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Restrictive Measure Fails to Pass After Democrats Walk Out; President Biden Honors Fallen Service Members; U.S. Marks Memorial Day Weekend as Covid Numbers Drop; Florida Police Hund for Shooters After Banquet Hall Attack; Netanyahu's Rivals Working to Form Coalition to Oust Him as Prime Minister; Australian Softballers Heat to Japan for Olympic Games; Some EU Countries Restricting U.K. Travel as Cases Rise; Brazilian Demonstrations Demand President's Impeachment. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Republican lawmakers in Texas were all set to pass a restrictive voting bill until Democrats let their feet do the talking.

The parades, barbecues, and big sporting events are back, as America rebounds from the pandemic.

Plus, Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum are in crunch talks to form a unity government as Benjamin Netanyahu fights to keep his grip on power.

In the ongoing battle over U.S. voting laws, there's been a dramatic late night turn of events in Texas. But the governor is making it clear the legislative fight is far from over.

A source tells CNN House Democrats received a text from their caucus chair that read, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.

That's what they did. Walking out and leaving Republicans without the required number of lawmakers to cast an official vote. That's all it took to effectively block passage of the bill that would make sweeping changes to the state's voting laws. A measure would have curbed mail- in applications and banned overnight, Sunday morning, and drive through voting. It would have expanded access for partisan poll watchers and made it easier for judges to overturn election results. Texas already has some of the most restrictive election laws in the country and Democrats say this was just the latest attempt at voter suppression.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICOLE COLLIER, CHAIR, TEXAS LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS: We've used all the tools in our toolbox to fight this bill. And tonight we pulled out that last one. And we used what the rulebook allows. And it requires a quorum and we were not there. Because we are no longer going stand and allow them to continue to push measures that disenfranchise our voters.

CHRIS TURNER, CHAIR, ESAS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: These men and women behind me, the Democratic members who are not here, they're in with this fight day in and day out that have shown incredible resolve and have never blinked in our elective opposition to the harmful vote suppression measures that Texas Republicans continue to push to try to disenfranchise our constituents.


CHURCH: But Republicans aren't backing down and they are using former President Donald Trump's lies about 2020 election fraud to justify new voting restrictions.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): There are a couple of fundamentals here though that I think most Americans do agree with and that is asking for an ID, you know, when someone votes. I don't believe that's voter suppression.

This may be more of an optics issue. Restoring confidence with the American people. And in my state here, I actually do believe there was tremendous fraud.


CHURCH: In a tweet, Republican Governor Greg Abbott said he will add so-called election integrity to a list of topics for lawmakers to address in a special session he plans to call. He gave no date for when that would happen. Texas is trying to join 14 states that have already enacted laws making it harder to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice, an independent law and policy organization says 18 other states are considering dozens of voter restriction bills.

It is Memorial Day here in the United States. Nationwide events will be held to honor those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It's also Joe Biden's first Memorial Day as the nation's commander in chief. On Sunday, he paid tribute to fallen service- members near his home in Delaware. CNN's Arlette Saenz has more.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden honored those Americans who lost their lives in service to the nation. During a Memorial Day event in Delaware on Sunday. The president urged Americans to remember the price that so many paid in order to defend our rights and liberties here in the country.

It was also a personal day for President Biden, as six years ago, his son Beau Biden passed away from brain cancer. Beau Biden served in the Delaware National Guard including a tour in Iraq.


And the president spoke in very personal terms relating to the loss that so many military families have also endured in this country. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beau didn't die in the line of duty but he was serving in Delaware National Guard unit in Iraq for a year, that was one of the proudest things he it in his life. So thank you for allowing us to grieve together today. I know how much the loss hurts. I know the black hole in the middle of your chest, it feels like you may get sucked into it and not come out. Greetings like this and gatherings help. And while I know nothing, I can say to ease the pain, I just know each year it gets a little bit, little bit easier.

SAENZ: President Biden also said the United States has an obligation to speak out against human rights abuses. And he plans to raise that issue of human rights abuses when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland next month.

Now on Monday, the president will visit Arlington National Cemetery, where he will lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier and deliver remarks marking Memorial Day. His first such remarks as commander in chief. Traveling with the president to Wilmington, Delaware, Arlette Saenz, CNN.


