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Syrian plane shot down by U.S. military; The president is not under investigation; Hotel in Mali attacked by terrorists; Portugal wildfire; Seven sailors dead in damaged ship; Supreme Court to rule in travel ban; Senate shutdown on health care; Trump's social media use on twitter; Michael Phelps to race Great White Shark. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 18, 2017 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: -- United States military has shot down a warplane in Syria. It is the first time this has happened since the U.S. took an active role in the Syrian conflict. The plane was shot down, it was a Syrian regime bomber, we are learning that it is said to have attacked coalition supported fighters on the ground. This is where it happened, near the city of Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in northern Syria.

A statement from the coalition, which is led by the United States, that its forces were responding to the Syrian bombing which did cause casualties on the ground and that the Syrian jet was shot down in self-defense. Again, the U.S. military for the first time has shot down a Syrian Air Force warplane. We are closely following these developments. Stay with CNN for more details as we get them.

Turning to politics now and the question about whether President Trump himself is under investigation. He tweeted on Friday that he is, but just 48 hours later his lawyer says, no, the president is not being investigated, period. Confused? A bit perplexed? Here's what we know.

Last week "The Washington Post" reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice and that Mueller is interviewing at least three senior intelligence officials as part of this expanding probe. The "Post" report was the most significant sign yet that Mueller's investigation is growing beyond questions of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

President Trump called the report phony and then on Friday he tweeted this, and I quote, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt." Let's bring in White House correspondent, Athena Jones. Athena, the president's lawyer was asked point-blank about that tweet.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. He was, and look, these are exactly the sorts of mixed messages that have come to define this White House and the president's lawyer is just the latest example of someone who's working for the president who doesn't seem to be exactly on the same page as the president. You laid it all out with the "Washington Post" reporting on Wednesday, the president responding at first saying that it was phony and then Friday sending out this curious tweet that seemed to confirm that he is under investigation.

Now, sources close to the president -- familiar with the president's thinking said he had hadn't been officially informed that he was under investigation. He was just basing that tweet on news reports. Listen to what Jay Sekulow, one of the president's lawyers had to say to explain all of this on "State of the Union" this morning.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Should we take that tweet from the president as confirmation that the president is under investigation?

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: Let me be clear. The president is not under investigation. As James Comey said in his testimony, that the president was not the target of investigation on three different occasions. The president is not a subject or target of an investigation.

TAPPER: The president said, "I am under investigation," even though he isn't under investigation?

SEKULOW: That response on social media was in response to "The Washington Post" piece. It's that simple. The president is not under investigation.

TAPPER: You're saying that the president when he said that was not accurate?

SEKULOW: No. The president was -- it was 141 characters. There's a limitation on twitter as we all know. And the president is a very effective utilization of social media. So here's what you have. The president issued that tweet, that social media statement, based on a fake report, a report with no documented sources from "The Washington Post."


JONES: So, a couple of things there about that interview with Jay Sekulow. For one thing, for months now we've had White House officials telling us that we should take the president's tweets at face value. They are presidential statements. And now we're hearing something different from one of his lawyers giving excuses as to why maybe he was a little unclear in his message in that tweet.

And then the other part of it is that the president's allies, his lawyers, the folks at the Republican National Committee, have been pointing over and over again to Comey's testimony that he did in fact tell the president on three separate occasions that he was not personally being investigated. The problem here, Ana, is that that information is out of date or certainly potentially out of date. Comey has not been in charge of the FBI, as we all know, since the beginning of May.

I should mention, of course, that CNN has not confirmed "The Washington Post" reporting that Special Counsel Bob Mueller is investigating the president for obstruction but we do know from law enforcement sources what you mentioned earlier and that is that Mueller is gathering information to determine whether to open a full- scale investigation in to obstruction. Ana.

CABRERA: So Athena, what about the tapes, the same lawyers that just last weekend that President Trump would address the "are there tapes or no tapes" of the Oval Office conversations issue within a week? That didn't happen. So what's going on?

