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Hong Kong Suspends Extradition Bill; Video Shows Iran Retrieving Unexploded Mine From Ship; Trump Calls Fox News To Clarify Foreign Dirt Comments; FIFA Women's World Cup. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired June 15, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center in Atlanta. We begin with breaking news, Hong Kong suspending the controversial extradition bill that sparked mass protests this week.

Activists claim the bill would give China too much control over Hong Kong and erode the city's basic freedoms. Last hour, Chief Executive, Carrie Lam defended the bill but acknowledged the widespread opposition to the text.

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CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days, I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise, restart our communication with all sectors of society, do more explanation work and listen to different views of society.

I want to stress that the government is adopting an open mind to heed comprehensively different views in society towards the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: We're joined now by Anna Coren. She is in Hong Kong with more on what Carrie Lam had to say and what impact it might have -- Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, it is interesting to hear Carrie Lam say that the government has an open mind because the protesters here in Hong Kong would say that the government hasn't been listening up until today and that they have finally buckled to the pressure.

But Carrie Lam's decision last hour to postpone this very controversial bill to a later date, no timeline set, certainly no timeline for this year, it means that obviously Hong Kong will revisit this.

Hong Kong protesters, they are not backing down. They are still planning to hold that mass demonstration, that huge march tomorrow, which, last Sunday, attracted up to more than a million people, depending on who you speak to. They are expecting similar numbers tomorrow.

The people of Hong Kong, they are not satisfied with Carrie Lam's concession, if you like, to shelve this bill. They want it withdrawn and they also want her to resign. They feel this is the only way that Hong Kong can maintain its rights, the freedoms that it currently enjoys while China is slowly eroding away at democracy.

But to discuss it further, I now want to bring in Ronny Tong, a pro- Beijing member of the Hong Kong executive council to the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam.

Ronny, why did Carrie Lam decide to postpone this very controversial bill?

RONNY TONG, HONG KONG EXECUTIVE COUNCIL: Well, she gave basically two reasons. The first is that obviously the communication between the government and the people of Hong Kong had not been all that successful.

The second reason that she gave was that Wednesday we saw a lot of street violence and it really broke everybody's heart to see the police and the young people being injured as a result of the clashes just outside the legislative council.

So those were the two reasons given by the chief executive. I heard what you said just now but I must say that it is a travesty of the facts to suggest that the bill would erode the liberties and core values of the people of Hong Kong.

We must understand that we are talking about an extradition bill. Extradition by definition means that it applies only to somebody committing a crime -- and a serious crime which doesn't have political overtone, for that matter, outside Hong Kong.

And if that person were to come to Hong Kong, what are we going to do about him?

So by the very definition of extradition, it doesn't concern any of the Hong Kong residents who took part in the march on Sunday.

Now having said that, obviously there, were a lot of people, we have to accept that and those people --

(CROSSTALK)

COREN: -- tens of thousands who took part on Sunday and Wednesday that they got it wrong, is that what you're saying, that these people misunderstand the extradition bill?

TONG: No, I think that they probably --

[04:05:00]

TONG: -- want to air their view, which is entirely their right and the government respect that. And that is the whole reason why the legislative exercise is now being paused to allow people to communicate more with the government and the government vice versa and see if we can reach a consensus as respects this bill.

But to simply characterize the bill as something which would harm the people's rights under the basic law or the core values, which are being protected under the basic law, is simply not right.

COREN: Ronny, lawyers in this city are deeply concerned by this bill. We saw a silent protest of one-fifth of Hong Kong's legal fraternity turn out for a silent protest a few weeks ago.

So you say that Hong Kong's independent judiciary -- that the system here in Hong Kong should protect citizens, should protect suspects. But, in actual fact, you even have the legal fraternity concerned about what this bill could mean.

TONG: Of course, as I say again, I respect the members of my own profession. I'm a senior counsel myself. I practiced for more than 40-odd years. But our judiciary is well famous for its independence and integrity.

We have very eminent judges from U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, sitting on a qualifying appeal (ph). And nobody can seriously suggest --

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COREN: But, Ronny, if I can interrupt, I understand that there are these independent lawyers.

