Return to Transcripts main page


Trump in Saudi Arabia; Russia Investigation; Israelis Prepare for Trump Visit; Iranian Presidential Election; Pippa Middleton's Big Day. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired May 20, 2017 - 05:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Will Sunday's speech hit the mark?

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

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And he may be out of the country but the controversy surrounding his ties to Russia continue to haunt Donald Trump. The latest: Russian officials bragged about their close relationship with Michael Flynn. We go to Moscow for reaction.

HOWELL (voice-over): Plus, going to the polls, state media congratulate President Hassan Rouhani on his reelection victory. CNN will have the very latest on that very important story.

NEWTON (voice-over): Welcome to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. We've live in Atlanta. I'm Paula Newton.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: It is 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast, noon in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is getting an elaborate welcome from Saudi leaders. The official business will get started in the coming hours.

You see the president here. This was about two hours ago, stepping down the stairs there with the first lady of the United States, Melania Trump. He'll have a formal meeting with the Saudi King, the crown prince and his deputy. White House staffers focusing on the busy agenda but a slew of controversies also threaten to follow their travels.

NEWTON: Absolutely. Back in Washington, sources tell CNN that Russian officials were so confident of their close ties to Trump adviser Michael Flynn during the 2016 campaign that they openly bragged about it among themselves.

They believed that they could use him to influence policy if Mr. Trump won the election, which, of course, he did. And as if that wasn't enough, FBI director James Comey says he's ready to give his side of the story after Mr. Trump fired him last week. He'll testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in the next few weeks in a public hearing.

HOWELL: All right. That's story line two. Here is story three of four. On top of that, "The New York Times" reporting that Mr. Trump referred to Comey as, quote, "a nut job" when he met with the Russian officials the day after Comey's dismissal.

And then finally, story four of four, CNN has learned that lawyers within the Trump administration, they started researching impeachment. An outside legal team may also come in to help.

NEWTON: Now our Nic Robertson is live in Riyadh. He is there now that the president is actually on the ground and has had his first events.

What's so been interesting to me is the fact that the Saudi government and even the Saudi people, while we may be following every detail of what's going on with the Trump administration, their interests are quite different.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They are. Their interests are much more regional. They want Trump to be tough on Iran. They want Trump to support their aspirations for Israeli- Palestinian peace.

They want a change from President Obama. They didn't like the way Obama handled the Iran nuclear deal. Didn't like the way that he didn't back up his allies in the region. So they're looking for a big change here.

What's quite remarkable is the amount of time that President Trump is spending with King Salman today. Remarkable, too, King Salman greeted him at the bottom of the stairs of the plane. He's 81 years old now.

This is a real statement in the way that the royal family believes that Trump can deliver. And certainly they're rolling out a royal welcome. But I've been interested to find out what Saudis here are thinking, given some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that President Trump had when he was on the campaign trail. This is what I found out.


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.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But radicalism is evil and should be confronted here and elsewhere.


ROBERTSON: So what we're hearing from people is very much seems to be on message with the government, prepared on one side to put aside what they've heard from President Trump in the past and give him, if you will, a clean sheet, an opportunity to start over here -- Paula.

NEWTON: Striking that, through all that campaign rhetoric, he's chosen Saudi Arabia for his first international trip, first visit, and they are quite honored that he has.

Nic, you've been covering what goes on there in the kingdom for so many years, right through the Obama administration, in fact. This is so different, the Donald Trump approach to what Barack Obama did.

In terms of actual concrete progress, what's number one for the Saudis?

ROBERTSON: Saudi Arabia relies on the United States to beef up its military forces, which they did, paradoxically, because of President Obama's policy not to back up their allies in the region. So the Saudis embarked on a protect yourself philosophy and bulked up their defense and security forces; 21 percent of GDP this year is to be spent on arms and security.

So there are, in the pipeline, big arms deals, military deals with the United States. So getting movement ahead, getting some signatures on paper over that, would be a very positive step for both sides, the Saudis securing their future, President Trump able to say that he's delivering on drops to the United States.

