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Witness Describes Terror Attack in Barcelona; President Trump Makes Controversial Tweet on General Pershing and Islamic Terrorism. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 18, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Police just arresting a fourth suspect only moments ago. The search however continuing for the driver of the van. The latest victim died in a second attack 70 miles away in the city of Cambrils, thwarted by authorities. Five terrorists were killed at that scene. Police say they're working under the assumption that the incident was linked to the one in Barcelona.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump responding by tweeting a debunked story about General Pershing killing Muslims over a century ago with his bullets dipped in pig's blood. It is the same unsubstantiated story he peddled during the campaign. Republicans this morning calling out the president publicly, questioning his fitness for office and his stability.

Let's begin before that, though, with our coverage in Barcelona with CNN's reporter Arwa Damon tracking the latest developments. Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. And we're beginning to learn a bit more about who the victims were. One, for example, was a father, and he had a five-year-old son and a baby that was just a few months old. They were here as a family on vacation. This is an attack that shocked Spain, but the population here to a certain degree was bracing itself for this type of violence.

It has also reverberated across the globe. Among those who were killed and wounded, people from 24 different nations. Here's a look at how the events unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: It was just hours after a white van plowed through crowds of pedestrians on one of the Barcelona's most popular streets. The Catalan police managed to foil a second vehicle attack in a seaside town 70 miles south. It injured six civilians and one police officer. Authorities fatally shot the five attackers in the car that drove into pedestrians on the seafront. The late night incident is 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: I saw people flying over the vehicle, and it was just a really, really horrific scene of immediate carnage. DAMON: Witnesses say the driver the van, who remains on the loose,

accelerated to 50 miles per hour before zigzagging down the boulevard attempting to hit as many people as possible.

TOM, EYEWITNESS TO BARCELONA VAN ATTACK: He was just plowing people down and he was swerving left and right. And it was a -- my taxi driver stopped and we froze, and he kept saying oh, my God, oh, my God. That fear, that terror, you just can't even imagine that fear that just -- it comes over you.

DAMON: It was sheer panic and total chaos. Frightened survivors ran for cover. The famous promenade was covered in bloody bodies. One woman documented the carnage from her window overlooking La Rambla.

ASH PATEL, EYEWITNESS TO BARCELONA VAN ATTACK: It was just crash, crash, crash, and screams, screams and cries.

DAMON: Investigators are now desperately searching for the driver who abandoned the van before fleeing on foot. Spanish authorities are calling the assault an act of jihadi terrorism and ISIS is touting the attackers as soldiers of the Islamic State. Police have arrested multiple suspects in separate cities. One who is connected to this house explosion in Catalonia that killed one woman the night before the attack in Barcelona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: In the square behind me there was just a moment of silence, and then the crowd gathered here, started chanting "We are not afraid." This has sadly become something of the norm across Europe. It's the sixth time in recent years that terrorists have used a vehicle as a deadly weapon. Back to you.

CUOMO: Arwa, important point, thank you very much.

Let's get right to one of the witnesses of this attack, Omar popal, joining us now. He's visiting Barcelona from San Diego, California. Are you and everyone you're traveling with, you're OK, thank God. How are they?

OMAR POPAL, AMERICAN WHO WITNESSED BARCELONA ATTACK: Yes, I'm traveling with one of my cousins as well, and they're doing OK. Just still trying to really understand everything that happened after the events yesterday.

CUOMO: Not going to be easy. It's going to take time to process. We appreciate your taking time with us to help others understand what you lived through. What did you see, my friend?

POPAL: So we were -- me and my cousin were both heading, about to head out toward the Las Ramblas and we wanted to go to the beach, so we had just grabbed a few snacks and we're just starting to head out. As we approached the exit getting closer to Las Ramblas, all we heard was people -- what I saw a small group of people starting to yell and scream, and then everyone followed suit and started heading back the way that we initially came from. So I just looked at my cousin and told her to run, and then we both just tried as fast as we could to get out of there.

[08:05:01] And in the process of running out of the market, all I could see was, like families trying to find their children, and I saw in front of me a dad and his child fall as well. I mean, I tripped right behind them. It was very slippery and wet and chaotic. No one was really thinking. Everything was very instinct-driven. And thankfully we were all able to get up and run out as quick as we could because in the process we heard a loud shattering bang, something that sounded like a gunshot. So we were just completely terrified and just did as best we could to get out of there as quickly as possible.

CUOMO: What did you think was happening and when did you learn what it was that someone has using a vehicle to try to hurt as many people as possible?

POPAL: I'm sorry, could you repeat that.