JONES: Well, exactly. Jay Sekulow said last week that we would hear an answer next week meaning this past week. That didn't happen. Sekulow said that, well, there was a lot going on this past week. The president had that big

[17:05:00] address on Cuba policy. There was also what he described as an assassination attempt against house majority whip Steve Scalise and other GOP members of Congress. And so, the way he put it on "Face the Nation" was the issue of tapes I think right now was not a priority issue this past week. He said he expects it could be addressed this week, but this is just one more example of these deadlines being set that are not met. We really don't know when we're going to get an answer on that issue. Ana.

CABRERA: Alright, Athena Jones, thank you. Let's get straight to our panel now. Joining me is CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Doug Heye, CNN legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor who has worked closely with Robert Mueller, the special counsel, Michael Zeldin and CNN national security analyst and former assistant secretary of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem. Guys, I want to play another part of CNN's interview with President Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow, listen.


SEKULOW: And in this particular case you had a scenario where the president, receiving advice from a variety of government officials, was told by his attorney general and by his deputy attorney general that James Comey should not be leading the FBI. It's ironic that based on the action that they recommended, that he took, in consultation with others, that he is now being investigated by the agencies that told him to take that very action, removing the FBI director.


CABRERA: So, Michael, the president's lawyer said multiple times, which we heard in a sound bite that Athena played us, that the president is not under investigation, only to then say in that last statement we played that it's ironic the president is being investigated by the agencies who told him to fire James Comey. So his statements are at odds with one another. What do you make of that?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There is schizophrenia to what he has been saying this morning on the talk shows. As I try to divine it, there are a couple of things come to mind. First is he's saying in very legalistic terms that the president has not received a target or subject letter from Mueller, so that he is technically in legal terms not a target of criminal investigation. Fair enough. The president, of course, doesn't talk in legal terms, he talks in lay

terms and he feels that he's under siege or under investigation, broadly speaking. Those things are not necessarily in conflict with one another. With respect to the president being -- having received advice about the firing of Comey and acting on that advice, the president said that that's not true. He said that he fired him because he had Russia on his mind and that he was going to fire him regardless of those recommendations from sessions and Comey.

And, of course, it is not the Justice Department who is investigating the president now, it is the special counsel. And the reason there is a special counsel is that it would be ironic if the Justice Department were investigating him because they would have a conflict of interest. So there is no irony there because they appointed Mueller to do that which they couldn't do themselves without conflict. For all these things are confusing but when segregated, they can line up into a sensible narrative.

CABRERA: So in terms of evidence, the president's attorney also mentioned Rosenstein, the deputy A.G.'s recommendation to fire Comey, that memo that was included in the president's letter about why he was firing him. Does Rosenstein's memo offer the president some legal protection?

ZELDIN: If he hadn't said to Lester Holt that he wasn't listening to the Rosenstein recommendation or the Sessions recommendation, but that he had Russia on his mind and that's what he used as the basis to fire, and then he reiterated it with the Russians in his Oval Office that he fired him because it was to take pressure off of him from the Russia investigation. So, Rosenstein's memo, which may have been a pretext for what he wanted to do anyway, if he had kept it to himself, maybe he gets away with it. But because he talked, he can't.

CABRERA: So Juliet, might there be a clear answer to whether or not the president is actually under investigation himself for potential obstruction of justice? Is someone usually told when they're being investigated by federal authorities?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Again, he might eventually be told, but let's just be clear here. Mueller has over a dozen serious prosecutors. I mean, the best of the best. They are not there solely for obstruction of justice charge. I mean the notion that there's not some underlying crime, whether it's collusion or some financial dealings or this data -- the sort of data issue that's come up in the last week, what did his data team do? Were they sharing information with the Russians? That's what the Mueller investigation is. It's not to say that the obstruction charges aren't real, but I would find it sort of inconceivable with Mueller and his team that --

CABRERA: Juliette, you have an audio issue going on. We're having a hard time hearing you so maybe you can work on that real quick while I ask Doug a question about what we've been hearing from Newt Gingrich who is a close ally of the president.

