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Spain Terror Attacks; U.S. Demonstrations; Trump White House; North Korea Tensions. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 20, 2017 - 03:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): An international manhunt is still underway for this man. Spanish authorities suspect he's connected to the deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona.

In the U.S., it was supposed to be a right-wing free speech rally but it turned into this, a massive gathering of nearly 40,000 counter protesters.

And later on in the show, more on a new threat from North Korea to the United States.

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


VANIER: So an international manhunt is underway for the driver in the Barcelona terror attack; 13 people were killed on Thursday when the van plowed through a busy pedestrian walkway. And Spanish authorities say this young man, Younes Abouyaaqoub, is their prime suspect.

They say that he was part of the terrorist cell that had about 12 members; that cell believed to be Barcelona attack as well as Friday's vehicle attack in Cambrils, Which left one person dead. That is 14 dead total.

Several arrests have been made; five suspects were killed by police in Cambrils. And 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 and they also believe an earlier explosion in Alcanar is tied to the attacks.

Isa Soares went to Alcanar. 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: And one of the investigation continues, so do the mourning and the tributes. A memorial service is set for Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church in the next hour. The king and queen of Spain are both expected to attend. Salma Abdelaziz with CNN is in Barcelona. She joins me now with the latest.

Tell us more about what we can expect from that service. And also you are just in front of that church which is a symbolic place to be holding that service in itself.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's right, Cyril. The Sagrada Familia, this church just behind me here, it's a very breathtaking, an iconic monument here in Central Barcelona and it's here where, as you said, the king of Spain, the prime minister, other dignitaries, even members of the public are welcome to come and honor the victims. They should be arriving shortly here.

And this weekend has been about one thing here in Barcelona: defiance, taking back public spaces that were filled with chaos and terror when those 14 people were killed on Thursday.

We've heard one chant over and over again, "We are not afraid and we never will be."

And this mass here today will be very much about that symbol of strength from this community. Now I want to talk a little bit about La Sagrada Familia and just what it symbolizes. It's been under construction --


ABDELAZIZ: -- for 135 years ago, known as the longest running architectural project today.

And it's still being built. It is a vision of a famous Catalonian architect, one who is affectionately called "God's architect" here in Barcelona. And it is a symbol of pride for the Catalonians here. So coming together at this space with all the symbolism for the community will be a truly moving moment -- Cyril.

VANIER: And, Salma, since the attack at Las Ramblas in Barcelona City Center, Spaniards and indeed the rest of the world have been getting more familiar with the names and the faces of the victims themselves. They have come from all over the world to visit Barcelona.

ABDELAZIZ: That's right, Cyril; 34 different nationalities among the victims. It's a truly international incident, one that's affected every corner of the globe and one that will be reflected here in the mass today that we understand will be held in multiple languages -- Italian, Catalan, French -- so that it could reflect those who lost their lives, most of whom are not Spaniards.

I want to talk to you about just one of those people who lost their lives, Bruno Gulotta, just 25 years old. He was here on a holiday with his partner and his two children, Alessandro, 5, Aria, a baby.

When that carriage came barreling down Las Ramblas, he unfortunately lost his life. Condolences have been pouring in from Italy. But I want to read you just one statement from his employer.

"Little Alessandro is getting ready to start primary school, knowing that his life and the life of his family will never be the same."

And our thoughts go to Little Aria. She does not see the terrible scene in her eyes. She will never know her father."

Really heartbreaking, Cyril, a partner who's lost a loved one; two children who've lost a father. That's why this mass here is so important, so that people could come together, grieve and maybe one day heal -- Cyril.

VANIER: Absolutely. Salma Abdelaziz with CNN, thank you very much.

And of course we're waiting for that service to get underway in a little less than an hour, waiting for the king and queen of Spain. Salma, thank you for your coverage. You will be walking us through that throughout the morning.

In Finland now, police say they are investigating Friday's deadly knife attacks as acts of terror. Authorities say the Moroccan man suspected in the stabbings in Turku was specifically targeting women. Four other Moroccan citizens have also been arrested According to news agencies. Two people were killed in the attacks. Eight others were wounded.

