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Spain Terror Attacks; White House Turmoil. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired August 19, 2017 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This quote from Steve Bannon, "Now I'm free."

That's the tune from President Donald Trump's now former chief strategist after being ousted from the White House. That is one of our stories here this hour.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm George Howell. It is 4:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And it's 10:00 am here in Barcelona, Spain. I'm Becky Anderson.

A manhunt on the way for this man, still at large after the deadly terror attacks here. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: We begin from the White House. Ex-White House strategist Steve Bannon says the Trump presidency is over, now that he is no longer part of it. Bannon was fired Friday just seven months into the White House job. Hours later, he was back at his old position as executive chairman of Breitbart news, which he called his, quote, "killing machine."

HOWELL: But after being fired, 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."

ALLEN: One White House official tells CNN Bannon's firing was originally intended to take place two weeks ago but was put off. He is the latest high profile figure to exit the Trump inner circle.

HOWELL: That includes national security adviser Michael Flynn, the press secretary Sean Spicer and the chief of staff Reince Priebus. To explain how Bannon's dismissal unfolded, here is CNN's Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like a contestant on President Trump's White House reality show, the West Wing's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was fired.

The White House released a statement saying, "Chief of staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best."

But the wheels have been in motion for some time. Sources tell CNN Bannon was supposed to be fired two weeks ago because he did not meet Kelly's new discipline power structure for the White House. The president hinted Bannon's days were numbered earlier this week.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Mr. Bannon, he's a friend of mine, but Mr. Bannon came on very late - you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him, he's a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person, he actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he's a good person and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Add to that, sources say Bannon irked the president by granting interviews this week that seemed to undercut Mr. Trump's message.

TRUMP: They will be met.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Asked about the president's fire and fury warning to North Korea, Bannon told "The Progressive American Prospect," "There is no military solution."

Bannon reveled in needling the press, as he did at a conservative political conference earlier this year.

BANNON: Just like they were dead wrong on the cast of the campaign and just like they were dead wrong on the cast of the transition they are absolutely dead wrong about what has gone on today because we have a team that's just grinding it through on President Donald Trump promise to the American people.

And the mainstream media better understand something: all of those promises are going to be implemented.

ACOSTA (voice-over): He told "The New York Times," "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. The media here is the opposition party." A White House ally who's spoken to Bannon tells CNN that the outgoing

chief strategist doesn't want to go to war with President Trump. As this source explains it, Bannon wants him to succeed and perhaps become his top outside surrogate -- Jim Acosta, CNN, Bridgewater, New Jersey.


HOWELL: Jim, thanks.

Now after losing his job, Bannon reached out to Joshua Green. Joshua is the author of "Devil's Bargain." And the inside look at the relationship between Bannon and President Trump and Green tweeted what Bannon had told him.

It reads as follows, quote, "Just got off the phone with Bannon. If there's any confusion out there, let me clear it up."

This apparently Bannon.

"I'm leaving the White House and going to war for Trump, against his opponents on Capitol Hill and the media and in corporate America."

That is Bannon again, making his views known to Mr. Green.

Afterwards, Green offered some insight to my colleague, John Berman.


JOSHUA GREEN, AUTHOR: And in his interview with me, he was very on message as far as saying, this is a positive. We're going to move forward to advance Trump's agenda. But he also made it clear that he is going to go after people who he feels are inhibiting Trump's agenda. And as he said to Bob Cutner (ph) in his "American Prospect" interview --


GREEN: -- those people include folks like Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary; probably some of the generals, like H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser.

I had a source today compare Bannon and Bannon's departure to Obi Wan Kenobi in the end of "Star Wars," where he is struck down and he tells Darth Vader --


GREEN: -- "If you only strike me down, you will only make me stronger."

And of course he was. I was told that Bannon has the same view, that he will be more powerful on the outside.


ALLEN: Will he?

Let's talk with Leslie Vinjamuri. She joins us. She is a senior lecturer in international relations at SOAS University of London.

Bannon joining a string from the Trump team exiting the White House. And he is not going lightly.

What you do make of these words as he exits?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Well, it is quite extraordinary. I think some people have thought it has been coming for a little while. Nonetheless, his actual departure is very significant.

I think there is a real concern now about what he will do from Breitbart. Of course, he is very much associated with these driven forward a white nationalist populist agenda. And he has clearly struggled to have that gain the kind of traction that he's wanted it to have in the White House.

