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CNN NEWSROOM

New Special Counsel to Handle White House Responses; James Comey to Write a Book; Trump Organization in Legal Battle Over Golf Course Taxes; Russian American Lobbyist Attended 2016 Meeting; French President Macron Hosts Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu; Turkey Marks One Year Since Attempt to Oust Erdogan; Russian American Lobbyist Attended 2016 Meeting; Comey to Write a Book; Questions Surround June 2016 Meeting; Trump Compliments Brigitte Macron's "Good Shape"; 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 5-6a ET

Aired July 16, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:06] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A day after returning from France, the U.S. president faces growing controversy over Russia and bringing in a new lawyer as his son's account of a meeting during the campaign keeps changing.

It is 5:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and France and around the world. I'm George Howell at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: 11:00 a.m. in Paris where French President Emmanuel Macron is welcoming the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both leaders paying their respects to victims of the holocaust.

CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

HOWELL: Wherever you're joining around the world, good day to you.

The U.S. president is spending the weekend at his resort in New Jersey, taking in the U.S. Women's Golf Open. But in Washington, D.C. his White House 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.

The latest response to that controversy, this man here, veteran attorney Ty Cobb has been brought in to help manage the turmoil which is threatening the president's agenda in Congress. All the while a Senate vote on the Republican healthcare changes, that has again been delayed again. This time because of Senator John McCain. He is in Arizona recovering from surgery.

Republicans need every vote they can get so they will continue to wait now until Mr. McCain returns to Washington.

The president's response to all of this on Saturday he tweeted this, "Stock market hits another all-time high yesterday despite the Russian hoax story." As the president calls it. Bringing in a heavy hitter like Ty Cobb as White House special counsel

shows just how high the stakes have risen for 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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 for the reporting.

The former FBI director James Comey is putting pen to paper. He's writing a new book. That book 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.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:05:02] 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 there speaking with Ana Cabrera.

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

Fair to say a lot to talk about. Let's bring in Brian Klaas. He is a fellow of comparative politics at the London School of Economics live in our London bureau this hour.

Brian, always a pleasure to have you with us here on the show. Let's talk first about the White House hiring this new high-powered attorney to help manage the possible legal questions. The perception issues from this controversy regarding the president's son, on one hand White House officials say there is nothing to it. They call it a nothing burger or the president called it a hoax. On the other hand, they're sharpening their strategy because it seems they are going into new territory here. BRIAN KLAAS, FELLOW, COMPARATIVE POLITICS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS:

Well, they continue to claim it's a hoax. It's clearly not. The lawyering up that's happening throughout the White House shows that they take it seriously and they should because it's a very serious matter. There's a political and a legal sides to this scandal. Politically speaking and morally speaking it's absolutely clear that there was wrongdoing. This was a meeting that nobody should have ever accepted and anyone who doesn't say that is going to look very bad in history.

On the legal side we don't know exactly how exposed the White House is. I would imagine that Jared Kushner is probably the most vulnerable because he was part of the campaign, part of that meeting, and now is in a top secret position in the White House as a senior level official with security clearance and that may be revoked.

So there is a very serious issue here and anyone trying to still claim this is a hoax is just, you know, completely wrong and if so, it's so clear that it's wrong coming from the president's own son. He divulged the e-mails that show this is a very real story with very real political and legal consequences.

HOWELL: When it comes to these issues regarding President Trump's son, let's talk about the FOX News Network that has taken a more supportive, friendlier stance toward the Trump administration, especially the morning shows, the evening shows with its conservative hosts to make the distinction here, the difference, not to discount the many journalists at FOX News who did the work of journalism every day at that network.

But it has been notable that the conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer recently suggested the e-mails released by Don Trump Junior are evidence of collusion. Then there was this from the 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: All right. That's Shep Smith there at FOX News, journalist and anchor there.

Brian, before you answer this question, I want you take a look at this snapshot of the president's approval rating from the "Washington Post"-ABC News poll recently came out showing the approval rating down, down to 36 percent from 42 percent. His disapproval rating up at 58 percent.

Brian, the question to you is, does all of this affect the president's base?