But perhaps one of the big challenges for President Trump is on a long trip that can be very tiresome, meeting with multiple different leaders. More than 30, 40, even 50 different leaders heading to this country and more later on in this more than week-long trip.

The challenge is going to be not making a mistake, not saying something wrong. And that, the until now, has been a huge challenge for President Trump.

NEWTON: Yes, and we should give him some humble advice, right, Nic?

Get some sleep. Apparently he didn't get too much on the airplane. We certainly hope he gets a little bit more on this trip. Our Nic Robertson there, on the ground there in Riyadh, who continues to cover that very momentous trip. Appreciate it, Nic.

HOWELL: Now back here to the United States, the many controversies that are in the shadow of this president, his first international trip, sources telling CNN that Russian officials bragged about how close they were to Michael Flynn.

heavyweight Yes. We're learning the Russians hoped to use their relationship with Flynn to influence the new president. Our Pamela Brown has more.


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.

This is probably the most tumultuous week for the president since his presidency and it's all happening with him on a very ambitious foreign trip.

NEWTON: CNN's Sara Murray reports the White House is hoping the president's tour will be an opportunity for that much-needed reset and a break from 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 --


MURRAY (voice-over): -- 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.


NEWTON: Now two sources tell CNN, White House lawyers have begun researching impeachment procedures and are consulting experts on the process. The White House denies this, saying it's simply not true and it is still far from certain that President Trump would face an effort to remove him from office. Now according to sources briefed on those legal discussions, the

president still has the backing of the Republican supporters in Congress and some Democrats have been pulling back on that talk of impeachment out of concern that it is far too premature.

HOWELL: The U.S. president in Saudi Arabia but the shadow of controversies continues to grow. A great deal to talk about and I'm bringing in Jacob Parakilas with the policy think tank Chatham House in London with us this hour.

Jacob, good to have you with us. Let's talk about this news CNN has learned. Lawyers within the Trump White House talking about researching impeachment.

Given the controversies that are plaguing this White House, are you surprised by this or would this be a standard move just to understand the parameters?

JACOB PARAKILAS, CHATHAM HOUSE: I don't think it's a standard move for any president at any point. But given the amount of controversy, given the sort of sub rosa discussions of impeachment that's come out with some Democratic and even a couple of Republican members of Congress, it's not surprising that they looked into it. I'd be wary of reading too much into it.

I think this is just a preliminary investigation and making sure that they are up to date and understand the legal parameters of impeachment. But I just -- I don't think that there's -- at this point, there's much more to it than that.

HOWELL: So due diligence, just to understand the parameters of the situation. OK.

Let's talk about the former FBI director, James Comey, apparently ready to give his side of the story, to testify before Congress in a public hearing.

How big of a bombshell would this be, given what he may or may not say?

PARAKILAS: Well, Comey will be sort of withheld or restrained by the confidentiality. He takes confidentiality very seriously; he takes his legal obligations very seriously. So I don't think he will say anything. I would be surprised if he says anything that hasn't already been reported on in some sense.

Of course, having the former FBI director give testimony in public, under oath, to a Senate hearing is much different from having it reported in the newspaper and it gives the sort of this -- story additional legs, even if he doesn't actually report anything new. And he may, of course, report something new.

And we shouldn't overlook the fact that Comey can be a very, very effective witness and we saw that almost a decade ago, when he testified about his and Robert Mueller's, who was the FBI director at the time and is now the special counsel, intervention to prevent the Bush administration from renewing a wireless -- warrantless wiretapping program that both of them viewed as unconstitutional.

HOWELL: All right. So, Jacob, we're learning also the president had a very unflattering comment for the fired director, according to "The New York Times."

He basically told senior Russian officials in the Oval Office that Comey was, quote, "crazy" and, quote, "a nut job." A very different story, though, than he gave the American people in an interview about why he decided to fire James Comey.

Your thoughts?

PARAKILAS: Well, I think that particular turn of phrase is something that Trump has deployed. It's kind of a stock insult that he uses. The fact that he used that phrase and that he spoke about this to the Russian foreign minister --


PARAKILAS: -- and the Russian ambassador represents some fairly bad judgment on his part. I mean, I think that might even be an understatement.