But what makes you think that Hong Kong would be able to maintain an independent judiciary?

We know that mainland China does not have an independent judiciary, that the judiciary answers to the Communist Party.

(CROSSTALK)

TONG: Because it is guaranteed under the basic law.

Do you have any evidence that Hong Kong cannot maintain its judiciary independence?

No, I mean seriously.

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COREN: Well, that is the concern, Ronny. That is the concern.

(CROSSTALK)

TONG: Over 22 years history shows that our judiciary is independent and their decisions are well respected worldwide. Our decisions are being cited by the common law --

COREN: And then Ronny, what happens in 2047 when the one country, two systems policy is no longer in place?

(CROSSTALK)

TONG: Let me tell you what will happen --

COREN: Does Hong Kong still have an independent judiciary?

TONG: Are you going to give me a chance to answer your question?

Thank you. Now let me tell you this --

COREN: I think there is a bit of a delay.

TONG: There was a poll recently and 76 percent of the people in Hong Kong, they want to see the one country, two systems continue even after 2047. And it really is a matter for the Hong Kong people to try to achieve that.

By slandering the independence of the judiciary, that does not bode well for that enterprise. We need an independent judiciary to ensure that the one country, two systems can continue and continue successfully.

So unless you have very strong evidence to suggest our judiciary is nothing but a kangaroo court, you know, I would like you to read the facts and read the history and see that our decisions -- the decisions of our judiciary -- are well respected the world over. Thank you.

COREN: So, Ronny, you are of the belief that Hong Kong's semi- autonomous rule, that its democracy that it has enjoyed since the handover in 1997, that that is still intact, that is still in place, that mainland China, Beijing, hasn't eroded any of that?

TONG: No, I think by and large, in fact, that you can see a lot of people came out in the streets and opposed the government and the government had to back down and to give pause to the legislative exercise.

It is very good proof that the one country, two systems is alive and well.

Doesn't that show that we have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and, most importantly, a responsible government?

Isn't that right?

COREN: Ronny, if the protests continue, if the protests continue, will the Hong Kong government withdraw this bill?

TONG: Well, we certainly don't wish to see further escalation --

[04:10:00]

TONG: -- of the clash between the people of Hong Kong and the government.

And I'm sure most of us here are rational and reasonable now that the government has said that the government will stop and listen and communicate with everybody who wishes to put forward their view.

I'm sure that the people of Hong Kong will deal with it in a rational and reasonable way.

COREN: OK. Ronny Tong, pro-Beijing member of the Hong Kong executive council, we certainly appreciate you coming on the show and explaining your side of the story. Thank you, Ronny.

If I can now bring in Wong Yik Mo. He is a protest organizer. He has been out there obviously taking to the streets along with hundreds of thousands of other Hong Kong people, voicing your concerns about this extradition bill.

What do you make of Carrie Lam's decision to postpone this bill?

WONG YIK MO, ORGANIZER, CIVIL HUMAN RIGHTS FRONT: Right. First of all, I have to say Hong Kong people, Hong Kongers, we have to take to the streets tomorrow. First reaction of Carrie Lam's decision is, of course, what trick is she playing this time?

COREN: You don't trust her?

WONG: We don't trust Carrie Lam.

COREN: You don't trust the Hong Kong government or Beijing?

WONG: We don't trust the Hong Kong government and we don't trust Beijing for sure. That's for sure.

COREN: Yes. So you think this is a trick, you think this is a ploy to somehow defuse the situation, shut you up if you like, make sure that you all go home and get off the streets?

WONG: Right. Well, of course. The authoritarian regimes are very good at turning people against others, they are very good at making people forget what has happened.

And then if the people would just go home and forget about what happened in the previous months or on Wednesday, the violence against the people, then, I mean, people will forget slowly little by little.

And, that, of course, not good to pursue democracy in Hong Kong because, this time, 1 million people have been united to take to the streets. That is one-seventh of our population.

COREN: Yes, one in seven people here in Hong Kong streets took to the streets last Sunday.

Are you expecting similar numbers tomorrow?

