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EARLY START

Three People Detained in Barcelona Attack; Trouble for Trump; Basketball Team Narrowly Avoids Terror Attack. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 18, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

[05:00:01] 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.

I want to go live to Barcelona and CNN's Becky Anderson with the very latest details.

Becky, you know, three different events that now police think are linked.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: In some ways. They can't tell us how at this present, but they are beginning to look at connections between these three events.

Let's take them individually. It's important that our viewers understand exactly what happened.

I want to start with the Barcelona attack. Terror visited on this city, 500 yards over my left shoulder here. This is the Plaza Catalonia, Las Ramblas.

Any of our viewers who've been to Barcelona will know this very, very well. It's the boulevard that goes from here, effectively down to the sea. It was there yesterday afternoon that a van careened, looked as if it was out of control at one point. It wasn't. It was in full control.

Behind the wheel, a terrorist careening at some 50 miles an hour down this boulevard, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100. People thrown out of the way, tons of people, screaming as they tried to flee.

The van driver is on the run. Authorities, the last we heard from them, say they still don't know who he is or where he is. He fled the vehicle at the time from the scene. At that point, they thought there may be a getaway car. There's been no evidence necessarily of that.

That happened 5:00 p.m.-ish Thursday afternoon. Towards the evening, we heard there was a terrorist incident about 17 miles south of Barcelona in a coastal town just near Tarragona. And there, it is unclear exactly what happened.

But we know an Audi A3 vehicle was eventually stopped by police. Four terrorists were shot and killed. A fifth injured who has since died of his injuries. So, Barcelona, 5:00 in the afternoon, the attack near Tarragona, 70 miles from here, in the late evening.

Meantime, we know of three arrests associated likely with Barcelona. One man of Moroccan descent, one Spanish man who came from a Spanish enclave in North Africa. The third as yet unidentified. Two huge, significant incidents, deadly incidents in the span of 18 hours in what is now this fluid and ongoing situation, Christine.

ROMANS: And, Becky, we understand there was a house explosion in Catalonia Wednesday. Originally, they thought it was a gas explosion. And now police are zeroing in, wondering if that could be linked, as well.

ANDERSON: Alcanar, about 200 kilometers, 120 odds miles again, southwest of here. An explosion at a house on Wednesday, this is before the Barcelona attack. Authorities had assumed that this was a gas explosion.

In fact, one of the main newspapers here reporting yesterday that there was found on site some 20 canisters of propane and butane. One person was killed in that explosion. A number of others were injured. So, at the time, as I say, an explosion. Not clear how, but an explosion.

But now, it appears that authorities are in this complex web, this complex and fluid, ongoing investigation, beginning to look at links between that event, the event in Barcelona, and the event in Cambrils on Thursday night. What we are now hearing is that the connections may be by family. That is what authorities are looking at, at this point.

Remember, authorities telling us, as well, at this point the van driver of the deadly attack in Barcelona still on the run.

ROMANS: Still on the run. All right. Becky, thank you so much. Becky Anderson for us right there in Barcelona this morning, where it's about 11:00.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in James Gagliano, CNN law enforcement analyst, a retired FBI supervisory special agent.

Good morning to you, sir.

ROMANS: Good morning.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: All right. Unfortunately, this is now the sixth ISIS-linked vehicle attack in Europe in just over a year's time. What does it say about the simplicity of these attacks in terms of planning, coordination, and because of that, how difficult are they to prevent?

GAGLIANO: Sure. ISIS has definitely adapted their tactics. And some other -- some other groups are using the same tactics. Look what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday, the same type.

[05:05:00] They're using vehicles obviously because vehicles are easy to procure. No one is tracking that. If you go to a used car lot, we don't track that the same way at the federal level with the FBI --

ROMANS: You can even steal one in the big truck attack.

GAGLIANO: You can steal one. And, Christine, if you get stopped with one, no one is going to say, why do you have fertilizer and diesel fuel in the back of your vehicle? So, it's a simplistic weapon.

And you don't have to have the skill set that a bomb-maker needs to build the device. What we've been finding, tracking this through nonpartisan think tanks on counterterrorism, from 2006 until 2017, OK, that entire time there have been a total of 31 of these type of vehicular attacks. In the past three years -- to your point, Dave -- there have been 14.

