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CNN NEWSROOM

Protesters Wants Czech Republic's Prime Minister Out; Boris Johnson Facing Controversy Amid Upcoming Elections; Passenger Woke Up All Alone in a Plane; IOC to Vote for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games Host; President Trump Willing to Talk with Iran Without Any Preconditions; Russia, Israel and U.S. Officials to Talk What Step to Take on Iran's Behavior; Opposition Candidate Won in Istanbul's Local Election. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 24, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Tough talk from the United States and Iran as President Trump sends his top diplomat to the region. Officials don't seem to be cooling any of the tensions between Washington and Tehran.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this hour, the historic protests rocking the Czech Republic as thousands and thousands of people demand the prime minister resign immediately. We'll tell you why.

HOWELL: Also ahead this hour, he's dodging every question. Boris Johnson staying really tight-lipped over why police were called to his home that he shares with his girlfriend last Friday.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

HOWELL: Three a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. The U.S. president says that he is not looking for a war with Iran, but senior officials in Donald Trump's administration are refusing to take military action off the table.

ALLEN: And that is raising concerns about the U.S. strategy during a time of heightened tenses. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just arrived in Saudi Arabia. He says he wants to build a global coalition against Iran.

HOWELL: And President Trump, well, he says that he is willing to hold talks with Iran without preconditions, but he insists that Tehran cannot have a nuclear weapon. And if there is a conflict, he says that it will be obliterated like you've never seen before.

Let's go live to Tehran. Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is live there. And, Fred, look, a lot of mixed messages for sure coming out of Washington but also varied reactions coming out of Iran on this. What are you hearing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're absolutely right, George. And I think mixed messages coming out of Washington certainly is one of the main things that the Iranians are looking at here.

I can tell you that over the weekend on Iranian state TV, one of the things that the Iranians were most surprised by was President Trump coming out, I think it was on Friday night or Saturday night, coming out and saying that he appreciated the fact that the Iranians when they shot down that drone didn't also shoot down a manned United States aircraft.

That was something that was playing again and again and again over the weekend on Iranian state TV. You saw on the one hand you have President Trump still saying that military action is on the table, but at the same time, of course, calling back that strike.

Now, it's quite interesting to see because Iran's foreign minister has now gotten involved in all of this as well. He obviously also says that he believes there are some in the administration and people who are close to President Trump who are trying to box him in to a war with Iran. He calls them the "b" team, referring to national security adviser John Bolton, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but then also, of course, folks from the place that Secretary of State Pompeo is visiting right now, like for instance the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman.

He believes that they are trying to box President Trump into a situation where war becomes inevitable, but then he tweeted, and I think this was a really key phrase, that in the end it didn't happen because President Trump essentially pulled back. And that's something where I think Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, was essentially praising President Trump.

He then, though, went on to say "economic terrorism builds tensions." that's essentially the Iranians saying that this maximum pressure campaign by the United States government is essentially what's holding up what President Trump wants with the Iranians, which is talks.

So, you do have some varied reaction. On the other hand, you have the military folks here in Iran still talking tough just a couple of minutes ago, and we're just getting this in now to our system as well, a top naval commander saying that the shooting down of the drone by the Iranians was a crushing response and is something that can be repeated. So, some pretty tough talk coming from them as well.

HOWELL: But surely economic pressure is taking hold. Has taken hold there in Iran. And to hear the framing of economic terrorism, how is that being received there throughout the country? That new framing.

PLEITGEN: Yes, I mean, it's something that the Iranians actually have been saying for a while. They call it economic warfare, economic terrorism. Essentially what the Iranians are saying is that they believe that the U.S. is breaching international law by going into the nuclear agreement with Iran and, of course, a couple of other countries as well then pulling back from that nuclear agreement.

But at the same time putting such sanctions on Iran that essentially forces other countries to also not do business with Iran anymore. The Iranians are saying they believe that that is economic warfare and obviously it's something that they want to see go away as fast as possible.

But I think one of the key things that the Iranians are essentially telling Washington is they're saying, look, we are not going to negotiate with you under pressure.

[03:05:00] And make no mistake, George, we've been talking about this, these sanctions are having biting effect on regular Iranians. A lot of people are losing their jobs. The currency's in a free-fall. Iran barely able to export any of its oil. And yet the Iranians are staying straight up to the Trump administration, as long as this is in place, we are not going to talk to you.

