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New Special Counsel to Handle White House Responses; Russian American Lobbyist Attended 2016 Meeting; Comey to Write a Book; French President Macron Hosts Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu; Turkey Marks One Year Since Attempt to Oust Erdogan; White House tries to Garner Support for Revives Health Care Bill; Lewis Hamilton in Pole Position at Silverstone; Federer Aims for Record Eighth Wimbledon Title; New Season of "Game of Thrones" Like a Sports Event?. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 16, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:07] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Bolstering his legal team. The U.S. president brings a new lawyer on board as the Russia investigation continues, threatening to paralyze his administration.

4:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Cyril Vanier. It's 10:00 a.m. in Paris where French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are paying their respects to victims of the holocaust.

Thanks for joining us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

HOWELL: Around the world, good day to you.

The U.S. President Donald Trump is spending the weekend at his resort in the state of New Jersey, taking the U.S. Women's Golf Open, watching that. But in Washington, his White House, it is in full battle mode, focused now on how to best manage the questions that have risen from the 2016 meeting of the president's eldest son and a Russian lawyer.

One response has been this. A veteran attorney Ty Cobb has been brought in to help manage the turmoil which is threatening to derail the president's agenda in Congress. All the while the Senate vote on Republican healthcare that has again been delayed this time because of Senator John McCain. He's in Arizona recovering from surgery. Republicans need every vote that they can get so they will need to wait now until Mr. McCain returns to Washington.

Bringing in a heavy hitter like Ty Cobb as White House special counsel shows just how the stakes have risen for the Trump administration.

We get more now from CNN's Boris Sanchez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The name of the new attorney added to the White House's legal team is Ty Cobb. He's a powerful Washington, D.C. defense attorney who's handled some pretty high- profile clients in the past including defending two officials with connections to the Clinton White House. He's also defended major corporations and ex-CIA officer. He's someone with a lot of experience defending white-collar crime.

He's actually a former federal prosecutor and up until taking this job at the White House, he was a partner at Hogan and Levels, a powerful D.C. law firm. He is expected to now oversee the White House response to the Russia investigation not only legally but also in the press. He's trying to manage the White House response to a story that has created quite a cloud, an impediment almost to the Trump agenda.

Now friends of Ty Cobb's including CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin say that he is a shrewd smart attorney. Listen.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One is they're bringing in Ty to try to replicate in some sense what Clinton did during his problems, which is to create a legal war room in the White House Counsel's Office to deal with this on a day-to-day basis and you see Abby Lowell coming in to represent Jared Kushner.

Abby is a well-known criminal lawyer, represented John Edwards recently in his problems, and so you see the shifting in legal representation. Jamie stays in as the ethics person, Jimmy Gorelick stays in as the ethics person. Abby comes in front and center on the criminal side so people are becoming more sensitive to the fact that this is a criminal investigation. It is not a hoax. It is not a witchhunt. It is a serious legal matter and they are beginning to take the first steps they should have taken months ago, probably, to recognize that the jeopardy that they're potentially in.

SANCHEZ: In another bit of legal news related to the White House and the Trump family, according to an FEC filing, the committee to reelect President Trump paid $50,000 to the legal firm that is now representing Donald Trump Junior about two weeks before that "New York Times" story broke regarding a meeting between Donald Trump Junior and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower.

CNN has not been able to confirm whether or not that payment was made specifically for legal representation for Donald Trump Junior. In fact the filing cites that it is for legal consulting.

Now CNN has reached out to the Trump family and to that law firm, but we have yet to hear back.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Boris Sanchez, thank you.

One of the people at that meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer was a Russian-American lobbyist who once served in the Soviet military power.

Our Jim Sciutto has more now on that from Washington. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, included more people beyond the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a source familiar with the circumstances tells CNN. Russian-American lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, told several media outlets that he was also in the meeting.

Akhmetshin told reporters for "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" that he is a veteran of the Soviet army. In a March letter to the Justice Department, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley described Akhmetshin as "Someone with ties to Russian intelligence. Someone alleged to have conducted political disinformation campaigns as part of a pro-Russia lobbying effort."

