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No Deal Yet in U.K. Government Talks; U.S. Attorney General to Testify before Senate; Insider Attack Kills Three U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan; Venezuelans Seek Asylum in U.S. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired June 11, 2017 - 03:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): First, Downing Street said there was a deal. Then they said, not quite yet. Theresa May's attempts to reach an agreement with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party are taking longer than expected.

In the political firing line, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he's ready to appear before a Senate committee next week.

And the king of clay goes for number 10, can Stan Wawrinka deny Rafa Nadal another title 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 it indicated earlier Saturday a preliminary deal was reached. Ms. May hopes to partner with the smaller party from Northern Ireland after voters stripped her Conservatives of a majority in Parliament.

It also appears she's cleaning house after the election disaster. Two of her top aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, announced their resignation Saturday. Timothy admitted in a statement there were failures in the Conservative campaign. Perhaps quite an understatement there.

Our Melissa Bell joins us now from outside 10 Downing Street.

And more than a little intrigue to worry about today.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a great deal for Theresa May to worry about.

Partly as you say, the miscommunication that appears to have taken place over the deal that was announced yesterday, it appears that the discussions continue, in fact, over the idea not of a formal agreement or a formal coalition with the DUP but rather of a confidence and supply deal.

That's a much looser arrangement, which would have the benefit of keeping May Conservative MPs, those who are worried about the DUP's socially conservative stance on a number of issues.

The trouble with it, Paula, is for Theresa May. Even if this deal is achieved, even if she puts it to her cabinet and it's accepted by her party, this loose arrangement is going to make the fact of governing much more complicated because it means that beyond votes on -- confidence votes or votes on budgetary matters, essentially the Conservatives will have to convince the DUP to vote with them on a vote-by-vote basis.

So it's a much more unstable form of government than the more formal allegation formal coalition would have been.

The other problem that Theresa May faces is that far more openly than yesterday there's talk and it's all over the British newspapers this morning of a leadership challenge. Let me just show you the front page of the "Sunday Times" here, "Five cabinet ministers urge Boris to topple May."

Now this had not been the case yesterday. Now there's talk of a possible leadership challenge by Boris Johnson, the man who is currently and has been re-appointed Theresa May's foreign secretary.

There you see the front page of the "Daily Mail," "Boris set to launch bid to be PM as May clings on."

So the face that we now have -- and again, we did not at this time yesterday -- the idea of whom the Conservative MPs are looking towards in the hope that he might choose to take on Theresa May will be extremely worrying for the prime minister.

NEWTON: A lot to worry about there at 10 Downing Street, except for the Downing Street cat behind you, who seems to be taking everything in stride.

BELL: He's having a lovely time.


NEWTON: He was behind in your shot. He was very interesting, juxtaposed to all of the trouble you just told us about. Melissa Bell will be on of this all day, I'm sure we're expect to hear more.

Now Katy Balls is a political correspondent for "The Spectator." She joins us now live from London.

Your blog in "The Spectator," if you read it any other time other than the day after election, it would be a work of fiction, a delightful one, a fanciful one.

Instead, it's all true. Let's deal first with Boris Johnson. He went on Twitter, denying that there was any attempt here, that he had confidence and that he said to get on with the job.

What do you think?

Do you think the Tories are really saying to themselves, we need to get rid of her?

KATY BALLS, "THE SPECTATOR": Well, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has said that rumors he's going for the leadership are tripe. But there's no denying he has his eyes set on Number 10. We know he wants to be prime minister. However, I just don't think he'll make it just yet.

NEWTON: And in terms of not making it just yet, though, in terms of setting a stage, he's saying they have confidence in her and yet they're having trouble even coming up with a deal with the DUP over at 10 Downing Street right now.

BALLS: Yes, this feeds into why I don't think Boris Johnson really has an appetite to go for leadership right now. The Conservatives are in a very tricky place. And what they need to show is that they can actually form a minority government that can work.

So with the DUP, the focus right now is trying to come to an agreement. But we saw a very embarrassing gaffe last night when Downing Street --


BALLS: -- actually announced that they had reached an agreement and then DUP, a few hours later, had to say, no, we haven't done this yet.

NEWTON: Yes, it was stunning to see them and quite embarrassing that they had to pull back. Again, it does not instill confidence -- and that's the problem. The person waiting on the sidelines is Jeremy Corbyn. He's given an interview to a U.K. paper, saying, look, this isn't done. I could still be prime minister.

What do you think the odds of that are?

BALLS: Well, I think the whole aim of the Conservative Party right now is to try, quite ironically, being as they're the ones who called this early election, to try and create some stability.

What they don't want to do is have another election. They think that if there's another election, there's a very good chance that Labour could win and Jeremy Corbyn would be prime minister.

So Jeremy Corbyn would be quite happy to have an early election in a couple of months' time to try and sort this out. The Conservatives will do everything they can to stop that. We've had our first poll since the election, from YouGov, which is the company that actually predicted the result correctly.

