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Final Vote Set for French Presidential Race; Macron Camp Claims "Massive" Hack; Death Toll Rises in Venezuela; Trump Team Warned Flynn about Russia Contact; U.S. House Vote Could Impact 2018 Races. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 6, 2017 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): On the eve of an historic election, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign says that it has been hacked. We're live in Paris with all the details.

Here in the United States, Republicans are gearing up for round two in its efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare. But they may face an uphill battle in the Senate. We'll have that story.

In the meantime, millions of Americans would be directly affected by new health care legislation. We'll bring you one of their stories.

From CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: It is 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast, 10:00 am in Paris where, in less than 24 hours, voters head to the polls to pick up a new president for that nation. But in this final stretch, there is now news that the campaign of one of the candidates running has been hacked and the files posted online.

For the very latest on what this might mean for that election, CNN's Cyril Vanier is live in the French capital.

It's great to have you with us, Cyril.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: George, it's good to be with you. The Macron campaign had said repeatedly during the campaign that there had been hacking attempts on its servers, on its campaign staff.

But this morning, it was still quite a shock to wake up to the news so close to the election that the campaign has, indeed, been hacked. So here's what we know, George.

The campaign of Emmanuel Macron says that thousands of its files were hacked and then posted online. This just before a media blackout on the election went into effect late Friday, midnight French time. According to the Macron campaign, some of those files are authentic but others are totally fake. They say you're not going to find out anything that's damaging to them in this because they've essentially done nothing wrong.

That's been the message put out in their communique. Let's talk about this with Christine Ockrent, former media executive in France, long- time observer of French politics.

So good to have you with us.


VANIER: Has there been an attempt to destabilize French democracy as the campaign of Emmanuel Macron alleges?

OCKRENT: Yes, indeed and it's not the first one. And authorities in this country had warned over the risk of such attacks. And usually the contrix (ph) tend to come from the same part of the east of the continent.

And in this particular case, there was first an attempt to destabilize Macron over his private life. That had come obviously through some Russian sources relayed by Julian Assange out of London.

And then, as you said, yesterday, that was a massive attack, what I understand, to take some of the data and mix that with fake news. But as long as the warning is given out -- there was another phony attempt yesterday by the far right people to blame on Macron's staff a physical attack against Marine Le Pen -- not a physical attack but some sort of violence, if you will and it was also a fake.

There was another fake about Macron's having some sort of illegal bank account in the Western Indies. It's all part of that new cyber dimension of our -- you know, in our democracies.

VANIER: Christine is also a very keen observer of U.S. politics. And, at this hour, our American viewers are joining us and they're going to see this and they're going to think, well, the same thing happened to us. There was a hack of Hillary Clinton's campaign e- mails and those became a very prominent part of the campaign narrative.

There are many parallels between these elections. Marine Le Pen claims a kinship to Donald Trump. Emmanuel Macron is backed by Obama.

Are we seeing the same sort of struggle between populism and the liberal, progressive order that we saw in the U.S. playing out here in France?

OCKRENT: The struggle is, indeed, the same, between populist candidates and progressive ones or mainstream political parties that's happened in other countries. The main difference is our institutions. We have a two-round majority rule for this election. You have one indirect system. In this --


OCKRENT: -- country, first round, you select; second round, you say I don't want this guy or this woman. So it allows for a better discipline, if you will. And the indirect system that brought Mr. Trump to the Oval Office is not something that would happen here.

But, indeed, you are right. The way that Marine Le Pen behaved in the one and only TV debate we had last Wednesday night was very reminiscent of Mr. Trump's rhetoric but also of the old French far right arguments of the 1930s. It was a mix.

Of course, Marine Le Pen prides herself; when Donald Trump was elected, she went as far as saying oh, he copied me. He talked like me. He has all my recipes, which is sort of a very Gallic way of being at the center of the world.

But she was far less agile and clever than Donald Trump in the way she behaved in that TV debate. And I think she lost quite a bit of ground starting last Wednesday night.

VANIER: All right. Christina Ockrent, on the parallels between a French -- this extraordinary French political cycle and U.S. politics at the moment. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Let's go now to a report from Isa Soares in Henin-Beaumont, a far right stronghold in the East Rust Belt. Isa has been speaking to the many supporters of Marine Le Pen there.