So, this is trending up. So, how do we get in front of this? That's going to be what law enforcement looks at and says we understands that this is the direction they're going. How do we get in front of this?

ROMANS: But right now, they've got to find this guy, they've got a driver on the loose in a major European city, somebody who mowed down and murdered these people. What are investigators doing right now? What's happening do you think behind the scenes?

GAGLIANO: Christine, what's most discount exerting is -- disconcerting is the person who rented the vehicle also rented two others. So, if he's loose, there could be a possibility that there are other people involved, there could be a cell. What separated this from the recent attacks we've seen like this is that two of the folks were arrested right after -- I think they've picked up a third now, too. That's going to give investigators a lot of human intelligence.

They're going to be able to interrogate these folks and hopefully get some information.

ROMANS: Check their phones, check all of their records, figure out who they've been talking to, and make -- put the web together.

GAGLIANO: That's called the digital exhaust. In the 21st century, everything they do can be tracked through social media. It can be tracked through EZPass, that type of device. So, yes, they'll be going through that, as well.

BRIGGS: Spain was, of course, attacked in the subway bombings in 2004. Since then, they've been largely left out of this. Is there something that makes Spain, makes Barcelona right for an attack like this, for a target?

GAGLIANO: A lot of it, Dave, is targets of opportunity. And we know that these things have been tracked, a Soufan group runs trackings on foreign fighters, who are leaving Europe and going to Syria or going to Iraq to fight. And they track this.

Spain has been predominantly left out. We understand because ISIS has targeted the folks involved in the coalition air strike. So, that's why we've had attacks in the U.K., attacks against France, attacks against Belgium. This is the first time we've seen it targeted inside Spain itself.

ROMANS: You know, La Ramblas is such a beautiful expanse. Because it is what it is, it attracts young people. It attracts backpackers. It attracts people pushing strollers. It's a pedestrian zone.

BRIGGS: And from all over the world.

ROMANS: From all over the world, what, 24 countries have victims.

Let me ask you this -- should the big cities that have beautiful, safe spaces make them safer? Do we need -- I think they're called bollards -- do we need things to close them to trucks and cars? Because we have seen this is the trend. It's a trend on the uptick. Do we need to respond, cities need to respond?

GAGLIANO: It's been 22 years, Christine, to your point since what happened at the Alfred P. Murrah Building where Timothy McVeigh was able to get a vehicle so close to the federal building. Since then, kind of systemically we've gone around -- a lot of the federal buildings, a lot of the iconic buildings in New York City like --

ROMANS: We adapted.

GAGLIANO: We adapted.

What we're going to have to adapt to now I think is separation between pedestrian thoroughfares and road ways. And yet, to your point, concrete is relatively cheap. The way that you build these structures and the way they could be used and employed, I mean, the Romans were making concrete thousands and thousands of years ago, to erect these things, separating a place like Las Ramblas, where people know it's an iconic place, and it is primarily a pedestrian thoroughfare, separating it from someone that's going to take a vehicle and kill as many as possible.

We're lucky this wasn't nice, 86 killed. There are 13 so far, 11 in critical condition.

BRIGGS: That number expected to go up. Many badly injured.

Laguna Beach, California, installing some barriers ahead of weekend marches, protests. So, we are seeing some of what Christine was talking about, here in the United States to prevent against weaponized cars.

James, we'll check in with you in about 30 minutes. Thank you.

GAGLIANO: Sounds good.

BRIGGS: All right. President Trump offers his condemnation of the attack, then gets slammed for using a debunked story. A lie about an American general to make his point about radical Islamic terror.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:13:32] ROMANS: President Trump facing criticism for how he responded to the terror attack in Barcelona. His first comment following the tragedy was a tweet. He condemned the act and offered to help, fine.

But he followed that up with a widely debunked story -- a military myth really. 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.

Sometimes he's told that story on the campaign trail and he said 25 years -- different versions of the story floating around. The military historians say it didn't happen.

Let's bring in Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for "The Washington examiner."

Good morning.

You know, I sort of retroactively ask why -- I rhetorically ask why the president would throw out something that's not real in response to the terror attack. And I guess the answer is because the president has a very loose, loose reliance on facts or relationship with facts.

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, it's not really clear what President Trump thought he had to gain by elevating myths about General Pershing, but it's clearly not having the desired effect of projecting strength on radical Islam. It's just serving to undermine the president's credibility once again.