Cities across the U.S. took part in rallies and marches on Saturday, condemning hate and calling for unity. This, of course, comes one week after the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Here in Atlanta, Georgia, hundreds gathered in the city's Centennial Olympic Park, holding signs and chanting, "People united." Protesters in New Orleans, meanwhile, held a rally in Jackson Square to show their solidarity with Charlottesville.

Thousands also marched in Dallas, Texas, to celebrate diversity and denounce white supremacy.

But the biggest and loudest gathering was in Boston. Counter protesters converged on the city, overshadowing a self-described free speech rally. Just look at the difference in size of the dueling groups of demonstrators. To your right, the counter protesters right in the where it looks empty, that was the original free speech, so- called free speech protest.

Boston's police superintendent said the day was a victory.


WILLIAM GROSS, BOSTON'S POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: What we took away from here today, we talked about a victory that we had on the Boston Commons.

We stood together as a city and especially the youth of the city -- some are standing around, thank you, my brother -- and we took away a victory that we told people that are racist, that are hatemongers, that this is not accepted in Boston. You saw many nations together today combating racism.


VANIER: Boston officials are praising the city's people and officers for a largely peaceful protest on Saturday. However, they did arrest 33 people. CNN's Sara Sidner has more from Boston.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We saw a large number of police officers here wearing gas masks, for example, just a few moments ago. And then as the crowd calmed down, they just sort of walked away and left and went back to another area.

As it is right now, seemingly a small area, Temple and Tremont. You are also seeing down at Washington and Tremont, where there is a Macy's store.

But we are actually right outside of the statehouse as well. You're seeing members of the media here. You're seeing some of the protesters who were left. The statehouse is just back there behind that tree. (INAUDIBLE) will get you a picture of that as well.

But it gives you a sense of where this is happening; Boston Commons just down there, where the rally was and where the counter protest was as well. A very large police presence. They are coming in and out. So there isn't really anybody to protest against for some time.


SIDNER: And that's kind of how the crowd has been calmed down. And there is, of course, the city known for its racial tensions, known for its historical incidents with race, including what happens sometimes -- the Boston games, right.

So I think there is a lot of people here who have a lot of different ideas about things that need to change and that's why you are seeing some of these folks left over.


VANIER: And despite being slammed for his response to the Charlottesville violence, U.S. president Donald Trump expressed his support this time for the protests in Boston, tweeting 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."

Another tweet now, "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."

Those tweets were notably more conciliatory than his comments days earlier in the aftermath of the deadly unrest in Charlottesville. Just as a reminder, take a listen to this.


TRUMP: You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other that was also very violent.

And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in, without a permit, and they were very, very violent.


VANIER: That does not mean his supporters, Donald Trump's supporters were actually bothered by those comments. In fact, many in this one Kentucky town agreed with what he said. CNN's Brynn Gingras has our report.


EDDIE PLATT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: In every action, there is a reaction.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump supporter Eddie Platt agrees with the president. Both sides are to blame for the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

PLATT: There is no clear thing on who was the first provocation.

GINGRAS: His view is not unique in Paris, Kentucky, just 14 miles outside of Lexington.

JEROME HARNEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Two wrongs don't make a right. You got the left and the right in the country. Well, I don't -- whatever happened to the middle?

MIKE SEXTON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: There was fault on both sides, but --

GINGRAS (on camera): But both sides, right? One side, he calls the alt left.

SEXTON: Right.

GINGRAS: Those people are fighting for equality. The alt-right fighting for white supremacy to take over the country as a white-only America.

SEXTON: I think they have a right to protest the white supremacists.

GINGRAS: Even with carrying torches and shields. What do you think about that?

SEXTON: Whatever they carry. I mean, they have a right to protest.

KIMBERLY HOWARD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: How can you hold one person responsible for all the fighting? It's what people -- I think it's just what people believe in and that's what they're taught.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Here in Bourbon County, voters overwhelmingly supported Trump in last year's election. They are concerned about racism in this country, but they don't think the president is at fault for any of the divisiveness.

HARNEY: Some of the best friends I've got are black people. I served on the city commissioner for 17 years, the black people here elected me.

GINGRAS (on camera): But you say -- you say some of the people -- closest friends are black people, right? But there are people in Virginia marching saying that black people can't replace them. Jewish people can't replace them.

HARNEY: The ones that can't get their thirsts quench are making the black people look bad. Those white people that put swastika on their arm and marched are (INAUDIBLE), they're making a white man look bad.

