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Ohio Voters Given Opinion on Comey Hearings, Calling Trump a Liar; South Korean Military Targets Gay Soldiers; Tropical Storm Threatens Hong Kong & China; Kevin Spacey Hosts 71st Tony Awards with Help from Friends. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired June 12, 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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[02:00:41] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We are live from CNN world headquarters this hour. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church. Thanks for joining us. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

More riveting testimony in the Russia investigation could be coming up this week on Capitol Hill. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has offered to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.

HOWELL: Sessions is skipping a different hearing on the Justice Department's budget that same day. His appearance comes after reports said that he offered to resign over tensions with the president, Donald Trump, about his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

CHURCH: Athena Jones reports final details of Sessions' appearance haven't been worked out just yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. It's going to be up to the Senate Intelligence Committee to decide whether to allow Attorney General Sessions to testify on Tuesday and whether to have that session be open to the public or closed to the public. According to reporting by my colleague Manu Raju, this request by Sessions to testify caught the committee by surprise. That's why we haven't gotten immediate definitive answers about their plans.

We also know from Manu's reporting that there are some on the committee who are concerned that Sessions may be trying to avoid testifying publicly. Among those concerned is the vice chairman of the committee, the top Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, of Virginia. Another Democrat on the committee who is concerned about this is Oregon's Ron Wyden. Wyden has sent a letter to the chairman and vice chairman of the committee asking that any session with Sessions be open to the public. And of course, we know that there are a lot of questions that

congressional investigators have for the attorney general when they do get a chance to question him. Among them, we would expect them to touch on Sessions' involvement in the firing of James Comey as FBI director. We know that Comey has said he believes he was fired because of his handling of the Russia investigation. And of course, Sessions was supposed to have recused himself from the Russia investigation.

So that is just one of many questions we expect congressional investigators to have for the attorney general. But the main question right now is when he'll testify and whether we'll be able to watch it.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Athena Jones, thank you.

The U.S. president still lashing out at the former FBI Director James Comey for his Senate testimony. He's lashing out on Twitter. Quote, "I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal, question mark. Very cowardly, exclamation point," he says.

CHURCH: Comey testified he leaked memos of his conversations with the president hoping it would trigger the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Russia probe.

At least one Republican believes the president should focus his attention elsewhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop talking inappropriately about an investigation that, if you just were quiet, would clear you. My advice to the president is that every day you're talking about Jim Comey and not the American people and needs and their desires and their hopes and their dreams, you're making a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: To talk more now about the political week ahead is Ellis Henican, a political analyst and the author of the "Trump's America" column for "The Metro Papers."

Ellis, a pleasure to have you with us this hour.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST & AUTHOR, TRUMP'S AMERICA COLUMN, THE METRO PAPERS: Thank you.

HOWELL: So the attorney general plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but the big question now, will it be private or public? Regardless, he will face some serious questions about whether there might have been a third encounter with Russian officials, an encounter that he didn't disclose. How serious is this for Jeff Sessions?

HENICAN: Serious. He had a rough week last week. Reports of disputes with the president, James Comey hinting darkly about other connections that the attorney general may have had with the probe of Russian hacking of last year's election. And you're right. Now some fresh hints about yet another meeting with this Russian ambassador that maybe the A.G. had forgotten to mention. So a rough, tough last week and maybe a rougher one this week.

[02:05:01] HOWELL: Through James Comey's testimony last week, it became clear these questions about whether Jeff Sessions is able to stand up to his boss according to Comey's testimony.

HENICAN: Well, it is true. You know, there's a lot of finger- pointing on that. The Trump camp are calling Comey a coward. Others wondering whether Sessions has the gumption to stand up to Donald Trump. Don't forget the attorney general and the president seemed so close just a couple of months ago. He was the first Senator to be in favor of Donald Trump during the election. He seemed to be leading the charge for tougher immigration laws. But, boy, that has sure evaporated amid all the talk of Russia.

HOWELL: You mentioned that branding from the president. He took to Twitter, branding Comey as cowardly over the weekend. Millions watched this testimony of James Comey. And what are the optics, is the question to you. What are the optics if this comes down to a simple "he said/he said" between the president and his former FBI director, and who do you believe?

HENICAN: Well, I got to tell you, I mean, I think the evidence shows that Comey, despite some controversial aspects of some of his decisions, is a man who has struck most people as having a fair amount of integrity. The president, you know, that's a bit of a more complicated question. So I think if it's mano-a-mano between the two of them, Comey, in the end, may come out on top.

