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GOP Bill Goes to Senate; The President's Confession; Brexit talks Starts; ISIS' End is Near. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 23, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN HOST: Protestors carried out by officers after Senate republicans release their healthcare bill impleaded to replace Obamacare.

Survivors and witnesses of the Grenfell tower fire struggle to pick up the pieces after the tragedy devastated their community.

And the Iraqi prime minister says the army is winning its fight against ISIS to regain the city of Mosul. We'll have a live report from Iraq ahead here.

You're watching CNN Newsroom. Welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

Two big secrets revealed in Washington, first, Senate republicans have unveiled their plan to overhaul the U.S. health care system. Details on that in just a moment.

Also, President Trump is admitting there are no secret recordings of his meetings with former FBI Director James Comey. The U.S. president kept up his bluff for weeks before tweeting this. "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I had no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make and do not have any such recordings."

Reporters asked about the revelation at the White House press briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tweet ultimately though, according to James Comey, led him to share the memos publicly, which led to the hiring of the special counsel Robert Mueller, which ultimately led to the reports that the president himself is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice. Does the president regret the tweet?



ALLEN: President Trump is lending his support to the Senate republicans' plan to reform healthcare in the U.S. He says the bill unveiled Thursday is very good, but needs a little negotiation. But there are already signs of discord among republicans.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Everybody's going to get to look at it over the weekend. It's going to change. This is an opening offer, not the final deal. And we'll see if we can get 50 republican votes. No democrats invested in repealing Obamacare, so we got to do it by ourselves, and whether or not we get there, we'll know by the end of the next week.


ALLEN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to vote on the bill by next week.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has more about that.

RYAN NOBLES, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Within hours of Senate republicans releasing their healthcare bill, four members announcing they currently oppose the plan as leaders make the case for its passage.


MITCH MCCONNELL, UNITED STATES SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: There will be ample time to analyze, discuss, and provide thoughts before legislation comes to the floor. And I hope every senator takes that opportunity.


NOBLES: republicans can only lose two votes and still be able to pass the bill. And as it stands now, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson say they can't support the bill in its current form, but are quote, "open to negotiation."


RAND PAUL, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The intention is not to take down the bill, the intention is to make it better.


NOBLES: While a pair of moderate GOP Senators Maine's Susan Collins and Nevada's Dean Heller both released statements voicing concerns with the proposal. This new bill allows states to waive the federal mandate on essential health benefits which may not cover treatments for those with preexisting conditions.

It also slows the rollback of Obamacare Medicaid expansion included in the House bill, delaying the start of that process until 2021. The Senate version of the bill puts back in Obamacare subsidies for premiums, eliminated from the House bill, but drops the threshold from 400 percent of the poverty level to 350 percent. And it maintains a one-year block on funds for Planned Parenthood. Democrats who don't have the votes to stop the bill are relying on emotion.


CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The Senate republican healthcare bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing.



NOBLES: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer labeled it meaner. Using President Trump's own description of the House versions of the bill, Schumer arguing that this plan may be worse than the original.


SCHUMER: This is a nasty bill, and they're trying to cover it up with little things here and there.


NOBLES: The White House has kept its distance in this process, but today indicated it plans to play a role in House/Senate talks. And this morning, the president reacted to the Senate draft positively.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Little negotiation, but it's going to be very good.


NOBLES: But there will be little time for that negotiation. House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set a goal of voting on the bill by the Fourth of July holiday.

If this bill is able to pass the Senate, and right now that is a big if, it will then go back to the House where it will need to be passed again.

[03:04:59] So far House republicans are saying hands off with their assessment of this current piece of legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan did say this morning though, that he has yet to see any major concerns that would prevent it from making it through his conference.

Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.

ALLEN: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders will headline a bus tour this weekend to rally against the republican healthcare bill. He planned stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Sanders has called the bill the most harmful piece of legislation he has ever seen.


BERNIE SANDERS, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: This is an extraordinary piece of legislation. If you throw 23 million people off of health insurance, if you cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, there is no question but that thousands of Americans will die.

If you are sick, if you have a chronic illness and you can't get the kind of care you need, you die. Or maybe you will just suffer year after year after year. And the purpose of this whole legislation, of raising premiums for older workers, of defunding Planned Parenthood, denying two and a half million women the choice of doctors, you know what the whole purpose is? It's to provide $500 billion in tax breaks for the top 2 percent, for the insurance companies, for the drug companies, and other major corporations.


