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At least 50 Injured, 13 Killed in Barcelona Terror Attack; Trump Tweets About Barcelona Attack; Sen Bob Corker Has Harsh Words for Trump on Charlottesville. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly, Brooke. This was a sunny day. It's the height of the tourist season there in Barcelona. So Las Ramblas was crowded and you have a lot of people who at this hour were just walking down this beautiful pedestrian walkway when this van driving, according to eye-witnesses, about 50 miles an hour, just appeared to be mowing down people intentionally, swerving, going side to side, and mowing down people. Now, we now know the number of dead and injured there has risen, but probably we're going to see even more, a bigger increase in those numbers simply because of what we were talking about, a crowded walkway with a lot of people who were just -- had no idea this was happening. As a result of this, we also are told from eye-witnesses that there was a stampede. A lot of people just moving in different directions. Some of them didn't even know what had happened, and so we're probably going to see some injuries, perhaps even some deaths as a result of that stampede.

One important update from the police, they have made an arrest. The local media say that it appears to be the person who rented this van. Now, we don't know whether that person was actually behind the wheel when this attack took place.

And another important update, because we had heard so much from local media and some of the eye-witnesses, there was this concern that at least one or perhaps more attackers had managed to get away and had gotten into a restaurant or bar just off Las Ramblas there and had taken some hostages. The police have now said, according to their update, that there is no hostage situation. That there is no -- there are no other suspects who are holed up. And as a matter of fact, at this hour, they're now going door to door, those businesses, those establishments, they're evacuating people. They're escorting them out of the area so investigators can now go do their work.

We don't know exactly who is behind the attack at this hour. The police have been very careful to say that they believe -- they're treating this and they are now calling this officially a terror attack but they don't say what the motivation or what the group was that might have been behind this.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Just so I'm clear, so that was also new that you're saying if police are going door to door because we had eye-witnesses calling in on air saying they're holed up in bars and restaurants, which lined this major pedestrian walkway. So, are they now -- they're all being dispersed. PEREZ: Right. Exactly. And that's exactly what's happening at this

hour. The police there in Catalunya have now put an update on Facebook and Twitter in which they're telling those people, if they're there, some of them have been there for hours. We saw pictures of them sitting in a circle, praying. They were very scared, obviously. And we now know that the police are going door to door, escorting those people, trying to get them out because obviously some of them have been there for hours. I'm sure some of them are trying to reunite with loved ones. Some of them ran into those businesses to try to escape this scene there. And so a lot of them probably, a lot of families were split up as a result of that. So, we're going to see some reunions there in the next hour or so as police go door to door there near Las Ramblas to evacuate those businesses and get those people out of that area.

BALDWIN: All right. Evan, thank you so much for the time line, just letting people know what's going on in Barcelona. 8:30 local time there now, Thursday evening.

Michael Weiss is joining us, a CNN investigative reporter.

Michael, you've been listening to Evan. As we're getting bits and pieces of this ongoing investigation there, what are your initial thoughts?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It does remind me of the attack in Germany a year ago at Christmas. And you recall that that was originally assumed to have been a lone wolf or some random amateur, but in fact it turned out that guy had been a part of a pretty wide, extensive and surveilled German ISIS network. And it wasn't quite as amateur as it looked at first blush. Remember, he hijacked a truck that was about an hour's drive away from the target, which was a very crowded marketplace, took the driver hostage, there was guns. There had been some preliminary training. Now, we don't know if this guy, assuming it is the person they've got in custody who's said to be in Morocco but a Spanish legal residence resident, we don't know if he's responsible. But if he is, I would be incredibly surprised, Brooke, if this was some random guy who was inspired by the Internet. He probably was part of some network. They do exist in Spain. Two years ago, I remember a U.S. intelligence officer telling me that as the war against the so-called caliphate was ramping up, the hot spots, the chatter that was being intercepted about radical clerics and jihad agitators were coming from European countries, including Germany, England, Belgium, and Spain, which had yet to see at devastating attack like this. So if this does turn out on ISIS or ISIS inspired, peel back the layers, because chances are this guy was not acting alone, at least in the orchestration and coordination of it.