HOWELL: There are a couple of different investigations going right now. There's the question about whether there was collusion between Russian officials and the Trump administration or Trump transition team. There's also the investigation into whether the president himself obstructed justice. So several different angles that are going through here. But as we see Jeff Sessions step in to testify here, what are the big takeaways? What are you looking for?

HENICAN: Well, I mean, you want to hear his answers to the questions about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. You want to know about the details of his interaction with the president. And you want to know, did he see anything or pick up any vibes about the president trying to end this investigation of General Flynn and others who may have been colluding with the Russians? Sessions was in a position to know about a lot of that stuff. Boy, it sure would be nice to know what's going on in his head just about now.

HOWELL: Ellis, last question to you here. So the president has been very coy about whether or not tapes exist, whether he would have recorded some of the conversations that he had in the Oval Office. We understand now that members of the House Intelligence Committee, they want those tapes, if they do exist. So if they do exist, how big of a problem could this be for the 45th president, or could this in fact help him?

HENICAN: Well, everybody wants them, not just the Congress but Bob Mueller, the special counsel, wants them, and media. I'd sure like to get my ears around those tapes.

To me, what's interesting is not only the potential Comey conversations, if the tapes exist, but what else was taped? Wouldn't you love to hear a second-by-second report of what's going on inside all these conversations with the new president? I think they'd be very revealing, if they exist. Big emphasis on if.

HOWELL: As history is a guide, sometimes tapes don't work out well. We'll have to see if the tapes exist, and do these either help or hurt the president.

Ellis Henican, it's good to have you with us.

HENICAN: Good seeing you.

CHURCH: Well, President Trump could soon face new legal troubles. The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia say they will announce a lawsuit against the president on Monday.

HOWELL: According to "The Washington Post," they claim he accepted millions of dollars in payments and benefits from foreign governments through his businesses after taking office. That would violate anti- corruption clauses in the Constitution.

CHURCH: The president said, in January, he would turn over management of his business assets to his sons to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

The British prime minister's office says there has been no change to the invitation from Queen Elizabeth to U.S. President Donald Trump. "The Guardian" reported he was planning to delay a state visit to the U.K. The White House also denies the report. It claims Mr. Trump was uneasy over his perceived unpopularity in Britain.

HOWELL: Opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had this to say on Twitter, "Cancellation of President Trump's state visit is welcome, especially after his attack on London's mayor and withdrawal from the Paris climate deal."

CHURCH: Well, President Trump made a visit to his New Jersey golf club over the weekend, and he even dropped in on a couple's wedding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looking good, Donald.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah! (CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, where's your red hat?

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, where's your red hat?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking good, baby.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:10:15] HOWELL: The crowd there didn't seem to mind. But this is the same golf club that was in the spotlight recently after "The New York Times" report the it was advertising a possible presidential wedding appearance in sales brochures. The club's spokeswoman says the brochure has been discontinued.

CHURCH: British Prime Minister Theresa May is fighting to stay in power after the snap election backfired on her. Why a former top official says she's now a dead woman walking.

HOWELL: And later, the diplomatic showdown that has left Qatar isolated. We'll tell you how Iran is now getting involved, as CNN NEWSROOM continues.

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[02:14:49] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. The British Prime Minister Theresa May is fighting to stay in power after the snap election that really backfired on her last week. Mrs. May made a few changes to her cabinet, and now she will try to reassure party members who are furious. They're so angry that they lost their majority in parliament.

CHURCH: The prime minister is negotiating with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to form a working majority. Critics are calling on Mrs. May to resign, but she says she is pressing on with the job and plans to serve a full term.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There is a job to be done, and I think what the public wants is to ensure that the government is getting on with that job. I've appointed cabinet ministers today. I'll be meeting with my cabinet tomorrow. On Tuesday, I will be going to France for meetings with President Macron. These are important in getting on with our preparations for the Brexit negotiations, but also dealing with the challenges that people see in their everyday lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Some speculated Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was planning to challenge Mrs. May as leader of the Conservative Party. But Johnson now says he fully backs the prime minister.

HOWELL: Following this story, CNN's Oren Liebermann, live outside Number 10.

Good to have you with us, Oren, this hour.

