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Moment of Silence Held for Victims of Barcelona Attack; Trump Cites Debunked Terror Story in Response to Barcelona. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 18, 2017 - 06:00   ET


[06:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, August 18, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow has been with me all week. Value added.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. Good to be here.

CUOMO: Thank you for being here, my friend.

All right. This morning, this is the starting line. Arrests overnight in the worst attack on Spanish soil in over a decade. Thirteen were murdered. At least 100 injured. A van plowing into crowds of people on Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas. People still searching for the driver.

Also developing overnight, a second deadly attack thwarted by authorities in another Spanish seaside city 70 miles southwest of Barcelona. Five suspected terrorists killed in a shoot-out. Police are working under the assumption that the incidents are related.

HARLOW: And President Trump under fire this morning for his response to the tragedy in Barcelona. The president retelling a debunked mythical story about General Pershing shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig's blood during the Philippine-American war. It is the same discredited story that he told during the campaign at a rally in 2016.

Now Republican support for the Trump presidency is continuing to wane and show substantial cracks. Top Republicans calling him out, questioning his competence and stability. Their words.

A big day of news ahead, and CNN has it all covered. Let's start with Becky Anderson, who is live in Barcelona, where a moment of silence will be observed to honor these victims in just seconds -- Becky.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we will get to what is this complex terror investigation by Spanish authorities in a moment. But it's important that we just pause for a moment, because there are hundreds of people who have gathered here in this square, Plaza Catalonia, where the kind of Spain has just arrived to remember those who were victims of these terror attacks, victims of these terror attacks. Thirteen dead here in Barcelona. Over 100 injured, more injured in Cambrils on the coastal town.

Let's just pause for a moment.

Lest we not forget the victims of these terror attacks, terror visited on Spain in the past 24 to 36 hours. And as I say, there is now a fluid ongoing police operation to nail down those involved in what occurred here.

Let's start with just a sense of what happened.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Hours after a white van plowed through crowds of pedestrians on one of Barcelona's most populous streets, Catalan police foiling a second vehicle attack in a seaside town 70 miles south that injured six civilians and one police officer. Authorities fatally shooting five attackers in the car that drove into pedestrians on the sea front. The late-night incident believed to be related to the terrifying earlier attack in Barcelona that killed at least 13 and injured more than 100.

ALI SHIRAZINIA, EYEWITNESS TO BARCELONA VAN ATTACK (via phone): I just saw people flying over the vehicle, and it was just a really, really horrific scene of, you know, immediate carnage.

ANDERSON: Witnesses say the driver of the van, who remains on the loose, accelerated to 50 miles an hour before zig-zagging down the boulevard, attempting to hit as many people as possible.

TOM, EYEWITNESS TO BARCELONA VAN ATTACK (via phone): He was just plowing people down. And he was swerving left and right. And it was -- my taxi driver stopped and we just froze. And he just kept saying, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" To say the word terror, you just can't even imagine that fear that just -- it comes over you.

ANDERSON: Panic and chaos as frightened survivors run for cover, the famous promenade covered in bloodied bodies, one woman documenting the carnage from her window overlooking Las Ramblas.

ASH PATEL, EYEWITNESS TO BARCELONA ATTACK: The sound was terrible. It was just crash, crash, crash. And screams. Screams and cries.

ANDERSON: Investigators now desperately searching for the driver, who abandoned the van before fleeing on foot.

Spanish authorities calling the assault an act of jihadi terrorism as ISIS touts the attackers as soldiers of the Islamic State.

Police arresting multiple subjects in separate cities, one who was connected to this house explosion in Catalonia that killed one woman the night before the attack in Barcelona.


ANDERSON: These scenes that we have witnessed over the last 36 hours sadly all too familiar on mainland Europe and in the U.K. over the past year or two. But this is a sign of defiance. This fantastic city of Barcelona will not be cowed. It will go on. Life will go on, but those victims of the attacks here and in the coastal town will be remembered.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Becky Anderson, thank you so much. Observing that very important moment of silence for all of those lost. Thank you.

Let's bring in our panel and talk more about what we know and what we don't know at this point. CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank and Philip Mudd are here on CNN; national security analyst Shawn Turner join us.

So Paul, to you first. When you look at this, this is sadly not a first. There's been an acceleration of this use of vehicles. You've got 120 people killed through different vehicle attacks in the west since 2014. What do we know so far? What stands out to you in this one?

[06:05:14] PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What stands out to me is this was a-- from all appearances, a very large cell involved in this sequence of attacks. We're talking up to ten terrorists here, according to the details we're learning so far.

Now, that's about the same size as the Paris attack cell all the way back in November 2015. The difference in this case is they didn't, it would appear, have automatic weapons, and they were not successful in trying to make explosives.

