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World Leaders Convene for G7; Trump Defends U.S.-China Trade War to British Prime Minister, Denies Pressure from G7; Hong Kong Demonstrators Hold Different Rallies One Day after Unrest; Brazil's President Sends Military to Fight Amazon Fires; Israel Launches Airstrikes in Syria; Trump Meets with Abe on G7 Sidelines; Prince Andrew Denies Knowing about Jeffrey Epstein's Behavior. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired August 31, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president meets with his British counterpart, the two talk opportunities of a big trade deal between the nations after Brexit. We have a live report from the G7 in southern France.
Plus protesters are out on the streets in Hong Kong, a 12th straight week of demonstrations.
Also ahead this hour, lightning strikes on a tree at the PGA tournament, injuring several people. We will hear from one of the victims.
Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast and we start with the G7 summit in southern France. The U.S. president Donald Trump met with his counterpart, the British prime minister Boris Johnson. Mr. Trump praised him as the right man to help the U.K. exit the E.U. by the end of October.
President Trump also predicted the two countries would quickly work out a major trade deal once Brexit was complete. Then Mr. Johnson, sitting across the table from the president, heard the American leader say this about him. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you have any advice for Boris Johnson on Brexit?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He needs no advice. He's the right man for the job. I've been saying that for a long time. It didn't make your predecessor very happy. But I've been saying it for a long time: He's the right man for the job.
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: You're on message there.
JOHNSON: I'm grateful -- I'm very grateful for that. And we're looking forward to having some pretty comprehensive talks about how to take forward the relationship in all sorts of ways, particularly on trade. And we're very excited about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: The G7 leaders have been holding official working sessions on several important global issues. The U.S. president also insisted on a special session to talk about the American economy specifically.
Mr. Trump denied any of his peers are pressuring him to tone down his trade war with China despite deepening concerns that it could trigger a global recession. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is following it all live at the summit in southern France.
Nic, we are expecting Mr. Trump and the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe (sic), to meet sometime this hour, we will continue to monitor for that, of course. But let's talk about this meeting between Mr. Trump and Boris Johnson.
What was the nature of that discussion?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think it set the scene, the scene that Boris Johnson wants, which is a positive one, that he can get a good trade deal with a friendly partner in the U.S. White House post Brexit.
It's a message he needs to send to the British electorate, a message that he wants to send to the European Union as well, that he can leave without a deal and quickly get a new trade deal, which will keep the economy of England and the rest of Britain strong.
So that was what Boris Johnson wanted. He interjected a lot. You heard him there just before when President Trump was praising him, actually thanking President Trump and saying that President Trump was on message.
It is a tightrope for Boris Johnson, there is no doubt about it. You know, if President Trump is too effusive about him, then that will count against Boris Johnson back home, where a close relationship with this particular U.S. president would not be looked upon favorably.
But perhaps Boris Johnson may be overstepping the line in President Trump's eyes. We are yet to find out about that, because when President Trump was asked that question, how do you face any criticism from any of the other leaders here about his trade war with China, President Trump's answer was no.
And then Boris Johnson, as you will hear here, interjected, saying, well, actually, there was. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our country is doing really well. We have horrible trade deals and I'm straightening them out. The biggest one, by far, is China.
JOHNSON: Yes. Look, I just want to say I congratulate the president on everything that the American economy is achieving. It's fantastic to see that.
But just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we're in favor of trade peace on the whole and dialing it down if we can.
QUESTION: Are you in favor of trade peace with China?
JOHNSON: Well, we think that, on the whole, we're -- the U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade and that's what we want to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: So caution there from Johnson, saying "a sheeplike note of hesitation" about what President Trump was saying. Anyway, this is a new relationship; it's gotten off to the start Boris Johnson wanted and, as you say, President Trump will be sitting down for a bilateral meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (sic) there.
ROBERTSON: The U.S. wants greater access to the agriculture market in Japan, it's losing a lot to Australia and Abe from his point of view doesn't want to see any increased tariffs on the Japanese auto industry from the United States. So that will be a point of discussion for them.
HOWELL: And, you know, one thing that's really important is, as the U.K. turns to the United States for trade, there are critics who say that it really leaves the U.K. beholden to the United States in that arrangement.
