Return to Transcripts main page


U.K. Election Complicates Brexit Talks; Trump Willing to Testify on Comey; Trump and Team Send Conflicting Messages on Qatar; Roman Polanski's Victim Asks Judge to Drop Case. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired June 10, 2017 - 03:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Theresa May's reputation takes a pounding at the polls and her future as prime minister of Britain could be on the line.

Donald Trump accuses the man he fired as FBI director of lying and leaking and is ready to testify under oath to tell his side of the story.

And Trump calls out Qatar for what he says is funding terrorism at a very high level.

Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


NEWTON: In the wake of an election, she called and then failed to win outright. British prime minister Theresa May is apologizing to Conservative MPs who suffered embarrassing losses. She's also preparing to lead a very uncertain minority government. She says she will form an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party that is the largest pro-U.K. party in Northern Ireland.

Founded by Ian Paisley in 1971, the DUP is considered very right-wing, opposing same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Ms. May is now pledging to form a government that she said will give the country certainty.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As the results started to come -- more results started to come through, it became clear that we were the party that had won most seats and most votes. And I felt it was incumbent on us at a critical time in our country to form a government in the national interest. And that is what I'm doing.


NEWTON: This is a result that no one could have predicted just a few weeks ago when Ms. May's political gamble has shaken up the entire political landscape. Brexit negotiations are just nine days away. And European leaders are waiting for "visitors from London," in their words. It provides more uncertainty for businesses.

And, then, there's that question of Theresa May's future. The British prime minister herself admits that she needs to reflect on what went wrong.

For more on the election fall-out, I'm joined by our Melissa Bell. She is outside 10 Downing Street.

No doubt, many people having a lot of reflection today about what went wrong. But also, Melissa, what comes next?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And having to look ahead very urgently in fact, Paula, it's a matter of days, by the 19th of June. So in nine days' time, a number of things have to have happened.

First of all, the talks have to have yielded an alliance that allows Theresa May to form that minority government that you mentioned. Now what's being considered at the moment, the talks that are underway are with the Ulster Unionists and what is being considered is a sort of loose alliance, slightly short of a formal coalition called a conference and supply deal, which essentially means that the parties agree to vote together on questions of no confidence in Parliament and also on budgetary measures.

So it is a fairly loose coalition and by no means the kind of strong government scenario that would allow Theresa May really to take on these Brexit negotiations from a position of strength. So that will be extremely worrying.

Another crucial thing to look out, Paula, over the coming days, is going to be to see since the DUP, the Ulster Unionists, are essentially the kingmakers now in this, in this, what kind of concessions have they managed to extract to give Theresa May what she is seeking, that is the ability to form like minority government, things like funding for Northern Ireland of course.

But also you mentioned a moment ago, their socially conservative stance on a number of issues, things like abortion and gay marriage. This is something that will go down very badly with a number of Conservative MPs, not least, but also the Scottish Conservative MPs who are led by a woman who is very strong on issues of gay rights, for instance.

In fact, she said the one thing she told Theresa May that mattered to her more than party were gay and lesbian rights. So all of these issues over the coming days are going to be very difficult for Theresa May to square. That's when we're looking out for, first of all, how has she managed to cobble together this coalition, how strong is it likely to be, what kind of concessions has she made and also how will it change her approach to Brexit negotiation?

Since the Ulster Unionists bring their own set of demands, not least that of -- about the border that will be created with the Irish Republic. So all of these add to the sort of uncertainty of the moment. A lot riding on whether or not Theresa May manages first of all to gather together that essential ability to form a minority government. And that's what we are going to be looking to hear over the next few days -- Paula.

NEWTON: And with the incredibly complicated issues that you just laid out. When we talk about Theresa May's future, do we get the sense that those within her own party are willing to give it a few months at least?

BELL: Well, either way, she is a damaged leader and it's very difficult to see --


BELL: -- how, in the long-term, she will be able to survive. She has to see first of all, the immediate threat that might be posed by a leadership challenge. This is not to be discounted for the final time being. That would be the formal procedure whereby a number of Conservative politicians triggered a leadership battle.