SOARES (voice-over): Henin-Beaumont has seen better days, once a prosperous mining town, now facing a fight for survival. Boarded up shops, high unemployment and an aging population. But there's hope in every corner here and it's called Marine Le Pen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's true that everyone, including the media and the journalists call her a bad person and a villain. But I'm sorry. Look at all the towns governed by the Le Pen party members and the Front National. No one thinks like this. No one has any problems.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): OK. I'm for Marine Le Pen because of her promises over the limits of the retirement age.

SOARES (voice-over): And while some are keeping their voting cards close to their chest, others are passionate and highly defensive of Marine Le Pen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am for her. There you have it. Sorry to say it but you asked me who I'm voting for. And maybe it's not what you wanted to hear but I told you that I'm voting for her.

SOARES: There's a real sense of abandonment here by those at the very top, by the main political parties, which really explains the support for Marine Le Pen. But what is striking is how she's managed to do this, turning a town that, for seven decades, voted Socialist, now turning overwhelmingly to the Right.

SOARES (voice-over): At the Bellevue coffee shop, not everyone has been convinced by Le Pen's promises. Local train driver Benet Sant (ph) is one of them.

BENET SANT (PH), TRAIN DRIVER (through translator): I am for Macron obviously because he is against the Front National and he defends our values and those French people of North African descent and because of Marine Le Pen's many lies.

SOARES (voice-over): But in a town led by Front National and home to many migrants, you'll be surprised to hear any anti-immigrant rhetoric, a sentiment shared by local Ed la Guy (ph).

ED LA GUY (PH), LOCAL RESIDENT (through translator): Not all immigrants are the same. We are all created in France and proud to be French. Look around here. You see people are open. There is no climate of fear and people from all backgrounds get on.

SOARES (voice-over): That's because the Front National has muted the anti-immigrant message here, focusing instead on social issues, a simple message that plays well in a town that enjoys the simple life.


SOARES: And the way they've been able to do this, Cyril, is going really door-to-door, grassroots efforts, knocking on doors, talking to people, asking them, what would you like to see done?

Is it housing that you need helping with?

Is it jobs?

And this has really, really played very well here in this town. Of course, we have seen this town by the local mayor, who is also a Front National. They've lowered taxes. They've spent money on infrastructure and that's what people here care about.

They say they feel voiceless. They say the party at the very top are not listening to them. And there is definitely a sense of disillusionment. Whether the Macron leaks will play more into that for those undecided voters, of course, that, of course, remains to be seen -- Cyril.

VANIER: Isa Soares, thank you so much. Isa there on the factors fueling support for the far right in the town of Henin-Beaumont. Thanks again.

And for more on all this, I am joined by Yves Bertoncini (ph), the director of the Jacques Delors (ph) Institute --


VANIER: -- a European think tank. I'd like to get back to the hacking, the news this morning, the

hacking of Emmanuel Macron's campaign. So now this has happened in France and there have been other reports of hacking or hacking attempts in other European countries. So give us the European perspective here.

Has the E.U. been put on notice that it is vulnerable?

YVES BERTONCINI, JACQUES DELORS INSTITUTE: Yes, of course. And I think it's a European phenomenon. It comes from abroad and it comes probably from Russia as it is. And then, yes, many countries are under pressure --


VANIER: And just so you know, the French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard (INAUDIBLE) did actually tweet and point the finger of blame at a foreign government without naming it. He then deleted that tweet.

BERTONCINI: I am more free so I can say this. I'm not an ambassador, yes. It comes from Russia with a combination, with political forces inside Europe, especially in France. You have the Front National. It's not a secret that many forces but its coforces, extreme right forces, mainly, are backed by Russia.

I mean, they like Russia. They're more or less consider that Russia is not a threat, it's an ally.

And then yes, we have seen, especially yesterday, right before the end of the official campaign, we have seen the result of this alliance's hacking and this massive dissemination. And that we can track and we know where it comes from and it comes Russia.


VANIER: We do need to be clear in this case, there is no confirmation, certainly in the case of Emmanuel Macron that it is Russia that's behind the hacking and even in other European cases, there has been no confirmation, there is just a suspicion.


BERTONCINI: -- in the USA by the way. But apparently in the U.S. after the presidential campaign, there's an investigation underway. And I witnessed that many Russians have been expelled from the USA at that time. So we will see.