We've seen a cabinet shuffle. We've seen Theresa May's close advisers resign after what has been branded in the press there as a disastrous election campaign. Will these changes be enough for her to regain support from members of her own party who felt that she wasn't listening to them in the first place?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems in the short term, at least the very short term, it will be enough to keep her in downing street, to keep her in power. That's because one of her rivals, as pointed out, Boris Johnson, said he will not seek to replace her. That, at least at the moment, is a vote of confidence for her. It means she'll be here at least for the next few weeks. The question is how much beyond that. That, as you point out, is because of the disastrous results of the election. Her, forced to seek a very small party in Northern Ireland just to remain in power. That's why many here are predicting earlier elections, elections sooner rather than later. That includes Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who spoke with the BBC's Andrew Marr (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY: I think it's quite possible, quite possible there will be an election later this year or early next year, and that might be a good thing because we cannot go on with a period of great instability. We have a program. We have the support. And we are ready to fight another election campaign as soon as may be because we want to be able to serve the people of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMANN: The problem now is that May has to balance a number of competing interests within her own party and without to remain in power, to continue to govern. This instability comes at a critical time for her with Brexit negotiations only one week away. She may have to soften her hard Brexit approach, a Brexit focused on immigration, shift that approach to jobs and businesses to remain where she is and to keep governing for now. It seems she has that support, but for how much longer, George, that right now is the key question.

HOWELL: Let's go right into that question, Oren, because, again, we're just days away from these Brexit negotiations. Theresa May, we understand from the press association, is set to finalize, to have a meeting and finalize an agreement, a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP. But here's the question, will it be Theresa May at the table?

LIEBERMANN: It may very well be Prime Minister May at that table negotiating with Arlene Foster and the DUP to make this work. It doesn't look like it will be a coalition formation but support on a vote-by-vote basis. The problem is the support of the DUP, the Democratic Unionists from Northern Island, introduces a number of awkward positions and awkward pressures on Theresa May. First, the DUP is anti-gay and anti-abortion, which has made some of the liberals within the party uncomfortable. On top of that, there are power- sharing negotiations between Republicans and the Unionists in Northern Ireland. It was the U.K. that was impartial on these, but perhaps an agreement with the unionists makes that no longer tenable.

HOWELL: That would be the question obviously, any sort of alliance with the DUP would have broader implications throughout Northern Ireland.

Oren Liebermann, live outside Number 10 Downing, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about this is James Astill, the Washington correspondent for "The Economist."

Thank you so much for being with us.

So Theresa May has completed a cabinet reshuffle, but her rival, Jeremy Corbyn, of the Labour Party, seems to think there will be another election in the not too distant future. Just how tenuous is this new government, and do you think he's right?

JAMES ASTILL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ECONOMIST: Well, he is, and it is extraordinarily tenuous. She doesn't have a majority. It's not clear that she's nailed down an agreement with the DUP party to support important Tory legislation in the House of Commons. That's her ambition. We have to see that putative agreement nailed down.

Also, at the same time, there's great wresting within the Conservative Party. There's lots of M.P.s extremely unhappy with Theresa May for costing them their majority government, for humiliating the party, for reopening the wounds of the Brexit that ripples through the party intermittently, and now is rippling furiously just on the eve of the country beginning its negotiation to leave the European Union. So it's an absolute mess, which involves a great deal of political uncertainty.

[02:20:28] CHURCH: Yeah, and Prime Minister May, as you said, is still negotiating with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party. How likely is it that this will keep her conservatives in power, do you think?

ASTILL: Well, I think if the negotiations have been strung out to the extent that they have been, it's fairly clear that the DUP will be prepared to give some sort of commitment to supporting Tory legislation. What they're doing now is bargaining for the highest price that they can get. Expect lots of shiny new roads and hospitals and airports in Northern Ireland. I mean such is the color of British democracy right now. It's a hopeless situation for a country in need of fixity and stability, now more than ever, on the eve of this extraordinarily important negotiation to leave the European Union.

CHURCH: Yeah, and I want to talk to you about that because, of course, Prime Minister May says her government plans to focus on social issues and delivering a successful Brexit. But it's going to be difficult. It's going to be a rocky road, isn't it? What are some of the major challenges that face her new particularly?

