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White House Turmoil; Trump in Saudi Arabia; Russia Investigation; Trump's Anti-Muslim Comments; Iranian Presidential Election; Israelis Prepare for Trump Visit; Pippa Middleton's Big Day. Aired 4-45a ET

Aired May 20, 2017 - 04:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia on day one of his very first international trip as U.S. president. He'll meet with a number of Muslim leaders over the next two days and deliver a speech that will be very closely watched.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It is a story we're following live, even though, as Mr. Trump was aboard Air Force One en route to Riyadh, news continued to break about his embattled White House. We'll have the details.

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

NEWTON (voice-over): And I'm Paula Newton. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


NEWTON: It's 4:00 am in the U.S. East Coast, 11:00 am in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the President of the United States is getting a lavish welcome from Saudi leaders.

The kingdom has extended a few courtesies that were notably absent from President Obama's visit there last year. That includes King Salman coming out to greet him on the tarmac.

HOWELL: Mr. Trump was treated to a traditional tea ceremony shortly thereafter at an airport terminal. In a few hours, he and the first lady, Melania Trump, will head to the royal court to meet further with King Salman.

That meeting set to be the full-fledged arrival ceremony and then after that he will hold bilateral meetings with the king.

The president, looking to turn a page this week with this trip, though, the shadows of the problems that he leaves behind in Washington, they seem to be growing bigger and bigger by the hour.

NEWTON: Understatement right there. Sources tell CNN that Russian officials were so confident of their

close relationship with Trump adviser Michael Flynn during the U.S. presidential campaign that they bragged about it among themselves. Now they believed if Mr. Trump won the election, they could use Flynn to influence the White House.

HOWELL: That's problem number one of four lately.

Number two, the former FBI director, James Comey, abruptly fired last week, now Mr. Comey ready to tell his side of the story. He will testify before Congress in a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee sometime after May 29th.

NEWTON: Now hold on, there's more. We're also learning this. President Trump reportedly insulted Comey the day after the firing. According to "The New York Times," he told senior Russian officials in the Oval Office that Comey was, quote, "crazy" and "a nut job."

HOWELL: All right. And storyline number four we're following, CNN has learned that lawyers within the Trump White House, they've started researching impeachment. The White House also considering hiring an outside legal team. A lot to talk about on the domestic side, for sure.

Let's start though by compartmentalizing all of this and starting with the story at hand this hour, happening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. That is where our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is live following the president's visit there.

Nic, it's good to have you with us. The president's first international visit as U.S. president, talk to us about the arrival.

What was that like and what's set to happen today?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: George, stepping off the plane, Air Force One, at the airport, King Khaled (ph) International Airport, President Trump could only have been hoping for what you were talking about there, compartmentalization, to step off the plane, put behind himself, for the time being, the issues that he's facing in Washington and get to the issues in hand here, shaking the hand of King Salman, who is now 81 years old, who came out right to the end of the red carpet at the foot of the stairs of Air Force One.

This is unusual in any context for the Saudi king to come out to the airport, to greet any visiting dignitary and it's certainly not the level of respect and warmth that was accorded to President Obama when he came here just a year ago.

So that's a very strong sign, along with the flags that the U.S. and Saudi flags lining the roads that President Trump and the king will have driven by to their first engagement here.

It's a very, very warm welcome. So, today, President Trump will spend quite a lot of time with the king -- and that also is unusual. Normally, the king would be one of several people that a president would normally visit. But, today, there's a lot of time with the king, various riding in the car, greeting at the airport, at the palace, as well.


ROBERTSON: President Trump later meeting with the deputy crown prince, that's the defense minister, the king's son, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who is also the architect of the vision of the future of Saudi Arabia, the 2030 vision to wean the country away from oil, to cut down the number of government jobs and increase the private sector workforce here.

So a key player in the future of the country. But he'll also meet with the crown prince, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who is the interior minister, older than the king's son, who has a longer, stronger, deeper relationship with the United States, particular on fighting terrorism.

This is a prince who has actually been personally attacked by a suicide bomber, was slightly injured but survived. So obviously, stories to exchange there.

But President Trump's perhaps biggest part of his visit here will come on Sunday. And he'll meet with members of the Gulf Community Council, Gulf Cooperation Council. That's the sort of immediate regional allies of Saudi Arabia and the United States.