BALDWIN: We will know in time. We will know.

Michael, thank you so much.

WEISS: Sure.

[14:34:58] BALDWIN: Just want to let all of you know, we will hear from police again. We're expecting a police news conference.

We'll also talk to some of these eye-witnesses from these just terrifying events that have unfolded there in Barcelona.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We are back with the breaking news. I'm Brooke Baldwin, covering this terror attack in Barcelona.

Here's where we are right now. This massive white van plowed into a crowd in a tourist hot spot, Las Ramblas, if you know Barcelona, in the city center. At least 15 people -- excuse me. 13 people have been killed. More than 50 injured. The search for more possible suspects is underway. Tragic, tragic horror in Spain.

Let's go to Rylee Carlson, working this for us in Europe.

Rylee, what more do we know?

[14:40:08] RYLEE CARLSON, LONDON REPORTER: At this point, as you mentioned, 13 people have now died in this attack. That number is up from one just a couple of hours ago. And more than 50 people injured. So these are very big numbers because, as you mentioned, this is a very busy area in Barcelona. And there are concerns from security officials that those numbers, that death toll, could go up, because as we've seen in the past with attacks like this, sometimes the injuries from these attacks are just so horrific.

At this point, police have also said that there is one person who has been arrested, but we're not sure, at this point, who that person is, how they might be connected to this van or whether or not this person was actually the driver of the van. They're not identifying the person at this point in time either. So, there are still a lot of unknowns.

But the good news is we do know there were reports there were rumblings and rumors of a potential hostage situation in the aftermath of this attack and police have now said that that is not the case. They are now going through this area, an area that is full of bars, full of people at this time in Barcelona and they have said that is not the case either.

So this investigation is still very much underway and police are working that scene very, very, very intensely -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Rylee, thank you so much.

As we're talking so much about the investigation, let's talk to someone who was there. Ella Bartlett is an eye-witness. She was inside a restaurant at the time of this attack.

Ella, you're visiting from Atlanta. I presume -- we just lost Ella. We're going to work on getting her back.

Paul, you and I were just chatting on commercial break. You were just in Barcelona a few weeks ago.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: A few weeks ago. Las Ramblas is an area which is absolutely packed with tourists at all times, pedestrians, one of the busiest tourist spots in western Europe, and there's a road.


CRUICKSHANK: It's really long. It goes on and on and on. And so, what we saw with Nice was that that long promenade along the sea front and the carnage there happening over around a kilometer of space, of boardwalk. And not clear quite how far this van plunged into crowds for. But this is an area that would normally have been absolutely packed with people. And so with terrorists who wants to move forward with an attack, they can kind drive around and figure out where are the biggest crowds going to be, if there's a barrier there, maybe there's not one here. And they've got all the time in the world to prepare for these kinds of attacks. And this is a very international place, as I was saying, people from all over the world. This is an attack on the civilized world. This is an attack on the West. Whoever has done this is sending a big message.

BALDWIN: Got another eye-witness on the phone.

Paul, thank you.

Anthony Glees is the director for the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham.

And so, sir, welcome.

As we're trying to talk to more eye-witnesses, as you're learning, the bits and pieces, we all are, of this terror attack in Barcelona. your thoughts, sir?

ANTHONY GLEES, DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR SECURITY & INTELLIGENCE STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF BUCKINGHAM: Well, I think the significant thing for people like myself who comment from afar is to ask how could this happen. 32 million people have visited Barcelona this year. Las Ramblas, as everybody who's been there knows, is in many ways a sitting duck target for one of those attacks where Islamists of one hue or another are able to weaponize hired trucks in order to kill and maim as many people as they can.

