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U.S. President on Day Two in Saudi Arabia; Foreign Minister Lavrov Denies Trump Spoke About Comey's Firing; Civilians Desperately Flee Mosul Amid Fighting; Uganda Struggles with Growing Refugee Crisis; Rouhani Wins Re-Election; North Korea Fires Unidentified Projectile; Aired 4-5a ET
Aired May 21, 2017 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[04:00:11] PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: It's day two of U.S. president Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia. He's just hours away from a major speech on U.S.-Muslim relations. He will give that speech to the leaders of some 50 Muslim countries. We're live from Riyadh.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Also, old, frail, terrified. The story of this elderly woman in Mosul, just one of tens of thousands of civilians struggling to escape the violence there as the battle for that city rages on into its final phase.
NEWTON: And moderates prevail in Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with a second term. Frederik Pleitgen will join us live from Tehran.
HOWELL: We are live from CNN world headquarters here in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.
I'm George Howell.
NEWTON: And I'm Paula Newton. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.
4:00 a.m. right now on the U.S. East Coast. 11:00 a.m. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Day two of U.S. president Donald Trump's ambitious foreign trip -- you can say that again, ambitious -- to the Middle East and Europe, the first of his presidency.
Now he's still in Saudi Arabia and he's already met with several Middle Eastern leaders. They includes Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, seen with Mr. Trump here.
HOWELL: Later the president set to have one of the key moments of his visit. That's when he will give a speech on combating radical extremism.
Also interesting given the president's heavy use of Twitter, President Trump will be taking part in a Twitter former with Saudi youth.
NEWTON: Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in Riyadh and joins us now live.
Nic, look, I can't resist. George brought it up. We're going to go with it. A Twitter forum? Please explain and then we'll move on to some weightier things.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Some may say made to measure for President Trump given his proclivity for using Twitter. But look, the idea is here that Trump comes here and he's had his bilateral meetings this morning with the Bahraini king the Emir of Qatar, he's met with President Sisi, by the way, who has said he's going to go visit soon in Egypt.
He's meeting and speaking to all these leaders, but the idea is this tweet event that he is attending, 20 minutes where people -- young people will be able to send him questions on Twitter that he will answer is to reach the Arab population.
Well, let's not forget in the Arab region, the vast, vast, vast majority of the population are young people under the age of 30. And the idea is that President Trump will reach out and communicate not just to them but with them.
OK, it's a short event, 20 minutes. OK, it looks like a bit of theater, if you will. But in these types of events, such acts like this are supposed to communicate a more broader message, an engagement not just with the leadership but with the people in this region. So that's what this is all about -- Paula.
NEWTON: What it's not about apparently is going to be the Trump administration bringing up human rights. You know, we've already seen him meet with the leader of Bahrain. Many people have already being saying, look, if we talk about human rights, it's -- essentially the Trump administration has made it clear it's completely off the table.
Is anyone from the administration trying to massage that message in any way or are they just completely unapologetic about it?
ROBERTSON: Two messages here, economics and security. The message about security is make relationships with the leaders in this region which will make the United States more secure. Economy. And we heard a lot about it yesterday, $350 billion worth of jobs -- billion dollars worth of deals signed here, $109 billion on armament, $22 billion on oil and gas, another $15 billion on developing power plants here by General Electric.
The answer is that what Trump wants to do is push that message of he can deliver for America first, make it safe and get jobs back home. So the issue of human rights is not something that is even taking a corner of the stage here. It's not something that's getting discussed publicly. We don't know what's being said behind doors. But if we take our insights, if you will, from what President Trump said when he met with the king of Bahrain today, he said that in past our relationship with the last administration, our relationship with Bahrain, which is where the Fifth Fleet is harbored, it has been strained.
He didn't say the nature of the strains but we do know there were tensions with the Obama administration, the Bahraini leadership, over human rights issues. So he's saying that going forward the relationship is not going to be strained. So we don't know the nuance of that, but that's the way that the message is being delivered. And I think we can take an interpretation from that.
NEWTON: Nic, in terms of -- we're going to that speech, finally, in terms of that -- pardon me, when we talked about the Obama speech, you know, some of the words from Obama, America is not and never will be at war from Islam.