But what we can already see is that the dissemination -- I don't mention the hacking itself but the disseminations of these fake news and combination of leaks and fake news come from supporters of what we could call the Russian sphere on the Internet. Yes, that is quite visible already.

VANIER: Do you think the Macron campaign -- the campaign, the official campaign in France is actually over.

But do you think this could change anything here in France?

Voting begins Sunday in mainland France.

BERTONCINI: I think it's not likely. You have seen before the first round another terrorist attack right behind us in the Champs-Elysees. And there was a suspicion it could change things (INAUDIBLE) not that (INAUDIBLE).

The official debate between the two running mates, where it was one of the final striking point and probably Le Pen has lost this debate. So we have seen the curves now saying that Macron is likely to win. We never know.

But I'm not sure that such a last-minute event, you know, this kind of (INAUDIBLE) can change drastically things, especially when you see such a gap between the two candidates.

VANIER: The far right was actually trying to gain from this. One of the vice presidents, (INAUDIBLE) Filippo (ph), one of the (INAUDIBLE) presidents of the National Front was saying, minutes before the official campaign ended, "I wonder what Macron leaks," that's what they're calling it, "might reveal that French investigative journalism has covered up."

BERTONCINI: Yes. Well, that is the classical plot theory, you know they try to do this. Apparently they're not self-assured enough to promote their ideas. But they fight the (INAUDIBLE). That was Marine Le Pen's strategy in the official debate. Currently they know that, on the basis of their own ideas, they don't reach a majority of the French people, especially for example on the military union. It was very visible.

So they try to use other ways and I'm afraid sometimes not that honest ways. But I'm not sure it's going to make it for next Sunday.

VANIER: All right. Yves Bertoncini of the Jacques Delors Institute, thank you so much for coming on the show.

We're going to continue to cover this throughout the hour.

George Howell in Atlanta, back to you.

HOWELL: An 11th hour surprise, indeed. Cyril Vanier, live for us in Paris, Cyril, we'll stay in touch with you, as well. Thank you.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, we're following the health care debate in the United States, opening to its next chapter. Why senators are making an effort to distance themselves from their colleagues in the House. That story -- ahead.






HOWELL: We're learning more with about the events that cost Donald Trump's former national security adviser his position after just 24 days on the job. "The Washington Post" is reporting that senior members of the Trump team warned Michael Flynn about the risks of his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, back in November.

Despite the warning, though, former and current U.S. officials tell "The Post" one month later, Flynn was recorded discussing U.S. sanctions against Russia with the ambassador. That phone call led to Flynn's forced resignation.

CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with "The Washington Post" reporter who covered the story. Let's listen.

ADAM ENTOUS, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, this is soon after the election. You know, there's what's referred to as landing teams, which are being set up for different government agencies by the Trump campaign. It's now the transition.

And so, you had the head of the landing team for the National Security Council. He basically, you know, learns that Flynn is planning to have a conversation with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. and he is concerned and wants to basically provide him with information.

He wants him to know that his conversation with Kislyak would probably be intercepted by, you know, the FBI here in the U.S., which is monitoring ambassadors like Kislyak and other ambassadors.

And overseas when Kislyak finishes his conversation with a U.S. official, he'll often send a report to Moscow. And the NSA might pick that up. So he wanted Flynn to be aware.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And he was so concerned and according to your reporting, as far as I understand, and was concerned that Flynn didn't quite understand the role Kislyak plays, that they actually drew up, or requested intelligence documents, kind of a profile of Kislyak?

ENTOUS: Yes. So, the CIA draws up profiles of ambassadors, leaders around the world, which they provide to policymakers, senior policymakers. So when they go and have meetings with those people, the American has an idea of what they're getting into. This is a document that's prepared and it's updated regularly.

So what happened --


ENTOUS: -- in this case is the transition official approached the Obama administration officials, who were interacting with the transition team in the Situation Room in the White House. And at the end of one of their meetings about the transition, this

Trump transition official asked for basically the CIA's bio of Kislyak in order to basically provide that to Flynn, so he had a sense of who he was dealing with, and again, to kind of put him on notice that, you know, that there is a chance, a good possibility that, if he talks to him on an open line, it's going to get sucked up.


HOWELL: Again, that was reporter Adam Entous with "The Washington Post." CNN has not yet confirmed this information but, again, we are seeking all information from all involved and will continue to follow this story.