ALLEN: Bernie Sanders there, former presidential candidate. Opposition to the new Senate bill has already sparked protests on Capitol Hill.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No cuts to Medicaid!


ALLEN: Protesters some of them disabled, had gathered outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. There they loudly denounced the legislation and its proposed cuts in Medicaid funding. At least 43 people were arrested.

The republican legislation aims to dismantle Barack Obama's signature achievement as president, the Affordable Care Act. The former president lashed out on social media, writing, "The Senate bill unveiled today is not a healthcare bill. It is a massive transfer of wealth from middle class and poor families, to the richest people in America."

Well, we turn now to the investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Two top U.S. intelligence chiefs say their interactions with President Trump were odd and uncomfortable. But they were not ordered to interfere in the investigation.

Sources tell CNN Mr. Trump asked the men to publicly refute claims of collusion with Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been meeting with a number of people in Washington as part of his investigation and once again, Mr. Trump is questioning Mueller's legitimacy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Robert Mueller, do you think he should recuse himself from this, because he is good friends with James Comey? He's hired some attorneys that were part of Hillary Clinton's Foundation have given money to President Obama and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Should he recuse himself?

TRUMP: Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he's also -- we're going to have to see. I mean, we're going to have to see in terms -- look, there has been no obstruction, there has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey. But there's been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that.

So we'll have to see. I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters.


ALLEN: Well, it's important to remember this investigation started because of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. And the former secretary of homeland security is warning, it will happen again.


JEH JOHNSON, FORMER UNITED STATES HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: My concern is that the current administration in power is sending the signals, basically, that this can be -- this will be tolerated, if we do this. That is the current message.

We have yet to see any strong statement from the current administration condemning what the Russians did and warning them not to do it again. So if you're a member of the Russian government, or some other government, you factor that into your calculations about whether or not we should do that in 2018 or 2020 or beyond.


ALLEN: Well, let's head now to Moscow live and CNN's Diana Magnay following these stories for us. And yes, the talk of collusion, and it will happen again. Whether they like it or not, Russia continues to be very high in Washington as far as they're on people's minds here. And what exactly they did do.

DIANA MAGNAY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Reporter: Well, it certainly is, Natalie. And the key word of course is collusion.

[03:10:00] It is what Robert Mueller is investigating behind closed doors. It is what Donald Trump is clearly so worried of any notion that he might -- there might be evidence of collusion that he's prepared to ask his intelligence chiefs to testify publicly that there was none.

And of course until there is proof of collusion, the Kremlin can sit back and enjoy the political spectacle unfold in Washington. And to date, it seems to have been rather enjoying that.

But what I would say is that the mood has considerably soured over the last few weeks, and that's for two reasons. Syria first and foremost, since the U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian military base in response to that chemical attack back in April.

And secondly, sanctions, and this week's tightening of existing sanctions which has caused Moscow to cancel a meeting between Russian and American deputy foreign ministers.

What has happened is that the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has called Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister last night. And what we know of that call from the Russian foreign ministry is that obviously angry words were exchanged about sanctions. And that Russia has said, we will not be pressured like this and something has to be done to repair relations. Natalie?

ALLEN: Yes, and on another front, we know that Russia used cruise missile strikes on ISIS targets. What do you know about that?

MAGNAY: Well, that is what Russia is saying. They're saying that they have launched six caliber cruise missiles from their the warships in the Mediterranean at ISIS targets, they say, in Homs province, which is in western Syria.

Now there have been Russian cruise missile strikes before on targets in Syria, which they say were ISIS targets, which the coalition say were not. Now, ISIS is really much more active in eastern Syria, than it is in the west. So I think there are questions about whether and who it is that Russia has actually targeted here.

But what is very clear is that Russia is trying to give the impression that it is going after ISIS very, very strongly and raise doubts over the coalition's commitment to fighting ISIS. So there are a lot of smoke and mirrors there in terms of who is fighting who in a war where actually, in eastern Syria especially, you have the convergence of the sort of Syrian civil war and the coalition's fight against ISIS, and all the powers coming together in that part of Syria which makes the possibility of direct conflict between all these various powers much, much more dangerous and possible, Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. Diana Magnay for us, live in Moscow, thank you, Diana.

In Detroit, Michigan, the U.S. federal court has temporarily blocked the deportation of more than 100 Iraqi nationals. Immigration officials arrested them in a series of raids earlier this month, saying most of them have serious felony convictions.