Certainly, John Kelly's appointment as chief of staff has threatened that. So now he's going to take it outside the White House. And there will be an interesting balance here, right. He's said that he wants to support Trump, support the nationalist agenda.

But he's going to be doing this in part by launching an attack on several of the professionals, of those in the -- that are supporting the president going forward. So the key thing here that people are not talking about as much is what the president is going to do now.

Remember the buck stops with the president. As much as we like to associate things that have happened with Steve Bannon, he has been important and influential. He lost a lot of battles. But it is really President Trump that makes the decisions.

ALLEN: Right. That was going to be my question number three. Let's go ahead and talk about that. Yes, he was Donald Trump's right-hand man and now he's gone.

So what for Donald Trump, who is in there who is his confidant?

His supporter outside of Jared Kushner?

Outside of family?

VINJAMURI: Well, you know, clearly this creates yet more space for Jared Kushner. But it also gives John Kelly greater capacity to bring some functionality to the White House. This was of course why he was brought on board, to turn to McMaster and Mattis and Dunford, the professionals in the White House, to try and create more of a sense of coherence.

But it is difficult when the president himself in the aftermath of Charlottesville, as we saw, what was supposed to be a press conference on infrastructure, goes off message. He doesn't need Steve Bannon to articulate an agenda that is very much shaped and colored by white nationalism.

And his refusal to condemn the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists that marched in violence that we saw in Charlottesville. So it is difficult to predict what the president will do going forward.

ALLEN: Right. Because you speak of Charlottesville, he is not saying anything to indicate he is going down some new path. He is sticking with the Donald Trump message, which is whatever comes out of Donald Trump's mouth at any time, really.

VINJAMURI: There is of course more leverage now for those who'd like to push forward with an economically liberal agenda; Gary Cohn, of course, may have needed Steve Bannon to go in order to stay on. Remember, Cohn was very unhappy with what happened with Charlottesville. And many people thought he might go and many people were disappointed that he didn't.

And so Bannon's departure is significant, I think, for Cohn in terms of pressing forward with tax reform. And Donald Trump now, he has lost a lot of support from several leading CEOs, as we saw over the last few days.

So pushing forward more of a liberal agenda economically is something that will be less obstructed with Steve Bannon gone.

Remember that he wanted, he was a protectionist and a nationalist. If you go all the way back to the inaugural speech, that was something that was very much shaped by Steve Bannon's language. He thought it was too toned down.

So we have seen this ongoing battle between the globalists and the nationalists. And with Steve Bannon gone, there are still others in place that support that agenda but far fewer; he's been very influential but he has lost a number of battles. The Muslim ban, his first signature policy, got pushed back by civil society.

It is being fought through the courts. It will be heard by the Supreme Court in October.


VINJAMURI: So Bannon, as much as he has created dysfunctionality and disruption, he is likely to continue that on the outside. But he did not have a lot of wins in the White House.

ALLEN: Yes. And as you say, it will be interesting to see if Donald Trump can get back on track with his agenda and get some of his plans pushed through. Leslie Vinjamuri, we always appreciate your perspective. Thank you -- George.

HOWELL: We are also following another big story on the other side of the world. The situation in Spain after the terror attacks on the coastline. Becky Anderson is live there.

ANDERSON: Thank you, George. Reuters reporting that Spanish police say the driver in Thursday's van

attack here in Barcelona may still be at large. Officials identified Younes Abouyaaqoub as a suspect on lease (ph). It is not clear if he was the driver. Four other suspects are currently in custody. And police killed another five in a shootout, you remember, in Cambrils.

The first of three connected events along the Catalonian coast 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. That is the same substance used in deadly bombings in Paris, in Brussels and in Manchester within the last two years. And they believe the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils could have been far bloodier if the explosives had made it out of that house.

Important new information; with me now is Isa Soares in Alcanar, the site of that initial explosion that started all of this.

Isa, I know that you are just a little distance away from the property. I want to get away to what is going on there and what the police have found in a moment.

First, let's talk about what we believe is the one member of the cell, who may still be on the run.

What do we know at this point?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the moment we have got a name and his face. His name is Younes Abouyaaqoub. He, Spanish media calling him, saying he is Moroccan national, 22 years of age. And he's the man the police here say is still at large, is on the run. He is the man that they believe was behind the van that drove so many people, mowed so many people down in Las Ramblas.