There have been messages from more moderate forces, like for instance, the President Hassan Rouhani over the past couple of weeks saying, look, talks might be possible, but you've got to go back to the nuclear agreement or at least give Iran some sanctions relief if that is to happen.

And a real disconnect right now between Washington and Tehran is that essentially the Trump administration is saying they want to force Iran back to the negotiating table through really tough sanctions and the Iranians are saying it is exactly those sanctions that are preventing us from going back to the negotiating table, George.

HOWELL: All right. Eleven thirty-five in the morning there in Tehran. Our Fred Pleitgen on the story. Fred, thank you.

ALLEN: Iran will also top the agenda in Jerusalem when U.S. national security adviser John Bolton sits down with his Russian counterpart as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

HOWELL: On Sunday, Bolton and Mr. Netanyahu spoke to reporters about the tensions playing out in the region and Bolton warned Iran, don't mistake our prudence, he said, U.S. prudence for weakness.

ALLEN: CNN's Oren Liebermann will be covering this meeting in Jerusalem. Interesting now that Russia is also a part of this in the mix.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this meeting was always supposed to be a three-way meeting between the Russian, Israeli and American, essentially national security advisers and the counterparts there. But it's taken on added significance of course with the events of the last few days.

Bolton, that is national security adviser John Bolton has already met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It's no secret that these are two hardline hawks when it comes to Iran and that was evident in the statements they made, essentially listing what they see as a long list of Iran's aggressive acts in the region and then came that open-ended threat from Bolton, essentially saying, look, we may not have used force this time or carried out a retaliatory strike, but that doesn't mean that such a strike is off the table. The most interesting part of this three-way mix essentially is the

Russians. Russia is of course far closer to Iran than either the U.S. or Israel and they may look out for Iran's back essentially in this situation. So, we'll see what comes out of these meetings.

Tomorrow is the three-way meeting between all of these countries, Russia, Israel and the U.S. Today it's bilateral meetings. First Netanyahu will meet with the Russian counterpart and then Bolton will meet with his Russian counterpart. So, we'll see what comes out of those meetings and what definitive steps are taken.

It was supposed to be a meeting specifically about Iran and Iranian proxies in Syria. It of course has taken on added significance with the added developments in the region especially with the language coming from Bolton his hawkish language when it comes to Iran. And that certainly is no surprise given his positions.

ALLEN: Well, Oren, we know that European allies want to get to the table with Iran. President Trump says he wants to go to the table with Iran with no preconditions. What's Israel's take on that?

LIEBERMANN: Well, Netanyahu will be very careful not to criticize in any way Trump. When he made his opening statements with Bolton, he didn't mention at all Trump's decision to call back a retaliatory strike against Iran. Neither did anyone else in the Israeli government, really, and that's because Israel and specifically this government never want to be seen as criticizing Trump.

They haven't in the past two and a half years now and they're not about to start at this point, especially when it comes to Trump's Iran policy. They will always praise Trump's sanctions and encourage other countries to levy their own sanctions against Iran, even if those efforts to try to get other country to sanction Iran are in the end fruitless.

When it comes to Trump openly talking to Iran or at least saying he's willing to talk with no preconditions, Israel, instead of criticizing, instead of pointing out what should come from those talks, I suspect would simply say, look, our condition is that Iran stop spreading terror across the region, that Iran stop pursuing nuclear weapons, essentially the red lines that Israel has always tried to enforce when it comes to Iran.

But I'll emphasize this, Natalie, Israel will never criticize Trump when it comes to his policy, whether that's Iran or something else, at least not in the current environment.

ALLEN: Right. Understood with their relationship. Oren Lieberman will be covering those talks that include Russia. Thank you, Oren.

HOWELL: President Trump admits some members of his team take a hardline approach on Iran, but he says that he listens to opposing views.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, HOST, MSNBC: Do you feel like you were being pushed into military action against Iran by any of your advisers?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have two groups of people, I have doves and I have hawks.

TODD: You have some serious hawks.

TRUMP: I have some hawks. Yes. John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him, he would take on the whole world on one time. OK? But that doesn't matter. Because I want both sides.