[04:05:15] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Plainly this Russian attorney, this other third party, if they were present, they were there to both deliver a message, as well to receive a message. And plainly Moscow understood only too well that this is conduct that the Trump campaign would really appreciate.

SCIUTTO: Akhmetshin denied any intelligence links to the "Washington Post," saying, quote, "At no time have I ever worked for the Russian government or any of its agencies. I was not an intelligence officer. Never."

He also told the "Post," he was born in Russia and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. Akhmetshin's lobbying effort which he did on behalf of the Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya, was aimed at repealing the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russians accused of human rights abuses. A complaint filed against him with the Department of Justice claimed that effort was on behalf of the Kremlin.

He has also been accused, according to court papers filed in New York in 2015, of hacking on behalf of one company into the computer systems of a rival company to steal confidential information in a business dispute.

The company, IMR, withdrew the accusation soon after without providing a reason. In an earlier related case, he denied a similar accusation saying in an affidavit, quote, "I am not a computer specialist and I am not capable of hacking."

(On camera): In addition to his lobbying work, Akhmetshin was well known in Washington for being connected to very powerful people in Russia, both in the business world there and in government. And one more note, though he was born in Russia then the Soviet Union, he emigrated to the U.S. and is now a U.S. citizen. And as a U.S. citizen he can be subpoenaed to testify before the investigating committees on a Hill.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jim, thank you for the report.

The former FBI director James Comey is putting pen to paper now to write a new book. That book will detail his experiences in public service. Comey was heading up the investigation as you'll member into alleged -- allegations, rather, between the Trump campaign and Russia. That is until he was abruptly fired in May by the president.

Our Brian Stelter talked to CNN's Ana Cabrera about Comey's upcoming memoir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: He's going out actually pitching the book and he's probably going to have the deal in the next few days. This is going to get interest from all the big publishing houses. You think about James Comey and the story he may be able to tell according to the "Times" is not just going to be a tell-all. This is going to a bigger book about his entire life's work, his career, and the big moments he has faced decisions in his career.

But all it takes is a few pages or a few chapters about what happened with President Trump to get publishing houses very interested. So it's sort of a no-brainer move by him, but up until now we haven't heard anything about a book deal. He'll be out shopping this now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Brian Stelter speaking with Ana Cabrera.

The White House said Comey was fired because President Trump lost confidence in the former FBI director.

As we mentioned, the White House has hired a special counsel to help manage the fallout from the Russia investigation. The ongoing turmoil is overshadowing Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obama care, which again has hit a snag in the Senate.

Let's get some context on all of this with Scott Lucas. Scott live for us in Birmingham, England. He teaches international politics at the University of Birmingham.

It is good to have you with us, Scott, this hour. So let's talk about the White House hiring a new high-powered attorney to help manage the possible legal questions and the perceptions that are coming from this controversy regarding the president's son.

On one hand the White House officials there will say hey, there's nothing to it. But at the same time they are clearly sharpening their strategy.

Scott, your thoughts.

SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: They're rearranging the deck chairs. Because remember they declared two months, about the time of the firing of James Comey and the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller that they were setting up this war room of lawyers that are now going to get control of the story.

And you may remember that it was supposed to be Marc Kasowitz, the president's personal attorney who was going to handle this and push back on all the negative media stories. But what has happened is that Kasowitz has been pushed aside probably because he's been seen as ineffective.

Jamie Gorelick, Jared Kushner's personal lawyer, has been pushed aside again because they're not happy with what's happening and they bring in other lawyers like Ty Cobb and it's like, OK, this time we're going to get it right.

The problem is, is that they now have an added layer of difficulty. It's not just James Comey's revelations, it's not just the special counsel's investigation, it's now the furor over the confirmed meeting between Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort with high-level Russian envoys. And that means that the hurdle has just risen even higher for these lawyers to deal with both in terms of the political and criminal implications.