But he'll also meet with an expanded forum of many regional Arab and Muslim leaders here and it's in front of them that he'll give this -- expected to give a speech about Islam and about how -- what President Trump hopes and believes and wants from all these leaders, is that they can preach a more tolerant, a more peaceful vision of Islam.

And that, of course, will be a tough speech to deliver because those leaders already believe that -- George.

HOWELL: Talk just a bit more about the speech, Nic, because quite frankly, there are four different dimensions that viewers can see this particular trip, obviously the trip is very important, resetting, quite frankly, from a Saudi point of view, relations in comparison to the Obama administration.

Also, there is the domestic situation that we will certainly talk about here just a bit later in the newscast. There is also candidate Donald Trump and president Donald Trump, candidate Trump who is criticized for Islamophobic tones during the campaign.

The question here is, with this speech, how important is this speech, a speech, Nic, that is going to be written by Stephen Miller, a man who also has been criticized by many as harboring Islamophobic views?

How important will this speech be and what is expected there in Saudi?

ROBERTSON: It's something that the White House recognizes has to be calibrated. Respectful is how national security adviser General H.R. McMaster characterized how the speech would be. It is a big ask, isn't it, for anyone who has been so critical of the

faith to come to the crucible of that faith, Islam, and to preach a message to all those Muslims about Islam.

I've been asking Saudis here why they think President Trump can be trusted, what he can deliver and how can he come here and give that kind of message with the background he has?

This is what I heard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe he make apologize for all Muslim, what he say about Islam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Trump. He is good.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he is going to different everything.

ROBERTSON: He is making everything different?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything different.

ROBERTSON: What do you want from it?

Why is it so important?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we would like to confront Iran. Iran has expansionist policy in the region. It has Hezbollah in Lebanon. It has Houthis in Yemen. And we would like to confront this expansionist policy.

ROBERTSON: So is President Trump a good man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language)




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). He try fix the mistake they make with Obama. He make big mistake.

ROBERTSON: This is the same President Trump who had a very negative message about Muslims in his campaign trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. But it's always sad that campaign rhetoric tends to change after the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he come into Saudi Arabia because he like Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia like USA. ROBERTSON: One of the things he is going to do while he is here is deliver a speech to all the leaders here about Islam and, to ask the leaders to preach a peaceful version of Islam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's a goal to confront radicalism but not primarily Islam, I mean. But radicalism is evil and should be confronted here and elsewhere.


ROBERTSON: Perhaps it's no surprise in this country that the people here are throwing themselves publicly at least behind the leadership. But there does seem to be a genuine feeling that they're prepared for the time being to put aside what --


ROBERTSON: -- President Trump has said in the past -- they'll remember it. They won't forget it but put it aside now for a greater gain they hope, going down the road -- George.

HOWELL: Interesting to hear the different takes that you got there during your time speaking with people, one of them confronting Iran, the other confronting radicalism and one person right off the top of your piece, hoping for an apology, Nic. We'll see how this speech goes.

CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, live for us in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Thank you so much for your time today.

NEWTON: Yes. And as we pointed out in the beginning of this, all of this going on, we've got more revelations regarding the Russia probe and other things. Sources now tell CNN that Russian officials bragged about how close they were with Michael Flynn.

HOWELL: That's right. We're learning Russians hoped to use their relationship with Flynn to influence the new U.S. president, as Pamela Brown reports for us.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Multiple sources tell CNN that Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated such a strong relationship with former Trump adviser Michael Flynn that they believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team.

Now those conversations deeply concern U.S. intelligence officials and it even impacted what intelligence the incoming administration was privy to because some Obama intelligence officials acted on their own to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn.

A former official tells our Gloria Borger that the way the Russians were talking about Flynn was regarded as a, quote, "five-alarm fire from early on," according to our sources. And the Russians' conversations indicated they regarded Flynn as their

ally. Officials cautioned, though, that the Russians might have exaggerated their sway with Trump's team during those conversations.

Now Flynn's relationship with Russia developed throughout 2016, months before he was caught on an intercepted call in December, speaking with Russia's Sergey Kislyak. That ultimately led to Flynn's firing as Trump's first national security adviser.

CNN has reached out to both Flynn's lawyer, who declined to comment, and the White House, who said, "We are confident that when these inquiries are complete, there will be no evidence to support any collusion between the campaign and Russia."

Top former Obama intelligence officials and members of Congress briefed on the matter have all said the same thing -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

A short time in as U.S. president but this has probably been one of the most tumultuous weeks for Donald Trump and it's all happening with the president now on a very ambitious foreign trip.