Here it is. Look, you can't have nuclear weapons. If you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise, you can live in a shattered economy for a long time to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:10:04] HOWELL: Let's talk about all of this now with Natasha Lindstaedt. Natasha a professor of government at the University of Essex joining this hour from Colchester, England. Good to have you with us.

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: Let's start by talking about this thing that really stands out to me at the very least, stands out for sure with regard to Iran, the nation's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif praising President Trump for his restraint. Were you surprised by any positive signaling about the Trump administration from Iran?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, if you look at Zarif, he is one of -- he wouldn't be one of the hardliners in Iran and he is a very skilled diplomat. You know, as you can tell, he speaks perfect English, he understands the U.S. very, very well and he may understand Trump very well, that Trump responds well to flattery.

So, he may be trying to communicate with Trump that they were pleased that he did not strike, did not agree to strike and is holding back a little and exercising some restraint. And you know, it's really uncharted waters for Iran dealing with Trump because he's so incredibly unpredictable.

One moment he's threatening Iran, claiming he's going to destroy the country. The next day saying he wants to make Iran great again. So, there may be some opportunity there that Iran hasn't really had with any other administration.

But what I think the Trump administration needs to remember is Iran hasn't really wavered much in the past 30 years. They have been unbelievably committed to their ideology and it doesn't really change much just because there's new developments, new sanctions.

And I think that the Trump administration is going to really need to understand that, and I'm concerned that the way they're moving forward is really more of the same old types of response to Iran. HOWELL: So, Zarif at the same time denounced the "b" team, who would

push for war, the "b" team who he says are the national security adviser John Bolton, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to name a few.

Is there any sense that there would now be an opening, even if narrow, Natasha, with the president instead taking a softer tone with Iran that seems to override those who would take a harder line approach?

LINDSTAEDT: I mean, it's the possible. Anything is possible because he changes his mind so much. I mean, a lot of this is a crisis of his own making. He decided to back out of the Iran nuclear deal without any evidence that Iran was not complying to the deal.

Then he's had this tendency from watching him in the short period of time he's been president, but this is also sort of his strategy as a businessman, to push things to the brink and assume that others will cave.

Then there is all this global attention on him. Of course, he loves all the global attention and he loves opportunities. Speaking of Trump here, to create some sort of huge photo-op where there is some kind of potential for cooperation.

The problem is that the Iranians aren't in -- interested in some sort of photo-op like the North Koreans under Kim Jong-un are. They want something real. They want the sanctions to be removed, alleviated. They want the U.S. to take a big first step, and I'm not sure if the Trump administration, particularly with the hawks that surround him, are willing to take that step.

The only thing that's really going to move this forward is some sort of face-saving diplomacy for Iran where the U.S. will have to offer quite a bit, and that's really basically just a return to adhering to the Iran nuclear deal.

HOWELL: Given, though, that an election is just around the corn corner, do you see that happening?

LINDSTAEDT: I don't see that happening. I see this sort of playing out in the media with the Trump administration, Trump in particular trying to keep everybody guessing, claiming there is going to be harsher sanctions, but the sanction is really same old same old. It is not going to change much for the Iranians. They've faced sanctions before. They've faced hard economic times before. Hard times to their economy. Huge inflation rates. Incredibly high unemployment rates. They haven't wavered.

The biggest problem which I think the Trump administration doesn't understand is that the sanctions are hurting the very groups that would push for reform and benefitting groups like the Iran's Revolutionary Guards that could take advantage of the black-market activity and continue to smuggle petroleum products.

If Trump can get an understanding that the sanctions probably aren't working, they need to do a U-turn, then we can start to see a thaw again of U.S.-Iran relations, but I don't see anything like that happening before 2020.

HOWELL: And if pressured, if the pressure continues, if Iran decides that it has no choice but, you know, to push forward, you know, and respond to any conflicts how could Iran play its hand in that region? Along with the aid of nations like Russia.

[03:14:52] LINDSTAEDT: But this is a way the Iranians have always responded to conflict, to being cornered. They respond by sowing chaos in the region and being more bold, taking on more risks, you know, some of these sabotage activities are going to take place where we don't know who actually did it, but it all seems to point to Iran. They never really have caved.

