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Manhunt for Driver in Barcelona Attack; Trouble for Trump; Dow Biggest Decline in 3 Months. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 18, 2017 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:01] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I have not planned for the total eclipse yet.

EARLY START continues right now.


DAVE BRIGGS, 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.

ROMANS: And President Trump responds to the terror attack with a debunked myth just days after saying he waits for facts. Why peddle a fake anecdote that is essentially a lie?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

We will get to all the president's comments in just a moment. But we start with this intense manhunt this morning 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 hours later in the coastal town of Cambrils. Some say 70 miles away. Five terrorists killed there in a shoot-out with police.

ROMANS: This all started around 5:00 p.m. local time Thursday, one of Barcelona's most popular tourist districts, Las Ramblas. Thirteen people were killed, at least 100 injured when the van drove into the crowd. ISIS claimed the attackers were soldiers of the Islamic State.

And in a bizarre twist, police say a house explosion the night before in another town is linked to the attacks.

Let's go live to Barcelona. CNN's Becky Anderson with the very latest here.

And the driver of the van still on the run, Becky?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Still on the run, and we were told in the past hour or so by Catalonian authorities that quite frankly they do not have any idea where he is. There have now been three arrests, we are told, associated with the attack in Barcelona. That attack that killed 13 and has injured more than 100 from as many as 24 different nations.

This is an incredibly touristic part of Barcelona, Las Ramblas. It's a long pedestrian zone that runs from here at Plaza Catalonia down toward the sea. It was full of tourists at around 5:00 in the afternoon yesterday when this van careened down this pedestrian zone, knocking people out of its way, people flying out of the way.

A tidal wave of people running from this as it was described. The van driver fled and he is, as we understand it, still on the run. There was some talk that the third suspect arrested in this may have been that van driver. At present it seems they have no idea where he is.

So, that is what happened 18 hours ago. But six or seven hours after that, we got news of another possible terror incident about 70 miles south of here in Barcelona, in a town called Cambrils, which is near a city called Tarragona. Again, our viewers may know that is coast of the southwest of Barcelona.

It's very unclear as to exactly what happened there. But the upshot is that police were able to stop a vehicle, an Audi A3 as we understand it, with at least five people in the car. Four suspects were killed. A fifth was injured and has died of those injuries. At least six were injured. Six civilians injured in the attack.

So, here we have over 18 hours, just 18 hours, it's 10:00 in the morning here now, what is an ongoing situation. Authorities telling us they're beginning to find some connections between the two. In fact, the three incidents that I'll come to -- I'll come to the other in a momentarily. But the incident that's have happened over these past couple of days, that they say that it is likely that they are connected by family association likely if nothing else -- Christine.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the third incident. We understand that a house explosion in Catalonia Wednesday night might be linked to all of this.

ANDERSON: That's correct. What happened with that is there was an explosion in which one person was killed at the time, this is Wednesday night. This is hours before the attack here on Las Ramblas. And authorities just believed that there had been a gas explosion in this house.

In fact, one of the big newspapers here reporting that at the time authorities had found some 20 propane and butane gas cylinders. We can't confirm that. But that's certainly being reported by one of the main newspapers here.

Another scene was that, but after the Las Ramblas terror attack, authorities began to look back and they are beginning now to work out whether there are connections with what happened there.

[04:35:12] One only can assume that they are looking at things like was this a bomb-making factory, for example. Again, pure speculation at this point. Nobody is standing that up. But they're certainly now suggesting, authorities suggesting that the three separate events, in Alcanar on Wednesday, in Barcelona on Thursday, and Cambrils on Thursday evening, are all connected -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. We know you'll continue to follow that for us -- thank you so much, Becky Anderson for us in Barcelona this morning.

BRIGGS: And a moment of silence just less than 90 minutes away there in Spain.

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

Good morning to you, sir. Great to have your insight and analysis.

This is not new as far as the view across Europe. It is the sixth of 2016. How does this differ in its coordination and its planning?

FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AT LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, I mean, it's similar to the attacks that we have seen in Nice, France, and in Berlin and In London where I am. In the past year, two van attacks basically occurred in London and several casualties.

I think vehicles and vans have become a weapon of choice for ISIS and other alt-right groups, whether you're talking about the U.K. or the United States. They are terrorizing weapons, they're easy to get, extremely difficult to get rid of. Anyone can get into their cars and basically crash into citizens.