[17:10:00] I want you all to listen to his take on the president's tweet that he is being investigated. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Trump has a compulsion to counter attack and is very pugnacious. I don't think it serves him well. I don't think that tweet helped him. He is infuriated and legitimately in my judgment, by this whole Russian baloney, and notice how it's evolving. We started here with Russia, we don't have anything on Russia but maybe there was obstruction. We may not get an obstruction or maybe there's going to be perjury and maybe there'll be, you know, I mean, you go down the list.


CABRERA: So Doug, you are a Republican strategist. The president calling this all a witch hunt suggesting people should be outraged that he is being investigated. Whether or not the president is helping his legal case through these comments and tweets, do you see a political up side to what he's saying?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I really don't. One thing that we've seen that's consistent, Michael talked -- used the word schizophrenic earlier. Athena talked about mixed messages. As somebody who used to work as a communicator on Capitol Hill, I see mixed messages coming from the administration and their allies every day. Certainly what we saw with Jay Sekulow this morning, where the impossible situation he is in where he has to defend the president who said something very clearly that they now have to say is true.

I could tell you during the Comey hearings, I was getting e-mails from the administration and from the RNC that was saying that James Comey was a liar. Then later in the day they said that James Comey exonerated him. What am I supposed to believe? What is the American public supposed to believe? We're being told two different things at a problem. They need to find what their core message is, hopefully that's the truth and stick to that. That's the best thing they can do to help Donald Trump on the staff level and certainly for the president to do the same.

CABRERA: But Doug, if the president is trying to poke holes in the credibility of the people who are investigating him and then let's say the conclusion is the president did something wrong, his team did something wrong, is that going to help him make the case that these guys have some kind of an agenda? I mean -- and that's what I'm talking about in terms of politically could it be helpful long term for him to do what he's doing?

HEYE: Well, I think we're seeing more and more of a divergence. If you supported Trump, you by and large still support Trump, that we're seeing some erosion in Republican support, a small amount so far. That's what Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking at because they know how popular Donald Trump is in their districts. They are the ones who will be voting in Republican primaries so that's what they're watching. If you didn't believe or you didn't support Donald Trump, everything you've seen so far just reconfirms that to you as well.

CABRERA: All right, Michael, from a legal perspective, did the president's tweets and statements make it harder to defend him if there is a case?

ZELDON: I don't think so. The tweets are more rants than they are in any respect legally compromising for him. What is more challenging for him is the things that he said to Lester Holt and then again at that press, I don't know if it was called a conference or -- with the Romanian president where he said, "No, no, I never said those words to Comey," with respect -- you know, the hope stuff. So there he is making affirmative statements which can be used against him in some respects if there ever was a court or impeachment hearing but the tweets --

CABRERA: Right, but those were the words when he was saying, "No, no, I never said I hope that you could let this Comey -- that you'll let the Michael Flynn investigation go."

ZELDIN: That's right. So it's those types of things that I think pose more jeopardy for him legally than the tweets which really I think -- I would characterize them as sort of rants and that's not really so much a legal problem as it is a political one, as Doug mentioned.

CABRERA: All right, Michael Zeldin, Doug Heye and Juliette, who we lost, thank you all.

HEYE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Straight ahead, tragedy at sea. Seven Navy sailors are now confirmed dead after a dramatic collision in the waters off Japan. Coming up, what we've learned so far about how it happened. Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby joins us live, next.


CABRERA: More breaking news this hour. A gun battle going on to stop terrorists who stormed a luxury resort popular with western tourists in Mali. Now, Mali's Ministry of Security issued a statement claiming that armed individuals certainly terrorists, attacked the resort just outside the capital. Anti-terror forces are on the scene exchanging gunfire with these attackers. The E.U. training missions in Mali tweeted a statement that they are aware of the attack and were assessing the situation. This is all happening less than 10 days after the U.S. embassy in Mali's capital city warned Americans traveling there about an increased security threat to westerners. Now we are continuing to monitor this story. We'll update you throughout the evening.

