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Tornado Outbreak Wreaks Havoc from Kansas to PA; Oklahoma & Arkansas Brace for Record-Breaking Floods; 2020 Hopefuls: McConnell Overstepping on SCOTUS Vacancies; GOP Congressman Stands by Impeachment Comments at Town Hall; Biden Campaign Rips Trump for Siding with Kim Jong-un; Netanyahu Struggles to Form Government, New Election Looms; Nepal Considers Limiting Mt. Everest Permits After 11 Deaths. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 29, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Devastation. World War 3.

[05:59:40] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rounds of relentless storms are showing no sign of letting up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing left of that house. Just crumbled completely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It ripped the roof off. And I was just holding my kids as tight as I could.

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): Clearly, things that violate the public trust are impeachable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is putting his job on the line to hold the president to account.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can you become a Democrat when we voted for you as a Republican?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Justin Amash alone. Where is anybody else within the Republican conference?


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, May 29, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And we do start with breaking news for you. Because more than 39 million people face the threat of tornadoes today. That's from Dallas to Pennsylvania and even places that rarely experience tornadoes like Washington, D.C., New Jersey, even New York City are on alert.

Tornadoes have hit the United States for 13 consecutive days, which is highly unusual. The latest twister wreaked havoc in the Kansas City area. You can check out this massive cloud. This is in Linwood, Kansas. The area no match for this monster storm. From the mayor there tells CNN that dozens of homes are, quote, "all gone."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The other severe weather threat: historic flooding in Arkansas and Oklahoma. More rain expected to fall on the Arkansas River, which is reaching levels that have not been seen in decades. Hundreds of homes have already been flooded near Tulsa. We're hearing of two levees already being topped in Arkansas. We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Scott McLean. He is live in Linwood, Kansas, surveying the damage there. Scott, what do you see?


We don't know exactly how long this tornado was on the ground for. But we know that it was long enough to do a heck of a lot of damage. This was an EF-3, meaning wind speeds more than 136 miles per hour.

Now, if there is any good news here, it's that we are in a lesser populated area just on the outskirts of Linwood, Kansas, where it is hard to believe that, under this pile of wood and debris, well, that is somebody's house. That is what is left of their belongings.

You can see over here, this might have been the garage, but it's hard to tell. We think that there was also a house back there that was destroyed.

And check out that tree, just completely snapped in half. And let me show you, over here, as well. You can see this tree, this row of trees really completely snapped and then look at this. This is an RV that has been completely turned over upside-down. We don't know where it was, where it came from, how it got there. But it gives you a sense of just how strong this storm was.

Now, May is typically the worst month for tornadoes. This May has been especially bad.


MCLEAN (voice-over): Severe storms sweeping through the Midwest and heartland to the East Coast, hammering millions and leaving behind a path of destruction, the 13th day in a row that tornadoes have touched down in the United States. A large and powerful tornado ripping through the Kansas City area on Tuesday night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing left of that house. Just crumbled completely.

MCLEAN: The storm creating a heartbreaking reality for many residents here, completely stripping the side of this house, its bed and bathroom now visible from the sidewalk. This father's home levelled but grateful to have survived the storm with his family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were underneath the one part of the house that can't get taken. I feel lucky I'm alive. So I mean, how much luckier can you be? MCLEAN: Take a look from above, a bird's eye view inside ruined

homes. The storm ravaging Douglas County, Kansas, injuring at least 12 people and destroying stretches of homes and businesses, leaving behind giant piles of debris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just imagine what the people inside of that house went through.

MCLEAN: Another tornado confirmed overnight in Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what I thought was leaves circling was actually shingles.

MCLEAN: Ripping through this town, uprooting trees and damaging several homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you drive around and see the destruction, you really realize how lucky we are that nobody was hurt.

MCLEAN: The cleanup is just beginning in the Dayton area after Monday's devastating tornadoes. The rebuilding there could take years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Devastation. World War 3. It's tough.

MCLEAN: At least eight confirmed tornadoes touching down in Ohio this week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just came through like a freight train, and it seemed like it lasted forever. I was just holding my kids as tight as I could.

MCLEAN: The storm gutting this home with its ceiling fan still holding onto what's left of the structure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went through, looked at house after house. And you wonder how anybody came out of those houses alive.


MCLEAN: Now, at last count there were 5,000 people in this area still without power from last night. Luckily, this tornado seemed to break apart before it reached the Kansas City area.