KLAAS: So it does to a great extent, but not among the Republican diehards. So Trump is currently the most unpopular president in U.S. history at this point in his presidency. He's well below Gerald Ford coming out of Watergate and so this is something where, you know, it really is damaging him. You cannot govern with 36 percent of the country believing that you're doing a good job.

But on the other hand, his Republican base is still following him. There's still high approval ratings. 85 percent of Republicans seem to be backing the president. And part of this is because of that FOX News coverage which is consistently backing the president no matter what he does and when you have journalists like Shep Smith who are finally they had enough. They say, look, this is a series of lies. We have seen lie after lie after lie. And at some point it doesn't matter, you know, partisan bent is. Honesty is an American value. It's a value that we should all hold as sacrosanct in our public officials.

And so I think that this is something where we're going to continue to see the morning shows, Sean Hannity, et cetera, carry water for the president no matter but other journalists at FOX News have their integrity to worry about and they're pushing back.

HOWELL: All right. Those are the clouds looming in the skies for the Washington -- for the White House. But at the same time on the ground healthcare, that's a big topic. The key promise from U.S. Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare is delayed again.

[05:10:05] It's a procedural vote on the revised Senate bill that will be postponed now, Brian, 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 this proposed legislation.

This health care bill delayed again, Brian. Put it into context for an administration and Republican legislators who have been given the task to get this done. Our Tom Foreman said it very well in a piece he recently published but it's right there in front of them but they haven't gotten it done yet.

KLAAS: Well, and frankly they shouldn't get it done because it's a bad piece of legislation. This bill is a popular among 17 percent of Americans and that's because they understand that it's going to increase costs for people who are sick and older, it's going to kick people off insurance who are poor and disabled and it's going to allow people to buy junk insurance that doesn't cover basic things like prescription drugs and hospitalization, which is what medical insurance is about.

And so they need to go back to the drawing table to draw in the drawing board, and sit down with Democrats and fix this problem. There are real problems with Obamacare that need to be fixed. But this -- you know, without any sort of public hearings and all of these independent assessments that are showing the problem will get made worse by this bill, they need to take stock of those of those criticisms and go back to the drawing board.

And I think it's a very important political problem for them because the longer this is delayed and it will be delayed because of McCain's absence, the harder it is to pass because opposition is mobilizing increasingly against the bill.

HOWELL: Brian Klaas, live for us in London. Thank you for the insights, Brian.

KLAAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: As we mentioned, President Trump is spending the weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, the location of one of a dozen golf resorts that he owns in the United States and right now his business is waging war in the courts over the taxes on those resorts, as our Kyung Lah reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, a 285-acre luxury, state-of-the-art property, good enough for the president to host Japan's prime minister. Later golfing on the lush course.

In federal election filings just last month, the Trump Organization claims its value is more than $50 million. But in the lawsuit filed Thursday against Palm Beach County, Trump's lawyers argue it's worth far less that what the country assess it at. $18.4 million. In 2014, Trump's lawyers claimed it's worth no more than $5 million. Why?

(On camera): If you lower the value --

PROF. DAVID HERZIG, VALPARAISO LAW SCHOOL: If you lower the value, you pay less taxes.

LAH: So it's about how much you pay the town?

HERZIG: Yes, it's about how much you pay the state of Florida and the city -- and the country of Palm Beach. Yes.

LAH (voice-over): It's a years-long pattern repeated practically every year. Public records show Trump has fought the tax assessments on all 12 of his U.S. golf courses, except the one in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he gets a farmland tax break for having goats on the property.

The Trump Organization is also suing the small town of Ossining, New York, population 40,000, to lower his taxes on his Westchester golf course. Touting a 101-foot water fall at the 13th hole, Trump National claims it's the most expensive golf hole ever constructed.

In campaign filings, Trump says the course is worth more than $50 billion. But in 2015, his attorneys argued the course was worth far less, only $1.35 million. The tax difference between those two values is about $427,000 a year.

DANA LEVENBERG, TOWN SUPERVISOR, OSSINING, NEW YORK: It's just so unfair. I mean, who is going to be paying the difference? Except for the people of Ossining.

