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New Reports on Spain Terror Attacks; Tragedy in Sierre Leone; Steve Bannon's Departure from the White House; Germans Respond to Neo- Nazi Violence; Crisis in Venezuela. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 19, 2017 - 03:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In Spain, new reports say the van driver in Thursday's terrorist attack may still be at large. We'll be live in Barcelona.

And in the U.S. another of president Donald Trump's top advisers is out. We'll have more on Steve Bannon's departure.

And later, tragedy in Sierra Leone continues as a mudslide that killed hundreds is now causing fears of a health crisis.

Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


VANIER: Let's bring you the latest on the investigation in Spain. Reuters is quoting Spanish police, who say the driver in Thursday's van attack in Barcelona may still be at large.

Four suspects are in custody; another five were killed in a shootout with police in Cambrils but officials increasingly believe that none of those people were behind the wheel in Barcelona.

Investigators also believe that the house that exploded in the town of Alcanar was being used as a bombmaking factory and if an accidental detonation hadn't destroyed the home and the bombs in it, attackers might have used them in Barcelona and Cambrils.

The explosion in Alcanar was the beginning of a wave of terror along the Catalonian coast. CNN's Anna Stewart pieced together a timeline of this story. And just a word of warning, there is some graphic content in this piece that you may find disturbing.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sirens followed screams. People fleeing the scene of a deadly terror attack in Barcelona. Hours later, reports of a shootout in Cambrils. Now it emerges the attacks may be linked to another incident a day earlier.

On Wednesday night shortly after 11:00 pm an explosion was reported at a house in Alcanar, 200 kilometers south of Barcelona. It leveled the building, killing one person. Police now believe all these incidents may be linked.

Around 5:00 pm on Thursday, a white veered off the road on Barcelona's Las Ramblas street, a busy tourist destination. The van drove at high speed, hitting pedestrians enjoying a late afternoon stroll , leaving 13 dead and more than 100 injured in its wake.

Authorities say the driver left the van, escaping on foot. A massive policeman hunt is now underway. Three hours later, the first suspect was arrested, described as a Moroccan-born Spanish national.

By 9:30, a second arrest was made, this time in Alcanar, the scene of Wednesday's house explosion.

Then in the early hours of Friday came another devastating attack in a seaside resort of Cambrils south of Barcelona. Authorities say five attackers wearing fake suicide belts drove a black Audi into pedestrians, killing one and injuring several others. Police say all five terrorists were killed in a shootout.

Friday morning, a third suspect was arrested in Ripoll, north of Barcelona; a fourth was then arrested later in the day. At noon, Spain fell silent. A minute of reflection and prayer after more than 24 hours of terror -- Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


VANIER: Salma Abdelaziz is now live in Barcelona for an update with us.

Salma, you're at Las Ramblas, where people are still gathering around makeshift memorial. That's where of course the attack happened in Barcelona city center, the heart of the city. Memories of what happened there just 36 hours ago are still very, very vivid -- Salma.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's exactly right, Cyril. Spain is waking up now to its second day of mourning. It is slow to wake up; it's a Saturday. But what we have heard over and over again from Spaniards and holiday makers alike is, we will not be cowed. We will not be afraid. These terrorists won't win. We're going to continue on our lives as normal. We're going to continue with our vacations as normal.

Just one of these holiday makers is here with us now, Omar Popal (ph) from San Diego.

You're 19 years old; you just finished university and you had a big holiday planned across Spain and Morocco, as you said. And you're going to keep going after the terror attack.


OMAR POPAL, BARCELONA ATTACK WITNESS: Yes, exactly. I think that we have to continue on with our vacations and just not give the sick and twisted people who did this any satisfaction at all, that what they did is going to instill fear in people. And like you said, I feel like there's a very unifying message going across of just we will not be scared and they are not able to instill fear in us and that everything that they've done is all --


POPAL: -- in the end, although it hurt many people and that was a very tragic incident , it isn't going to drastically affect our everyday live and we'll be able to move on slowly and surely as well.

ABDELAZIZ: And I'm sure, being here in Barcelona, you really feel that mood. I felt that at memorial sites. I feel that in the streets. I know this is going to fill up with tourist business quite soon.

But for your family back home, your mom, everybody in San Diego, are they not worried?

Are they not asking you, please come home , it's not safe?