The American Civil Liberties Union requested the deportation block. They believe these individuals deserve a chance to prove their lives would be in danger if they were forced to leave the U.S. and return to Iraq.

The Iraqi nationals are receiving supports from these protestors who say these individuals have already served sentences for their past crimes.

Iraq's prime minister said Mosul will be liberated from ISIS in the coming days. Haider al-Abadi says this week's destruction of the 800- year-old al-Nuri Mosque, there it goes, and its leaning minaret by ISIS, is an admission that the militants are losing the fight for the city.


HAIDER AL-ABADI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will announce soon the final victory over the enemy Daesh in (Inaudible) province and in Mosul City, in particular, God willing. Very little has remained and Daesh will announce its full defeat. They blew up the mosque. It's the starting point of that.

It is supposed that one cherishes the place that shows one starting point. They blew it now and destroyed it. And by that, they announced their defeat. God willing, we will remove their traces in Iraq and we will rebuild all the historical landmarks.


ALLEN: Both Iraqi and U.S. officials say ISIS blew up the mosque on Wednesday as Iraqi forces advanced on the old city. ISIS says the contrary, that U.S. warplanes hit the mosque. But the U.S. and Iraq insists that claim is not true.

Salma Abdelaziz joins us live now from Irbil, Iraq. Certainly trying to make Mosul back from ISIS has been a long struggle, but it seems like they're staring at maybe the end.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, FIELD PRODUCER, CNN: That's right, Natalie. As you heard there, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi saying it's just a short time. He told reporters, just a matter of days before we announce the final liberation of Mosul.

[03:15:02] Now we've heard these types of time lines from him and other officials before, and they have oftentime -- oftentimes been very optimistic. The reality is, is the old city is the most difficult phase of the battle. It is a city where 150,000 civilians are trapped, effectively being used as human shields, according to the United Nations.

It's a densely populated area with tiny streets, narrow alleyways, very difficult for Iraqi security forces to get through this. And there's about a thousand ISIS soldiers inside, according to estimates, deeply entrenched, ready and willing to fight to the death.

You cannot understate that this is their final ideological heartland here in Iraq, and they will not give it up easily. So there's still a long and bloody battle ahead, one that will take a toll on residents in the old city. Natalie?

ALLEN: Right. And it's already been a longer fight than anyone anticipated to rid ISIS out of Mosul. What about when it is all over, Salma? Is it -- is there any chance people can come back? When you look at the city, it doesn't look like it's livable.

ABDELAZIZ: It's been almost eight months, Natalie, since this battle for liberation of Mosul had begun. There are some 860,000 people who have fled their homes in that time. That is beyond the worst case scenario that aid groups have predicted.

Now there are some 200,000 people who have returned to their homes, mainly in the east of the city, which was liberated a couple of months ago. But their situation is described as precarious. Living in unfinished buildings, little basic services, no running water, no running electricity. And it will be in the coming days and weeks that the government will

have to find a way to provide for them, to provide rebuilding services, but with a battle still ongoing, the focus is on the fight, and rather than the relief. Natalie?

ALLEN: All right. Thank you so much, Salma Abdelaziz for us in Irbil. Thank you.

The first round of Brexit talks is underway in Brussels. Just ahead here, what the British prime minister brought to the table to start things off.

Also, the city of London tries to heal after an apartment fire left so many dead. We'll have more on the aftermath of the tragedy coming next here.

You're watching CNN Newsroom.


ALLEN: European leaders are meeting in Brussels for the opening round of Brexit negotiations. And Prime Minister Theresa May has made her first big play. She laid out a proposal for how E.U. citizens will be treated in the U.K. after the country leaves the European Union.

Our Erin McLaughlin has more.

[03:19:54] ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: We now have some new detail as to what British Prime Minister Theresa May had to say at a working dinner Thursday night here in Brussels, on the topic of citizens' rights, what happens to the 4.5 million U.K. and E.U. citizens, the status of which is now in flux because of Brexit.

According to a senior British government official, briefing journalists here at the E.U. council, she is trying to offer certainty to those citizens. She said, quote, "The U.K.'s position represents a fair and serious offer, one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the U.K., building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society."

Now, according to this proposal, E.U. citizens who legally arrive before and as yet to be determined cutoff date will have the option to either be granted or eventually apply for settled status, which allows them to be treated as though they are U.K. citizens on everything from health care to education.

