Return to Transcripts main page


Trump and Putin Meet at the G-20; U.S. Stands Firms on Climate Change, Trade Despite Criticism; Secretary Tillerson Heads to Ukraine; Trump and Putin Agree to Truce in Southwest Syria; Melania Trump Makes Her Mark at the G-20; Known Venezuelan Dissident Back Home From Prison; Senate Republican Health Care Plan Faces Uphill Battle; New Documentary Re-Triggers Amelia Earhart Mania; Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 9, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:09] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The top U.S. diplomat has just arrived in Ukraine, a day after the U.S. president discussed the situation there with the Russian president at the G-20.

A partial ceasefire set to start in Syria in less than an hour's time. Could it be a blueprint for more cooperation in the fight against ISIS?

Plus more than three years in jail, one of Venezuela's main opposition figures, Leopoldo Lopez, is released from house arrest.

Live from CNN World headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

The U.S. president is back in Washington returning from the G-20 Summit in Germany, and following his big meetings there, he's been tweeting, saying that he had an excellent meeting on North Korea and trade with regards to his talk with the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mr. Trump also sent his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ukraine. Mr. Tillerson just arrived in Kiev. Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting for control of Eastern Ukraine for more than three years now.

Tillerson's arrival comes just days after Mr. Trump met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit. Mr. Putin insisted both the U.S. president and then to reporters that Moscow did not meddle in last year's election. Listen.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Our position is well known and I repeated it. There is no basis for thinking that Russia interfered in the election process. What's important is that we agreed that the uncertainty on these matters cannot exist especially in the future.


HOWELL: Mr. Putin there speaking. CNN's Nic Robertson has more now on the meeting between President

Trump and President Putin and where U.S. relations with Russia and other Western powers may go from here.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: On that contentious issue of what was it that was said between President Trump and President Putin, President Putin, in his press conference, said that he thinks that President Trump accepted his answer. But he said you would have to actually ask him.

But what was fascinating was the importance that President Putin put in the ceasefire that he said the United States gives support for in the southwest part of Syria. He seemed to think this was a big deal that it had was overlooked.

But he also had another headline in his press conference there that he feels that the United States is taking a much more pragmatic approach in Syria to the point of being willing to pool resources -- that's what he said. Pool resources in Syria. That perhaps stronger language than we heard from Secretary of State Tillerson when he was describing how the meeting had gone between the two presidents on Saturday.

But for Putin's point of view, clearly feeling in the driving seat on Syria, clearly feeling that he now has buy-in, at least from the United States, from President Trump, who he said, by the way, was a different person behind closed doors than what you may see in public.

But it was left to Angela Merkel here to really sort of sum up what was achieved at the G-20 in the final communique on trade. She was very clear that it was a fight against protectionism and a fight against unfair trade.

Now that is something that she has conceived in advance of this summit, as the United States really being against free trade and more for protectionism. So this leaves the United States something as an outlier on that.

On globalization, too, she's been very clear. She feels that the United States on globalization is sort of out of step, that it would rather see winners and losers, that it's OK for the bosses to profit. But she's always talked about a win-win situation. So on globalization, she was clear, they've agreed that everyone should benefit from globalization.

On steel, a big concern going into this summit that, on steel, there could be tariffs or quotas imposed by the United States. This could lead to a trade war, a global trade war. And that seems to have been headed off. There's going to be a commission that will look at the global steel trade. That will report in November. So that issue seems to be headed off.

But she had the biggest criticism for President Trump and the United States on the issue of climate change. She said it was deplorable that the United States appears to be pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. That was her strongest language.

So at the end of the G-20, it leaves Angela Merkel very much a sort of a central figure here and the United States' President Trump, for the first time in many, many years, looking as something of an outlier, not agreeing with so many of the other nations on some of the big issues, trade and climate change.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Hamburg, Germany.


HOWELL: Nic, thank you for the reporting. We'll get more on this a little later.

[04:05:02] Despite taking some criticism from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Trump administration is standing firm in its position on trade and on climate change. The White House just released the president's weekly address. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since taking the oath of office, our government has adopted a new philosophy, America first. And believe me, it's about time. The era of economic surrender is over and a new national pride is sweeping across our land. You see it, I see it, we all see it.