And we -- in 2016, so-called Islamic State operatives issued a direct threat to people in Spain, saying they wanted to reclaim the historic Islamic land of Andalucia (ph), and attacks were to be expected. At the same time, we've seen Spanish authorities apparently powerless to stop people coming in to Spain, landing on the beautiful beaches of the Costas, migrants, we don't know who they are, getting out of these boats and going off into the hinterland. So big questions, I'm afraid, about the security that existed in Barcelona, the security currently on offer in Spain, which I don't believe is good enough, and specific intelligence-led measures. If trucks are hired, then the authorities ought to be notified. And it should be possible to check out people. You know, why does somebody of a Moroccan heritage want to hire a truck, all of a sudden? These are the things that people will want in order to keep us all safe. Remember, in London, we've had two attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, exactly the same tactic.

[14:45:24] BALDWIN: We've mentioned those. We've been mentioning Nice. The question is -- I hear you on saying you're a sitting duck. But you think of, again, the conversation of soft targets, the conversation of main thoroughfares and pedestrian walkways in major cities all around the world. And it's that sort of ever-arching question, well, what do we do.

I'm going to thank you for now.

We're going to slip another commercial break in. We're watching and waiting for this new police news conference from Barcelona, hoping to get a little bit more information.

Again, one person has been arrested. This individual is in custody. We don't know if it's the driver of that van or not. Police believe this could be the individual who rented the van. So many questions still at this hour.

Quick break. More breaking news after this.


[14:50:33] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We're back with breaking news here out of Barcelona, Spain. Right around evening time in a packed, beautiful part of the city called Las Ramblas, where people were out and about, you had this white van just plow people down in this terror attack. That is definitively how it's being investigated over the Spain.

The latest reporting we have is that one person has been detained. The person, police believe, who rented the van. Was it actually the driver? We don't know. Were there other people in the van, other terrorists involved? We don't know.

But what we know is that 13 people now have been killed. That number just went up. And authorities are anticipating the number to rise as well. And more than 50 people have been injured.

That said, we now have a new tweet from the president of the United States. Let me just read this for you and we'll discuss this implications of this one: "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more radical Islamic terror for 35 years."

James Gagliano, Paul Cruickshank with me.

James, give us a little history lesson, General Pershing, Philippines. JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN ANALYST: General Pershing, also known as

Blackjack, was famous for being the general of the Armies, which is a position that we had in the U.S. military before the five-star general that we're familiar with, with General Eisenhower. Back in the Philippines, during a campaign with the military, they were having a problem with terrorists, and a number of them were arrested, and I'm not sure of the exact number. One of the tactics that Blackjack Pershing adopted was that they would take bullets and dip them into pig's blood and execute all the terrorists, except for one. That one would witness this and go back ostensibly to tell the rest of the folks so inclined to be terrorists, this is what happens to you.

BALDWIN: What do you make of his reference?

GAGLIANO: It's a legitimate military reference. I mean, we're struggling right now, I'm sure Paul can speak to this, with terrorism in the Philippines as we speak. Obviously, this was in the early part of the 20th century and it was an effective means to frighten folks that were considering taking part in terrorist attacks. I don't know how much it translates to today and whether or not it would bridge that gap, but that's what General Blackjack Pershing is known for and that's what Trump is referencing.

BALDWIN: That's what he's referencing. Is it an appropriate reference?


CRUICKSHANK: It's an inflammatory reference, and it's totally irresponsible if you think about it. Nobody's really accused President Trump of being a student of history. If he was a student of history, he'd understand that repression, cruelty, torture, all those things breed more terrorism. They create anger. Muhammad Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, grew up in Egypt, a place notorious for torture. And so this sort of inflammatory language can make the problem worse, can put Americans overseas in the military, elsewhere, in danger. This is a very disturbing moment for people working in counterterrorism. Counterterrorism practitioners, the words of the president of the United States matters deeply at times like this, at a time when we, by the way, don't know yet whether this was a jihadi terrorist act. There have been no claims of responsibility. It certainly fits the M.O. of something like that in terms of the tactics used, but there's very little information that's come in. This is a very fluid situation.

And this is just totally inflammatory. Many people working in counterterrorism, many people putting themselves in danger to protect the men and women of the United States are going to be very, very worried about this in the hours ahead.