Also overseas, we're getting a stunning look at what Portuguese officials are calling the greatest wildfire tragedy of recent years. Look at this.




CABRERA: At least 61 people are dead and dozens injured after a massive fire raced through central Portugal. It has spread so quickly, some victims were burned to death in their cars as they tried to escape. The area's mayor says many villages were completely surrounded by the fire and there were simply not enough firefighters to stop the flames.

I want to get to some other breaking news from the Pacific now, the worst possible result in the weekend's frantic search for those seven American sailors unaccounted for after a collision at sea. Those sailors have been found but sadly they did not survive the accident. Their ship, the "Uss Fitzgerald" is now back in port after colliding with a much larger cargo ship in waters off Japan.

Parts of the destroyer flooded with seawater, and it is in those flooded compartments that recovery divers found the sailors that were missing for more than 24 hours. Our military analyst, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby is joining us now. Admiral, you and I spoke yesterday about this situation. We discussed this possible scenario and outcome. We learned that this collision happened while most of the crew on board was asleep.

[17:20:00] What are your thoughts about this tragedy today?

JOHN KIRBY, RETIRED U.S. NAVY REAR ADMIRAL: Well, it is just absolutely heart rending and I want to start just by offering again my thoughts and prayers to everybody aboard "Fitzgerald." All the crew and their families, of course in particular the families of these seven sailors that were lost. It is just heartbreaking outcome to a horrible tragedy.

It doesn't surprise me that some of the casualties were found at berthing compartments at 2:30 in the morning, which is where I think this happened in the middle of the night. You would expect most of the crew to be asleep. There's obviously some crew that are up standing watching driving the ship and navigating it, but most of the crew would be asleep at that time of day.

CABRERA: Admiral, the seventh fleet commander said today that this collision had the potential to sink the "Fitzgerald," but that the crew scrambled, they were able to keep her afloat. I know you served at sea. What happens onboard in an emergency situation like this?

KIRBY: Everybody aboard a ship is a fireman. Everybody aboard a ship is trained to fight floods. That's what you do. It's called damage control and everybody in the Navy from the time -- the first day you joined, you learn basic techniques about how to preserve safety and security of a ship at sea and it's something that always comes back to you throughout your career.

You constantly go through this training, particularly on small warships like destroyers. And I think, you know, when all is said and done, the investigation is over, when stories can finally be told, I think you're going, Ana, you're going to hear dozens of stories of incredible bravery and skill and team work to keep that ship afloat and to keep her from floundering.

The strike below the water line had to have been massive because those freighters had these big bulbous bows. You can't see them on the top of the water but underneath they're very bulbous. It probably just punctured right through that made a terrific damage and that they were able to keep that ship afloat really is truly a story of great heroism.

CABRERA: We know that they knocked out the communication systems that they were using so there was that additional challenge they were facing. Really is amazing there to get it back to shore and it wasn't any worse.

KIRBY: And I would just say, if you could just give me a second, just also mention that our Japanese partners, our allies, the Japanese Coast Guard which came right to the scene and right to the rescue and from talking to my former friends in the Navy, they tell me that without the Japanese help this would have been even worse.

CABRERA: I do want to ask you about the investigation real quick and how it was perceived because you wrote in an op-ed some pretty strong words and they feel strongly about how this is going to shake out saying careers will be dashed, people will be punished, short of battle at sea. Navy warships are not supposed to hit anything, not the ground, not each other, and certainly not container ships in the middle of the night. So, how do you see the investigation proceeding?

KIRBY: There is a strong culture of accountability in the Navy, particularly for those who command at sea and it is an absolute accountability. There is no getting around that. This investigation, which is just now getting started, will be run by another admiral, not the 7th fleet commander but somebody that he chooses.

It will be thorough, it will be definitive, it will be decisive, it will be very, very complete. They will do a complete forensic analysis of what happened almost minute by minute. They'll talk to every relevant witness. They'll look at every piece of equipment such as the radar system that could have been involved. It want to make sure it was operating or not.