And so, if you understand the history of Iranian action when they've been cornered, we would predict that Iran is going to continue engaging in bad behavior until some sort of huge olive branch is handed out to them.

HOWELL: Natalia Lindstaedt giving perspective. Natasha, thank you.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: A local election in Turkey is having a much broader reach. The projected winner in Istanbul's mayoral elections says his victory is a win for democracy. Why the vote is so important. We'll have a live report coming up here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WORLD SPORTS)

ALLEN: The main opposition party in Turkey is claiming a major victory over the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Ekrem Imamoglu is said to be the next mayor of Istanbul.

[03:19:57] HOWELL: He addressed crowds of cheering supporters, as you see right there in Istanbul, saying that he is willing to meet with President Erdogan, who backed his rival. Results for the run-off election are not official yet, but they're

poised to deliver a significant blow to the Erdogan government.

Let's talk more about it with Jomana Karadsheh. She's been covering this election. She's live for us in Istanbul. And, yes, this was largely symbolic, Jomana. You've been telling us about that. It wasn't just a vote of a mayor in a city, it was much more.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It was really seen as a test for Turkey's democracy, Natalie, and I think what was really important about the results of this election was the fact that this was a landslide victory for Ekrem Imamoglu, leading with more than 9 percent of the vote, according to these preliminary results, and that put the ruling A.K. party in a position where they had to really accept this defeat.

Even before they were announced, you had the ruling party candidate Binali Yildirin coming out in a speech conceding defeat. Congratulating his rival, a short time after that.

President Erdogan in a rare move tweeting a congratulations to the opposition's candidate for his victory. And, you know, you look at the streets last night, Natalie, it was incredible scenes of celebration. For the opposition, this was a great moment. It was a moment of hope, they feel, but now that they can really change the status quo in this country.

But also, as we were talking about yesterday, this really is not just seen as a win for the opposition, this is being viewed as a victory for democracy in Turkey. There has been a lot of concern about the direction this country has been taking over the past few years.

So many people are worried about this increased -- this increasingly authoritarian-style rule that this democracy has been taking, and what yesterday proved to everyone is that there still is that democracy that is alive at the ballot box and people here can still change things with their vote, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. And so, let's characterize what this means to the Erdogan camp. What kind of blow is this to him?

KARADSHEH: Well, you know, Natalie, this is seen as perhaps the biggest blow to President Erdogan during his political career. There's lots of questions right now about how wise that decision was to contest the initial elections that took place on March the 31st, to call for a rerun of these elections. It is seen as a miscalculation that has really back fired.

You know, this is definitely a big blow for him and especially his ruling party, that for more than 15 years has really dominated elections here. You've had this winning streak that seems to have come to an end. Many are seeing this as perhaps the beginning of the end here.

You know, Istanbul is not only significant for President Erdogan, you know, it's significant for him for so many different reasons. Whether it is the fact that this is the financial capital of this country. A lot of power and prestige that comes from controlling Turkey's largest city.

But this is also where he launched his political career. He was mayor of Istanbul himself back in 1994. So it feels now that a lot is going to have to change, and I think for the opposition, for others in the country, one of the most important and significant things about yesterday's vote is the fact that it shattered that aura of invincibility that has been around Erdogan for many, many years right now.

ALLEN: A hopeful sign for people there. Thank you so much, Jomana Karadsheh for us.

HOWELL: All right. Following a developing story in to CNN, the FBI is investigating a tragic discovery along the U.S.-Mexico border. A 20- year-old woman, a toddler and two infants all found dead near the Rio Grande River. ALLEN: The bodies were found in a wildlife area in Texas. It is

federal land, which is why the FBI is taking the lead on this case. We'll bring you updates as we learn more about what happened.

HOWELL: The Czech Republic's prime minister has inspired what's been called the biggest protest since the fall of communism. We'll explain what he's done to anger a quarter of a million demonstrators.

Plus, Boris Johnson's neighbor speaks out after alerting police of an alleged dispute involving the politician and his girlfriend.

[03:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. This is CNN Newsroom. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The U.S. President Donald Trump says that he's not looking for war with Iran. In fact, he says that wants to hold talks with no preconditions but emphasized that Iran cannot have nuclear weapons. The president called off a retaliatory strike in response to Tehran shooting down a U.S. drone.