[04:10:03] HOWELL: So when it comes to these issues regarding Mister Trump's son, the FOX News network here in the United States, it has taken a more supportive, friendlier stance toward the Trump administration, especially the morning and evening shows with its conservative hosts making the distinction, of course, between the journalists at FOX News who do the work of journalism covering the news.

But it has been notable that the conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer recently suggested that the e-mail release that is evidence of collusion and then there was this from FOX News anchor and journalist, Shep Smith. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Why is it lie after lie after lie? If you're clean, come out clean. You know. My grandmother used to say when first we practiced -- what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

The deception, Chris, is mind boggling, and there are still people out there who believe we're making it up. And one day they're going to realize we're not, and look around and go, where are we and why are we getting told all these lies?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: He says, yes, you know, clearly, we're not making it up. These are just the facts that we report.

Despite all of that, though, Mister Trump face, Scott, are they easily condensed even hearing this from the journalist at FOX News?

LUCAS: Well, first of all on the media game. We'd like to start with FOX, but if you talk about the commentary, there is a division now amongst Trump-supporting outlets, and that is, it wasn't just Shepard Smith at FOX News who was saying this. He was talking to Chris, one of the sharpest journalists, who was agreeing with Shepard Smith, and then said I can't answer this, I can't understand why this keeps happening.

So there is a division between those who are journalists at some of these outlets and those who were more like polemicists, commentators like, let's name them, Tucker Carlson or Trump family friend Sean Hannity.

The reality is, is that I think there is a minority of Americans who will always back Trump from hell or high water. I think that the political answer is so polarized they will treat any revelation of facts as being an attack on the president.

But it becomes more difficult even to mobilize that minority when the evidence becomes so substantial. And I think we're waiting for the big thing. Remember this is just the opening act, what we're hearing in the past week about Trump Junior and Jared Kushner. The main event comes when Special Counsel Mueller reveals his evidence, and this may be months from now.

And when that comes out, then you have the barrier for even those who support Trump which is, do they want to try to sweep all of that away.

HOWELL: All right. A lot of the things happening here. Take a look here, Scott, at the latest "Washington Post"-ABC News poll that came out. It shows the president's present approval rating. The most recent snapshot of it. And basically what we're seeing here the president's approval rating down. It was 42 percent, now down to 36 percent. His disapproval rating now at 58 percent.

Keep that in context here, Scott, because now we're talking about the healthcare bill. That has been delayed obviously because of Senator McCain but putting this in the context for Republican president, a Republican legislature, Republicans on this -- you know, in the House and in the Senate who have this job to do to get this repeal and replace done, as Tom Foreman said in a piece, it's right there in front of them. But they haven't done it yet.

LUCAS: I think this is a critical two, three weeks because as important as the Trump-Russia affair might be, it's hard to understand. And for most Americans, the issues are what's going to happen to me economically? Am I going to be covered with healthcare? What's going to happen with my job?

Now if the Republicans fail for a second time to get a version of the healthcare bill through the Senate, and remember that Mitch McConnell has delayed the recess by two weeks in August. If they cannot get a majority, this effectively shows a paralysis on the basis not only of the White House but also the GOP leadership, and then you have to talk about, well, can they get a budget through in September when they have to deal with the fact that emergency funding runs up.

And if they can't do that, you have a government that has no close at that point. And even if you're a Trump supporter, if you're in uncertainty about your job, about the economy, about whether you can see a doctor, that's what really shakes things up. I think that actually will be the Achilles' heel of Trump rather than Russia over the next few months.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas with context, we always appreciate you here on NEWSROOM. Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on the show, Turkey marks one year now since the failed coup attempt. What its president is threatening to do to coup plotters. You want to hear this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SPORTS)

[04:18:28] VANIER: Fresh off hosting the U.S. president, French President Emmanuel Macron is said to welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Paris. France and Israel are marking the anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv. 75 years ago during World War II, French authorities arrested some 13,000 Jews in and around Paris under orders from the Nazis who occupied this part of France. They were rounded up and eventually deported to concentration camps. Very few of them survived and that includes the 4,000 plus children.

