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CNN International: France In Political Limbo After Left Alliance Beats Far Right; Left-Wing Coalition Beats Far Right In Surprise Result; Voting Results Plunge France Into Political Uncertainty. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 11:00   ET




ELENI GIOKOS, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": Welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai. U.S. President Joe Biden is facing growing pressure from his fellow Democrats to step up his game or step down.

ISA SOARES, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": And I'm Isa Soares in Paris. We will start off in France, following surprising results from the country's snap parliamentary elections.

Good afternoon, everyone. Here in France, a stunning election result that has left breathing the left, really, a sigh of relief at least for now. A left-wing alliance surged at the polls, winning the most seats in the French parliament, but failing to capture an absolute majority. Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally fell short of expectations after a strong first round of voting, if you remember. It took third place behind the left bloc and French -- President Emmanuel Macron's Ensemble, but the far right still won 143 seats, the most in its history. The bottom line today, well, France is in sort of political limbo and it's not clear what happens next.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal tendered his resignation today, but that was refused by President Emmanuel Macron, who has asked Attal to stay on to ensure the stability of the country.

Our Melissa Bell has more from Paris.


MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A shock result, screams of jubilation, mixed with tears of joy. France's political pendulum swinging left in the second round of the country's parliamentary elections.

CAMILLE, NEW POPULAR FRONT VOTER: When we saw that, like, I know in my street, people started shouting. There were like, yeah, let's go. So, we're really happy.

BELL (voice-over): The New Popular Front, a left-wing alliance, formed less than a month ago, sweeping the most seats. JEAN-LUC MELENCHON, LEADER, FRANCE UNBOWED (Interpreted): The unified

left has shown it is capable of facing this historic event and it has scuffered the trap which was set for the country.

BELL (voice-over): The snap election was called by President Macron after France's far-right National Rally party dominated European elections. It then went on to take a commanding lead in the first round of voting in this parliamentary elections, but then suffered a major blow in the second. The party's leader, Jordan Bardella, fighting frustration and disappointment after the stunning loss.

JORDAN BARDELLA, FRANCE NATIONAL RALLY LEADER (Interpreted): I tell you in all seriousness that depriving millions of French people of seeing the possibility of their ideas and thoughts represented in government will never be viable for friends.

BELL: The biggest disappointment of all, of course, for Marine Le Pen, she had hopes that her National Rally party would finally be able to govern. In fact, it came in third, but still recorded the party's best ever electoral success.

BELL (voice-over): Yet, the result that set off those tears of jubilation has also plunged the country into political chaos. With no clear majority, parliament is left gridlocked. And the left-wing alliance, which was formed with no clear leader, also now needs to determine who becomes Prime Minister.

GABRIEL ATTAL, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (Interpreted): I know that in the light of tonight's results, a good many French people feel very unsure about the future because there is no absolute majority. Our country is faced with an unprecedented political situation.

BELL (voice-over): An unprecedented political situation that includes a French parliament even more fractious and divided than it was before.


SOARES: Let's get more from Melissa Bell. Melissa, so, political deadlock and no doubt furious horse-trading. Just talk us through the options right now.

BELL: Well, difficult to foresee at this stage for anyone, Isa, given just how uncharted this territory is that we're entering. But, what we do know is that when this unlikely, improbable alliance was created less than a month ago that has now won these elections, becoming the biggest bloc in the parliament behind me, when it was created, there were all kinds of very difficult negotiations that went on. There was controversy. There were people who didn't agree, because the nature of this alliance itself includes such different political parties that have very different views, that do not necessarily get along very well.

And there was a lot of concern for many of the more moderate left-wing parties about their alliance with someone like Jean-Luc Melenchon, who for years has been the much more controversial face of the far left. [11:05:00]

There were many within the now victorious alliance that were extremely uncomfortable with being an alliance with him at all. So, the question now becomes, each party is going to want their candidates to be put forward for the potential candidate to become Prime Minister. It's very difficult from here to see how any of them are going to accept that their candidate isn't the chosen one. There will, of course, be the weight of each party within the alliance. But still, there are egos at play. There are sensitive political formations that for years have been very suspicious about what the others are doing. It's very difficult to see from here, Isa, how any of these people come to any agreement about who their candidate should be.

And again, even when you consider the alliance and if you imagine that some kind of unity will hold even beyond this particularly fraught period of negotiation around the question of who the Prime Minister might be, even if they managed to hold it together and maintain a unity that, again, has been so elusive on the French left for so many years, even if they managed to hold it together, they're still not the majority party.