We're also tearing down every possible barrier to domestic energy production to unleash the full power of our economy. The American people will finally be allowed to tap into the vast energy wealth sitting right beneath our feet or right below our shores.

We've also sent a clear message to the world that we will not allow other nations to take advantage of us any longer.


HOWELL: Mr. Trump says America first, also believe me, he says.

Let's now bring in Scott Lucas. Scott is professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham and the founder and editor of EA World View, live in Birmingham with us this hour.

Scott, we just heard the president a moment ago. The geopolitical landscape is changing, right? The U.S. sidelined in many ways with regard to climate change. Where does President Trump, and for that matter the United States' position stand with world leaders now?

SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, let's make a distinction between Trump's position and the U.S.'s position. I mean, the U.S. position is, to be blunt, now is not America first, it's America alone.

The big story outside the U.S. about the G-20 Summit is the climate change story. And it is very striking that the G-19, in other words the other leaders, simply said we are pursuing the plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the U.S. doesn't want to follow, OK, we hope they'll come back.

But it wasn't just on climate change. The communique also denounced without naming U.S. protectionism. Now that's a jab at Trump, what he just said, for example, in that weekly radio address, which is we're simply going to -- you know, want to rip up trade deals where you're going to go on your way on energy supplies. We basically are going unilateral. And I think that's going to continue.

Not just from German Chancellor Merkel but I think that's going to come also from the French president, Emmanuel Macron who says he wants to follow up something on climate change by the end of the year in Paris.

Now what it means for Trump's position versus America? You just heard it. The man is going to double down. Whatever damage this may be causing U.S. international standing or whatever damage it causes the environment, whatever damage it causes economies, he is committed to playing to his base and say, it's all the way or the highway, and each time he's going to say I'm tough, I'm leading, and the rest of the world leaders, well, you know, if they don't like it, tough.

HOWELL: The German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that she deplores the U.S. position now on climate change.

The other big headline coming out of this, Scott, obviously the president meeting with President Putin and then the question, did President Trump accept his Russian counterpart's denial of involvement in the U.S. election.

Let's listen to a few of his top officials speak about that and give an answer? Let's look.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think President Putin did exactly what we thought he would do, which is deny it. So this is Russia trying to save face. And they can't. They can't. Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Why won't the president say this in public? It would put a lot of these questions -- and, frankly, the fact that a lot of your fellow Republicans are perplexed, it would put it all to rest. Why won't he do it?

HALEY: I think that you can ask him. Everybody's trying to nitpick what he says and what he doesn't. But, you know, talk is one thing, actions are another. He confronted President Putin. He made it the first thing that he talked about and I think we have to now see where it goes from here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The president of another country making a statement about the president of the United States. Do you not want to respond to that and correct the record if it is wrong?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I'm not going to make comments about what other people say. President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about that. But President Trump handled himself brilliantly. It was very clear he made his position felt. And after very substantive dialogue on this, they agreed to move on to other discussions.

And I think it's very clear that they've opened a dialogue, that it's important to have a dialogue, as we've said, they focused on a ceasefire on Syria, focused on making sure that we have a cyber unit to make sure that Russia and nobody else interferes in any democratic elections. And we focus on the issue of North Korea, which is a major concern to us and all our other allies.


HOWELL: Scott Lucas joining us again. And Scott, no real clear answer there.

LUCAS: Two things. First the Russians played Trump. The Trump administration made a mistake when it did not put in a National Security Council official to monitor that meeting. It was just Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

[04:10:06] So the Russians knew that and they can meet when put out their version which is that Trump agreed with Putin, according to Putin, that there was no Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Now note second point, although -- although the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said, oh, of course they interfered in the election, Trump will not say that. Only 36 hours before that meeting with Putin, Trump was denying that the Russians had interfered in the election. He said well, it may be them, but it may be someone else.