NEWTON: Ambitious, indeed. As CNN's Sara Murray reports, and we've heard this before, the president is hoping that this will be an opportunity for a reset and a break from all the controversies at home.


SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump leaving Washington behind as he aims to use a high-stakes foreign trip to escape the cloud of controversy marring his presidency. But just as he took off, a fresh controversy broke out.

"The New York Times" reporting that Trump told Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting that firing FBI director James Comey relieved some of the pressure on him in the Russia investigation, Trump reportedly describing Comey, who was overseeing the Russia investigation at the time, as "a real nut job" and saying, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

The White House did not deny the account.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.

"The investigation would have always continued and, obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it."

Trump's allies are hopeful the president will use his ambitious five- nation foreign trip as an opportunity to move beyond complaints about the Russia investigation.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire thing has been a witch-hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign.


MURRAY: And refocus on his presidential agenda.


TRUMP: We want to get back and keep on the track that we're on because the track that we're on is record-setting. And that's what we want to do is we want to break very positive records.


MURRAY: It's a reset Trump's colleagues are openly wishing for as well.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: He clearly did have a bad two weeks. Clearly it's my hope that he does right the ship, that he improves so that we can just get going.


MURRAY: But in Washington, the discussion is still dominated by the chaos of the past few weeks, largely caused by the president's own actions. As questions continue swirling about the president's snap decision to fire Comey and where the Russia investigation, now helmed by a special counsel, will lead.

And the president will have a number of pressing issues to deal with as soon as he returns from his foreign trip. Among them, whether to hire an outside legal counsel now that a special counsel has taken over this Russia investigation.

And of course, who he will pick to be his next FBI director after firing James Comey -- Sara Murray, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Sara Murray, thank you so much.

Now to get a sense of how President Trump's growing problems are playing --


HOWELL: -- out in Russia, let's go live to Ivan Watson, following the story in the Russian capital. Thank you, Ivan, for your time today. So many storylines playing out

here in the States, one of them about basically from "The New York Times," saying that he told senior officials in the Oval Office that Comey was "crazy" and "a nut job." That's one story.

And the other, CNN learning from sources that officials were so confident of their close relationship with Michael Flynn, they bragged about it.

What are you hearing there in Moscow, a response from this?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has not been front page news here in Russia. And don't expect the same kind of leaking and anonymous information coming from the Kremlin bureaucracy and the Russian government bureaucracy that you're seeing in the U.S.

Likewise, the Russian media, which is heavily influenced by the Kremlin, is not going to be reporting the kind of stuff that we're seeing from Washington, day after day, talking about the investigation into alleged links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The Kremlin's line throughout all of this, this going back months, has been deny, deny, deny and then to say that this is an internal American affair and then to either mock it or to denigrate it completely, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, recently saying that this is an example of political schizophrenia in the American political system and to also claim that there's an anti- Russian campaign going on in the U.S.

It's interesting that sometimes the Russian reaction, the official reaction, to these claims of collusion and meddling and hacking, reflect some of the argument that Donald Trump himself has used, which his defense has been to say that, hey, Russia is being used by the opposition in the U.S. as this weapon to flog me with, which Russian officials have suggested as well.

There's no question that Moscow welcomed the election of Donald Trump, thought that he would be somebody who could help improve Russian-U.S. relations. And one of the lines that has come out of Russia consistently throughout the past months, since the inauguration of Donald Trump, has been to suggest that opponents with the U.S. political system are opposed to improving relations between Trump and Putin.

And they're attacking the prospects of kind of an improvement in relations. So that is kind of the summary of what has been going on here in Moscow these past months, really.

HOWELL: Senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, live for us in Russia, a lot to cover; thank you so much for giving us the perspective there from Russia.

So, again, the U.S. president making his first international trip. All the while, the shadow of scandals continues to plague him back home, growing by the hour. This is NEWSROOM. We'll be back after the break.






NEWTON: Two sources tell CNN, White House lawyers are doing research on impeachment procedures and they're consulting experts on the subject.

Now the White House denies this and says it's still not true and it's still very uncertain that President Trump would, indeed, face any such effort to remove him from office.

HOWELL: According to sources briefed on the legal discussions that are happening, the president still has the backing of Republicans in Congress. Democrats, for their part, have quieted talk of impeachment so that -- they believe that it may be premature. They don't want to overreach.