So, there are going to have to be on all kinds of questions that Emmanuel Macron is going to be hoping to get through alliances that are made, trades that are made. It's very difficult to see how from the last parliament, which should really look very difficult for him to manage. There were questions about whether he is going to get his budget through. And that was -- it was assumed, part of his calculation when he decided just to dissolve it and start again. But, the current one looks even more difficult for him to work with than even the last one did, Isa.

SOARES: So much political uncertainty right now. What is clear is that this hastily arranged coalition that you're talking about, Melissa, has been able to push -- has been successful in pushing the far-right party of Marine Le Pen to third. But, give us a sense, they still have a significant number of seats, 143. I know you've been out in the countryside. You had been speaking to those supporters. How will they see this moment, do you feel?

BELL: Well, we heard very much in the words of Jordan Bardella, the party President, at that very disappointing meeting he had last night. It was meant to be a party. They were really hoping they were going to be celebrating their becoming the largest group inside the National Assembly. But, you're quite right. They did still double their number of seats. That gives them a much greater ability, both to be an important force in French politics to be part of that horse-trading I was talking about to make themselves heard.

But, what you heard Jordan Bardella say yesterday was really speak to what he considers a sort of conspiracy against it. It was the alliance, the tactical voting, he believed, that was preventing, as he put it, the will from the French -- of the French people from being reflected in these final votes. And that message is something that they're going to continue peddling. And there is, in France, a large group of people, specifically in the French countryside, away from Paris, those are ones we went to speak to in Normandy on Friday, reminded us, who are very angry about the way the country has been managed. Some of them would have been part of the yellow vest protests. Many of them extremely dissatisfied.

And what unites them all, and I'm talking about a constituency that voted National Rally outright in the first round, there were 39 who said cheese. So, loud was the anger that was poking in. And again, a first round that tends to be how people vote with their hearts. Very strong support. In some places, they won outright. And to those voters who very clearly made their voices heard, the message that is now going to be peddled by the National Rally is no doubt going to resonate. The idea that somehow their victory, their voice has once again been discarded, set aside by the political machinations of the Parisian elites, Isa.

SOARES: Melissa Bell for us there in Paris. Thanks very much, Melissa.

Let's get more inside. Let's welcome in Rym Momtaz. She is a POLITICO Europe's Senior Correspondent in France, a well-known face here on CNN. Rym, great to have you here. Just Melissa saying it's so hard to make any sort of assumptions, any guess of what may happen next, how do you see kind of the machinations here in the next several weeks?

RYM MOMTAZ, POLITICO EUROPE'S SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, FRANCE: That's all anyone is going to be talking about right now on the political side. You have the leftist coalition that's trying very hard to make sure that their unity holds and that they're able to get a bit of support from the left wing of Macron's party in order to be able to form a government that is stable enough at least to survive a few no --


SOARES: Steal some of those from the left.

MOMTAZ: So, steal them in the sense of give them support in parliament, not necessarily to join the --


MOMTAZ: -- actual coalition. That's on their side, on the left's side. On Macron's side, he is definitely also trying to build a coalition with the Conservatives, Les Republicains (ph), in order to get ahead in terms of numbers of the left-wing coalition and have a chance at running a new government again.

SOARES: Well, for our viewers just around the world, just explain this.


We saw that the left alliance got most of the votes, an overall majority. Why wouldn't Macron back or back a Prime Minister from that alliance? Just explain that.

MOMTAZ: So, there is quite a bit of bad blood between Emmanuel Macron and the left, let's say all of the parties, right, that go from the center-left Socialist party all the way to the far left, which is La France Insoumise. That is because, since 2017, the truth is, Emmanuel Macron has been elected in good part because of the leftist voters that contributed to the firewall, what we call the front republicain, the Republican front, in order to block the far right and make sure that they don't take power.

And as soon as he was elected, he has unfortunately perhaps forgotten a bit how much he owes to that side of the parliament, and has put in place policies that are much more conservative and not taking into consideration a lot of what the left-wing parties would have liked to see. It happened in 2017. It happened again in 2022. And actually, yesterday, it was also in good part the leftist voters that saved in Emmanuel Macron's party and ensured that it didn't collapse.

SOARES: So, in light of that, is this -- do you think he will read the room differently this time round? Do you think he is -- it's more about his own political survival, his party's political survival here?

MOMTAZ: His close advisors have been saying for the past three weeks that he has learned big lesson since the European election --


MOMTAZ: -- that he has changed the way he wants to run things. But, I have to say the proof is going to have to be in the pudding. I don't think many of the other parties are going to take his word for it. So, if he wants that to happen, he needs to show that with actions. Unfortunately, the way he positioned himself before the first round but also up to the --


MOMTAZ: -- runoff of this election didn't give that impression. He continued to attack the leftist coalition, in particular, the far left, and didn't really try to build a coalition with him.