ALLEN: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is striking a different tone as he arrives in Saudi Arabia. He's on a mission to build a global coalition against Iran. Pompeo called Iran "the world's largest state sponsor of terror." He's expected to meet with the king and crown prince while in Saudi Arabia.

HOWELL: Turkey's main opposition party is claiming victory in Istanbul's mayoral race rerun. More than 99 percent of the vote had been counted, but results aren't official yet. The projected winner, Ekrem Imamoglu, he says that it is a victory for democracy in Turkey.

ALLEN: Organizers call it the biggest Czech protest since the fall of communism. A quarter of a million people filled a park in Prague Sunday demanding the resignation of the Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis. He is accused of fraud and collaborating with the communist-era secret police.

HOWELL: The billionaire tycoon has been dubbed the Czech Trump because of his business empire and his populist leanings.

[03:30:01] Sunday's demonstrations were a part of a series of protests against the prime minister that have been going on now for weeks and protesters says they've had enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm here because of the basics of the Democratic and juristic state. No matter if these people were legally elected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I am here because I don't have fun here anymore and I am ashamed of the state where I have to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He defrauded everyone here. It's a shame of the state. I am ashamed I am Czech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about it. Joining us from Brussels is Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times. Stephen, always good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

STEVEN ERLANGER, CHIEF DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks.

ALLEN: All right. So, let's talk about the Czech Trump Andrej Babis. What is it that people have such mistrust of him and the things that they're charging him with?

ERLANGER: Well, Babis is one of the richest men in the country and he's put together a big conglomerate of businesses and he ran on an anti-corruption platform, but he's now being charged with corruption, naturally.

There are two cases at issue. One is he's charged, at least it's alleged, that he's profiting from a sort of spa sports complex that his company was supposed to build and his involvement was sort of secret. And just as soon as that was supposed to be investigated, somehow the justice minister got changed. So, one of his allies became justice minister. People are unhappy about that.

And then separately, the European Union has opened an investigation into whether he has profited from the European Union's subsidies through his companies, even though he supposedly has put it into a blind trust.

So, for these reasons, people really want to bring him down. I think they're not going to succeed, by the way, but this is the biggest demonstration since 1989, and really has Czechs very, very engaged.

ALLEN: Yes, I wanted to ask you the significance of the numbers of the people on the street. And then you answered my question. Is there any chance they could force him to resign? But despite the strength of these numbers, you say not likely.

ERLANGER: Well, not likely soon. I mean, there's a confidence vote coming in parliament I think this week. Which he's expected to survive. And then, you know, there is this odd thing, which is the European summer. People, even the demonstrators suggest that they're going to take the summer off. If he's still in power in the autumn, they're going to come back in a big way.

So, there is a degree of pressure that's mounting. There is no question there is pressure mounting. And Babis himself, you know, can be very dismissive. He is Trump-like in his sort of arrogance and so on. But he also was elected as Trump was elected and he says he's not going to be pushed out of elective office by protest. ALLEN: Right.

ERLANGER: So, we'll see as the summer goes on.

ALLEN: Well, he's a populist leader who didn't deliver to the people. So, is this backlash a warning for other populists that are being elected into office?

ERLANGER: Well, I think it is, and also you see these demonstrations all over what we now call Central Europe. You see them in Slovakia, you see them in Bucharest, in Romania also.

There is a lot of popular disaffection with the way democracy has been played since 1989, and very strong feelings that the old hierarchy which was sometimes very communist, sometimes played with the communist regimes, really haven't gone away, but in some places, some ways have solidified their controls over the economy and over parliament.

So, there's a building disaffection with populism. It's true. But also, with the sense that the old elites have never really given up power.

ALLEN: Steven Erlanger, we always appreciate your insights and we'll continue to follow what happens there in the Czech Republic. Thank you.

ERLANGER: Thanks, Natalie.

HOWELL: All right. And now on to the United Kingdom where there are new developments in the controversy surrounding Boris Johnson, who is the front-runner to lead Britain's conservative party and become the next prime minister of the country.

ALLEN: Johnson's neighbor is defending his actions after he recorded a dispute between the M.P. and his girlfriend at their apartment and alerted police. He told The Guardian newspaper he was concerned for his neighbors' safety.