[04:05:08] You know, as much as we were expecting Donald Trump to really deliver more of a divergent speech from that, some of this advisers seem to be suggesting that look, you actually will hear more conciliation on this topic from Donald Trump in just a few hours. What do you think?
ROBERTSON: This is the guy who had so much, if you will, anti-Muslim rhetoric on the campaign trail. He's in the cradle of Islam. He's hosted by the king who is the custodian of those two holy sites of Islam here in Saudi Arabia. If he strays into the language that he used on the campaign trail even a tiny little bit in trying to deliver his message, which is we would like the leaders gathered here to promote a more peaceful vision of Islam, if he starts tying Islam directly to radical Islamist extremism, which is part of his core message back home that he wants these leaders to support the United States in taking down ISIS and global terror threats because that's the U.S. national security priority number one, is to make the homeland secure and to diminish the threats from groups like ISIS and al Qaeda.
If he strays into that kind of language in this nuanced speech, it's unlikely to go down well. So I -- the impression that I get here is, there's one message back home for the audience in the United States. And there will be a much softer interpretation of that here. But just clearly, on President Trump's mind, as he mentioned this morning after his bilateral meeting with the Emir of Qatar and as he did yesterday, it's jobs, jobs, jobs.
He talked with the Qataris about defense contracts signed with them, the importance of that, jobs, jobs, jobs. That may take a priority over delivering a perhaps tougher and potentially more precarious in terms of building relationships in the region, tougher message on ISIS and Islam.
NEWTON: Well, certainly a lot of anticipation to that speech. Our Nic Robertson there, watching it all live from Riyadh. Appreciate it.
HOWELL: All right. Now for more analysis on Mr. Trump's trip, let's now bring in Inderjeet Parmar, he's a professor of international politics at City University in London.
It's good to have you with us this hour, sir.
INDERJEET PARMAR, INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL PROFESSOR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you.
HOWELL: So let's talk about the optics of the president's visit so far. We have seen the president signing an arms deal saying it will result in American jobs. Also looking to hit the reset button with the Muslim Arab world. From your vantage point so far, is it working? PARMAR: Well, it's very difficult to say if it's working. But I
think what we can say, this is a far cry from the whole message, if you like, on not only on Islam and Muslims but on candidate Trump's ideas about world order during the campaign. He was going to not meddle in the Middle East. He was going to reject NATO as obsolete and so on. And what we have seen in the recent past is that actually he is come into line. And there has been a kind of disciplining of Donald Trump.
I think probably that's partly to do with when you get into power in the United States, then America is involved in the world. And it's very difficult to extricate. And he's now finding that America is actually interdependent with the rest of the world, too. So that means a conciliatory character of his message is going to continue. And I think the main thing will be whether he actually says anything which is off message, and especially in that Twitter forum that you were mentioning.
HOWELL: Inderjeet Parmar, stand by with me as we look at video here. This is video taken from just a bit earlier, video of President Trump with the king of Bahrain. Again, President Trump has been meeting with many leaders there. This is a very important meeting again seen as a reset for the United States with many of the leaders in the Muslim-Arab world. Also considering the different Donald Trump that we're seeing now compared to candidate Trump, a candidate Trump who used language regarding Islam, regarding Muslims that many considered to be insulting, considered extreme.
But again we are seeing a more nuanced Donald Trump having very important high level meetings this hour and more meetings to come for sure.
Now, so looking ahead, here is the thing. So the next stop is Israel. Keeping in mind the president got very sharp criticism for sharing classified information we now know from reporting that came from Israel. Do you expect he will be received there well as we're seeing how he is being received in Saudi Arabia?
PARMAR: That's a very good question. And it's very, very difficult for me to answer that. But I would think that the Israelis would not be very happy. But on the other hand, I think they will have done their homework with President Trump and candidate Trump as to the kind of style that he has. He is also actually rode back on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as well. So I think there's going to be -- there's been a bit of a rowing back there, too. So I think Israel and Donald Trump will have some frank exchanges, possibly in private. But I think they will also be concerned to the way -- in the way in which Donald Trump has gone back on one or two other things.
