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Northern Ireland's DUP a Potential Power Broker; U.K. Election Complicates Brexit Talks; Trump Willing to Testify on Comey; Trump and Team Send Conflicting Messages on Qatar. Aired 0-0:30a ET

Aired June 10, 2017 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Britain's prime minister keeps her job despite losing her majority in Parliament but Theresa May's future at Number 10 is still on the line as Brexit talks are just a week away.

Also a day after the FBI director he fired testified to the U.S. Senate, president Donald Trump claims vindication and says he is 100 percent willing to tell his side of the story under oath.

And mixed messages: the White House sends conflicting signals over the Qatar crisis.

Hello and thank you for joining me. I'm Paula Newton in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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NEWTON: She gambled and lost, disastrously so. Now British prime minister Theresa May is clinging to power after Thursday's snap election. Her Conservatives are still the largest party in Parliament but they lost seats and won't be able to govern alone.

She is hoping to partner process Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party. There are questions about what kinds ever deals she'll have to make and how she'll approach Brexit talks.

Ms. May says the talks will begin this month as planned but Conservative losses have many asking if she has what it takes to lead. Here is how she framed her party's performance on Friday.

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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, I have caused, as I said many times during the campaign, I had wanted to achieve a larger majority. But that was not the result that we secured.

And I'm sorry for all those candidates and hard-working party workers who weren't successful but also particularly sorry for those colleagues who were MPs and ministers, who'd contributed so much to our country and who lost their seats and didn't deserve to lose their seats.

What I think is important in the Brexit negotiations, which will start in 10 days' time is that we have the certainty of a government that can take forward a plan into those Brexit negotiations.

That's why I think, at this critical time for our country, it's important to form a government in the national interest, as we are the party with the most seats and most votes. We're the only party that is in a position to form a government that can do that. And that's what we're doing.

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NEWTON: As Prime Minister May ,you heard from her yourself right there, she admitted the election is, of course, being viewed as a loss for Conservatives and a boon for the British Labour Party. It's also turned Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party into a potential power broker. For a closer look at all that, here is our Nic Robertson.

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NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Theresa May's emerging relationship with the Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP, is already causing concerns here in Northern Ireland, concerns that the relationship could undermine the fragile stability and security here.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Northern Ireland's DUP or Democratic Unionist Party are right of center and right of Theresa May.

ARLENE FOSTER, LEADER, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY: The prime minister had spoken with me this morning and we will enter discussions with the Conservatives to explore how it may be possible to bring stability to our nation.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Their reputation for recalcitrant politics dates back decades to their uncompromising leader, the Reverend Ian Paisley.

REVEREND IAN PAISLEY, LEADER, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY: Never, never, never!

ROBERTSON (voice-over): They are Protestant and proud of it. They are fervently loyal to the British crown and view the Republic of Ireland as an existential threat to Northern Ireland's place in Great Britain.

Thirty years of bloody sectarian war from the late 1960s to the early '90s, killing more than 3,000 people, left Northern Ireland deeply divided. The DUP are the dominant Protestant party and face off against the powerful Catholic party, Sinn Fein, who want to unite with the Republic of Ireland.

The parties are supposed to share power in a Northern Ireland government but right now refuse to do so. Key Brexit demands from the E.U. include keeping an open border with the republic, the only land border the U.K. will have with the E.U.

Every day in Northern Ireland, there are bomb threats and bombs discovered; extreme sectarian violence is only just below the surface. Tensions now are the highest they've been in decades.

The DUP, with a louder voice in Westminster, will only raise them further. To some, the DUP are a throwback to the 1950s. For Theresa May, it appears they will be central to Brexit talks and running the country.

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ROBERTSON: Well, already here, the middle-of-the-road party, if you like, the alliance party that's in between the two extremes, the Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, they -- and this is unusual for them -- have come out very clearly and very strongly and said, how can Theresa May's government in Westminster be the independent arbiters of negotiating to re-establish the power-sharing government here between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party if they are already in an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party?

And if that -- although rather the longer that that government, that power-sharing assembly isn't up and running, the greater the concern that underlying tensions here -- the bombings, the occasional shootings -- that those could escalate, that the fragile peace and stability that's been enjoyed here for nearly two decades now, all that potentially could be at threat.