CHURCH: The last Memorial Day weekend, many of us were hunkering down, masking, and isolating. On the left is Jones Beach, New York back then. COVID deaths had just passed 100,000 in the U.S. and we were almost six months away from the first authorized COVID-19 vaccines. On the right is Jones Beach on Sunday. Travel is up, COVID-19 cases are down. And just more than half the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine. Two very different pictures of the U.S. Memorial Day weekend. Paul Vercammen is in Los Angeles where parades, barbeques, and pool parties are back in the yes column in most areas.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Memorial Day weekend Los Angeles the return of the swan boats at Echo Park Lake. It has reopened after $600,000 worth of renovations. An upbeat mood in Los Angeles and that's because the COVID-19 numbers extremely good, very low positivity rate. The only sort of dark cloud we ran into was people getting gas. It is painful. A little over $4.20 a gallon average in LA County. One man in a Chevy Silverado truck telling us, it's a big tank. It's costing him about $100 to fill up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's costing me about almost $100. It's hard. Especially right now there's not many jobs. And, you know, for a bad situation economy wise, I feel like it's too overpriced.

VERCAMMEN: So back on this lake looking forward to the coming weeks when we're going to have a further easing of restrictions in Los Angeles. But for now, the people taking in Echo Park Lake just enjoying a picture postcard Memorial Day weekend in Los Angeles.

I'm Paul Vercammen reporting.


CHURCH: In south Florida, police are hunting for suspects after this weekend's deadly banquet hall shooting. The attack happened as a crowd was gathered for a concert. Authorities say two people were killed and at least 20 others injured. $125,000 is now being offered for information leading to an arrest. And this comes after another shooting in Miami left one person dead and six wounded on Friday. Miami's police chief says more needs to be done to stop gun violence.


CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well I can tell you, that's the second shooting in greater Miami-Dade area. We had our own shooting he night before, where seven people were shot and one dead. It's just an indication of the problem we have, with the scourge of gun violence in this country that we need to do more at a federal level to stop.


CHURCH: CNN's Natasha Chen has more on the banquet hall shooting from Miami-Dade County.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Miami-Dade police say three people got out of a white Nissan Pathfinder sometime after midnight Sunday morning and started shooting indiscriminately at the crowd. They say these people used assault rifles and handguns and got back in the car and fled the scene.

And police say a number of people standing outside at the time, including patrons of a lounge where a private concert was being held. That establishment advertises itself as a hookah lounge, billiard club and banquet hall.

Throughout the investigation here, police have used dozens of yellow markings on the ground for shell casings. They brought in canines to assist. We've also seen a couple of families come by the scene. One woman said her son and nephew were among the 20 people injured.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my son. My only son. My only child, not a statistic. Graduated from college last year, so he's educated. He was going out with his educated cousin to just celebrate. And they had not made it into this club. They said that some guys came -- three guys in hoodies and just started shooting up, for whatever reason.

CHEN: We are expecting a press conference Monday morning with county officials, including the police director, to give an update on the investigation.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Miami-Dade County, Florida.


CHURCH: Texas law enforcement officials say they were able to stop a planned mass casualty event from taking place. Police arrested Coleman Thomas Blevins on Friday. They say he was networking with extremists and was planning a mass shooting, possibly, at a Walmart. Local authorities say they worked with the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, and other agencies to discovery the alleged plan. Authorities found firearms and ammunition inside Blevins' home. They say they uncovered books, flags, and documents promoting radical ideology. Police say he may face federal charges.

Israel appears to be on the brink of a new coalition that, if finalized, could force the country's longest serving Prime Minister out of office. Benjamin Netanyahu's rivals from the center, left and right are working to form a unity government without him. Right-wing leader Naftali Bennett detailed the plan Sunday night saying it's the only way forward.


NAFTALI BENNETT, YAMINA PARTY LEADER (through translator): I am announcing that I'm going to work in order to connect a unity government together with Mr. Yair Lapid, my friend, in order to return the state of Israel to its potential.


CHURCH: Elliot Gotkine joins me now live from Jerusalem. Good to see you Elliot. So this isn't over yet, we have to say, of course. What did Netanyahu's rivals need to do next to make this coalition government a reality? And what's Netanyahu's likely next move to likely stop this?