LAH: Trump's lawyers are also fighting the people of Rancho Palace Verde, south of Los Angeles, home to another luxury golf resort. Public tax documents obtained by CNN show in 2007 the course was worth $67 million. But year after year, Trump filed hundreds of appeals to drop the value of the golf course by tens of millions of dollars. All those appeals have dropped the value to $27.7 million, down $40 million in nine years.

Multiple tax experts tell CNN that Trump is not alone in what he's doing. Many wealthy people have attorneys fighting to lower their tax burden. But there's an important difference with Donald Trump now.

(On camera): Do you find anything overall problematic since the person we're talking about is the president of the United States?

HERZIG: If you think the system is easily manipulated, why should the average person have to pay taxes or value property properly or pay their fair share?

LAH: CNN did reach out to the Trump Organization for comment on the Jupiter property, as well as the other Trump golf properties. We did not receive a response.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Kyung Lah, thank you for the reporting.

[05:15:02] Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, the leaders of France and Israel pay tribute for the victims of Vel d'Hiv, one of the darkest moments in French history.

CNN is live in Paris next.

Plus Turkey's president issues a gruesome threat one year after a failed coup. How the country has marked that anniversary.

And later, the new queen of center court. The Spanish star who beat Venus Williams for the Wimbledon title.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: Fresh from hosting the U.S. president, French President Emmanuel Macron is welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Paris.

France and Israel are marking the anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv. 75 years ago, French authorities arrested some 13,000 Jews in and around Paris under orders from the Nazis who occupied this part of France during World War II. They were rounded up and eventually deported to concentration camps. And that includes more than 4,000 children. Very few of them survived.

Earlier President Macron attended a minute of silence for the victims at the Velodrome d'Hiver in Paris. He and Mr. Netanyahu then attended a ceremony at the Square of the Jewish Martyrs of Vel d'Hiv and they will be talking international diplomacy later on this morning and this afternoon.

William Jordan joins me now to discuss that. He's a former U.S. diplomat and independent analyst now on the Middle East.

Jordan -- William, it's great to see you again. And one of the first things I think that Mr. Netanyahu is going to want to do is he's going to probably want to assess where Mr. Macron stands on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict because every French president has had -- has wanted to put friends on the map on that issue.

WILLIAM JORDAN, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, you know, Cyril, I actually think it may be more of the reverse. I think it may be Macron wanting to find out Netanyahu as to whether or not right now there's a moment of opportunity that perhaps France can help to seize in terms of moving the long frozen negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu doubtless wants to get his own read of Macron. Netanyahu hasn't been in Paris, if I'm not mistaken, since the 2015 "Charlie Ebdo" --

VANIER: That's right.

JORDAN: Or I should say commemoration but the --

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: And the attack on the Jewish market. A very emotional time for him and for the country.

JORDAN: Right. Right. Exactly.

VANIER: And then the Jewish population at the time.

JORDAN: But since then I mean, there's been as you probably remember when the previous president tried to organize the conference here in Paris in the early part of 2017 tried to move the Palestinian negotiations along, the Israelis basically balked and said no, not now.

VANIER: Yes.

[05:20:13] JORDAN: This is not a good time and we're not going to take part.

VANIER: Where do you think Mr. Macron -- is there any chance that he departs from typical French policy which is support for the two-state solution? That appears to be what he has voiced during his campaign.

JORDAN: Well, you know, he may be a little bit on the same wavelength as Donald Trump in terms of being prepared to accept whatever the parties will accept. In other words if the parties agree, however unlikely that may be. For the one-state solution, I think he might be prepared to go along with that.

Again, the real question here in my mind, given the history of French efforts to insert themselves into the diplomacy of the Middle East is, are they trying to mark a departure from what has traditionally been an American-led effort or are they trying to complement the effort?

Given the fact that Donald Trump was just here I have to believe that there was some discussion on the side, you know, of all the other many issues that they had to discuss especially climate change. I have to believe that the idea that Benjamin Netanyahu was coming and to get some direct briefing from Donald Trump as to what Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is doing now in trying to push the -- you know, trying to find an opportunity for the Israeli-Palestinian discussions, I have to believe that that was literally on the table, perhaps when they were talking over dinner at the Eiffel Tower.