CUOMO: What do you think it was when you first started to scramble? What did you think was happening and when did you learn the reality of what it was?

POPAL: I didn't find out that it was a vehicle until about 10, 15 minutes later. I was constantly refreshing any news media outlets I had trying to see what happened just because me and my cousin didn't want to go back into the direction of where the chaos started from. We thought that someone had a firearm and was unleashing that firearm and that's why people were running away because that's the first then we heard and were able to make sense of. So we were very terrified there was either one or multiple guns at the scene. So that was what was initially going through our head. It could be some sort of a terrorist act.

CUOMO: What do you think about the idea of a man or multiple people using a van and going through a place that crowded trying to swerve and hurt as many people as possible? What do you make of the situation?

POPAL: It personally disgusts me that things like this are possible and that they happen and that people don't realize how realistic it is. For me it was very surreal in that I never thought in a million years that this would happen the one day where I'm on vacation and I'm in a specific area. Just seeing all the terror on everybody's faces is really unexpected. I really couldn't make sense of it until after we finally got away from it. I saw someone who was injured, and I was just thinking, wow, this is actually happening. This is like a real situation I was in the middle of. It's just very difficult to really make sense of and it just really disgusts me that there are people like this and people who will go out of their way to harm others.

CUOMO: The threat is all too real, but so is the response. What have you seen from people since this terrible event? Even in the hours after and the scene behind you now, how are people responding?

POPAL: Thankfully, right after the incident took place, I saw a lot of police vehicles and ambulances coming through about 30 seconds to a minute later. So thankfully I felt there was a very quick response. Today, walking down Las Ramblas on the side of the street, just seeing in the center how there are lots of vigils being held and lots of people coming together for people who either they're related to or they knew or just to be there in spirit, it's a very kind of unifying feeling just seeing everyone together, and entire community coming together, not just the locals, but also tourists like myself and my cousin.

CUOMO: It's important. It's important for you to be part of that response. Thank you for joining us. I'm happy you're OK and that your cousin is OK. And we will keep in our thoughts all those who were not, all those who are victims because of what these people decided to do. Omar, be well and thank you for joining us.

HARLOW: Thank you so much, appreciate it.

So let's bring in our panel, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, he's editor in chief of "CTC Sentinel" and the co-author of "Agent Storm, My Life Inside Al Qaeda," CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, the author of "United States of Jihad, Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists," and CNN national security analyst Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "Ashley's War." It is nice to have all of you here, experts on all of this.

And Peter Bergen, this morning you have a new CNN.com opinion -- not really an opinion piece, a fact piece, laying out what has led us to this point and the increased use of these vehicles by so many to attack so many across Europe. What stands out to you about what happened in Spain?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, unfortunately this is part of a pattern that we've seen through the last three years where we've seen 14 vehicle attacks in the west, 12 by jihadist terrorists and two by sort of right wing extremists. The death toll is 128. And if you thing become it from the terrorist point of view, the chaos that we saw unfolding at Barcelona was just as effective as detonating a large bomb in terms of the terror it created.

However, that said, if you look at what actually has unfolded in Barcelona, it really isn't that sophisticated. There was a failed bombing, it looks like. They had fake explosives. They were using vehicles as weapons. This was not what we saw in h Paris or Brussels where highly trained people with weapons and bombs that worked killed 130 people in Paris and 32 in Brussels, and that was an ISIS directed and financed attack.

[08:10:10] So I think here, the fact that ISIS has described this as soldiers of the caliphate implies that this was a group that was inspired by ISIS, at least in ISIS's own mind. It's the same terminology they used after the Orlando attack when Omar Mateen who had no connection to ISIS directly was described as a soldier of the caliphate. So that's what it looks like right now with the facts we have right now.

CUOMO: Gayle, how do you thread together what they're doing in an attack like this with what's being learned somewhere else, the size of the cell's coordination that people are worried about? What does this situation speak to in that regard?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think this is exactly what people are trying to figure out is how does point a lead to point b. I was in Syria last week actually reporting on the front lines of the ISIS fight. And there you saw a lot of people who are fighting ISIS inside Raqqa really worried about vehicles being used as weapons on the front lines. So you see this thread and this influence going. But it doesn't take much. You talk to senior military leaders in the U.S. and what they will say is it is much easier to kill a terrorist than it is to slay an idea. And battling the ideology is actually the hardest and the longest term fight.

HARLOW: And since we have the beauty of your perspective of the horror, frankly, in Syria, the fact that ISIS is being weakened and has been so weakened on the ground, how does that translate to what we're seeing? For example, Spain had been rather immune for over a decade from terrorist attacks. They had many fewer Spaniards going over to Syria to be trained and then coming back. But now they are part of so many other countries in western Europe that are victims of an attack like this. What does it tell you?