SOARES: So, I mean, could he possibly go pick a Prime Minister from the left, something like from the more, not the far left, but something for the left? The Socialist Party, the Green Party, is that more of a possibility? Or do you think that he will still get a lot of push from his right, his party?

MOMTAZ: So, he doesn't get to pick the Prime Minister, by the way.

SOARES: But, do you think he has -- he will -- could he?

MOMTAZ: Could he reach out? I mean, that's a possibility. You can never say never with him.


MOMTAZ: But, I think it's unlikely, given the current state of play. We have 10 days that are going to be very important, because on July 18, the parliamentary groups will be finalized, meaning, until then, there is still a bit of give when it comes to the power dynamics in parliament. I think he is waiting to see how that works out. He is also trying to -- excuse me, he is trying to influence what happens --

SOARES: Right.

MOMTAZ: -- in terms of how these groups come together. So, the next 10 days, you're going to have a lot of back-room politicking happening.

SOARES: So, negotiations will be happening very quickly. Melissa was talking about this in terms of the far right. They came third, but they got a substantial --


SOARES: -- amount of seats compared to just two years ago. So, how do you think they will feel this moment?

MOMTAZ: They feel like the election was stolen.


MOMTAZ: It is a talking point to a certain extent. But, there is definitely that feeling, and even just -- not just in the party --


MOMTAZ: -- but among their voters, they felt like they represented a plurality, if not a majority, of the sentiment in the country. And they felt that it was unfair that all of these parties that don't really agree on anything much came together just to block them. But, that is also what democracy is.


MOMTAZ: In France, there is a saying, in the first round, you choose, and in the second round, in the runoff, you eliminate, and that's exactly what happened yesterday.

SOARES: Absolutely brutal, isn't that?


SOARES: But, that's you say is democracy. Thank you very much, Rym. Great to see you.

We'll have much more, of course, on the French elections. But first, I'm going to hand it back to Eleni Giokos, who is in Dubai, with other news of the day. Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right. Thanks so much, Isa. Of course, we'll catch up with you later in the hour.

Meantime, an extremely deadly day across Ukraine, as Russian missile strikes killed more than 30 people. In one attack, a children's hospital was hit in the capital of Kyiv. Volunteers helped tear up debris to reach people who were trapped in the rubble, while others moved patients to safety. The rare daytime attack also hits another Ukrainian city, in fact, other cities across the board during rush hour. Several European nations denounced Russia's actions on the hospital. France used the word "barbaric", the British "depraved".

I want to get now more from CNN's Clare Sebastian, who joins us live in London. Clare, good to have you on the story. Look tragic aftermath after multiple strikes in Ukraine, most notably that children's hospital. What are you learning this morning?


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Eleni. The numbers have been rising as the aftermath becomes clearer and the wreckage is sifted through. We're now up to 33 people who've been killed across these various regions, including Kyiv, of course, and the injury toll up to 137. Obviously, the most shocking images that we're getting come out of that children's hospital. As of now, we know of two adults that were killed in that children's hospital. There were seven injured. We know that children are among those injured. But, as I said, the work of sifting through the wreckage, that significant destruction of that hospital is not yet done.

It has caused a lot of shock in the capital. This is a very well-known hospital, the most important in Ukraine, according to President Zelenskyy, where the sickest children go to get the most specialized treatment. We saw patients having to be evacuated, including very young children, cancer patients, very, very vulnerable. And at some point in the mid-morning, there was another air raid where everyone ran into the basement. And we're hearing about another health clinic in a different part of the city that was hit by, according to preliminary information, by falling debris from missile defense, taking down missiles, and seven people reported killed at that health clinic.

So, an extremely deadly day in the capital. President Zelenskyy visiting Poland and calling for, he says, concrete action from his allies, including he wants permission to use Western-donated weapons to hit Russian weapons stores and missile locations in that country, and more of those limitations lifted. I think, ahead of the NATO summit, he is using this moment to call for more ambition from his partners when it comes to supporting Ukraine, and in particular, of course, given these attacks, for more air defenses.

GIOKOS: Yeah, Clare, and we are seeing of these images of volunteers, people trying to clean up the debris in the aftermath of these strikes. It's really very tragic. But, the strike on the children's hospital in particular, we've spoken about Russia's indiscriminate targeting of specific institutions around Ukraine, but we haven't seen something like this in a while. What kind of message do you think Putin is sending when he is striking an institution, a children's hospital that should be protected under international law?