U.S. senators are all but disowning the health care bill just passed onto them by their colleagues in the House. They say, though, it will look very different than it does now by the time they're done with it.

And President Trump acknowledges that, too, promising to play a big part in that process. CNN's Athena Jones has the very latest on the president.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After the president made his first trip back to his hometown since taking office, he's waking up this morning at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, not too far from here.

This is the 14th weekend in a row that the president is visiting a property he owns and it's the 12th weekend he's visiting a golf course that he owns. All of this, of course, coming after a pretty big week for the White House. The House securing passage of their version of a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

That bill now moving on to the Senate. White House officials say President Trump will be fully engaged in selling the bill on the Senate side, just as he was on the House side.

And the legislation faces some similar challenges in the upper chamber with divisions among conservative and then more moderate Republicans. Conservatives believe the bill not going far enough, some moderates worry that it goes too far.

The White House acknowledging the bill is going on be changed by the Senate but they believe that its main pillars will remain intact. Of course, any changes the Senate makes will have to be approved by the House, setting up a potentially challenging road ahead over the next several weeks.


HOWELL: Athena Jones, thanks for the reporting.

Now let's bring in Brian Klaas. Brian is a fellow in global and comparative politics at the London School of Economics, live for us in London this hour.

Brian, first, let's talk about this effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It barely squeaked by the House and is now on to the Senate. Senators, though, making it very clear it will look very different when they're done with it.

BRIAN KLAAS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: That's right. So the Senate will -- they have different rules than the House does. So they can tack on lots of amendments, they can change the bill considerably.

And one thing that I think is sort of going under the radar here is that the Congressional Budget Office normally scores legislation to say how much it will cost and who it will affect.

And it's extremely unusual for the House to do what it did, which is to pass the bill without having that information. The Senate, by its rules, cannot do that. It has to wait until that budget office scoring comes out.

And that's probably going to happen either this week or next week. So the House is going to be on the hook for whatever that report says because, if it says, like the first bill, that 24 million people would lose health insurance, well, then those members have voted for that.

The Senate is also going to have to debate in that context with a firm estimate of how many millions of people will lose health insurance under that version of the bill. And that could be a poison pill for Republicans in states that have high Medicaid populations because that's an area that will be gutted by proposal.

HOWELL: Many Republicans, though, question the accuracy of the CBO score; at the same time, it will be a very important indicator that plays into the this.

Democratic leaders, obviously, are sharpening their knives to hold those who voted on this bill accountable. I want you to take a look at this particular ad that is set to air soon. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican leaders are trying to do this to affordable health care. I'm Tom Perry Ellis (ph) and, in Congress, I voted for ObamaCare because it wrong that 1 million Virginians weren't covered.

Well, insurance companies have all the power. Now I'm running governor because it's wrong that Virginia incomes haven't gone up in 20 years. Together, we can stop Donald Trump, raise wages and build an economy that works for everyone and we'll make sure this never happens in Virginia.


HOWELL: Brian, talk about drama. Crushing an ambulance. Whether this bill fails or passes, their votes have been recorded for it.

How vulnerable are these representatives?

KLAAS: Extremely vulnerable. Let's remember that there was an absolutely massive wave against the Democrats in 2010 after ObamaCare passed. And that bill was scored by the CBO and predicted by all experts to reduce the number of uninsured people, to bring down the cost of health care over time, which it did.


KLAAS: Even though it's going up, it's going up slower than it would have without the ObamaCare bill and to reduce bankruptcies. And still it was a wave against the Democrats. This bill is having the indicators going the opposite direction. It's pushing people off health insurance. It's a tax cut for rich people.

And so I think the vulnerability is enormous. The fact that it passed by two votes was strategically calculated. They did this because they basically wanted two things.

They wanted to force the minimum number of moderates to vote for the bill so that they were less vulnerable and they wanted to make sure it passed by at least two votes so that nobody could claim to be the deciding vote. So it was a very strategic decision on their part, trying to limit the damage. But I think the damage is going to be done.

HOWELL: Brian Klaas, thank you so much for your insight, live for us in London. We'll be in touch with you as well.

KLAAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here, the precious safe haven in a country torn apart by war.

But can a new cease-fire in parts of Syria hold up?

Plus, more from France. What Marine Le Pen, what a victory there could mean for the future of Europe and the E.U.