ROBERTSON: It's not just on trade. Boris Johnson needs this good strong relationship with President Trump to be able to hold up the potential of a strong trade deal domestically politically because he may have elections soon to the European Union because it's a strong negotiating tactic for him.
But what is the price of that?
There is pressure; the U.S. national security adviser John Bolton was in London two weeks ago, was pressuring Britain to back the United States on its stance on Iran and that would include possibly pulling out of the international nuclear deal that Britain is still a part of, even though the United States has unilaterally withdrawn from it.
Pressure on Britain as well to not buy from Huawei the Chinese 5G network manufacturer that Britain, under the previous prime minister, had indicated that Britain was prepared to do that. The indications from Johnson's government are that they will back the U.S. at least in the security plan in the Strait of Hormuz near Iran and is reconsidering its position on Huawei.
It exposes Britain to taking sides into the emerging China versus U.S. cold -- economic cold war that's emerging in the world.
HOWELL: Nic Robertson live. Thank you.
As with any meeting of world leaders, protesters turned out in force. Take a look at these live pictures from near the G7 summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): Protesters there are demanding action on everything from globalization to the environment and economic policy. French police there have yet to release any figures on how many people were arrested in these protests on Saturday. Police did say the protesters threw projectiles at them, injuring four officers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas is with us.
Dominic, Boris Johnson, the new role that he has, he got to speak with the U.S. president and his thoughts on these trade wars just a bit at odds with Mr. Trump's. But they seem to make good at the table together. Still Johnson desperately needs Donald Trump's support for trade with the U.S.
Who has more leverage in this relationship?
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, it's absolutely clear and unambiguous, that the United States, in other words, Donald Trump, has more leverage as the United Kingdom extricates itself from the European Union. If it does achieve Brexit, it stands in a much weaker negotiating position on the global stage.
And we see this here and I think that the obvious reference here would be China. If the United States is playing tough with China, one could only imagine what it would be like when it deals with a much smaller, much less powerful economic and political power than it is the United Kingdom.
What we see here are leaders that are, on the one hand, at the G7 on the global international stage under scrutiny. But ultimately each of these individual leaders is very carefully thinking about their constituencies back at home.
And that is especially the case for Boris Johnson, new prime minister, with a general election coming at some point in the near future and every gesture is choreographed with that goal in mind.
HOWELL: Another thing that came out of this meeting with Boris Johnson, President Trump seeming to back off the threat on Sunday after insisting that he has the right to use his executive power to prevent American firms from doing business in China.
Mr. Trump saying, quote, "I have no plan right now. Actually, we're getting along very well with China right now. We're talking."
Dominic, keep in mind just a short time ago in a tweet Mr. Trump labeled Xi Jinping an enemy.
So what do you make of this 180 here?
THOMAS: Well, we are always one tweet away, right, from President Trump changing -- changing his position here. It's clear that when he -- at the G7, he has to play things a little bit differently.
Yes, the G7 configuration has changed and he has many more sympathizers around the table, such as Boris Johnson, the Japanese prime minister, the Italian prime minister and so on. But nevertheless they are under scrutiny, under the lens of the global audience on all of these kinds of questions. And there is --
THOMAS: -- tremendous concern about the stability of the global economy at this point. This plays into the Brexit issue but it also plays into the absolute agenda that has been set by Emmanuel Macron, which is to think about global inequality and the role and the responsibility of these economic leading nations to address some of these questions.
And president Macron has structured the G7 meeting around these particular issues and, therefore, of course, trade wars, conflict and so on are of tremendous concern to these leaders.
HOWELL: You know, the other question here, Dominic, whether words matter more or whether numbers and facts matter more. We know that the U.S. president wanted more time to speak about the U.S. economy, how it's doing; the backdrop, of course, concerns and jitters about a possible global recession.
The question here, as the president takes the world stage and talks about the American economy, does that make a difference here, as we're seeing these indicators that suggest there could be trouble brewing?
THOMAS: Well, I think there is trouble brewing and these leaders are well aware of that, from the German situation where Chancellor Merkel is under particular scrutiny for this and Emmanuel Macron has come out of a complicated 18-month period with all sorts of issues to do with inequality in society.
And these are going to shape eventually the Italian elections and so on. So what we're used to seeing is more of a kind of concerted discussion and consensus around these G7 leaders.