SEBASTIAN: Well, what Russia has said today is that they carried out strikes on military industrial facilities and air bases within Ukraine, claiming that all their targets were hit, and separately claiming, this is from the Ministry of Defense, that the images of destruction they said that are coming out of Kyiv are consistent with Ukrainian missile defense -- missiles essentially falling on the capital. That is now, we've spoken to several weapons experts who've seen the footage of the actual missile falling on that children's hospital, who say that it is consistent with a cruise missile, which is, of course, what Ukraine is saying.

But, look, Russia has reason potentially to use this moment. That is, of course, a day before the NATO summit. They may want to make it clear, given the calls from Ukraine and other international figures to step up aid to Ukraine that Russia is still capable of escalating. Of course, Ukraine is hoping that this will have the opposite effect, and as I said, calling not only for more concrete action from the partners, but also promising to hit back itself, a powerful response, was the words used by President Zelenskyy.

GIOKOS: Yeah. OK. Sebastian, thank you so much.

Well, coming up, a deep division in -- is growing within the Democratic Party. Details ahead on the efforts President Biden is taking to redeem his political image. Plus, we go back to the French elections, where a left-wing coalition prevented the far right from winning big. How European leaders are reacting to the political gridlock now facing France?




GIOKOS: The Democratic Party is having a moment of soul-searching with U.S. President Joe Biden's political career at stake. Lawmakers are back on Capitol Hill, following their Fourth of July recess. And the President has written a letter to congressional Democrats, telling them he is staying in the race. All this after his poor performance at the CNN presidential debate last month. More than a handful of House Democrats are telling the House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries that the President needs to step aside from the campaign, and even if the President's supporters say he needs to recharge his campaign.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I love Joe Biden. I don't know that the interview on Friday night did enough to answer those questions. And so, I think this week is going to be absolutely critical. I think --

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Biden is going anywhere. He has been strong in saying that, in the last day or two, he is not going to be pushed out.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): He should take a moment to make the best informed judgment. And if the judgment is run, then run hard and beat that S.O.B.

GIOKOS: A campaign official tells CNN Mr. Biden is working to win back congressional Democrats. In an interview earlier today with MSNBC, the President remained steadfast about his decision to stay in the race, and he told Democratic critics that if they want change, they need to challenge him at the party's convention. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I am not going anywhere. I wouldn't be running if I didn't absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2024. We had a Democratic nomination process where the voters spoke clearly. I want 14 million of the votes etc. So, I just want -- I'm only believe that from the beginning, but I wanted to reassert and demonstrate that is true, and I'm going to be doing that all through this weekend from here on.


GIOKOS: All right. We go now live to our Senior White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche for more. Good to see you, Kayla. Look, the President writing this letter, two-page letter, to congressional leaders. He focuses on what he calls the voters' decision. You had that coin to MSNBC. How have all his efforts today being received?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he understands that time is of the essence. The clock is ticking for him to win over his party and bat down some of the intra-party bickering that's currently happening over whether he should in fact be the nominee, in that very long letter to House Democrats, some of whom held a call yesterday discussing how they would potentially communicate or corral the rest of their caucus to potentially push the President to step down. He said that the voters have already spoken and that they have made him more than the presumptive nominee by a wider margin, and that now they have 42 days before the party's convention, 119 days before the election, and that the job at hand right now is to beat Donald Trump and to rally behind him.

That being said, there will be two critical meetings behind closed doors tomorrow, one amongst Senate Democrats and one among House Democrats, where they'll be discussing some of the frustration with members of their own party who are interested in seeing the President step aside. That being said, the President is out to assuage those concerns. And I'm told he is also working the phones behind the scenes, continuing an effort that he began in earnest last week when there was quite a bit to claw back from after the deep frustration following his disastrous debate performance, whether that outreach and this full court press can change hearts and minds, remains to be seen.

But, CNN's Jeff Zeleny has also just learned that President Biden is going to be making a surprise visit to a call that's scheduled to take place in just about 30 minutes with top donors to try to convince them that he is the winning candidate and that Democrats will have the winning ticket in November. That comes as several top backers of the party have suggested that they will be pausing their donations until Biden is replaced at the top of the ticket. So, clearly, the President understands that he has work to do, but is also defiant to his critics.


He said that he doesn't believe -- the polls of the polls have been wrong, that the pundit class and the media elite have been wrong, and he said that he is the one who knows best and that voters know too. Back to you.

GIOKOS: All right. Kayla Tausche, great to see you. Thank you so much for that update.