NEWTON: "The New York Times'" London bureau chief, Steven Erlanger, joins us now from the British capital.

I think the media is accused every day of perhaps this all leading to some kind of hysteria.

Having said that, if we deal with transactional politics, we are dealing with scandal after scandal. A lot of distraction not just for the president but for his staff as well.

At this point, do you believe the Trump administration is handicapped by having all these scandals in the hopes of having some kind of transformative policy initiative in the next nine days?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" LONDON: Well, I do think Trump is badly hurt. Now it doesn't have to last forever but the White House is consumed with its own problems. It's like they have a bad intestinal problem and it's very hard for them to kind of look outside to the rest of the world and see what needs to be done.

So, in this sense, I think this long trip, that President Trump was apparently grumpy about doing it, would be quite a good thing for him because first of all, it sends him abroad, where he's going to be honored and feted and treated like a king, which is happening in Saudi Arabia now, where everyone will want a bit of his time, where everyone will be listening incredibly closely to what he says about them rather than about himself and his problems, and where generally, in a number of these countries, they have real interest in a Trump administration that is different from the Obama administration.

That's particularly true in Saudi Arabia and in Israel.

So for all those reasons, I think, you know, Trump may enjoy this period abroad but at the same time, leaders will look at him and wonder, can he last?

And that's a serious question.

NEWTON: Yes. And it does seriously undermine him.

And I want to know from you, Steven, if you've noticed the allies getting more nervous. They all seemed to deal with the earthquake that was that political campaign and that was the election and they all seemed to be willing to deal with the Trump administration on their own terms.

I've detected quite a change in the last two weeks.

What is it like, especially there in Europe, where Trump will be headed after he heads to Saudi Arabia and Israel?

ERLANGER: Well, it's been a bit like a roller coaster. Everyone is waiting for the asteroid to hit. They're not really sure what kind of impact it's going to make.


ERLANGER: People are very nervous because Trump had said a lot of, you know, very hostile things during the campaign, especially NATO is obsolete and the European Union is going to break apart.

But even as president, he seemed to support Marine Le Pen in France, he's been a big backer of Brexit and Scottish independence.

So people are nervous. And people see him as transactional. The problem with a transactional America is it's all about interests, it's not about values.

And if, for example, with NATO, where Trump is going to be later, there's Article V, which is a commitment to collective defense.

Now that's not a transactional deal. That's a deal forever; if it's going to work, if it's going to be -- act as a real deterrent. So the more transactional Trump seems, actually the more nervous allies get.

Now some of his criticisms make perfect sense. NATO needs to do more for itself, it needs to spend more, it also needs to spend more efficiently. So, you know, this can have a good impact.

Everyone in Brussels certainly -- I've talked to a lot of them, both at the European Union and NATO -- are just hoping nothing goes wrong. They've set the bar very, very low.

And if Trump sticks to the script, everyone else will be polite and everyone will give a great sigh of relief after he goes.

NEWTON: Such vivid language from you this morning, Steven. I have to say and I'm sure you'll admit that's nothing compared to what we've heard behind the scenes from allies. As you said, I think they're all just hoping, crossing their fingers behind their backs and hoping the trip goes well. I'm sure the Trump administration hopes that as well. We'll continue to catch up with you; appreciate your time this morning from London.

ERLANGER: Thanks, Paula.

HOWELL: Still ahead, this very important trip, more coverage of the U.S. president in Saudi Arabia. CNN is live on the story.

HOWELL: And Trump's campaign trail comments about Islam didn't win him any favors in the region. Take a look back as Trump gets ready to address the Muslim world.




HOWELL (voice-over): Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, we welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Paula Newton. The headlines this hour.


NEWTON: Now for more on the U.S. president's trip to Saudi Arabia, we're joined by our White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond. He is in Riyadh.

So far, so good. He did just land. And, again, we are seeing a lot of the reverence that kingdom is showing right now to Donald Trump. Having said that, even you, Jeremy, you must have been confronted with so much news getting off that airplane.

Do you believe it will distract from what is a very ambitious nine-day foreign trip?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly the swirl of controversies that this White House and the president are facing are continuing to dog him even as he lands here in Saudi Arabia. As they traveled the several thousand miles from Washington to Riyadh overnight, several significant news stories breaking, including additional information and more allegations concerning the Russia investigation into potential contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials.

