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Terror in Spain: 13 Killed, 10 Injured in Barcelona Attack; Trouble for Trump. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 18, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:09] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Terror in Spain. Right now, the attackers still on the run after speeding a car through a busy tourist area. More than a dozen are dead, as police foil a second attack. A live report moments away.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And President Trump raising some eyebrows with his response to the Barcelona attack at. That's just one headache for this president who's now facing public criticism from a growing number of Republicans, including two prominent Southern state senators with stark criticism last night.

Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, August 18th. It is 4:00 in the East. It is 10:00 now in Barcelona where we begin this intense manhunt for the driver who plowed into pedestrians on a crowded Barcelona street in a deadly terror rampage.

Officials now say police foiled a second attack, a second attack, hours later in the coastal town of Cambrils some 70 miles away. Five terrorists there. Five killed in a shoot-out with police.

BRIGGS: Now, this all started around 5:00 p.m. local time Thursday, in one of Barcelona's most popular tourist districts. Thirteen people were killed. At least 100 injured when the van drove into the crowd. ISIS claims the attackers were soldiers of the Islamic State.

In a bizarre twist, police now say a house explosion in Catalonia the night before is linked to the attacks.

Let's go live to Barcelona and CNN's Becky Anderson with the latest details.

Good morning to you, Becky. What do we know?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A very good morning, Dave. It is 10:00 in the morning here. We are 18 hours into what is a very, very fluid situation. Spanish authorities working, as you rightly point out, to unravel what is a complex web of terror.

Three events in three coastal towns over the course of this 18 hours or so. Alcanar, Barcelona, and Cambrils, and let's look at these individually.

Police in Barcelona tell us that they made a third arrest in the last few hours in connection with the attack, which was on Las Ramblas, which is a pedestrian zone full of people -- pedestrians, tourists, resigns alike in an attack -- residents alike in an attack which killed 13. More than 100 we are told are injured from some 24 countries.

Two suspects have been in custody for some time now. One of Moroccan descent, one a Spaniard -- from a Spanish enclave in North Africa. But they are still, authorities here, looking for the driver of the van which careened into the pedestrians yesterday. He abandoned that vehicle. He fled and he's on the run.

The third arrest could be that man who was behind the wheel. That was the suspicion. But we've also been told by Catalonian authorities in the past hour or so that they have no idea where the van driver is. Well, officials also note the death toll here is likely to rise with more than 100 people wounded.

Later on as you point out, in Cambrils later on Thursday, police say they killed four terrorists at the outset in what was a police shoot- out. Police performed controlled explosions as a precautionary measure. They say that what were thought at one stage to be explosive belts weren't - those being worn by the suspects. One officer was wounded in the shoot-out, as well as six civilians.

A fifth suspect was arrested but later, he died of his injuries. And police at this point are operating under the assumption that these two incidents, the one in Barcelona earlier in the day here and the one in Cambrils are connected -- Dave.

BRIGGS: And then, Becky, there's that house explosion we mentioned in Catalonia on Wednesday. What's the link there?

ANDERSON: Yes. So this is what's really interesting because at this point, 18 hours or so from the event that happened here on Thursday, the investigating authorities here are beginning to look at links between all three of these events. But this third event that we are now speaking to was on Wednesday. And it was an explosion in a coastal town in Alcanar, which destroyed a home and killed one person.

Now, at the time, we are told that authorities thought it was a gas explosion, one of the big newspapers here reporting that some 20 canisters of propane and butane were found at the house. One died, five others were injured. But that's all we know at present.

[04:05:02] But like I say, there are beginning to be -- certainly the authorities we are saying there is beginning to be evidence that these three events may be connected.

Now, in all of this, ISIS hasn't explicitly claimed responsibility for any of these incidents, but the terror group has said that the attackers in Barcelona were its soldiers. Dave, two hours from now behind me here in Plaza Catalonia, which is the square, the top of Las Ramblas, and it has to be said, where the vehicle started its careening journey, its horror journey down Las Ramblas, there will be a moment of silence. The king of Spain will be here, and those who have been involved in these terror attacks will be remembered. There are three days of mourning here in Spain at present -- Dave.