And today there are deep divisions with them on everything from Russia to Iran to climate and so on. So the question of global security and a global economic security is, of course, extremely important here. And President Trump has in so many ways disrupted this global order
and particularly through his focus on prioritizing the interests of the United States and on bilateral deals, the kind of deals that Boris Johnson has talked about, rather than greater multilateral action and coordination.
HOWELL: Mr. Trump also indicated that he would like to invite Russia to next year's G7, keeping in mind the backdrop of all of this, the rising tensions of a possible arms race between these two nations.
What's your read on Mr. Trump's approach to Russia?
THOMAS: Well, this is really, really a complicated one, and extraordinarily divisive at the G7. Yes, there is concerted work around Iran, Syria and so on and so forth. But let's just take the United Kingdom position for Boris Johnson. This is when we think back to the controversies with Russia in recent years, the poisonings in Salisbury and so on, that the British public's perception of the Russian Federation and of Putin is extraordinarily negative.
The European Union has a very complex relationship with Russia, the question of Ukraine and the reasons why Russia has been suspended from what was the G8 remain important issues on the agenda.
The major question, though, when it comes to Europe and this new global order, is that President Trump has systematically, through his attacks on NATO, the G7 and the European Union, ultimately been seeking to weaken that particular bond.
And the European Union, the 27, are absolutely unambiguously united in seeing Russia as a potential foe, as a potential adversary. President Trump does not see it this way. As far as he's concerned, a weaker Europe is a benefit to his America first agenda.
And so this is something around which there is very little consensus at the G7 when it comes to President Trump and the other members of this group.
HOWELL: Dominic Thomas with perspective for us, live this hour in Berlin. Thank you.
THOMAS: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: Protesters are back on the streets in Hong Kong this hour. Just 24 hours after clashes broke out there. We're live at the scene ahead for you.
And these pictures tell a frightening story. Huge parts of the Amazon rain forest burning out of control.
But is that the entire story?
We will get the wider view from our meteorologist Derek Van Dam.
HOWELL: I want to take you to the streets of Hong Kong this hour, where demonstrators are out, two different demonstrations taking place. On one side, protesters who continue to demand more democratic liberty; on the other relatives of police, who are calling for a political solution to the unrest. These rallies come just one day after clashes broke out between authorities and democracy protesters.
Let's bring in our correspondents covering both events, Andrew Stevens and Kristie Lu Stout.
Andrew, first to you, getting a sense of what's happening behind you. We saw last hour a lot of people that were taking part in this.
What's the scene now?
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: We haven't seen any estimates of the crowd, George, but the team here is estimating it in the tens of thousands. The protesters have now actually come to their endpoint, which is actually past the official endpoint, the area which the police have given approval for them to gather.
So the protesters moved to somewhere else, which technically makes this an illegal gathering. Now they should not be where they are gathering. These protesters already are starting to take on a more ominous tone.
The police, just a few minutes ago, sending out a note on Facebook, saying that they will begin dispersal operations soon, didn't give an exact time but just saying soon because of the protesters now in this illegal area.
We are just outside, George, I just want to show you what's been happening. The protesters have been erecting what you can only describe as very flimsy barriers because they think the dispersal operations will actually start from this area and they have put in fairly small obstacles to be honest.
They have these paving bricks on the ground here, stretching along here, a few bolts. You know, things which the police regularly clear, you know, within a minute or whatever.
But that's the sort of frame of mind that they are in at the moment, the protesters are in, that they are preparing for some sort of police action and they are saying that they are going to stay here.
Now as I said, we've seen tens of thousands of protesters coming out, many -- the majority of those -- easily are families, they're protesters who have no interest in getting involved in confrontations with the police.
So what will probably happen over the next hour or so is that many of these people will now filter back home. They will have made their point, they have done their protest, they have done their march, they will disappear.
What is likely to happen is that we will start to see the crowds splintering out. We are already getting reports that one group of protesters is marching towards the local police station here.
And that was, if you remember yesterday, the local police station in a different district of Hong Kong, that became the focal point for tear gas dispersal operations by the police.
They are heading to the police station here in what is likely to be another confrontation. I can hear now the chants of the people inside this park area, where they're gathering. There's plenty of umbrellas, still plenty of people moving towards this area.
But as I said, George, it's definitely becoming a more ominous and the police are now clearly saying that it is time to move or face consequences.
HOWELL: All right. Andrew pointing out, it is becoming now an illegal protest and an illegal gathering, right?