We're learning that Michael Flynn, who became the national security adviser for just 24 days, Russian officials believe that they could influence President Trump through Michael Flynn. And that raised suspicions from Obama administration officials during the transition. The White House making clear they hope this investigation that now has

a special counsel overseeing it in an independent manner. White House officials telling CNN that they hope this investigation will be resumed swiftly and they expect nothing will be found of those contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign associates.

But clearly, the president and his team, as they land here in Saudi Arabia, hoping to change the focus away from those controversies and toward this week of powerhouse diplomacy that the president has.

As you mentioned, the greeting that the president got this morning here in Saudi Arabia was one full of pageantry with the Saudi king, despite his old age and the heat that we have here, coming to the tarmac to greet President Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, as they stepped foot in Saudi Arabia.

What to expect here from this visit is, you know, the president is potentially looking for a sort of reset in relations with the Muslim world. Of course, you'll remember his very strong rhetoric during the campaign, controversial rhetoric, that billions of Muslims from around the world found very offensive.

The president called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States said, quote, "Islam hates us."

That very much in contrast with the reception he is getting here from Saudi officials, who are, of course, looking to forge a stronger partnership with the Trump administration to confront regional conflicts like with Iran and, of course, to confront terrorism together.

NEWTON: And what strikes me is this isn't just a rhetorical reset. The Trump administration have some very different ideas from the Obama administration about what should go on there.

Do we get any indication, Jeremy, that because of that that he will be raising --


NEWTON: -- or not raising human rights or not in Saudi Arabia?

DIAMOND: What one senior White House official told us a couple of days ago was we're not going to lecture anyone. That's been so far the pattern that we've seen from Trump, as he's met with a number of these autocratic leaders from several of these Muslim countries.

President Trump has made clear that he's not trying to lecture people, certainly not in public. White House officials telling us that he will, instead, raise human rights concerns in private.

We saw some of that happen as he greeted Egyptian strongman president Al-Sisi at the White House earlier in his term. They didn't raise human rights concerns publicly but we later saw one of these American activists in Egypt who was imprisoned, she was released shortly following that meeting with Al-Sisi. NEWTON: Again, you're just bringing up the very tip of the iceberg of all there is to talk about on this visit. Jeremy, continue to follow it for us there, live in Riyadh, appreciate it.

HOWELL: No doubt, Paula, this is a very important speech ahead for the U.S. president, seen as a reset in the Muslim world. President Trump gearing up to address Muslims all over the world. But when he was running for office, it was a different story. Mr. Trump very vocal of what he thought of Muslims.

NEWTON: Now he once said in an interview, quote, as Jeremy just reminded, us, "Islam hates us."

What's so startling, George, going back over the speech from President Barack Obama in Cairo after his presidency, completely different in terms of the frame of reference that Donald Trump had. It's interesting how much he's going to bring that back.

Our Brianna Keilar takes a look back at some of Trump's controversial comments.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a candidate, Donald Trump drew wide criticism when he falsely claimed Muslims had cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11.


TRUMP: And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down, thousands of people were cheering.

KEILAR (voice-over): Just weeks later in December 2015, Trump first announced his proposal to ban Muslims. It came in the wake of the ISIS-inspired attack in San Bernardino, California, by a U.S.-born Pakistani American and his wife.

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

KEILAR (voice-over): As Trump surged in the primaries, he said the religion as a whole was anti-American.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Do you think Islam is at war with the west?

TRUMP: I think Islam hates us. There's something -- there's something there; there's a tremendous hatred there.

KEILAR (voice-over): A message heard loud and clear in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Trump has now dared to give a speech intended, his top aides say, to unite the Muslim world against terrorism. TRUMP: And it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.

KEILAR (voice-over): He'll have a lot of explaining to do, particularly on his travel ban of several Muslim majority countries, now tied up in the court system.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: Well, first of all, it's not a travel ban. He has been very clear that it is extreme vetting.

KEILAR (voice-over): And also clear that it was indeed a ban.

TRUMP: We're going to have a very, very strict ban and we're going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.

KEILAR: That ban authored with significant input from top White House aide Stephen Miller, who is also the main author of the remarks that Trump will deliver on Islam. As a college student, Miller worked with the Terrorism Awareness Project, a group considered an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: Still ahead here, a royal reception in Saudi Arabia, one that won't go unnoticed on the other side of the Persian Gulf. Reaction from Iran to Donald Trump's first foreign trip.

