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Spain Terror Attacks; U.S. Demonstrations; Trump White House. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired August 20, 2017 - 02:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta. And this is CNN NEWSROOM.

An international manhunt is underway for the driver in the Barcelona terror attack; 13 people were killed Thursday when a van plowed through a busy pedestrian walkway and authorities say this man, Younes Abouyaaqoub, is their prime suspect.

They say he was part of the terror cell that had about 12 members and is believed to be behind the Barcelona attack as well as Friday's vehicle attack in Cambrils, which left one person dead. Several arrests have been made and five suspects were killed by police in Cambrils.

Despite the manhunt, Spain's interior minister says the terror cell has been, quote, "completely dismantled."

Authorities have focused much of their search in two other locations in Northeastern Spain. They say eight of the 12 suspects lived in the town of Ripoll. You see on the map.

They also believe an earlier explosion in Alcanar is tied to the attacks. Isa Soares went to Alcanar and here's what she saw.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sleepy, unsuspecting community hidden by olive groves and embraced by the mountains. An ideal spot for a cell of 12. It's from here police believe the suspected terrorists prepare their attack on Barcelona and on Cambrils. What they discovered, a bomb-making factory littered with explosives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The house where the explosions originated from is owned by a bank, who says it didn't know there were people squatting. It has a septic tank that was being used to store explosives.

SOARES (voice-over): A source close to the investigation tells CNN they have found traces of highly explosive TATP used in several European terror attacks, a discovery that's left some in shock. The Schenk (ph) family from Stuttgart came here for an idyllic

holiday. What they remember is the night the cell's bombmaker made a big mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We see two fireballs. And the world is shaking.

SOARES (voice-over): Local resident Nouria Hee (ph) is still visibly shaken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

SOARES (voice-over): A few days since, she's still trying to make sense of what happened on her street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's a feeling of impotence, of rage, of emotion.

SOARES (voice-over): The suspects may have gone but the echoes of terror remain. This was the fourth controlled explosion on Saturday. But there were more, even while we were on air.

SOARES: Being very careful, careful but focusing the investigation right here in Alcanar.

Oh, there was another one. I don't know if you heard that, Lynn. I don't know if you just heard that. That was another controlled explosion.

SOARES (voice-over): With each blast, police are clearing the ground of explosives. In doing so, they're learning a little bit more about cell that used this remote town to mask its deadly plan -- Isa Soares, CNN, Alcanar in Spain.


VANIER: Meanwhile a memorial service is set for Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church in just a couple of hours. The king and queen of Spain are both expected to attend.

Let's talk about that with Salma Abdelaziz. She's in Barcelona. She joins me now.

Salma, Spain's going to be remembering its dead on Sunday.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's right, Cyril. This church just behind me, La Sagrada Familia, truly breathtaking monument here in Barcelona, is where the king of Spain, the prime minister, the members of the public will be gathered in a couple of hours to pay their respects to victims.

It's a moment for the community to honor them, to grieve together. But it's also a moment of strength. Local media is filled with reports that this very church could have potentially been one of the targets of this terror attack. So again you're seeing that moment where people are saying we will not be cowed by terror. I want to take a moment just to talk about this church and what it

means to the community. It's been under construction for 135 years, known as the longest-running architectural project on Earth today.

It's the vision of a famous Catalonian architect that people here call God's architect. And so it is a point of pride for the Catalonian people. And coming here today to pray and to heal together will be a truly moving moment -- Cyril.

VANIER: Life started going back to normal at Las Ramblas on Saturday.

What is it like now?

ABDELAZIZ: That's true, Cyril. It's been an amazing experience to watch this part of the city, the center of the city come back to life after the terror attacks just so quickly after. And there's been one chant that's been repeated over and over again, "We are not afraid and we never will be."

All along that pedestrian --


ABDELAZIZ: -- walkway which takes you from the center of Barcelona, all the way to the beachfront, there are memorial sites set up, these little makeshift places where you could light a candle, lay flowers. One of them is just a wall of Post-it notes. And remember, Cyril, the nationalities of the victims comes from 35 different countries.

So this is a truly national incident, one that's affected every corner of the globe. And you can see that reflected in these memorial sites, where there's signs in every language.

I remember one of them read, "You will not have our hate." And that was the feeling there at Las Ramblas over the weekend. It is the feeling that they will not win, these terrorists will not win.

What they want is for us to barricade ourselves in our homes. They hate each other. To be afraid to live our lives. And Las Ramblas said it loud and clear yesterday. We are back. We are going to reclaim our city. We will not let them win -- Cyril.

VANIER: Salma Abdelaziz, great talking to you. We'll talk to you again throughout the morning. Thank you very much.

Now let me tell you about North Korea, which is lashing out at the upcoming U.S. and South Korea joint military drills. They are scheduled to start on Monday. North Korea's state-run newspaper calls the drills "reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war."

And it adds, "The U.S. has to be responsible for the ensuing disasters."

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joseph Dunford has said that the drills will not be canceled or scaled back.