So we will come back to you, Andrew, in a moment. Let's bring in Kristie Lu Stout at a different protest, for families of police who are frustrated with what's happening.
We recently heard from the chief executive Carrie Lam, who said, look, people are tired at this point.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, including the people who took part in this rally which just wrapped up in the last hour or so. At its peak about 400 people took part. It was a rally and a march organized by police members of the Hong Kong police force. They said they did not march to defend police tactics but rather after 12 weeks of protests and violent clashes, enough is enough.
They were bearing banners and signs that said return the police to the people, basically they want the Hong Kong police to again represent the needs and safety requirements of the Hong Kong people.
They also said they wanted a political resolution for the ongoing crisis here. They had a list of demands, among them to minimize conflict between police and protesters, to set up an independent inquiry into the anti extradition bill protests and also a political end to the crisis.
They put that letter which they delivered to two persons. Number one, an area close to the Hong Kong police headquarters, a representative came out and received the letter and another letter that they sent to the office of the embattled chief executive, Carrie Lam.
No representative was there to receive the letter. It was merely tossed across a security fence. Back to you. Kristie Lu Stout, thank you for the report. And Andrew Stevens as well, we will continue to stay in touch with you both.
The French president Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the G7 summit this year, says that he wants the Amazon rain forest, the fires there, on the agenda. Keeping in mind those fires are burning in Brazil at the worst level since 2013.
Some of the countries attending the summit support blocking a trade deal between the European Union and Brazil until the country takes action on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: Biodiversity, habitat loss, the excruciating scenes that we have seen from the Amazon, this has been repeated around the world in the loss of species, the loss of habitat. In some places, in some ways it's irreversible.
We need to talk about that, we need to escalate here at the G7 the tragedy of what humanity is inflicting on the natural world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Brazil's president says that he is taking action against the fires. He is sending in more than 43,000 troops to help get those fires under control. He blames the fires on warmer weather.
Critics say that Bolsonaro is at least partly to blame by calling for the Amazon to be developed, leading farmers to set fires to clear the land.
Separately, Bolivia is using a super tanker firefighting plane to drop water on the fires there. The government is trying to figure out how the fires started and how to help those affected by it. Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has this report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The view now, this tributary of the Amazon should be clear. But the smoke from the fires have masked much of it all day. You can smell it the air here, in Porto Velho, it's a town that knows fully well the disaster unfolding further down the highway that drives into the heart of the Amazon.
We drove down that ourselves and remarkably police said to us that actually the fire surge at night because they're started then deliberately by those who seek to get rid of the forest canopy and use the land, the deforested land, for agriculture.
Remarkable that it seems, according to police, many of the fires they come across are in fact started deliberately. Some say that president Jair Bolsonaro has essentially provided a climate where that is permissible, thinking they can get away with it. He said the Amazon is a resource that should be used by the people to
enrich them, and even echoed that in a speech on Friday, when he addressed international criticism of his stance on the Amazon. He appeared to accept the scale of the problem with the fires but still tried to suggest they were still part of the annual dry season's burn here.
But we are seeing the military, as he promised, begin to show up here, 43,000 are supposed to be heading to the Amazon in general. We saw one of the cargo planes landing in the few hours just earlier here, probably part of that broader effort.
But it is a mammoth job, here, there is no doubt of the science that is now 85 percent more fires burned than there were last year, an area every minute equivalent to 1.5 football pitches is being deforested.
And in the statewide man rundown of states (ph), there are the most number of fires. There is an enormous task here and the Brazilian army have experience in this but possibly not the logistical capability to deal with it fast. Many hoping for heavy rains during the week. They may get some lighter ones, starting Tuesday.
Will that curb the effort or curb the spread of the fire?
WALSH: Unclear and the broader question, too, now internationally, where does Brazil stand?
France says it's lying; the U.K. is clear, more must be done to save the rain forest here. The E.U. says maybe trade deals should be put on hold until the fire is under control. A lot of pressure on Brazil but really, this is a global challenge, the lungs of the Earth, at stake -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, in Porto Velho, Brazil.
HOWELL: Nick, thank you very much. Now to tell you about a new tropical storm that's formed in the Atlantic. It has Puerto Rico in its forecast path.
HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, Israel says that it's attacking Iran-linked targets inside Syria. Its prime minister is also hinting about possible attacks in Iraq. We have a live report on all of what is happening from Jerusalem for you. Stay with us.
(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States around
all around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from alt, I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.
HOWELL: Israel has launched more airstrikes in Syria against what it says were Iranian and Shia militia. The Israeli military says that they averted a quote, "large-scale attack of killer drones."
Syria state media says its air defenses repelled a rocket attack, also said there are reports of Israeli activity in Lebanon. Lebanese state media say that a, quote, "enemy drone" crashed hours ago in the southern Beirut suburbs. CNN's Sam Kiley is following all of this. Sam is live in Jerusalem.
What more can you tell us?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, just on that attack in -- alleged attack in Beirut, Israel Katz, the Israeli foreign minister is saying that there is no connection between what may have happened there and the attack that happened overnight inside Syria, which the Israelis are most certainly anxious to claim responsibility for.
In Beirut, the Hezbollah has alleged that two Israeli drones came down in the southern suburbs, in the area controlled by Hezbollah, one doing some damage quite close to Hezbollah's main media offices. But there has been no comment at all from the Israelis on that.
Overnight, though, they say they most certainly did attack Iranian targets and targets of an Iranian-backed militia, which, they say, according to the Israeli Defense Forces, were right on the brink of launching what they call severe attacks on northern Israel using what the Israelis call "killer drones," drones that fly themselves or are flown, rather, onto target by pilots on the ground elsewhere, possibly inside Syria.
They're saying that this was a variant of a drone that has never yet been used against Israel. There have been attempted drone attacks, at least one in the past that was downed flying south over the river Jordan.
But in this case the Israelis are very, very quick indeed to acknowledge that they carried out this operation. Benjamin Netanyahu saying after the operation, quoting Hebrew scriptures, saying, "If a man rises to kill you, kill him first."
Also hinting that -- or repeating the hint that Israel is prepared to attack Iranian forces anywhere in the world if they threaten Israel. That is a repeat --
KILEY: -- of a statement he said when asked about previous airstrikes against Iranian-backed targets inside Iraq over the last couple of months.
There have been at least three that have been not acknowledged as being conducted by any third state but the allegation coming out of Iraq is that it was Israel targeting Iranian militia or militia backed by Iran inside Iraq.
But this occasion in Syria most certainly is the first time that the Israelis have come out so quick in a very long time to acknowledge not only that they attacked but that they very specifically attacked Iranian targets -- George.
HOWELL: Sam Kiley, we will keep in touch with you on it.
The Russian navy is flexing its military muscle and wants the world to know about it. Officials say that two submarines test fired ballistic missiles on Saturday in the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea. Moscow reports the tests were a success but two weeks ago it was a very different story. That's when Russian nuclear specialists were killed in a blast.
We're taking these live images right now of the U.S. president Donald Trump and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, together in Biarritz, France. The two should be speaking in a moment. These two leaders certainly will be discussing a range of issues, defense against North Korea. Japan certainly relies on the United States for that.
Let's listen in to see if there are reporter questions and if these leaders are answering questions.
SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): -- now enjoy the robust relationship of trust more so than ever and can be said vis-a-vis the status of the U.S.-Japan relations are in general.
Thanks to your tremendous support for me as a chair of the G20 Osaka summit, we could send out a really powerful message toward addressing various global challenges.
And just as importantly, I am ready to work very closely with you, Donald, so as to bring this year's G7 summit to a successful conclusion.
So on this occasion I certainly have looked forward to discuss with you specific ways to deepen our alliance between the two countries and also the regional situations, including North Korea as well as Iran.
And, of course, we look forward to discussing bilateral trade as well as economic relationships. And I certainly hope to have a very productive discussion with you.
TRUMP: Thank you. And I want to also congratulate the great Matsuyama. You know who Matsuyama is? He's a great golfer that we played with and we had a lot of fun. And Shinzo is a very good golfer and we have a lot of fun playing golf together. And we played with Ernie Els here and Shinzo reciprocated with a great player, Matsuyama. And last week, in a big tournament -- which is a one of the very biggest tournaments -- he came in third and he shot a 62 or 63 in the final round, which is not bad. Right? Which is not bad. So, he's a great young man and he's a great golfer. And please congratulate him for me. Thank you. OK.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you have a trade deal with Japan? Have you agreed on a trade deal?