We also know there are three other people that took part, who were part of this cell, that were killed in Cambrils. Their names we can reveal in the last few hours, Moussa Oukabir, Said Aallaa and Mohamed Hychami. So slowly police putting together this puzzle of who exactly these individuals were and how big of a cell this actually was.

Police say they believe it is about 12 members of the cell that were operating from Alcanar. And what seems to be clear now, Becky, that several of these individuals, both Younes Abouyaaqoub, the man on the loose, plus three others who have been arrested, they came from Ripoll, which is a city north of Barcelona.

So police tightening their search and the investigation not only on that area and where these young men grew up but also on the house behind me, where we ha e been expecting in the last few minutes controlled explosions, police carrying out controlled explosion to find out what exactly was going on in that house, how big was the operation and exactly the materials involved in planning what could have been a much worse terrorist attack in Barcelona -- Becky.

ANDERSON: And if these are TATP explosives that have indeed been found or traces of TATP found at that property, just how significant would that be?


SOARES: Becky, from the experience of covering the terrorist attacks, you and I have covered not just London bombings but other attacks in Paris, too. What we can say is those, when TATP has been used, the instances it has been used, it has been used and it causes a huge explosion.

We know it was used in the Paris 2015 bombings, in Brussels but also in the May Manchester bombing. Police are basically saying the fact that the bomb explosion happened on Wednesday practically deprived them of carrying out their grand plan because they did not have the explosives at hand to actually carry this out.

Police focusing entirely on the investigation. A source close to the investigation telling CNN they have found traces of TATP. And what this source has told us as well is --


SOARES: -- mixing acetone with basic hydrogen peroxide is such a substance that can easily go wrong. Hence why we've seen pictures of inside the house, where it's a suspected bomb factory, pretty much is shredded into pieces and huge butane bombs, pictures of huge butane bombs being operational from there.

So that bomb happened on Wednesday; one person was killed. One person was injured and that person has been taken into custody -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Isa Soares, at the heart of what is a multi-faceted, ongoing police operation here in Spain, Isa, thank you.

Some of the victims who lost their lives here in Barcelona are being identified: 43-year-old American Jared Tucker was on a delayed honeymoon with his wife of one year. His father described the moment he learned his son was dead.


NUNES TUCKER, JARED'S FATHER: And it was just a few minutes after he left is when the terrorist's truck hit. And they were there but they weren't hurt. But then they tried to find Jared afterwards. And nobody could find him.

And they thought, well, maybe he was just in one of the hotels that they secured until the police released it. When they released people from the hotels to come back out on the streets, Jared didn't show up.


ANDERSON: Two Italian nationals were killed in the attack, Bruno Gulotta was holiday with his partner and two kids and 25-year-old Luca Russo was vacationing with his girlfriend, who was also wounded. In all, nationals of at least 34 countries nationalities were killed or wounded. All of those countries you see in yellow on the map on your screens. Back with us a little later this hour -- George.


HOWELL: Thank you so much, learning so much new information there.

Following a story here in the United States. Learning about three shootings targeting police.

Authorities say one officer has died in a shooting in Kissimmee, Florida. Another is in grave critical condition. The police chief says they are investigating if the incident was an ambush. They have several suspects in custody.

The U.S. president is sending his support on Twitter. Quote, "My thoughts and prayers are with the Kissimmee police and their loved ones. We are with you."

Now to tell you about another shooting we're following, this in Jacksonville, Florida. Authorities say two police officers were shot with a high-powered rifle. And police say two state troopers were shot late Friday night in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The suspect was killed.

Still ahead this hour, she lost her daughter and now one woman is expressing her disgust with the U.S. president. We will hear from the mother of the Charlottesville victim -- ahead.

ALLEN: Also ahead here, the Trump White House keeps racking up one bad week after another. But the one that just ended may have been the worst one yet.







HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

It has been 30 weeks now since Donald Trump has been President of the United States.

ALLEN: But this week may be the worst yet. Here is how Mr. Trump's week went.

Last Saturday he spoke about the violence in Charlottesville, condemning hatred and violence, quote, "on many sides."