Until you get the president of the United States clearly saying that there interference in the 2016 election, until you get the president saying, I back the U.S. intelligence communities who have found about Russian interference, rather than trashing them, which he actually did last week, saying they were wrong on Iraq so they must be wrong on this as well.

Until you get Trump making the statement himself, you're going to be mired in confusion and the Russians are just going to keep playing this for all its worth.

HOWELL: Scott, two other issues here that came out of this G-20 with President Trump and President Xi Jinping in China. Speaking obviously about the situation in North Korea. And also there's a ceasefire set to start here within the hour in Syria, in concert with Russia and Jordan. Talk about those because were these major successes for this president coming out of this G-20?

LUCAS: Well, I think North Korea, I think there may be a positive here which is not just the meeting between Trump and President Xi, but the behind-the-scenes discussions which is we've got to find a diplomatic tracks. You know, you cannot go in with a military response to the North Korean missile test. There's just no way of overthrowing a regime outright. So hopefully there will be something positive beyond that headline meeting. The second issue on Syria is not so positive. Look, I said the

Russians played the Trump administration. Well, they played them on this issue as well. What the Russians want is the Americans to follow the Russian lead to accept President Assad in power and to step away from any Syrian opposition. Any Syrian opposition or Syrian rebels. And they're succeeding.

The United States will now concentrate almost solely on the Islamic State in Syria. Russia is now the dominant political player and that means that despite killing hundreds of thousands of people, President Assad stays in power and Trump is basically acquiesce to it. That's the larger picture beyond this token ceasefire that starts today.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas, giving his take there in Birmingham. Thank you so much for the perspective and insight today.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: The president's top diplomat has just arrived to Ukraine. This is Rex Tillerson's first official visit to that country. He will meet with the President Petro Poroshenko soon. The State Department says Tillerson intends to, quote, "reaffirm America's commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Following the story, our Ivan Watson is live in Moscow this hour.

Ivan, so what can we expect from this meeting?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Probably some reassurances because Ukraine, of course, is watching this kind of warming of relations between Moscow and Washington with quite a bit of concern namely because in 2014 Russia invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, occupied it and annexed it.

In addition Ukraine has been fighting for years now against Russian backed separatists in the east of the country. So on the day when Presidents Trump and Putin were speaking face-to-face for more than two hours, international OSCE monitors registered dozens of ceasefire violations. Of course that goes in both directions but that is a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people and made many, many, many more homeless.

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in his meeting with President Putin and President Trump, the Americans came out with a statement saying that they were appointing a special envoy who would deal with the Ukraine crisis and that is Kurt Volker, who was a former ambassador to NATO.

He is accompanying Tillerson to Kiev and presumably will be presented to the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, who's probably going to want to hear assurances that improving relations between Moscow and Washington does not mean that Ukraine and its interests and -- will be sacrificed at the expense of the improved Russian and U.S. relations -- George.

HOWELL: Let's talk also about this improved relations given what happened there at the G-20. Presidents Putin and Trump speaking together, a meeting that was supposed to last a shorter time, went on for, you know, some two hours' time. What -- how is that playing in Russian media and what -- what responses, rather, are you hearing from top officials about that meeting?

WATSON: The Russians are delighted. Not only here where top lawmakers welcomed this as a breakthrough where some Russian state media said that the bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin eclipsed the entire G-20.

[04:15:12] But you also had the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, you had the Russian president himself, Vladimir Putin, stepping out in front of the cameras and giving their account, their observations on how this meeting was conducted.

Very interesting that Vladimir Putin shared some of his observations about President Trump including this quite memorable one-liner. Take a listen.


PUTIN (through translator): TV Trump is very different from the real president. He's absolutely specific, absolutely adequate in his perception of the dialogue partner. He analyzes things quickly, replies to the raised questions or new elements in the conversation.

So I think if our future relations will unfold the same way as our meeting yesterday, there is every reason to believe that we can restore, at least partially, the level of cooperation we need.


WATSON: Now one of the other things that both sides agreed to was to establish some kind of a working group that would deal with the question of cyberhacking and interference in the U.S. democratic process. It will be quite interesting to see how that proposal would be received now that President Trump has returned back to Washington.