[03:34:57] Meantime, Johnson spent the weekend dodging questions about what might have happened in the apartment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IAIN DALE, PRESENTER, LBC RADIO: Does a person's private life --

(CROWD BOOING)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER CANDIDATE: Don't boo. No, no, don't boo the great man. Don't boo him.

DALE: When he answers this question, I will move on. Does a person's private life have any bearing on their bearing on their ability to discharge the office of prime minister?

JOHNSON: Well, look, I've tried to give my answer pretty exhaustedly. I think what people want to know is whether I have the determination and the courage to deliver on the commitments that I'm making, and it will need a lot of grit right now. I think people are entitled to think about this. This is a relevant consideration here.

DALE: So just to be clear, you're not going to make any comment on what happened last night.

JOHNSON: I think that's pretty obvious from the foregoing, but I --

(APPLAUSE)

DALE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's bring in CNN's Nina Dos Santos live in our London bureau following this story. Nina, with Johnson being the front-runner among conservatives against his rival Jeremy Hunt, are the questions over what happened at his home having any effect on him so far politically?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are having an effect on him in terms of media coverage, is that he is yet again and his girlfriend plastered across the front pages of all the major tabloids and I brought here newspapers for a third day in a row, George.

And one of the papers in particular, The Times here, as you can see, has an opinion piece written by his rival Jeremy Hunt in which Jeremy Hunt calls Boris Johnson a coward. He says he doesn't particularly want to hear about the details of his private life, but what he does want to hear about is his policies and to see Boris Johnson essentially answer those kind of questions that you saw the radio host, Iain Dale, puts him on the stage there in Birmingham.

In the first of one of 16 hosting that gives the conservative party members who are going to be voting on these two final candidates a chance to understand them personally better and understand their policies as well.

Jeremy Hunt here launching this broadside against Boris Johnson, which many of Boris Johnson's backers have said is unnecessary at this time but Hunt says that it's important to understand that the person who is going to be at number 10 Downing Street will not have distractions of a personal nature and also will be able to answer to journalists when they ask these questions.

Iain Dale, that radio host, put that question about Boris Johnson's personal life, which came up in just the early hours of Friday with reports of that altercation there at Carrie Symonds' flat to Boris Johnson no fewer than four times and he dodged the question. That his rival says is unacceptable during these times, George.

HOWELL: Well, at the same time, you know, he dodged the question and you heard in the background presumably supporters there laughing, seemingly happy that he didn't answer what could be a very serious question, Nina. How does the average voter -- (CROSSTALK)

DOS SANTOS: It's interesting that you --

HOWELL: Well, the question -- how does the average voter --

(CROSSTALK)

DOS SANTOS: It's interesting that he picked up on that.

HOWELL: -- does the average voter care about this?

DOS SANTOS: Well, we've got to remember that the average voter doesn't really have a say in this. This is down to the conservative party. So according to the rules of the conservative party, the candidates that get through to the first round are then whittled down to the final two. This is the stage we're at now.

And now it is not up to the members of the conservative party who are elected and represented in the Houses of Commons and house of parliament to decide upon this, it is now up to the broader members, of which there's more than 120,000 across the country, and they will get a chance to know these candidates better in these hostings taking place up until the 6th of July. We've already had one. We've got another 15 to go.

And it's interesting that you picked up on the audience response here to that question. Both versus the questioner, the interviewer, Iain Dale, but also versus Boris Johnson's response as well because you could hear from the audience there in that hosting, it was almost 50- 50 there.

Some people booing the interviewer for pressing home this point about answering to the news reports over the course of the weekend about this altercation at Boris Johnson's girlfriend's flat involving him, and also there was another probably 50 percent of the audience who thought that the interviewer should have moved on, another 50 percent of the audience who came out of that telling media that they thought Boris Johnson should have answered the question.

And this is where it will come down to sort of this question mark over who is the best person to run the conservative party and therefore the best person to run the country.

Now, let me just remind you of where we stand as per the last tally when there was the last ballot between elected members of the conservative party. Boris Johnson really trumped Jeremy Hunt. He got 160 votes from party members. Jeremy Hunt is standing at just 77.