VANIER: But does France have any leverage, any particular leverage on this topic? Because you mentioned the international peace conference that Francois Hollande held just a few months ago. 70 countries came, fine, but the Israelis didn't come.

JORDAN: Right.

VANIER: And in the end there was a communique and then no follow-up.

JORDAN: It literally depends on how the Israeli government of the time, and the prime minister in particular, is feeling about France. France's leverage is variable. France tends to have more leverage when it's taking an effort which has the full support and backing of the European Union. And right now it's not clear to me where the European Union as a whole is.

I think that generally the feeling is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sort of stuck. And there's not a lot of impetus, to be quite honest.

VANIER: Yes.

JORDAN: With everything that's going on with the struggle against the Islamic State, Syria in turmoil, Iraq needing to be resolved, and Egypt, despite a Sisi regime being fully in control, you know, there's enough of a -- there's enough concern about stability issues in Egypt that I don't believe right now anybody feels this is an opportune time to launch a major effort unless -- and this is always key. Unless the Palestinian and the Israelis politically see that there's an opportune moment to do so.

VANIER: Yes. And it's not clear that that is the case at present. But you bring up the fight against ISIS and maybe that's where there could be more agreement or more direct impact because when Mr. Trump was here, we saw that there's an alignment of sorts. If you look at Russia, you look at the United States, and now you look at France, they're all now pretty much on the same page, no longer prioritizing the departure of Bashar al-Assad, and instead prioritizing the fight against Islamic State which is something that Israel would probably agree with.

JORDAN: Yes. But the issue of how much Israel is a part of the campaign against the Islamic State --

VANIER: Sure.

JORDAN: -- is problematic. I mean, we've already seen that in terms of the Syrian civil war, Israel's limited assistance to some of the rebel groups near the Golan Heights has aroused great ire on the part of the regime in Damascus and has prompted a certain number of clashes on what had prior to the 2011 outbreak of the civil war been relatively -- matter of fact, not even relatively, almost completely quiet front in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

So I think the Israelis -- you know, what's important for the Israelis in all of this is to be consulted. I think that from the point of view of major coalition partners like France and the United States, it's important, too, to have that quiet intelligence cooperation with the Israelis because as was dramatically speculated, when after Donald Trump met with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister in Washington, and he made -- inadvertently divulged secret intelligence that came from the Israelis, the Israelis do have assets and they do have concerns, and they are players, even if they're very much behind the scenes and in the background.

VANIER: William Jordan, great to see you again.

JORDAN: Good to see you.

VANIER: Thank you so much.

JORDAN: Thanks, Cyril.

VANIER: And we'll be listening to what the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the French President Emmanuel Macron have to say when they gave a joint press conference a little later on today. We'll bring you the details on that when it happens.

Well, let's go over to Turkey now because massive crowds have turned out across the country to mark one year since the failed coup attempt against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

[05:25:10] Mister Erdogan made appearances in both Istanbul and in the capital Ankara, and he unveiled this monument in the capital for people killed in the effort to end his rule. The president has led a mass crackdown since the coup attempt. He says U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind that. And in Istanbul on Saturday 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 at that rally and she's been looking at how people are remembering both the coup attempt and the crackdown that followed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The bulk of the crowd has already made its way towards the Bosphorus Bridge that has now been renamed the 15th of July Bridge. And this particular neighborhood, Cengelkoy, this is where in Istanbul the very first bullet was fired. This bakery, for example, people were saying that coup plotters stormed inside and even held some of the customers there hostage.

There is a police station that is down the road. You also have one of the Istanbul's main military academies down the road as well. And one of the employees at the restaurant across the street, he was telling us that another one of their colleagues was killed that night and that a wounded man on the street corner, who they were trying to help, they were unable to reach him because he said the coup plotters prevented them from doing that.

And just about everyone we speak to, especially in this neighborhood, has a horror story to tell of that night.

This is Mr. Yahya Ardaman (ph) and he was here that night. They were just out enjoying the evening and he was just telling us that people were coming down. These little side streets. And there was one of their friends, who was standing right here, who they shot and killed. And you can see the bullets still in the glass. And he was saying that the owner of this store decided not to repair it so that people don't forget what it is that the country went through.