Well, for more now on the Capitol Hill drama, let's bring in today's panel. Lynn Sweet is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun- Times, and Sabrina Siddiqui is The Wall Street Journal's White House Reporter. They're both joining us from Washington, D.C. A very good morning to you and what a day it is. It's a critical week for President Biden. Many Democrats are saying so. You've got that letter. You had that MSNBC phone call this morning as well. He is trying to do more off-the-cuff interactions.

I want to start off with you, Lynn, and give me a sense of what you're making about what President Biden is doing at this point in time.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: There is a saying in United States politics that might even go further across the globe. When you explain, you lose. There is just too much explaining that President Biden is doing now in trying to justify continuing his candidacy. All the things he is saying is true. No one needs a letter to point that out. But, when you're on this much of a defensive, it's hard to just maintain the offensive of just saying I'm the candidate and going after Trump. The next benchmark, by the way, is not just the meetings on Capitol Hill or calls with donors, but he has a full-blown press conference coming up during NATO this Thursday.

GIOKOS: Sabrina, he has got to claim back the narrative in many ways, right, and they're trying as much as possible to do that. And there are certain things that they could do. Everyone is watching President Biden's performance. They are watching his mental acuity, watching what he is capable of. We know that there are splits emerging. But, I guess the question is, are we seeing a split within the White House at this juncture?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think that there are some White House aides who have been concerned about the President's capabilities following that debate performance. It definitely took some White House aides by surprise. But, overall, what they're reckoning with is the fact that the President is adamant that he is going to stay in the race and continue his campaign. And so, now, they're really on -- in the offensive. You're seeing them really amplifying their outreach to Democrats, and even publicly, the President himself voicing frustration that this conversation is continuing to carry on more than a week after the debate.

And I think some of that is actually because there are congressional Democrats who complained that it took the President and his aides too long to respond to their concerns about the debate, both publicly and privately. But now, a Biden campaign official says the President has personally reached out to about 20 House Democrats, including Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill. You had that letter and the interview on MSNBC where he is striking much more of a defiant tone. And I think what you're going to start to see is them shifting gears from addressing the concerns to saying, hey, the longer that this debate plays out in public, the more we are strengthening former President Trump's hand by allowing the narrative to remain on divisions within the Democratic Party and whether the President should be at the top of the ticket.

But, I don't think that's necessarily going to do enough to alleviate the concerns that Democrats on Capitol Hill have. They're back for the first time this week in Washington since the debate. So, this isn't going anywhere just yet. And I think that's why the President is either trying to wrap up this conversation as quickly as they can.

GIOKOS: Yeah. Lynn, that's a really good point that Sabrina makes, in terms of just sort of playing into Donald Trump's hands right now. I think the Republicans are watching on and seeing these divisions playing out. They're seeing if this is going to spill over into President Biden losing donors and funding. What is the sense right now of what kind of fractures it could be creating within the Democratic Party, as they frankly try and find a solution, and they've got to find one very quickly, frankly, in the next few weeks?

SWEET: Well, even sooner than that. So, when President Biden said, take it to the convention, I want to remind again our viewers who may not know, President Biden will be nominated if things go as planned right now weeks before the convention. It could be as soon as the end of July. It is a quirk to comply with what was then an Ohio deadline to get on the ballot. So, everyone who I've been talking to tells me that as of last night, that was still the plan. So, is he going to take it to the floor of the convention as the actual nominee? Because there is a plan to have a virtual nomination where it will be wrapped up. So, the convention kicks off in Chicago August 19 with Biden, if unless something has changed, already the nominee.


So, I think the timeline is even more compressed than what people may be thinking about, and it also makes me wonder what exactly did the President mean by take it to the convention. So, we have to --


SWEET: -- explore if he really means that or not.

GIOKOS: So, Lynn, in the letter he wrote to the voters, and the voters alone decide the nominee of the Democratic Party, and he is saying, it's up to the voters at the end of the day, and he really sort of emphasizes this at this point. What are voters doing right now? Are they're going to watch every little press conference, watch how he speaks at NATO, how important was in the MSNBC interview this morning? How are they gauging his ability to run for another four years?

SWEET: Well, it's not real time. It's the clips. It's the multiple social media platforms. We're way beyond the point where how he -- what he does well is what people are watching for. It's when he might flub a line or goof. I want to point out that President Trump flubs constantly, misstates things, and flat out distorts facts. So, that's what's getting overshadowed in the conversation because of the discussion now about Biden's physical and mental abilities.