[04:10:07] But on the other hand you can say that the overall picture of America's relationships with the world taking aside President Trump's unique style actually the United States is continued to if you like effectively build a greater level of confidence in other countries, in other parts of the world. And I think President Trump has been, against his will probably, has been increasingly tamed and disciplined. But I do wonder sometimes whether or not the Russia probe and the entire chaos around that issue, which has caused the administration, isn't part of that disciplinary process itself.
HOWELL: All right. Let's talk about that because look, there is a lot happening in Washington. There are various investigations under way, not to mention a special counsel looking into these issues. So many leaks coming from the White House. It's hard to tell what could come next Monday. Do these domestic issues continue to cast a long shadow on the president abroad, or is he in fact turning the page here?
PARMAR: Well, I think President Donald Trump has discovered what probably most presidents discover shortly after taking office. The domestic political system and the domestic political environment is very, very difficult to control. It is extremely difficult to control the narrative, difficult to control all the people who oppose you in having been elected in the first place.
They discover that foreign policy and national security is something in which they can have a -- far greater level of control. The world stage offers them -- they have sort of primary position to build something. And I think President Trump has discovered that. But the key issue is that he is still embroiled in this foreign policy related question about Russia. And I'm not sure how much evidence there is at the moment or whether the saga will end very soon.
But it's quite clear that that is embroiling the domestic program or diverting it. And I think that could have long term political affects. But in the end, the discussions about impeachment and that kind of thing I think are far too premature. We have yet to see any real concrete evidence. And my own view I think which is developing and like everybody else, we're still trying to grasp what is going on, is that this is a unique moment where the Democratic Party is pillaring the president for taking stances which they disagree with, particularly in foreign policy and almost accusing him of being an agent of a foreign power.
This is normally the tactic used by the more right-wing political party when the other party wins office. Suggesting that they are either agents of the Pope or agents of Moscow or free masons or some other conspiracy theory. And I think the Democrats need to have a look at why they lost the election in 2016, reflect on that, and possibly accept the fact that they did lose for a very legitimate reason and they need to reflect on what they're going to do for 2020.
At the moment all they seem to be looking at is embroiling this presidency in a series of crises or sort of perceived crises at least with the hope that they will be able to harness electorally in 2018 and 2020 the fallout of it.
HOWELL: Inderjeet Parmar, thank you so much for your time. And also want to let our viewers know as we were talking, Inderjeet, we are seeing video here on the other side of the screen, this video of President al-Sisi of Egypt here beside Donald Trump earlier. We saw Mr. Trump with leadership from Qatar. So again we are watching these clips coming in from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia of the president's many visits with leadership there. So we'll continue to show you these video clips as they come into our newsroom. But, Inderjeet Parmar, thank you for your insight and we'll stay in
touch with you as well.
NEWTON: Now as Donald Trump continues to go through those bilaterals ongoing right now in Saudi Arabia, back in Washington the political turmoil caused by the firing of FBI Director James Comey, no -- you guessed it, no signs of dying down. Now Russia's Foreign minister says the U.S. president never spoke to him about Comey's firing, despite news accounts to the contrary.
CNN's Ivan Watson has the latest from Moscow.
VAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russia's top diplomat has denied that there was any discussion of the firing of James Comey at the somewhat controversial meeting that Sergey Lavrov had with President Trump at the Oval Office on May 10th, just a day after the FBI director was fired by President Trump.
Lavrov, according to Russia's TAS news agency, said that subject was not touched. And that fits a broader pattern where the Kremlin basically denies many of the embarrassing reports and leaks that have come out in the U.S. media about not only more recent meetings with President Trump but also reports of connections between -- and allegations of connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin in the run-up to the November 2016 election.
[04:15:12] There's also another interesting trend is that the glowing coverage of President Trump in the first weeks after the election, in the first weeks after the inauguration, that has largely disappeared from the heavily Kremlin influenced front pages of Russian newspapers, from the top of the news bulletins on Russian television. It's largely disappeared. However, despite continuing friction over U.S. and Russian policy in Syria and in eastern Europe and allegations of Russian hacking, of previous U.S. election, and the French election, and harsh words from top officials in the U.S. government towards Russia, the Kremlin continues to basically refer to Trump with a bit of respect.