HOWELL: Plus, the U.S. president set to travel to Israel after Saudi Arabia. What his talks with Saudi and Arab leaders might mean for the next part of that trip as CNN NEWSROOM continues.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news. HOWELL: We are following breaking news out of Iran this morning. The election that's taken place there, Iranian state media has a new ticker scroll, reading the national media, IRINN, congratulates the victory of Mr. Hassan Rouhani in the presidential election.

Again, this is the headline coming out of Iran this hour. You see the president Hassan Rouhani in the presidential election. This video is what we're looking at right now. Iran's interior ministry has not released new numbers since their last update. Those numbers had the incumbent president, Rouhani, with 22 million-plus votes.

His main challenger, Ebrahim Raisi, with 15 million of the votes. Those numbers reported and giving you the broad numbers could be more specific here exactly 22,796,468 and Mr. Raisi with 15,452,194 votes.

Let's go live to Fred Pleitgen, who is on the ground following this.

Fred, what's the latest?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. What we're expecting is that in the next around 45 minutes, the interior ministry is probably going to announce the official results of this election.

The numbers that you were just giving was with about 38 million of the votes counted in this election. Again, the Iranians were saying that more than 40 million people actually voted in this election, so there were still some ballots being counted and that's why there isn't any sort of official announcement from the interior ministry yet.

Apparently the state media seeing that Hassan Rouhani is so far ahead that they are already congratulating him on winning this election. There's also some smaller news agencies here in Iran that have actually done the same thing, also saying Rouhani has won this election which, of course, George, as we've been saying over the past couple of days, is a very important one.

To many Iranians, very important in shaping this country's role in the Middle East and shaping this country's role globally, as well and, of course, internally as far as its economic policies are concerned.

And from having been at a lot of these polling stations, at one major polling station in Tehran yesterday, you could really see that the turnout was very, very high. Many people were coming out and telling us, look, right now we have two candidates whose economic policies are diametrically --


PLEITGEN: -- opposed to one another and that's why many of them said they believed that this election was so very important.

Finally, George, one of the things we also shouldn't underestimate was in the run-up to the election the Donald Trump factor. Right now with him, the president being in Saudi Arabia and Israel, also with some of the policies and rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration, Hassan Rouhani was put under a lot of pressure by the conservatives.

He was the one who negotiated the nuclear agreement. He was the one who said that this country should engage more with the West, also with the United States and that's something he was very much criticized for after the Trump administration took that hard line.

But it doesn't seem to have hurt him in the polls. Judging from what we're just hearing, it seems as though Hassan Rouhani will be declared the victor of Iran's 12th presidential election in its history here.

HOWELL: Fred Pleitgen, live in Tehran, Iran, thank you so much. Again, the headline here, national media congratulating the victory of Hassan Rouhani in the presidential election. CNN has a correspondent on the ground and we'll continue to bring you updates and newslines as we learn more about this breaking news we're following.

NEWTON: A lot going on in the Middle East right now. Donald Trump, of course, now on the ground in Saudi Arabia. What we want to let you know is that, of course, Israel will be his next stop. We want to know about how they are viewing this visit there.

Oren Liebermann joins us live from Jerusalem.

Oren, thanks so much. It's nice to see you. And I really want to get your take on this. It's been great sport, reading the headlines in Israel the last few days. But it is interesting because Donald Trump was fond of saying on the campaign trail that Israel will never have a better friend.

How is Israel thinking he's going live up to that now?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's where the focus wants to be. And as close and as short as possible to that.

This should be an easy visit. It's a Republican president. It's a conservative government here, Republican Congress, Republican Senate. Yet the Israelis are very much on edge. There is a sense of nervousness here about this visit. That's because of what he's liable to say sort of off script, any spontaneous comments he might make.

Because the issue here, the issue that Trump wants to address, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is very sensitive. If he says too much about it or demands too much from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government it could really affect Netanyahu because many of Netanyahu's coalition partners or at least some of the key ones are anti-Palestinian state and don't want to see Netanyahu making concessions.

So the more it focuses on the conflict, on Israelis and Palestinians, the worse it is from the perspective of Netanyahu's government. The more this focuses on Iran and the threat Iran poses to the region, the better for Netanyahu's government.

I've spoke with numerous politicians both in the opposition and the coalition and they all basically have the same sentiment, which is to say this is about the optics. This has to look good. But the sooner Trump gets in, shakes the right hands, makes the right statements, the sooner this is over, the better off it is from the Israeli perspective.