WONG: At this point, I don't think that the exact number is very important because more than 1 million people have spoken already. And that is their will. We don't want the extradition bill and we want Carrie Lam to resign.

And on top of that, it is actually -- we have other demands. After what has happened on Wednesday, you know, protesters have been treated violently. They were shot by rubber bullets and 150 tear gas bombs were fired at us.

And if you go into the details, I mean, what the police did, they fired the guns or the rubber -- the tear gas bombs without warning. And they even attacked the press, the journalists. And worse still, they even threw the tear gas bombs at first aid stations.

I mean this is not war.

How can you attack a first aid station?

That is not acceptable. And therefore, tomorrow, on Sunday, we have to take to the streets and tell the government what our demands are unchanged. We want the withdrawal of the extradition bill and the second one will be we demand all the charges against the protesters to be dropped.

And third one, you know, Carrie Lam characterized the protests on Wednesday as riots. And we want her to retract that characterization.

And the fourth demand, sorry, I have to finish, the fourth one is we demand accountability of the decision to shoot.

And last but not least, who created all this chaos?

It is Carrie Lam. She has to resign.

COREN: OK, Wong Yik Mo, as we were saying, thank you so much for coming and speaking to us. We certainly appreciate your voice as well. And we wish you well in what hopefully will be a peaceful demonstration on the streets of Hong Kong.

WONG: Thank you very much.

COREN: As we know, Natalie, the people of Hong Kong, they have so much to fight for. This is their future. This is their freedom. And even though we heard from Ronny Tong a little earlier saying that democracy is not being eroded here in Hong Kong, there is a big part of society that would differ with those views.

And even for me, as somebody --

[04:15:00]

COREN: -- who has lived in this city for more than 10 years, the presence of China is felt, that is undeniable.

So there are serious concerns, what is unfolding here and Carrie Lam's decision to shelve this bill, while she might think that will appease people, as you just heard from Mo, the protesters are planning to turn out in force and will continue to until that very controversial bill is withdrawn.

ALLEN: Yes, if he represents the other people and their views, we will see a big turnout on Sunday. Anna Coren, thank you for your interviews and helping us with the insights as to what's going on.

Next here, new details about the tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. Coming up, U.S. officials now say Iran was engaged in provocative behavior in the hours leading up to the attacks. We'll tell you about that as CNN NEWSROOM continues.

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ALLEN: CNN has learned new details about the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. A U.S. official says shortly before those ships were hit with explosives, Iran tried to shoot down a U.S. drone with a missile. This comes after the U.S. military --

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ALLEN: -- released this video. U.S. officials saying it shows Iranians removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of the tankers several hours after the initial attack.

President Trump says he is convinced Tehran was behind the ship attacks and Tehran has strenuously denied being involved. Mr. Trump would not say what, if anything, the U.S. and its allies might do to protect this strategic waterway.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are a nation of terror. And they have changed a lot since I've been president. I can tell you they were unstoppable and now they're in deep, deep trouble. You can't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you stop these outrageous acts?

With 30 percent of the world's oil --

TRUMP: Well, we're going to see.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ALLEN: CNN correspondents are following this crisis on both sides of the Persian Gulf. Our Frederik Pleitgen is in Tehran and Sam Kiley is in the United Arab Emirates.

Fred, first to you. Many allegations toward the country, the U.S. is blaming Iranians for the tanker attacks and for allegedly firing a missile at a U.S. drone.

What is Iran's reaction to all of this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, as far as the tankers are concerned, as you said, the Iranians still continue to say that they are not behind those attacks. With that video that the U.S. has presented, which allegedly shows

them taking something off what the U.S. believes could be a mine off the side of a ship, the Iranians have specifically not commented on that video.

The interesting thing though with Iranian news agencies, one of the main news agencies came out and said that they believe, as they say, that the American narrative is false because they say that the tanker crew of the ship that is in that video itself apparently told the leadership of the company that owns the tanker that it wasn't hit by a mine.

They don't believe that the ship was hit by a mine. In fact, they say some of the sailors saw what they believe were projectiles being fired or flying toward the ship shortly before the explosions took place.