And, of course, then there is the thorny issue of what the Democratic Unionist Party want out of the Brexit negotiations over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the south. A lot of detail and a lot of concern for a very delicate situation -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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NEWTON: You just heard from Nic how fraught the whole situation is. Of course there is a lot at stake. Brexit talks are looming and the British election was watched closely by E.U. leaders. German chancellor Angela Merkel was in Mexico Friday and said this about the talks that are still set to begin June 19th.

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ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): On our end, we are ready for the negotiations. We are ready. We have completed the guidelines, the framework.

And from everything I've heard from Britain today, it will respect their negotiations calendar. We want to do this quickly, respecting the calendar. Right now, I don't see any obstacles for the negotiations to take place as planned.

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NEWTON: So Angela Merkel doesn't see any obstacles. Joining me now is Dominic Thomas. He is the chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA.

And let's deal with that piece of it first.

What kind of a challenge are we dealing with now, if you are the U.K., the clock is ticking?

How do you to go forward and maintain a strong position in the negotiations?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA, CALIFORNIA: Right, well, Theresa May had insisted all along that no deal was better than a bad deal. And the British people have spoken. They remain very divided over this issue.

But I think it's quite clear that the idea of leaving the European Union without signing a deal that allows access to the single market; in other words, respect for the four freedoms of the E.U., which concern circulation of goods, capital services and people, remains important; that the British people are concerned about the future of E.U. nationals living in the U.K. and U.K. nationals living in mainland Europe.

And they'd like a say in the final outcome of this. So the E.U. Council president Donald Tusk has been busy on Twitter and said that's there's sort of a lot of uncertainty about when the talks will really get going.

But we do know that 2019 is the deadline. Now when one looks across the channel just to France, which is poised for its own legislative elections beginning on Sunday, you see a young, dynamic, eager, that's created a new political party, that's extremely pro-Europe. Angela Merkel's party's been doing well in state elections in Germany. A lot of hope and optimism in the E.U. here.

And the U.K. really seems to be an outrigger here in this context. And there's a lot of uncertainty going forward here.

NEWTON: Not to mention the fact that the resonance here is that Brits themselves seem very ambivalent about how to go forward with the whole Brexit project. And making to that point, Theresa May made it very clear she wanted to go to the people for a stronger mandate to negotiate in Brexit.

But really the undertone there was she wanted a mandate from her party. Instead, now, the knives may be out for her.

What do you think the odds are that very soon she won't be savaged by voters but her own party?

THOMAS: The thing is to talk about the Conservative Party as a united party is, of course, just simply not possible. There are so many divisions within there between the true Brexiteers that are eager to leave. Let's not Theresa May was in the Remain camp, as was former prime minister David Cameron.

The only time in the last 40 years a government hasn't come out of an election without a majority was, of course, David Cameron in 2010. At that time, he formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

It seems here that she is not even talking about a coalition with the Unionists, the Northern Irish Unionists, but in fact simply an alliance, which would only give her essentially a majority of two votes.

You need 326 for a majority and with them it puts her at 328. It's ungovernable. Her own party is divided. I think it's extremely unlikely she is able to survive this. And in fact, next week when she goes before Parliament, we --

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THOMAS: -- may already see the signs of her new proposed government unraveling. So that's really where we stand now.

Even more uncertainty; certainly folks in the U.K. have had enough of all this after the Scottish referendum, then the Brexit won two elections. It looks like we may be headed for another election in the weeks to come.

NEWTON: Yes. And a majority of Britain certainly agreed they do not want that, even they though they may be headed to the polls much sooner than they want.

Thank you so much for joining us here, as you laid out quite perfectly what is looking like a political mess in Britain. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now U.S. President Trump struck a defiant tone when he was asked about former FBI director James Comey's testimony. He says he is 100 percent willing to testify himself to dispute Comey's account. But he didn't want to dispute all of it. Intriguing. Our Jim Acosta reports.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Speaking as he tweets in short bursts, President Trump tried to have it both ways, clinging to the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey as his salvation while also slamming the man he fired in the same breath.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion, no obstruction, he's a leaker.

ACOSTA: During a news conference with the Romanian president, Mr. Trump denied he tried to shut down the Russia probe, specifically when it comes to former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that, I mean, I will tell you I didn't say that.

ACOSTA: The president also rejected the notion that he asked Comey for a pledge of loyalty as the former FBI director said in sworn testimony. TRUMP: I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance, who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean think of it, I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense. No, I didn't say that.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's response when asked whether he would speak under oath on the matter?