But there are those who said that she may be saved from that by the fact that especially those who were in favor of a hard Brexit, those who were hoping that Britain will go in strong to these negotiations, feel that it's probably safer to leave her for the time being than to challenge her leadership outright or too soon.

But beyond that, it will depend very much on her ability to hold together that minority government. I mentioned to you a moment ago the sort of basis on which it might be cobbled together.

This extremely loose alliance, very difficult to see how, when it comes to things like the kind of Brexit votes in the British Parliament, the sort of legislation that will be needed in order to make Brexit a reality, very difficult to see how with a loose coalition and an unstable government, she could really go ahead with something that she had said she struggled to do with the majority that she enjoyed before the election.

All these questions facing Theresa May, who was looking extremely weak, really, going into not just the queen's speech on the 19th of June but beyond that, those crucial Brexit negotiations -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, it's more crucial now that when you consider the Brexit deadline. Our Melissa Bell will following developments all day from 10 Downing Street. Appreciate it.

Now as Melissa was just saying, some members of Theresa May's party are expressing skepticism about the prime minister's future. And she may need to think hard about what happens next.


ANNA SOUTRY (PH), BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: I'm afraid we ran a pretty dreadful campaign. That's probably me being generous. I can't explain exactly what has happened. I think she is in a very difficult place. She is a remarkable and she's a very talented woman and she does not shy from difficult decisions. But now she has to obviously consider her position.


NEWTON: That's some very frank comments there from an MP in her own party.

CNN political contributor Robin Oakley joins us now from outside the Houses of Parliament.

I mean, Robin, I cannot even repeat what my British friends and relatives have told me about how they feel about the income of the election, the outcome of the election, pardon me. I will use the polite word, "a mess."

And that does not matter if you voted for Labour or the Conservatives.

In terms of moving forward now, how long can Theresa May keep up a coalition to the point where it is useful for Brexit negotiations?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: How long can a dead duck float, really, Paula, is the question. Theresa May's authority is absolutely destroyed.

George Osborn, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer under David Cameron, predecessor, said that he thinks there's no longer a majority in the British House of Commons for a hard Brexit.

And of course, Theresa May went to the electorate asking for backing for a hard Brexit, a Brexit which would involve Britain coming out of the single market, out of the customs union and having tough new immigration laws because it was no longer bound by E.U. laws on the free movement of people.

Lots of pressures now for that attitude to be softened and, of course, significantly, the one Conservative success in this election was in Scotland, where they won 12 seats from the Scottish National Party under the leadership of Ruth Davidson.

Now Ruth Davidson is very much in favor of what she calls an open Brexit. So there's strong pressure from the one area of success for Theresa May to weaken her stance on Brexit; also, her weakness demonstrated by the fact that she had not given any support in the course of the election to her chancellor, Philip Hammond.

Now he is reappointed along with four other top members of her government. She does not dare to sack anybody now. Philip Hammond is believed to want a more business-friendly Brexit. So all those pressure is building up.

The question is, will it be translated into a different approach when the negotiations begin -- Paula?

NEWTON: And again, not speaking from one voice, even from her own party on it.

Robin, I'm really interested to get your take on this. When we were covering this election, it did not seem -- Brexit seemed to have been decided. It was not really front and center and yet, now when we look at the results, in your opinion, was there that ambivalence toward what kind of Brexit it should be, what it should look like?

Do you think that played into the kind of government we have right now in the U.K.?

OAKLEY: Yes, it was one of the factors. And I think, in a particular way, I think the Brexit campaign that referendum, when Britain decided 52-48 to come out of the European Union, actually energized young people.

We have seen many more young people voting in this election. And the vast majority of them -- I think they broke about 65-18 --


OAKLEY: -- in favor of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

Now that was partly anti-austerity. They just had, you know, everyone got tired of the austerity policies of the Conservative government.

But it was also feeling that the young felt, oh, we didn't get involved in the Brexit debate. We did not turn out and vote as we should have done. But we do have a political power.