LEMMON: It's also personal. I lived in Spain and spent a lot of time in Tarragona and Barcelona. These are beautiful tourist towns that don't normally see this kind of activity. And what you see on the ground, particularly when you're talking to folks who are on the front lines of the ISIS fight, is that they are increasingly cornered. They're increasingly returning to guerilla tactics, returning to car bombs, returning to vehicle-borne IEDs. And there is a sense they're being backed into a corner, and so the inspiration and the ideology becomes even more important as the territory is lost.

CUOMO: So let's take that idea, Paul, that Gayle is putting out there. You fight the man. You also have to fight the ideology. And that leads us to how the president responded when he said study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more radical Islamic terror for 35 years. He is referring to this mythology that surrounded Pershing's tactics. It is seen as untrue, the story that the president tells about dipping the bullets in blood and shooting 49 terrorists and sending the 50th one away with the bullet. But the idea he is to say study a method like this, how does that project onto the issue of fighting the idea of terror?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It's deeply offensive to a billion people on the planet. It's inflammatory. People in U.S. counterterrorism are very concerned about this because it could paint a target on the back of Americans, tourists overseas, the military serving overseas. It could be used by them for recruitment, for propaganda, will make them more willing even than now to attack the United States. And so words really, really matter here, and those words were not well spoken.

HARLOW: Peter Bergen, your analysis of the president not only pushing a myth but doing it mere hours after this tragedy of a NATO ally?

BERGEN: Clearly, you know, promulgating things that are false is not helpful. But I will say this. The groups that are attacking, the jihadist groups actually don't mention Trump very much. There's been a lot of discussion about how this might be inflammatory, et cetera, et cetera. But I think hasn't really mentioned Trump at all in its propaganda. And that's maybe somewhat surprising.

But if you think about the way they think about the world, for them, whether it's Bill Clinton or George W. Bush or George H. W. Bush or President Obama or President Trump, for them they're all kind of essentially the same. Their view is American foreign policy is kind of the problem here. Whoever is president is largely doing the same things that every other American president has done. So I would be careful to jump to the conclusion that somehow Trump's statement about Pershing is going to be inflammatory.

CUOMO: Regardless what it means to the enemy, Gayle, it means something to the Americans. There is a belief in this country among a significant part of the population that war is hell, you're fighting savages, which is what they'll call terrorists and that you should match methods and that we've been too soft and weak and America has to be tougher and fight the way they fight and that's how you win.

[08:15:08] What do you make of that?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, this is what Senator McCain who is a survivor of the prisoner of war camp and who experienced torture is talking about a lot, which is that we cannot be an America that counters and acts just like those we oppose.

I do think you hear -- I would have been in a lot of places where people say, yes, that is exactly what we should be doing. But when you talk to folks in uniform, they are the last people to say that, in part because, you know, for example, when you talk about how you talk about the Muslim community, how you talk about people from across the world. You're talking about American soldiers who are in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, not only in, you know, serving in battle, but also recruiting interpreters and people to go outside with them.

So I don't think that the us versus them conversation is helpful in any way for those who are fighting America's wars.

CUOMO: All right. Gayle, I appreciate it.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for your perspective on this story, as it develops. We'll bring you back.

Another big story that we're covering is the aftermath what happened in Charlottesville. The woman killed there, Heather Heyer, she was memorialized. Her mother has been speaking out and she has a strong message for the president. She doesn't want to speak to him directly, and she'll tell you why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The mother of the woman run down in the Charlottesville attack is speaking out this morning. [08:20:01] She has a strong message for President Trump. She says she

hasn't talked to the president and, quote, after what he said about my child -- I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like Ms. Heyer with the KKK and the white supremacists, and that put him out of her mind.

All right. So, let's discuss this with Corey Stewart. He's running to be the Republican nominee to challenge Senator Tim Kaine in 2018. He was also the Virginia chairman of Trump's campaign.

It's good to have you on the show, sir.

COREY STEWART (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE, VIRGINIA: Great to be on your show, Chris.

CUOMO: The mother's upset because she doesn't like the implication that people like her daughter are being in any way equated to people who do nothing but preach hate.

STEWART: Well, obviously, it's a great tragedy what happened. And, you know, what is even more tragic though is CNN tried to exploit this woman's death to try to say that all this violence was caused by the far right when you know darn well that there was violence by both sides, Antifa, a radical left wing violent organization which you and other liberals have refused to do condemn.