They show that the public support is now more for Labour than the Conservatives, only narrowly. That's going to scare the party. So that's why I think we're really going to see Theresa May pushing to try and come up with some kind of deal with the DUP because, if they don't, it paves the way for Jeremy Corbyn to potentially enter Downing Street in the near future.

NEWTON: The point is there is no other alternative for the Tories, they need to go through with this?

BALLS: Yes. There's no real alternative for them. They did a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2015. I think that would be much more popular coalition with the country because lots of people have concerns about the DUP. They're seen as a very socially Conservative Party and they're worried about their record on LGBT rights.

But the LibDems have ruled out a coalition. So Theresa May's only real chance is the DUP.

NEWTON: You had mentioned that perhaps, given the polls, that there still is the risk of election. I've said it on the air already, what Brits have told me about this election is not very polite. I can't say it on the air and that's if they voted for whichever party they voted for. They just don't want to go to the polls again.

And yet do you think it's inevitable?

BALLS: I think the British people are just quite tired of elections now. But there is a chance there could be one. I think there is a chance this could work, the minority government.

If we do have a minority government, it will be a government that doesn't achieve very much. But that's just a sacrifice that the Conservatives will have to make.

I think if you do go to the polls, then the Conservatives will be punished because this is an unwanted election after an election everyone didn't want in the first place. And history in Britain isn't very kind to people who call elections for no reason.


NEWTON: Yes, Theresa May learned that the hard way. And you say the government has to achieve something, what they have to achieve is to get those Brexit negotiations started on the right foot. Katy Balls, thanks so much, as we continue to watch all this unfold in Britain, appreciate it.

Happening now, France has started voting in the first round of the parliamentary elections. We want to give you a live look here.

This is a big moment for President Emmanuel Macron. If his party wins a majority, he'll be able to bring in those sweeping reforms everyone heard him talk about on the campaign trail.

Just a short while ago, Prime Minister Edward Philippe cast his ballot; he was one of the first people at the polling station this morning. 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.


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 --


JONES: -- wasn't appropriate for him to be having 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: Joining me now is CNN presidential historian and the former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Timothy Naftali.

Timothy, thanks so much for joining us.

We are learning now that Jeff Sessions, very early next week, will be speaking about this. The saga just goes on and it continues and it's incredible, because so many people, including you, predicted that this is how it would be for the Trump presidency.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I'm not sure how much of this I predicted. What I sensed last summer, as a result of the president, then candidate Trump's tweets, was that we were dealing with somebody who raged, who was impulsive and that he would find the restraints of the presidency difficult to maintain.

And as he struggled against those constraints, he would start making mistakes. I think it will be helpful for our viewers to think about this as two different narratives, two different stories. There's the story of the potential obstruction of justice.

Did Donald Trump intend to, in some way, restrict the Russia investigation and the investigation into General Flynn's perjury -- or alleged perjury?

That's narrative one.

The other narrative is, what Russia was up to and did Russia have any help?

Were there Americans who were somehow, in one way or the other, colluding with the Russian foreign intelligence service or the Russian military intelligence service? Those are two different investigations. The Comey hearing is about one more than the other. And we're not hearing a lot about the other, because the investigation into Russian covert action in the United States in 2016 has largely happened in the background.

And that's the one that could be much more damaging for President Trump if there's any evidence whatsoever that members of his inner circle were colluding with the Russians. We just don't know about that.

NEWTON: That's the key thing, though.

When Jeff Sessions testifies on Tuesday, then, is it going to be continually pulling on the same thread?

Because I know here, the American voter right now, you're sitting back, wondering, really?

Is it going to be like this for the entire length of this administration?

NAFTALI: That's a really excellent question, Paula. And, of course, the answer is we don't know. But Jeff Sessions, there's a third story, as dramatic and not as important for the future of the Trump administration as the other two.

But Jeff Sessions has his own problems, because when he filled out, apparently, his security application, in order to get security clearances, he did not disclose some meetings that he had with members of the Russian government. And he will be asked about that.

And there is some question as to whether he was fully honest in his previous testimony. So not only will people want to know about Comey from him, not only will people ask him whether President Trump put pressure on him to limit the investigation, but they're going to actually have some questions about Mr. Sessions himself.


NEWTON: That was presidential historian Timothy Naftali, speaking with me a little earlier from New York.

Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, a months-long offensive along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border takes a deadly turn. Coming up, the claim of responsibility.





NEWTON: 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: London police are releasing photos of the fake suicide belts the London Bridge attackers wore. The three men wore leather belts with disposable water bottles covered in masking tape. Have a look.

The police spokesman said the belts highlight the courage police officers and citizens showed when they tackled the terrorist. A police inspector, who was among the first on the scene, tried to describe what he saw.


JIM COLE, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE INSPECTOR: I would describe it as intense and surreal. I've dealt with things over the years, people being stabbed, people murdered and death. But it was just the sheer scale of it all, everything happening so quickly.