They will look at every bit of recorded data because there'll be some electronically recorded data that they can assess, almost like a black box kinds of thing. They'll look at it all and they'll be able to determine exactly what happened. Just as importantly, Ana, they'll be able to determine what didn't happen, in other words, what decisions should have been made at certain periods of time and weren't and did that lead to this catastrophe.

CABRERA: OK, now, while I have you here, Admiral, this breaking news about the U.S. shooting down a Syrian Air Force jet. This is the first time this has happened, although coalition partners have engaged in direct combat in the skies over Syria. But how big of a development is this in the coalition's war against ISIS?

KIRBY: I think we need to be careful in talking to this in terms of escalatory measures. A couple of things to keep in mind, first of all, this was done in defense of Syrian Democratic Forces that the coalition was supporting and has been supporting on the ground. That is a commitment that the coalition made a long time ago when we agreed to help the Syrian Democratic Forces on the ground.

We made it very clear publicly -- not just to them, but publicly that if they came under fire, if they come under attack, we would come to their defense. So this was a long-standing understanding between the coalition and certainly the regime. Number two, I think you can look at this as potentially a deterrent attack. In other words, they had to do this but maybe it will have a deterrent effect on the regime. I don't see this as escalatory. This was something that we committed to doing a long time ago and we sadly, had to come through, Ana.

CABRERA: How far up the chain of command would that decision have gone?

KIRBY: I don't know since I am not inside the chain of command anymore. I doubt it had to go very, very high. Again, the commander on the ground has the authority to defend his forces and we have the authority to defend the forces that we are supporting on the ground. So I don't think this left theater -- if you're asking if this sort of had to go to the Pentagon or

[17:25:00] had to come to Washington, I highly doubt that. I would suspect that the commander there in charge of the coalition ops had the authority to do this on his own.

CABRERA: Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, thanks, as always, and Happy Father's Day.

KIRBY: Thank you so much.

CABRERA: The fate of President Trump's travel ban is in the hands of the Supreme Court and there will be developments this week. Will the justices save the ban or will one of the president's signature promises be broken by the courts? That's ahead, live in the "CNN Newsroom."


CABRERA: In a few days, President Trump's travel ban will face its ultimate test. Will the Supreme Court hear Trump's travel ban case? We can know by the end of this week. Only the Supreme Court can save Trump's travel ban now after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's ruling striking down the president's ban that would limit

[17:30:00] travel for people from six Muslim majority nations. Here's this week's crucial timeline. Challengers of the ban must file replied briefs by noon Tuesday. Then government can respond on Wednesday and the Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter Thursday behind closed doors. Let's talk it over with Hawaii's attorney general, Douglas Chin, who filed one of these lawsuits against the travel ban.

Thanks so much for spending part of Father's Day with us. I know we've spoken before along the different steps of your battle. You've now fought the courts or fought the travel ban in two different courts already. It's going to the highest court next. How big of a deal is this? DOUGLAS CHIN, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF HAWAII: Well, right now the Trump

administration is up against a very important deadline which is the end of June. That's typically the time when the Supreme Court recesses for the summer. They don't come back until the beginning of November. And so in terms of timing, what the Trump administration is trying to do is to allow or convince the Supreme Court to allow it to be able to hear and review the lower court decisions that have occurred. What we have now is the --

CABRERA: Would you expect that they would take up the case?

CHIN: I think there is a really good chance that they will. I mean even though you have a decision that was based on -- in the 4th Circuit for one reason, that stopped the travel ban, you now have the 9th Circuit decision that has stopped the travel ban. There are a lot of indications that the Supreme Court is going to be interested in this case because of the national security implications.

CABRERA: Now, while the 9th Circuit kept the block of the travel ban in place, the court did allow one portion of that executive order to proceed, and that was the reviewing of the vetting process as DHS Secretary John Kelly said the administration saw that as a win. Do you see that as a loss?

CHIN: We never had a problem with the Department of Homeland Security engaging in research or studies. What we had argued was the problem with the entire travel ban is that it was a Muslim ban and so anything that was carried out under the auspices of that executive order would be something that would be either discriminatory under the constitution or illegal under our immigration laws.