While the Russians are happy with the optics of this meeting they are very much still aware, George, that the U.S. sanctions that have been put in place starting with the 2014 annexation of Crimea and more recently when the outgoing Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and seized two Russian diplomatic compounds amid allegations and accusations that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, Moscow is very aware that those sanctions have not yet been lifted.

Those two diplomatic compounds have not yet been returned. And Russian politicians and observers have also acknowledged the fact that President Trump is returning to a capital city in the U.S. that is still very divided, where there is still a great deal of opposition in both sides to improve relations with Russia and that the U.S. president himself is under investigation on a number of different fronts in regards to allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But of course it does seem that Putin got the last word by once again denying both in person with President Trump and also in front of the cameras of any involvement in meddling or collusion in that U.S. election -- George.

HOWELL: Real interesting. It'd be very interesting, Ivan, to see how this plays out here in the United States in the days and weeks to come.

11:17 there in the morning at Moscow. Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson, with the reporting, thank you for that today.

We are just under an hour's time now from a ceasefire that's set to start in southwest Syria. Noon Sunday, Damascus time. The deal was agreed to by the U.S. president and his Russian counterpart at the G- 20 Summit. The U.S. secretary of state says the ceasefire is the first indication that United States and Russia are working together on the Syrian crisis.

Following this story, our Jomana Karadsheh is live in Amman, Jordan this hour.

Jomana, so the ceasefire set to start within the next hour, what will the effect be -- what would it mean for people on the ground there?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, in the past few months there has been really heavy fighting taking place in that part of Syria. There has been a regime offensive where they have gained some ground in that part of the country where the dominant player really was the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian opposition. So it will be, you know, a welcomed relief at the fighting that the people have had to endure in recent months.

But to understand what this ceasefire is about, George, put it into context. According to U.S. and Jordanian officials, this is part of a deal that has been in the works for months now. Behind the scenes, you've had Jordanians, the Russians and the United States negotiating the creation of this de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria. And they reached that agreement in the past few days in Jordan.

And as you mentioned it was announced after the meeting of President Trump and Putin. Now what we understand the first step, a key step, of creating that de-escalation zone is going to be the ceasefire that, as you mentioned, goes into effect in less than an hour.

We'll have to wait and see if this is any different to previous ceasefires we have seen in that country. Ceasefires that come and go and sometimes you see as you hear from a lot of Syrians that the violence that followed is much worse than preceded the ceasefire. So we have to wait and see.

[04:20:02] And they still have some very key and complicated issues to work out in the coming weeks, and that is the enforcement and the monitoring mechanism of the ceasefire and also keeping in mind, George, that not everyone in that part of the country is a signatory to this deal. You also have extremist groups that operate there including an ISIS affiliate so in the words of a U.S. official, there are still spoilers on the ground there.

HOWELL: Jomana, you and I have talked about this for some time now. You mentioned these ceasefires that come and go. What does it mean for the people who are just caught up in the middle of a hellish situation? When it comes to the issue of trust, so another ceasefire is set to take effect. From your experience covering this, do you get a sense that people will trust this more than other ceasefires that, as you mentioned, have come and gone?

KARADSHEH: Well, I think we really have to wait and see. I don't think people know what to expect but really, George, in the past few years, every time you talk to people who are caught in this conflict, who are caught, you know, in the midst of the violence whether it's living under the barrage of barrel bombs or airstrikes, and they tell you that they always worry when they hear these ceasefires because historically, according to Syrians, according to the people are trapped in this conflict, they say that the violence that comes in after that is much worse.

You know, they feel that they bear the brunt of, of course, this conflict that has gone on for a very long time. So yes, there might be some cautious optimism among some, but still, I think, people don't know whether this will be any different but I think there is some sort of consensus amongst the international or regional players who are involved in the Syrian conflict in one way or another that the way forward perhaps is these de-escalation zones, whether you're looking at the southern part of the country where you have seen this agreement coming out from talks between the Jordanians, the Russians, and the United States, or other parts of the country where you have these talks taking place in Kazakhstan, in Astana, been going on for a few months now where they're trying to also create de-escalation zones in different parts of the country -- George.