ASTILL: Well, I'm deciding what she's going to ask for. This assumes, of course, that she can remain the prime minister, which is by no means certain. The general election that she called was, in effect, a demand for the country to support the very hardline Brexit vision that she had outlined, whereby the absolute priority to control immigration meant that Britains were going to be hardheaded about the evitable economic cost that would entail. Therefore, Theresa May was committed to leaving the European Customs Union, the European single market, as well as the E.U.

Now, the country has clearly rejected that hardline Brexit position, which is Theresa May's own position, given the importance that she attaches to the issue of immigration. The country was not behind her on this, and therefore, it remains to be seen how far she'll continue to push that hard line. Certainly, we see, right now, other voices within the conservative party, within her government, asserting themselves and saying, prime minister, this will not do. You don't have a mandate to push this absolutist view of Brexit, and the cost to the economy that would involve. Britains are not ready for that. They have not voted for that. They don't realize the tremendous compromises to the economy that would come with the vision of Brexit that you've outlined to any vision of Brexit.

So there's a discussion going on within the government, within the Tory Party to perhaps reassert the importance of the economy over the rather narrower issue of controlling the borders, which was very much Theresa May's own position on this.

CHURCH: Just very quickly, if Theresa May does not survive, what's plan B? Who is standing right behind her ready to step in?

ASTILL: Well, if she doesn't survive, it will be because she's brought down by a member of her own party. That assumes that she can stitch together some sort of unreliable agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, assuming that she can stitch together such an agreement, and yet she's brought down, it's because there was a leadership challenge from within the party. Everybody looks to Boris Johnson, the extraordinarily permanently ambitious and scheming, some Tory M.P.s believe, foreign secretary. I have my doubts that Boris Johnson is the man that the Tory Party would rally around just now. But there is a bit of a paucity of alternatives.

So I think that, in short, who that person could be would be very much determined by the terms of the Brexit negotiation that the Tory Party swung behind, whether this May vision, this hardline vision, that's get control over our borders and damn the cost, or the rather more pragmatic vision for Brexit, which has been outlined by such figures as Philip Hammond, saying we must do the minimal damage to the economy that we can get away with while leaving the European Union, which voters told us they wanted last year.

It's extraordinary. It is so dramatic. It is appalling that such enormous decisions of such consequence for Britain not only now, but in the next five years, but in the long term, over the next decades, are being sort of worked out on the fly by a party which doesn't have a majority for its government and has daggers drown on its own leader.

[02:25:19] CHURCH: James Astill, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. We'll watch very closely to see what happens.

ASTILL: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, Iran is promising to supply food to Qatar despite other gulf nations cutting off all diplomatic relations. Five planes packed with fresh vegetables arrived in Doha on Sunday. Tehran is also pledging daily fruit deliveries.

HOWELL: The blockade has led many Qataris to stock up on food. In the meantime, the Qatari government has hired the former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to handle its response in this diplomatic showdown.

CHURCH: The crisis started about a week ago when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism.

HOWELL: All the while, Doha denies the allegations, and over the weekend asked for an open dialogue to resolve the conflict.

Our Jomana Karadsheh takes a closer look for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The worst diplomatic crisis in decades hit one of the Arab world's most stable regions after years of simmering tensions. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, in a coordinated move, severed ties with Qatar. Several other countries, including Egypt, joined the anti-Qatar campaign.

The reason, they said, was Qatar's destabilizing impact on the region to its support of terrorist organizations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever is being thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation.

KARADSHEH: Qatar rejected the accusations as baseless and unjustified. Qatar says it is the victim of a coordinated campaign of misinformation, and the crisis being triggered by a hack of its state news agency last month. (on camera): Quotes attributed to this country's leader appeared on

the state news agency's website on May the 24th, praising Iran and Hezbollah, criticizing its neighbors and President Trump. U.S. investigators confirmed the hack, and an FBI team was sent to Doha to investigate.

(voice-over): Some also believe that President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia last month may have been the real catalyst for this crisis, emboldening countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia to use his call for combating terrorist funding as a pretext to settle regional scores.

President Trump in a series of tweets on Tuesday, not shying away from taking credit for the isolation of one of America's key allies in the region. Qatar is home to an air base, an important staging area for the fight against ISIS, and where more than 11,000 U.S. troops are based.

Throughout the past week, diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait were under way to try and resolve the crisis. And this weekend, Qatar's foreign minister meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow. This, as the U.S. continued to send mixed messages.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We call on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar. There are humanitarian consequences to this blockade.