Now, of course, very much unclear how much situational awareness those sailors would have had in the moments prior to the explosion and then, as that explosion was taking place. But certainly that narrative is something that is playing out very big here in Tehran.

At the same time, the Iranians are accusing the U.S. of fanning the flames of that situation. They have continuously said that they don't want an escalation of the situation but if there is an escalation, that they would be ready for it.

And it is quite interesting because both the Iranian president and foreign minister have been engaged in a massive trip of diplomacy over the past two days, Hassan Rouhani meeting with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, saying that he believes that the U.S. is destabilizing the region and destabilizing the globe, as he said.

And just this morning Rouhani upping the ante, saying if the Iranians don't get more out of the nuclear agreement, which is something that they are still trying to save and they will continue to scale back their commitments.

ALLEN: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Tehran. Let's turn to Sam Kiley in the UAE.

Sam, U.S. officials say that Iran is now preventing that tanker from being towed, the tanker that was hit.

What do you know about that and what are you hearing as far as reaction in the region to what is going on?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, we have just in the last 10 minutes spoken to Frontline, the owners of Frontline, owners and operators. And they flatly appear to be contradicting the American narrative that that tanker is being interfered by naval boats from the IRGC.

They are saying that they have no information that would confirm the American allegations. They say that there are two tugs attached to that ship at the moment and a third is on its way. And they will then decide where to tow it as part of the salvaging operations and for future repairs so it can go on its way.

So owners of Frontline, suggesting that the American narrative may be wide of the mark. It is conceivable, I suppose, that they don't yet have the information that the United States have. But we understand that they do have crew on board and would inevitably therefore be able to communicate with their owners.

So we are seeing progressively here allegations coming out of the United States being contradicted, as Fred was saying there, the Japanese owners of the Kokuka Courageous saying that it wasn't hit, in their view, by a mine but a projectile, again, contradicting the United States' narrative -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Sam Kiley in the UAE, Fred Pleitgen in Tehran, we'll talk with you again certainly as there are more developments. Thank you.

Let's talk more about this situation with Fawaz Gerges. He is chair of Contemporary Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics and the author of "Making the Arab World."

[04:25:00]

ALLEN: Fawaz, good to see you. Thanks for being with us. So we just heard from our two reporters in the region that perhaps the American narrative is off the mark. And Iran agreeing to that as well.

If Iran was behind this, let's talk about what the purposes would be.

And number two, first of all, do you have any doubts that this was Iran?

Is the United States off the mark?

FAWAZ GERGES, CHAIR, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS' MIDDLE EAST STUDIES: You know, I don't know. Despite the tentative evidence provided by the U.S. government, there is no smoking gun. There are no fingerprints so far. There is no DNA evidence. We need more material evidence in order to really make a judgment.

I'm an academic and you don't want me to speculate, right?

So in this particular sense, I mean, I think that the jury is still out on the quality and the veracity of the evidence. And many people say throughout the world, as you know, we've been there before many times, in the 1950s, 2003 and what have you.

But regardless, I think Iran continues to deny its involvement in the attacks in May against the tankers and today. The U.S. government has already enlightened Iran. And what I worry about -- you ask me about the big question -- is that all sides, they have their fingers on the trigger.

This is one of the most dangerous theater in the world, the Gulf region, not only because 50 percent of the world's oil passes through the passageway, because it is one of the most militarized place in the world, much more than the Korean Peninsula, much more than the Indian- Pakistani theater.

And also because the leading players in the region, Iran and Saudi Arabia, view the conflict through existential terms. And what you have now is that the United States is in the midst of this conflict. It would take a trigger. Even though everyone says no one wants conflict, it would take a spark to ignite a big fire in the region.

ALLEN: Do you think the United States in any sense has been provoking Iran with the president coming in and immediately pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal when Europe wanted to stay in it?

We heard the president say, quote, "They were unstoppable, now they are in deep trouble."

GERGES: Well, look, let's just cancel politics for a minute. Just for a minute for our own viewers. Why you and I are talking about the likelihood of a bigger clash in the Gulf.