HOWELL: Jomana Karadsheh, live for us in Amman, Jordan. Thank you.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Melania Trump and Vladimir Putin, they chat at the G-20 Summit. We'll have more on the U.S. first lady's trip ahead.

Also ahead, scorching temperatures are being blamed for several deaths and raging wildfire in the western part of the United States. See if there's any relief ahead.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.



[04:26:47] HOWELL: Scene on the streets of Hamburg, Germany. Over three days, 30 planned demonstrations took place. Some turned violent when protesters tried to cross into restricted zones. They were then hit with water cannons as you see there. And they were forcibly removed by police. Some protesters they set fire to the streets and looted some shops there. Police said Saturday that 213 officers were injured, more than 100 people there were arrested. The chaos on Hamburg's streets kept the U.S. first lady trapped in her

guest house for hours on Friday but when she got the all clear, Melania Trump made some headlines of her own at the G-20.

Kate Bennett has more on that for us.


KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (voice-over): It was supposed to be a day of scheduled events for spouses of G-20 leaders including a visit to a climate center and a boat ride and lunch on the Alva River. But instead Melania Trump was on lockdown, as protests raged outside her Hamburg hotel.

Deemed too dangerous for the first lady to depart, she had to skip the outings. Her spokeswoman telling CNN that instead Mrs. Trump held staff meetings at the hotel and asked to be regularly updated on the protests.

This morning, the first lady tweeting her concern and hope that people stay safe.

The G-20 visit came on the heels of a quick stop in Poland yesterday where the first lady gave brief remarks, introducing President Trump before his speech.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you again for this wonderful welcome to your very special country. Your kindness and gracious hospitality will not be forgotten.

BENNETT: It's her second time stepping on to the global stage. Her first in May, a nine-day trip with stops in five cities brought glowing reviews for Melania's measured diplomacy, her style, her visits to children's hospitals and even, yes, her independence streak after that gap on the tarmac in Israel, ending with remarks in Sicily to American troops and a message of unity.

M. TRUMP: This trip for me has been very special and I will never forget the women and children I met. As one of the kids at the hospital that I visit said in a picture he draw for me, we are all the same.

BENNETT: Even her husband was effusive in his praise for the first lady.

D. TRUMP: America is very blessed with a lot of great diplomats and I have to say this as she just walks over here. But I don't think the United States could possibly have a better emissary than our magnificent and wonderful person, our first lady, Melania. Thank you. Thank you.

BENNETT: Today back at the G-20, once she was finally cleared to leave the confines of her hotel and join her husband, Mrs. Trump was back to using those diplomacy skills, sent in to help wrap the lengthy meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It didn't work and the two men talked for at least an hour longer. [04:30:05] But by dinnertime, the Trumps emerged, Melania in a fringed

white dress by Michael Kors, greeting the other leaders for a family photo before attending a performance by the Philharmonic. And at dinner, separated at the table from her husband, who was seated next to the first lady of Argentina, the first lady's companion was none other than Vladimir Putin.

Kate Bennett, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Kate, thank you.

Ivanka Trump also stepped in to a more prominent role on the world stage. She briefly took President Trump's seat at a meeting there. You can see her next to the Chinese President Xi Jinping and the British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G-20 Saturday morning.

A Trump administration official noted that when other leaders stepped out, their seats were briefly filled also by others.

He's home after 3 1/2 years in prison but a leading Venezuelan dissident is not yet a free man.

We're live from Atlanta, Georgia, to our viewers here in the United States and around the world this hour. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


HOWELL: 4:34 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived to Ukraine. He's set to meet with the President Petro Poroshenko very soon in the capital city of Kiev. The State Department says Mr. Tillerson intends to reaffirm America's commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

[04:35:03] The U.S. president Donald Trump is back in Washington, D.C. after meeting with world leaders at the G-20 Summit and finding himself alone on the issue of climate change. Other G-20 members reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. The French president Emmanuel Macron says that he will hold a summit in -- December, rather, to move the accord forward.