This is one of the roads that people took the night of the failed coup to get to the bridge, where they actually faced off with tanks. And one of the main reasons why arguably the coup did not succeed is because citizens of this country heeded President Erdogan's call to take to the streets because no matter how divided this nation may be, how polarized it may be, the population here is by and large united behind one concept and that's the era of military coups is over. And people will unite behind that notion that they must do all that they can to preserve democracy.

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 slaughterers. 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 -- 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: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, what do we know about the mystery man at that meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney.

We'll tell you right after the break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:33:21] HOWELL: 5:33 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. We want to welcome our viewers back here in the United States and all around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. It's good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.

This hour the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Paris. The French President Emmanuel Macron marking the 75th anniversary of Vel d'Hiv, a Nazi directed mass roundup of thousands of Jews by the French police during World War II. The two leaders are scheduled to hold a press conference in the coming hours at the French presidential palace.

Turkey is making one year since the failed coup attempt against the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In Ankara, Mr. Erdogan unveiled a monument to those killed in the event. Earlier in Istanbul he threatened to behead those said to betray the country.

A veteran Washington attorney is joining the Trump White House as special counsel. This man, Ty Cobb, will oversee the legal and media responses to the Russia investigations that are overshadowing the administration. Cobb is a former federal prosecutor.

At the center of Russia investigation right now is that June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian attorney. We now know that one of the people there was a Russian American lobbyist who once served in the Soviet military.

Our Ivan Watson has more now on him from Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rinat Akhmetshin is one of at least eight people who was in the room at a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016. A meeting that came about after he was offered in an e-mail help from the Russian government to help elect Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

[05:35:02] So what do we know about him? He was born in the Soviet Union. He served -- he did his conscript service in the Soviet Red Army. He's been in the U.S. for more than 20 years, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. According to a document he submitted to a New York District Court in the 2016 his business is strategic communications. In his own words, quote, "Some of my clients are national governments or high-ranking officials in those governments."

Now a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Department of Homeland Security asked for information, quote, "regarding Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant to the U.S., who's been accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests and apparently has ties to Russian intelligence."

More recently Akhmetshin has denied any links to the Russian government or to Russian intelligence and the Russian government. The Kremlin has also denied knowledge of this man.

And we know that he lobbied in the past that he was linked to opposition groups working against the regime in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. We also note that he lobbied actively against the Magnitsky Act, that's U.S. legislation that sanctions Russian entities or individuals implicated in human rights abuses or corruption.

We also know that in those efforts he worked alongside a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. She was one of the lawyers in the room with Donald Trump Junior at that meeting in November 2016. Both of them have denied that they were in the meeting to try to help the Trump campaign. Miss Veselnitskaya has told CNN she was not bringing kompromat as Russian say compromising material even though that is what a British promoter specifically wrote about in his letter to Donald Trump Junior in his e-mail and Donald Trump Junior's response to that was, "If it's what you say, I love it."

Ivan Watson, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Ivan, thanks for the reporting.

It's still unclear exactly what happened at Trump Tower with that meeting between the president's oldest son and the Russian attorney who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton and when President Trump found out about it, well, that's the question.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Late spring 2016, and Hillary Clinton is on a roll. Polls have her far ahead of Donald Trump. A White House endorsement is just days away.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

FOREMAN: Then June 3rd, an intriguing e-mail arrives for Donald Trump Junior from a music promoter for a Russian pop star offering information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father, claiming to be part of a Russian government effort to help Trump win. "I love it," the candidate's son responds.

June 7th, a meeting is set to discuss the matter with Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Four hours later, a big announcement.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.

FOREMAN: Two days later, June 9th, at Trump Tower, Donald Junior, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign official, Paul Manafort, have their meeting with Veselnitskaya for the promised dirt on Clinton. But Donald Junior now says it was a waste of time.

DONALD TRUMP JUNIOR, SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think I wanted to hear it out but really it went nowhere and it was apparent that that wasn't what the meeting was actually about.