Carrying signs that said, "Hate speech is not free speech," thousands of counter protesters converged on Boston on Saturday, overshadowing a self-described free speech rally. This comes one week after the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. Andrew Spencer has the latest.


ANDREW SPENCER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite the fears of a repeat of Charlottesville, the peace held in Boston, amid a free speech rally and its corresponding counterprotest on Saturday.

A group calling itself the Boston Free Speech Coalition had organized a rally before the violence in Virginia, tweeting this message a few days ago, "Denouncing all violence and telling participants not to bring any weapons or antagonize other groups or law enforcement."

But the rotunda where they planned to meet was relatively empty, compared to the throngs of counterdemonstrators barricaded a good distance away. Thousands of people marched through downtown Boston, speaking out against racism, Nazis and white supremacism.

They carried signs, such as "United against Hate," while others criticized president Donald Trump. A few vocal Trump supporters could be found in the crowd amid the sea of counter protesters.

Some in the front line of protests at times got confrontational with police. And amid some particularly tense moments, several counter protesters were taken into police custody.

From the sky, you could see the huge visual police presence. Some of the confrontations and a handful of people pulled into the crowd of police and taken away -- I'm Andrew Spencer reporting.


VANIER: And U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in. He showed his support for the Boston rally with a pair of tweets.

"I want to applaud the many protesters in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one," he tweeted.

He also tweeted this, "Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protests in order to heal and we will heal and be stronger than ever before."

The president and first lady Melania Trump will skip this year's annual Kennedy Center Honors, which pays tribute to iconic American artists. The White House released a statement, saying "The president and first lady have decided not to participate in this year's activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction."

This follows President Trump's controversial comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Earlier I spoke to CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and I asked him, does the president's absence matter?


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: He's all part of the same process. He's not going because several of the honorees said they would not participate in the part of the program that -- the pre- program in particular that requires them to visit the White House and be greeted by the --


VANIER: -- don't want to go to the White House.

BROWNSTEIN: -- they don't want to go to the White House. The charities pulling away, the fact that he was forced to disband these two business advisory councils because so many business leaders said they were stepping away, we are really deep into uncharted waters here with -- what we are seeing is all of these institutions, including that they cannot be associated with a sitting U.S. president.

And as I said before, in the case of the business community and be associated with the president with whom they agree on many economic issues, this is a level of isolation that is developing around this president, that has not -- that really doesn't have a parallel, I think, in modern American history.


BROWNSTEIN: And we do not know exactly where it goes. He is statutorily the president. But what you are seeing from all these different sectors of society is reluctance to be associated with him because they believe it is unsustainable with either their conscience or their own constituencies or both.

And that is a very different process that I think does have a very real cost on his ability to unify, move the country and move legislation.

VANIER: But, Ron, it always comes down to the same thing. We know that about a third of the country supports Donald Trump and is loyal to the president. We can make an argument pretty easily that those charities and those celebrities that were going to be honored at the Kennedy Center Honors at the end of the year are probably not part of that one-third that is Trump's base.

So maybe it does not matter that --


VANIER: -- they are pulling out or distancing themselves.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. The business community clearly is part of that base and it is -- I really feel like the business community desertion is almost leaving a trail of bread crumbs for Democrats looking forward to the 2018 and 2020 election because they embody the portion of Trump's vote that was always the most ambivalent about it.

And that was the white-collar, more affluent suburban white voters, where he underperformed of the Republicans historically, as we talked about a lot last year, but still beat Hillary Clinton, still beat here narrowly, 48-45 among college educated whites.

The fact that these business executives, who are those people in many cases or multicultural versions of those people, now feel so reluctant to be seen with the president, I think is an indication -- and you see it in polls, where his approval rating among those college educated whites is now often down into the mid-30s.

Those are the kind of people, for example, in the Georgia 6th District that allowed the Democrats to get much closer in pretty tough terrain. So I think you're right. There are entertainment, celebrities or artists were never part of the president's base.

But the core, that one-third, is not enough to govern with. It's not enough to win elections with. It's not enough to win the whole Congress with. It required a portion of the electorate that was ambivalent about Trump personally. But were supportive on the small government in particular, arguments that he made and thought that this has got -- he might be able to bring some special expertise to the economy.

I think that is the biggest risk to him, has always been the biggest risk to him. And the fact that these business executives are falling away is, I think, indicative of a rift that's in that particular part but the loosest brick in his wall, I think, got a lot more dislodged when you saw the parade of corporate CEOs who walked away from him over the past week.

VANIER: All right, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, always great to talk to you. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

VANIER: Over in Sierra Leone, the death toll has risen to nearly 500 after this week's devastating mudslides and floods. Hundreds of people are still missing so that death toll may still increase. And thousands of been displaced from their homes as well.

More rain is expected this week, increasing the threat of new landslides in Sierra Leone.

And that's it for CNN NEWSROOM this hour. I'm Cyril Vanier. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next. Stay with CNN for that.