TRUMP: We're working on one and we're fairly close. And I don't know as to, Bob Lighthizer, what's happening. Can you give us a status report?
ROBERT LIGHTHIZER, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, we're very close and we've been working intensively. And hopefully, as a result of this meeting, we'll be able to come to an agreement on core principles.
TRUMP: A very big deal. It's a major deal with Japan. If it gets done, we'll possibly know by the end of this meeting.
QUESTION: Mr. President, did you sign off on a statement to Iran -- a message to Iran that President Macron says he's going to deliver on behalf of all the G7 countries?
TRUMP: No, I haven't discussed that. No.
QUESTION: It's --
TRUMP: No, I haven't.
QUESTION: Do you support President Macron's outreach to Iranian authorities?
TRUMP: Sure. And I also support Prime Minister Abe's outreach because he's also speaking to Iran and they have a very good relationship, from what I understand. But Iran is no longer the same country it was -- as it was two and a half years ago. But we'll do our own outreach. But, you know, I can't stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.
QUESTION: What are some of the issues you all talked about at dinner last night?
TRUMP: Why don't you tell me what we spoke about last night?
QUESTION: I'm asking you, sir.
TRUMP: Because there was a lot of inaccurate reporting. We had a really good dinner last night. And I had a fantastic lunch with the president of France yesterday. The best -- frankly -- and I told him and I was totally honest -- probably an hour and a half. Many of you saw it. I think it was the best hour and a half I've ever spent with him, President Macron. It was a perfect period of time. And yet, I picked up stories and I read like it was the opposite. It was really was. I mean, it doesn't matter; you can write whatever you want to write. But it was false reporting. We had a very, very good lunch and we had a very, very good dinner last night. Everybody was at the dinner.
And I think it was really good. We discussed Iran. We discussed trade. We discussed China. And we discussed many things. But it was a very, very good -- a very good dinner.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you said you discussed Russia and you said earlier it was a "lively" discussion. Do you feel that the other members of the G7 would encourage Russia to join again, the way you are?
TRUMP: I think that's a work in progress. We have a number of people that would like to see Russia back. I think it would be -- I think it would be advantageous to many things in the world. I think it would be a positive.
Other people agree with me. And it's something that we're discussing. I don't know that we'll make a decision one way or the other, but we did have a discussion about Russia last night, as to whether or not we want to invite them back. I think it's advantageous. I think it's a positive. Other people agree with me and some people don't necessarily agree.
QUESTION: How do you expect to overcome those differences?
TRUMP: Well, I don't think we're going to -- maybe we won't. Maybe we'll just leave it the way it is.
QUESTION: Can you say who were some of those who agreed with you on inviting Russia back?
TRUMP: I could, but I don't think it's necessary. Some of the people that I was surprised -- I was actually surprised at a couple of them because I didn't think they had a good relationship and it was good enough that they said, "Yes, we'd like to have them back." It's -- it's ongoing discussion. No decision -- no decision was made. We didn't do a vote or anything. Just discussion.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all about North Korea conducting more tests?
TRUMP: I'm not happy about it. But, again, he's not in violation of an agreement. We speak. I received a very nice letter from him last week. We speak. He was upset that South Korea was doing --
HOWELL: We were just listening there to the U.S. president Donald Trump speaking with reporters in his -- after his discussion with the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. The two said that they discussed a range of issues and that a possible trade deal between the United States and Japan could, quote, "be very close." Could even happen at this meeting. But as the president might typically say, a wait and see on that.
Let's bring in our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson. Nic is following this live for us.
It was interesting to hear the U.S. president speaking just a moment ago, the last thing he was talking about was Russia, saying that he would like to see Russia return to the G7.
When pressed by the reporter, well, which other leaders support you on that, the president wouldn't name names. Also said, Nic, well, maybe we just leave it as it is. Interesting to hear that from the president.
ROBERTSON: Yes, that was very interesting, wasn't it?
I mean, that was kind of him -- President Trump seeming to accept that in this 6+1 G7, if you will, that he is the one that's outnumbered and particularly on this issue of Russia. We know the Europeans -- European Council president Donald Tusk said, no, Macron has said he doesn't believe that Russia should be allowed back in because of their annexation of Crimea.
It seems President Trump faces a broad pushback although he described it as some people support me, others not as much. That's typical of President Trump to play down the differences and problems that he may face.