Live from Atlanta, Georgia, CNN is on both networks in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN.




HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us with. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.


[04:30:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)


Now in Syria --


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A vote for change, France decides. We return to this major story we're following and the late surprise in that nation's presidential race.

The campaign of Emmanuel Macron says it is a victim of a massive hack. It claims fake documents were mixed with real documents, then all posted online just as campaigning came to a close.

My colleague, Cyril Vanier, is following this story, live in the French capital with the very latest.

Cyril, this is quite a surprise right at the last minute here.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. George, it's good to be back with you. In the last half hour, we told you what might be the possible repercussions of the hacking on the French campaign, which is officially over.

And now I want to address the European angle, which is absolutely fundamental, absolutely key in this election. Much has been made about the fact that the French election could end up being very dangerous for the European Union and for the European political project.

So I want to bring in somebody who knows all about that and who cares about that, Enrico Letta, former Italian prime minister, former minister of European affairs in Italy, Mr. Letta knows exactly what it's like to sit at that negotiating table with 27 other countries and have to listen to those voices and try and find a common voice, reach an agreement.

Are you one of those people who are afraid of this French election?

ENRICO LETTA, FORMER ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Yes, because it is clear that, for the French and the French voters, they have in their hands the destiny of the European Union. With Marine Le Pen, it will be game over for the European Union --


VANIER: Game over?

LETTA: -- yes, yes, because --

VANIER: But there are still 26 other countries. I'm counting out the U.K. because of Brexit.

LETTA: The European Union can survive with Orban (ph) representing Hungary in the could (ph) European Council. The European Union doesn't survive with Le Pen representing France because of France, first of all, because France is in the euro and France is the main country, one of the main countries in Europe, because France has the nuclear power.

With Brexit it's the only country with the nuclear power in Europe. So I think with Le Pen, it will be game over for Europe. With Macron, it will be exactly the opposite, the relaunch of the European integration in a very, very strong way.

VANIER: So you fear that we are potentially a day and a half from what you call game over for the European Union?

LETTA: It is my fear but it is my hope to be one day and a half at the relaunch of the European Union because I think that Macron has the good ideas to relaunch the integration idea of the European Union and also because you know that there's this big sequence that is another comparison with the U.S. elections.

And I think the hackers issue is another comparison, another link with the U.S. elections. For the U.S., it was the same. Today, this morning in France, it is the topic, the hackers' attack.

So I think French elections can be the third step of the sequence -- Brexit, Trump -- or French elections can stop this sequence. And for the world, politics is the --


VANIER: But the sequence that you're describing is the rise of right- wing populism.

Is that right?

LETTA: It's the sequence of rise right-wing populist but also the sequence of rising the idea of stop integration processes. And walls rather than bridges; separations, Brexit was that.

I think Trump is building an America with this idea. French elections, Le Pen is the sequence continuing. Macron is the sequence stop. And I think for the world politics, it would be a turning point tomorrow evening.

VANIER: So as you connect the dots, you're looking, as many observers have done, first at Brexit and then at Trump.

And you're telling us, if I understand correctly, that the result of this election could essentially decide the dynamic of the rise of popular -- whether it has momentum, whether populism continues to grow across the world, across the Western world?

LETTA: I think Macron's victory --


LETTA: -- would be the stop of the big raise of populism. We will have new elections in -- next elections in Germany soon. I think these results will influence very much the elections in Germany; in Italy, too. We will have elections in Italy next year. I think --

VANIER: So you believe in this domino effect, that countries are looking at each other and that populism encourages populism?

LETTA: Yes. Brexit and Trump had a big, big impact. And today I think we have Marine Le Pen so high also because of Brexit and Trump. But the French elections are a presidential system.

In the presidential system, you win or you lose. There is not a -- like a parliamentary system, in which there are nuances, coalitions. Here, you win, you lose. If Marine Le Pen wins, it is really the raise of populism in power. And the game over for Europe.

If Marine Le Pen loses and Macron wins, it's exactly the opposite. It will be, I think, a strong stop for populism in Europe.

VANIER: All right. Enrico Letta, former Italian prime minister, so glad to have you on the show.

LETTA: Thanks a lot.

VANIER: Thank you for coming on. Thanks.

Macron has never been elected to public office. He formed his own party to run in this election. But he did lead the first round of voting. And at age just 39, he could become the youngest French president ever, one that Mr. Letta would like to see come to the presidency.