To talk about that kind of internal matter with senior Russian officials at a time when he's sort of the subject of a lot of investigation and speculation about his links with the Russians and his campaign's links with the Russians, I think, reflects a fairly serious lapse in judgment.

HOWELL: Also regarding the -- rather, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, sources telling CNN Russian officials were so confident of their close relationship with him that they bragged about it among themselves.

How does this play into that?

PARAKILAS: I'm not sure yet. I mean, I think the -- with that kind of story that's mediated through, you know, in various anonymous sources, we are talking about sort of intercepts or understandings from Americans of what Russians said.

I think there are so many opportunities for things to be misrepresented or misunderstood or sort of exaggerated in retelling, it's a bit like a game of Telephone and I think it would be unwise to give too much credence to that particular piece of reporting.

HOWELL: Jacob Parakilas, thank you so much. We got through all of the topics. I worried if we would be able to but we did it, man. We did it. Thank you so much for your time.

NEWTON: That was just 48 hours of news, right?


HOWELL: We tried to jam it all in there.

NEWTON: Well done.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, after Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump is set to visit Jerusalem. What his Saudi trip might mean for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ahead.

NEWTON: Plus, a red carpet reception in Riyadh but there won't be any visit to Tehran. How Donald Trump's visit is being viewed there.




NEWTON: And we're coverage the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia. He's on the ground right now. But he is set to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories after Saudi Arabia.

He will visit several key religious sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall and the Old City. He's also expected to take part in a wreath laying ceremony at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Now separate meetings with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas are also planned

Sound ambitious?

It certainly is. Our Oren Liebermann is following it all live from Jerusalem.

It's an understatement --


NEWTON: -- really, to say everything he's going to be doing there. And, you know, they are literally a minefield. All the issues that you touch in the Middle East, he has said, Donald Trump, that he believes that he can get a spark going in terms of peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

What's the view from there as they get set to receive him?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, initially, the expectations were quite high. There was even some speculation here that he would arrange a trilateral meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Mahmoud Abbas and himself. Those expectations have been scaled back, scaled way back.

Now it looks like we're talking about an economic incentives package to the Palestinians and there's still some confusion as to what he might offer the Israelis to try to get a peace process going. It's still there but you're absolutely right. Trying to tackle this process so openly, so quickly at the beginning, is a minefield with all sorts of problems.

And we saw some of that in a video the White House released about the trip that showed Israel without the West Bank and without the Golan Heights, both considered occupied territory. That video was since removed because of the sensitivity of those and how you show Israel.

So that's just an idea of everything that could go wrong in terms of off-the-cuff remarks, spontaneous comments he makes here and there. But if he sticks to the script, it should, theoretically, at least with the Israelis, be an easy trip. It's a Republican president visiting a conservative government and a conservative leader in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But I've spoken to numerous politicians, who say if it sticks to that and exactly what's supposed to happen, it should be a great trip, it should be all about the optics.

The question is, where can it go wrong?

And there it seems that every little move here has something that could go wrong, both with the Israelis and with the Palestinians. And that's why the Israelis are so nervous about this. The more this sticks to Iran, the more this sticks to the alliance between the U.S. and Israel, the better it is for Netanyahu and for Israel.

The more it talks about and the more Trump talks about a peace process and the conflict, the worse it is from Netanyahu's perspective.

One politician even told us that talk of a two-state solution or a settlement freeze could be a serious threat to the coalition, since there are coalition partners here who reject the idea of a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, in an interesting role reversal, Paula, it's the Palestinians who are quite calm going in here. From their perspective, they've played all their cards right. The meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Trump in Washington went very well and now Abbas may have a chance to meet with Trump when he's with Saudi and the other Arab leaders.

They get a chance to present a united approach to a peace process which may very well appeal to Trump.

NEWTON: Yes, it's so interesting just in what you explained there and how difficult this process will be; interesting to hear that expectations have been lowered. Our Oren Liebermann will be following it all. Appreciate it.