ELLIOT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, they say a week is a long time in politics, don't they? I guess the Israelis this week it will seem like an eternity in terms of how fast it goes. There are practical things that need to be done and many other things that could derail the potential of this insipient coalition government.

So first of all, the various parties led by Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid and Yamina, Naftali Bennett, are still negotiating among themselves the intricacies of how this coalition government would works. They were up until 3:00 o'clock this morning, we are told, a spokesman for Yesh Atid, are making good progress. Then before midnight on Wednesday, Israel time, so that's about 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, Yesh Atid need go to the President Reuven Rivlin and say, yes, I've done it. I've got a coalition government that can command the support of more than half of the lawmakers in the Israeli Parliament or Knesset.

It will then up to a week in which the Knesset has to vote on whether the coalition government will stand or not. They need to get more than half the votes in order for it to come into effect. Now in that time, of course, you can bet your bottom dollar that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be doing everything in his powers to try to derail this coalition from forming even before it comes about. So to that end, encouraging supporters to protest, for example, against Naftali Bennett and his number two, Ayelet Shaked. In fact, there have been protests outside of their home in Tel Aviv this week and the Knesset has now increased security for both Ayelet Shaked -- that's Naftali Bennett's number two -- and Mr. Bennett himself.

Netanyahu will also perhaps try and get some shenanigans going in procedurally in the Knesset to try to slow things down. There could be legal attempts. We're not there yet but closer than we've ever been to seeing Netanyahu leave office.

All right. Elliot Gotkine bringing us the very latest live from Jerusalem, many thanks.

Well coming up next on CNN NEWSROOM, en route to the Olympics. Australia's softball team is among the first group of athletes headed to the summer games. But is Japan ready to host in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?

Plus -- why France is joining other EU countries that are putting travel restrictions on visitors from the U.K.



CHURCH: Coronavirus concerns are growing as we are 53 days away from the Olympics. Australian softball players are on their way to Japan. Among the first to travel to the games. The team departed from Sydney just a short time ago and they've got a stopover in Singapore before heading on to Tokyo in the coming hours. And when they land, they will arrive as Japan is under an extended state of emergency due to COVID- 19. The country's Prime Minister has called the situation unpredictable.

CNN's Angus Watson is following the developments for us. He joins us live from Sydney. Good to see you Angus. So how concerned is Australia's softball team about the COVID emergency in Japan and how it may impact the upcoming Olympics?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Well l on a normal Olympic year, Rosemary, the bows at the airport would have just all been about that. The excitement of young players going off to represent their country without concerns like they've this year. Coronavirus was what was most talked about at the airport as they jetted off first to Singapore and then on to Japan where they arrive tomorrow, as you say, among the first cohorts to get there.

And Japan is, as you say, under coronavirus stress at the moment, a state of emergency. The players know that they're going to have to be exceptionally careful when they get there. They'll arrive in Japan, go through stringent checks to make sure that they had the vaccines and that they had had all the tests that they need.


They'll drive to Ota city, just outside of Tokyo, where they'll go into a bubble for a month and a half. Where they will get the chance to practice. Sacrifices was a term that was used by the team. Today they're happy to go through these coronavirus measures to get what they need done. Here's what one of those players had to say to me.


JADE WALL, AUSTRALIA SOFTBALL OLYMPIAN: We've got to go through lots and lots of COVID testing, but look, we're all prepared for it. We want to do everything that we can to make sure that we're safe when we get there and we're safe while we're in Japan as well.


WATSON (on camera): The safety of the Japanese people is something that their government is very concerned about at the moment. As you mentioned that state of emergency is in place right through 20th of June. Because cases are too high in certain prefectures, including Tokyo, Osaka, hospitalizations are too high there as well. This entire country of Japan has on a seven-day average over 3,000 cases per day. The players in that bubble have to get there early, though, because of the coronavirus's impact on their preparation. They haven't played together, Rosemary, because of the virus, since 2019.

CHURCH: That's extraordinary, isn't it? Angus Watson bringing us the very latest from his vantage point there in Sydney. Appreciate it.