CUOMO: OK. Let's go through it step by step, shall we? We have some fact points and some policy points.

The first one, you do not believe that the killer here should be seen as a terrorist. Jeff Sessions does.

STEWART: I believe he's a murderer.

CUOMO: The law does.

STEWART: That's fine --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Why insulate him?

I don't want to argue at all.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: You can argue over the words. But he is a horrible, despicable human being. He's a murderer.

CUOMO: But why would you defend him from the identity of being a terrorist?

STEWART: Chris, did you ever hear me defend him? I'm never going to defend a murderer. You defend violent lefties like Antifa. I've never heard defended it and I've never heard any Republican defend this son of a gun who murdered this poor woman. CUOMO: Why would you suggest that it is not an act of terror when

someone drove a car, just like what we just saw in Barcelona and so many other places, to try to terrorize people and killed someone? Why would you say no that's not what it is?

STEWART: That is not a defense. Look, Chris, there's a situation here when you got a have the prosecutors define this, whatever kind of crime it is, first-degree murder, capital murder. I don't know. I'm not a prosecutor.

CUOMO: Jeff Sessions says it is.

STEWART: But whatever it is, he needs to be punished.

CUOMO: Jeff Sessions says it is. Do you agree with Jeff Sessions?

STEWART: I -- Look, I'm going to look at law enforcement personnel and prosecutors, if they say it's terrorism, it's terrorism. I'm not competent to answer that question. I believe it's a murder and he should be punished.

But what concerns me is the left and Democrat refusing to condemn Antifa and all the other far left wing organizations who are committing crimes, shooting Steve Scalise, by the way, which you never condemned. Any of this violence that's occurring by the left and that means that they're encouraged, they're emboldened and they're going to do it again. And the blood is going to be on your hands.

CUOMO: Corey, I would caution you not to be reckless with the truth on this particular show. The idea --

STEWART: Well, you do it all the time. You do it all the time. You're reckless on the truth every morning.

CUOMO: Corey, OK, look, you can make your generalist versions. I get that it is a clever defense when you have nothing valuable to say. But what I'm telling you is this --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: The idea, Corey Stewart, that we or anybody else didn't jump on the situation with what happened to Steve Scalise, that we didn't call it out for what it was --

STEWART: Did you condemn the far left? Did you condemn the far left?

CUOMO: We didn't call out the person who did it and ideology that may have motivated them --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Do you want to hear the answer?

STEWART: Chris, do you call that terrorism? Chris, do you call that terrorism?

CUOMO: Do you want to hear the answer?

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: OK.

STEWART: Did you call that terrorism? Did CNN call the shooting of Steve Scalise, did you, Chris Cuomo, describe that as a terrorist act?

CUOMO: If the authorities had said it was, I would not have disagreed with them just to motivate my own agenda.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: But Jeff Sessions said it is. Jeff Sessions said it is.

STEWART: Well, if that is his conclusion, I haven't heard that --

CUOMO: You haven't heard it.

STEWART: If that's his conclusion, I will accept that.

CUOMO: That is his conclusion. He called it an act of domestic terror and he said he's looking at what other charges there can be. So, you change your opinion. It was an act of terror, what that man did in Charlottesville.

STEWART: If it's described as an act of terror by the prosecutor, by the attorney general, I will accept that. But I'm not a prosecutor. I'm a lawyer, but I'm not a prosecutor.

CUOMO: But I think it's a window in to what you want to be true, OK? You don't know any knowledge of the facts on the ground --

STEWART: Neither do you.

CUOMO: -- about who started violence.

I know a heck of a lot more than you do. I guarantee that, I'll prove it right now.

STEWART: Really? Did you condemn the violence by the left in Charlottesville?

CUOMO: Listen, everybody condemns violence. The mistake you're making is you're saying what brought the people to that rally, their motivations are equal. And that's what got the president in trouble. And that's what gets an apologist like you in trouble.

STEWART: What brought Antifa to the rally?

CUOMO: The KKK did not go there to fight against hate. And some do it the right way. Some do it the wrong way.

STEWART: Violence.

(CROSSTALK) [08:25:01] CUOMO: Heather Heyer and many people like her went there to fight against hate. The KKK went there for one reason, to spread hate. They don't care about the statue. It was a ruse and you know it.

STEWART: Everybody's condemned the KKK, Chris. Everybody. Everybody in the right mind has condemned the KKK.

CUOMO: When you ignore the motivation for attendance, you empower the hate. That's why they're thanking you.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: They're thanking you, Corey Stewart. Your friend Jason Kessler and the far right is thanking you.