HOWELL: Right now to Iran, state media there congratulating Hassan Rouhani on his re-election as president of that nation. Let's go live to CNN's Fred Pleitgen, live in Tehran.

A slight satellite delay, we warn you, just so as you notice this play out.

But, Fred, it's good to have you with us.

What reactions are you hearing there in Iran, given this news? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. There hasn't been an official announcement of all of this yet by the interior ministry, which is the one that would announce the official election result.

That's because, as of the last update that we've had, not all votes had been counted yet. It was a little over 38 million and a little over 40 million that had been counted at that point in time.

We do expect, however, George, in the next 10 minutes or so an official announcement that, indeed --


PLEITGEN: -- Hassan Rouhani has won the election and also that state media already is congratulating him to this quite resounding victory -- George.

HOWELL: OK, so, again, we're hearing from state media, still waiting for an official declaration here, coming from Iran about Hassan Rouhani.

But again, let's look at this from geopolitical terms here. Iranians supporting a moderate candidate here against the conservative. This is a man who was instrumental in the current nuclear deal with the United States, the U.S. president at the same time in Saudi Arabia, where leadership there in Saudi Arabia wants a reset and also more support against a resurgent Iran in that region.

So you have two very different things that are playing our here -- Fred.

PLEITGEN: Well, you certainly do. And I think you put it absolutely correctly, George, in that it is pretty remarkable that Iran is announcing an election result on the day that Donald Trump, President Trump, has arrived in Saudi Arabia for a visit that no doubt will feature Iran very heavily, not just in the part in Saudi Arabia but of course in Israel as well.

So we do have to keep in mind that Iran is the chief adversary not just of the Saudis but of the Israelis. In fact they themselves call themselves an enemy of Israel in this Middle Eastern region.

So on the one hand, you have the Saudis who are saying Iran is resurgent. But the Iranis have a very different take on this. They believe that it's the Saudis who are destabilizing places like Syria.

They also heavily criticize the Saudis for their air campaign that they're conducting in Yemen as well. And I think one of the things that the Iranians have been fairly surprised by is the hard line that the Trump administration has been taking toward Iran.

I don't think that many people here in Iran, after Donald Trump was elected, really expected his administration to be as tough, to talk as tough also to come with new sanctions as quickly as the administration has so far. I've spoken to a bunch of Iranian politicians before the inauguration happened. They said maybe this is a pragmatic man that we can deal with. Certainly now they're seeing it does not seem to be the case, that, in fact, it's going to be a very hard line.

So they're looking very closely at what happened. But at the same time, of course, they also feel that the structure here of the state, of this government has been strengthened when dealing with this administration that is being so tough on the Iranians.

HOWELL: All right, senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen, live for is in Tehran, Iran, thank you so much. We'll stay in touch with you as we hear official results as well.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back after the break.




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

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


NEWTON: And now we want to recap the story we're following in Saudi Arabia. U.S. President Donald Trump has arrived in the kingdom on his first trip abroad since taking office.

HOWELL: This happened about three hours ago, this video you see here. He was greeted at the airport by the Saudi King Salman. Also set to meet other Arab and Muslim leaders. Mr. Trump is now the first U.S. president to pick a Muslim majority nation for his first stop abroad. His aides say that it was done intentionally to rebut notions that he is anti-Muslim.

For more on this trip, let's bring in now White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, in Riyadh.

It's great to have you with us this hour. Jeremy, I know you were in the ground when the president touched soil there in Saudi Arabia. Give us a breakdown of what you saw, what the reactions were like when this happened.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the president got a greeting here in Saudi Arabia that was full of pomp and circumstance but a symbolic one as the Saudi king, King Salman, walking up to the tarmac there to greet President Trump as he stepped off of Air Force One.

He also shook hands with Melania Trump, the first lady, which is a very symbolic gesture here in this very conservative country.