FOREMAN: His father, who was also at Trump Tower that afternoon, needles Clinton with a tweet that same day. "Where are your 33,000 e- mails that you deleted?"

June 15th, a cyber security firm announces a major hack of Democratic National Committee computers and blames the Russians. A week later, Trump finally rolls out that major speech he promises, once again talking about Clinton's e-mails but offering no new information.

TRUMP: While we may not know what's in those deleted e-mails, our enemies probably know every single one of them.

FOREMAN: Mid July, the Republican convention, Trump is now officially the nominee. His campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, dismissing all allegations of ties to Russia.

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER MANAGER, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. No, there are not. It's absurd. And, you know, there's no basis for it.

FOREMAN: July 22nd, WikiLeaks posts nearly 20,000 e-mails from Democratic committee computers, some embarrassing and damaging to the party and its candidate. Yet, on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Donald Junior dismisses Democratic howls about Russian interference.

TRUMP JUNIOR: Well, it just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they'll say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again, lie after lie.

[05:40:06] FOREMAN: And a few days later, Donald Trump says this.

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

FOREMAN (on camera): Investigators have to look at all these points on the timeline and many more details, while the Trump team keeps saying it's all just a coincidence, and critics keep saying it looks like collusion.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Still ahead here on the broadcast the U.S. president is under fire for comments that he made to the French first lady about her appearance. We'll get reaction from a French journalist ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: And welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier in Paris where French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He's delivering remarks at the moment.

The two leaders are marking the anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv, a Nazi directed mass roundup of thousands of Jews by the French police during World War II. And it comes just after a visit by the U.S. president who received a warm welcome from Mr. Macron. He was the guest of honor at Bastille Day celebrations on July 14th.

Now during that visit Mr. Trump also met the French first lady as is to be expected but his remarks to Mrs. Macron, Brigitte Macron, ruffled a few feathers. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You're in such good shape. Beautiful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:45:06] VANIER: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is among those criticizing President Trump for that comment. During an interview with the Australian media, Bishop didn't mince words about her opinions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Last question, Donald Trump was in Paris this week. He met the French president's wife, Brigitte Macron, and he said, "You're in such good shape, such good physical shape. Beautiful."

If he said that to you, would you be flattered or offended?

JULIE BISHOP, AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I'd be taken aback. I think it's a rather interesting comment to make. I wonder if she could say the same of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: I'm joined now by political commentator Agnes Poirier. She's also the author of "Touche: A French Woman's Take on the English."

So, look, Agnes, honestly, I was going to -- I was preparing to maybe make some kind of comment the same thing that Donald Trump said to Brigitte Macron and say it to you, but I actually can't bring myself to say it. Would you be flattered or offended if somebody said that to you?

AGNES POIRIER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if Donald Trump said that to me, I wouldn't be surprised. We wouldn't be expecting more from such man. So, you know, that's why there weren't that many reactions in France.

VANIER: There weren't?

POIRIER: Well, not that many. Of course it's outrageous. But for an outrageous man to say something outrageous is quite in line. So -- and I don't think, you know, Donald Trump will ever be amazed by anything he says. The embarrassment really lies with the American people for electing such man as their president.

VANIER: Well, so what you're saying reflects the opinion of a lot of French people, who have a very low opinion of Donald Trump. There were a lot of people before he came who didn't understand why he was being invited. And the most -- most of the reaction you were telling me before the show that you've got has actually been from the English- speaking world.

POIRIER: Yes, they have. Asking me whether it was something French women were used to or not. And of course --

VANIER: And so is it something that French people do regularly?

POIRIER: Well, you know, I mean, male chauvinism and sexism were first in France like him and the other countries in Europe, but, you know, Donald Trump is an uncouth and unsophisticated and gallant, and very ungallic (ph) man. So, you know, what he says is -- doesn't translate well at all in France.

Of course we can compliment a woman's beauty in France. Of course it's something that what I find used to but not in such manner.

VANIER: Well, it seems that's what he was trying to do.

POIRIER: Yes, but again, you know, it's completely failed.

VANIER: What would have been an appropriate way to do it?