And that respect is reciprocated from the U.S. president as well. They're avoiding directly criticizing each other even though their subordinates often engage in mutual criticism.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Moscow.
HOWELL: Ivan Watson, thanks for the reporting.
Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, thousands of civilians in Mosul, Iraq, they are risking their lives to flee the fight against ISIS. Our correspondent catches on camera the traumatizing and dangerous escape.
[04:20:17] NEWTON: Iraqi forces say they are getting closer to retaking all of western Mosul from ISIS. Now as we've seen for so many months, thousands of civilians are having to risk their lives just to try and get away from some of that fighting.
HOWELL: We've been following the story for so long now, for many it's traumatizing at the very least.
Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Mosul as the army advances with this story. Take a look.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hurry, don't stop, the soldier shouts. But not everyone can hurry.
They fled their homes in west Mosul 17th of July neighborhood. Traumatized by weeks of bombardment, they reached Iraqi lines under fire. It's hot, they're hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. This 80- year-old woman barely able to comprehend her surroundings.
Abu Ahmed (PH) fled with his family of 15. They've been surviving for weeks on a thin gruel of flour and water. His wife, suffering from diabetes, can go no further.
Much of western Mosul is a city in shambles, a perilous, barren moonscape of rubble and dust.
(On camera): That car bomb over there went off about a half hour ago. The Iraqi army has dropped leaflets over western Mosul, warning residents that any moving vehicle in the battle zone will be considered a potential car bomb and will be hit.
(Voice-over): Soldiers from the army's 16th Division prepare to move forward. Taking prisoners is not part of their mission.
"God willing, we'll capture them alive," Major Salah (PH) tells me. "And then execute them in front of the civilians."
These two ISIS snipers, killed just hours before, never raised a white flag. For Brigadier General Abdul (INAUDIBLE) of the Elite Counterterrorism Forces, this is a struggle to the death.
"Now they have no other option than to fight," he tells me. "Either that or surrender, but they've chosen to fight."
The few areas still in ISIS hands are under constant intense bombardment. But in there, still cower hundreds of thousands of desperate residents.
"As the civilians flee, ISIS retreats because those innocent, helpless people are their only protection," says Captain (INAUDIBLE).
Safe ground is still far, far away.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Mosul.
HOWELL: Ben Wedeman, thank you for that report.
After three years in captivity, dozens of Nigeria's missing schoolgirls are finally home.
The sound of singing, dancing erupted in Abuja Saturday as 82 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls reunited with their family and friends.
NEWTON: There are scenes that families have waited so long for. They were released earlier this month in a negotiated exchange with the terror group Boko Haram. One father as you can imagine could barely contain his joy as having his daughter with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am very excited. Very happy. I cannot over emphasize how I feel. I'm just laughing, all the family, because of happiness and joy. I thank the federal government and I am (INAUDIBLE) the federal government try to rescue (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: The returned girls are among the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok village in 2014. More than 100 girls are still believed to be in captivity.
[04:25:08] Now conflict and famine in South Sudan are fueling a rapidly growing refugee crisis in east Africa.
HOWELL: That's right. Every day some 2,000 people, they flee South Sudan to arrive in Uganda.
As Farai Sevenzo reports that country is struggling to cope with it.
FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crowd pushes forward. Fingers moved on the columns, searching for names and registration numbers.
Each day the list of refugees in northern Uganda grows longer. Nearly one million now as the young and old of South Sudan flee a country of famine and increasingly targeted killings.
Seventeen-year-old Blessing Akujo is alone. Her village was attacked, neighbors were killed. Her parents told their heavily pregnant daughter to run, promising they would follow. But for now, it's just Blessing and her baby, born just days earlier at the border crossing of Uganda and South Sudan. They will begin their new life here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we need you to settle -- SEVENZO: Settling on her new plot of land, Blessing tells us she will
never return to South Sudan.