Now, there are potential sticking points when it comes to negotiations with the E.U. This cutoff date, well, the U.K. right now, not wanting to define it, saying it has to fall somewhere between the day that article 50 was invoked and the actual Brexit.

The E.U. wants that cutoff date to be the date the U.K. formally actually leaves the E.U. Another potential sticking point, who arbitrates this proposal, this policy. The U.K. wants British courts to arbitrate. The E.U. wants it to be the European court of justice. Now, we are expecting more detail, more information, in terms of the

British proposal on citizens in a paper to be released from Downing Street on Monday.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.

ALLEN: London is grappling with the aftermath of a deadly apartment building fire in west London. It left dozens with many still missing. Investigators believe it may have been the building's siding or cladding that allowed the fire to spread so quickly.

Mrs. May admitted the government did not do a good job responding to the disaster, but she says she's working to amend that now.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As a precaution, the government has arranged to test cladding in all relevant tower blocks. Mr. Speaker, shortly before I came to the chamber, I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible.

The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and as I speak, they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe and to inform affected residents.


ALLEN: But even if a similar fire never happens again, the questions still remain, why it even happened once.

Our Nick Glass has this report and a word of warning, though, you may find some of the images disturbing.

NICK GLASS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The image is utterly indelible. A blackened monolith among the tower blocks. A desolate, burned out shell, a stump, an accusing finger. How and why did this terrible fire happen? Why, oh, why were so many lives lost?


JOE DELANEY, EYEWITNESS: I mean, the speed of it and the ferocity of it was unreal. I've seen places in war zones that have been hit with napalm or white phosphorous, and things like that, and I've never seen anything go up like that. Within about three hours, there was nothing left of the that building, nothing at all.


GLASS: Joe Delaney lives just a few yards from the tower, witnessing the tragedy unfold that's clearly traumatized him. The residents had long complained to the council about the likelihood of a catastrophic fire.


DELANEY: There's nothing around here that's built that doesn't have sprinklers, or at least an alarm that worked. All you could hear that night was people screaming. That was it. There were people at windows up there who were just screaming the whole time. For people to help them.


GLASS: As the flames spread, Delaney started filming on his mobile phone, with disbelief, and then growing horror.


DELANEY: I honestly don't -- it looks to me like it's only the outside.

Oh, my God.

Oh, Jesus Christ, that's where the stairs are.


DELANEY: Oh, my God.



[03:24:56] GLASS: On the streets around the tower, we detected a palpable rawness of emotion, the sense of shared anguish. The place has become a memorial. In their desperation in the first few hours and days, relatives of the missing pin photos wherever they could.

Jessica Urbano, age 12, was home alone on the 20th floor. She rang her mother who had just begun her shift as a night cleaner. She apparently screamed, "mummy, mummy, come and get me," then the line went dead.

A week after the fire, new photos were still going up, but with all hope long gone. This man was remembering his father. One woman fears that she's lost six relatives, including her mother and sister and three nieces. They all lived on the 22nd floor.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you want your family to be remembered?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love. Memory, pictures and everything.


GLASS: Some 40 fire engines were called out on the night. Some driven on this very same road. Like Joe Delaney, one fireman filmed on his mobile phone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that possible?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's jumped up all the way.


GLASS: Firemen struggled for over 24 hours to put out the blaze. The tower was built in 1974 but refurbished by the council just recently. There was new insulation and cladding on the outside, and the government inquiry will examine whether this was the reason the fire spread so quickly.

Some reports suggest it may have started in the kitchen on the fourth floor. The new exterior materials are thought to have effectively turned the tower into a chimney.

Grenfell tower is about half a mile away from Notting Hill in west London, but a world away in terms of affluence. Some of the victims were among London's poorest, multi-racial, of many faiths. Families among others, of Iranian, Lebanese, Somali, Moroccan and Ethiopian descent. There was a community. There still is. It's now numb with grief and clustered around a mausoleum.

The charred shell is being painstakingly searched, flat by flat, floor by floor. There are many questions. The police are treating this as a crime scene.

Nick Glass, CNN, by Grenfell Tower in west London.


ALLEN: And welcome back to CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen, and here are our top stories.

U.S. President Donald Trump is finally admitting he has no recordings of his meetings with James Comey. Mr. Trump raised the possibility of secret tapes in a tweet last month. Shortly after he fired the FBI director.