Why are we talking about the attacks against the ships in May, the tankers and now?

Why are we talking about the evidence, who carried out the attacks?

What is the context?

And again, I'm not talking politics. The context is that an American president basically canceled an international agreement signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and six great powers. This is the context.

We know that Iranian leaders are troublemakers. We know that Iran has been infiltrating and penetrating many of their neighbors' countries in Iraq and Syria and Yemen, others.

But the current crisis, the context lies in the fact that the president is a destructor. He has disrupted the status quo. This is the other side of the story. And, again, I'm not talking politics. The status quo is untenable for Iran.

Why?

The Iranian economy is bleeding. Iran is in pain. And the bleeding of the Iranian economy has major consequences on the internal situation in Iran itself. And that is why, again, from a realist -- offensive realist perspective, if I were sitting in Tehran, I would do everything in my power to disrupt the status quo.

Because Iran is squeezed. Iranian leaders' back is to the wall. And that is why, even though I don't take the evidence, my take -- and please, don't take it very seriously -- is that Iranian leaders are engaged in what I call a calculated, dangerous escalation with the United States and its allies in order to increase the costs of the status quo.

And that is why the situation is very dangerous because both the U.S. president is a disrupter and because Iranian leaders and neighboring countries view the conflict through existential lenses, part of threat and security for their own regimes.

And that is why, despite many people say that war will not come given the --

[04:30:00]

GERGES: -- high stakes involved. And the important implications, I fear, that this particular theater in the Gulf region is where war might come accidentally or by miscalculation.

ALLEN: And that has been the fear for some time. Fawaz Gerges, we always appreciate your insights. Thanks so much for joining us.

GERGES: Thank you.

ALLEN: Hong Kong is suspending a bill that sparked a week of outrage. But Chief Executive, Carrie Lam says that she will not withdraw it completely. We'll have more on these developments which have happened in the past hour here at CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers. Appreciate you joining in. This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen with our headlines.

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[04:35:00]

ALLEN: Earlier, Carrie Lam spoke about the decision to suspend the bill and CNN's Matt Rivers asked her a question so many protesters were asking as well.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question I have for you is, what took so long?

Given that you knew what public opinion was after the protests last Sunday, why did you wait so long to come to this decision?

And are you nervous about the march planned for tomorrow?

Thank you.

LAM: No, our decision has nothing to do with what may happen tomorrow. You mean tomorrow. Will have nothing to do with what may happen tomorrow. As I answer in another question, it has nothing to do with an intention, a wish to pacify.

Why take so long? Actually if you remember what I said in my account, I acknowledged that last Sunday we had a large number of people coming up. It was very peaceful, it was generally orderly. So this is part of Hong Kong. We do have that sort of protest from time to time.

But it is on Wednesday that that sort of polarization views in society relating to this bill has given rise to violence, very serious confrontations, people being hurt, police on the ground sort of being forced to take some of those measures. That is why I come to the view.

I told myself that I need to do something decisively to address two issues.

How could I restore as fast as possible the calm in society and how could I avoid anymore law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens being injured?

So that was Wednesday to Saturday. Meanwhile, I met with people because, as you know, in this sort of circumstances, you have only one shot. So I need to ask my advisers, I need to think through. Our team has to deliberate it within ourselves.

And this is my earliest opportunity. Although it is a Saturday, I did not wait until Monday to explain to you the deliberations leading to this position. And so I hope you understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Carrie Lam there just about an hour ago. Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll go back live to Hong Kong for more reaction to her announcement.

Mexico announced details of a new immigration plan Friday meant to avoid a confrontation with the U.S. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says Mexico is sending troops to its southern border by Tuesday and its National Immigration Institute is hiring more than 800 new staffers to help process migrants faster.

Mexico agreed to curb the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. from Central America but says it cannot carry that burden alone and is asking the United Nations for help.

And some of the White House say it has been a tough week thanks to some comments from their boss. Why Donald Trump is now trying to clean up what he said. We'll get in to that as we push on here.

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ALLEN: U.S. President Trump is trying to dial back comments he made earlier this week in an interview with ABC News. He said that he would want to hear dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government but would not necessarily report it to the FBI.

