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No Deal Yet in U.K. Government Talks; U.S. Attorney General to Testify before Senate. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired June 11, 2017 - 02:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Deal or no deal?

As the U.K. prime minister sacks two of her top advisers, Theresa May's attempts to reach an agreement with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party are taking longer than expected.

Also ready to testify: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he plans to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week.

And battle on the clay court.

Can Stan Wawrinka deny Rafa Nadal a record 10th French Open title? We'll preview the action at Roland Garros.

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


NEWTON: Days after a snap election backfired on British prime minister Theresa May, Downing Street says she still hasn't reached a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party. This after Downing Street indicated Saturday a preliminary agreement had been reached.

Ms. May hopes to partner with the Northern Ireland party after voters stripped her Conservatives of a majority in Parliament.

It also appears she is cleaning house after the election disaster. Two top aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, announced their resignation Saturday. For more on that, here's Phil Black in London.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This doesn't come as a total surprise. They've long been controversial figures within the party. There have long been rumblings about the culture that they created within Downing Street behind me. It was often described as "secretive," "controlling," "bunker-like."

It was very difficult to get access to Theresa May. Members of the Conservative Party said she wasn't getting a range of views from within the party. These people were her controllers and her enforcers.

But according to British media reports, backbench MPs essentially gave the prime minister an ultimatum: they must go or she would face a leadership challenge.

Nick Timothy, one of these co-chiefs of staff, has released a statement, saying he accepts his responsibility for his role within the campaign, which was responsibility for policy, the program policy.

But ultimately, he says, he thinks that Theresa May lost not because of a lack of support for her and her party but because of an unexpected and unseen surge of support for her main opponent, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn.


NEWTON: I'm joined now by Dominic Thomas, he is a professor at UCLA, specializing in European politics.

Dominic, again, thanks for having -- for being here with us at CNN. When statements backtracked from Downing Street -- it looks like they had a very bad day there again today. Key here, though, what many people in Britain will be watching out for is the fact that they still don't have a deal with the DUP.

If some ways, was this predictable and shows a window into what the future will be?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA, CALIFORNIA: Right, it shows a window into the future and also into the past.

I mean, the thing -- what's so remarkable about this is that the Conservative Party, in the last six elections, has been incapable of securing a majority, except in 2015, when David Cameron was able to get a very slim majority of 330, which is, of course, the one that he ended up handing over to Theresa May.

So the Conservatives are, of course, extremely upset about this. In 2010, they made a pact with the Liberal Democrats, forming a coalition with the party that was really pro-European Union.

Then they essentially betrayed them in the 2015 elections, where David Cameron essentially struck a deal with UKIP, its independent vote, far right vote, pro-Brexit that ended up with the Brexit votes that ousted him from office.

And now they're looking at this -- not even a coalition but an alliance with the DUP that's a very socially conservative, anti-same sex marriage, antiabortion Northern Irish political party.

So the Tory Party, the Conservative Party looks not only leaderless at the moment but also in many ways rudderless, prepared to go into a coalition or alliance with just about anybody. This isn't promoting any kind of sentiment of security or any indication as to where the future lies. NEWTON: That has been the big sell job that Theresa May is trying to do, saying I represent stability and yet this isn't looking very stable at all.

We've had the two resignation, the two top aides to Theresa May have already resigned now. There still seems to be some bloodletting to go in that Tory Party when you see what's happened there, they're blaming Theresa May and her closest advisers why they botched this election plus the fact that many of them are uncomfortable with the DUP as you just outlined.

Where are we on track to go here?

Because something has to give, an alliance has got to happen in some way, shape or form, or what is the alternative?

THOMAS: Well, and it's very likely it will not happen. I mean the only people she is currently able to speak to are offering her 10 votes, which puts her just --


THOMAS: -- at 328, two above the 326.

No matter what happens going forward, it's going to be absolutely impossible to negotiate and pass any kind of law or decree through the Parliament. So by next week she has to appear in the Houses of Parliament. I think the likelihood is that she really does not get a vote of confidence.

It's very likely that the Labour Party is going to be able to form some kind of minority government. So, yet again, we may end up going for a general election. If there's one thing the British people don't want, it's another election.

This will be the second general election, the referendum on Brexit back in 2016 and then, prior to that, the referendum whether or not Scotland should remain within the United Kingdom.

People are fatigued by these kinds of questions and they want some kind of leadership. But for the time being, it seems very unclear. We're left with a divided Britain.

NEWTON: In fact, their language hasn't been quite as polite as yours, Dominic. What you said, though, just now, in the last 25 seconds, is extraordinary.

Can you see a situation where, in fact, it would Jeremy Corbyn in the next few day that becomes the prime minister of Britain?

THOMAS: Well, it's possible. He certainly is not going to be able to form a majority. But he could potentially put together a minority government.

But then once again, on every issue going forward, it's going to be difficult. The big issue here is that Theresa May had this majority. And had she been a little bit more willing to compromise, which is ultimately what is going to have to happen, things might look a little bit better.