"The Dinka were slaughtering people," she says. "She tells us she saw three people getting killed. They were slaughtered."
A recent famine declaration triggered a humanitarian push for South Sudan. But Dr. Opiyo Denish Odoki says it isn't famine sending refugees streaming across the southern border.
DR. OPIYO DENISH ODOKI, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: They are coming so many of them with a lot of injuries secondary to the fighting the other side.
SEVENZO (on camera): More like what?
ODOKI: Some of them with gunshot injuries.
ODOKI: Others with the injuries due to cut with --
SEVENZO: With big knives?
ODOKI: Yes. Big knives.
SEVENZO (voice-over): Now Uganda has an enviable task of maintaining the world's largest refugee camp Bidi Bidi.
The country's policy of integrating refugees in local communities has been lauded by many. But the sheer numbers mean the system is at its breaking point.
ODOKI: Uganda alone cannot shoulder this. They cannot --
SEVENZO (on camera): This massive responsibility.
ODOKI: Yes. Because the population of the country is at three million.
SEVENZO: And now you have a million refugees?
ODOKI: A million refugees put in Uganda. So it becomes overwhelming. Yes.
SEVENZO (voice-over): Late in the day the border crossing quiets down. But the foot traffic rarely stops. There will be more feet tomorrow says Victor Patrick who uses his prized motorcycle to ferry goods for refugees looking to escape.
(On camera): How many people did you see on your way here?
VICTOR PATRICK: There are many people coming.
SEVENZO: They're coming to cross here?
PATRICK: Yes. Yes, to cross to Uganda.
SEVENZO: Because there's nowhere else?
PATRICK: No way out. If you stay there, you will die.
SEVENZO: He says only stories of loss cross this border. Where even the very young are marked by conflict.
(On camera): You named her Jerisa Sakila. What does Sakila mean? She was born from the war.
(Voice-over): Farai Sevenzo, CNN, northern Uganda.
[04:31:54] how Welcome our viewers back here in the United States and around the world. The president of the United States Donald Trump in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You see him arriving here at 11:31 in the morning, arriving to the Gulf Cooperation Council that will also be joined by the Arab Islamic partners. Many different leaders there coming together to meet with the president during his first international trip.
NEWTON: Yes. And this is where we're expecting to hear later on from Donald Trump that all important address that he is going to make to those Muslim nations. And this really -- Saudi Arabia really has billed this as bringing in their guest, Donald Trump, as you see there right now, with the Saudi king, and bringing him into the fold in what is an exclusively Muslim gathering.
Lots of eyes on this, George, in terms of what he will say. But extraordinary pictures that we're looking at right now because again this isn't -- this has not been done.
HOWELL: That's right. And again, Paula, to your point, what will he say?
Let's bring in our reporter on the ground right now, Jeremy Diamond, he's following events as well.
Jeremy, it's good to have you with us. We're looking --as we get into this, again we're looking at live images. I may interrupt from time to time. But the president walking into this large hall again with the Saudi king.
As Paula pointed out, the big question is what will he say? This is being seen as a reset with the United States and the Muslim world. What is expected in this all important speech?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, you know, the president certainly does appear to be gunning for a reset with the Muslim world. As you will recall during the campaign, the president was often criticized for many saw as Islamophobic rhetoric on the campaign trail. You'll recall that he even said things like, I believe that Islam hates us. So those comments really being put to the test here today as the president does appear to try and -- to be willing at least to try and move past those comments.
You know, he's being greeted -- he is getting a king's welcome essentially in Saudi Arabia, which is of course home to Islam's two holiest sites in the world. And certainly the Saudi Foreign minister yesterday signaling that he hopes President Trump will reset relations saying that he hopes the president's speech will allow the United States and the Muslim world to move from a relationship of enmity to one of cooperation.
There's very few details so far on what exactly the president will say today. But a draft of his speech has signaled so far that he's not going to say the words radical Islamic terror which of course the president has said often, particularly on the campaign trail. But even since becoming president, that's a phrase that many in the Muslim world feel is not positive and not encouraging to positive conversation, given the fact that it ties this radical ideology that perverts Islam with the actual religion.