U.S. President Trump on Thursday hailed a new Senate bill to replace Obamacare, but said it's going to require a little negotiation. The Senate bill, written in secret, closely mirrors a House bill passed last month. A Senate vote could come next week, but passage is not certain.

Iraqi prime minister said Mosul will be freed from ISIS control in the coming days. Haider al-Abadi says this week's destruction of the al- Nuri Mosque is an admission by the militant group that they are losing the fight for the city. ISIS took control of Mosul back in 2014.

The Russian defense ministry said to defense ministry has two of its frigates and a submarine in the Mediterranean have fired six cruise missiles on ISIS targets in Syria's Hamas. They say command points, weapons, and ammunition were destroyed in the strikes.

Troubling new developments in North Korea as the U.S. watches for a sixth underground nuclear test that could happen at any time.

Here's CNN's Brian Todd. BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: U.S. officials tells CNN Kim Jong-

un's regime has just test-fired a rocket engine which could be used for a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile. A worrying reminder that North Korea has vowed to deploy a missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the United States.

With rumblings that another North Korean nuclear test could come at any time with no warning, President Trump and his team are growing increasingly frustrated that China, who they counted on to tamp down Kim Jong-un's weapons build-up, hasn't been able to help.


TRUMP: I do like President Xi. I wish we would have a little more help with respect to North Korea from China, but that doesn't seem to be working out.


TODD: The president has invested heavily in a personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, hoping Xi would lean on the North Korean dictator. Some analysts believe it was a losing bet.


JAMIE METZL, FORMER NSC OFFICIAL: China has paid lip service to pressuring North Korea. But at the end of the day China is not willing to put enough pressure on North Korea to change North Korea's behavior.


TODD: So now, tensions between Washington and Pyongyang are left boiling. Kim's regime claims three delegates it sent to a U.N. conference in New York were quote, "mugged" at New York's JFK Airport by U.S. homeland security officers.

The North Koreans accused the U.S. officers of taking a diplomatic package away from the delegates. DHS officials tell CNN there was a confrontation but the package in question didn't have diplomatic protection and they say the aggression was started by the North Koreans.

The Los Angeles Times reports those North Korean delegates took an unauthorized side trip while they were in America.


BARBARA DEMICK, BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF, LOS ANGELES TIMES: They went to Arizona on some sort of shopping expedition, I was told it was technology related. I don't know precisely what technology and I don't know what was in the packages, but they did bring something back.


TODD: North Korean officials decline to comment to CNN about the incident. In a statement, DHS says its agent seized, quote, "multiple media items and packages from the North Koreans," but they won't say what those items were. The North Koreans regime say Friday's incident shows the U.S. is a quote, "felonious and lawless gangster state."

Experts say it's North Korean diplomats who sometimes act like gangsters.


MARCUS NOLAND, SENIOR FELLOW AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PETERSON INSTITUTE: There is a long history of North Koreans using diplomatic pouches to smuggle drugs and endangered species parts, things like rhino horns or ivory.


TODD: Homeland security officials say those Koreans were not held by U.S. authorities, but they refused to board their flight out of New York. It's not clear right now where those North Koreans are, neither homeland security officials nor the North Koreans are saying anything about them.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

[03:34:54] ALLEN: In Venezuela, one person has died after Thursday's protests turned violent. Government troops fired what appeared to be rubber bullets at demonstrators as they attacked the fence outside an air base in Caracas.

Marchers were headed to the chief prosecutor's office to show their support for her. Luisa Ortega has broken ranks with the government. She's in the beginning stages of being taken to trial. Security forces broke up the march before demonstrators could reach her office.

Venezuela has been facing unrest for months because of a crackdown on the opposition, a food shortage and President Nicolas Maduro's plan to overhaul the Constitution. At least 76 people have died since April.

Meantime, the organization of American states has tried and failed to issue a formal declaration condemning Venezuela. Mr. Maduro says he would reject any resolution called by the regional bloc.


NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The attack on Venezuela must end. Venezuela will not recognize in any way anything that comes out of the organization of American states.

If one day they tried to arrive through the path of mounting pressure, Washington's obsession, criminal lobbying, the round of threats to produce a resolution, we would rebel and confront them in every way. The OAS will not enter Venezuela ever again. No one from the OAS will ever enter this country again.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: President Trump returned to one of his biggest campaign

slogans on Thursday, tweeting, "Mexico was just ranked the second deadliest country in the world after only Syria. Drug trade is largely the cause. We will build the wall."