It may well be that that house explosion which leveled that property in Alcanar was the bomb factory. Spanish media are reporting that. The police believe that they were trying to make explosives there.

The scenario we might be looking at is that they had a mishap, blew themselves up, and then some of the others moved to Plan B, which was a low attack that we saw on Las Ramblas and last night.

The worry now is that some of these perpetrators are still at large and may strike again. Very worrying times for European counterterrorism officials.

CUOMO: Phil Mudd, what do we know about who did this and the use of the vehicles? Is this about circumstance? Is it about convenience? Is it a trend?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think it's about convenience. Let me pick up on something Paul said, because I think it's critical. That is, I think the police operations, in the explosion the night before, might have avoided more deaths.

It looks to me like these guys were building truck bombs, and when they got busted, they had to -- they realized they had to move quickly until the police moved in.

What I'm learning when I see this is, if you've got a cell this size, Chris, I've got to believe that there are more people involved at the second echelon of the cell. That is, who provided money? Who provided training? Did they travel to Syria and Iraq? If so, who facilitated that?

I don't believe we've seen the end of the identification of this cell, not that there are more operators out there, but that there would be a peripheral element that would support them. The size of this is remarkable. Typically, in one of these, you're going to see one, two, three people. As Paul said, we saw this in Paris.

So I think the first question I would have is there not only a larger operational piece that we haven't figured out, but is there a bigger support piece that might be supporting another cell? I think that's what we might see.

HARLOW: And Sean, what about the significance of this happening in Spain? I mean, Spain has been more immune from these attacks, at least recently than France, for example. Right? Or what we saw happen in London. Look at the map there for all of those recent attacks. I mean, the last big terror attack in Spain was 2004.

What is unique about that and why is it significant that this happened in Spain?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure. Well, as you point out, we haven't seen a major terror attack in Spain since the train bombing in 2004. I think what's particularly unique about this, if you look at what the Spanish authorities have done over the past several years, they've done a good job identifying potential terror threats.

They've arrested several hundred people in the last -- last two or three years who are either involved in plotting terror attacks or suspected of being involved in terrorist attacks.

And I think that what's unique about this is that these terror cells, you know, they see that. They understand that -- that this is a place where people are going to really pay attention to what they're doing.

But as Phil was pointing out, I mean, this was -- this was a soft target. And this is the kind of thing that's particularly concerning to counterterrorism officials, because these soft targets, unlike when we see terror attacks or terror plotting focused on airports or airlines or other things like that, there's not a lot that we can do to harden these soft targets.

So you know, in Spain, this is one of those -- those instances in which we're going to have to take a hard look at exactly how this is done, how this was done, and who was responsible and figure out how we avoid this happening in other places across Europe.

CUOMO: So ISIS announced the guys as soldiers of the Islamic State.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

CUOMO: That doesn't mean that they're behind it. Paul, are we focusing more on vehicles being used, or is there an uptick in the convenience or circumstantial aspect?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, there's no doubt, I mean, that this is the weapon of choice now with European terrorism. That attack in Nice last summer, but also Stockholm, Berlin, two attacks on two London bridges involving vehicles. We're going to see more of this. It's easy to get hold of a car. They're saying get hold of more of these things and launch more of these kind of attacks.

We don't know yet whether they were connected with ISIS. ISIS have put out opportunistic claims in the past. They claimed that Manila casino attack back in June which turned out not even to be a terrorist attack at all.

[06:10:06] So we'll have to wait and see. But in the Berlin case, Christmas, that attacker was in touch with ISIS in Libya through encrypted apps. There might be a video that comes out. But not clear whether ISIS had anything concretely to do with this.

HARLOW: So, al Qaeda wrote about this in one of their magazines back, you know, seven years ago so talking about, Phil Mudd, the ultimate mowing machine, right? And sort of inspiring this even more and more, because it takes no advanced planning. A car is cheaper and easier to come by, arguably, than -- especially if it's a stolen vehicle, which we've also seen -- than making all these bombs, et cetera. You know, to Chris's point, weigh in. I mean, is this the new normal, unfortunately, for these attacks?

MUDD: There's a broader question I think that I would touch on here regarding what kind of tactic a terrorist used. ISIS has lost, since mid-2014, massive amounts of territory in Iraq and Syria. So the likelihood they can bring somebody in Europe and train them on a highly-sophisticated backpack bomb is declining.

If you're reading an ISIS magazine or al Qaeda magazine and you want to operate in a place like France or the U.K. or Spain, the likelihood you can get training to conduct a sophisticated -- or to build a sophisticated device is declining. So what do you turn to? You turn to things like, "I want to just pick up a truck and mow down people." That's why I think we're seeing this.