POIRIER: Well, just imagine what Barack Obama would have done. I don't think he would have commended. He would have just behaved in a gentleman manner.

VANIER: Yes. Well, there again, that reflects the fact that France really adored Barack Obama and that was reflective in his polling numbers in this country and much the opposite for Donald Trump.

And so what you're telling us and I think we need to remember that is you're saying this is not leaving a lasting impact here in France. I mean, for French people specifically.

POIRIER: Exactly. And actually the main thing was, you know, we all wondered why Emmanuel Macron invited Donald Trump. We knew he had a plan and probably -- and he sort of started telling us about it in Sunday newspapers today he gave an exclusive interview about what he hoped to achieve by inviting President Trump. And it was to fix the transatlantic relationship back in historical context, you know. And perhaps give a lesson in history to Donald Trump.

VANIER: Yes.

POIRIER: About the fact that France and America are greater their -- even their leaders and that they are bound to be friends, and therefore they must work together. It would be very tempting, I mean, Europe is very tempting to say, well, let's not talk to America for the next four years. But, you know, it's tempting, but it would be foolish. You have to engage with the president of the U.S. Even with Donald Trump. And I think that's what Emmanuel Macron tried to do. Now is it being naive? We'll see.

VANIER: Agnes Poirier -- Poirier, I beg your pardon. Agnes Poirier, thank you very much for joining us here on the show.

And of course Emmanuel Macron, the French president himself has visited away from that and now he's turning his attention to hosting the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We were telling you that a few minutes ago. Israeli Prime Minister still speaking in central Paris. The two men have -- are together to commemorate the 75 years since thousands of Jews were rounded up by French authorities under the orders of the Nazi occupier at the time, rounded up, deported, and ultimately killed.

We will continue to follow this event here in Paris live. And also coming up after this break, can Roger Federer once again make history as he takes center court for his 11th Wimbledon Finals. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SPORTS)

[05:53:42] HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

To Wimbledon now. The newly crowned champion Garbine Muguruza says that it was incredible to take on her idol, Venus Williams. And it is a remarkable accomplishment for the Spanish tennis star. Just six weeks ago she was in tears after losing in the French Open.

Her victory means Venus Williams has been denied her sixth Wimbledon title.

In the men's final that's set for later Sunday Roger Federer is aiming for a record eight Wimbledon trophies.

Let's get straight to CNN tennis analyst Ravi Ubha live from Wimbledon and in west -- southwest London.

It's good to have you with us, Ravi. First let's talk about the question. The big question today, will Roger Federer make history? What to expect with this match?

RAVI UBHA, CNN TENNIS ANALYST: Well, George, the atmosphere is building nicely. Roger is going to take to the practice court for a final hit before that final. It's going to be taking place around three hours time with the center court just behind me. I think he's going to be the favorite in this match for sure, George, because he's played in 11 Wimbledon Finals. He's looking to become the first man to win eight Wimbledon titles and if he wins the title, he will be the oldest Wimbledon winner on men's side since 1930s.

He's also going to be the heavy crowd favorite. He's playing great tennis, has yet to lose a set the entire tournament so certainly he is the favorite in this final against Cilic, although Cilic last when they played here did have three match points and he's beaten him at a grand slam before, at the U.S. Open 2014.

[05:55:11] HOWELL: All right. We'll have to wait and see that, Ravi. And let's talk more about the significance of this big win for Spanish Garbine Muguruza, defeating Venus Williams.

UBHA: Yes. It was such an impressive win for Muguruza because Muguruza became the only player to beat both Serena and Venus obviously in a grand slam title. And it continues to such a great path for the Spanish sportswomen in the 2017 Sergio Garcia, winning the Masters, Rafael Nadal, who was winning the French Open, and now Muguruza who won this title at Wimbledon.

So obviously it's been a great run for her. She has to go about now winning some tournaments outside the grand slam that she has shown on the big stage. She loves to compete on the biggest of stages.

HOWELL: Ravi Ubha, at Wimbledon, thank you so much.

And thank you for being with us here for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell in Atlanta. VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier in Paris. For international viewers the

headlines are next. And for viewers in the United States it's "NEW DAY" right after the break.

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