to the case. He is a Trump organization attorney currently fighting congressional subpoenas for the president's financial records.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that not a conflict of interest?

PARLATORE: You want to make a motion on that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Gallagher's wife who's been campaigning on Capitol Hill for help says she didn't know about Kerik and Mukasey's connections to Trump when they joined the defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA GALLAGHER, EDDIE GALLAGHER'S WIFE: Had nothing to do with presidential intervention or pardons. It is coincidental at most.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Free Eddie.

E. GALLAGHER: See you, guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Gallagher's lawyer claims none of these people have spoken to the president about the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARLATORE: If the president chooses to act, it will be on his own. We haven't had any communications.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [03:50:00] WATT: But we know the president watches Fox where Gallagher has been defended repeatedly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got him in with rapists, they got him in with pedophiles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Shortly after that comment the president tweeted "Eddie Gallagher will soon be moved to less confinement." Tagging Fox and Friends. Gallagher was moved hours later. Now Trump is considering a pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: In order for the president to do that we want them to have had a considered review, to go through factors, we don't want a president to just turn on the TV think something is a good idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Our Nick Watt reporting there. We'll be right back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: It's an amazing story. She survived alone in a Hawaiian forest for two weeks.

HOWELL: That's right. And now Amanda Eller wants to thank everyone who helped find her.

Our Paul Vercammen reports.

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AMANDA ELLER, RESCUED HIKER: The last 17 days of my life have been the toughest days of my life. It's been a really significant spiritual journey that I was guided on.

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PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A voyage Amanda Eller described with her ecstatic boyfriend in here hospital bed.

[03:54:57] ELLER: There were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up. And it did come down to life and death and I had to choose. And I chose life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: Eller got spotted by rescuers in a helicopter and hoisted out of peril in this lush Maui paradise Friday. Eller lost her shoes set out to dry in a flash flood. Lost her ability to walk properly when she broke a bone in her leg. But hope was not lost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was not expected. That was not expected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can cry now. It's awesome, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Indeed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a good Memorial Day now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was bawling like a baby.

ELLER: Seeing the way that the community of Maui came together, people that know me, people that don't know me all came together just under the idea of helping one person make it out of the woods alive. It just warms my heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: This yoga instructor and physical therapist shed almost a pound a day for each day she went missing, 15 pounds total. Her doctor expressed surprise and relief at how well she looked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZORA BULATOVIC, PHYSICIAN, MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Tears escape down because you know, we all been following her story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: This physician explained how this model patient survived on river water and what food she could pick.

BULATOVIC: Eating fresh fruits from the trees, trying to keep her nutrition up. So, she was very well educated in that and she knew exactly what to take and managed to stay well hydrated.

JULIA ELLER, AMANDA ELLER'S MOTHER: She's a trouper. She's a real warrior. I had no doubt if anybody could make it through, it was her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Amanda Eller fought for her life and won armed with undying spirit and true grit.

Paul Vercammen, CNN, Los Angeles.

CHURCH: What an incredible outcome there.

HOWELL: Yes.

CHURCH: Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell.

The news continues here on CNN right after the break.

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END