Our Jim Bittermann hit the road to find out what drives people to vote for Mr. Macron.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Time to hit the road again in our finely tuned electoral machine here, Rene the Renault. We'll be out this time around for voters for the centrist candidate in the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): And they're not hard to find since he is leading in the polls. We found four willing to go for a car pool confab: A retired school teacher, an international business consultant, a philosophy professor and a municipal police officer.

But Macron was the first choice of only one of the four.

Guy says he has been with Macron from the start.

GUY, MACRON SUPPORTER (through translator): I like the way he sees things, his optimism. His main concern is not where we come but where we are going, what we can do together.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): Michelle (INAUDIBLE) extreme left candidate. But when he was eliminated in the first round of voting, she decided to, quote, "avoid the worst," meaning extreme right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen. So she will reluctantly vote Macron.

MICHELLE, MACRON VOTER (through translator): I hope he won't forget that many people voted for him by default.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): And she worries that his economic reforms will go too far.

Olivier's concerned about that, too, but will also vote for Macron.

OLIVIER, MACRON VOTER: (INAUDIBLE) Marine Le Pen was on the second round, I (INAUDIBLE) decided to vote for Macron.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): That's who Jean-Francois will vote for, too, even if he's a bit skeptical about how Macron will handle security and the terrorism problem.

JEAN-FRANCOIS, MACRON VOTER: I think he's been soft on some of the issues (INAUDIBLE) and things like that. That's what bothers me.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): But Guy, the police officer, disagrees.

GUY (through translator): What Macron has said so far goes in the direction of a strength and security, stronger police so he can ensure the safety of the French.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): Unlike some critics, Guy believes Macron's youth is a positive thing, as does Jean-Francois and the others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of (INAUDIBLE) in France, you know that. It's about time.

BITTERMANN: Time for them to retire?

BITTERMANN (voice-over): And all also agree it would be a disaster if Le Pen were to be elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will be panic stricken, for sure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Le Pen is elected, I'll leave the country.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): So while less than a quarter of French voters favored Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the French elections, he could very well win more than half of French votes on Sunday simply because people will vote against his opponent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it is said that on the he first round you choose and on the second round you eliminate.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): Jim Bittermann, CNN, Rennes (ph), France.


VANIER: And with that feat of French engineering on that Renault, we'll send it back to George Howell in Atlanta. HOWELL: I hear that the Renault broke down briefly there, Cyril.

Is it back up and running?

VANIER: You know what?

I just found out. I'm not entirely surprised. I think the last one they produced was in the mid '90s. So it's a pretty old car.

HOWELL: But it keeps running. Cyril Vanier, live in Paris, thank you.

As we mentioned earlier here in the show, a cease-fire is now in place in parts of Syria. So far, the four safe zones are being established under the de-escalation plan that was signed by Turkey, by Iran and by Russia.

That plan was first floated by Russia and CNN's Matthew Chance is in --


HOWELL: -- Moscow, following the story from there.

Matthew, so the question. Let's talk about this plan. It certainly has most of the major powers involved. But the opposition isn't convinced they trust the intent of this agreement.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's one of the big problems when it comes to making a success of this plan to establish these four de-escalation zones or safe zones in various areas of Syria.

They've got the backing of three major countries, of Russia, of Turkey and of Iran, all of whom have significant influence, shall we say, inside Syria. The Russians and the Iranians backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Turks have a great deal of influence with certain factions of the rebel movement.

And they're going to bring that influence to bear to make it work. But there are significant players that are not party to the agreement. The Syrian government, for one, hasn't signed the documents. The Russians will be expected to put pressure on them to comply with it.

The various countries that also back rebel groups in Syria as well, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They're not signatories to this agreement, either. So there's still plenty of potential for this to go wrong and for it to not work, as many peace plans in the past have failed as well.

But the fact is that this is a really serious attempt to try and bring to an end or to decrease the level of hostilities inside Syria and to provide safe zones so that civilians can live without fear of being killed in this conflict. And, of course, provide an area or areas for which the millions of

refugees that have already fled Syria can return home to. So this is, for that reason, getting a lot of international interest and a lot of support.

HOWELL: Our viewers here in the on U.S. know that there are U.S. efforts also taking place inside Syria.