A short time ago, at the Velodrome d'Hiver, President Macron arrived. He's going to be attending -- he's going to be commemorating the event, marking a minute of silence for the victims. And Mr. Netanyahu will be with him shortly and they are both set to also attend the ceremony at the -- in Central Paris a little later on today marking this event.

Regis Le Sommier joins me now. He's the deputy editor-in-chief of "Paris Match" magazine.

Regis, first of all, for our international audience and even as we watch these live pictures, I think we need to remind people that this is one of the darkest chapters of French history and that the French state has had a lot of trouble over the years acknowledging it.

REGIS LE SOMMIER, DEPUTY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "PARIS MATCH" MAGAZINE: Well, this is one of the many dark events that happened during World War II and especially during the occupation here. But let me say about the Vel d'Hiv, especially the city of the Vel d'Hiv, that for a long time, the French authorities and especially the French president said it was made under the order of the Nazi and the French had nothing to do.

So the full responsibility was not -- did not belong to the French until Jacques Chirac decided to go one step further, hence we recognize the full responsibility of the French because the Nazis had ordered to wrap up the number of people but not -- not that many/ They didn't order the children to be with them. And that was the initiative of the French police back then who decided to go beyond. So this is very dark. It is a dark Franco French, you know, it -- it

was in the burden for French for at least over 50 years.

VANIER: And today the official name of the ceremony is actually for -- is officially for victims of the French state. So now that -- I mean, now that it's out there and it's been out there and stated that way for a little under 30 years now.

Let's talk politics. Emmanuel Macron, Benjamin Netanyahu meeting for the very first time. Emmanuel Macron met Donald Trump a few days ago. It seems that he is really trying to speak to every world leader and establish France's diplomacy on the world stage.

LE SOMMIER: That's right. Here we have a newcomer versus an old crocodile, which means -- I mean, Putin he -- Macron met Putin before. We have to -- and you know, in Paris, in (INAUDIBLE) Castle, then he welcomed Donald Trump. Now he's doing -- you know, so of course Macron is trying to boost French, you know, on -- new face as a world power. You know, he wants to put French back in the circle of influential powers.

He wants to boost his credibility, you know, as a strong leader. And I think he's shown some -- some skills in obtaining the beast including Putin and Trump. Now will that work with Netanyahu? That remains to be seen because Netanyahu is a tough case. You know both his predecessor, Hollande and Sarkozy, tried to do the same thing.

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: They had trouble with him --

LE SOMMIER: They had trouble with both of them. And he's being very -- a lot of inflexibility on many, many issues.

VANIER: On the Middle East peace process, do we know what Mister Macron wants?

LE SOMMIER: Well, we've seen some major shift in the French political, diplomatical, and especially regarding Syria. Macron said no more Bashar al-Assad must go for policy, which is totally new.

VANIER: Yes. France has totally reversed its diplomatic stance on that.

LE SOMMIER: Definitely. And they say they wanted to work closely with the Russians. Now we know that the Russians have an influence in -- you know, in Syria. We also know that the Iranians are in Syria and I think that's one of the main point Netanyahu will try to see if his, you know, counterpart has changed on, is this issue of the Iranian influence in the area.

The Iranian is very powerful -- Iran is very powerful in Syria right now. About a month ago, for the first time, they tested ballistic missile against ISIS in Syria so that's -- for the Israeli, that's a threat directly. And will the new French political stance on the Middle East means working more with Iran? That's what Netanyahu will try to see with Macron. And if Macron is changing and the French have changed on that particular issue.

VANIER: But what about specifically about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? France -- and this has got be noted, France has long held the ambition of being a key player on this particular issue.

LE SOMMIER: That's right.

VANIER: I mean, just earlier this year, the previous French president, Francois Hollande, he gathered an international conference, representatives from over 70 countries and by the way Benjamin Netanyahu did not like that at all. He did not attend. He saw it as meddling and he saw it as interference.

LE SOMMIER: Yes.

VANIER: What is this French president --- do we know what he thinks on this issue?

LE SOMMIER: Well, don't know yet. And that's the -- that's what another issue that will Netanyahu will try to see where Macron stands on. The particular problem with the predecessor of Macron, he tried to internationalized the issue, making -- bringing more people in the conversation and that's what the Israelis didn't like.

