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White House Turmoil; Spain Terror Attacks; Finland Stabbing Rampage; Crisis in Venezuela; Sierra Leone Disaster; Marcher at White Nationalist Rally Strips Down. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired August 19, 2017 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Steve Bannon out. Donald Trump's senior advisor is longer inside the White House. And he says he's now free to rev up his media machine to fight the opposition.

So what does this mean for the Trump presidency?

Bannon says it will be more conventional.

And a chilling discovery by Spanish police. Thursday's terror attacks could have been more deadly if terrorists had been able to complete the bomb they were building.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier at the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta.


VANIER: The now ex-White House strategist Steve Bannon says that with him out of the administration, the Trump presidency, as we know it, is over. Bannon was fired on Friday just seven months into his White House job. But only hours later he's back into his old position as the chairman of Breitbart news, which he has called his, quote, "killing machine."

After his ouster, Bannon told "The Weekly Standard," "The Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency.

"But that presidency is over. It'll be something else. And there'll be all kinds of fights, and there'll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over."

one White House official tells CNN that Bannon's firing was originally intended to take place two weeks ago but was put off. And he is just the latest high-profile figure to leave Mr. Trump's inner circle, a list that includes national security advisor Michael Flynn, press secretary Sean Spicer and chief of staff Reince Priebus.

For a closer look at Bannon's short but stormy tenure at the White House , here's CNN's Tom Foreman. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the whole, improbable, unexpected roaring rise to power, the man whispering in Donald Trump's ear was Steve Bannon, a true believer at the ultra- right-wing when few were.

STEVE BANNON, TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: They were laughing at me when I was saying, hey, this guy Trump is going to be -- this is going to be very serious. So it's good to see that you're in the heat of combat now.

TRUMP: I remember you looked and you said , boy, those are big crowds you're getting.

FOREMAN (voice-over): More than a cheerleader, Bannon was the campaign's ideologue, pushing explosive and persistent themes, some of which he'd crafted over years on terrorism...

BANNON: We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamism, Islamic fascism.

FOREMAN (voice-over): -- on big money interests...

BANNON: Our financial elites and the political class have taken care of themselves and led our country to the brink of ruin.

FOREMAN (voice-over): -- on opponents within the Republican Party and on his holy grail (ph)...

BANNON: Deconstruction of the administrative state.

FOREMAN (voice-over): -- once called the most dangerous political operative in America, Bannon is a former Navy officer and a former banker who made an early investment in the "Seinfeld" TV series that led to money and media experience which he transformed into political battering rams.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): We do not want our kids and our grandkids' futures taken away from us and we're going to stand up and do whatever we need to do to make sure that that doesn't happen.

FOREMAN (voice-over): He produced a series of blistering films promoting conservative views on immigration, climate change and the Obama administration. Bannon's movies praised Sarah Palin and the Right while savaging Hillary Clinton and the Left.

BANNON: With the Clintons, nothing is sacred. Everything is for sale. But we are the ones who are paying the price.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And through it all, he preached the gospel of a government run amok.

TRUMP: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

FOREMAN (voice-over): By the time he and Trump joined forces, Bannon was fiercely going after the media and elites of all stripes.

BANNON: I say everyday these working class men and women, middle class men and women are 10 times smarter than this intellectual group --


TRUMP: I say that, too.

FOREMAN: But Bannon's outsider status caused friction with the D.C. insiders. He was never able to push any major legislation through to passage. He fell out of favor with some Trump family members and critics never stopped howling his ties to the nationalist alt-right movement with its racist overtones.

BANNON: We're a nation with a culture and a reason for being. And I think that's what unites us. And I think that that is what is going to unite this movement going forward.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And even though he's now out of the White House, as he takes a familiar role as Breitbart's executive chairman, you can expect his war on Washington to roar on.

BANNON: If you think they're going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Tom Foreman, CNN --


FOREMAN (voice-over): -- Washington.