And I think we have seen a change of stance in the British political scene really. Things have moved back to the two main parties and now a very stark division between a hard Brexit Conservative Party, still wedded to austerity, and a Labour Party offering a gentler approach on Brexit, which is clearly attractive to young people.

And if young people are going to turn up and vote a lot more in future, then British political parties are going to have to take that on board and frame their policies and their attitudes accordingly -- Paula.

NEWTON: So interesting, the announcements you just gave there. We both know young people are a fickle bunch. So it will be interesting to see what happens in the future elections.

Robin, so great to see you at all time. I would have preferred to be there with you at the Houses of Parliament but I will take it. Thank you so much for the conversation, appreciate it.

OAKLEY: Thanks, Paula.


NEWTON: U.S. President Donald Trump said he has been vindicated after hearing the testimony of the FBI director he fired and Mr. Trump has made an extraordinary offer to be sworn in and put his version of their conversations on the record. Our Sara Murray reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion, no obstruction, he is a leaker.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A defiant President Trump says he is willing to testify under oath about his conversations with James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he said those things under oath, would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of -- ?

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

MURRAY (voice-over): After restraining himself during Comey's testimony on Thursday, today, Trump is going on offense.

TRUMP: Frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just were not true.

MURRAY (voice-over): One day after Comey made clear he thought President Trump lied, Trump accused the former FBI director of lying under oath. But he refused to say whether he has tapes of his conversations with Comey.

TRUMP: I will tell that you about that maybe sometime in the very near future. Oh, you're going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.

MURRAY (voice-over): This, as Trump and his allies adopt a questionable defense strategy, insisting the president is in the clear because Comey testified that Trump was not under investigation when Comey still led the FBI but arguing other parts of Comey's testimony are a fraud.

Trump insisted that he never asked Comey to back off the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

TRUMP: I didn't say that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he lied about that?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean, I will tell you, I didn't say that.

MURRAY (voice-over): And Trump also said he never asked Comey for loyalty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did he ask for a pledge of loyalty from you?

That's another thing he said.

TRUMP: No, he did not. I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say, I want you to pledge allegiance.

Who would do that? MURRAY (voice-over): Both statements that directly contradict Comey's testimony and while the president may feel exonerated, members of his own party are still airing their concerns and saying the president crossed a line.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-MAINE), MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The president asked Mr. Comey to do an inappropriate action and that was to drop the investigation of General Michael Flynn. That was clearly inappropriate. It crossed a boundary that the president should not have crossed.

MURRAY: Now ever since President Trump originally raised the idea that he may have recordings of his conversations with James Comey, something he floated on Twitter, the White House has been playing coy about that notion.

Looks like that game is about to end. Both House and Senate investigators fired off a series of requests, including to the White House, saying they want to see those tapes -- Sara Murray, CNN, the White House.



NEWTON: I'm joined now by Larry Sabato, he's the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He's also written or edited some 2 dozen books on American politics.

Larry, always good to have you here. So interested on how consequential you feel Trump's reaction was today. I mean, he really raised the stakes by saying, look, I'll go under oath to essentially say that I'm telling the truth and the former director of the FBI was lying.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It was pretty shocking because if there is one thing that just about everyone outside of Trump's base agrees to, it's that James Comey has a heck of a lot more credibility than President Trump, at least in terms of telling the truth.

Comey has led the kind of life in and around law enforcement and the law generally that would propel him toward the truth; whereas every biography I've seen of Donald Trump expresses the fact that he tells a lot of fibs, which is a polite word for lies.


NEWTON: You know, Larry, the polls show that many Americans who voted for him knew that, understood what they were getting into.

When we get to the crux of the testimony and the fact that the president now feels vindicated by it, what is he getting at?

Is it the fact that that he is saying you don't have anything on me to either impeach me or -- you know, he can't be indicted -- but basically kick me out of office. SABATO: When you boil it down -- and I think you've got it exactly right -- it comes down he said-he said. That's ideal for Trump. I think Trump was worried that somehow there was a silver bullet that Comey had, one way or another.

Well, it turns out that all Comey had was his word. That happens to be golden in a lot of quarters. But it's not enough to convince Trump there is a problem or to indict Trump or to convict Trump or to impeach Trump.