KARADSHEH: Just a short time after this statement from America's top diplomat, the president yet again singling out Qatar.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level. So we had a decision to make. Do we take the easy road, or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism.

KARADSHEH (on camera): Backed into a corner with mounting pressure from its neighbors enforcing a blockade and shunned by allies like the U.S., Qatar may have very few options out of this crisis, forcing it to agree to long-fought concessions by the Saudi and Emirati alliance.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Doha.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: We'll take a very short break here. But still to come, he shocked the political system by winning the presidency. Now French president Emmanuel Macron takes aim at parliament. How his party did in first-round voting. That's still to come.

HOWELL: And a story about conflicting feelings. What President Trump's supporters think about the FBI director's testimony.

We're live from Atlanta. Across the United States and around the world this hour, this is CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:32:57] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: A very warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and, of course, all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm George Howell, with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

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CHURCH: We have more now on our top story. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is offering to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. It hasn't been decided whether that meeting will be open or closed to the public.

HOWELL: In the meantime, the president is still reacting to the former FBI director's testimony last week. He went to Twitter, quote, "I believe James Comey's leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal, question mark. Very cowardly, exclamation point," he says.

CHURCH: And as the debate rages in Washington over the fallout from Comey's testimony before Congress, we wanted to take the Pulse of voters elsewhere in the country.

HOWELL: The question here is what did they think of the hearings and Comey's accusations that the president is a liar?

Our Gary Tuchman spoke with a panel of voters from the state of Ohio, a state that Mr. Trump won.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[02:35:01] GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first thing I want to ask you, it is a crime when you testify before Congress to lie. That is perjury. You can go to prison for it.

Raise your hand if you believe James Comey lied at all.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN: Four of you believe he lied.

Raise your hand -- he says that Donald Trump, quote, "Told lies plain and simple." Raise your hand if you believe Donald Trump has lied at all about the situation.

None of you believe that.

For those of you who did not raise your hands, if neither person lied, how could that be possible they tell different things?

Who didn't raise their hand?

Why do you think if nobody lied, how could that have happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, first of all, things can be disported and appear like lies. And I think maybe the media might have distorted some things.

TUCHMAN: The media?

You raised your hand. Do you think Mr. Comey should go to jail?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that -- my impression of Comey at the beginning of this was that he was kind of an Elliott Ness kind of guy the way he went after Martha Stewart. But especially with his testimony today, he's more like an Ian Fleming, where he wants to be the next novelist. A lot of things he came up with seemed like he's more inclined to fiction.

TUCHMAN: One of the things he testified about, he said he was in a room with President Trump, President Trump told his attorney general and his son-in-law to get out. He says President Trump told him he hoped he would let it go, regarding the Flynn investigation. My question for you, a lot of people arguing, hope, that means he didn't order him. If your superior or your boss, or when you're little, if your parent says they hope you do something, isn't that an imperative that you do it, or is that not necessarily an imperative?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been manipulated by the Clintons, too, when Lynch told him to overlook the meeting with --

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: Let me just talk about -- look, Hillary Clinton, right now is not president. I'm talking about this situation. When he has told -

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: You don't think Comey is telling the truth about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

TUCHMAN: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Mr. Comey should have said something at that time.

TUCHMAN: Should have said something to who? Mr. Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To Mr. Trump.

TUCHMAN: What should he have said to Mr. Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot do that. I have to go on with investigations, et cetera.

TUCHMAN: Be honest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was never asked why I didn't think he was being truthful, but he didn't adequately explain why he couldn't just tell Trump that this is inappropriate, or tell the chief of staff or DOJ to tell Trump. He continued on with that, and he couldn't adequately explain that. That's why I feel the whole thing was wrapped a --

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: Mr. Comey says he believes he was fired because the Russia investigation. Interestingly, Donald Trump has said, I fired him because of Russia. Is there a problem with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't have a problem with that.

TUCHMAN: Why isn't there a problem with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a problem with that. First of all, Mr. Trump represents the United States of America. President Trump is our president, and he sets a standard for everything. And when he --

TUCHMAN: Let me just say he had commented many times, according to the testimony, that he liked the job Mr. Comey was doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you try to be uplifting to your, quote, unquote, "employees." But also, he sent Mr. Comey several opportunities to be forthright and honest with him, forthcoming with some answers, and Mr. Comey kind of dropped the ball on this.

TUCHMAN: Let me ask you this before we go. I think I know the answer to this. A show of hands, how many of you feel better about Donald Trump, your president, after this hearing?