But sirens did go off there. We could hear them from our hotel on the north end of town. There were also alerts and warnings sent out on people's phones, as well.

The airport, people there, they were actually sheltering in tunnels under the parking garage. The runway was also closed off for some time because of the debris that was landing on it, they think, from this area about 50 miles away. They were finding parts of houses, even kitchen items that had ended up on that runway. It took them more than four hours to get back to normal. For the people here, though, obviously, Alisyn, normal is still a very, very long way off.

[06:05:12] CAMEROTA: Absolutely. We can see that behind you.

Scott, thank you very much for all that reporting from the ground. Emergency officials are keeping an eye on the Arkansas River, which is expected to crest at record levels today. The historic flooding is testing levees and putting communities in Arkansas and Oklahoma on high alert.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Tulsa with more. What are they expecting there today, Ed?


Well, residents here in eastern Oklahoma and in the Fort Smith, Arkansas, area watching the skies today, waiting to see what kind of rainfall will come. And depending on where the rainfall lands will really kind of dictate just how much worse this flooding is going to be. So it's really kind of hard to pinpoint at this point.

All of the water along the Arkansas River being released from the Keystone Dam. Right now, about 275,000 cubic feet of water being released per second. That's the equivalent of three Olympic-sized pools coming out of those flood gates every second. And we are standing on the edge of the Arkansas River here in Tulsa.

In the microphone here, you might be able to hear just the rapid roar of this river and the intensity of this current, that it is flowing downstream from Tulsa all the way to Fort Smith, Arkansas. And that is really wreaking havoc in many communities, the small communities between those two cities.

So residents along here say they are preparing for the worst. Emergency officials have been urging people to be ready to move quickly if need be.

The good news is, is that the mayor of Tulsa is saying that the levees are withstanding the pressure of all this water very well. So there haven't been any reports of damages to the levees and that sort of thing. So that is the good news as people here wait to see how much rain is going to fall -- John and Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. Ed Lavandera in Tulsa. Ed, we can absolutely hear the water rushing behind you. Please be careful there.

Overnight Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear he will be bound by nothing, including his own precedent, when deciding whether to confirm a Supreme Court nominee during an election year. This is what he said overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a Supreme Court justice was to die next year, what would you do?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I would fill it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: You hear the laugh there?

This will be news to Merrick Garland. In a far cry from what McConnell said in 2016 when then President Obama nominated Garland during an election year.


MCCONNELL: All we are doing, Chris, is following a longstanding tradition of not filling vacancies on the Supreme Court in the middle of a presidential election year.


BERMAN: So a spokesman for McConnell says the difference now, compared to three years ago, is that in 2016 the White House was controlled by a Democrat, the Senate by Republicans. This time, both the White House and Senate are controlled by the GOP.

Plenty of Democrats are slamming McConnell as a hypocrite, including much of the 2020 Democratic field.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he also said he will fill it, but that actually is the job of the president of the United States, not Mitch McConnell. So we also have to do a little history about the division of responsibilities between the United States Congress and the executive branch.

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. I want to believe that it's a nonpolitical organization and that politics are checked at the door of the courthouse. But when you're seeing things like that and hearing things like that from Senator McConnell, that's no longer the case. And we could and should do better.


BERMAN: Look, it was a sham when McConnell claimed there was an historical precedent to not confirm someone in 2016. He said there's a long tradition. There was no tradition of it.

The issue is, is that Mitch McConnell is going to do what he can. The strong do as they will. The weak suffer as they must, as Thucydides said. And he's going to -- he's going to get it done.

CAMEROTA: Obviously. I mean, proudly. He's boldly saying that. And of course, how can people not see it as hypocrisy when they're changing their own equation midstream.

BERMAN: And I will say this. I'll say there's every reason to expect that if, for some reason, a Democrat does take the White House and Republicans maintain control of the Senate, if a Democrat nominates a justice, there's no reason to think McConnell will confirm that justice in year one -- CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

BERMAN: -- of an administration.

CAMEROTA: Great point, absolutely.

All right. Meanwhile, listen to this. Michigan Congressman Justin Amash hosting his first town hall since becoming the sole Republican in Congress to say that President Trump committed impeachable offenses. How did that go over with his constituents? Well, you can see last night, Amash got a standing ovation.


AMASH: Thank you. Thanks.


CAMEROTA: He says many of his fellow Republicans believe he is right but will not say it publicly. Amash told his audience that Congress cannot be passive observers. He also says that he heard from critics.