And so when the 9th Circuit allowed the studies to be able to continue, they were simply allowing the Department of Homeland Security to do what it's always been capable of doing, which is essentially to be able to examine and decide what constitutional orders it can put out in the future.

CABRERA: So assuming the Supreme Court says it will take the case, with the president's pick Judge Gorsuch now on the bench, this is a court that's more conservative leaning. Does the make-up of this court present a bigger challenge for you?

CHIN: You know, you have Justice Gorsuch who replaced Justice Scalia and where the rub is really going to be is most people are thinking it is going to have to do with how Justice Kennedy rules. He'll be the fifth vote and we think we're positioned about as well as we could be because you have now two rationales for stopping the travel ban that are out there.

The first one is that this is unconstitutional travel ban that discriminates against a religion. Government's not supposed to disfavor one religion against another. And then the other rational that's coming out of the 9th Circuit is that when the president issued the executive order, he simply didn't make enough findings. There was just too flimsy evidence that was there to be able to justify banning 180 million people from the six Muslim majority nations and presuming that all of them are terrorists.

CABRERA: Now the president has spoken recently about his travel ban, at least on twitter. He brought up the travel ban in the wake of the London terror attacks earlier this month and then just after the 9th Circuit ruling came down he tweeted again, I want to read those to you. Here's the tweet before the ruling where he writes, "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down politically correct version they submitted to SC -- Supreme Court. And then after that ruling, well, as predicted, the 9th Circuit did it again, ruled against the travel ban at such a dangerous time in the history of our country. SC." Do you think the Supreme Court will take into consideration these tweets?

CHIN: Well, that certainly are our argument, is that the president's tweets are his official statements and that was confirmed by Sean Spicer the day after that President Trump had issued his June 5th tweet that said that he wished that everything would go back to the first --

CABRERA: So you think the tweets work in your favor, in your case?

CHIN: Oh, yes, I mean essentially he's saying or confirming that this is a Muslim ban. I mean there actually seems to be a theme going on in your show about how the president's tweets are what comes back to haunt him and that's exactly it. He's making these statements in ways that just directly telegraph that he has a discriminatory intention

[17:35:00] behind what he's doing and it's not based on keeping out terrorists. It is based on religious discrimination and discriminating against people based upon their nation of origin. That's not OK.

CABRERA: Douglas Chin, thank you so much for your time.

CHIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Democrats bracing for a defiant stand against the Republican health care bill. But can the Dems take down a bill that the GOP appears determined to pass? You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."


CABRERA: The battle over health care is heating up in the Senate. Democrats and some Republicans are upset that the group of Republicans crafting the health care bill have shrouded it in secrecy, drafting it behind closed doors. Now, Democrats are considering a dramatic Senate shutdown to force Republican senators to open up the health care debate.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for an all-senators meeting this week.

[17:40:00] Our Ryan Nobles is joining us now from Washington with the details. Ryan, can Democrats really shut down Senate business over this health care debate?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPNDENT: Well, Ana, Democratic senators are threatening to at the very least grind Senate business to a halt unless they get what they want and that is a fair and open vetting of this new version of the health care reform bill. What they want to do is make it hard for Republicans to schedule votes on even bills that are considered non-controversial and potentially keep nominees from the Trump administration from getting confirmed.

That would create a glacial pace of work in the Senate and this is a body that doesn't move very fast to begin with. Now, among the techniques they may employ preventing committees from conducting routine business even stopping committees from meeting extending or extending their hearings I should say when the Senate is in session.

And the goal here would be to force Republicans to open the debate on the health care bill which at this point, as you pointed out Ana, has been done mainly behind closed doors. All Democrats, even some Republicans, have yet to see what is in this new bill. Despite that fact, the Republican leadership has promised to vote before the July 4th holiday. And this morning on "State of the Union" Senator Bernie Sanders, who is an independent where caucuses for the Democrats endorsed this move. Take a listen.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We have an insane process. Insane. Here you have legislation which deals with one-sixth of the American economy. That's the health care situation. And there are Republicans who haven't even seen this legislation and certainly no member in the Democratic caucus has. What kind of process is it that when you deal with an issue that impacts tens of millions of people in this country, Republicans don't even have the guts to allow it to go to a committee where we can have an open hearing where questions could be asked.