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: How many of you feel worse about Donald Trump?

I guess you all raised your hands the first time.

So you think that was a success for Donald Trump and not for Mr. Comey?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

(CROSSTAK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Gary Tuchman in a state the president won, the state of Ohio. It's interesting, Rosemary, to hear the differences. That is

certainly solid Trump country. You hear people who are in the corner of the president, another bubble of people who are more critical of the president. Just interesting to hear how different these universes are.

CHURCH: Yes, and how some people have changed when they voted for Trump.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

CHURCH: We will keep watching this and seeing how people's views develop.

HOWELL: The French President Emmanuel Macron is set for a huge victory in France in parliament. First-round voting was Sunday, and his young centrist party and its allies received 32 percent of the vote. They're now projected to get more than 400 seats in the lower House out of 577 available.

CHURCH: Mr. Macron's far-right rival in this year's presidential race didn't do as well. Marine Le Pen led voting in her constituency, but her National Front is projected to get fewer than 10 seats. She's urged supporters to turn out for the second round of voting next Sunday.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, one year on since a gunman opened fire inside the Pulse Nightclub. That gunman killing 49 people. How the city of Orlando is honoring the victims and their families.

[02:39:57] CHURCH: Plus, feeling dropped from a great height. Our exclusive interview with a South Korean soldier who says he's being targeted for his sexuality.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, South Korea's military isn't talking, but a gay sergeant is. In an exclusive interview, the soldier says he feels persecuted because of his sexuality.

HOWELL: Human rights groups accused South Korea's military of being -- of a bigoted hunt within its ranks.

Paula Hancocks has this report for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Protesters call it a homophobic witch hunt, targeting gay soldiers within South Korea's ministry. The military says that is not true and they're following the law.

Human rights groups say at least 32 soldiers have been charged since March when a video was posted on social media showing two male soldiers having sex, sparking a military investigation. Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea. Homosexual activity is

illegal within the military, punishable by up to two years in prison. All men have to serve around two years within the military as part of the conscript system.

This soldier, we will call Sergeant A, has been charged for having sexual relations off base with a soldier from a different unit. He says he was interrogated by military investigators, some of the questions too sexually explicit to repeat on air.

"The atmosphere was very oppressive, very humiliating. They told me I had to give up my phone so they could copy the data. When I asked what would happen if I didn't give it to them, they said my unit would find out I'm gay."

Human rights group, Amnesty International, says the South Korean government has been slow to respect and protect the equal rights of LGBTI people in society at large, calling this military investigation a bigoted hunt.

"In a divided country," Sergeant A tells me, "I thought it was my responsibility to serve in the military. My sexual orientation has nothing to do with that."

The military and defense ministry declined our requests for interview, referring us to a statement from April which states, "To keep the military community sound, and given the special nature of military discipline, sexual relations with same-sex soldiers is being punished as disgraceful conduct under military law."

The head of the Military Human Rights Center for Korea accused the military of using gay dating apps to track homosexual soldiers down. He says the military punishing homosexual activity is medieval.

"Why is the military not punishing illegal action between heterosexuals," he asks, "like rape, assault, abuse? Why are they punishing consensual activities between homosexuals?"

[02:45:49] (on camera): One soldier has already been convicted of same-sex activity, given a suspended prison sentence, just last week, for violating the military penal code.

Sergeant A, for one, among others, is asking whether or not it would be better for the South Korean military to focus on an actual threat, like North Korea, rather than a perceived threat from within its own ranks.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: June is Gay Pride Month, and people around the world are celebrating. In the United States, there were dozens of marches, including the one you see here. Sunday's Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington. CHURCH: Buildings around the world lit up in solidarity. This is Tel

Aviv's city hall decked out in the colors of the rainbow. The Alberta legislative building also had a similar display. And the U.S. consulate in Mumbai is embracing the rainbow and equality.

HOWELL: This next story, a story that we certainly remember. It played out during these hours in Orlando, Florida. That city displaying rainbows for a very different reason. Monday marks one year since the Pulse Nightclub massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. 49 people were killed. This, when a gunman opened fire inside the gay nightclub. Dozens of people were wounded.

CHURCH: Cities around the world are expected to pay tribute. Pulse will open its doors in a ceremony to honor victims and their families.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott declared Monday Pulse Remembrance Day.