NEWTON: Yes, and it's been so interesting to watch all this. Especially vis-a-vis the agenda and that all-important Republican base and Republican Party that he needs.

Speaker Ryan going through a lot of criticism right now on the fact that he has stood up to (sic) him.

But what does it mean in terms of him going forward to try and get what he wants, done either by his administration or also trying to appeal to Congress?

SABATO: If one of his big-ticket items passes soon, it's not really because of Donald Trump. It's because the members of the House and Senate in the Republican caucus understand they're under the gun.

The midterm election of 2018 is coming up. And there is real talk now that Democrats could take over the House of Representatives.

What does that mean?

An impeachment investigation almost certainly.

NEWTON: Yes, and it's interesting because I think Donald Trump realizes the stakes are quite high in the sense that he cannot afford -- that his future is tied with the Republican Party in 2018.

Larry, before I go, I have to ask you, for many people around the world shaking their heads and looking at this, what is it saying about the reality of a Trump administration going forward for the next three and a half years?

SABATO: The first and most important thing is it tells all of us, not just the press, to check every word President Trump says because you simply cannot rely on it. And, of course, that has tremendous implications, both domestically and internationally.

NEWTON: Yes, and I have to point out that voters knew this going in and they kind of assumed that they knew what they were getting into.

Larry, always interesting to talk to you. I'm sure we will continue this conversation. It's been a fascinating week. And I'm sure a lot more to come, especially if the president has that Twitter handle, quick at hand.

SABATO: Yes, absolutely.

NEWTON: All right. Thanks, Larry, appreciate it.



NEWTON: Now coming up, Donald Trump has a tough message for Qatar but it does not match what his top diplomat is saying. We will explain.

Plus, after decades Roman Polanski's victim tells a court her story for the very first time.





NEWTON: The U.S. is sending mixed messages when it comes to the crisis in Qatar, President Donald Trump is urging Doha to stop funding terrorism. Doha denies any involvement while Trump's top officials are urging regional powers to settle the dispute.

Our Jomana Karadsheh has more.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's been a lot of confusion about the U.S.' position when it comes to the crisis in the Gulf over the past week; mixed messages from U.S. officials on the one hand and President Trump on the other hand.

Yet again, on Friday evening, President Trump coming out with a statement completely contradicting his secretary of state just a short time after Rex Tillerson came out with a statement, calling for calm, for resolving this conflict and for easing the blockade on Qatar.

We heard from President Trump yet again, pointing the finger of blame at Qatar for funding terrorism.


TRUMP: The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.


KARADSHEH: Qatar, this key U.S. military ally in the region, has repeatedly denied these accusations, saying that it is the victim of a coordinated misinformation campaign.

There has been this feeling in the region that the president's visit to Saudi Arabia last month may have triggered this crisis by emboldening countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allowing them to use the fight against extremism and extremist funding as a pretext to go after Qatar to settle regional scores.


TRUMP: The time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding. They have to end that funding and its extremist ideology in terms of funding.


KARADSHEH: Some are also wondering if the statement by President Trump may have been an attempt to deflect attention away from domestic U.S. politics -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Doha.


NEWTON: Now the foreign ministers from Qatar and Russia will meet in just a couple of hours. Moscow is promising to help mediate that diplomatic crisis.

Brazil's top court has handed the country's president a very big legal victory. Michel Temer and former president Dilma Rousseff were acquitted Friday of receiving illegal campaign funds during elections three years ago.

Mr. Temer is still being investigated for alleged corruption and obstruction of justice. But he denies any wrongdoing. Dilma Rousseff was impeached after the senate convicted her of breaking budgetary laws.

The victim of director Roman Polanski is speaking out in court after 40 years and she's asking a judge to close of the case as what she calls an act of mercy. Polanski has lived overseas as a fugitive for decades after he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. Here's a report by affiliates KCAL and KCBS that explains the situation.