GAGLIANO: And I think it's also true, Brooke. You know, President Trump was stressing in regard to the Charlottesville violence that we just witnessed --


BALDWIN: But there's no comparison.

GAGLIANO: No, no, what I'm saying, from the perspective of historical context, we've got to understand that people that lived during the 18th and 19th century, they adhered to a different social construct than we do today. So to make this comparison between something that happened in the earliest part of the 20th century, I would say, yes, it does not apply to how we handle things in the 21st century.

[14:54:49] BALDWIN: Between General Lee and the first and third presidents and now General Pershing, to your point on history, maybe refreshing would be a good idea.

Let's move on for now.

Just in to the U.S., as the president remains defiant over his controversial remarks on the violence in Charlottesville, harsh words from a high-profile Republican Senator. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is telling reporters, quote, "Helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not a formula for causing our nation to advance, our nation to overcome the many issues we have to deal with right now." Continues on. "He also recently has not demonstrated he understands the character of the nation." The "he" being the president. "He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today. And he's got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that people have to understand we should hope that he aspires -- we should hope that he aspires that he does some self- reflection and that he does what is necessary to demonstrate stability, to demonstrate competence, to demonstrate that he understands the character of our nation, and works daily to bring out the best of the people in our nation."

Let's analyze that with Gloria Borger.

Gloria, those are some incredibly strong, strong remarks from a man who the president considered to be his secretary of state.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And somebody he has spoken with a great deal and somebody he clearly considers to be an ally, who has said, when he was back home to a Rotary Club, I believe, that the president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful.

And clearly, you know, Bob Corker is not someone who kind of mouths off a lot. He is a -- sort of a firm but quiet Senator who doesn't go around with this kind of critique of anything or anyone very often. So, it seems to me, in reading between the lines here, that while he doesn't mention Charlottesville in particular --

BALDWIN: We now know what he's talking about.

BORGER: -- we know exactly what he's talking about. And that it seems to me that was the straw that broke the camel's back for this Senator and he is the first Senator we have really seen come out with a fulsome public statement, not just on Twitter, but to a rotary club where there were clearly journalists present, knowing full well that this was going to be picked up and reported.

BALDWIN: Do you think -- listening to you, but I also want to jump back to the General Pershing tweet. I'm sure you heard the conversation I just had with James and Paul here, Gloria. And you know, I'm also -- we mentioned Charlottesville in a much different way as we've been having these false equivalency discussions over the last couple days over what he said from Trump Tower about monuments and the first and third presidents of the United States and equating that also with General Lee, talk to any historian, that's not appropriate. Do you think the president understands history?

BORGER: I don't know. I don't know. He may understand a version of history that he wants to understand. But what I think Corker is saying in this statement is that there is a lot that he believes the president doesn't understand. The character of this nation, as he put it. And the character of the nation reflects, you know, how broad and diverse we are at this point. So, while he may understand history, I think, to equate, as he has, Robert E. Lee with George Washington when he said, well, if you take down Robert E. Lee's statue, are you going to take down George Washington's statue, his version of history and his understanding of history may well be wanting. You know, I don't know what the president read or didn't read or how he looks at history, you know. And people interpret history differently. But I think what Corker is saying, and a lot of people are saying is, you don't understand what this nation has become and who we are today, and yet, you are the leader of all the people in this country.

BALDWIN: He is, indeed. He is, indeed. He's the 45th president of the United States.

We're going to talk much more about Senator Corker's comments, about the president's tweets.

Back with our breaking news, though, of a terror attack in Barcelona, Spain. For those just joining us, a van has plowed through a crowd of pedestrians in a popular city square in Las Ramblas, a tourism sport in the center of Barcelona. We can now sadly report that at least 13 people have been killed and more than 50 others are hurt.

We do have some video, and we're just going to play you just a short clip to understand the atrocity and the terror of what has happened here in Barcelona.

But it is graphic video. It is disturbing.