But President Trump certainly getting an interesting greeting from the Saudi kingdom, particularly when you think about the rhetoric that he talked about on the campaign trail. President Trump was, of course, accused of sharing Islamophobic sentiments and stoking anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

He talked about the fact that he said "Islam hates us" back in March of 2016 and he also, of course, called for that Muslim ban, a ban calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

And as he tries to move past all of that rhetoric here, he is going to be giving a speech tomorrow in Saudi Arabia to a gathering of Muslim leaders from 50 countries in the region. That, of course, expected to give a sort of reset of relations between the president and the Muslim world, billions of Muslims, of course, who were offended by some of his rhetoric during the campaign.

President Trump is also, of course, giving that speech, talking about radical Islamic terrorism as he calls it, talking about the need to confront terrorism and forging those stronger bonds.

But back in the United States, while that campaign rhetoric has gone, we still have the fact that the president and his administration are continuing to defend the travel ban that he instated --


DIAMOND: -- against seven Muslim majority countries. So all of that really weighing heavily.

But many of these allies in the region, a lot of these Muslim allies are still enthused by Trump's presidency, particularly because of the tack that his administration is taking towards Iran. Of course, the Obama administration tried to do a lot of outreach toward Iran, signing that nuclear deal.

The Trump administration, however, has made very clear that the Trump administration is going to return U.S. foreign policy toward a more Saudi-centric, Gulf-centric vision that's Saudi Arabia and many of these Gulf kingdoms as allies, while it sees Iran firmly in the camp of the U.S. enemies.

HOWELL: CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, thank you so much for the report.

NEWTON: Now as President Trump is now on the ground in Saudi Arabia, Russia continues to haunt him in all of these controversies. What's been interesting is how Russia is reacting to this. Our Ivan Watson is live in Moscow.

Ivan, while this might not be front page news anymore in Moscow, it's been interesting to see, that -- you and I have been told for months that Russia is resigned to the fact that, OK, this won't be a reset with the United States, even though it is the Trump administration. Yet with that Oval Office visit, they still seem to be willing to

project some type of affinity with the Trump administration.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's something that's really remarkable. I mean, if you take a look at the amount of kind of controversy, the fact that top officials in the Trump administration, the Defense secretary, the secretary of state, have described the relationship with Russia as adversarial.

And they have warned about national security risks, both to the U.S. and in Europe and in other areas, the tone, Paula, between the Kremlin and Donald Trump himself has consistently been somewhat respectful.

I have not heard and I doubt you have heard any direct lines of criticism going between Trump and the Kremlin themselves. Even though there is a fair amount of criticism from the Kremlin here toward U.S. policy and, again, as I mentioned, you have top U.S. officials, who have also been very critical of Russia itself.

And that suggests, perhaps, that there's still some hope between the U.S. commander in chief and the Kremlin that they can build bridges in the future, even though it is so politically unpalatable right now in Washington today, given the level of investigations and controversy around a potential U.S.-Russian rapprochement right now.

NEWTON: Incredible. We're seeing pictures of that Oval Office meeting. That one meeting has caused so many problems for the Trump administration just in the last week. Our Ivan Watson there, following it all from Moscow, appreciate it.

HOWELL: Still ahead here in the United States, we're following weather in the central part of this country that hit with severe storms and flash flooding. We'll have an update, ahead.

NEWTON: Plus she's the famous sister of a British royal, now Pippa Middleton is having a lavish wedding of her own. We'll have a live report -- next.





HOWELL: CNN following major breaking news coming out of Iran. We understand now, according to the interior ministry of Iran, reporting on state TV that Hassan Rouhani, the president in the previous term, has won a second term.

Hassan Rouhani, the moderate candidate, beating the conservative rival, Ebrahim Raisi, apparently winning 23.5 million votes. You see Mr. Hassan Rouhani right there. This video taken from earlier. But again, he wins the election in Iran, Hassan Rouhani.



HOWELL: She made an impressionable at her sister's wedding. Now she's getting ready to say I do. Details in just a few minutes.



NEWTON: All right. I know you've been waiting for this all year, yes.


HOWELL: Patiently, I've bee patient.