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

ACOSTA: But the president dug in his heels on the question of whether he has recordings of his conversations with Comey and others at the White House.

TRUMP: I'll tell you about that maybe some in the very near future. I'll tell you about it over a very short period of time. OK? OK. Do you have a question here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will you tell us?

TRUMP: Over a fairly short period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there tapes, sir? PRESIDENT TRUMP: You are going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don't worry.

ACOSTA: In their response to the Comey testimony, Democrats are eager for the president to tell all he knows under oath with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would expect at some point, not right away, but at some point that Mr. Mueller will feel he has to depose the president.

ACOSTA: Once subject the president was not asked about his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The White House has danced around whether the president has confidence in the attorney general. Even some Republicans say it's time to know more about Sessions' interactions with the Russians during the campaign.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We, on the Intelligence Committee want to know the answers to those questions. We have begun to request information from the attorney general to allow us to get to the bottom of that.

ACOSTA: The president was asked by a Romanian reporter whether he's committed to NATO's Article 5, which would mandate that the U.S. come to the defense of the alliances more vulnerable nations on Russia's border.

TRUMP: I'm committing the United States and have committed, but I'm committing the United States to Article 5. Certainly, we are there to protect. That's one of the reasons that I want people to know we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force. Yes, absolutely, I would be committed to Article 5.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Now in a further development, Senate Intel Committee member Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, wrote a letter to her committee's chair, asking that it investigate anything related to obstruction of justice.

Now she also recommended issuing subpoenas to two intelligence agency chiefs, who refused -- you might remember this testimony -- to answer questions about their conversations with Trump.

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NEWTON: I'm joined now by Larry Sabato, he's the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He's also written or edited some 2 dozen books on American politics.

Larry, always good to have you here. So interested on how consequential you feel Trump's reaction was today. I mean, he really raised the stakes by saying, look, I'll go under oath to essentially say that I'm telling the truth and the former director of the FBI was lying.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It was pretty shocking because if there is one thing that just about everyone outside of Trump's base agrees to, it's that James Comey has a heck of a lot more credibility than President Trump, at least in terms of telling the truth.

Comey has led the kind of life in and around law enforcement and the law generally that would propel him toward the truth; whereas every biography I've seen of Donald Trump expresses the fact that he tells a lot of fibs, which is a polite word for lies.

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NEWTON: You know, Larry, the polls show that many Americans who voted for him knew that, understood what they were getting into.

When we get to the crux of the testimony and the fact that the president now feels vindicated by it, what is he getting at?

Is it the fact that that he is saying you don't have anything on me to either impeach me or -- you know, he can't be indicted -- but basically kick me out of office.

SABATO: When you boil it down -- and I think you've got it exactly right -- it comes down he said-he said. That's ideal for Trump. I think Trump was worried that somehow there was a silver bullet that Comey had, one way or another.

Well, it turns out that all Comey had was his word. That happens to be golden in a lot of quarters. But it's not enough to convince Trump there is a problem or to indict Trump or to convict Trump or to impeach Trump.

NEWTON: Yes, and it's been so interesting to watch all this. Especially vis-a-vis the agenda and that all-important Republican base and Republican Party that he needs.

Speaker Ryan going through a lot of criticism right now on the fact that he has stood up to (sic) him.

But what does it mean in terms of him going forward to try and get what he wants, done either by his administration or also trying to appeal to Congress?

SABATO: If one of his big-ticket items passes soon, it's not really because of Donald Trump. It's because the members of the House and Senate in the Republican caucus understand they're under the gun.

The midterm election of 2018 is coming up. And there is real talk now that Democrats could take over the House of Representatives.

What does that mean?

An impeachment investigation almost certainly.

NEWTON: Yes, and it's interesting because I think Donald Trump realizes the stakes are quite high in the sense that he cannot afford -- that his future is tied with the Republican Party in 2018.

Larry, before I go, I have to ask you, for many people around the world shaking their heads and looking at this, what is it saying about the reality of a Trump administration going forward for the next three and a half years?

SABATO: The first and most important thing is it tells all of us, not just the press, to check every word President Trump says because you simply cannot rely on it. And, of course, that has tremendous implications, both domestically and internationally.

NEWTON: Yes, and I have to point out that voters knew this going in and they kind of assumed that they knew what they were getting into.

Larry, always interesting to talk to you. I'm sure we will continue this conversation. It's been a fascinating week. And I'm sure a lot more to come, especially if the president has that Twitter handle, quick at hand.