So certainly we'll be looking to see exactly what the president says and whether he actually makes that kind of real outreach that is needed to bring the Muslim world together, to go ahead and combat the radical Islamists who come in the form of ISIS and other terrorist groups, of course. That is the president's main mission.
[04:35:02] If he is making this outreach to the Muslim world today, it is because he wants many of these predominantly Muslim countries to join the United States in the fight against groups like ISIS, which is, of course, a top priority for his administration.
HOWELL: Jeremy, stand by with me for a moment. Let's again reset for our viewers around the world and here in the U.S. You're looking at live images here. This is not taped. These are live images. At 11:35 in the morning in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This is day two for Donald Trump on his first international trip, again sitting beside the king of Saudi Arabia, King Salman. Again this is for the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting that he will have. Also this is ahead of the big speech that he will give.
To the point of the speech, Jeremy, bringing you back in, again, this is a speech that we understand that has been drafted, composed by Stephen Miller on the president's team. Stephen Miller himself has been criticized for having Islamophobic views. And you say that so far there's no sense that he will or question that he will use that phrase radical Islamic terror. That is a phrase that even as candidate Trump he criticized President Obama for not using that term. Again you're saying that that will not be used in this upcoming speech.
DIAMOND: At least according to one draft of the speech. Now the administration and the president's top aides have been clear that the draft may change and is being reworked up until the last minute. So we don't exactly know. They're still leaving us hanging on that question. But you mentioned Stephen Miller. And what's interesting here is that
the president is not only facing the test of what his words are now versus what his words were during the campaign, he is also facing the fact -- and many of the billions of Muslim around the world who will listen to the president's speech this afternoon will have to also confront the fact that this is a president whose administration is continuing to defend in U.S. federal court the travel ban, which the president stated against seven Muslim majority countries and that many have critics have called this essentially the same Muslim ban that the president called for during the campaign.
So just as he is trying to reset relations with the Muslim world, he is also going to contend with the fact that his administration is still defending a ban that many in the Muslim world view as offensive and potentially counterproductive to the U.S.'s efforts to collaborate and work together with the Muslim world to confront these Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS.
HOWELL: Another question here coming to you in a moment. But again let's take a look at these images. And if we could even listen in for just a moment to see if we hear anything that's happening. Let's listen in together.
OK. Again nothing to hear at this point. But again looking at these live images. 11:37 in the morning there in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The president of the United States sitting beside Saudi leadership, the king of Saudi Arabia, King Salman, there for our viewers just joining us.
Jeremy Diamond is the reporter on the ground right now joining us to give us context.
Jeremy, so again, look, do you get a sense from members of Mr. Trump's team, I know you've been in contact with your sources there. Are they pleased with the optics so far with his visit to Saudi Arabia? And how are they balancing what they have to have with these concerns about the various controversies that continue to gain traction here in the States?
DIAMOND: Well, so far, you know, the president's team seems very pleased with the way that this visit has unrolled so far. You know, the president has received essentially a king's welcome in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So that is certainly something that he is enjoying himself.
You know, as we saw yesterday, the president was greeted not once but twice by King Salman of Saudi Arabia, first at the airport and then again at the royal court where the president arrived yesterday for a series of meetings. And you -- you know, just as we were trying to look at these images and the fact that, you know, we haven't heard much words, the president uttered very few words yesterday. But that's not what matters here. What matters here is the images that we're seeing. Seeing the president with this lavish greeting that he is getting, seeing the Saudi king, who is of course the custodian of the two holy mosques here in Saudi Arabia, sitting with the president, talking with him, laughing with him. These are all part of -- this is all part of that Muslim reset that
they're seeking. And again, you point to those controversies happening back home. And the president -- you know, this welcome that he is getting here is a welcome that he might not perhaps get in Washington at the moment where he is facing again this swirl of controversy as we are seeing more and more allegations surfacing with regard to the president's campaign associates and their contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, particularly as you look at this FBI investigation which now has a special independent counsel overseeing that investigation to ensure that there's no interference from the president or his administration in that investigation.