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TRUMP: This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent. Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn't work that way.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: The FBI director says that is what should happen.

TRUMP: The FBI director is wrong.

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Friday he called FOX News and tried to justify those remarks.

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TRUMP: You have to look at it because, if you don't look at it, you're not going to know if it's bad.

How are you going to know if it's bad?

But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that. But of course, you do that.

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ALLEN: Meantime sources near the White House tell CNN Mr. Trump handled questions on taking foreign dirt poorly and that it made the last few days, in their words, "tough."

Let's talk about Mr. Trump's tough week with Leslie Vinjamuri, head of the U.S. and Americas programme at Chatham House.

Always good to see you. Thanks for being with us, Leslie.

LESLIE VINJAMURI, HEAD, CHATHAM HOUSE'S U.S. AND THE AMERICAS PROGRAMME: Thank you.

ALLEN: The president did try to walk back some of his remarks.

Is he believable now and is it too little too late?

VINJAMURI: Well, this is a tremendously difficult interview. It is funny just watching it again. One sort of gasps because, of course, that we've been working -- the United States and the Mueller commission, the investigation, the FBI have been working so hard to safeguard that principle, that norm and the practice that there can't be any foreign interference in U.S. elections. And it is a concern across Europe.

So the president's remarks were deeply disconcerting. There's been a lot of pushback. So it's not surprising, although not what we've always seen from this president, that he is trying to reverse that position.

And this question of whether it is believable, of course, it depends on who -- to who. I think a lot of people have come to not take seriously the president's statements that he is committed to securing the elections from any kind of foreign interference.

But I think that he also went back on FOX News because I think that it is very important that he speaks for him, that he speaks to his base because I think that even the base doesn't want to see Russian interference in America's elections.

This is an issue which I think cuts across both sides of the House. It's a nonpartisan issue. Americans don't want to see Russia or on any other power interfering in America's democracy.

ALLEN: He seems to give the appearance that it is just not that important to him.

VINJAMURI: Certainly, in that first interview, that is the definite impression that comes across and it makes it very difficult for the FBI director, for the FBI, which had a task force working on this issue for a very long period of time now. It puts the FBI director in a very difficult position. And that is the signal --

[04:45:00]

VINJAMURI: -- that the president sent. To his credit, right, this effort to try and recast, to respond to the pushback, I think, is very important. But again, it comes at a time where you wouldn't expect that this would even be something that the president would do anything other than draw a line under.

ALLEN: Right. Democrats, of course, pounced on his statement. Nancy Pelosi says he doesn't know right from wrong. One of our analysts says, yes, he does; he just didn't care. But his comments also brought the word impeachment back to the forefront. As we said, even White House insiders tell CNN that the president handled this poorly.

And you wonder how could he have made such a misstep when he went out of his way over and over again during the Mueller investigations to say how dare anyone think that I would collude with a foreign adversary?

And then is he goes out and says that he would.

The question is, is this something that is going to cause him trouble as we push on with a lot of Democratic candidates, able to keep this going?

Or is this something, yet again, that, like Mitch McConnell, said don't nitpick this president, he says these things, he gets it wrong, let's move on.

VINJAMURI: Well, remember, Mitch McConnell did say that and he says that Democrats won't let go. But Lindsey Graham, Federal Elections Commission, a number of people have come back and pushed back on these remarks very seriously because, of course, it is not good for the Republicans.

It won't be good for Donald Trump when he moves forward with that campaign because Americans don't want to see electoral interference from foreign powers. So I think that it will be a significant issue.

And we have seen some recent polling that has come out, suggesting that if Donald Trump comes up against former Vice President Joe Biden in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida, he is going to come behind. If the elections were to take place today, he is running behind.

So it's hard to say exactly why that is but it can't but be the case that these sorts of comments are very seriously negative for the president.

ALLEN: Let's look at another development this week, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders is leaving and she oversaw the ABC interview where the president made that remark and there is reportedly frustration other than the handling of it. But she is planning to leave.