HOWELL: Monday, after a great deal of criticism, the president amended his remarks to denounced the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists as repugnant. But then Tuesday, he again blamed both sides for the violence in off-the-cuff remarks. Also said some of the white nationalists were, quote, "very fine people."

ALLEN: Wednesday, several business leaders withdrew from presidential advisory councils and those councils were disbanded. On Thursday ,prominent Republican senators ripped Mr. Trump, as did James Murdoch, the CEO of 21st Century Fox.

And Friday, Mr. Trump fired his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

And another exit from among the president's advisers: Carl Icahn has quit. The billionaire investors was the president's special adviser on regulatory reform. But he says he is stepping down because he did not want partisan bickering about his role to cloud the administration.

He's been criticized by Democrats who say he had a conflict of interests by still running his businesses while he advised the president.

HOWELL: The U.S. president is also facing harsh words from the mother of the woman killed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Susan Bro condemned Mr. Trump's response and says she doesn't need to hear anything the president has to say. We get more now from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid her grief, the mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer expresses her disgust.

SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: I'm not talking to the president now. I'm sorry. After what he said about my child and it's not that I saw somebody else's tweets about him. I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference, equating the "protesters like Ms. Heyer" with the KKK and the white supremacists.

TODD (voice-over): Susan Bro told "Good Morning, America" the White House attempted to reach her repeatedly during her daughter's funeral. If she was ever considering meeting with the president, she says, this turned her off.

TRUMP: If you look at both sides, I think there is blame on both sides.

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

TODD (voice-over): The White House responded by saying on that their thoughts and prayers are with Bro and her family.

Meanwhile, conservative talk show hosts are circulating a conspiracy theory about the counter protesters in Charlottesville. FOX News host Sean Hannity on his radio brought up a rumor which had spread like wildfire on social media about so-called Antifa or anti-fascist protesters. SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: There is a story out today that raises a question whether or not Antifa agitators that showed up in Charlottesville on Saturday were bought and paid for. Apparently this was uncovered and some of the media reported it that some suspicious activity by an L.A.-based company --


HANNITY: -- that calls itself Crowds on Demand.

TODD (voice-over): That company, Crowds on Demand, did post an ad on Craigslist on August 7th, a few days before the Charlottesville protests, saying it was looking for, quote, "enthusiastic actors and photographers to participate in rallies and protests." It offered people $25 an hour.

But the ad also specified that it was in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, not Charlottesville, Virginia. Hannity acknowledged that.

HANNITY: So maybe just as coincidence. I don't know for sure. But we will keep an eye on that.

TODD (voice-over): Crowds on Demand told media watchdogs it was not involved in any capacity with the events in Charlottesville. And a city official in Charlottesville told CNN they have seen no evidence that counter protesters were for hire.

Still, analysts say even debunked conspiracy theories can be dangerous in this political climate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump does seem to get a lot of his information from the Sean Hannitys of the world. This is not the first time that he has given credence to a conspiracy theory. This is incredibly dangerous as far as misinformation making their way up to not only millions of people but also perhaps the most powerful person in the free world, President Trump.

TODD: Which the president could then tweet out. Now through a spokeswoman, Sean Hannity responded in an e-mail to CNN, saying he was very clear that he had no idea if the Crowds on Demand solicitation was true.

Hannity said he informs his audience all the time about what others are reporting and saying and tells them when he cannot corroborate a story like he did in this case. He then insulted CNN -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Vandalism of U.S. monuments and memorials is on the rise since the clashes in Charlottesville nearly a week ago. At least 10 have been defaced, most of them symbols of the Confederacy, when Southern states tried to secede from the union.

Remember, the white supremacists were in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. Not all of the vandalized monuments memorialize the Confederacy. One of President Abraham Lincoln and a Boston Holocaust memorial were vandalized.

Ahead here, a popular right-wing website could turn against President Trump now that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is out. We will look into that coming up here. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live.



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back to viewers in the United States and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. We are also joined by Becky Anderson, live in Barcelona. That is where our headlines start this hour.


HOWELL: So that is one quote from Steve Bannon but he's also indicated he plans to stay very actively involved in pushing his causes.

ALLEN: He told "The Weekly Standard," "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."

HOWELL: So Bannon's short but stormy tenure at the White House. A closer look now from 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- 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 --


FOREMAN: -- 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.


HOWELL: Investigators are working to unravel what led to the wave of terror on the Spanish coast while security officials grapple with the all-important question: how to stop it from happening again. Stay with us.