BRIGGS: And throughout these next two hours, we'll check back in with you, Becky Anderson, in very much an active investigation. Thank you, Becky.

ROMANS: Thanks, Becky, for setting the scene.

Let's bring Fawaz Gerges from London. He is the author of "ISIS: A History". He's professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

And, Professor, too often we turn to you when something happens around the world for some sort of explanation or some sort of analysis and context for what's happening here. What are your thoughts about these three separate incidents that look like they're connected in Spain?

FAWAZ GERGES, AUTHOR, "ISIS: A HISTORY": Well, I mean, I think -- thank you. I think there are many pieces of the puzzle that are still missing. This is, as Becky said, it's a fluid story. It's evolving.

The driver of the van who committed -- the murderer is still on the run. But one thing we can say for sure, that this was a complex operation. You have complexity, a structure, an organization. Six people, at least six perpetrators involved. The van driver and the five suspects killed, 70 miles in Barcelona, and the gas explosion.

By the way, the gas explosion in Alcanar, the police now say many gas canisters were in place. And also, the police says that the van driver basically wanted to rent a big truck. Imagine if he was able to rent a big truck filled with gas canisters. This could have been a major, major -- much bigger disaster.

But the big point about I mean, the three attacks, if we can really connect the dots, this is not about a lone wolf attack. It seems to me this is a cell, either al Qaeda and ISIS, because let's for your own viewers, al Qaeda is much more entrenched in Spain and neighboring North African country than ISIS even though ISIS has already claimed responsibilities. So, this is a major operation, a complex operation. It could have been a greater bloodbath had the suspects been able to carry out their initial designs.

BRIGGS: And, obviously, we have grown accustomed, unfortunately, to these car attacks that we've seen several of recently. In your estimation, how does this differ from the recent car attacks we've seen in Europe?

GERGES: It does not differ at all from the attacks that we have seen in France and Belgium. This is really the attacks in Spain, in Barcelona and neighboring towns, basically similar to the ones in Belgium. This seems to me a local cell. Well-organized, well skills, resources -- I mean, at least six perpetrators.

It tells me also, they are self-subscribe to the ideology of ISIS or al Qaeda or basically directed by other ISIS and al Qaeda. I keep mentioning al Qaeda because we should not dismiss al Qaeda from the equation. Al Qaeda has always had a major presence in Spain. Remember 2004, al Qaeda carried out multiple attacks in Madrid against trains, 91 were killed, 1,800 people injured. But the reality is, it seems to me that vehicles and vans have become a weapon of choice not only for al Qaeda and ISIS but even for radicalized individuals.

They are easy basically weapons, easy to use and deadly. And had the van, or had the truck basically been filled with gas canisters, this could have -- basically hundreds of people could have been killed and injured in Barcelona.

ROMANS: It's so fascinating that as ISIS is being squeezed out of its physical territory around the world, around Europe, rather, you see these ISIS-inspired if not ISIS-executed attacks.

[04:10:01] We don't know which one this is.

How concerned are you about just how easy it is to get a truck in a major metropolitan area in Europe and maybe have no connection whatsoever to Syria or Iraq but be able to carry this out?

GERGES: Absolutely, Christine. I mean, first of all, I think -- thank you for the question. As ISIS loses big in Iraq and Syria, ISIS will most likely carry out attacks outside of the Middle East itself, even though there are daily attacks, almost daily attacks in Baghdad and Cairo, and other places. We need to remind our viewers.

So, as ISIS goes down, you would expect more attacks overseas. Why? Because of capacity. These are really force multipliers. Basically, ISIS would like -- ISIS and al Qaeda would like their followers to believe that they're still standing. They're still strong.

My take on it -- and I could be wrong -- in the short term and midterm as ISIS loses its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria and Libya, we're going to see more attacks in the West, not just directed by ISIS but people who self-subscribe to this twisted ideology of Salafi jihadism.

And the reality is, we have to get used to it, not to accept it. We have to show resilience. We have to realize that these attacks are designed to terrorize us.