That's interesting because that's a role reversal here. The Palestinians are fairly calm going in. They believe President Mahmoud Abbas has made the right statements and played his cards right, with his meeting in Washington, with his meeting with the other Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia right before Trump comes here.

They want to see what he has to address the peace process. So it's an interesting role reversal here, it's the Israelis that are nervous, it's the Palestinians that are calm. We'll see how this all plays out. Again, Paula, it's about the optics. So if the right statements are

made and the right photos are taken, this should be an easy visit. And that's where it could end up. But if this goes off script with spontaneous comments, it could have serious consequences --

NEWTON: Oren, I really hope you haven't jinxed anything. OK? The good thing is, you get to put up with whatever happens. We're going to lean heavily with Oren through the next few days to bring us through this, and, again, a lot riding on the line with what is a pivotal relationship in the Middle East.

Appreciate it, Oren.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Pippa Middleton was nearly the center of attention at her sister's wedding and now she's getting ready for her own. Details ahead.






HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. So we are just hours away from the biggest wedding of the year in the United Kingdom. Pippa Middleton, the sister-in-law of the future king, is about to walk down the aisle.

NEWTON: (INAUDIBLE). Nice wedding, the nice dresses. Members of the royal family, including her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, will attend, of course. Our Erin McLaughlin is near the village of Buckleberry, where the ceremony will be held.

It seems to me -- I know this isn't a royal wedding and yet there really seems to be a lot of anticipation.

Or is it my imagination?

I just want to see the kids so badly, Erin.

What is it?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So much anticipation and media speculation surrounding this wedding, Paula. Let me just give you a sense of where I'm standing. I'm in Buckleberry, sort of wedged between where the ceremony is going to be taking place at a 12th century church on a private estate and where the reception is going to be taking place, which is, of course, at the Middleton family home not far from here.

Now there's limited media access, as you might imagine, to the event itself but they are allowing two royal pool cameras to cover the church arrivals and departures, which is very unusual for the royal family to be covering a Middleton event in this way.

But, of course, this is a special occasion. Prince George and Princess Charlotte are expected to attend. They have roles in the wedding in what promises to be a lavish affair.



ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not quite a royal wedding but on the scale of hotly anticipated nuptials, it's pretty close. With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attending, 3- year-old Prince George and 2-year-old Princess Charlotte taking starring roles as pageboy and flower girl. And Prince Harry on the guest list, Pippa Middleton's wedding to financier James Matthews is said to be Britain's wedding of the year.

Though the details are being kept under tight wraps, the bride and groom-to-be have been spotted in the English countryside, attending to the final preparations of the 12th century church, where the wedding ceremony will --


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): -- take place, just a few miles from her parents' estate and the marquee reception.

Pippa Middleton first grabbed the world's attention at the wedding of her sister, Kate, to Prince William in 2011. As maid of honor, her dress and, more precisely, her figure made headlines. Suddenly the overshadowed younger sister shot to fame.

PIPPA MIDDLETON, SISTER TO THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE: It's been a crazy couple of years since my sister's wedding. But it's had its upside and downside. And I feel really fortunate to be able to build a career as a writer.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): With the celebrity status came opportunity. Pippa authored a book. She even became a contributor for "Vanity Fair."

After dating a string of high society men, 41-year-old Matthews popped the question last summer after almost two years of dating. Despite all the interest in the couple themselves, the biggest question is whether Prince Harry's girlfriend, Meghan Markle will be his date.

Speculation abounds but it's unknown if the American actress will accompany Prince Harry to either the church or the reception. If Markle attends, it will be the couple's highest profile outing to date and may spark rumors of another royal wedding in the wings.


MCLAUGHLIN: And we're about an hour and a half away from the wedding ceremony itself. Lots to look forward to -- Paula.

NEWTON: Erin, appreciate it. Erin looking pretty in pink for the wedding.

That's all for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues here on CNN after the break.




HOWELL: Welcoming the U.S. commander in chief in Saudi Arabia. President Trump in Riyadh, set to speak on a peaceful vision of Islam in contrast to his vision of Islam on the campaign trail.

Will Sunday's speech hit the mark?

CNN is live in Riyadh for the president's first foreign visit.

And he may be out of the country but the controversy surrounding his ties to Russia continue to haunt Donald Trump.