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Manhunt Intensifies for Van Driver in Barcelona Attack; Heyer's Mother: Not Talking to Trump After His Comments; Murdoch, GOP Senators Join Trump Critics; Romney: Trump Made Racists "Rejoice," Minorities "Weep"; Manhunt Intensifies For Van Driver In Deadly Attack; One Barcelona Officer Killed Four "Suspected Terrorists." Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 18, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- related. First, to Barcelona where a van careened through a busy tourist location killing more than a dozen, injuring more than a hundred. The driver of that van is on the loose.

And early this morning down the coast, five armed attackers were killed in a shoot-out with police. Officials not providing many details about the incident other than six bystanders were injured, two seriously, along with one police officer. Four other suspects now in custody.

These incidents follow a house explosion that left one person dead. Police now working on the theory that the two attacks were being prepared in that house.

Melissa Bell joins me now from Barcelona. Melissa, what's the latest?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. This investigation is, of course, moving extremely quickly. And we've just now been hearing from the head of Catalonia's police service about that explosion that you mentioned in the town Alcanar, outside Barcelona.

This was an explosion that happened not last night here in Spain but the night before, Wednesday night, so even before that deadly rampage down Las Ramblas here in Barcelona. An explosion in a house that killed one Spanish national.

Police had also made it clear afterwards that a couple of arrests have been made in the wake of the attack here in Barcelona, and that one of those arrests was also linked to that house in Alcanar. So that house had, obviously, been a question, an important part of this puzzle as we try to piece together what precisely went here -- went on here in Spain over the course of last few days.

What police have just confirmed is that they believe that that house was, in fact, where bombs were being created in the preparation of one or several attacks that were being planned in or around Barcelona. Then, of course, after the explosion in that house, we had the deadly event here at Barcelona last night, immediately followed, within a few hours, by those events in Cambrils. So three very separate incidents but that are clearly linked now with

a great deal of focus on precisely who was in that house in Alcanar, who else might have been involved, and what precisely we know about that man who was arrested in connection with that house in Alcanar. That house is now proving crucial to the investigation as it progresses.

BERMAN: All right. A manhunt, as we said, under way. New information about the vast connections here. We'll have much more on this coming up.

Melissa Bell, thank you very, very much. And we will get to the President's response -- President Trump's response to Barcelona in just a moment. His response has set off some pretty serious honesty alarm bells.

But, first, a new response, arresting in many ways, from the mother of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in Charlottesville. Moments ago, Susan Bro levied a direct and blistering message to the President. Listen to this.


ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: We understand that President Trump has reached out. Have you talked to him directly yet?

SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: I have not, and now I will not. At first, I just missed his calls. The call actually -- the first call looked like actually came during the funeral. I didn't even see that message. There were three more frantic messages from press secretaries throughout the day, and I didn't know why.

That would have been on Wednesday. And I was home recovering from the exhaustion of the funeral, and so I thought, well, I'll get to them later. And then I had more meetings to establish her foundation. So I hadn't really watched the news until last night. And I'm not talking to the President now. I'm sorry.

ROBERTS: What did you --

BRO: After what he said about my child. And it's not that I saw somebody else's tweets about him. I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like Ms. Heyer with the KKK and the White supremacists.

ROBERTS: And that is where you are right now because after his statement -- after he read his statement on Monday, you thanked him. But now you've had a chance to hear his remarks from Tuesday and that has changed your position as far as the President is concerned and wanting to hear from him?

BRO: Absolutely. You can't wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying I'm sorry.

ROBERTS: Is there something though that you --

BRO: I'm not forgiving for that.

ROBERTS: Is there something, though, that you would want to say to the President?

BRO: Think before you speak.


BERMAN: All right. Wow. And you will remember, the President was gushing with praise of Heather Heyer's mother just days ago.

CNN's Athena Jones live in New Jersey not far from the President's golf resort there.

Athena, that was a very emotional, in some ways stunning, response from the mother of Heather Heyer. Any word from the White House yet?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. No, I reached out to a couple of White House officials in the last hour to try to get a response to Susan Bro's comments. I haven't received any response so far.

[09:05:04] But I think what's notable is what we heard, not just throughout that exchange there but also at the end when she said to the President, think before you speak. And I think that's one of the central concerns of the President's critics.

They believe that he is thinking before he's speaking and tweeting. That he is speaking and tweeting his real, true thoughts. The thoughts that he shared on Saturday that got so much criticism when he talked about on many sides, and then the thoughts that he shared again, not teleprompter aided, on Tuesday when he had that stunning back and forth at Trump Tower.