VANIER: Larry Sabato runs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and he joins us now via Skype.

Larry , good to have you with us. I want to read another Steve Bannon quote.

Open quote, "I feel jacked up. Now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons. Someone said, 'It's Bannon the Barbarian.' I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There's no doubt.

"I built a (INAUDIBLE) machine at Breitbart and now I'm about to go back. Knowing what I know -- and we're about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do."

So, Larry, what can Steve Bannon's do as head of Breitbart that he couldn't do as senior advisor to the President of the United States?

He's making it sound almost like he's got more power now.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, he may, given the position he found himself in at the end of his tenure. Remember, he once had tremendous influence with Trump and he swayed him in various directions and really reinforced what Trump already wanted to do on immigration and trade and foreign wars and all the rest of it.

But by the end of his tenure I think it was pretty clear that General Kelly didn't want him there. And he'd made so many enemies on the staff, say Jared and Ivanka among them, that his days were numbered anyway.

So he was probably cut out of the action and he was feeling pretty lonely. And he did have a lot of influence as head of Breitbart, head of the alt-right publicity machine or propaganda machine.


VANIER: So help us with that.

For our international audience, they think this is the guy who was the right-hand man of the American president. And now he's out.

How does that change the Trump presidency, if at all?

SABATO: I don't think it changes the substance very much at all, Cyril, because this is Donald Trump. the reason why Bannon had so much influence with Trump was because he was telling Trump what Trump wanted to hear.

And that's always the way you can have influence with Donald Trump. You appeal to his ego and you simply reinforce what he already believes. So that was what Bannon was doing.

VANIER: Let me read you another quote. In this one, Steve Bannon is talking about the Republican establishment and how they might influence Donald Trump and his presidency.

He says, "I think they're going to try to moderate him. I think he'll sign a clean debt ceiling. I think you'll see all this stuff , his natural tendency, and I think you saw it this week in Charlottesville, his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected.

"I think you're going to see a lot of constraints on that and I think it'll be much more conventional."

Do you believe the Trump presidency is going to become more conventional now?

SABATO: No way. No way because there's very little at Donald Trump's core, at least that's left, that's conventional. Donald Trump will be Donald Trump. He's his own spokesperson. He's his own staff. He's his own everything.

VANIER: But what about just the political center of gravity at the White House, people like Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, maybe even the White House chief of staff?

Those are people that Steve Bannon referred to as the globalists or the Democrats even in the White House?

SABATO: Well, yes, that's -- there's some truth to that --


SABATO: Not really. You know, people think that in a presidency, a president is his staff and his staff is policy and the president adopts certain policies by hiring certain staffs. That's true for some presidents.

It's not true for Donald Trump. Donald Trump knows exactly what he thinks on any given day and may contradict what he thought yesterday but he knows what he thinks. And he's going to do what he wants to do, whether his staff likes it or not.

SABATO: All right, so essentially you're not buying this Bannon being the Trump whisperer explanation that has run its course over the last few months.

Do you think Donald Trump has anything to fear from a Steve Bannon that's outside the White House?

SABATO: I'm sure he has something to fear. Bannon knows lots of secrets. He knows where the bodies are buried in the Trump White House and, indeed, in the Trump campaign. Who knows what he really knows that he hasn't told?

And he'll have lots of opportunities to tell it now, as you said, with no constraints.

VANIER: Yes. And apparently he intends to use it, saying -- that quote -- "knowing what I know now."

All right, Larry Sabato, pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you very much.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: And another adviser to the president is out. Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor was the president's special advisor on regulatory reform. But he says he's stepping down because he didn't want partisan bickering about his role to cloud the administration.

He's been criticized by Democrats who say he had a conflict of interest because he was still running his businesses even as he advised the president.

Spanish authorities are getting a chilling idea of how much worse --


VANIER: -- Thursday's terror attacks could have been. All told, 14 civilians are confirmed dead. The first of three connected events was a house explosion in Alcanar. Investigators say explosives were being stored there and a premature detonation leveled the house.