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Live pictures of Las Ramblas and the memorials to the victims who were killed on Thursday. You are joining us back in Barcelona.

Let me show you what is on the front pages of the newspapers here in Spain this morning. "El Pais," "We are not afraid." A picture of the moment of silence here in the square. Behind me attended by the king of Spain yesterday at midday. A wave of support for those who lost their lives and have been injured in these attacks.

Another paper for you today. The cell of 12 jihadis who was going to spread terror in Catalonia and a similar refrain from this newspaper, the cell manufactured explosives to cause hundreds of deaths.

And I will explain --


ANDERSON: -- what these papers are alluding to in a moment. The wave of terror that rocked Spain actually started with a house explosion on Wednesday. CNN's Anna Stewart pieces together the story with this timeline and a warning. Viewers, there are some graphic content in the piece that you may find disturbing. If you think you will, please turn away now.


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 or terror -- Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: With me now from London is Raffaello Pantucci, who is the director the international director of security studies at the Royal United Services Institute.

Sir, thank you for joining us. We just heard Anna's timeline of what we now believe to be the investigation, the multi-faceted investigation into these terror attacks here on the Catalonian coast.

I want you to pick apart where we are and what we know. Let's start off with the overwhelming evidence, it seems, that these attacks, firstly, are the result, it seems, growing evidence suggests, of a significant cell here in this region in Spain. And the fact that these attacks could have been a lot worse than they were.

Your thoughts?

RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI, RUSI: I think you put your finger on two of the very key parts of the story. At the moment, we are looking at what looks like a cell of eight or so people at the moment, possibly more, who were involved in trying to conduct some sort of a terrorist campaign in Spain in the middle of the tourist season in one of the country's most tourist-filled areas.

And we can see that the individuals appear to have had a number of different plans. Initially, the plan was to try to build some sort of device, a bomb, but that seems to have backfired and blown up in their faces and destroyed the place where they were trying to build it.

This seems to have potentially led to some sort of a panic and then deciding we need to try something else. And then deciding to try to use vehicles to try to launch an attack in that way. Then that also seemed to have slightly worked but also slightly not.

It then led to the situation where we have had the two incidents take place in two different places. I think it is particularly striking in some ways that we see the group was clearly very determined to launch some sort of an attack.

I think it is worrying with both the youth of the group and the fact that there seemed to be so many of them who slipped under the radar.

ANDERSON: And that's important, isn't it?

Because with what we believe one perpetrator still on the run, possibly already out of Spain, how would you assess the response in the first instance to what has happened here over the last 72 hours or so, starting Wednesday, and, indeed, the fact that the cell, if that is what it is, was not --


ANDERSON: -- on the radar, it seems, of authorities in Spain?

PANTUCCI: I think the authorities clearly responded to the situation very quickly. I think we have seen quite impressive level of rapidity in terms of trying to shut down the operation, to arrest any individuals they can, to try to pull all the strings together to try to close it down.

The fact that one person seems to have slipped out is certainly not good. But I'm sure there -- well, I know there is an international manhunt underway to make sure that the individual is captured soon.

Someone like that will clearly now be in a situation, really quite desperate and they will want to -- they'll be willing to do pretty much anything either to try to escape or to try and make sure that they are eventually not captured alive.

So I think there's going to be a lot of work going in to make sure that they track that person down.

I think in terms of the security response, I think --



PANTUCCI: -- sorry. No, I was going to say, security officials in Spain are probably still --

ANDERSON: No, please go on.

PANTUCCI: -- trying to piece together the caseload and understand exactly, to make sure they have got full comprehension of the plot that they are looking at. But I'm sure they're also going to be looking at what gaps there are in their capabilities and what things they have missed that meant this man was able to get through. ANDERSON: And that alludes to my next question to a certain extent. One of the refrains you hear from locals and tourists here alike, who were either caught up in, witnessed or just experiencing the aftermath of what happened behind me at Las Ramblas was that people felt that Spain was off the radar for any ISIS-inspired activity. France, Germany and U.K. perhaps more obvious targets.

But we do know over the last months and years in fact that there have been numerous arrests of ISIS facilitation skills -- facilitation cells here in Spain. Spain is not unfamiliar with the capture of those who may be inspired by ISIS, are they, and indeed might have been, might we suggest, better prepared?