Let's remind -- you mentioned that the President had some glowing words to say about Susan Bro at that press conference. Let's play a little bit of that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Her mother wrote me and said through, I guess, Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really, actually, an incredible young woman, but her mother, on Twitter, thanked me for what I said.


JONES: So there you heard the President celebrating this comment that he's got -- they've gotten from Susan Bro, the mother. But remember, that was after the Monday remarks, the teleprompter aided remarks, in which he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and White supremacists by name. That is when Susan Bro wrote, saying that she -- he -- she thanked him for his words of comfort.

But that was undone by his remarks on Tuesday, John. And that is what she was just responding to there on GMA, on "Good Morning America."

BERMAN: You can't wash away what he said, says Susan Bro, with a handshake. Again, emotional words there.

Some surprising words also overnight, Athena, from, at a minimum, a family which has been extremely supportive of the President of the United States. From James Murdoch, the CEO of 21st Century Fox, as in Fox News. Explain.

JONES: Absolutely. We're talking about Rupert Murdoch's son. Rupert Murdoch, one of the President's allies and friends, someone he speaks to frequently. And of course Fox, one of the networks he likes to watch.

This is what James Murdoch said. I'll just read you some experts. He said, what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concerns all of us as Americans and free people.

He went on to say, I can't even believe I have to write this. Standing up to Nazis is essential. There are no good Nazis.

So a very strong reaction from one of the President's allies in the media and that emotional reaction from Heather Heyer's mother. And this goes -- follows an increasing number of Republicans who are calling out the President.

We saw, yesterday, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who has not been a big critic of the President, questioning his stability and his competence. So this is a serious time here, John.

BERMAN: All right, Athena Jones. As we've been saying, the island getting smaller, the support network for the President dwindling by the day here, right? Athena Jones, in New Jersey, thanks so much.

Joining me now, CNN Politics Reporter Eugene Scott, CNN Political Analyst Amie Pames, and Patrick Healy.

Eugene, first to you because you've been doing some reporting on the comments this morning from Susan Bro. Again, very emotional. I mean, this comes from the mother of the woman who was killed standing up for what she believed in, who flat-out said she will not even speak to the President. And in her opinion, the President was equating her daughter with the White supremacists and neo-Nazis that were marching.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Indeed. I took away two things from her interview. One, she was offended by the insensitivity of the White House in trying to reach her during the funeral and during the moments after the funeral, which were a very personal and exhausting time for her as she say it.

But something that's also very important is, many Trump surrogates have said that the President was clear. He was very clear in condemning White supremacy in his words. What she heard, what Susan Bro heard, was the president equating these White supremacists with the activists, her daughter included. So I think it just exemplified just how much the White House and President Trump, in particular, have not addressed this issue in ways where all Americans know where he clearly stands.

BERMAN: And that's a very good point, that is what Susan Bro heard. It is what James Murdoch heard. It's what Bob Corker, Republican senator from Tennessee -- we heard Athena Jones talking about that before.

He is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is not a bomb thrower, by any stretch of the imagination. He was on the short list to be Secretary of the State. Listen to what Bob Corker said.


SEN. BOB CORKER, (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN: 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.

[09:09:59] SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our President is clarity and moral authority. That moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There's no question about that.


BERMAN: We also heard from Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina there, Amie Pames. And just take a step back here. I don't want people to lose the big picture here, the scope, the breadth, of the people coming out against what the President said.

Now, moments ago, it now includes the mother of Heather Heyer, but James Murdoch, overnight, Senator Bob Corker, charities.


BERMAN: You have charity groups like the Cleveland Clinic, even the American Cancer Society, pulling out of events at Mar-a-Lago. All these people want to do is raise money to cure cancer. Now, they're not even willing to do it at a Trump establishment.

PAMES: Right. The chips are starting to fall. You see the business community. You see lawmakers. I'm hearing from sources every day who this isn't acceptable.

The drumbeat is getting worse, you know. It started with North Korea last week. It was the cop's comment a couple of weeks ago that really got some people really frustrated and wound up. They're kind of fed up, at this point, with their President.

And I think, when Congress comes back to session, you're going to start hearing a lot more of that. You're going to start seeing people say, OK, this is not acceptable. You need to start taking this very seriously. You need to start implementing some stability so Americans feel more secure.

BERMAN: It's very interesting, Bob Corker there used the word "stability." The opposite of stability is instability there, so they are incredibly loaded words from the senator.