Now, both Barcelona and Charlottesville earlier this week should have been no-brainers in terms of the White House's response. It should have presented Trump both with easy opportunities to serve as a unifying force, to demonstrate the strength of his leadership.

[05:15:00] And instead in both cases, he chose to go in a more divisive route. He was still reeling from his very weak Charlottesville response when the Barcelona attack came along. And I'm sure that many of his allies on Capitol Hill and throughout the country are frustrated with the fact that he botched yet another response to a second terror attack in less than a week.

BRIGGS: But, Sarah, presidents at times of tragedy, they calm, they reassure, they inspire, they lead. The president criticized the London mayor. You talked about Charlottesville, we have this Pershing example.

What does it say about the president's ability to lead, to inspire, to calm, and his desire to?

WESTWOOD: Well, this was always the fear that President Trump's critics within the Republican Party, that his Democratic critics had, which said he wouldn't have the personality that would allow him to be presidential in these moments of crisis. And we're seeing that now. We're seeing that he is not able to set aside the combative aspect of his personality when leadership requires that.

And that's why I think he's gotten himself bus stop such a hole. It's really difficult to see how he would crawl out of it without taking a conciliatory tone, something the President Trump is not known for.

BRIGGS: No.

ROMANS: You know, this president is isolated, there's no question. I mean, I cover Wall Street pretty closely. And the Dow is up 20 percent since the election, but yesterday, there are really concerns that the president is so isolated that he's not going to be able to get anything done.

And when you look at two Republican senators --

BRIGGS: From the South.

ROMANS: From the South -- it shows how the partners for his legislative agenda, the partners for his agenda at all are very skeptical and concerned about him. I want to listen to what those senators said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Security, competence, clarity, moral authority. These are from Republicans in his own -- you know, senators in his own party.

BRIGGS: Very supportive -- one who is considered to be a secretary of state in Bob Corker.

ROMANS: So, what do you make of this and how the president repairs this, or does he not want to?

Republicans are in a really difficult situation because their success is still very much tied to President Trump's success. President Trump still remains popular in most parts of Republican country.

And Republican lawmakers recognize that. They know that their constituents, many of them, still support President Trump, even though it's becoming politically untenable to remain aligned with him.

So, they are in a position to having to personally distance themselves from the president without totally cutting him off. They're not condemning his words. They're not condemning him personally. Most of those lawmakers. Corker is kind of a notable exception, going after the president's competence, harsh words.

But, clearly, Republicans are going to have to still work on the president's legislative agenda or risk their own fate in the 2018. It will be difficult, though, for the White House to extract any concessions from Republicans. For instance, convincing skeptics to back funding for the border wall when no Republican is going to want to expend political capital, providing cover for the president right now.

BRIGGS: The president has yet to respond to Scott or Corker, but he has gone on attack to Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and, of course, once again, Lindsey Graham. The president tweeting to Flake: Great to see that Kelly Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is weak on borders, crime, and a nonfactor in the Senate.

He also went on attack against Lindsey Graham. He will be in Arizona on Tuesday. One might expect him to attack John McCain and Jeff Flake at a rally, while some feel he might be pardoning Joe Arpaio.

There's the agenda that we discussed and then there's a headline on "Drudge", which reads, "Trump's attacks could leave him friendless if impeachment comes." That's from a "Reuters" story. But "Drudge" does not float headlines by mistake.

What is the future for this president working with and get defended by, if worse comes to worse, his own Senate?

WESTWOOD: Well, we're obviously a long way off from impeachment right now.

BRIGGS: Right. WESTWOOD: But in that hypothetical scenario, the president would need

support from Republicans on Capitol Hill. And right now, it doesn't appear that he hasn't. No Republican wants to be in the position of defending the president right now. And the only time we really ever have seen this kind of reaction among GOP members was after the "Access Hollywood" tape last year when the incendiary comments about sexual misconduct came out.

[05:20:11] No Republican wanted to be in the position of defending President Trump. No Republican wanted to be seen with him. He had events canceled. He was really on an island. And most analysts predicted that that was going to be the end of Donald Trump. It wasn't.

So, it's still possible that president Trump could rise above this. That his support could rebound. That he could repair his relationships with Republicans because it's happened before. But there has to be some effort on the part of the White House to find a path forward, to find common ground again with members who right now don't want to come anywhere near this toxic, racial controversy.