On to Syria now, a partial ceasefire set to go into effect in less than an hour's time. The United States, Russia and Jordan agreed to establish a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria. The U.S. secretary of state says the ceasefire is the first indication the United States and Russia will be able to work together on the Syrian crisis.

Iraq says it is closer now to declaring the final victory against ISIS in the key city of Mosul. Video shows soldiers already celebrating on Saturday amid the rubble in that city. ISIS says that its fighters are pledging to fight to the death.

Now to the U.S. state of Arizona, dozens of people there are dead as these investigations due to the scorching heat in that state. Health officials say the high temperatures have led to five deaths in one county alone. And now they're investigating at least 57 others may have been caused by the heat there.

This scorching temperatures have shattered some records across the southwestern part of the country. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is here.

Derek, it is hot there.


HOWELL: We've been covering the growing civil unrest in Venezuela. Now we know that these demonstrations have been triggered now in Spain. Take a look.

[04:40:04] Thousands of people marched and chanted in Madrid to show their anger against the Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro. The protests come after Venezuela's best known dissident Leopoldo Lopez was released from prison and granted house arrest for leading anti- government protests.

President Maduro says that he hopes the Lopez move will provide a basis for reconciliation.

International pressure is believed to be one of the reasons for the surprise release of Lopez. Before he was arrested in 2014 Lopez warned of rising economic and political unrest. Right now unemployment is at 25 percent and the food and medicine are in short supply.

Leyla Santiago reports now from the Venezuelan-Colombian border.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leopoldo Lopez is back home, celebrating freedom from prison even though he remains on house arrest. The former mayor and presidential candidate spent 3 1/2 years in a military prison after he was charged with inciting violence, conspiracy and arson during the 2014 anti-government protests. He denied the accusations but Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro says Lopez must pay for his crimes.

NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The responsible people must pay before the court of law and they will pay before the court of law.

SANTIAGO: Nearly a year before his imprisonment, Lopez warned against collapse and economic consequences.

LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Venezuela, over these years, has become an economy addicted to imports. What we eat, what we dress, everything that we use comes from other countries. And, of course, that has had a consequence.

SANTIAGO: In March of this year, protests ramped up when Venezuela's pro-government supreme court announced they were taking over legislative powers from the National Assembly, a decision that was short-lived. But protests continued.

Acts of defiance symbolized frustration over food and medicine shortages, a collapsed economy, a growing political divide.

As violence escalates on the streets, a daring attack on the supreme court and clashes between Maduro loyalists and opposition leaders at the National Assembly on Venezuela's Independence Day. This weekend, through a statement, Lopez says, "Venezuela, this is a step toward freedom. If continuing my fight for freedom means going back to Ramo Verde, I am ready to do it."

Venezuela's government says the move to home detention of Leopoldo Lopez is proof that rule of law still stands, as Lopez shows the world he is still standing, too.

From the Venezuela-Colombia border, Leyla Santiago, CNN.


HOWELL: Leyla, thank you so much for the report.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare, U.S. Senate Republicans are struggling to fulfill the promise that they made on the campaign trail now for seven years, in fact. Why some Republicans might need to reach across the aisle to get the support they need.

And later, the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is taking off again. We'll show you what some are saying about this new evidence.

Stay with us.


[04:46:33] HOWELL: Welcome back. U.S. Republican senators are struggling to agree on how to repeal and replace Obamacare. On Monday the Senate will be back in session after the holiday recess. Senate Majority Leaders Mitch McConnell is suggesting that Republicans may need to reach across the aisle to reform health care.

Before that holiday, though, there wasn't enough Republican support to even start the debate on the proposed legislation.

Our Tom Foreman breaks it all down for us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Congressional Republicans have been waiting for years for their opportunity to overturn Obamacare and now with it sitting right in front of them, they just can't figure out how to get it done. (Voice-over): From the Republican-controlled Senate, a stunning

change of direction. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he will work with Democrats to prop up Obamacare if his own party can't pass an alternative plan.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Premiums are going up, co-payments are going up, deductibles are going up. So we have to solve the current crisis, and I think repealing and then delaying the replacement doesn't work.