Police found traces of TATP, the same substance used in deadly bombings in Paris, Brussels and Manchester over the last four years. We want to show you also new security footage from a Barcelona museum.

Here's the moment the van rammed into one of the city's busiest tourist areas, Las Ramblas. That's happening at the top left of your screen.

And authorities have identified all five of the attackers, shot and killed in Cambrils after they attempted a similar attack with another vehicle. It's still not clear if the driver in the Barcelona attack is among those killed by police. Police also say they have identified three of the four currently in custody.

And as police work to unravel what happened, people there are trying to heal and move on. Arwa Damon reports from Barcelona. And you should know that some scenes in this report are graphic.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a moment of silence that took place in Barcelona earlier. And afterwards the crowd began to chant, "We are not afraid," very much defiant, trying to show that they will not allow violence to silence or stop them.

But this is still very much a nation reeling from the events of the last few days.

DAMON (voice-over): At a small makeshift memorial on Las Ramblas, there is a Mickey Mouse DVD with a note.

"You were in the world for such a short time."

It's almost hard to imagine that this is where such horrific violence took place until you look at the faces of those who pass by. Less than 24 hours earlier, a van careened through this pedestrian street, cutting down tourists and locals.

A moment frozen in time for those who survived, a moment they expected to die.

Ouafa Mirani (ph) is from Morocco. She's lived in this neighborhood for 13 years and was here with her 3-year old.

"I thought that's it, I'm dead. I just need to save my son," she tells us. She tripped, was injured and shouted at him to run.

Authorities say it could have been so much worse.

DAMON: The sign simply reads, "Pray for Barcelona. Most people here tell us that they were bracing themselves for some sort of an attack but that hardly lessened the shock, the sorrow or the impact. Police now say that they believe that this terror cell was likely planning something using massive explosive power, not just vehicles, as a weapon.

DAMON (voice-over): This is the working hypothesis. The explosives were being prepared in a house in Alcanar, some 150 miles from Barcelona. On Wednesday, the house was destroyed in a massive blast. The police chief says the occupants appeared to have been trying to make explosives out of butane gas.

Did that force the cell to bring forward their plans with the van attack that killed over a dozen people and wounded around 100?

People are now linking that attack with another that was thwarted hours later. In the seaside resort town of Cambrils, five men in an Audi rammed through pedestrians. Then a shootout with police. One officer shot dead four of the attackers. A fifth ran off and was cornered.

He shouted, "Aleppo," and, "Allahu Akbar," appeared to be shot once but got up only to be shot a second time. He also died.

Authorities say they were wearing fake suicide vests and had an ax and knives in their car. The investigation will go on, just as the pain caused by these attacks will endure. Relatives now have to cope with the loss of their loved ones.

Some families like that of little 7-year-old Australian Julian Alessandro Cadman are still looking for him. His mother is in hospital. His grandfather reported him missing.

Ouafa (ph), who is Muslim, says, "What happened is not Islam."

But, she adds, "I'm afraid people will look at us differently."

The hostess and messages speak of peace, solidarity against violence. But this is hardly the end of terror as yet another population adjusts to a new reality.

DAMON: Authorities say that they have identified all five of those attackers who were killed and that they have also identified three of those who are now in custody. But they're still looking for remaining elements of this cell that they do believe are still at large.


VANIER: Arwa Damon reporting there.

We're learning more about the victims of the attack. The dead and wounded come from at least 34 countries, all those you see marked in yellow on the map. And --


VANIER: -- officials are beginning to identify those who lost their lives. Two Italians, 25-year-old Luca Russo and Bruno Gulotta, a father of two, were both on vacation with their loved ones.

American Jared Tucker was his honeymoon and Canadian Ian Moore Wilson was there with his wife of 53 years.