But let's talk about her tenure. She has not held a White House briefing in 94 days. She essentially killed it. So whoever comes into the White House to take over, it will be interesting how he or she will handle the news media.

And will they be so staunchly supportive of the president that is likely their role?

VINJAMURI: And this is a very significant question. It is difficult to see, it will be a tricky position because, of course, they will be appointed by the president, who has had a very difficult relationship with the media, who has continually called out many parts of the media as fake news.

And Sanders, of course, held to that line for the president. But I think that it is a very serious question as to whether, as we move forward to a campaign season, the president and the new press secretary will seek to reaffirm that very important norm and that practice of the White House engaging seriously and credibly with the media.

It is absolutely essential for America's democracy. So many issues that are happening right now are a violation, really, an undermining of the norms of America's democracy and I think that it will be to the president's advantage if he can begin to embrace these practices, engaging with the media in a fair way will be essential.

But it won't be easy because it is a president who likes loyalty and who is very threatened by the media.

ALLEN: All right. Leslie, we always appreciate your insights. Thanks so much.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

ALLEN: All right. Next here, we'll talk about the American Outlaws.

Have you heard about this?

Maybe not exactly what you are thinking. They are a rowdy and passionate group that travels the globe supporting the U.S. Soccer team and they are in France at the Women's World Cup showing their support. We'll give you a sample of that support when we come back.

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ALLEN: The latest Women's World Cup action for you here. On Friday, England secured a place in the round of 16 knockout phase after winning 1-0 against Argentina. Japan and Scotland also faced off, with Japan winning 2-1, leaving Scotland on the brink of an early World Cup exit.

And Italy made history by reaching the knockout phase for the first time in 30 years, Cristiana Girelli, scoring a hat trick in the 5-0 victory against Jamaica.

The U.S. Women's national team are the ones to beat in the World Cup and their fans travel the globe, passionately supporting the Stars and Stripes. And the rowdy group is called the American Outlaws. And they want to make sure they are heard around the world.

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DAN WIERSEMA, AMERICAN OUTLAWS SUPPORTERS GROUP: The American Outlaws is the largest national team supporters group for the men and women and the youth national team. So we have 30,000 members spread across the entire globe in 200 chapters.

Our whole motto is unite and strengthen. So we are trying to create events and experiences for fans to come together and wherever the national team plays.

JOSH KAIL, AMERICAN OUTLAWS SUPPORTERS GROUP: It is an exciting and intense experience where you are just part of a big community and everybody is kind of rooting for the same cause.

JULIE ERTZ, U.S. NATIONAL TEAM: They are fantastic. And they embody kind of basically what we do but in the stands. It almost like raises --

[04:55:00]

ERTZ: -- your inspiration level, your motivation level. CRYSTAL DUNN, U.S. NATIONAL TEAM: We definitely hear the American outlaws. They come in so many large numbers, such a huge group. And they are always typically behind the goal.

We're always like, oh, yes, there they are, they are right there.

WIERSEMA: The women will be in France for the group stages and the knockout and then hopefully all the way to the final in Lyon. And that's where American Outlaws are going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't matter who is playing, everyone shows up.

WIERSEMA: We get to be a part of this huge international spectacle and represent, I think, the best parts of the United States. You know, men, women, children of all colors and creeds and gender and all coming together to cheer for the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that it is fantastic that women and especially young girls can feel empowered to be able to join teams and start a revolution. This is fantastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love that they are all very confident in everything that they do and they are really inspiring. I'm going to cheer really loudly and I really hope that all of them do really well.

WIERSEMA: We're all about standing, singing, cheering. It is action, it's a full 90 experience. It starts before the match and continues on afterwards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually have one unusual experience with the American outlaws, where I was on the drums with them. And until I had that moment, I never really understood what it felt like to be a fan. And I think that was really fun for me. And now I appreciate them in a different way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, there is the flag, the chants, the singing, the hugging, the excitement. I think that is the best part about the whole thing. Everyone gets together to just really celebrate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the goal in France?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To win the World Cup.

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ALLEN: Well, get ready for the outlaws because the U.S. Women's team plays on Sunday.

I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM continues right after this.