The Mexican government is refuting that statistic and telling Mr. Trump that finger-pointing is not helpful. As for building that wall, it's a real fear, even for legal U.S. citizens.

Our Leyla Santiago reports on a unique community in the United States state of New Mexico, one that is anxiously watching Trump's next move on immigration.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Getting kids to school can be such a hassle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, come on, let's go!

SANTIAGO: Making sure they're up on time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're running late this morning.

SANTIAGO: Making sure they have everything they need for the school day. These kids, it's much more than lunch and backpacks. These kids require passports to get to school. They must cross an international border.

Welcome to the Columbus, New Mexico, border crossing station. Every student here must prove U.S. citizenship. Nearly 800 American students who live in the town of Palomas, Mexico, make their way to school through here. Customs agents inspect it all. Mothers and father, many who have been deported can only watch from afar. Unable to walk beyond the barrier that has established a way of life in this community.

Five miles north of the border at Columbus Elementary, principal Armando Chavez says three-quarters of his students live in Mexico.


ARMANDO CHAVEZ, PRINCIPAL, COLUMBUS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: We deal with things that are a bit different.


SANTIAGO: For more than four decades, New Mexico's state Constitution has guaranteed U.S. citizens a free education, no matter where they live.

So, half of you live here, half of you live on the other side of the border.



CHAVEZ: You must have the no excuses mentality and you're going to be the leader of this school. Kids come in with pretty extreme cases.

JOANNA RODRIGUEZ, STUDENT, COLUMBUS ELEMENTARY: I feel sad that our graduation is coming up and my dad isn't going to be able to come.


SANTIAGO: Joanna Rodriguez and her sister Naima (Ph) were both born in the U.S. Their father Jesus was deported after getting caught crossing the border illegally several times. The family moved to Palomas as a way to stay together while dad pursues a legal way back into the U.S.


RODRIGUEZ: I don't find it fair that just because a person wasn't born over here, it means he doesn't have the right to be able to come.


SANTIAGO: They may be young, but children like Naima seem well aware that Trump administration's stricter immigration policies could permanently separate her family.


SANTIAGO: You're scared? Do you think about that a lot?


SANTIAGO: Do you think about that at school?


SANTIAGO: Sometimes? It's a lot to think about. Principal Chavez is all too familiar with the uncertainty children and their parents face under the current political climate. He believes education will be the key to overcome adversity.


CHAVEZ: But you have to come in and embrace them and say, you're part of this team now. We're going -- we're going to make sure that you continue on, onward, onward and upward.

[03:40:03] SANTIAGO: That's the hope for Jesus who struggles with his family's reality. He wants to one day see his daughters overcome the barriers of life, focus on school, he tells them. Maybe one day their education may help them cross the border together.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Palomas, Mexico.

ALLEN: Well, the civil war in Yemen has triggered a man-made famine and cholera outbreak. CNN spent two months trying to get there and in the course of doing so, we discovered the Saudi-led coalition is actively blocking international media and human rights workers from traveling to the hardest hit areas. CNN commissioned local journalists to show us what the coalition is trying to hide. We must warn you, many of the images you're about to see are disturbing. Here's our Clarissa Ward.

CLARISSA WARD, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: These are the images that Saudi Arabia does not want you to see. The youngest victims of a near famine that threatens the lives of almost seven million people.

Baby Ahmed is just 10 months old. The nurse says he would be dead in two days if he hadn't come for treatment. But many Yemenis can't afford to get to a hospital. In a dusty camp for those displaced by more than two years of grinding civil war, our team met Hassan Hamza. His 10-month-old on Ahkram (Ph) has been malnourished for months.

"I cannot take him to the city because there's no money, he says. We're hoping any aid group will come see us and help us, but no one has come. We await God's fate."

Access to the victims of this man-made famine has been drastically restricted. In recent months, CNN has found that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is deliberately blocking journalists and human rights workers from visiting the hardest hit areas.

The air, land and sea blockade imposed by Riyadh and its partners has brought basic services to a grinding halt. Deteriorating conditions are being blamed for a vicious cholera outbreak. With more than 1,100 deaths in a matter of months, according to the World Health Organization.

For 25-year-old medic Rana Saeed Farah (Ph), the days have become a blur. Like so many hospitals, hers is short-staffed and under- equipped.