TRUMP: Tonight I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.

FOREMAN: CNN has learned the White House was caught off guard by McConnell's comments coming less than a week after the president's own surprise move, when he tweeted, "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date."

But that has gained no traction, even as the Republican bill has continued spinning its wheels. Some senators in their home districts for the July 4th recess face tough questions from constituents.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I still am a no, unless the bill is dramatically changed.

FOREMAN: So bipartisan support, limited as it may be, is swirling around McConnell's idea.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Senator McConnell is correct in that we need to make sure that the individual market is a stronger market than it is today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe what Mitchell McConnell says is the right path to take.

FOREMAN: Even amid furious pushback from conservative quarters. Heritage Action for America saying such a deal with Democrats would be catastrophic for the Republican Party. And on it goes, with various Republicans offering their own solutions about how to end the impasse, unite the party, and somehow turn the turmoil into triumph.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I think we got to get the job done, but we've got to do it right. The results matter. It's not just passing a bill whose title is Obamacare repeal. We actually got to do something that fixes the problem.

FOREMAN (on camera): Watching the Republicans twist themselves into knots trying to deal with the health care reform riddle was a wonderful holiday recess for congressional Democrats, only it was less like Independence Day and more like Christmas in July.


HOWELL: Tom Foreman, thanks for the report. We're learning more now about an unruly passenger on a flight from

Seattle, Washington, to Beijing. The criminal complaint says this 23- year-old man tried to open an exit door in the galley of the Delta Airlines flight about an hour after it took off.

Joseph Daniel Hudek IV fought with the cabin crew and passenger. A flight attendant then struck him on the -- at the head with two bottles of wine breaking one of them. The man was eventually restrained and arrested after the plane returned to Seattle. You see it there at Sea-Tac Airport. He faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

[04:50:07] Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, it's been decades since she disappeared. And now a new documentary claims to know well, what happened to Amelia Earhart. We'll take a look at her final flight.



HOWELL: It has been an international mystery, the disappearance of a legendary American pilot has fascinated people for generations. Any new clues as to what happened to Amelia Earhart always perk interest.

Jeanne Moos has more now on the latest lead.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether you look low-key it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a new clue.

MOOS: Or hype it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will blow the lid off the whole Amelia Earhart story.

MOOS: This 80-year-old mystery never gets old. Amelia-mania is back as the History Channel presents new evidence for an old theory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She may have been held prisoner by the Japanese.

MOOS: Backed up by a photo that purports to show Amelia Earhart alive, sitting on a Pacific island jetty in 1937. And this may or may not be her navigator, Fred Noonan, according to a facial recognition expert.

[04:55:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding me? That's Fred Noonan.

MOOS: And is that ill-defined blob really the plane being towed by a Japanese ship? The theory is Earhart crashed-landed, was picked up by the Japanese,

and imprisoned until her death. Even Cher was intrigued. "OK, no more politics. How about finding Amelia Earhart?" And singer Josh Groban confessed, "This has given me chills."

But the naysayers say nay. It could be anyone. No face to see, black and white and grainy. "I want to, but I don't see it."

(On camera): As if the latest photo weren't already questionable enough, Internet posters couldn't resist embellishing it.

(Voice-over): Photoshopping in a flying saucer, JFK's assassin, and Bigfoot. Even Chris Christie in a beach chair has landed on the jetty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world has wondered.

MOOS: Did she crash into the ocean or was she a castaway? Short-wave radio operators say they picked up distress calls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I recognized that voice.

MOOS: One place we know you can find Earhart's plane is on iTunes. You can download this romantic comedy starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford and guest starring Amelia's actual plane. The 1936 movie came out the year before this Lockheed Electra disappeared.

"Love on the Run," it's called. It seems we never run out of love for the mystery of where Earhart's plane ended up.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Jeanne Moos, thank you.

Still ahead, there is a major ceasefire set to start in just a few minutes in Syria. We'll have that story ahead.

The news continues here on CNN right after the break.


HOWELL: A rare moment of hope in Syria. A ceasefire --