GIOKOS: Yeah. Sabrina, very quickly to you, we've got NATO on later this week. It's also about getting the, I guess, the rubber stamp from what we see on the international front as well. How important is what we're going to see happening later on this week, and I guess the U.S.'s stance in creating sort of a unified NATO?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that's going to be very important. Obviously, the President has been very firm in his commitment to NATO, and that's one of the points that he is trying to draw as a point of contrast with former President Trump, who, of course, had a much more skeptical attitude toward NATO and traditional U.S. alliances. But, in our reporting, we've also heard concerns from foreign leaders and foreign governments about the President's capabilities, about his age. And so, this is not a concern that's uniquely shared -- uniquely taking place here in Washington among Democrats on Capitol Hill, or among voters within the Democratic Party.

It's something -- I think his performance is something that U.S. allies are also closely watching. In fact, U.S. allies would probably rather see a second Biden term than to return to former President Trump who -- where there was a lot more uncertainty. There was a lot more instability, but they're questioning as well, a lot of U.S. allies, if President Biden is the one who is best positioned to prevent a return to a Trump presidency.

GIOKOS: All right. Sabrina Siddiqui and Lynn Sweet, great to have you with us. Thank you so much for your insights.

SWEET: Thank you.

GIOKOS: And still ahead, the CIA director is set to join indirect ceasefire talks this week between Israel and Hamas, as Israel's military launches fierce new attacks in the heart of Gaza City. Plus, Boeing agrees to plead guilty and pay a major fine for its role in two 737 MAX crashes. What the victim's families are saying? That's up ahead. Stay with CNN.




SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Paris.

In a surprise, voters here rejected an expected parliamentary election surge from the far right. Marine Le Pen and her allies finished in third, winning 143 seats. But, neither the left-wing Popular Front or French President Emmanuel Macron's Ensemble coalition captured an absolute majority. And that basically leaves a ton of political uncertainty and the threat of turmoil in the French parliament ahead. So, where does France go from here, and how will the chaos impact European friends and foes alike? Our Nic Robertson is with me now live from Paris. And Nic, I think it

was not only a sigh of relief from Parisians from those in France, but also I imagine from some leaders in Europe. Talk us through some of the reaction.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah. We heard from the German Chancellor saying that he was relieved that France and the European Union weren't having to deal with a hard-right element within the parliament, either creating a hung parliament situation or just changing policies in the European Union. He said that he hopes France can form a constructive government, and of course, that's the real catch going forward. Can they actually do that?

Look, everyone looks and the European Union to Macron to take a forward-leaning position on a lot of things, not least Ukraine. It is the one that suggested that there should be NATO troops on the ground in Ukraine, not fighting in combat, but doing the training. And that's something that no other leader has really been willing to stand up and say, and he has been pushing out upfront on that.

And so, countries like Germany really do look to a strong France, even though they may disagree on some issues. But perhaps, Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, who himself was once a European Council President, who knows a thing or two about the EU, he put it this way. He said, look, in Paris, there is essentially excitement. In Moscow, there is disappointment. In Kyiv, there is relief, and that's enough for us in Warsaw, he said, to say that this is a good thing. That's not a ringing endorsement as much as this is better than we might have hoped for.

And I think the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, he also tweeted about this, and he said, look, you've just had the UK government, the French government voting new politicians who are on the left, just like we are in Spain. Perhaps he is getting a little ahead of himself or hopeful Spain, for example, has already recognized a Palestinian state. Well, neither the British nor the French have done that. Maybe with new political dispensations, they will move in that direction. But, it is an indication that there is this big relief across Europe, in Brussels, that you don't have this far-right element tripping up French politics, as the others in Europe would see as normal.

SOARES: Yeah, a message that they've obviously taking on for those who are backing the far right in their countries. But, Nic, as you clearly stated, this is a period really of so much uncertainty right down. No one really knows. Every time I ask an analyst which way this is going to go, no one really knows how that might pan out. Talk to this instability. If it drags on, what will this mean for a front in terms of the world stage? Of course, we've got not just a war in Ukraine but also a NATO summit meeting, but also we have Israel-Gaza war. So, what are the implications here, Nic?

ROBERTSON: Look, I think this is an opportunity for the -- what loosely called the enemies of democracy. But, let's say the enemies of the transatlantic alliance of NATO, or are the enemies of the European Union, to see a certain weakness within the U.S. political system because the perceptions about President Biden's ability to beat Donald Trump in the elections, the instabilities that they see in the sort of changing narrative and changing mood within either French politics, German politics, the European parliamentary elections recently, all of those things have given countries like Russia and China a greater sense of belief in their need to band together, and the strength that they have in banding together in pushing their own narrative with their own populations that they have the right attitudes.


China has just sent troops to the border of Poland to train in Belarus, right on the border. This wouldn't have happened a few years ago. And you have to look at that and say, these countries are reading the strength, the unity that was there in Europe a few years ago. They're reading it as weaker, and in a way they're exploiting it for their own benefit. And where that goes? We don't know.