[03:39:57] But many members of the audience at that first hosting in Birmingham over the weekend said that they were impressed by Hunt so things could change definitely when it comes to those members of the party rather than members of the parliament voting later on in the month. George?

HOWELL: You know, I talked about the reaction. It's also important to point out that Boris Johnson did indicate to the crowd not to boo the good man, as he said there. So, we'll obviously have to see how all of this plays out, Nina. Thank you for the report.

ALLEN: Next here on CNN Newsroom, talk about a rude awakening. An airline passenger dozed off on her flight and woke up to a pitch-black empty cabin. You'll hear about her desperate attempts to deplane. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: At the women's football World Cup, England's three-nil victory over Cameroon was marred by a series of controversial calls.

HOWELL: That's right. Cameroon's players were visibly upset with the video assisted referee after multiple decisions didn't go their way. They staged on-field protests and at one point it appeared they would refuse to resume the match.

England's manager condemned the players' behavior as unacceptable, but Cameroon's coach defended his team, claiming there was, quote, "injustice there."

ALLEN: And now we have this. A short 90-minute flight turned into an hours' long ordeal for one Air Canada passenger. She fell asleep during the flight, but when she woke up, she was all alone in the pitch-black airplane.

HOWELL: Wow. Janet Dirks from CTV News reports on the woman's desperate attempt to escape the empty plane.

JANET DIRKS, ALBERTA BUREAU CHIEF, CTV NEWS: The Air Canada plane was empty when Tiffani O'Brien woke up alone, in the dark and frightened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIFFANI O'BRIEN, PASSENGER, AIR CANADA: Just a sheer sense of, like, helplessness when you feel like you're locked on this aircraft.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:44:57] DIRKS: O'Brien was flying from Quebec City to Toronto's Pearson Airport. She says she was in an empty row of seats and fell asleep, but when she woke up everyone was gone and it was nearly midnight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It was completely pitch black. I thought this is a nightmare. This is not happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIRKS: Then she says in a panic she texted the friend who drove her to the airport trying to explain what happened. "I just woke up alone in plane. I'm stuck by myself alone on the plane." The friend texted back that she called Pearson customer service, someone was coming. A call she described to CTV News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEANNA DALE, TIFFANI O'BRIEN'S FRIEND: And I said her plane landed two hours ago. She texted me that she just woke up. I don't know what's going on, but she's at the airport.

O'BRIEN: And then my phone died.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIRKS: O'Brien began looking for ways to escape and says she was able to enter the cockpit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I'm so scared I'm going to touch something that's wrong but I knew I had to do something. I found the flashlight. I was so happy. That was like the best moment ever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIRKS: Then she says she managed to open the door of the plane but the drop to the tarmac was steep. She was eventually rescued by ground crew. This passenger rights advocate says this is a rare occurrence but it raises serious security concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABOR LUKACS, FOUNDER & COORDINATOR, AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS ADVOCATE: If this would have happened with someone else who may have different intentions, injury could have resulted. The passenger had access to the cockpit and could have hypothetically turned on the aircraft. That would not have been a great thing to happen, to say the very least.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIRKS: Air Canada confirms the incident. The passenger was left on the aircraft after the flight and the aircraft had been parked. Air Canada is investigating but won't provide details. O'Brien has hired a lawyer.

HOWELL: Just never heard anything like that. Of course, thanks to CTV's Janet Dirks for that report. But, wow.

ALLEN: Hope that's an isolated incident. That is scary.

(CROSSTALK)

HOWELL: Let's hope so for sure. Yes.

Still ahead here, cities around the world are asking themselves this fundamental question. Is it a prize to host the Olympic Games or is it more of a major burden? Why it's becoming more daunting to be an Olympic host city. Next.

[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: So, believe it or not, only two cities are bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. Those cities are Milan, Italy or Stockholm, Sweden fighting for the honor.

ALLEN: The IOC will vote in the coming hours on who gets it.

Well, let's take a closer look at all of this with CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. She is a sports columnist at USA Today and a veteran of covering the Olympics. Christine. Good to have you. How are you?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Natalie, I'm great, thanks. How are you?

ALLEN: Good, thank you. All right. Monday, we will learn who will win the 2026 Winter Olympics. It is always a thrill when the envelope is opened, the cities are gathered, the winner's name is read, but you say it's time for a new system in the way cities are chosen. What's wrong with the current one?