HOWELL: Switching now to weather. A rapidly developing tropical storm is threatening Hong Kong with strong wind and rain.

Our Meteorologist Derek Van Dam following the story -- Derek?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hello, George, Rosemary. This is on top of what has already been a tumultuous week of landslides and mudslides across central and southeastern China.

Take a look at the video behind me. You can see what they have had to contend with over the past few days. Now, it's almost the calm before the storm in Hong Kong. This is an image taken just a few hours ago by one of our viewers. You can see some of the puffy cumulus clouds in the distance. Everything is fine, right? Unfortunately, not. Within the next eight to 10 hours, we do anticipate the winds to pick up and the precipitation to pick up. It will become rather uncomfortable, especially right around midnight local time in Hong Kong. We have the annual plum rains that have brought us the flooding over the past 48 hours, but also now we have this rapidly developing tropical storm in the South China Sea. That will make landfall again within the next 10 hours, about 100 kilometers just to the east of the city of Hong Kong. And we have winds of 75 kilometers per hour with this storm. It could potentially intensify further just before making landfall, again around midnight local time. So we'll keep a close eye on that. As this system moves inland, it dissipates but still is a big rain maker. So flooding, landslides and mudslides will be a threat going forward for eastern China over the next 24 to 48 hours.

The other big story here is in the United States. The big-time heat that has been plaguing the eastern seaboard, including New York City. We have the potential to break 15 record highs, including New York City. And with this heat comes a very stagnant air mass. We have an area of high pressure that works to actually trap the heat. We get this radiation comes off the ground, but it also traps the pollution, unfortunately, across some of these major cities and that is where we get the stagnant air mass. That can become very dangerous for people sensitive to that type of thing like asthmatics or perhaps children or the elderly. Look at these temperatures for the nation's capital. We broke record highs yesterday, and it continues to warm from here. But big changes in store for the second half of the week as the mercury in the thermometer starts to take a nosedive. It is June, right?

CHURCH: Yep.

(LAUGHTER)

HOWELL: Don't like it.

CHURCH: Thanks so much, Derek.

HOWELL: We appreciate it.

CHURCH: We'll talk again next hour.

VAN DAM: OK.

[02:49:48] CHURCH: Broadway's biggest night, the 71st Annual Tony Awards brings song and dance to center stage. We will find out who went home with a Tony.

Back in a moment.

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CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the Pittsburgh Penguins are once again Stanley Cup champions. They beat the Nashville Predators, 2-0, Sunday night in game six of the NHL finals.

HOWELL: This is Pittsburgh's second straight title and their fifth in the franchise history. It's also the second year in a row Penguins star, Sidney Crosby, was named the playoffs most valuable player.

CHURCH: A lot of excitement there.

Well, what would Broadway's biggest night be without a little song and dance?

HOWELL: All right. So Host Kevin Spacey was among those who delivered.

CNN's Chloe Melas takes a look now at the Tony Award' biggest winners.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHLOE MELAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 71st Annual Tony Awards took New York City by storm live from Radio City Music Hall. Kevin Spacey was the host this year for the first time ever.

Now he kicked off the show with some jokes, a little bit of dancing, some singing, but he told the office he felt like he was the last choice to host the show. That's why he enlisted some help from his Hollywood pals, including Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, who is known to be a long-time host for the Oscars and things. He told him just put on a dress, and Kevin Spacey did it. Things seemed to go pretty well from there.

Now there were some big awards of the night. "Dear Evan Hansen" is a breakout musical this year, won several awards.

A lot of people are buzzing about Cynthia Nixon, who took the stage for her role in "The Little Foxes" when she won tonight, and she got political.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[02:55:26] CYNTHIA NIXON, ACTRESS: My love, my gratitude, and my undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELAS: It's one of the most talked-about speeches of the evening.

Now, Kevin Klein won an award for best leading actor in a play for "Present Laughter."

And Laurie Metcalf, after being nominated four times, finally won a Tony Award for best leading actress in a play for "A Doll's House, Part II."

Now, one of my favorite moments of the night came when James Earl Jones was given the lifetime achievement award, and he took the stage, and he thanked his wife and said that she looked dazzling.

The night did not disappoint, and definitely it seems like Kevin Spacey might be back to host again next year.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Love that man. Does a great job.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

CHURCH: I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell.

Stay with us. Another hour of NEWSROOM straight ahead for you. Be right back.

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