PANTUCCI: I think that Spain has been dealing with the problem of terrorism for a very long time, prior to the current wave of violence. Islamist threats, (INAUDIBLE) problems (INAUDIBLE) Baath separatists' organization. And they have other political (INAUDIBLE) motivated terrorists. So I think the authority, they are very acute to terrorist threats and how to try to manage them.

I think what we are looking at the threat from violent Islamist extremism, be it Al Qaeda or ISIS or other groups, Spain has also unfortunately had a fairly sad history. Of course, everyone remembers the atrocities in 2004 in Madrid.

But there have been a number of disruptions that have taken place since then. And I think in Barcelona, only a couple of months ago, they disrupted a cell that was connected to the Paris and Brussels network that had launched the attack there.

So I think this is a country that is very alert to this problem and has realized that it has been facing potential for an attack for some time. I think in some way everyone was surprised that it took so long for something to actually take place. And I think it's quite a testament to the local authorities' capabilities to stay on top of the threat that it has taken this long before something was able to slip through.

ANDERSON: All right. With that, we're going to leave it there. We thank you for very much indeed for joining us.

You are watching CNN. We will be right back after this.

PANTUCCI: Thank you.






ALLEN: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. The U.S. president is facing more criticism from his own party for his

response to the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse condemned the alt-right in a Facebook post Friday and said President Trump did a bad job getting people through that situation.

HOWELL: He then went on to write this message, quote, "This is a time for discussion and education and humility, not intimidation and mobs and midnight wrecking balls."

He went on to say, "It feels like violence is coming. I'm not sure if this moment is like the summer of '67 or not. But it might be. Before that violence strikes again, it is up to us to reaffirm that exceptional American creed again today with our neighbors and in our kids' hearts."

Sasse is warning there are concerns that confrontation and violence may break out again at demonstrations. It is something many Americans are concerned about. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Law enforcement and government officials fear the alt-right outrage could spill into cities across the country this weekend.

In Durham, North Carolina, counter protesters assembled downtown Friday when word of a possible KKK rally spread. In Boston, the city is preparing for a so-called free speech rally. Several of the people invited are from white supremacist groups.

But the organizers in Boston say their rally is not connected to what happened in Virginia. Boston's mayor is issuing a warning.

MARTY WALSH, BOSTON'S MAYOR: We don't want hate groups to come to our city or our state. We will not tolerate any incitements of violence. We are taking every precaution necessary to keep our city safe.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But with the week's heightened rhetoric...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot more people are going to die before we're done here, frankly.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): -- and the president's failure to completely condemn the hate groups...

TRUMP: You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Law enforcement is concerned the violence could once again pop up in their cities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think the rhetoric has really brought this to a different level. And that is what we're worried about. I have never seen so many people looking, almost looking for confrontation. We got to knock it down. SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The evidence is online. The data from Flashpoint has been mining secure chat rooms on the so-called dark web and says there is an influx of new posters.

One subscriber to the white nationalist site Stormfront posted Tuesday, "Just want to say I've been a long time lurker. But with the events in Charlottesville, I feel more supportive, compelled than ever. I want to join the fight for a white nation that rules as it was designed to."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is this new sense of motivation to either actively reengage or to get started in this community.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Former Ku Klux Klan --


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): -- wizard David Duke, who thanked President Trump in a tweet after his press conference, has also promised a fight.

DAVID DUKE, KKK GRAND WIZARD: This represents (INAUDIBLE) the people of this country and we are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Rallies are expected to be widespread in the coming weeks. While some, like the one in Boston, pledge it is about free speech, some fear violence could ignite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they're doing is choosing flashpoints around the country to try to rally their people around. They do it under the guise of free speech or security. But really what it is, is an opportunity for them to express their hatred in the communities.

SCHNEIDER: The big rally to watch will unfold Saturday in Boston. One of the group's organizers is insisting they welcome all individuals for an open dialogue and denounce violence. But since some of the people invited to speak are well known in right-wing circles, there is concern that there could be a clash between some of the speakers and the counter protesters who are also organizing.

Boston's mayor said he did not want to even give this so-called free speech group a permit but he had to, to comply with free speech -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: And that is the first hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell.

ANDERSON: And I'm Becky Anderson in Barcelona. CNN NEWSROOM continues just after this short break.