But she was unwilling to do that. She thought the Labour Party was sufficiently divided that she could somehow extend her lead and move forward in a very divided Britain, barely delivered this Brexit vote and so get her own way.

At the end of the, compromise is the only way forward in order to produce a deal that is going to satisfy both those who voted for Brexit and those that wish to remain.

In other words, a deal that will have a bit more flexibility on the sort of questions of circulation, labor and so on and also the future of E.U. nationals that live in the United Kingdom.

And this is going to be very divisive for the Irish people as well, who, let's not forget, Northern Ireland voted 56-44 to remain in the European Union (INAUDIBLE) part of the DUP, of course, is a Brexit party.

NEWTON: Yes, I mean at this point, we are all going to be watching from the sidelines. It really is going to be gripping, what's happening there in the next few days. Dominic, thanks so much for parsing it with us. I appreciate it.

THOMAS: Right. Well, thanks so much and we'll also be watching, of course, the French legislative elections that are taking place this weekend. And that's a bit more of a positive story.

NEWTON: One would hope. Europe hopes. Thanks so much, appreciate it.

THOMAS: Thank you, Paula, pleasure.

NEWTON: Now speaking of those elections, the polls have just opened in France. Here a live look now. Now everybody has been talking about this for some while since the victory of Emmanuel Macron. He hopes this vote will give him the majority he needs to enact the sweeping reforms that he promised on the campaign trail.

Opinion polls from earlier this week are giving his centrist party good odds. Today's election is for the lower house, the national assembly. There is still another round of voting set for the 18th.

As we were just telling you, the voting, as you can see, just getting under way in France.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.

Sessions is expected to be grilled on his role in the firing of former FBI director James Comey as well as his meetings with Russian officials during the presidential campaign. Athena Jones has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, that's right. We're learning the attorney general has offered to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Now we know that Senate investigators are going to be interested in speaking to the attorney general. So if this goes forward, it means they're getting the chance a lot sooner than they may have expected.

We expect them to grill Sessions on a number of issues, including his involvement in the firing of now former FBI director James Comey. During the hours-long testimony on Thursday, Comey made several mentions of Sessions.

He questioned his role -- he questioned Sessions' role in his firing given the fact that Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation and Comey believes he was fired because of his handling of the Russia investigation.

Comey also talked about how Sessions was one of the two people who lingered in the Oval Office -- the other was Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law -- after the president asked to clear the room so that he could speak alone with Comey. That is, of course, a conversation Comey later shared, in which the president, he says, asked him to let the Flynn probe go.

This being the investigation into his then national security adviser, Michael Flynn. We know that Comey says he later told Sessions that it wasn't appropriate for him to be having --


JONES: -- one-on-one meetings -- for Comey to be having one-on-one meeting with the president and asked Sessions to make sure that that wasn't allowed to happen again.

And he talked about having been aware of information that would lead to Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation.

Here is that exchange that Comey had with Oregon Democratic senator Ron Wyden. Wyden asked Comey why he didn't discuss the president's actions, which clearly disturbed Comey, with Sessions. Watch that exchange.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting, that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.

And so we were -- we were convinced -- and, in fact, I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer. And that turned out to be the case.


JONES: "And that turned out to be the case."

Now CNN learned that, in the closed session that followed the open session on Thursday, Comey told the Senate Intelligence panel about a possible third meeting, an undisclosed meeting between Sessions and the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Now the Department of Justice has denied that such a meeting took place. But that is some of the detail that Comey didn't want to talk about in open session. And it is the kind of question we expect Sessions to have to answer when he appears before the Senate Intelligence panel -- Back to you.


NEWTON: That was Athena Jones.

Now a U.S. official says American troops in Afghanistan came under fire near the Pakistani border. Dianne Gallagher has more on what was apparently an insider attack.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Afghan Taliban is claiming responsibility for this attack but there is no independent confirmation as of yet.

Now it is important to note that this area where this happened is an ISIS stronghold. The Pentagon said that three U.S. soldiers were killed, one was injured; that injured soldier has been evacuated for medical care.

One U.S. official said that a member of an Afghan security forces opened fire on the soldiers during a joint U.S.-Afghan operation. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in Wisconsin Saturday, asked people to pray for the families of the soldiers who were killed.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On my way here, I was informed that U.S. service members were killed and wounded in an attack in Afghanistan. The president and I have been briefed. The details of this attack will be forthcoming.

But suffice it to say, when heroes fall, Americans grieve. And our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these American heroes.


GALLAGHER: Now this happened in the action (ph) district. It's an ISIS stronghold near the border of Pakistan. And it's where the U.S. and Afghan troops have been carrying out a month's-long offense against the terror group's local affiliate, ISIS K. It's also where the U.S. dropped what is known as the mother of all bombs back in April. During that same month, three U.S. soldiers were killed in two different incidents there. Two Army Rangers killed during a U.S.-Afghan forces joint raid and,

earlier that month an Army Special Forces soldier was killed fighting ISIS K.

U.S. officials believe that ISIS has somewhere between 600 and 800 fighters in Afghanistan; about 8,400 U.S. troops are there now -- Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. MARKETPLACE AFRICA is next.