ROBERTSON: And does unity return? We don't know. But, at the moment, it looks unsettled, and as we see a lot of the sort of post-World War Two international structures which bounded the world together and are peaceful track falling by the wayside.

SOARES: Yeah, unsettled indeed. What's clear is that the center is somewhat eroding what we're seeing in the far right and the far left gaining strength. Nic Robertson, as always, great to get your perspective, Nic.

And that does it from Paris for us for this hour, and I hand it back to Eleni Giokos with other news. Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right. Isa, thank you so much.

Well, here are some other international headlines we are watching today.

India's Prime Minister has kicked off a two-day visit to Moscow. It's the first time Narendra Modi has visited the Russian capital since the country launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ties have remained strong, despite repeated sanctions on Moscow from the West. He and President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss quotes "regional and global issues of mutual interest".

Heavy fighting is reported in Gaza City, as Israel launches major new operations there. Thousands of people are fleeing the area after the IDF issued an urgent evacuation order. Residents say the attacks are among the heaviest since the war began. This despite a new push for a ceasefire. A source tells CNN the director of the CIA is expected to join talks in Cairo as well as Doha this week.

Let's get more now from Kylie Atwood at the State Department, as, of course, these negotiations hopefully get underway, Kylie. That is the hope that this might actually be a breakthrough to getting to some sort of deal.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That is the hope. But, of course, we've been here before. There have been many different rounds, many iterations of CIA director going to the Middle East, meeting with both sides, hopeful that they were going to get somewhere and then falling backwards. So, all eyes are on what happens this week in terms of the Hamas side, in terms of the Israeli side. When you talk to U.S. officials, they do say that they believe that Israel actually does really want a ceasefire here, does want a hostage deal here to come to fruition. They have said that for quite some time. But, that is a significant factor as we go into what is another round of these talks.

And we know that the CIA director is often only dispatched to the region when they are actually talking about the nitty-gritty details, not just the big picture, but really getting into the negotiations here, the specific aspects of the negotiation. So, that's why it's significant that he is in the region. Obviously, we have seen many trips to the region by U.S. diplomats, by the Secretary of State Antony Blinken. And so, we'll continue to watch what happens over the course of the next few days here.

And it happens amid the backdrop of the NATO summit, the gathering here in Washington, D.C. You have all of these world leaders meeting here in Washington. President Biden will be watched incredibly closely. So, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the foreign policy space right now. And the Biden administration is really actively working on multiple levels across the space.

GIOKOS: All right. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for that update. Good to see you.

Hurricane Beryl is now a Category 1 storm, trudging its way across the Houston area and unleashing heavy rain and powerful winds across a large swathe of Southeast Texas. One man was killed after a tree fell into his home. The vast majority of flights out of there have been canceled and you can see the flooding that's come with the storm.

Leigh Waldman joins us now from Port Lavaca, Texas. I mean, some of these images we're seeing, absolutely terrifying. Take us through what you're experiencing right now on the ground, Leigh.

LEIGH WALDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here along the Texas coast after then-Hurricane Beryl moved through, it's -- the Sun has come back out. The rain and the wind has primarily stopped. It's much better. But, what we are still dealing with at this point are power outages. We have no power here in Port Lavaca.


It was very, very early this morning, out in the distance and the darkness of the night, those transformers, you can sort of see in the distance there, those started to blow and that's when we lost power. We saw sparks flying off of them. But, it's a much larger situation than what we're seeing just here in Port Lavaca. At this point, 2.3 million customers across Texas are without power because of Beryl. At this point, Beryl is now a tropical storm but still packing a lot of strong winds and very, very heavy rains. What we're hearing from our affiliates in the Houston, Texas, area

where the storm is moved to at this point, there are high water rescues happening because the streets are experiencing some flooding. The flooding numbers are so significant, and I actually want to read those to you now. These are some of the highest flooding numbers that the Houston area has ever seen. It is 10.29 feet above its typical water levels at the Port of Houston and a rain gauge there. Now, to put that in perspective, Hurricane Harvey, 2017, that was the only point that that water level was even higher than it is right now with Beryl.

This storm is bringing so much significant rain to the Houston area and in the surrounding areas, including Galveston, where they were experiencing storm surge from then-Hurricane Beryl, now Tropical Storm Beryl. Now, once the storm itself continues to diminish and move out of that area, there are tornado watches for 3.5 million people not only here in Texas, but looking towards Louisiana and also Arkansas. That's something typical we see with these tropical storms or the tropical tornadoes that appear afterwards, affecting people. Those watches and warnings in place until 10 p.m. local time this evening. Now, we're hoping to get some more information from the Houston mayor. He is slated to speak in the next 15 minutes. So, he can give us a clearer picture of what's going on.