And yes, it's painful, it's insidious, but sadly in the past two or three years, six major attacks by vehicles and vans have taken place in Berlin and London and other places, and now, Barcelona.

ROMANS: Fawaz Gerges, thank you so much. We'll have you -- thank you very much for your context and analysis. Really appreciate it, from London. Thank you.

All right. President Trump offered his condemnation of the attack and then he used a debunked story -- a lie -- about an American general to make his point about radical Islamic terror. We'll tell you what he says.


[04:16:02] ROMANS: President Trump facing harsh criticism for his response to the terror attack in Barcelona. His first comment following that tragedy coming in a tweet, condemning the act, along with an offer to help.

But then he followed that up with a widely debunked story, basically repeating a myth that is false, that is a lie, tweeting this: Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more radical Islamic terror for 35 years.

BRIGGS: The president referring to the supposed practice of shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig's blood. He actually told the same story in 2016 during a campaign rally. b But there's no evidence to suggest this ever happened. The White House has not responded for requests to comment.

ROMANS: The president appears to be running out of allies in his own party. Two key Republican senators publicly questioning his fitness for office, two Republican senators. Listen to Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is on the Trump short list for secretary of state. He has concerns about the president's mental health.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the confidence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.


BRIGGS: Also Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, taking the rare step of publicly criticizing his president. He says he simply cannot defend the indefensible.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: His comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There's no question about that.


ROMANS: The president as usual is busy counter-punching in true Trump fashion. He is targeting two Republican senators who called him out -- Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake of Arizona. And he seems to be endorsing Flake's Republican primary opponent tweeting: Great to see that Dr. Kelly Ward is running against Jeff Flake, who is weak on borders, crime, and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic.

BRIGGS: That tweet got the attention of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He says Flake has his full support. The National Republican Senatorial Committee also giving Flake its full backing. The president also going after Lindsey Graham, calling him a liar for accusing him of saying there is a moral equivalency between white supremacist groups and those who protest against them. ROMANS: The South Carolina senator responding to the president in

part: Because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy, you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our nation, as our president, please fix this.

BRIGGS: President Trump taking a firm stand against the removal of confederate monuments, calling it foolish and sad, an insult on American culture. The president in tweets lamenting efforts to take down our, quote, beautiful statues and monuments and the damage being done.

Several cities have removed or plan to remove monuments honoring confederate leaders. Last night Lexington, Kentucky's city council unanimously passed a resolution to remove two Confederate tributes.

ROMANS: And overnight, a statue of former Chief Justice Roger Taney was removed from the grounds of the Maryland state house. Taney delivered the majority opinion and in 1857 Dred Scott case which found slaves were not citizens of the United States.

BRIGGS: Three of the nation's most respected and widely read magazines are taking on President Trump with powerful artwork on their front covers. "The New Yorker" and "The Economist" both featuring with the president with images of the KKK's ominous white hood.

[04:20:00] "The Economist's" cover also has a tag line that reads, Donald Trump is political inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office. "TIME" magazine taking a simpler approach with three words: hate in America.

ROMANS: It looks like the way the flag is designed, it's a Nazi salutes.


ROMANS: In the wake of the two business councils collapsing, President Trump is pulling the plug on an infrastructure advisory panel. The panel was created by an executive order in July. The White House was still courting members, stacking this panel. An official gave no reason for ending the process.

BRIGGS: However, this news comes a day after two other councils disbanded -- the manufacturing and strategy and policy forum. An exodus of business leaders prompted their collapse. A reaction to the president blaming both sides for the violence in Charlottesville.

ROMANS: Now, Trump initially criticized the resignations. But as the number grew, he tweeted he was disbanding the councils. Its members included titans of business like Blackstone, JPMorgan, Pepsi, GM, Walmart. They employ hundreds of thousands of Americans, and breaking ties with Trump is an unprecedented rebuke to the business friendly president.