He did seem to accept it, that's he's not going to get his way on Russia. It was very interesting on Iran as well. We knew that Iran was an important issue to the French president, who has been talking with Iranian officials about trying to tamp down tensions in the Persian Gulf.
We know coming into this that he wanted the support of President Trump to try to get, you know, dialogue moving along with the Iranians. However, what we heard here, the president saying that, you know, there has been discussion behind the scenes about Macron wanting a letter signed by everyone at the G7 to show that he can move forward in his discussions with Iran.
That, however, the president said, has not signed the letter there. We're getting to hear some of the behind the scenes details. Of course, a lot more to learn.
HOWELL: Nic Robertson following the story. Again, the U.S. president Donald Trump meeting and discussing that meeting with Shinzo Abe. We will have more on this, of course, and other news we're --
HOWELL: -- following after the break.
HOWELL: Live image in Hong Kong. We have seen smoke in the air there. Police using tear gas on demonstrators. These demonstrations now going into the 12th straight weekend. We're watching to see how this plays out.
Keep in mind we just saw another rally, a pro-police rally, families who, rather, are looking for calm. They are tired of these continued protests. This is the other protest that's been playing out. And our Andrew Stevens has been following events there. We see the protesters there with umbrellas on one side of that street, police there in their gear on the other.
And just moments ago -- and you saw it here, just as we brought the signal back, we saw -- and you can see it there, tear gas seems to be in the air on that rainy day with protesters on the streets. We will continue to follow this and bring you more as we get developments there.
Britain's Prince Andrew has issued a statement denying that he knew any criminal activity as speculation grows about the nature of his relationship with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
He admits that it was a mistake to see the late financier after his release from prison in 2010. Officials say Epstein took his own life this month inside a Manhattan jail cell. That's where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Let's bring in Mark Bolton. Mark is following the story in our London bureau.
Mark, Prince Andrew insisted he never witnessed or suspected Epstein in any behavior.
MARK BOLTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's --
BOLTON: -- correct. It's the first time we have heard from Prince Andrew officially on this matter. He has for the first time admitted to a friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.
The big question, of course, remains, why was Prince Andrew still having a friendship with a convicted pedophile after his conviction in 2008?
Jeffrey Epstein of course, convicted for procuring an underaged girl for prostitution. He served 18 months for that criminal offense. And there have been many reports here and video footage as well in the British press, reportedly showing Prince Andrew at the residence of Jeffrey Epstein in 2010. That's the matter essentially that all here are looking to address and looking for answers.
Buckingham Palace issued a statement last Monday on the matter. But this the first time we have heard from the prince. He does admit to a mistake with regard to that, to clarify what you said previously, he admits that he didn't witness, suspect or see any behavior that was criminal and says he was surprised as to the nature of the offenses that, of course, were both prosecuted in the U.S. and have been fielded at the feet of Jeffrey Epstein.
It's a story the British press have got their teeth into, they won't let it go. Many more answers and questions over the coming days.
HOWELL: Just a technical note, we mistakenly ran a clip of Boris Johnson, who is not tied to this story, just a few moments ago. But again, these are interesting details that you are bringing to light and we will continue to follow the story with you. Thank you.
Several people are injured as lightning strikes a big golf tournament here in Atlanta. We will have more on that ahead. Stay with us.
HOWELL: Six people were injured at the PGA tour championship here in Atlanta. This when lightning struck a tree that they were taking shelter under. This video captures one of at least two lightning strikes at that event.
An official says the golf tournament was suspended before the strike happened as that storm moved in and they encouraged everyone to leave and seek shelter. Police say that six people who were injured primarily by debris were taken to local hospitals for treatment. One of them told CNN how the freak event unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILLY KRAMER, INJURED IN LIGHTNING STRIKE: It wasn't a torrential downpour, no one -- I didn't feel unsafe. I was on my way back, you know, to be with the people working with me at the event.
I think everybody else was heading towards shelter, they weren't -- it was -- it didn't appear to be any reason to (INAUDIBLE) towards shelter. I don't know that the tour did anything wrong. I think, again, it's just -- we just -- we just got unlucky. I mean, it's a one in a gazillion chance incident and we just, unfortunately, were around it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Lucky indeed.
Thank you for being with us. The news continues here on CNN.