POPAL: They definitely are worried but then again I have constantly been reassuring them and just letting them know that, sadly, things like this have happened before and are continuing to happen and although it is very tragic, we just can't give these people any satisfaction at all and just have to continue with our daily lives.

Thankfully for me, I'm just here on vacation and even though something like this happened and I was a witness of a part of it, I'm just happy that I'm able to move on along with the people here as well.

ABDELAZIZ: And you were indeed a witness, Omar, and I do want to go back to that moment, when the attack happened. I know you were just off of Las Ramblas.

Can you tell me what you saw and what happened?

POPAL: Yes. Just an extremely chaotic scene at the moment when everyone just started scrambling and yelling, just so a lot of families trying to find their children, running out of there. A lot of people were slipping and falling, very wet streets in the area that we were in.

And I did see one girl, who was very injured and just -- it was a very terrifying moment, just seeing that something so chaotic and so surreal can be happening to you in a moment that you would least expect it.

ABDELAZIZ: So here is the question we've been asking again and again. And as you said, these attacks have been happening across Europe. They have, unfortunately, become commonplace.

In that moment of chaos, did you think, this is a terror attack?

POPAL: In that moment I think when heard a kind of loud bang, I assumed it was a gunshot. And at that moment it just went through my mind that this is a terror attack and that everyone needs to evacuate as quickly as possible.

And everyone was in that motion of evacuating and trying to get to safety. So in that moment of chaos, everyone's instincts became the same and we all ran in the same direction to try to get out of there.

ABDELAZIZ: Omar, thank you so much for sharing your story.

And that's just one of the many tales we're hearing here today in Barcelona. Of course, it has echoed across Spain. Omar telling me he will continue on his holiday and so are many others -- Cyril.

VANIER: Salma Abdelaziz from Barcelona city center, thank you so much for your coverage this morning. Thanks.

And we're learning more about the victims of the Barcelona attacks Salma was telling us about that earlier as well. The dead and wounded come from at least 34 countries, all of those you see marked in yellow on the map.

Officials are beginning to identify those who lost their lives.

We know that 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 on his honeymoon and Canadian Ian Moore Wilson was there with his wife of 53 years.

Moving on now, mourners are lighting candles and placing flowers in the Finnish city of Turku to pay tribute to victims of a stabbing attack at two markets. At least two were killed and six were wounded in Friday's incident. One witness told us that he saw a man running with a knife and stabbing people in his path.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw this huge knife. This guy was having this huge knife in his hand and he was just -- several times he was stabbing this person.

And it was done on the ground. And people just running everywhere. And we ran into -- we ran into this cafe, where we hid. And this guy was just constantly stabbing at people.

He was just turning around and with his knife, flinging his knife everywhere and people were running in all directions.


VANIER: Now police took a suspect into custody after shooting him in the leg. We don't know his identity yet and officials say it is too early to tell whether the attack was terror-related at this stage.

In the U.S., the now ex-White House strategist, Steve Bannon, says that with him out of the administration, the Trump presidency as we know it is, quote, "over." Bannon was fired on Friday, just seven months into his White House job. But only hours later he was back in his old position as executive

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."

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


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- --


FOREMAN (voice-over): -- 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, 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 --


VANIER: -- 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: We will take a short break. When we come back we will have this:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I find it detestable when I stand here in this memorial and think of the Nazis and the Nazi marches in the USA. It is so evil to me.

VANIER (voice-over): Germans responding with shock and dismay at the neo-Nazi violence that erupted in Virginia. Authorities in Berlin are tightening security ahead of the planned neo-Nazi rally. Details next.

Plus Sierra Leone is fearing even more bad news after devastating mudslides and floods. Now a potential health crisis is looming. Stay with us.




VANIER: Welcome back.

A neo-Nazi rally is planned in Germany's capital of Berlin in the coming hours. Hundreds of people are expected to take part. But a counter demonstration is also planned. This comes as Germans are reacting to the violence which erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in the streets and a young counter protester was killed. Here is Chris Burns.


CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin, the remains of what the Nazis and their prisoners built as an efficient model for a network death camps in Europe.

Hitler's final solution that worked to death and exterminated millions of Jews, political prisoners, homosexuals and other perceived enemies of the Third Reich. There are the ruins of an experimental gas chamber, a crematorium, a deep trench for mass executions.

