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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 2-2:30a ET

Aired June 10, 2017 - 02:00   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): It was meant to be the election that would bolster Theresa May's hand ahead of Brexit negotiations. Instead, the British prime minister has lost her majority in Parliament and she might well lose her job.

Also, firing back: U.S. President Donald Trump challenges key parts of James Comey's testimony and he says he's 100 percent willing to tell his side of the story under oath.

And whose side are they on?

The White House sends mixed messages to Doha as the Qatar crisis continues to unfold.

Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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NEWTON: She gambled and lost, disastrously so. 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 says she'll form a government with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party. But there are questions about what role it will plan and how she'll approach those crucial Brexit talks.

Ms. May says the discussions will begin this month as planned but Conservative losses have many asking if she has what it takes to lead. Here's 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: We want to bring in our Melissa Bell now. She's at 10 Downing Street.

It could be quite a weekend of treacherous politics at 10 Downing Street. Despite what Theresa May just said, just take a look at the headlines this morning, Melissa, as I'm sure you have. You have "The Guardian" saying, "From hubris to humiliation."

One of the tabloids saying "a coalition of crackpots."

How long do you think she can survive?

What are pundits saying?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think this is precisely the question this morning because she is looking so fragile within her own party. You alluded a moment ago to that anger from within her own ranks.

Understandable when you consider the size of the gamble that's been lost. Looking forward, we have nine days now until two things, Paula, the queen's speech, by which time she will have had to form a government in order to announce what legislation she intends to get through.

But also the start of Brexit negotiations; it was precisely because she believed her minority was too small to push through the kind of tougher Brexit that she was looking toward that held this election. Now she's lost even that.

You mentioned that haggling with the DUP over forming a minority government. Even if that goes ahead, this has a whole other layer of complication, not just to the Brexit negotiations because the Ulster Unionists have their own view and their own considerations on this question of Brexit and going into those negotiations, which will make those hard Brexit negotiations even harder to have.

But also just holding the Conservative Party together: Theresa May is now looking at a very different series of (INAUDIBLE) behind her and they include 12 new Scottish Conservatives, who are led by a woman, who's firmly in favor of gay rights, precisely those sorts of issues, things like gay marriage that the DUP are very strongly against.

So just holding the Conservative Party together, assuming that this deal that allows her to form a minority government goes ahead, is looking extremely difficult, Paula. Even if she survives the coming days, it's very difficult to see how she can provide anything other than a sort of caretaker leadership over the months ahead.

NEWTON: And you know for the woman who occupies 10 Downing Street behind you, that is obviously top of mind in the hours and days to come. Our Melissa Bell watching everything develop there from 10 Downing Street.

Now as we were just saying, the election is being viewed as a loss for Conservatives and a boon for the British Labour Party.

It's also, as we were just discussing, turn into Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, into a likely power broker. We want to give you a closer look at this party. Nic Robertson is in Belfast.

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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.

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: Of course there are those Brexit talks that are looming. The British election was closely watched by E.U. leaders. German chancellor Angela Merkel was in Mexico Friday and said this about the talks set for 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: Robin Oakley joins us from outside the Houses of Parliament.

So great to see you, Robin. And full disclosure, for nearly five years you schooled me in British politics. You always warned me it was a blood sport.

Robin, this is looking like a massacre.

At what point do the Brexit negotiations for Theresa May become untenable?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the negotiations can go ahead exactly as they were planned to before, Paula. The big problem now is that actually E.U. leaders really wanted to see Theresa May win this election and do so with a big majority.

She has presented the whole situation as if E.U. leaders were trying to undermine her, trying to lose the election for her. But the problem is at the end of the day, if a deal is done, there will have to be compromises. Each side will have to give something.

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OAKLEY: Now if she had won as she was hoping to, a majority of 100, then she could come back to the British House of Commons. And if some of the hardline Brexiteers in her own party said, no, you've made too big a concession, we're not going to stand for that, she would have had the parliamentary arithmetic to fight off that sort of protest.

Now she's got no cover whatsoever on any deal that she does with the Europeans.

We also don't know whether she is going to soften her stance because a part of the election result here that has been such a shock to everybody has been a little bit of a revenge by the Remainers, the 48 percent who voted for Britain to remain in the European Union and who feel that their voice has been totally neglected since the Brexit vote.

Is Theresa May going to instruct David Davis, her chief negotiator, now to soften things a little bit?

He has hinted in one or two interviews that maybe things will change slightly, maybe Britain will make more of an effort to stay in the single market in some way.

But of course the price for that has always been subscribing to E.U. laws on the free movement of people. And Theresa May is completely hooked up on the issue of bringing down immigration to Britain -- Paula.

NEWTON: It's so interesting, the issues that you lay out. If we look at the wreckage of this campaign, Theresa May is really wearing it right now. It seems that she was relying on advisors that were really not giving her very good advise at the end of the day.