STEWART: But the left and the Democrats, including yourself, have not condemned the far left.

CUOMO: They are thanking you. Why? Why is David Duke thanking you, Corey Stewart?

STEWART: You know, look, the Antifa is taking over your party.

CUOMO: How's you're earpiece? Can you hear me?

STEWART: They're letting them do it. It's a far left aggressive violent organization which you have not -- you have not condemned.

CUOMO: Can you hear what I'm saying to you?

STEWART: Can you hear what I'm saying to you? You're not responding to what I'm saying either.

CUOMO: Because it's --

STEWART: Because you only one want side.

CUOMO: Because it's baseless.

STEWART: That's CNN. That's the definition of CNN.

CUOMO: Here's how simple it is. Well, I've heard you on this before, and frankly, I'm a little shocked by the lack of logic. Is violence wrong? Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: (INAUDIBLE) mirror.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Are people -- from Antifa wrong if they are violent? Yes.

See, you've got to be willing to listen. It's helpful. Are people from antifa wrong when they're violent? Absolutely. Are

people like Heather Heyer wrong for going there to fight hate? No, they're not. They're right.

So you try to make an analogous argument. You own the president's supposition.

STEWART: Chris, you're trying to exploit this poor woman's death and --

CUOMO: No, no --

STEWART: -- and you're trying to exploit her family and play on everyone's emotions over this horrible murder --

CUOMO: Then why is the mother --

STEWART: -- to make your point. That's an argument.

CUOMO: Why is the mother upset at the president? Why are members of your own party stepping out against the president for his moral equivocation? Why is David Duke thanking the president for what he said?

STEWART: The president did the right thing by condemning violence on both sides, something that CNN and the left have refused to do, including a lot of establishment Republicans.

CUOMO: Because you cannot make people --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- what the KKK does and what people who protest against them. You can't equate them.

STEWART: You're going to be labeling any conservative as a fascist and a racist and that's what Antifa does. They said --

CUOMO: No, that's not true.

STEWART: The fascists, and they define all of us conservatives as fascist.

CUOMO: So, look, I get that in your mind antifa and the KKK are the same thing. I get it. That's a problem.

STEWART: That is not what I said, Chris.

CUOMO: You just said it. You don't want to own it but that's what you just said and --

STEWART: What I said is the violent organization which the left has refused to condemn.

CUOMO: You want all conservatives to be painted as people that support the Confederacy and want the statues to stay up. I have to tell you --

STEWART: Did I say that?

CUOMO: Yes, you did.

STEWART: I did not say that. No, I did not.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You said that a lot of conservatives -- that is the supporting the conservative side of this. That a lot of conservatives believe in the cultural identity of having these statues up. It's just not true. That's not about conservatism.

STEWART: Why don't we just have a monologue? Why do you just do a monologue? Why do you even bother to have a conservative guest on your show when you're not going to listen and respond?

CUOMO: I am listening, and let's be honest, this is what you do, is that you make buzz and energy by being contentious. That's fine but I think you have to own what you say.

STEWART: Are you looking in the mirror again?

CUOMO: The idea is -- listen, I'm looking at you, as difficult as it might be in this current situation. I'm looking at you. Good looking man but make an ugly point.

STEWART: Well, thanks for that I guess.

CUOMO: The idea that good people were down there to protest against taking these statues down. That's what you support that the president said. It's not true in fact and it's dangerous as an idea because it's equally untrue and unfair.

STEWART: All right. Is this a monologue or can I ask you a question?

CUOMO: Absolutely. Ask away.

STEWART: Are you stating every single person who doesn't want to remove these monuments that came down there to protest against that, that every single member one down there was a member of the KKK or a neo-Nazi?

CUOMO: I am suggesting what we know from reports on the ground that your suggestion that a lot of good people were there marching alongside the KKK because they wanted to protest taking down a statue is demonstrably false and --

STEWART: How do you know that?

CUOMO: Because we had people on the ground who saw no parallel march, who saw nobody there who wasn't chanting along with the other hateful people. There was no pamphlet put out. There was no speech given about keeping the statue up for the following reasons. It wasn't organized. It was just a ruse. STEWART: Because it turned into a melee. It turned into a big fight when you have leftists and far right people who were fighting each other. I can see what you're putting on the screen now.

CUOMO: How do you feel about? Where are your good people, Mr. Stewart?

STEWART: What happened that day is you had a fight between two radical left wing and right wing extremists who came there for a fight and there is violent. We need to condemn both sides, not just the right. You've got to condemn the left.

Otherwise, Chris, you're going to get more and more violence committed by the side that was never condemned.