But, on top of the high water rescues that we're seeing in the Houston area, we do know, unfortunately, there has already been one death associated with this storm. That information coming to us from the Harris County Sheriff there. Now, the sheriff in that area telling our newsroom online, saying that a tree fell on a man's home. He was hunkered down inside of the home and the tree fell and debris fell on top of that man. Now, his family, who is also inside the home, is OK. But obviously, a heartbreaking situation. We're hoping to get a clearer picture of the extent of the damage that we're seeing at this point when the Houston Mayor speaks again in about 15 minutes from now, and our hearts break for the people who are dealing with the flooding from this storm in that area.

GIOKOS: Absolutely. The destruction that we've been seeing and of course there is high winds expected to keep going for quite some time, we're thinking of everyone in that region, Leigh. Thank you so much for that brilliant update. Much appreciated. Leigh Waldman there for us.

Well, coming up next, Boeing agrees to plead guilty and pay a big fine for its role in two 737 MAX crashes. Why the victims' families aren't happy about it? Details on that story just ahead. Plus, eruptions from two volcanoes in Italy made a spectacular sight for tourists but also prompted warnings from authorities there.




GIOKOS: Welcome back. Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud U.S. regulators for its role in two 737 MAX airplane crashes. As part of the plea, will pay a fine of almost half a billion dollars. But, the families of the people who died in Boeing 737 MAX crashes say the aircraft maker isn't being punished enough.

CNN's Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean has more.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: This is another huge blow to Boeing's once-sterling reputation here. This company really not saying all that much, only that it has reached an agreement in principle with the U.S. Department of Justice. Here are the terms of that deal, according to the federal government. Boeing is being fined $487 million. The Department of Justice says that it is the maximum fine allowed by law. The government will also be appointing an independent compliance monitor to oversee Boeing for the next three years, and that monitor will give reports to the court each year.

The biggest part of this is Boeing agreeing to plead guilty to criminal charges. Remember, this is for the 737 MAX 8 eight crashes; the Lion Air crash in 2018, the Ethiopian Air crash in 2019. 346 people killed in those two crashes abroad. Boeing agreeing to plead guilty to defrauding the Federal Aviation Administration about the MAX 8, that Boeing hid major design changes that led to those two crashes. Originally, Boeing was able to reach a settlement with the government to avoid criminal charges for those crashes. But, that deal also came with three years of probation. And the January 5th door plug blow out at an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 happened just days before that deal was set to expire. So, that made the Department of Justice look at that original deal again, and ultimately triggered this new deal.

Victims' families are calling this a "sweetheart deal". They wanted Boeing to face a nearly $25 billion fine. Paul Cassell is the attorney leading the civil case. And in a statement, he says, "This sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing's conspiracy, 346 people died. This deceptive and generous deal is clearly not in the public interest." Of note here is that Boeing executives avoided criminal charges themselves. The Department of Justice says this deal gives them no immunity. That applies to the MAX 8 crashes as well as the door plug incident of earlier this year.

Back to you.


GIOKOS: And still to come --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have a world champion. Yes, this year's world champion.


GIOKOS: -- the most highly anticipated adrenaline sports. I'm just kidding. The World Snail Racing Championships crowns this year's winner. We follow the slide to victory. That's coming up next. Stay with CNN.


GIOKOS: Why on Earth would researchers release 750 liters of synthetic blood into the ocean? A hence Shark Week is underway.


After dumping the fake blood, scientists hid a fake whale carcass to try and attract a female great white shark. They're testing the Queen Boss Theory that females create schools of sharks by reproducing with multiple mates at once. Shark Week is a week on our sister network Discovery. Like CNN, it is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

So, one more thing before we go. I did promise you an adrenaline in sports. Take a look at this. No. Your screen is not frozen. Those nails are in fact moving, and in fact, they are racing. The World Snail Racing Championships took place this weekend in the East of England with a daring dash by Jeff that's not beating more than 150 other snails. Here is what his owner said about the victory.


SIMON LILLEY, OWNER OF WINNING SNAIL: They paste himself in the heat. It was a little bit slower in the heat, but then he went through it in the final. And I think it just -- yeah, it just blasted out there. It was great.


GIOKOS: That's a very good manager of that snail. All right. Despite the rain, crowds gathered to watch the event, which has been running since the 1960s. Who would have thought?

Thank you so much for spending time with me. I'm Eleni Giokos in Dubai. Stick with CNN. I am back right after this short break with One World.