Now there has to be a move. We know that Macron would probably make a case for a two-state solution. Netanyahu knows that. Now where does Macron stand? Will he stand against the further colonies? Will he stand on -- you know, where does he stand on the Palestinian issue? We have to remind the viewer that Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed first.

VANIER: Absolutely.

LE SOMMIER: You know, not so long ago by Macron. So there's a number of things that needs to be seen. And you know it's the first round maybe of talks and we'll see if Netanyahu himself is able to evolve because he hasn't -- you know, shown much well, to change in the past years or so.

VANIER: Certainly when he met with the French president in the past, the two French presidents as you mentioned, he hasn't been extremely flexible on this issue as should be expected perhaps.

[04:25:05] Regis Le Sommier from Paris Match, thank you very much for joining us on the show.

And there will be a joint press conference between the French president and the Israeli prime minister in the coming hour so we should find out a little bit more on where both men stand on these issues and we'll bring you that on CNN when it happens.

Now massive crowds have turned out across Turkey to mark one year since the failed coup attempt against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mister Erdogan made appearances in Istanbul and in Ankara, and he unveiled this monument in the capital for people killed during the coup attempt. Since then the president has led a massive crackdown. He says the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind that coup attempt and in Istanbul he promised no mercy for those that he says betrayed the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): We know who is behind these terrorists. However, there's also the fact that if you do not combat and fight against these pieces we cannot fight and overcome those who are meditating them. Therefore we are going to behead these traitors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: CNN's Arwa Damon was in Istanbul and she filed this report about how people are remembering last year's failed coup and the crackdown that followed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The bridge itself is absolutely packed. You can barely move up there. And people keep on arriving. Some of them carrying the photographs of those who died trying to stop the coup from taking place. Around 250 people lost their lives, standing up to the coup slaughters.

Turkish president's message throughout all of this has been that no one is going to divide this country. He's really been trying to rally the population around him. But at the same time, this does remain a very polarized nation because there is growing concern about the direction that the country is going and from those who opposed the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

And they are very concerned about the post-coup crackdown where tens of thousands of people were jailed by their -- accused of being directly involved or being members of the Gulenist movement. That is the movement that Turkey believes is behind or was behind this thwarted coup attempt.

Additionally, around 150,000 government employees have lost their jobs. People that worked at ministries within the judiciary. Journalists have also been jailed. So a lot of people, despite the show of force that we're seeing out on the streets on this day, do remain very concerned about what the future of their country is because, at this stage, no one knows exactly what is going to be happening next or what direction Turkey is going to take.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump is trying to get more support for healthcare reform but his key promise to repeal Obamacare is being delayed again.

We'll have more on that for you right after this break. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:31:36] HOWELL: 4:31 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we'll following for you.

This hour veteran Washington attorney Ty Cobb is joining the White House as special counsel. He'll oversee the legal and media response to the Russia investigations overshadowing the Trump administration. Cobb is a former federal prosecutor.

The former FBI director James Comey is writing a new book. It will detail his experiences in public service. Comey was heading up the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. That is until he was abruptly fired by the president in May.

In Senegal, at least eight people are dead after a football match that ended in violence. More than 40 others injured there, according to the Senegalese news agency fights broke out between fans, following a league cup final. Then as people tried to leave, a wall collapse, leading to a stampede.

France is marking the 75th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv, a Nazi directed mass roundup of thousands of Jews by the French police during World War II. Just a short time ago the French President Macron attended a minute of silence for the victims of that -- at a memorial. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is anticipated to arrive in Paris shortly.

A key promise from the U.S. Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare is once again delayed. A procedural vote on the revised Senate bill will be postponed now until after Republican Senator John McCain recovers from surgery to remove a blood clot. Republicans need Mr. McCain's vote to even begin a debate on the proposed legislation.

In the meantime the White House is trying to convince those skeptical of the Republican plan. President Trump is hoping to land a major legislative achievement before the Senate goes to recess in about a month.