And she completely seemed to misread a lot of what you just explained, about what the British public wanted and were thinking about.

OAKLEY: Yes, the two advisors, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, have been gatekeepers for Theresa May. They've almost been an alternative government. Many ministers have complained they don't have access to Theresa May. They haven't been involved enough in the decision-making that has led to situations like this election.

There are calls for the heads of those two advisors. There are even rumors that least one of them has resigned.

The problem is how is Theresa May going to operate if she loses the two people who have been such a strong influence on her political career over the last few years?

The Conservative Party is in a state of total ferment at the moment. They're content to have Theresa May carry on as leader for the moment. They don't want to stage an immediate leadership election.

But nobody gives her more than two years. Many will give her perhaps only six months in the job. And what is absolutely certain, Paula, is that Theresa May will not lead the Conservative Party into the next general election. Her MPs just wouldn't have that.

NEWTON: It's such an incredible turn of events. Robin Oakley, we'll continue to follow this story with you throughout the day. Appreciate it.

Now U.S. President Donald 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. Our Jim Acosta has more.

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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 --

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ACOSTA (voice-over): -- the campaign.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-MAINE), MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: 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.

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NEWTON: Now I spoke to political expert Larry Sabato earlier about Mr. Trump's stalemate with Mr. Comey.

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LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: 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.

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.

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NEWTON: Important to note the congressional investigators have requested copies of Comey's memos as well as White House records of their conversations. That request includes the tapes that Mr. Trump tweeted about -- if they exist.

Coming up, Donald Trump taking credit for a diplomatic crisis that has isolated Qatar. We'll tell you about his new message for Doha.

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NEWTON: British police have arrested two more men in connection --

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NEWTON: -- with the London Bridge terror attacks. The suspects, age 27 and 28, have been arrested at separate locations in East London. They're being detained under Britain's Terrorism Act. Several other men are also in custody as authorities continue to

investigate the case. Police are also asking the public for help in learning more about these pink ceramic knives and this van used in last Saturday's attack.

They are releasing images as well of wine bottles, blow torches and a number of office chairs and a suitcase found just outside that van.

Now the United States appears to be sending conflicting signals on the diplomatic crisis involving Qatar. On Friday, President Donald Trump instead urged Doha to stop funding terrorism. Qatar denies any involvement. Here's our Jomana Karadsheh with more.

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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.

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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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: It's important to know that, in the coming hours, Qatar's foreign minister will meet with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow has promised to help mediate the dispute.

Now coming up, deadly wildfires leave a devastating aftermath in a South African coastal town. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam will be here with the details after the break. You don't want to miss this; the video and the stills are absolutely incredible.

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NEWTON: Now residents of a popular coastal town in South Africa are assessing the damage after deadly fires tore through the region this week. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is here with the details.

And, again, I keep saying this but it's just devastating when you see exactly --

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NEWTON: -- the damage from these wildfires.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you hear a lot of stories. It really hit home for me personally because I have friends who have lost homes within these fires as well, several of my friends. So I think it's important that we bring attention to what's going on.

They are picking up the pieces after devastating fires, which you can see right here. The region declared a disaster zone.

This is the south coast of South Africa. Windy conditions are going to increase that fire risk once again today. This is all really a consequence of the 100-year drought that we have touched on over the past several weeks. Dams and reservoirs have dried up across the Western Cape in South Africa.

This is the latest information we have regarding the fires and the storm that moved through: nine fatalities. We're including a firefighter that has recently died from also their active attempts to put out these blazes.

I talk about how the winds have become extremely strong over the south coast. This is a local phenomenon called a berg wind. It's also compared to that of a Santa Ana wind in Southern California. Hot, dry air streaming down a mountainside helps fuel the flames that caused the devastation in Knysna, just outside of the Plettenberg Bay region.

Anyone who's actually visited this part of South Africa knows that it's extremely beautiful, a very popular tourist destination. It's called the Garden Route; 70,000 people actually call this place home, including the Knysna area and, again, about 10,000 of them had to evacuate their homes.

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VAN DAM: At the moment we still have our level 4 water restrictions in Cape Town. Anyone who lives there knows exactly why we have this, because less than 10 percent of water remains in our reservoirs. That's to actually bring water to about 4 million people.

So what can you do to help?

Well, if you're located in South Africa and watching this broadcast, well, you know there are several, several dropoff and donation centers that are accepting nonperishable food items, toiletries, blankets, clothes, water. It's a simple Google search. Go on Knysna Wildfire Donation Centers and you'll find those locations and you can help some of the fellow South Africans who have been impacted by this tragedy.

NEWTON: All right, Derek, and I know you'll continue to follow this story.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. I'll be back in just a moment with the headlines.