[04:40:04] So things are continuing to heat up in Washington. But here in Saudi Arabia where the temperature is kicking up past the 100, 110 degrees, the president is feeling pretty cool and calm and collected as he is having this pretty lavish reception here from the Saudi king. And we also see him in a series of bilateral meetings with other leaders, Muslim leaders from the region who have also been encouraged to see this president, again a president who has talked about his -- the need to confront Iran in particular, which is of course a big concern for the Saudi kingdom and many of these countries in the region.
HOWELL: Jeremy giving us good context here. So here's the other thing. You're pointing out what matters, the images, the optics. What matters, coming up, the speech. What will he say? And then what's next? We understand the president, of course, will be traveling to Israel, then on to Europe.
In Israel, Jeremy, the question, how will he be received there? Because again, just a short time ago, he received a great deal of criticism for sharing critical classified information reportedly from Israel. How will he be received in Israel and then the question how will he be received in Europe where he has more critics?
DIAMOND: Well, you know, so far with regard to the controversy in Israel, Israeli officials publically have suggested that there is nothing amiss, the relationship is as strong as ever. We know of course that Prime Minister Netanyahu was encouraged by President Trump's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the campaign. But we will have to see exactly how the president again takes his campaign rhetoric and puts it into policy as he arrives there. You know, he said so far in his few months in office that he hopes to make a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, something that successive presidents have, of course, tried and failed to do.
But this president has said that it's going to be once again a top priority for his administration. And, you know, however, what he said during the campaign was, for example, he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Now we have learned in just the last week that the president doesn't intend to do that to make those moves during this trip at least. They're not swearing it off for the future. But certainly it's not happening during this visit. We've also seen some tensions rising between certain low-level Trump
administration officials near the Western Wall saying that that doesn't belong to Israel. Of course, that is in Jerusalem, which is disputed territory still at least in terms of what the international conventions say. So we will have to see how this president approaches this conflict. You know, he's going to be meeting not only with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but also with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
And so we'll have to see exactly whether he can make some headway there. And then going from there, he is going to be having a series of high level powered diplomatic sessions, first in Brussels where he will meet with leaders of the NATO military alliance. And then he'll go to Sicily which is hosting the G-7 summit of the seven most advanced economies in the world.
And during those meetings, this is going to be the president's first chance to be gathered in a room with really six of the other most powerful leaders in the world to confront many of the major issues going on. Of course, the G-7 was previously the G-8. Russia has not been invited but certainly will be a key topic of conversation there.
HOWELL: CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, again where it is 11:43 in the morning.
Jeremy, thanks for the reporting and context.
Again, you're looking at these live images presently. This overshot view of where President Trump is having this meeting.
Again, Paula, having this meeting at a very opulent setting with Saudi leadership.
NEWTON: Yes, and important to know here, I mean, there was a lot of dead time right there. His schedule is jam packed. He didn't get much sleep on Air Force One. Hopefully he got a good night's sleep last night.
NEWTON: Not to be lost on anyone how ambitious this trip really is.
HOWELL: NEWSROOM right back after the break.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[04:47:19] HOWELL: Again some breaking news we're following here in the CNN NEWSROOM. About North Korea. That nation has fired some kind of projectile. Unclear at this point exactly what kind of projectile it is. This is according to South Korean officials.
This comes about a week after North Korea successfully launched a missile that landed in the ocean. Again we're getting this information that North Korea fired a projectile. Unclear what type of projectile at this point. This is all according to South Korean officials. We'll stay on top of the story. Obviously very important considering North Korea's latest actions testing its missile capability. And we'll bring you any updates as we get them here on CNN NEWSROOM.
NEWTON: Now we go to Iran. Donald Trump's visit is likely to be watched very closely there, especially after the country re-elected Hassan Rouhani for a second term as president.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen has been watching it all from Iran. He joins us now from the capital Tehran.