CUOMO: Also, a different breed of coward. Because you can get behind the wheel of a vehicle--

HARLOW: Good point.

CUOMO: -- and not necessarily want to take your own life.

HARLOW: Yes, good point.

Thank you all very much. Stay with us. We have a lot more to get to here.

Meantime, President Trump very quick to condemn on Twitter the terror attack in Barcelona. His response is, though, sparking controversy. This as more Republican leaders come forward and slam the president's comments on Charlottesville. Athena Jones is live in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with more.

What is the word from those around the president this morning?


Well, no new reaction from the White House or the president. But in the face of ongoing criticism for his defense of white supremacists, we're seeing a familiar pattern from the president. He's refusing to back down. Instead inserting himself deeper into the racially-charged debate over Confederate memorials and sparking new criticism over his response to the horrific terror attack in Barcelona.


JONES (voice-over): President Trump spreading fake news while condemning Barcelona's deadly van attack, telling his followers to study what U.S. General John Pershing did to Muslim terrorists in the Philippines, reviving a story he told on the campaign trail.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig's blood. And they shot 49 of those people, and for 25 years there wasn't a problem.

JONES: The problem? Historians have repeatedly said this never happened. This latest falsehood coming as President Trump's support base continues to crack over his defense of white supremacists.

TRUMP: But a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest. Because you know -- I don't know if you know, they had a permit.

JONES: The son of FOX CEO Rupert Murdoch, one of President Trump's closest informal advisers, denouncing the president in a scathing e- mail, writing, "What we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the president of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people."

The president's behavior also wearing thin with a growing list of his Republican allies who were calling him out by name.

CORKER: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.

SCOTT: What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority, and that moral authority is compromised.

JONES: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell releasing a statement throwing his full support behind Senator Jeff Flake after President Trump went after the Arizona Republican and Senator Lindsey Graham on Twitter.

The controversy also taking a toll on the president's bottom line and his business relationships, with three charities backing out of scheduled events at Mar-a-Lago, all of this coming as Mr. Trump ends plans for an advisory council on infrastructure. Despite the backlash, the president digging in, calling it foolish to

remove statues of Confederate icons, lamenting the beauty that would be taken out of U.S. cities.

The president has a much different view when asked about the removal of the Confederate flag during the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it needs to go?

TRUMP: I think it probably does, and I think they should put it in the museum, let it go.


[06:15:11] JONES: Now, President Trump leaves Bedminster later this morning for a quick trip down to Camp David, only his second visit to the presidential retreat since taking office. But this is not a leisure trip. He'll be meeting with the National Security Council to talk about strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.

Vice President Mike Pence cut short his trip to Central America to return for the meeting. What's not clear is whether any other topics like North Korea will come up -- Chris.

CUOMO: Athena Jones, thank you very much for the reporting.

President Trump in a war of words with leaders of his own party. What is all this infighting going to do to his ability to push through his agenda? We're going to discuss about that.



CORKER: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He also has not demonstrated recently he understands the character of this nation.


CUOMO: All right, now. Some are calling it a schism within the Republican Party. But it's not that extreme. And yet, to see Senator Bob Corker calling out the president yesterday, calling out his competency, that is unusual and now raises it the question of how will the president respond, and will that make it worse?

[06:20:03] HARLOW: Let's bring in our panel: CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein; political writer for "The Atlantic" Molly Ball; and CNN political analyst David Drucker.

So Molly, I was looking at you while the Corker sound was playing and saying, "Wow," because as we were talking before, this is a guy who the president considered, maybe, as V.P., secretary of state. You know, this is not a guy -- this is not a Lindsey Graham or a John McCain. Right? What do you make of it? How big is that, that he questioned the president's competency and stability?

MOLLY BALL, POLITICAL WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": It's a big deal because, as you say. On the one hand, it is a big deal because as you say, Bob Corker is someone who has really tried to be on Trump's team.


BALL: On the other hand, those of us who cover the Congress know that Bob Corker is a truth teller. He is not someone who is going to tow the party line if he doesn't believe it. And that's part of the reason he was able to -- it's part of the reason, frankly, that he rejected the V.P. slot when he was considered for it, is he just didn't think that he could continue to be on Trump's team if it was going to require him to often, you know, bury his relationship with the truth.

So you know, what he -- the word in that statement that I still wonder about is the word "yet," because so many Republicans are still saying he's not yet there. I think that word "yet" is going to disappear pretty soon as they realize, they come to the end of their rope, and they realize, it's not that it hasn't happened yet; it's that it's not going to happen.