Tim Scott used another phrase, Patrick Healy, "moral authority," which, in some ways, might be the most powerful, you know, thing, weapon, that the President yields. And if that moral authority is weakened, he or she is not left with very much.

PATRICK HEALY, DEPUTY CULTURAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's so true, John. I meant, these are the moments, you know, in America's history when we look to the President, sometimes, to really clarify what is going on, what is happening in the country. I'm sure Tim Scott, being from South Carolina, remembers very much President Obama's speech in Charleston after the shootings, at the memorial there.

These are sort of -- these are moments when presidents sort of reveal themselves and prove themselves. They're not actors, John, but they're people who look into the country -- look into the country -- what it's feeling, sort of the emotional, the psychological damage that these moments have, and is able to bring people together.

And what President Trump did in this really, like, first big opportunity, he zigged and zagged. He made -- he equated different groups. He sort of spread blame around in a way that, I think, people, frankly, on all sides were just so baffled by.

BERMAN: Eugene Scott, I want to go back to you on an issue here that is key because what we saw from the President yesterday was an attempt to turn this issue from his comments, saying that very fine people were there marching alongside the neo-Nazis and White supremacists.

To the debate, which has been going on for an awfully long time about Confederate symbols and Confederate monuments, there are some people who will say that is a safer debate politically than a debate over whether there are good people who marched with Nazis. However, you make the case that this is all one continuing slope in the issue of identity politics which is an arena where the President likes to play.

SCOTT: It is true. I mean, there is this thought that identity politics is this topic that is exclusive to the left. And the reality is, that's just not true. What the President display his opinions on Confederate statues are the same values that many of his White working class voters in rural spaces feel about Confederate statues and the Confederate legacy as a whole.

I think the challenge that he and his team are going to have to ask themselves -- and I think Bob Corker and Tim Scott were getting to this a bit -- is will playing into the identity politics of these White working class voters who have these reverent views of Confederate statues hurt him with Black and Brown voters, a demographic that the Republican Party has struggled with for years and in recent years, before Trump, has really tried to win?

BERMAN: He was low already.

SCOTT: Right.

BERMAN: I mean, you can't lose much support from where he was on that.

All right, Amie. Another event that happened overnight, we were talking about the Barcelona attacks.

One of the President's first responses, to these attacks, was to put out this statement -- I call it an official statement, he put it out on Twitter -- where he suggested people look at what called the record of General Pershing.

I'm going to play you some sound of what the President said about the same thing a little more than a year ago. Listen to this.


TRUMP: And he dipped 50 bullets in pig's blood and he had his men load his rifles. And he lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn't a problem.


BERMAN: Amie, three things here. Number one, historians will tell you that never happened.

PAMES: Right.

BERMAN: So the President, as president, over the last 24 hours, is spreading what appears to be a lie. Number two, as president, even if it did happen, he'd be endorsing war crimes, you know. And number three, there's no proof that General Pershing's actions were even effective, whatever they were, in fighting Muslim extremism in the Philippines during that time.

[09:15:11] All that aside, what this shows is the president acting in a way -- again, we talk about moral authority right here. People look to the president especially in times of terror attacks for how they respond. What does this tell him about how he responds?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALSYT: It kind of reflects this instability. People were looking at him, first tweet yesterday stay strong, we're sending love. That's sort of the sentiment that people needed right now, you know, as a country that kind of feel that.

But then he went back and said, oh, no, you know, look at this. Follow this Pershing thing, which was completely at the table, and so, I think this kind of adds to that and the fire of this instability that people are feeling.

And why lawmakers are coming out and you'll see, as I said before, more of them, if he continues to make these remarks. Heather Heyer's mom came out today. It's not appropriate for this moment. Maybe not even appropriate on the campaign trail, but particularly in the office of the president.

BERMAN: All right, Patrick, Amie, Eugene, thanks so much for being with us.

Again, we do have breaking news this morning, the manhunt for the driver of a van who plowed through a crowd in Barcelona. Four arrested in these two attacks so far in Spain. We are on top of all the new developments.

Plus, another controversial statue removed overnight after the president said ripping down these, quote, "beautiful confederate statues would destroy U.S. culture."

And holy split, a rip deepens as new Republicans rebuked the president after his "both sides" remarks.



BERMAN: All right. Just in to CNN, a new statement from Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president. You will remember that Mitt Romney has been back and forth over the years on exactly how he feels about Donald Trump.

I don't think there's any question about how he feels about the president this morning in the wake of the president's response to what happened in Charlottesville. A scathing statement from Mitt Romney posted on Facebook.