BRENNAN: Well, there's a lot wrong with it. And Rio has debt up to its eyeballs, Sochi back in the Winter Games in 2014, 51 billion with a "b," $51 billion price tag. It's bankrupting cities. It's holding cities hostages -- hostage. You've got leaders, civic leaders who just have to throw up their hands and say we can't be a part of this anymore. Which is why you see fewer and fewer cities that have actually even gone for the games.

Something that used to be such a crown jewel, to be able to say you hosted the Olympics. I love the Olympics. I've covered them since 1984 in L.A., and I do think they're a great thing for a city, but it's just become so difficult, so expensive.

The International Olympic Committee demands, you know, they want all kinds of first-class hotels and this and that and the other thing and it's just not commensurate, frankly, with the way the world is now with economics, with the environmental concerns of so many places, so many cities around the world and so many countries, and I think that's what you're seeing as this just kind of has reached critical mass and people are saying enough is enough.

ALLEN: Right. I can remember being a news anchor for many, many years. It seems the past several years all I can recall reporting about vis-a-vis Olympics is will they be ready? Because of the cost. Because of the building. It is overwhelming.

BRENNAN: Well, it is. And the idea I floated a few months ago -- I'm not holding my breath for the International Olympic Committee to accept it. But would be to have a rotation where you would maybe have, say, Sydney, London, Los Angeles, established Olympic cities hosting the games every four years, Summer Olympics, and have a wild card, you'd have another country in that 16th year for the fourth of the four, and then you'd repeat the cycle again.

And maybe instead of, you know, instead of Sydney, maybe you'd have them in the region, in the Pacific region. You'd have them go to Tokyo, but you wouldn't force cities like Rio or like Sochi, even though that's a very different story because of Putin's interest in wanting to make that a big show for him.

But you wouldn't then find these cities that are literally affected, Natalie, for decades to come in terms of the financial stresses, the white elephants, the stadiums that are just going to sit there forever not being used, and, again, environmental concerns, which are top of mind I think for so many.

So, it's an idea. As I said, I'm not expecting anyone to adopt it, but I do think something needs to be done because, again, what we're seeing is just more and more cities just saying, not for us, we're out of here and just see two cities, as we see now on Monday, just two cities going for another Olympic Games.

ALLEN: Right. The race to get there is exciting, titillating, but when it comes down to it, it bankrupts cities and can be demoralizing when it's supposed to be this beautiful thing. But you mentioned Vladimir Putin because that reminds everyone it's politics, too.

[03:54:57] BRENNAN Without a doubt. Politics in sports? Shocking. You know, and, yes, and Beijing, for example, hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics and then it's going to be hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, which is just so strange and some call it weird. It's just bizarre.

But that's again, it was only Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing going for the 2022 Winter Games. By the way, when I said cities for the 2026 Winter Games, which is what we're talking about right now, you actually have two countries, main cities, but Italy and Sweden.

So, you've got Stockholm and Milan, but then you also have regional places that you can have things, and even in the case of Sweden, they're talking about having bobsleigh and the sliding sports in Latvia, which I think is fascinating.

And that is a response, Natalie, frankly, to this -- the cost overruns and the great financial concerns that, OK, the International Olympic Committee does seem to be understanding it just a little bit anyway, and saying, wait, wait, wait, we cannot just force these things on a city or a country.

So, in the case of Sweden, they're looking out to another country, Latvia, so that they don't have to build a bobsled track, and in the case of Italy, they would, again, use a lot of existing facilities across that region.

So that's where we are now, and I think there may be a little sanity, a little prudence coming into the conversation, although it's certainly late to the game for many of those cities that are still dealing with the costs many years after the Olympic Games.

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. We had them here in Atlanta, and they just put up the Olympic rings at the park next door. Took a while to get there. Well, it's an interesting concept, a rotating system. We'll see if the IOC listens to Christine Brennan's idea. I hope so. Christine, thank you, as always.

BRENNAN: Natalie, my pleasure. Thank you.

HOWELL: Good idea.

ALLEN: Yes. They're making the announcement today. Either Milan or Stockholm. Next Olympics.

HOWELL: Thanks for being with us.

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END