Mourners are lighting candles and placing flowers in the Finnish city of Turku to pay tribute to the victims of a stabbing attack at two markets. At least two people were killed and six were wounded in Friday's incident.

One witness told us he saw a man running with a knife and stabbing people in his path.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw this Middle Eastern, a young-looking guy, with a huge knife in his hand. And he was just running around. And he just like stabbed this female and also stabbed a guy like next to the female.

And I'm still looking (ph) towards this incident and, at this point, he's running around in the a city. I run past this female that was stabbed. I just run past that -- I still can't forget her face in my mind right now. I'm sorry. I'm still shaking a little bit.

And this is when I'm still running and I'm start to look for my mother at this point. And this guy is running in the city wild with a knife. And, at this point, there's other bunch of young people who was actually chasing this guy."

Police took a suspect into custody after shooting him in the leg. We don't know his identity yet. Officials say it's too early to tell whether that attack was terror related.

We're going to take a short break but then we come back, Sierra Leone, still reeling from this week's devastating mudslide and now it's facing a possible health challenge from the disaster. Stay with us.




VANIER: Welcome back. What some describe as a new power grab is sparking outrage in Venezuela. A recently created constituent assembly has stripped the national assembly of its authority. This was the only institution controlled by the opposition and not by supporters of president Nicolas Maduro.

This is happening as one of the biggest critics of Mr. Maduro flees the country. Former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz arrived in Colombia on Friday evening. She was kicked out of office after she vowed to open an investigation into fraud allegations surrounding a recent election.

Hundreds of people are still missing after this week's deadly floods and mudslides in Sierra Leone. More than 460 people are confirmed dead, many already buried in mass graves. And that number is still expected to rise. The World Health Organization says Sierra Leone is also battling sever health challenges.



CHRISTIAN LINDMAN (PH), WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Flooding creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes and can cause and or most likely does cause an increase in malaria and other vector-borne diseases. Trauma is a major issue for those affected by the tragedy. Hundreds of lives have been lost and many families displaced. Psychosocial support will be critical to help people manage the grief and loss they suffered as a result.


VANIER: So thousands of people have been force to leave their homes. And more rain is expected in the coming days and that increases the threat of even more landslides.


VANIER: Coming up after the break, one of the marchers at that white nationalist rally in Virginia ended up taking off his clothes in the middle of the rally.


So he could blend in with counter protesters. Details after the break.





VANIER: For many, the images of neo-Nazis and self-avowed white supremacists marching through the streets of a Virginia college town this past week were shocking, offensive and downright frightening. But one man who apparently took part says that he went there, quote, "for the fun." Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Why would a wannabe white supremacist, running from counter protesters, decide to strip in the street?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not really white power, man. I just came here for the fun. (INAUDIBLE). No, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't just take your (INAUDIBLE) off.

MOOS (voice-over): Oh, yes, he could.

Now that he was in the safely in the vicinity of Charlottesville police...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to move back. You need to move back now.

MOOS (voice-over): -- the unidentified young man pulled off his clothes and started to slink away. He'd apparently gotten separated from his fellow white power marchers and was then chased by counter demonstrators. This one wore a mask and wielded a stick.



MOOS (voice-over): The man behind the camera is C.J. Hunt. He was making a documentary about Confederate memorials when he came upon what he refers to in a "GQ" article as "this part-time Nazi, this junior secessionist."

MOOS: What he was wearing was what some call the new neo-Nazi uniform: a polo shirt paired with khakis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you just came here for the fun?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, yes. So you're not a real white supremacist?




MOOS (voice-over): But the documentary maker wasn't feeling the fun.

"As a person of color, my identity is not a uniform I can take off when I am feeling unsafe."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a white supremacist until people start chasing you and then you take the uniform off.

So are you going to put it back on?




MOOS (voice-over): And then off he went, blending in with the counter protesters, supremely confident he no longer looked like a supremacist -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VANIER: And with that, we thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)