"How old is she," she asks. "Is she throwing up? "The little girl Izra (Ph) has been brought in by her parents. She is the third of their children to fall ill. "I'm scared, of course," her father Ali says, "your children are your world."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wish we could finish this epidemic, we want to finish this disaster. Patients are dying one by one. They will die at any time. We couldn't do anything for them.


WARD: Pleas for help appear to have fallen on deaf ears. President Trump's recent trip to Riyadh and the announcement of a massive weapons deal was seen by many to embolden the kingdom. Leaving Yemen's conflict for now, a silent war.

CNN has reached out to the Saudi Arabian government for comment on this issue of suspending journalists' access to the hardest hit areas of Yemen. The Saudi ambassador to the U.N. said quote, "Saudi Arabia does not exercise any kind of censorship. Many news reporters and U.N. personnel have been granted access to Yemen. The Yemeni government and not the Saudi-led coalition usually process visa approvals."

Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.

ALLEN: And we'll be right back with more news.


ALLEN: Welcome back. Alibaba wants to bring U.S. and Chinese businesses together. The China-based e-commerce giant just held a flashy event in Detroit, Michigan and it's winning U.S. fans with promises of new jobs and new opportunities.

Our Clare Sebastian reports.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Alibaba's first major U.S. business event was a bit like the company itself -- big, bold, and visionary. Alibaba's founder, Jack Ma bringing one simple message to the American Midwest.


JACK MA, FOUNDER, ALIBABA FOUNDER: Please do business with China.


SEBASTIAN: Alibaba isn't just putting on a trade fair, it's really something of a fun fair, there's interactive shopping exhibits there's even over here, a robot. So we'll find out who this is paying of.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. It's American buddy. How are you doing.

SEBASTIAN: Well, what can you tell me about the event, how many people have turned up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fantastic, supposed to be only a thousand people, but there's over 3,000 people turned up here. It's amazing.

SEBASTIAN: He came from Detroit and across America, lured by the promise of China's vast and growing middle class, and a pledge made by Jack Ma back in January to create a million U.S. jobs over the next five years.


MICHAEL EVANS, PRESIDENT, ALIBABA: It's not actually that complicated. When Jack started Alibaba 18 years ago, the whole focus was on SMEs. And we went from almost no SME on the platform to almost 11 million SME's today. And over that 18-year period by connecting those SME to consumers in China we created about 33 million jobs.


SEBASTIAN: While some economists are skeptical, it's an opportunity candied nuts producer Bruce Niezpocki (Ph) can't stop thinking about. After joining a Michigan trade mission to China last year, he's already started getting ready.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do vacuum sealing packaging, which extends the shelf life up to three years.

SEBASTIAN: He says he wants to work with Alibaba.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like their philosophy. I mean, jack wants small businesses to succeed and that speaks to my heart.


SEBASTIAN: He's not the only Jack Ma fan across the conference. All people lined up to take their photo with a virtual reality version. Ric Kostick the CEO of California cosmetics brand 100 Percent Pure, there's no time for that. After 10 years using Alibaba to source his packaging, he's finally using it to sell. Launching today on Alibaba's team site.


RIC KOSTICK, CEO, 100% PURE: There's going to be more manufacturing in the U.S. I'm actually going to open another manufacturing facility in the next 12 months.


SEBASTIAN: And the inner city bearing the scars of its own manufacturing bust, these success stories matter.


MIKE DUGGAN, MAYOR OF DETROIT: To have Jack Ma decide this is where he wants to hold his American conference, I think it's a message to the world. Detroit is coming back.

MA: Thank you very, very much.


SEBASTIAN: And Alibaba is just getting started.

Clare Sebastian


ALLEN: Another social media giant, Mark Zuckerberg says connecting people isn't enough. The Facebook CEO says his company has a new mission. He wants it to help build a sense of community. Zuckerberg recently spoke with our Laurie Segall in an exclusive interview. Here's some of what he had to say about the company's future.


LAURIE SEGALL, SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It's been a year of tough questions for Facebook. Fake news distributed across the platform, terrorists spreading propaganda, and Mark Zuckerberg has been doing some soul-searching.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I used to think that if we just work to give people a voice and help people connect, that that was going to make the world all better by itself.


[03:49:58] ZUCKERBERG: But now I feel like we have a responsibility to do even more. All right. Because, I mean, today, a lot of society is divided. Right? And so it's pretty clear that just giving people a voice and connecting people isn't enough.