This bungalow built for Jewish prisoners has a crowded dormitory, rows of toilets and a common washroom. Right-wing extremists torched it 1992. The remnants of the fire preserved for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, including German schoolchildren to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We consciously kept traces of the fire to make today's visitors aware of what happened here, the result of destructive anti-Semitism that, unfortunately, still exists.

BURNS (voice-over): Which is why the neo-Nazi violence in Virginia touched a nerve among Germans. "It is racist, far-right violence and clear forceful action must be taken against it," said Chancellor Angela Merkel, though, unlike other German politicians she avoided criticizing Donald Trump with whom she already has testy ties.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never make it a personal issue for her, knowing full well that a couple of weeks down the road, she's going to sit across from him in some sort of conference from somewhere and needs to find a compromise with him.

BURNS (voice-over): Steps for more of Germany's lawmakers meet at the Bundestag, 2,700 concrete blocks of the Holocaust Memorial represent the 6 million Jews exterminated by the Nazis.

BURNS: This memorial, the size of a football field, in the heart of Berlin is here to ensure that the horrors of Nazi ideology are never forgotten. And it's a reminder to the world, whenever and wherever that ideology rears its head.

BURNS (voice-over): Like what happened in Charlottesville to the horror of Germans visiting here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I must say I find it detestable when I stand here in this memorial and think of the Nazis and the Nazi marches in the USA. It is so evil to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I find it crazy what happened. It is simply sad that Trump's behavior was unbelievable. I can't accept this non-judgment of Nazism, of Nazis and right-wing extremism.

BURNS (voice-over): Back in Sachsenhausen, there is an issue of the Nazi tabloid, "Der Sturmer," the name that inspired U.S. neo-Nazis for their website, thedailystormer.

Another chilling remnant of the evils of the past, warning of the dangers that endure today -- Chris Burns, CNN, at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.


VANIER: Venezuela's controversial constituent assembly is facing fresh outrage. That's after it stripped the national legislative assembly of all legislative powers. This was the only institution controlled by the opposition and not by supporters of president Nicolas Maduro.

This is happening as former attorney general, Luise Ortega Diaz, flew to Colombia on Friday evening. Ortega was kicked out of office after she vowed to open an investigation into fraud allegations surrounding a recent election in Venezuela.

Sierra Leone is facing a potential health crisis as the search for hundreds of people continues after this week's deadly floods and mudslides. More than 460 people are confirmed dead, many already buried in mass graves. CNN's Farai Sevenzo reports.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The journey for those killed in Sierra Leone's mudslide ends here, at Waterloo Cemetery, a graveyard created for Ebola victims.

More than 450 victims of the natural disaster have been buried. According to government minister. That new figure includes those killed by flash floods in nearby provinces and there are hundreds still missing.

The risk of disease in this long-suffering country is real and so the dead had to be buried quickly. Cholera, typhoid, malaria, Ebola, all have stalked this city. Heavy rains, which caused the hills to give way, seized enough for the graves to be prepared.

Some people were so badly mutilated by debris carried in the muddy waters, only parts of them were laid to rest.

But even as the country reaches for closure, there are still body parts buried in the mud and some were washed away to sea. And that is the government's new concern, how the presence of so many corpses could lead to a serious health crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have put cholera preparedness in place all across the city. And we will proceed to on the provinces also. We are seeing already the water that they're washing with, some people are coming away with skin infection.

The minister of health and sanitation has a big task ahead. We are quick to a point. But as you know, no country could do it alone.

SEVENZO (voice-over): And what cannot be imagined or seen is the smell of death which still lingers since Monday's tragedy unfolded.

"We will bury our loved ones," says Sierra Leone's president, Ernest Bai Koroma, "but we will not bury our hopes."

As the sun sets over Waterloo Cemetery, the living remember the dead in a candlelit vigil. it is their hope that Sierra Leone will rise again -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN.


VANIER: And unfortunately, it looks like the weather is not going to get any better for Sierra Leone. That just doesn't help the situation.



VANIER: Still to come after the break, mourning the victims of Spain's two deadly terror attacks. We'll have scenes of tributes from around the world. Stay with us.



VANIER: All right. Thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I will be back with the headlines in just a minute and then "INSIDE AFRICA" after that.