I mean, Fred, so interesting here in terms of seeing the way the re- elected president came out and said, look, we are ready for engagement. But he said as long as it involves, in his words, no disrespect or theft. What is he getting at there?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what the Iranians are saying, what Hassan Rouhani said, Paula, is that on the one hand, he wants deeper engagement with the West, with Europe and of course also with the United States as well. That's a process that he started when the Obama administration was still in office and of course, led to the nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers that was supposed to bring sanctions relief in return for curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Now the Iranians have said that they are on track in curbing their nuclear ambitions and taking down some of their nuclear program. But at the same time, they are not satisfied with the way that sanctions relief is coming along. And of course, especially now, with the Trump administration in office, they see that there's a harder line in Washington, that there's other sanctions being levied on the Iranians.
So essentially what Hassan Rouhani was saying is look, on the one hand, we want negotiation, we want good relations with other countries, with the United States, as well. In fact his foreign minister, (INAUDIBLE), was also today giving a message saying they want better relations with Saudi Arabia as well. Of course, Iran's great adversary here in this region. But at the same time the Iranians are very much adverse to any sort of coercion.
Now that's one of the things that they're saying. They're going to negotiate but they're going to negotiate from a position of strength. They're not going to be strong armed into any sort of new policies or policy shift especially in the greater Middle Eastern region -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes. And so interesting that he as a leader right now, a lot of what happens there depends on economic revival and he might need the United States and the lifting of sanctions to really get that under way.
[04:50:01] Our Frederick Pleitgen has been watching this process for many days there in Iran. Thanks for the update. Appreciate it.
HOWELL: All right. Want to get back now to this breaking news we're following. North Korea firing some type of projectile. Unclear exactly what type at this point. We know that it landed in the ocean.
Let's bring in our correspondent Alexandra Field who is joining us now by phone from Seoul, South Korea.
Alexandra, what have you learned so far?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, George. Another week, another launch. And now officials are trying to figure out exactly what North Korea launched and what this could say about their rapidly evolving missile program. For now officials here in South Korea just confirming that a projectile was launched and it appears that it was launched from the same area in North Korea where we saw a previously failed attempt back at the end of April when a projectile was launched but it exploded over land. That attempt was considered a failure.
But, George, let's be clear, this is about a dozen ballistic missile attempts that North Korea has pulled off just since the start of the year, since start of the Trump administration. South Korea elected a new president just shy of two weeks ago. A week ago we had this deal with responding to a provocation from North Korea. And now it seems, in the second week, another provocation.
Again we know very little about the projectile that was launched. But officials want to look at what kind of missile this could have potentially been, how far it could have traveled. And whether or not the test had been a success. If this was a success, it comes on the heel of a highly successful test just last week. That's when a missile launched closer to Russia and Japan, which is a break from what we have seen during the recent missile test. That was a missile that officials say traveled higher and went farther than previous missile attempts.
And it was seen by many analysts as a bold step forward in the important step towards the long stated goal of North Korea which is to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of course to carry nuclear warhead to the U.S.
We have heard North Korean officials speaking in recent months vowing they will continue these tests on a weekly basis. But they are working to get a working ICBM. Every test we know is an opportunity for them to learn more in terms of developing their own program. It is also of course an opportunity for the world to learn more about what their capability is, what their capacity is. So we should be hearing more from officials as they try to analyze the trajectory of the projectile launched today from North Korea -- George.
HOWELL: All right. Alexandra Field on the phone with us from Seoul, South Korea.
Again following the breaking news, if you're joining us this hour, North Korea firing an unidentified projectile. Unclear of what type at this point. We understand it landed in the ocean. We'll bring you updates from Alexandra Field in South Korea and, of course, from any other information we get as the news continues here next hour.
[04:56:50] HOWELL: We are following breaking news out of North Korea. That nation firing some type of projectile. Still unclear at this point exactly what type of projectile Pyongyang has launched.
We're getting this information from South Korean officials. This comes, keep in mind, a week after North Korea successfully launched a missile that landed in the ocean. And we'll bring you of course more updates as we get them. We have a correspondent in Seoul, South Korea who is following the story as well. So very important story we're keeping an eye on here.
NEWTON: Absolutely. And our Alexandra Field is on top of it. She will join us live from Seoul in just a few moments but for right now, that's all of this hour of NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton.
HOWELL: I'm George Howell. The news continues right after the break.