SEGALL: It's an admission by one of the most influential tech leaders that the world's most popular social media network needs to change.


ZUCKERBERG: So today we're going to set a new mission, to set our course as a company for the next decade. And the full formal mission statement is going to be, to give people the power to build community, to bring the world closer together.



SEGALL: It's the first time Facebook has overhauled its core mission, shifting focus from connecting individuals, to building communities. Zuckerberg made the announcement at Facebook's first community summit, a gathering of leaders of influential Facebook groups. Lola is the creator of a group called Female In. A place for over a million women to connect.


LOLA OMOLOLA, FOUNDER, FIN: We need to make sure people feel safe. That's what Facebook is providing now. This should help us better manage our communities.

ZUCKERBERG: And we're also going to help you remove bad actors and all their content from Facebook.


SEGALL: What does that mean to you specifically?

OMOLOLA: It means trolls.

SEGALL: The question, are we more connected, or has technology driven us apart? Technology to a degree has always promised to help us discover and to help us learn. There's also the question of, does it make us more insular, and you know, is information being hijacked and spread?

So as you make the future of Facebook these communities, how do you make sure they remain a place for authenticity and for real discourse?

ZUCKERBERG: Well, you want to help people stay connected with the people they already know and care about. But you also want to make it so that people get access to new people and new perspectives too. So bringing people together and creating these communities is, I think, a lot of what we can do to help create more civil and productive debate on some of the bigger issues as well.


ALLEN: And stay with CNN for our full exclusive interview with Mark Zuckerberg. Viewers in Asia can catch it later at 8 p.m. in Hong Kong.

Coming up, how the internet is reacting now that President Trump admits to having no secret recordings of James Comey.


ALLEN: Bill Cosby has big plans for the next step in his career now that his sexual assault case has ended in a mistrial. His publicist say the comedian will hold a series of town hall meetings to educate people on what can be considered sexual assault and how to avoid it.


ANDREW WYATT, BILL COSBY'S PUBLICIST: We are now planning town halls and we're going to be...



WYATT: ... coming to the city sometime in July.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like a town hall just talk to people?

WYATT: To talk to young people. Because this is bigger than Bill Cosby. You know, this issue can affect any person, especially young athletes of today. And they need to know what they're facing when they're hanging out and partying, when they're doing certain things that they shouldn't be doing. And it also affects married men.


ALLEN: Meantime, one of the jurors from Cosby's sexual assault case is speaking out about the mistrial. He says the jury was deadlocked from the very start.


[03:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was hopeless. It was -- from the first time, on. The statutes of limitations were running out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did that really bother you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it does. I think they created this whole thing, a case that was settled in '05 and we had to bring it up again in '17.


ALLEN: This juror went on to tell WPXI News that he believes Cosby drugged Andrea Constand, but thinks the media comedian quote, "already paid a price and suffered enough."

After 41 days of being deliberately vague to the American people, Donald Trump has admitted he does not have secret White House recordings of former FBI Director James Comey.

Jeanne Moos has the internet's reaction now that Mr. Trump has seemingly put the issue to rest.

JEANNE MOOS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Tapes? What tapes? As President Trump shrugs this one off, Twitter reaction ranged from a laidback oh, to, are you kidding! You literally threatened Comey with tapes and now you say you don't have them? "The man's mind games are exhausting," tweeted someone else. Sorry, Mr. Comey.




MOOS: The actual Trump tapes, according to this tweet are "Dutch, scotch and masking," all misspelled. The president's supporters fired back. Trump did what was necessary to make lying Jim Comey speak the truth. Tweeted another defender, "Lordy, POTUS just bluffed one of the most powerful men in the world and it paid off. Imagine playing poker against Trump." Actually, he revealed his hand early.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there tapes, sir?

TRUMP: You're going to be disappointed when you hear the answer. Don't worry.


MOOS: Maybe disappointed isn't the right word.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, this is nutty.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: You've got to keep your eyes on the magician's hands at all

times. I never believed there were tapes. But now Trump says there weren't any, I'm not so sure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is a national version of Candy Crush, wasting our time, whether we like it or not.


MOOS: Some Trump critics took the president admitting the obvious in stride. It's OK, he'll take care of it, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller. After the president tweeted, "I did not make and do not have any such recordings." One critic used a previous Trump tweet to reply, "what a load of covfefe."

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

ALLEN: And that is our news from Atlanta. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. We'll have more from Max Foster in London right after this.