NOBLES: We do have some new information about this, Ana. Our Capitol Hill team has been ringing the phones of Democratic senators and their aides and we learned that they are in the process of planning to hold the floor of the Senate tomorrow through midnight. And among the things I'm hearing is that they may potentially have members of the Senate stand up and tell the stories of their constituents that were impacted positively by the Affordable Care Act and one of the reasons that they want to see the plan put in place by Barack Obama stay in place.

To a certain extent, Ana, this is all a public relations game for Democrats. They don't have the votes. Their goal here would be to put some of these Republicans that are a little squeamish about this version of the bill in a difficult spot so that they do not support it going forward, Ana.

CABRERA: And the big question is, do Republicans even have the votes at this point in the Senate. They can only lose two people from those Republicans. Thanks so much, Ryan Nobles, for the update.

Donald Trump tweeted his way to the White House, and for reporters his twitter feed is the best way possible to know what the president is thinking. But we'll talk about why it is also a major problem.

And, Michael Phelps has won 23 gold medals, but the Olympic legend could soon be in the race of his life. We'll explain. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."


CABRERA: Welcome back. Breaking today. President Trump's lawyer telling CNN that the president is not under investigation. Now that contradicts a tweet from the president in which the president became his own leaker and seemed to confirm he is being investigated for obstruction of justice. A couple of days ago the president suggested that the media doesn't like this unfiltered portal into the mind of the president, tweeting, "The fake news media hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful social media. Over 100 million people. I can go around them." Earlier I spoke to CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza about what the president gt right and wrong with that tweet.


CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: So, Donald Trump has created and this is the second tweet had this month that gets at the basic idea the media hates when he tweets. It's just not true. The fact is reporters like myself, the thing that we are most interested in and the hardest thing to get, Ana, is real insight into how a president is thinking. These are people who are walled off by a huge amount of age (ph), a huge amount of bureaucracy, a huge amount of infrastructure (ph).

It is very hard to get a sense typically of what they really think. Not the case with Donald Trump. His twitter feed I think is a very close representation of what he thinks and feels at any one time. You know when he's angry. You know when he feels like his staff has failed him. You know when he feels like they haven't got the message out. That's an invaluable resource for someone like me. A tweet away, Donald Trump. It doesn't bother me in the least.

CABRERA: But, twitter can be a one-way conversation. The president doesn't have to answer reporters' questions on twitter and we've learned he's even blocked people on twitter who have been adversarial. So do you ware though, if he's using twitter as his main form of communication or desires to use it as main form of communication, that it might replace the traditional White House press briefing, for example?

CILLIZZA: It's possible. If you'll notice in the last few weeks the traditional White House press briefing has really, really been down played. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary is doing some of them. Sean Spicer doing some of them, but very few on camera, mostly off camera. So, yes, that is not great. That said, the way in which they had evolved in which they really didn't answer any questions, they said, we can't answer that, the tweet speaks for itself, one of Sean's favorite lines.

At least we are getting insight. I take it to be insight and real -- a real way into what Donald Trump is thinking. I will take it at this point. It is not ideal by any means but that's not unique to Donald Trump, by the way, Ana. Every president gets less transparent because technology allows them to do that. He is right that twitter, Flickr, the photo sharing site, YouTube,

[17:50:00] All of these things allow a politician to go around having to do an interview with me or you to get their message out, so he's right in that, but every president gets less and less and less transparent because technology allows it.


CABRERA: I want to share with you some Father's Day wishes from the First Lady. Here's her tweet wishing a Happy Father's Day to the president with the trophy and heart emoji. Then Ivanka Trump tweeted a message to her husband, saying "Thank you, Jared, for loving, encouraging and teaching our kids and me every day. We love you very much." And of course, I have to take a quick moment to wish my husband a Happy Father's Day, the dad of our two children, he's amazing. And my dad, who is also celebrating his birthday today, father of five, all five of us. Happy Father's Day, (INAUDIBLE).