SABATO: Yes, absolutely.

NEWTON: All right. Thanks, Larry, appreciate it.

SABATO: Sure.

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NEWTON: Now coming up, Donald Trump is taking credit for a diplomatic crisis that has isolated Qatar. We'll tell you his new message for Doha.

Plus Brazil's president fights for his political life and wins. We have details ahead.

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NEWTON: British police have arrested a 27-year-old man in connection with London's bridge terror attacks. He was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Now five other men remain in custody as authorities continue to investigate that attack.

The United States appears to be sending conflicting signals on the diplomatic crisis involving Qatar. On Friday, President Trump instead urged Doha to stop funding terrorism. Qatar denies any involvement, at odds, in fact, with what many in of the region have been saying. Here is our Jomana Karadsheh.

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JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's been a lot of confusion about the U.S.' position when it comes to the crisis in the Gulf over the past week; mixed messages from U.S. officials on the one hand and President Trump on the other hand.

Yet again, on Friday evening, President Trump coming out with a statement completely contradicting his secretary of state just a short time after Rex Tillerson came out with a statement, calling for calm, for resolving this conflict and for easing the blockade on Qatar.

We heard from President Trump yet again, pointing the finger of blame at Qatar for funding terrorism.

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TRUMP: The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.

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KARADSHEH: Qatar, this key U.S. military ally in the region, has repeatedly denied these accusations, saying that it is the victim of a coordinated misinformation campaign.

There has been this feeling in the region that the president's visit to Saudi Arabia last month may have triggered this crisis by emboldening countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allowing them to use the fight against extremism and extremist funding as a pretext to go after Qatar to settle regional scores.

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TRUMP: The time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding. They have to end that funding and its extremist ideology in terms of funding.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KARADSHEH: Some are also wondering if the statement by President Trump may have been an attempt to deflect attention away from domestic U.S. politics -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Doha.

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NEWTON: Now one thing to note, just hours from now, Qatar's foreign minister will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow has promised to help try and mediate this dispute.

President Donald Trump is expected to unveil changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba in a speech next week. U.S. officials told CNN that Mr. Trump is likely to reverse some of the reforms the Obama administration enacted in 2014.

Brazil's top court has handed the country's president a big legal victory. Michel Temer and former president Dilma Rousseff were acquitted Friday of receiving illegally campaign funds during elections three years ago.

Mr. Temer is still being investigated for alleged corruption and obstruction of justice but he denies any wrongdoing. Dilma Rousseff was impeached after the Senate convicted her of breaking budgetary laws.

Coming up, deadly wildfires leave devastating aftermath in the South African coastal town.

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NEWTON: Now meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins me because residents of a popular coastal town in South Africa are assessing the damage.

These are incredible, unfortunately deadly fires that tore through the region this week.

I can't believe the pictures.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

NEWTON: It's nuts.

VAN DAM: It's incredible to see this. This is a follow-up to a story we focused on the past couple weeks, one of the worst droughts in over a century in parts of South Africa, specifically the Western Cape.

Unfortunately, this is the ramifications of a 100-year drought. Look at the fires raging that have raged across parts of the south coast. This is a popular tourist destinations. The region has been declared a disaster zone. Unfortunately, the wind will continue the fire risks today. There are 800 firefighters and five helicopters currently water bombing the active fire lines that are ongoing across the area. So let's highlight what they're contending with.

And, unfortunately, there have been fatalities. Nine so far. There has also been a fatality of a firefighter. There are 300 structures either completely destroyed or damaged. Over 10,000 people that were evacuated from their town. That is particularly in the Nizna (ph) region.

But there are still ongoing fires. And unfortunately there is still strong winds across the area. We know that we have wind, we have oxygen, that helps fuel fire. And you can see on our wind map that dark shading of red right along the south coast of South Africa where the active fires are burning. That could potentially lead to more hot spots going forward through the course of the weekend.

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VAN DAM: Unfortunately there's only less than 10 percent of usable water for the 4 million residents in Cape Town. That means that level 4 water restrictions are still underway within the city of Cape Town.

Just want to give you a heads-up; if you are looking to help out for the people impacted by the fires, there are several dropoff zones across South Africa; nonperishable food items, toiletries, blankets, clothes and water.

NEWTON: And we'll continue to look out for that rain. Hopefully it will get to them.

Thanks for joining us here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. I'll be right back with the headlines in just a moment.