Let me read you just a part, "Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast part of America to mourn.

His apologist strained to explain that he didn't mean what we heard, but what we heard is now the reality. Unless it is addressed by the president as such with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric."

And then he concludes the statement by saying, "Mr. President, act now for the good of the country." Again, those words from Mitt Romney.

Joining now, of course, the mother of Heather Heyer and overnight, James Murdock, the CEO of 21st Century Fox, of course, of Fox News. Much more on this in just a moment because there is other breaking news this morning.

The terror attacks in Spain, we want to dig deeper into that. Our vehicle-involved incidents now the new normal for Europe and how should officials respond.

Here to discuss, Karen Greenberg, the director of the Center of National Security at Fordham University Law School, also a terror analyst, and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, counterterror expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

What is notable now, as we look at what happened in Spain this morning, this seems like a fairly large cell. I mean, we count ten if not more, 12 people involved in this. They apparently were trying to build bombs in the night before. What does this all tell you?

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Yes. This is one of the biggest operations that we've seen in Europe in a while. If things hadn't gone poorly for the attackers, this could have been much, much worse.

This cell had a plan a, b and c. Plan A was to use a large truck, plant a bomb in the truck, and explode that truck. Now that failed when they didn't have the requisite documents to rent it.

The Plan B was to take two trucks with explosives in it. That failed because two days ago, there's a house where they are building explosives in Alcanar (ph). They blew up the house. The explosives blew up while they are in the process of building it quite fortunately.

Otherwise, this might have been a plot involving explosives. So, what we saw according to sources you spoke to with (inaudible) of the "New York Times" was their Plan C, which was a vehicular attack.

In addition to what happened in Barcelona, you also had the town of Cambrils were five attackers with fake suicide vests, who ended up getting killed by authorities. That gives you a sense of the magnitude of this operation of the attackers' side.

BERMAN: We're not 100 percent sure, Karen, that it's even over yet. The driver of the van apparently still on the loose. What is the most important thing now for Spanish officials and law enforcement there in how they approach this?

KAREN GREENBERG, TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, one thing you can say is that they're putting these pieces together very quickly, to have linked the things that Daveed just referred to. They've done this, you know, within 24 hours.

I think what they're going to do in this regard is to look for other attacks, because it wasn't just Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. It was as if all of these could have taken place simultaneously or you know, in close proximity to one another, which is an old terrorist game plan.

And so, the question is what else is out there. So, there's two things they can do. One is to be active on the intelligence front, which you can see. But the other one is to really ramp up law enforcement at sites where they think any kind of attack on the public can take place.

And that puts a huge burden on the police and law enforcement right now because what you have seen is what we've been referring to for the past year, year and a half, as low-tech unsophisticated vehicular attacks, has now seemed to combine with much more sophisticated, more complex, and wider spread attacks. So, you are seeing yet another chapter in how terrorism attacks take place.

BERMAN: Some of these people were wearing fake suicide vests, which is designed only to spread the notion of terror, not actual violence. Daveed, we are getting more new information just in.

[09:25:03] We are learning that one police officer took down four of the five suspected terrorists, who were killed in Cambrils, that's the site 75 miles outside Barcelona. Spain is not necessarily to be the first country to comes to mind when you think of is inspired or ISIS directed attacks in Europe. But what does this show you, that what ISIS really just wants to do is attack Europe anywhere it can?

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Well, a few different things. First of all, if you actually look at the area surrounding Cambrils, in the coast south of Barcelona, it is known as being a hub of Salafism, not necessarily of ISIS activity, but there is a fairly strong Salafi including some of the more jihadist bridges of Salafism movement that's down there.

Secondly, within the basically world view of groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, Spain does actually hold a fairly high role. They look back to the times when the (inaudible) and argue that they need to re-concur this area.

If you look, for example, at the map that ISIS released of their so- called caliphate, it encompassed Spain because of that historical period during which Spain had been under Islamic rule.

And the third thing is that Spain has been a part of the various anti- ISIS coalitions of anti-terror policing, which has also helped to put it on the radar. Now it hasn't been since the Madrid train attacks that we have seen a successful Jihadist attack.

There have been some (inaudible) attacks since then so this is very significant, but it's not a surprise that Spain would be targeted.

BERMAN: All right, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Karen Greenberg, thank you so much for your insight on this. Again, we keep getting new information about this. We will keep you posted as it comes in.

A new statue topples overnight as tensions build over controversial monuments. Much more ahead.