And speaking of super dad, Michael Phelps is fast, but can he out swim a shark? Discovery Channel says the Olympic legend will help kick its eight-day Shark Week marathon by racing a great white. A great white! No details yet on exactly how the Phelps and the shark will face off but Discovery says it will be an event so monumental no one has ever tried it before. And Phelps posted this photo of a recent cage-diving trip, perhaps scouting his competition. The question on this Father's Day, how will this new dad someday tell the story of how he raced a shark?

All right, I want you to meet Arafat Garabazi. He is quite the swimmer himself. Separated from his family in the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo, he was helpless and homeless, but then swimming changed his life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arafat Garabazi is an open-water swimmer in Cape Town, South Africa.

ARAFAT GARABAZI, OPEN WATER SWIMMER: I feel free when I'm in the ocean. That's where I'm at peace most of the time. It takes you away from the outside world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The outside world hasn't been easy for Arafat. He's a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

GARABAZI: I left my country in 2012 when they were broke up, when I got separated from my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unsure if his mother was dead or alive, he fled to Cape Town on foot and ended up living in this children's shelter, which offered swimming classes. GARABAZI: I remember the first time I went in the swimming pool, it

was like you were in a new planet. I realized that swimming was something which I could use for the process of healing. Then I kept doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Swimming gave Arafat a new sense of purpose, and he began training for long-distance swims. In 2016, he was named open- water swimmer of the year by the Cape Town Long-Distance Swimming Association.

GARABAZI: The moment I stop, that's when I feel like life is becoming like a mess. My main focus is to try and give as much hope as I can through the challenges which I'm going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, what's up? (INAUDIBLE) to finish this swim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arafat's next challenge is a 2 1/2-kilometer swim called the High-Tech Walker Bay Extreme.

GARABAZI: I don't compete with anyone when I'm swimming. I just compete with myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What makes the race so challenging isn't the distance but the frigid 55-degree water temperature, and Arafat does it without a wet suit.

GARABAZI: It's a very mental game. Your body doesn't know to stay in, but your mind controls your body saying you can keep going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cold water proved too much for some swimmers, but Arafat was able to finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here, all done.

GARABAZI: I'm very proud of what I've achieved today. I don't want people to see me as a homeless boy. I want them to see me in a different way and that's why I keep going. Swimming has changed everything which I do.



CABRERA: And today we wanted to remind you of something you might have seen already here on CNN, but now it's going viral online. It is an act of unthinkable bravery and human compassion that lasted just a few heart-stopping seconds. And you know what, we wanted to show you this again on Father's Day. I'm about to show you this man rescuing that little girl from certain death and he did it by running through a hail of bullets. This is David Eubank. He was with his aid group in Mosul when ISIS started killing civilians, men, women and children. Among the stacks of bodies, this little girl, still alive. Watch what he does next. Hold your breath with me.




CABRERA: David Eubanks saved the life of that little girl, whom he didn't even know, by risking his own life. This amazing video is being forwarded now all over social media. People are watching this. Father of three. Incredible, selfless act. David Eubank. He's an American aid worker and former U.S. Special Forces operatorr. Google him, read about what brought him to Iraq. This little girl is alive today because he was there.

Top of the hour, you are in the "CNN Newsroom." Thanks for being with me on this Father's Day. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York and topping the hour with breaking news. The United States military has shot down a warplane in Syria. It's the first time this has happened since the U.S. took an active role in the Syrian conflict.

The plane shot down was a Syrian regime bomber that is said to have attacked coalition-supported fighters on the ground. And here's where it happened, near the city of Raqqah

[18:00:00] The ISIS stronghold in northern Syria. Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is joining us now. Elise, again, this is a first in the war on ISIS, a Syrian plane shot down by U.S. forces, what do we know about what happened?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Ana, well, of course this comes as --