HOWARD: There's going -- can turn into a war between the blacks and the whites and --

GINGRAS: You think a civil war could happen.

HOWARD: I mean, honestly, I thought that.

GINGRAS (voice-over): As for white supremacy --

(on camera): Do you think the president has given them more of a voice?

SEXTON: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think the president is in a tough position.

HARNEY: If they put people back to work, that alone will solve a lot of problems. Poverty breeds a lot of trouble.

PLATT: He needs to stand up and call these people out by what they are. He needs to say this is not going to be tolerated in the United States.

GINGRAS: Is there anything the president could do where you draw the line?

SEXTON: You know, again, if he would -- if he would come in and say, hey, I'm not letting you protest. I'm not letting you -- you white supremacists, this is not going to happen anymore. Or I'm going to not let you people that are protesting for equality, I'm not letting that happen anymore. What would that do for our rights as the United States in this country?

This is a melting pot. This is the United States of America. We all need to come together.

GINGRAS: These people say they love their country and that's why they support the presidency. Seven months into this administration, they say they need some problems, but not enough to sway the support -- Brynn Gingras, CNN, Paris, Kentucky.


VANIER: Staying with American politics a bit longer, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend the Kennedy Center Honors, which pays tribute to iconic American artists. This will be only the fourth time that a sitting U.S. president has skipped the event in four decades.

CNN's Boris Sanchez has more on what may have prompted the White House decision.




SANCHEZ: -- announcing on Saturday that the president and first lady would be skipping the annual Kennedy Center Honors, in part, because they did not want to be a distraction from the honorees.

Here is the official statement from the White House, they write, quote, "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 would be only the fourth time that a sitting president would skip the Kennedy Center Honors, certainly not an unprecedented move by this president. What is unprecedented is the amount of criticism that he has received from several of the honorees, including someone who calls himself a friend of the president, Lionel Richie.

Listen to what he said.


LIONEL RICHIE, PERFORMER: I must tell you I am not really happy as to what is going on right now with the controversies and it -- they're weekly, daily, hourly. But I think I'm just going to wait it out for a minute and see where it is going to be by that time.

This is going to be in December. We may be a whole other world by that time, but I'm going to wait it out. I totally understand Norman's point of view and I understand where we are as a country right now is going backwards.

But all we can do is kind of sit here and hold our breaths for a minute.


SANCHEZ: Now those comments from Lionel Richie actually came before the president's off-the-rails press conference last Tuesday, received a lot of criticism, including from some of these Kennedy Center honorees, like Lionel Richie, Norman Lear and Carmen de Lavallade, all of them deciding to skip a reception at the White House that is often held before the Kennedy Center Honors gala.

The Kennedy Center actually put out a statement on Saturday, expressing gratitude for the president deciding to skip this event and keeping the focus on the honorees -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, Bridgewater, New Jersey.


VANIER: Coming up after the break, a furious North Korea is threatening once again upcoming military drills by the U.S. and South Korea. We'll have more after the break. (MUSIC PLAYING)



VANIER: Welcome back. So North Korea just recently issued a new threat against the United States and South Korea over their joint military drills, due to get underway on Monday.

North Korea's state-run newspaper accuses the U.S. of engaging in quote, quote, "reckless behavior and driving the situation into nuclear war." It also says Pyongyang is ready to contain its enemies. The U.S. says the drills will go on as scheduled. CNN's Alexandra Field went to a U.S. airbase in South Korea that's home to a host of U.S. fighter jets.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Osan Air Base, a U.S. air base in South Korea, they are watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're up there. We are keeping eyes and ears on North Korea.


FIELD (voice-over): And they're waiting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I can start to queue missiles, I can queue radars, I can queue targeting pod.

FIELD (voice-over): The control tower coordinates a few dozen military flights a day, sending these spyplanes, dubbed Dragon Lady, up over the Korean Peninsula.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're busier here than we've been probably in the last 10 years. We're very busy. But we are tasked every day to fly our mission. So we do that.

FIELD (voice-over): Pressurized suits allow pilots to soar at altitudes of 70,000 feet. That's twice as high as a commercial jet.