SAMANTHA GEIMER, POLANSKI RAPE VICTIM: This wasn't as traumatic for me as everybody would like to believe it was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): And before she said that, Samantha Geimer, who, at 13, was drugged and raped by famed movie director, Roman Polanski, who was 43 years old at the time, asked a judge to please put an end to this case that has lasted almost 40 years.

GEIMER: I would like to ask you to consider sentencing Mr. Polanski to time served in absentia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Polanski thought he had a deal. He pleaded guilty to the crime in exchange for serving 90 days in Chino State Prison; 43 days into that sentence, he was released.

His current attorney, Harland Braun, said that he was told back then that Judge Laurence Rittenband, who is now dead, had a change of heart, that instead of the deal, he was going to sentence Polanski to anywhere from 1-50 years in state prison.

That's when Polanski got on a plane, fled to Europe and has been gone ever since, nearly 40 years now as a fugitive.

GEIMER: I never asked anybody to put him in prison for one day and this was all about Judge Rittenband's ego.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Seven years ago, the L.A. D.A.'s office obtained an arrest warrant for Polanski. He is not free to travel in any other country except Poland, France, Switzerland. That's why Polanski, now 83, wants to come back to Los Angeles and be sentenced to time served.

Judge Scott Gordon has already rejected that plea and, today, Braun tried one more time, this time bringing Ms. Geimer to court.

GEIMER: If I was standing here, saying, throw the book at him, I want him in jail for life, my opinion would count. When I'm standing here saying I'm fine and nothing you can do to him will help me or anybody else, suddenly it's the states, not me, that count. So it's a really hypocritical view. Either victims count or they don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): She was 13 when Polanski had sex with her, 14 when he pleaded guilty to the crime and she said she never once hated him for it.

GEIMER: I was almost 14, I wasn't 10.


GEIMER: I was a young, sexually active teenager and it was a scary thing but it was not an uncommon thing. I understood much worse things happened to people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you've convinced the judge today?

They've been pretty adamant about this.

GEIMER: I'd like to hope so but it seems that my situation doesn't really count.


NEWTON: That was a report from CNN affiliate KCLA and KCBS.

Residents of a popular coastal town in South Africa are assessing the damage after deadly fires tore through the region this week. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is here with the details.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, we have been talking about how they are contending with the worst drought in over a century in parts of South Africa and this is a consequences of that.

And this has really hit home for me, Paula, and so many of our viewers out there because we have got so many personal stories of livelihoods being completely turned upside down and homes being destroyed and unfortunately fatalities from what you're about to see.

This is some dramatic footage coming out of the Garden Route on the south coast of South Africa. This is a beautiful stretch of land. If you visited it, you know it. So to see it burning like this is particularly difficult to see as well.

The area has been declared a disaster zone but the fire risk continues today and the windy conditions are only going to complicate the operations that are underway to help put out of the spot fires that are still ongoing. There's 800 firefighters and five helicopters bombarding this active fire line that is still ongoing.

Take a look at some of the damage that has been a consequence of the fire that ripped through this town of about 70,000 people. This was late Thursday and, wow, it's unbelievable to see the destruction.

So we, again, unfortunately have had fatalities, include one firefighter; 10,000 individuals out of a town of 70,000 were evacuated. There were evacuations along the coastline of South Africa because that is where people had to flee for safety. They had to make their way towards the water because the flames were coming down the hills.

I talked about strong winds. We call these locally berg winds. They can pick up anywhere from 50-60 kph. That is a very dry, hot wind, so it will fuel the potential for more fires today and through the weekend.

And there's some silver lining here. Rain forecast for the drought- stricken areas, just not in the regions that have had fires lately. This is Cape Town, they are under level 4 water restrictions; only 10 percent of usable water left in their dams and reservoirs.

But we'll take any rain we can get because extremely dry across this region. If you are looking to help, well, there's many ways you can do that. Just do a simple Google search, the Knysna fires, the Garden Route fires, lots of dropoff points for non-perishable food items, toiletries, blankets, clothes and water for those in need.

NEWTON: Yes, absolutely devastating. Thank you for following it, Derek. Appreciate it.

And thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Paula Newton. We will be back with the headlines in just a moment.