Our Ryan Nobles has more from Washington, D.C.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Senate leadership and the White House are currently engaged in a high stakes campaign, rallying to get the 50 votes they need to get this health care reform passed.

(Voice-over): The White House and Senate leaders are making an aggressive push to convince Republican members to vote yes on their latest version of health care reform.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very, very close to ending this health care nightmare. We are so close.

NOBLES: As it stands right now two members, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, remain opposed to the plan.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It does not make sense to do a major rewrite of a vital entitlement program without having any hearings or consideration of the implications.

NOBLES: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot lose any more votes if he hopes to get the bill through.

The president, who has let McConnell take the lead in the day-to-day negotiations, is stepping up his public push to get the bill passed. He tweeted four times about health care Friday morning, writing, quote, "Republican Senators are working hard to get their failed Obamacare replacement approved. I will be at my desk, pen in hand."

Vice President Mike Pence made a similar pitch in a speech to the nation's governors.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump is going to lead this Congress to rescue the American people from the collapsing policies of Obamacare.

NOBLES: Trump is also working behind the scenes, spending part of his time in Paris making phone calls to GOP senators, including Senator Rand Paul, whose position has not changed.

[04:35:10] Many rank-and-file Republicans who remain undecided are waiting to hear from stakeholders back home before making up their minds.

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I hope that they wait and speak with their state leaders, as I will, over the weekend. I hope that they wait until they see the CBO score which doesn't come out until next week.

NOBLES: Republicans from states with governors who expanded Medicaid are under a special kind of pressure because this bill rolls back federal funding for the expansion.

Rob Portman of Ohio and Dean Heller of Nevada are both dealing with GOP governors unhappy with the plan. Nevada's Brian Sandoval met one- on-one with Pence but still has concerns.

(On camera): And even though the prospects for this bill do look dim right now, most Senators are still optimistic, even though they remain undecided. Much will hinge on the score from the Congressional Budget Office which is due out on Monday.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Ryan, thank you for the report.

A unique opportunity awaits many people tonight across parts of North America and Europe. The Northern Lights may dazzle you as far south as Glasgow, Oslo or even Chicago, Illinois. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is here to tell us more about that.

Derek, it's something I always wanted to see, haven't had a chance to see it.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOWELL: All right. Very important. Derek, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead on NEWSROOM this hour, can Roger Federer once again make history? As he prepares for the 11th Wimbledon Final.

Plus the homestretch. Britain's Lewis Hamilton will be sitting in the pole position at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, but can he go all the way?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:41:52] VANIER: Welcome back. Let's get to the sporting part of the show. Lots of sports today in Europe. In Formula One Lewis Hamilton hoping to thrill the home crowd in Sunday's British Grand Prix.

Amanda Davies is there with us for more on that.

Look, Amanda, you're going to tell me about the fans in just a second. But first, just the resilience of this man, of Lewis Hamilton. He had a tough week. And now he has bounced back and claim pole.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN WORLD SPORT: He has, Cyril. Welcome to the Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix. This is the main entrance which is -- I love the TV cameras and the snappers focused on there. The drivers has now arrived. We saw Fernando Alonso, the McLaren driver, arriving a little bit late. He was pretty much running through the turnstiles but now the celebrity as in all those who've been invited by the teams is really one of the highlights of the British if not international sporting calendar has started to arrive.

Michael Johnson, the four-time Olympic gold medal winning sprinter, has just arrived. The Kaiser chiefs are expected to be here a little bit later on. But yes, the focus is on what has been a spectacular battle so far this season on the track, hasn't it?

And as you mentioned the three-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton, has been under fire in the last couple of weeks, should we say? He was criticized for being the only driver in this paddock not to turn up to a big event in the center of London on Wednesday night. He's had some poor performances on the track in the recent weeks in Austria and Azerbaijan, but he responded in the way that he knows best and that is by doing his stuff on the track.