What's really unique about the attack in Barcelona is that the driver fled the scene of the attack. This is unusual. Basically, the operational mode of ISIS suicide attacks, you would have expected the van driver to have a weapon or a knife or gun, and basically fight to the end. He did not.

Also, a few hours later, the police killed five suspects 70 miles from Barcelona. This tells me this is a complex organization, there is a structure, there is an organization, there are resources, there are at least six suspects so far if not more so.

And this tells me, it's a highly complex operation which differs in many ways from the attacks in London and other places, as well.

ROMANS: Professor, we were just seeing some pictures. It looked like cell phone video on Las Ramblas. Just awful to see people, clearly many people injured. You can see blood on the street. That van entered a pedestrian zone.

This is where people are most relaxed, eating, drinking, and pushing strollers. This van driver is still on the run.

How concerned are you about the potential for more attacks?

GERGES: We all should be concerned. And another piece of information released by the police in the past 18 hours is that the same person under which the van was rented, he rented three vans, at least three vans. And security forces in Barcelona basically are terrified. They're anxious. They want to locate the other at least two more vans, not to mention the driver that fled after committing the bloodbath.

I mean, of course, what you're talking about, whether you're talking about Nice in France, or London, or Berlin or Sweden, or now, Barcelona, these are soft targets. These are the easiest targets to basically attack. And the idea is, you want to terrorize. You want to sow fears in the hearts of your enemies as ISIS and other extremist groups basically say.

And the reality is, Barcelona, you say why Barcelona, even though Spain has naturally been a priority for ISIS in the past three years. But Barcelona is an international target, a major global target where the entire world basically -- I mean, you'll find there. So, this is a force multiplier basically target for other ISIS or al Qaeda.

ROMANS: When we look and see who have been injured, you know, lots of countries have said their citizens.

BRIGGS: This could have that.


BRIGGS: Yes. Look, we're going to have a former FBI supervisory agent to discuss this in the next hour. But in terms of these attacks, in your estimation, what can be done to prevent them? They seem simple.

FAWAZ: Very, very simple. Not only you have al Qaeda and ISIS and other right wing extremist groups who really now using these -- I mean, vehicles and vans as a weapon of choice. But the reality, any individual, any radicalized individual, not just -- you know, any twisted minded, a troubled soul could basically carry out such an attack.

[04:40:09] I mean, we keep talking about attacks that materialize, whether you're talking about Nice or whether you're talking about Berlin or London. Think of the attacks that are being preempted. In Britain here where I am, at least more than 18 attacks have been preempted by the security forces.

So, what we are seeing really is only the tip of the iceberg. And the reason why this particular weapon, vehicles, is very terrorizing, because it's easy to use. It's easy to deploy and it's easy to really make a great deal of -- get traction for these organizations.

ROMANS: All right. Fawaz Gerges from the London School of Economics, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We really appreciate your expertise.

BRIGGS: Thank you, sir.

Ahead, President Trump offers condemnation of the attack and gets slammed for using a debunked story. A lie about an American general to make his point about radical Islamic terror. We'll have that for you next on EARLY START. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:45:13] BRIGGS: President Trump facing harsh criticism for his response to the terror attack in Barcelona, his first comment following the tragedy coming in a tweet condemning the act, along with an offer to help, while he followed that up with a widely debunked story tweeting: Study what General Pershing did to terrorists when caught. There was no more radical Islamic terror for 35 years.

ROMANS: So, the president was referring to the supposed practice of shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig's blood. He told the same story in 2016 during a campaign rally. There's no evidence to suggest it ever happened. Another version of this, by the way, is burying someone who has been killed, a Muslim who's been killed by American soldiers with a pig. The White House has not responded to a request for comment.

BRIGGS: The president appears to be running out of allies in his own party. Two key Republican senators from the South, mind you, publicly questioning his fitness for office. Listen to Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was on the short list for secretary of state in the Trump administration.


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.


ROMANS: Ability and competence. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, 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.


BRIGGS: The president is busy counterpunching, as usual, targeting two Republican senators who called him out -- Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake of Arizona. And seems to be endorsing Flake's Republican primary opponent, tweeting: Great to see that Dr. Kelly Ward is running against Flake, Jeff Flake, original, who is weak on borders, crime, and a nonfactor in the Senate. He's toxic.

The president will be in Arizona on Tuesday.

ROMANS: That tweet got the attention of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He says Flake has his full support. The president also going after Lindsey Graham, calling him a liar for accusing him of saying there's a moral equivalency between white supremacist groups and those who protest against them.