As I say, in hindsight, it just seems like, you know, very surreal and almost, when you look back on it, it's almost sort of really quick and like slow motion at the same time. It's very difficult to describe.


NEWTON: Yes. And Cole was comforted --


NEWTON: -- by the fact that when people were evacuated, he said people were helping each other out.

Now turning to Venezuela, where violent political protests and a food shortage are forcing many to flee the country. CNN's Polo Sandoval speaks with two families who left everything behind for asylum here in the United States.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An everyday supermarket stop for most can get emotional for this Venezuelan woman.

"CAROLINA," VENEZUELAN (through translator): It is impossible to describe how I felt the first time I saw this.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): "Carolina," as she's asked us to call her, is seeking refuge in Georgia. Her family of five fled their native Venezuela last month, the country crippled by soaring violence, political chaos and a failing economy.

Even the little things like toilet paper are rare commodities, either too expensive or impossible to get for Venezuelan families. In the U.S., all of that changed.

"CAROLINA" (through translator): Any brand you want, any quantity you want. We don't have the freedom of choice back home.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): This mother of three fears being identified since she still has relatives struggling to survive back home.

"CAROLINA" (through translator): If the government can retaliate against you, they'll go after your family.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Food and medicine shortages in Venezuela grow worse by the day, as deadly protests against President Nicolas Maduro break out in the streets. Close to 70 people have died this year alone and the resulting violence has made Venezuelans the largest group of people seeking asylum in the U.S. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report over 14,500 of them

applied for asylum in 2016, that's a 160 percent increase from the previous year.

"CAROLINA" (through translator): There are so many people in Venezuela who want to be here, not because they hate their country but because they fear they won't live to see another day.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Concerns over personal safety are also what drove this man and his wife out of Venezuela. He's asked CNN to simply identify him as "Arturo Gonzalez."

"ARTURO GONZALEZ," VENEZUELAN (through translator): In Venezuela, we are living in a crisis.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): "Gonzalez" gave up his career as a news photographer for a safer life in the U.S. Simply being a journalist made him the target of death threats. Many of his colleagues have been attacked while covering the wave of unrest.

"GONZALEZ" (through translator): I wish that we could return but with the way things are, it would be impossible.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Coming here had a price for these families. All of the Venezuelan asylum seekers we met told us they left entire lives back home, including careers and businesses. They say it's worth it, though.

"CAROLINA" (through translator): Many of us have been able to flee. But there are many more still there, living a hell.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Carolina and the others count on their tourist visas to stay in the country for now but ultimately the government will have to decide if they get asylum, allowing them to stay in the U.S. forever -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, Atlanta.


NEWTON: Turning to sport now and the king of clay, Rafa Nadal, aims to take home a record 10th French Open title later on Sunday -- 10. That's only if he can defeat rival Stan Wawrinka. Patrick Snell has more on that and also on an upset in Saturday's women's final.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 2017 French Open women's final will likely live forever in the memory of the 20-year-old Latvian, Jelena Ostapenko, a player who wasn't even given any credible chance against her Romanian opponent, the 2014 runner-up, Simona Halep, a player who hadn't even won a tour title of ay description anywhere in the world.

Now, though, she's the first unseeded woman to win this famous old tournament during the open era.

it was her opponent, the Romanian, Halep, that who started well, though, she was in total control, winning the first set, 6-4. She was also three games to 0-0 in the second with a comeback was brewing, something just sparked inside I think the 20-year old Latvian. From there, she rallied to win the second set, 6-4.

Then in cruise control in the third to go on and win her first-ever Grand Slam title, a terrific achievement for both herself and her country.

Now in Sunday's men's final, Rafa Nadal will face the 2015 champion from Switzerland, Stan Wawrinka, who's looking for his fourth major in total. It's the first time that two players who are both older than 30 will have contested the title since 1969.

The Spaniard's record against Stan is pretty impressive, too, look at that. Overall, he's 15-3 and 6-1 on the clay court surfaces. Well, Nadal has played a total of 80 matches over the years there at Roland Garros and has only ever lost twice.

The man from Majorca also bidding to become the first player, male or female, in the open era and only the second player in history to win 10 titles of any one Grand Slam event -- Patrick Snell, CNN, Atlanta.


NEWTON: One thing about those French Open courts is that they're at the mercy of the weather. So we'll find out what everyone can expect tomorrow. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now.

It's crucial here, I remember when it rains and you see all the clay stains on their clothing.



VAN DAM: -- you cannot have wet clay. It just doesn't work. And those sports players have to deal with those conditions.

Too often they actually will delay an event, of course, with rain. But that is not the case today, as the anticipation builds with not only the fans attending the event but also the players for the men's final later this afternoon.


NEWTON: The actor who brought Batman to life in the '60s has died. Adam West passed away Friday in Los Angeles after a battle with leukemia. He portrayed the superhero on television for three seasons and later did numerous cameo appearances and voice-over work. Adam West was 88 years old.

I want to thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton and I'll be back in just a moment with your headlines.