And he put in a fantastic lap in Saturday's qualifying session. Some pretty tough conditions. You might be able to see very, very gray skies here. It's been windy. It's been wet. It's kind of a bit of everything in true British weather form. It was a lap, though, that Lewis himself described as spectacular to

take that poll position. His fifth pole here at Silverstone. But he now needed it today in about four hours from now convert that pole into the top step of the podium because he really needs to start closing the gap at the top of the championship standing.

So all these titled arrival. Sebastian Vettel he's faced here in the red of Ferrari. But that is sometimes easier said than done and I spoke yesterday after the qualifying sessions, the 2009 world champion Jenson Button. He in all of his time 16 years in Formula 1 could not produce a victory here at Silverstone in front of his home fans. And he said he will be hoping that Lewis Hamilton will be able to do that later today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIES: And does it mean as a British driver, there's a bit of you that would like Lewis to win in front of the home fans tomorrow?

JENSON BUTTON, 2009 F1 WORLD CHAMPION: Yes, I mean, it's the first I've watched qualifying live ever. So it was nice to be out there when he got his pole and see the crowd and it's not just yay, he got pole. It has a lot of emotion in people's eyes and it's really good to see it. It's nice to see that love for the sport as a whole.

[04:45:03] But yes, having a British grand pole is great. But you need the guy that's behind it. You need Sebastian Vettel. Whether you love him or you hate him, you need him to make this championship special so it's good to see that he's out there as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIES: And that guy who is out there chasing Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, has just run in behind us with a big smile on his face. He is a four-time world champion and he has shown in recent that the gloves are very much coming off in this title fight. There is no love lost. It is real battle and he will not be giving up that lead in the championship standing without a fight. It promises to be a fantastic couple of hours here at Silverstone.

VANIER: Amanda Davies, good to speak to you. Thank you very much. We'll get updates from you throughout the day.

Now let's go to Wimbledon where newly crowned champion Garbine Muguruza says it was incredible to take on her idol, Venus Williams. And really it's just remarkable. A remarkable accomplishment for the Spanish star because just six weeks ago she was in tears after losing in the French Open.

And it also means that Williams has of course been denied her sixth Wimbledon title. She had been trying to become to the oldest winner of a major championship in the Open era.

Let's look ahead to the men's final. Roger Federer is aiming for a record eight trophies.

CNN tennis analyst Ravi Ubha joins us now from Wimbledon in southwest London.

Ravi, you're going to educate me. It wasn't that long ago that Federer appeared to be declining and now, now this, another Wimbledon final. What's behind this Federer renaissance?

RAVI UBHA, CNN TENNIS ANALYST: Well, Cyril, that's a good question. There was a time indeed when people thought, was he going to ever win another grand slam title? He hadn't won once in 2012 and then he wins the Australian Open. I think behind the renaissance obviously he's great. He's considered one of the best if not the best player of all time in the world of tennis. And number two I think he's been very smart in what he's been able to do in handling his body because he's got to be 36 next month and he took a very hard decision last year after Wimbledon to take six months off to get his body good, get his body fit after struggling with a knee injury last season.

And then he came back. He took another break this year. He missed the French Open so he could get ready for Wimbledon. I think all these decisions that he's made throughout his career always take a little break throughout seasons has really helped him when you combine that with the greatness that he exhibits on the court.

VANIER: So he's played some of his best tennis right there where you are. What's your prediction for this match?

UBHA: I think Federer definitely has -- I would say 60-40. He's playing someone called Marin Cilic. Federer is in his 11th Final. Cilic is in his first. So experience he does edged. And obviously he's playing so well on the grasses. His average time on court this year is only an hour and a half.

But I must say, Cyril, last year when they met in the quarter finals Cilic had three match points on Federer. And he's also beaten Federer at a grand slam in New York in 2014. I think outside the so-called Big 4 of, you know, Federer, Murray, Djokovic, Nadal, Cilic may be his most dangerous guy on the grass. You can make that argument. So I think it's going to be a close match but I think Federer has the edge. I'll say Federer in let's say four sets.

VANIER: Ravi Ubha, thank you very much for the heads up. We appreciate it.

We're going to leave the air for now. We're back right after the break. Stay with us.