It could also hurt his economic agenda. He's relying on corporate America to help push for tax reform and infrastructure. It's so interesting -- Gary Cohn, who's his chief economic adviser, right, there was a rumor yesterday that maybe he'd be out. That maybe he -- the president was isolated. He would leave --

BRIGGS: He's Jewish. He was standing aside the president when he said -- there were fine people there Friday.

ROMANS: And the stock market fell because on Wall Street -- Wall Street pros think Gary Cohn is the last best effort for the president to be able to get tax some cuts through. It was interesting to me -- the president so isolated, that now it's actually reverberating on Wall Street.

BRIGGS: Well, he'll also need the Senate to get tax cuts through and when he's attacking his own Republican senators, he only has a 52-48 advantage, it's going to be difficult to say the least.

Ahead, three fundraisers pulling the plug on events at the president's Florida club. We'll tell you who and why next on EARLY START.


[04:26:27] BRIGGS: Three fund-raising giants canceling plans to hold gala events at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The Cleveland Clinic, American Cancer Society, and a charity for the Israeli Red Cross all pulling their events. Though none specifically blaming the president's Charlottesville comments, the Cleveland Clinic changed course days after saying it would continue doing business at Mar-a-Lago. The Cancer Society in a statement citing its, quote, values and commitment to diversity. No comment from Mar-a-Lago or the Trump Organization.

ROMANS: The leadership of the Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald being relieved of their duties following a collision with a Philippine merchant vessel back in June. The incident led to the deaths of seven sailors. Officials say the ship's commanding officer, executive officer, and senior non-commissioned officer will not return to the ship after the Navy brass lost trust in their ability to lead. Additional non-judicial punishments could be imposed at a captain's mast inquiry being held today.

BRIGGS: Marine Corps investigators trying to determine what caused a C-130 plane to suddenly depressurize in flight with 46 service members on board. Officials say it happened at 21,000 feet. Five crew members had to be treated for decompression sickness at a hospital in San Diego. Now, it's the second incident this summer involving a military plane. Last month, 15 marines and a navy corpsman were killed when their KC-130 aircraft crashed in a field in Mississippi.

ROMANS: The Secret Service is investigating comments made on line by a Missouri state lawmaker who said she hoped President Trump would be assassinated. The comment from Democratic State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal has been since deleted. And she has apologized, claiming her comment was born of frustration with the current political climate.

Missouri lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, they're calling for Chappelle-Nadal's resignation.

BRIGGS: Yes. Seems inescapable.


BRIGGS: A rainy Friday on tap in the Northeast. Then, a weekend warm-up ahead of Monday's total eclipse of the sun.

ROMANS: Sing it.

BRIGGS: You sing it.

ROMANS: No way.

BRIGGS: Let's get to meteorologist Derek Van Dam who will not sing.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Great Friday morning, Dave and Christine. This swirling mass of clouds you see on the water vapor satellite imagery, that is actually an area of low pressure that's moving north of the great lakes into Canada.

As a cold front associated with that particular low pressure system, that same cold front is going to be the trigger mechanism for showers and thunderstorms along the New England coastline. So, today, Boston to New York, Philadelphia, perhaps even into the nation's capital, a few afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms will pop up across the region. Some could create localized urban flooding, as well. So, keep that in mind.

Temperatures today, cooling off behind the cold front, 79 for Detroit. Look at Marquette, Michigan, 68, 85 for Cincinnati, Charleston, 94. The Big Apple at 81.

Temperatures go up from here, though, as we head into the weekend and into the early parts of next week. We all know what's happening on Monday, the solar eclipse of the century. Looks as if the best viewing weather will be across the Pacific Northwest. Few clouds dotting the landscape across the Central U.S. popup thunderstorms across the southeast could partially block our view.

Back to you.


BRIGGS: And small towns being inundated with tourists. They don't know if they can handle it.

ROMANS: You know, watch out, folks, for those fake glasses, too. I mean, there's a lot of -- you know, just be careful. A lot of those have been sold. You will hurt your eyes.

BRIGGS: I have mine ready. You ready? You better get out. You have three kids.

ROMANS: I have not planned for the total eclipse yet.

EARLY START continues right now.