Well the Indian government says it will deliver nearly 120 million doses of COVID vaccines in June. About half will go health care and front line workers and people over 45. India is the world's largest vaccine maker but has been unable to deliver on 200 million vaccine doses it promised to the global COVAX program due to a string of virus outbreaks. Officials hope announcing the latest delivery in advance will ensure better planning by states.

Well starting today, France will require British travelers to quarantine for a week when entering the country. It's due to a rise in new COVID infections in the U.K., even with a relatively low case rate, experts said Britain is a battling the spread of the variant first identified in India. Other EU countries are also taking notice of Britain's rise in cases. Germany and Austria have both placed restrictions on either flights or travelers from the U.K.

And CNN's Bianca Nobilo is standing by now in London. She joins us live. Good to see you Bianca. I mean, it's hard, isn't it? Because a successful vaccine rollout but still cases going up. What are medical experts saying about this?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Medical experts are concerned, Rosemary, and their concern is growing. It has been over the last week. Initially the British government were not too concerned about the so-called Indian variant, the B16172. And scientists also said that they were confident that the vaccines were effective against that variant. However, over the last few weeks, the picture of data has become more

concerning. Over the last seven days, for example, the cases of coronavirus in the United Kingdom have increased by 25 percent, and the Indian variant is the dominant strain. In fact, our health secretary said last week it's likely that 3/4 of the new cases could be down to the Indian variant.

So what's going to happen? Because lockdown is supposed to be lifted and all legal limits on social contact lifted on the 21st of June here in Britain. Will that be delayed now because of the rise of the Indian variant? That's a possibility. And there's a race against time with the vaccine effort. At the moment, 39 million people have received the first dose of vaccine, about 25 the second toes. There's probably a three-week lag between two doses and full immunity.

So the government are now desperately trying to figure out how effective is the vaccine against the Indian variant. Is it 60 percent or more? And also trying to nail down the exact transmissibility of this new variant too. Both those answers will help us to have an answer to that question of whether or not Britain will have to remain in lockdown longer than expected.

CHURCH: We need those answers, absolutely. Bianca Nobilo joining us live from London, many thanks.

Well protesters in Brazil are calling for the oust of the President Jair Bolsonaro. Tens of thousands marched across the country over the weekend. They are unhappy with the president's handling of the pandemic and want better access to vaccines. The coronavirus has been raging out of control there. Brazil reported more than 43,000 new cases on Sunday alone. And the death toll is now above 460,000. CNN's Rafael Romo has more now on the protests.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Screaming at the top of their lungs, people on the streets say the leader of their country must go.

It was just one of the massive multi-city protests held across Brazil this weekend against President Jair Bolsonaro.


"It's our duty to fight for democracy," this protester says. "This government is no use to us. It doesn't serve the people. And its political project is to kill us."

The demonstrations against Bolsonaro in cities like Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia are some of the largest since the beginning of the pandemic. Demonstrators had two main demands, calling for the presidents impeachment and getting a better access to COVID-19 vaccines.

"Impeachment now, Bolsonaro must go," this protester said. Adding that "More people will die if he stays in power." Early in the pandemic the controversial right-wing former military officer downplayed COVID-19 as a "pequena chamine, " a little flu.

The president also questioned the effectiveness of vaccines and was often seen greeting crowds of supporters without a mask before contracting the virus himself.

ROMO: Brazil has been one of the hardest hit countries in the world and is now facing a possible third wave of COVID-19. Vaccination has been slow. Less than 10 percent of its total population of 210 million is fully inoculated and the South American country currently has the 3rd highest number of infections after the United States and India.

ROMO (voice-over): Some protesters say Bolsonaro's lack of action is tantamount to genocide, "cemeteries are full, refrigerators empty" this banner reads.

The Brazilian senate has opened an investigation into the president's handling of the pandemic. The protest happened only a week after a mask-less Bolsonaro led a motorcycle rally where he once again questioned the usefulness of measures to prevent the spread of COVID- 19.

Rafael Romo, CNN.


CHURCH: Working away their childhood. North Korea said young orphans are volunteering to labor in the country's mines and fields. We will show you what's really going on. That's just ahead.

And it's been called an unthinkable loss. Details on what happened to hundreds of children who disappeared from a residential school in Canada.