NEWTON: The biggest British wedding of course in 2017, it's not a royal one, though. But almost. It's Pippa Middleton.

HOWELL: Most of the royal family, including her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, will attend. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is near the village of Buckleberry, where the ceremony will be held.


HOWELL: Erin, a great deal of excitement about this.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, George, excitement and anticipation. We understand that the guests are arriving. The ceremony is expected to take place at a 12th century restored church, located on a private estate.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were also seen leaving Kensington Palace earlier this morning, perhaps cutting it a bit fine, though. They left with about an hour or so to go before the ceremony.

They, of course, are essential wedding guests. Prince George and Princess Charlotte both have roles within the wedding party, which promises to be the society wedding of the year.



MCLAUGHLIN (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 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: Now there's limited media access but the royal pool will be on hand to capture church arrivals and departures. Looking forward to seeing those images.

HOWELL: All right, Erin McLaughlin, thank you.

NEWTON: Now we want to get more on this event. Royal commentator Richard Fitzsimmons (sic) joins us now live from London.

What's been so interesting about this is what Erin just said, there's going to be a royal pool there. This isn't technically a royal wedding.

Why has it still so captured so many people and captivated so many people in England right now -- and, sorry I should say Britain and around the world?

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Because, firstly, and you mentioned this, no one has forgotten Pippa in that absolutely glorious, figure-hugging dress by Alexander McQueen at the royal wedding in 2011.

And there is, of course, the added interest: Prince Harry will be there. And in my view, I mean, we simply don't know any details, but Meghan

Markle, the humanitarian activist and actress, who is his very serious date, I'm sure that she will be making an appearance.

And I will also be absolutely fascinated to see official photographs if, indeed, they are released of the two together, which of course we haven't seen and they've been dating now for almost a year. That will be in August.

NEWTON: Yes. It's been a very interesting story.

And I apologize, I called you Fitzsimmons, Mr. Fitzwilliams. Thank you very much.

In terms of that marriage making a note of this new couple on the scene, Harry and his girlfriend, this is really a departure for the royal family in so many ways, isn't it?

FITZWILLIAMS: Well, the royal family have changed. I mean, so much has altered, especially since the days of the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, which was only 36 years ago. I mean, it needed to alter and with a completely new outlook and marrying for love.

And we saw this, of course, with William and Kate and how successfully they related to each other and how spontaneous they are. And, looking at Prince Harry and looking at Meghan Markle, I mean, everyone knows this is a serious relationship.

And we wonder, given the circumstances, Harry's previous dates -- I mean, he's dated for seven years and two years -- would --


FITZWILLIAMS: -- perhaps, a year, come August the 4th, Meghan's birthday -- I mean, she's 36. Would this be a date that we may remember for --


NEWTON: You're getting ahead of yourself there. My goodness, you're giving him ideas. For sure, he may take you up on it. He just may.

But if that happens and not this -- these very young, modern royals, and that does include Pippa Middleton, because if you look at the broadsheets or anything like that in Britain, it does include her.

What does it do for the brand Windsor, for the House of Windsor?

FITZWILLIAMS: Well, it relates more to a population as a whole, to a more diverse society and to a far more open outlook, which, in fact, the continental -- your royals have been pioneering since the 1960s.

There's no question today we will have a wonderfully traditional wedding with apparently a giant glass marquee in the Middletons' garden; we know or believe that there will be a fly past vintage aircraft. There will be a colorful ceremony. We don't know how much we will see of this and details are so scarce,

other than the royals, which you've referred to, of Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

But there's no doubt that, as you look toward, as you mentioned, a modern monarchy behaving in a way that's linked with our times, the Windsors are doing magnificently. And there's public interest and enthusiasm. Look at the international fascination with this very private event.

NEWTON: And we're going to have to leave it there. The wedding just getting underway. Thank you so much. Appreciate your time on this, which will be a much anticipated wedding.

HOWELL: Always a pleasure to have you.

And thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell here, live in Atlanta.

NEWTON: And I'm Paula Newton. "NEW DAY" is next with the latest on the U.S. president's first trip as commander in chief.

Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.