BRIGGS: The numbers are twofold. He's still around 80 percent with Republicans.

ROMANS: Right. But I think there's a really good reason why so many Republicans do not come on the morning talk shows. I mean, you look yesterday, at the major networks. The bookers of every network were going into overdrive --

BRIGGS: All 52 senators called repeatedly by every network.

ROMANS: Try to call people and no one wants to talk really.

So -- all right. Sarah, we'll talk to you in a few minutes. Thanks for getting up early with us this morning.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Sarah Westwood, "The Washington Examiner."

In the wake two of business councils collapsing, President Trump is pulling the plug on an information advisory panel. That's right, three panels down now. The panel was created by an executive order in July. The White House was still courting members. And an official gave no reason for ending that process.

This news comes just a day after two other councils disbanded, the manufacturing and the strategy and policy forum. It's really been an exodus of business leaders prompting their collapse. A reaction to this president, blaming both sides for violence in Charlottesville. Trump initially criticized those resignations. But then as the number grew, as there was nobody left on them, he tweeted he was disbanding the councils.

Its members included titans of business, Blackstone, JPMorgan, Pepsi, GM, Walmart. They employ hundreds of thousands of Americans. They're employers. They also have millions of customers. Breaking ties with Trump is an unprecedented rebuke to the business-friendly president. It could also hurt his economic agenda. He needs corporate America to help push for tax reform and infrastructure.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, two of the nation's top college basketball teams, Clemson and Oregon State, were both in Barcelona when the terror attack took place.

Andy Scholes with their reaction in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:26:52] BRIGGS: The Oregon State men's basketball team narrowly avoided being victims of the terror attack in Barcelona.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, a number of college basketball teams are currently in Barcelona playing exhibition games and sightseeing. The attack happened right in front of the hotel where Oregon State is staying. They were eating a pregame dinner at the time. Everyone is safe.

Head coach posted a video describing the team's experience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE TINKLE, OREGON STATE HEAD BASKETBALL COACH: Literally looking out of our window -- we won't show pictures, but horrific sights. Several fatalities within eyesight of our hotel room. I know people back home are concerned. But I don't think they understand the gravity of what occurred here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Teams from several other schools including Arizona and Clemson are also in Barcelona on similar tours. Every team in Spain has checked in as safe after the attack.

All right. If invited, Kevin Durant says he will not be going to the White House to celebrate the Warriors' NBA championship.

Following a parade celebrating Kevin Durant Day in his hometown just outside of Washington, D.C., Durant telling ESPN: I don't respect who's in office right now. I don't agree with what he agrees with. So, my voice is going to be heard by not doing that. That's me personally. But if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me.

The Warriors are scheduled to play in D.C. February 28th. Championship teams traditionally make their White House visit when they're in town to play the Wizards. All right. Finally, the Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins continued to raise

his fist during the national anthem last night. This time his teammate, Chris Long, put his arm around him as a show of unity. Jenkins has been outspoken against racial injustice and has worked with law enforcement to try to make things better.

Long, meanwhile, grew up in Charlottesville and he says it's time for people who look like him to be there for people that are fighting for equality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LONG, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES DEFENSIVE END: I said before, I'll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different to everybody in this country. But I support my peers. And if you don't see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality now, I don't think you'll ever see it. Malcolm's a leader. And I'm here to show support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Hey, guys, we've got one NFL game tonight, Vikings at Seahawks. We'll have to see if any of Michael Bennent's teammates join him in not standing for the national anthem. Bennett, of course, has said he will not be standing this entire season.

BRIGGS: Yes, Chris Long played at the University of Virginia. As you pointed out, grew up in Charlottesville.

SCHOLES: Yes.

BRIGGS: You're not seeing the end of it. This will not end any time soon.

Andy Scholes, thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: EARLY START continues right now.

(MUSIC)

ROMANS: Terror in Spain. Right now, the attacker still on the run after speeding a car through a busy tourist area. More than a dozen dead as police foil a second attack. A live report moments away.

BRIGGS: And President Trump responds to the terror attack with a debunked myth just days after, saying he waits for the facts. So, why peddle a fake anecdote? Essentially a lie?

Plus, the president coming under fire from some Southern state Republican senators. We'll get to that in a moment.