AMASH: Robert Mueller very clearly identifies and analyzes a number of instances, several instances of obstruction of justice. He really left it to Congress to come to a determination on these issues.

[06:10:12] I think it's really important that we do our job as a Congress, that we not allow misconduct to go undeterred, that we not just say someone can violate the public trust and that there are no consequences to it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been your supporter since you started running for Congress. And I can't even tell you how disappointed I am. How can you become a Democrat when we voted for you as a Republican? Because you just drink the same Kool-Aid as all the Democrats.


CAMEROTA: I want to hear the answer to that. That was a tease.

CNN's Haley Byrd was at Amash's town hall last night. She is live for us in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So Hailey, what did you make of the reception that he got last night?

HALEY BYRD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So it was really interesting. I think a lot of people expected this town hall to be a lot like the, you know, outrage and furor over the town halls during the health care debate in 2017. And so people expected people to come into this and sort of harass Amash over this stance that he's taken.

But instead, he was greeted with this standing ovation, and the crowd was largely friendly to him. Like that woman that you just played, she was heckled throughout her -- her conversation with him. And people told her to move on. And people laughed at her when she invoked Hillary Clinton and the deep state.

The people who spoke to me at the town hall, many of them were Democrats who were there to support Amash. And the dynamic was so prevalent that the few people who did oppose Amash on this, you know, said, "I'm more nervous now, because trI expected a lot of Trump supporters to be here and they're not." So it went a lot better than Amash and his team probably expected it to.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting. Because if the place was packed with Democrats, then obviously, that's sort of a self-selecting group, and that would explain the standing ovation. So I think it is important for us to figure out how many, you know, Trump supporters. We saw the woman there in the MAGA hat. How many Trump supporters, how many Republicans, but I don't think we know the answer to that yet.

But Congressman Amash has said that President Trump committed impeachable offenses, but he has not signed onto any impeachment resolutions yet. So what comes next for him?

BYRD: So last night Amash urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. He said it would be appropriate to do that, and he hasn't signed onto any impeachment resolutions.

But last week, he told me, you know, "If I do want to sign onto one of those things, I'd want to make sure that I agree with everything in it and all of their reasoning."

And Amash has been slowly laying out, you know, the specifics of his stance and his reasoning on this over the past few days, the past week while he's been doing these tweet threads. And so if he moves forward with anything, it would probably be on his own.

The crowd, when he talked about impeachment, those were his biggest applause lines. He -- you know, he stayed the same on his policy positions and, you know, he's still the same conservative libertarian that he's always been. But he is getting support from, you know, people on the left and even some moderate Democrats here in Grand Rapids for this position.

CAMEROTA: Haley Byrd, thank you so much for being our eyes and ears on the ground in that town hall. We really appreciate that.

But that's interesting, John. I just want -- I need, like, Harry Enten to tell us what the breakdown of the audience was last night.

BERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: Because if he was just preaching to Democrats, that's a different story than if all of his Republican constituents were there and applauded.

BERMAN: It was a little bit of both. It was a little bit of both. But what's clear is he wasn't ridden out of town, exactly.

CAMEROTA: Good point. BERMAN: All right. Overnight, new twists in the battle between

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is back on the campaign trail.

CNN's Jessica Dean live in Washington with the very latest here. The president continues to hit at Biden, and Biden, to an extent, welcomes it.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, continuing to hit back, John. And good morning to both of you. It's great to be with you.

Yes, now we're hearing from Joe Biden's campaign after a weekend while the president was overseas of hearing him, seeing him tweet about Joe Biden.

Well, here's what Joe Biden's campaign is saying. This coming from his deputy campaign manager yesterday. She says, "To be on foreign soil on Memorial Day, and to side repeatedly with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former vice president speaks for itself."

Then we heard from President Trump again. He went on tweeting, as well, saying he was actually sticking up for Joe Biden, saying, "Kim Jong-un called him a," quote, "'low-I.Q. idiot' and many other things, whereas I related the quote of Chairman Kim as a much softer," quote, "'low I.Q. individual.' Who could possibly be upset with that?"

So this continues to go back and forth. And I thin, as you all mentioned on the program yesterday, as President Trump continues to hit at Vice President Joe Biden, it almost elevates Joe Biden to cement that frontrunner status to have the president continuing to go after him.