BRIGGS: 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.

ROMANS: Another CEO, corporate executive, speaking out against the president's response to Charlottesville. James Murdoch, head of 21st Century Fox, son of informal Trump adviser Rupert Murdoch, is slamming President Trump in a letter obtained by CNN.

James Murdoch writes that he's concerned over the president's reaction saying, quote, I can't even believe I have to write this. Standing up to Nazis is essential. There are no good Nazis.

Adding that: Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this.

Murdoch also pledges $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism.

Murdoch's criticism is notable due to his father's relationship with the president. According to sources at both the White House and 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch speaks with the president several times a week. This letter comes after business leaders fled Trump's business councils, prompting the president to disband them.

BRIGGS: President Trump taking a firm stand against the removal of Confederate monuments, calling it foolish and sad and an assault on our history and American culture. The president in a series of tweets lamenting effort 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 statehouse. Taney delivered the majority opinion in the 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 a powerful cover of their own using art work. "The New Yorker" and "The Economist" both featuring the president with the images of the KKK's ominous white hood. "The Economist" cover also has a tag line that reads: Donald Trump is politically inept, morally barren, and temperamentally unfit for office.

[04:50:08] "TIME" magazine, a more direct approach with three words: Hate in America, and the flag certainly appears to be a Nazi salute.

ROMANS: Three powerful images all dropping at the same moment.

All right. Fifty minutes past the hour.

Big selloff on Wall Street, the stock notching its biggest decline in three months. I'm going to ell you why on CNN "Money Stream", next.


ROMANS: Three fund-raising giants canceling plans to hold gala events at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

[04:55:01] The Cleveland Clinic, American Cancer Society, and a charity for the Israeli Red Cross all pulling their events. Now, none specifically blaming the president's Charlottesville comments. The Cleveland Clinic abruptly changed course, this is just days after saying it would continue doing business at Mar-a-Lago. The Cancer Society in a statement citing its values and commitment to diversity. No comment from Mar-a-Lago or the Trump Organization.

BRIGGS: The leadership of the Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald being relieved of their duties following a collision with a Philippine merchant vessel back in June. That 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.

ROMANS: All right. 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. 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.

BRIGGS: 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, are calling for Chappelle-Nadal's resignation. No place for comments like that.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets lower after the Dow had its biggest decline in three months. U.S. stocks fell over political concerns and some disappointing earnings. All three major indices losing at least 1 percent.

You know, it got up to a rough start as business leaders broke up with the president, the business president, putting his pro-growth agenda at risk. The initial sell-off began on rumors that Gary Cohn, Trump's economic adviser, would resign. They fell further after some big-name earnings disappointed. Yet, Walmart fell 2 percent, sales rose but largely because of discounts squeezing margins.

But the market hit the lowest spot after the Barcelona attack. That news hit airline stocks particularly hard. The sector was one of the worst performers on the day.

Ford will pay up to $10 million to settle a federal investigation. The charge: harassment of women and black employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it found proof, proof of harassment at two Illinois plants and that the company retaliated against employees who complained. Ford does not admit fault but it agrees to make the payments to avoid an extended dispute.

Former Corinthian College students could get $183 million in debt relief. Forty-one student borrowers were hit by predatory lending scheme at the college. Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has reached a settlement with the firm that funded those loans, alleging it offered high-interest rates to students it knew would default. Corinthian was one of the largest for-profit colleges in the U.S. It closed in 2015 after the government accused it of misleading students by overstating job placement rates.

BRIGGS: All right. Much to get to next hour, the latest on the Barcelona terror attack and President Trump coming under fire from Republican senators in the South.

EARLY START continues right now.


BRIGGS: Terror in Spain. Right now, the attacker 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. We'll have a live report moments away.

ROMANS: And President Trump responds to the terror attack with a debunked myth days after saying he waits for facts. Why peddle a fake anecdote that's essentially a lie?

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. It's Friday, August 18th, 5:00 a.m. in the East, 11:00 a.m. in Barcelona.

That's where we begin with the manhunt underway for the driver who plowed into pedestrians, zigging and zagging through a crowd at Barcelona street in a deadly terror rampage. Officials now say police foiled a second attack hours later in the coastal town of Cambrils, some 70 miles away. Five terrorists killed there in a shoot-out with police.

ROMANS: Again, this video you're watching is incredibly graphic. Just so sad. You know, 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. And in a bizarre twist, a house explosion in another town the night before is linked to those attacks.