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(SPORTS HEADLINES)

[04:52:29] HOWELL: Welcome back. In just a few hour's time, a television phenomenon will return to the screens and over the next few weeks fans will clear their schedules to catch "Game of Thrones" as it airs. But in the era of binge viewing, that sort of loyalty is remarkable.

Frank Pallotta has more on why fans treat "Game of Thrones" like a game.

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FRANK PALLOTTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Last summer millions of people tuned in to watch hometown hero reclaim victory in a winner-take-all battle, leading a group that for years knew nothing but brutal losses.

Wait, wait, wait, wait. I'm not talking about LeBron James. I'm talking about the king of the North, not the king of the NBA East. Jon Snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The king in the North.

PALLOTTA: But it's understandable that you would get the two mixed up because "Game of Thrones" is exactly that -- a game. And in this game --

LENA HEADEY, "GAME OF THRONES": You win or you die.

PALLOTTA: OK. Well, in professional sports, there's no trial by combat. But you get the idea. "Game of Thrones" unfolds just like life sports, pitting your favorite team against your enemies. You root for the Starks or the Lannisters just like you would root for the Cavs or the Warriors. You wear their colors, you know their team mottos.

PETER DINKLAGE, "GAME OF THRONES": A Lannister always pays his debts.

EMILIA CLARKE, "GAME OF THRONES": With fire and blood.

SEAN BEAN, "GAME OF THRONES": Winter is coming.

PALLOTTA: Tension ramps up as we get closer to the big battle at the end of the season that acts kind of like the show's championship bout.

CHRIS RYAN, THE RINGER: There's definitely the set pieces that you remember from big seasons of "Game of Thrones" battles, like the Battle of Black Water. Those are almost like championship games, especially as the season winds on. It feels like something -- like you're watching a final four game or you're watching a Stanley Cup match or watching a Super Bowl.

PALLOTTA: That is Chris Ryan from the Ringer, along with his colleague, Andy Greenwald. They are the biggest "Game of Thrones" experts this side of Georgia. They host "Talk the Thrones" now on Twitter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here to talk about "Game of Thrones."

PALLOTTA: It's almost like a postgame show. Think "Inside the NBA" but with less Shaq and more dragons.

CLARKE: Where are my dragons?

RYAN: "Game of Thrones" is the last water polo shows, it's one of those last shows that seems to have a central discussion around it where everybody wants to participate as soon as possible after the end of the episode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so "Talk to Thrones" is there to basically be the clubhouse.

PALLOTTA: "Talk to Thrones" isn't the only post-show show. For example the "Walking Dead," the ratings behemoth, where anything can also happen at any time, has its own talk show as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The service that we provide is that we help the casual fan and the more serious fan alike.

PALLOTTA: And like live sports "Game of Thrones" dominates online chatters, which means spoilers are coming if you don't tune in when the game is happening.

[04:55:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because otherwise you can't exist as a modern person in the world because someone on Twitter is going to ruin it for you and tell you exactly who died.

RYAN: Over and over again you've found that if you're watching the show late, you're really going to miss out on a lot.

PALLOTTA: So I can't immediately go online and mention that Jon Snow gets -- all right. I get it, you want to know nothing. And if you're not subscriber to HBO, there are also ways to watch the show like, well, sports bars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel certain shows really lend themselves to group watching environments and wanting to get to talk about the show and there's a lot of emotions in the show and it's not the type of show that you really want to watch by yourself.

PALLOTTA: And Professor Toms isn't the only bar that does this. Other bars even post customer reactions that go viral online. And the clips do look awfully familiar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're emotional, they're very passionate, enthusiastic at times, get very depressed at times. It's a very similar level of passion that goes up and down throughout an episode of "Game of Thrones" versus a major sporting event.

PALLOTTA: You can watch the show any time but that enthusiasm buzz like the LeBron buzzer beater, will be gone faster than a Stark had a royal life.

IAN WHYTE, "GAME OF THRONES": How many Starks they've got to behead before you figure it out?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier live from Paris.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell in Atlanta. The news continues here on CNN right after the break.

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