What has been the message, the Russian message to U.S. efforts in Syria with regard to these de-escalation zones?

CHANCE: The American position on these de-escalation zones is still, I think, a little bit unclear in the sense that they've spoken positively about them. The de-escalation zones were announced following a phone call between Donald Trump and President Putin of Russia.

But the U.S. has expressed concerns about the Iranian involvement. They're saying the Iranians have only contributed violence to the situation in Syria and not been a positive force in any way.

So the U.S. is holding back. And the security zones or the de- escalation zones are said to be no-fly zones as well. And so what the Russians have said is that U.S.-led coalition aircraft will not be permitted to carry out airstrikes inside those de-escalation zones, nor, they say, will the Syrian air force, with as well.

So that will be a limitation on the U.S. coalition activities inside Syria. And I think it also shows that the Russians and the Iranians or the Turks are prepared to move forward with a peace plan in Syria, with or without the agreement of the United States.

HOWELL: 11:43 in Moscow, Matthew Chance reporting live. Thank you for the reporting.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Trumpcare has taken its first swing at ObamaCare but the bill has many Americans concerned that Washington is playing politics with their health.





HOWELL: As the U.S. health care debate goes to the Senate, much of the country is anxiously waiting to see what will happen next. In its current form, the new bill could mean that many people lose their medical insurance. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, visited one woman whose coverage could be on the line.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty-three-year-old Valerie Daniel does all the typical things a mom of two does. Also typical, Valerie suffers from a chronic illness. In her case, it's Crohn's disease, an inflammation of her GI tract.

No doubt if the bill that recently passed the House ever becomes law, there will be winners and losers. The winners, the young, healthy and wealthy. On the losing side could be the millions of Americans with chronic conditions like Valerie.

Every few weeks, Valerie makes a 40-minute drive from her home in Noonan, Georgia, to the hospital for an infusion treatment. She invited me along on one of her trips.


GUPTA: You couldn't not take the treatment?

DANIEL: I had no option. At this point, I have tried every drug, surgeries, procedures. This was my option.

My symptoms, you know.

GUPTA (voice-over): Without insurance, a year's dosage could cost Valerie about $20,000.

GUPTA: Are you worried about the Affordable Care Act being repealed and the impact it would have?

DANIEL: I'm nervous not knowing the future, not knowing exactly what's going to be voted on.

What are they going to keep?

What are they going to do for people like me who have chronic illnesses?

GUPTA (voice-over): Under the House bill, now at the Senate, insurance companies could possibly put limits on coverage of certain treatments, depending on the state.

States may no longer require insurers to cover essential health benefits, like emergency and preventative care. And people with a chronic or pre-existing condition, like asthma, diabetes or Crohn's disease, like Valerie has, could potentially have to pay more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, Valerie, how did you do after your last infusion?

GUPTA (voice-over): Now if Valerie does maintain her health insurance without any gaps longer than 63 days, the proposed law should protect her from any sudden jumps in her premiums due to her underlying illness.

Problem is, that can be hard to do. On average, 30 million people have gaps in their insurance coverage because they are out of work, too sick to work or can no longer afford it. DANIEL: My husband lost his job a few years ago, so there was about a three-month period where he was not employed. And we were told that we had no choice.

GUPTA: When you look at our health insurance industry overall now, as a consumer, someone who uses it, what grade would you give our health insurance system?

DANIEL: I would probably say about a C.


DANIEL: Maybe a B minus.

GUPTA (voice-over): Of course, she's really hoping that the final replacement plan will be an A for her and the rest of America -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


HOWELL: Still ahead this hour, a team of scientists and three runners chase the elusive two-hour marathon. One of them turns in a stunning performance. How he finished when we come back.




HOWELL: The two-hour marathon stands as the Holy Grail for runners but it's closer than it's ever been. Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya fell just short of breaking the two-hour barrier. The Olympic marathon champion finished the Nike-sponsored breaking two attempt with a time of 2:00:24 in Monza, Italy. The event used a team of scientists to help maximize conditions for potentially breaking the two-hour mark.

Kipchoge and two other marathoners wore the latest running gear, including cutting-edge clothing and shoes by Nike. Until now, the fastest marathon time was 2:02:57 set at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. Officially, it still stands as the world record but, man, what an effort there.



HOWELL: And thank you for being with us for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell, along with Derek Van Dam. Another hour of news just after the break.