CUOMO: Well, the measure is progress on the agenda, Ron Brownstein. Is that, while the president's inability to surrender the "me" to the "we" may suit his personal political aims of this new nationalism that he's pushing. It's hurting the ability to get anything done in Congress. It's a distraction, and it's been counterproductive for them, and that's going to frustrate if nothing else.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that does frustrate, but I do think, Chris, the issue goes beyond that. Because in many ways the Republicans in Congress are in the exact same position as the business executives were who have stampeded away from him after his remarks about Charlottesville.

Because on the one hand, both groups largely agree with him on the economic agenda. Maybe on trade there are some differences. By and large they want less taxes and less regulation. And what the business groups were hoping was that -- business leaders were hoping they could work with him on those issues and, essentially, keep out of the racial division and signaling that has really been essential to his message from day one.

And I think that has been the posture, as well, of Republicans in Congress, particularly someone like Paul Ryan, who portrays himself as a disciple of Jack Kemp and has been, certainly privately, critical and at times publicly critical of President Trump but essentially has bit his lip with Trump in office, because they want to turn to things like taxes and deregulation.

Now, the business leaders decided this week that was too high a price to pay, that standing next to Trump, because of the social and racial views that he's been expressing, was simply too high a price to pay for kind of cooperation on the economic side. And you do wonder when Republicans in Congress, more Republicans in Congress, will make the same calculation, that even though they want to move ahead on this economic agenda, that ultimately, they have to more clearly distance themselves from the president by name.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And Chris, I think that's going to happen when they get a signal from their voters that that's where the voters are headed. And if you talk to Republicans and you talk to their advisers, one of the things they're very cautious about, one of the things they're very -- they sort of have a good understanding of, is that the Republican base, even though we've seen some cracks in the base when it comes to Trump, is still largely with him. For some of them, they'll never abandon him. For others that are skeptical and don't like the behavior, it's simply too soon.

BROWNSTEIN: Just one quick point, David. Historically, every time members of Congress have stood up to a president of their own party, they have done so before the base has moved. The base simply does not move first.

Whether it's William Fulbright holding the Vietnam hearings in 1966, when Lyndon Johnson still had overwhelming support among Democrats, or the Republicans voting to create the Watergate committee in '73 when Nixon was still over 70 percent among Republicans -- I think Nixon only went below 50 percent among Republicans once, even at the very end.

The fact is that leaders have to lead if they believe that the national interest demands it. And you can go back through history and see that there have been occasions when leaders, particularly in the Senate, have concluded they need to challenge a president of their own party, because the national interest demand is before their own voters get there, because they don't get there first.

DRUCKER: And I think that we've started to see some of that. I do think, though, this is a little bit of a different era. The politics of today is a lot more tribal than it used to be.


DRUCKER: And I think that has made Republicans that have seen Trump survive scandals that would have sunk anybody else a lot more cautious and a lot more worried, especially since the Republican base in particular loathes its own party and loathes their leaders.

We have, though, seen the differences that cropped up this week in a willingness to speak more forcefully against the president. This is something that has been building. And I think in September it could cause real problems as they try to tackle parts of the president's agenda and just things they have to do, like fund the government. There is such a lack of trust now between Republicans on the Hill and the White House. It is going to make it very difficult to get anything big done, let alone -- in fact, it's going to make it difficult to get some of the small things done, because they are so at odds with each other, and there is just no trust between the two. And you need that if you're going to take these big votes.

[06:25:22] HARLOW: Molly, to David's point about tribalism, there's a really interesting new Monmouth poll out. Sixty-one percent of those who approve of the president's sort of his behavior and is presidency say there is nothing ever that he could ever, ever, ever do that would change their mind.

And it reminds you when he said in jest during the campaign, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, and people would stay loyal."

BALL: Yes, well, but it's kind of ridiculous to say Trump's base supports Trump, because that's why they're Trump's base. Right? And the problem for Trump is it is an increasingly shrinking group. The people who strongly support Trump are getting -- that is a group that is getting smaller and smaller. It's a percentage of the electorate that's getting smaller and smaller. It has never been a majority of the electorate.

A lot of Republicans who might have voted for Trump because they thought he was better than the alternative, are moving from the "strongly support" into the "only slightly support" category; and that puts them, you know, in danger of moving off the island altogether.

So this analysis that Trump's base still supports him, yes, they're always going to be there, but that's not enough to win an election. And I do think you are going to see Republicans realizing that the problem is they're more loyal to Trump than they are to their local congressman or to the Republican Party. And so that really puts these members on an island.

CUOMO: We'll talk about, in the next panel, what he's doing and whether that speaks to his desire to expand, as we thought he would, or to concentrate, which seems more likely.

HARLOW: Stocks plunging. The steepest one-day decline in months. The president likes to talk about the market up, up, up. Now down, down, down. The president's comments about Charlottesville, are they rattling Wall Street? New details when NEW DAY continues.