[06:15:16] Now, all of this happening while the former vice president was in Texas, unveiling his first major policy proposal, this one surrounding education. He did a town hall yesterday with his wife, a teacher for many years, Dr. Jill Biden, and also with the American Federation of Teachers.

This plan triples federal funding for low-income schools. It fixed the public service loan forgiveness program, helping teachers pay off student debt, among many other things.

And Alisyn, now the former vice president continues on in Texas to Dallas. We'll hear more about this plan today, as well.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jessica Dean, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

So, so many of you watched Arwa Damon's live shots for us yesterday after she went to base camp of Mount Everest. So the government of Nepal may now announce soon changes as the death toll of the climbers on Mount Everest continues to rise. Arwa Damon is back with us live from Nepal, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:20:57] CAMEROTA: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is struggling to form a new government. If he -- if he is not able to, it could trigger new elections. So CNN's Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem with more for us -- Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, there are officially less than 11 hours to go until Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu has to announce that he's formed a government or the country may very well head to new elections less than a few months after the last election, which has never happened before in Israel's history.

In fact, discussions have already begun in the Knesset, in Israel's parliament, about the final readings of a bill that would dissolve this Knesset and set new elections, already tentatively scheduled for September 17.

The deadlock here is with his coalition partners and a proposed conscription law. The ultraorthodox parties want that law changed. The former minister of defense wants that law passed exactly as is, and that is where Netanyahu is stuck.

President Donald Trump weighing in on behalf of Netanyahu in a tweet a couple days ago, saying, "Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation, and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!"

That may have worked well during general election back in April, but it seems to have little effect on either of the sides here who are showing no willingness to budge with only a few hours to go until that deadline. There are politically, theoretically, a few other options of how this could play out.

But most of those are with somebody else being given the opportunity to form a government here. And that is why Netanyahu is eyeing the possibility of new elections in September -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Oren.

We're watching that very closely. Thank you very much.

New this morning, Nepal is now looking to limit access to Mount Everest as a response to this deadly climbing season. Eleven people have died so far this year.

CNN's Arwa Damon is live in Kathmandu. Arwa, you've been doing reporting on this. What have you learned?


And we spoke to the director general of Nepal's tourism department, who was denying this notion that the country issued too many permits and that's why the overcrowding phenomenon occurred. He said it was because of the weather. There were only a few viable summit days.

But he did say that Nepal is considering adding a requirement when one applies for a permit to summit Everest, that they are going to need to prove a certain level of experience. Because right now, John, you can have zero climbing experience and still end up on the mountain.

BERMAN: Arwa, you spoke to people at base camp about their concerns. What did they tell you?

DAMON: Yes, we did. We spoke to a father-daughter team -- She's just 17 years old -- who waited until the crowds had passed before they made an attempt to the summit. Here's how they described the journey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw dead bodies in the way.

MRIKA NIKQA, CLIMBED MOUNT EVEREST: Like, you see a dead body, and "It's OK, I have to -- he's gone. I don't want to be like him. I have to move on. I have to go."


DAMON: A lot of climbers actually, John, were describing seeing dead bodies along the route.

And one of the Sherpas we were talking to also at base camp was saying that, as he was taking his private clients up, he saw so many inexperienced climbers, people that he said didn't even belong on the mountain.

And as one climber put it, you can think that you're invincible. But then you get to Mount Everest, and you realize that nature may have other plans.

BERMAN: And that's the issue with Mount Everest.

Arwa Damon, thank you so much for your reporting from Kathmandu. Appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's power play. His new view on Supreme Court vacancies during election years. That's next.


[06:28:59] CAMEROTA: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be flipping his own script, also known as flip-flopping, when it comes to filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year. Here's what he said yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a Supreme Court justice was to die next year, what would you do?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I would fill it.


CAMEROTA: Enough said. Joining us now, Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary; Margaret Talev, senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg; and John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst.

So Joe, I mean, there he was quite clear. He'd fill it. He didn't feel that way, obviously, when President Obama was president, but now he does.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, listen, I don't think that McConnell is flip-flopping. Because it never was about a principle. It wasn't about the principle he articulated.

The principle it is about is power. And McConnell has become symbolic of the sort of amoral politician that we have in our country right now that will say anything at any point in order to pursue their own goals. Because hypocrisy -- hypocrisy no longer has a heavy price.

Mitch McConnell could not care less what we're saying about him this morning. We could call him every name in the book, and it wouldn't bother him, because he.