The one-seater spyplanes are flown by eight specially trained officers. The job: to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, a window for Washington into North Korea, needed now as much as ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that this aircraft is collecting is almost instantaneously sent down to people who can process, exploit and disseminate that information in minutes to our leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would be ready to launch operations out of both air bases at a moment's notice and be ready to fight tonight. FIELD (voice-over): Major Danny Trueblood is on a two-year tour to South Korea, taking up a job that U.S. troops have done for decades since the end of the Korean War.

MAJ. DANNY TRUEBLOOD: The F-16s are pivotal to the -- to basically the defense and any potential actions. So with GPS or laser-guided weapons, we can strike a variety of different targets.

FIELD: This U.S. air base is fewer than 40 miles from the North Korean border. These supersonic jets can fly about 16 miles a minute. In the case of a conflict with North Korea, they could reach the DMZ in just two to three minutes.

FIELD (voice-over): They practice daily, sometimes with mock battles. On this day, 12 of the Air Force's F-16 fighter jets take off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we don't know. With the unpredictability of things, tonight may be, in fact, the night. So we train every night.

FIELD (voice-over): Still the same work they've done every day for decades, now with the world watching what happens next -- Alexandra Field, CNN, Osan Air Base.


VANIER: Martin Navias joins us now. He is a military expert at Kings College London and the author of "Nuclear Weapons and British Strategic Planning."

Martin, good to have you with this. Every year, every year when the U.S. does military drills, North Korea is furious.

Does the recent war of words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un make this year different?

MARTIN NAVIAS, KINGS COLLEGE: Well, as you correctly say, every year the North Koreans complain. But this year, because of the increased tensions around the war of words between the United States and North Korea, yes, I think it could be different.

You might remember that last year after these exercises the North Koreans shortly thereafter tested a nuclear weapon. And this year, the North Koreans are saying that they may launch missiles in the direction of Guam.

So it is quite possible that the North Koreans, given the hatred of these exercises, may feel forced to respond. How they respond, well, we don't know yet.

VANIER: Listen to what the U.S. president said just last week.


TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has ever seen.


VANIER: So does that change anything?

He is saying North Korea cannot threaten us.

Well, it just did and it probably is going to do so again and again during these military exercises.

NAVIAS: Yes, President Trump, at the entity on the rhetorical level, he gave he North Koreans some rhetorical pushback, which they're not used to. For decades, the North Koreans have been saying these very provocative statements about turning them, the United States, into fire, et cetera, et cetera.

But they've found that President Trump could match that on that level and Kim Jong-un last week seemed to back down a bit or at least step back. He said at the moment he is not considering firing those missiles in the direction of Guam.

So on that level President Trump seemed to have succeeded in combining the immediacy and gravity of the crisis and the North Koreans seem to have taken note.

A couple of days ago, President Trump's senior advisor, Steve Bannon, left his job and said that there is no real military option against North Korea. That undercut President Trump's declaratory bellicosity.

And the North Koreans may be thinking, oh, then the --


NAVIAS: -- United States does not have a military plan. Yes, but they carry out these exercises. We will respond in some escalatory fashion.

VANIER: As you speak, we're watching pictures of the military drills and we see just how large-scale they are and the point of these exercises every year is to show North Korea the amount of firepower at its doorstep.

But my question, is that still relevant?

Is that still a relevant deterrent for a country that now has an intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of hitting the United States?

NAVIAS: Well, I believe these exercises are vital and they're vital deterrent for two reasons.

Number one, should the North Koreans move across the demilitarized zone and they've got large armored division poised, ready to do such a thing, the United States and South Korea allies have to respond. And these responses are very complex to be carried out. And for those responses to be properly executed, it has to be

planning. And there are two exercises every year. This one, (INAUDIBLE) is the smaller bearer. The one in spring, in March and April, resolve and (INAUDIBLE).

And then the fall exercises, they tend to be much larger. But it is very necessary in order to keep the planning up to speed.

Secondly, it is a sign to the North Koreans that the United States is prepared to defend South Korea if the North Koreans advance across the demilitarized zone. So on those two levels, despite the fact that the North Koreans are acquiring an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, they are still critical in order to deter the North Koreans from doing anything silly.

VANIER: All right, Martin Navias, thank you very much. Good to point out then that those exercises have an operational point and not just -- not just sending a message to North Korea. They're actually there for the U.S. and South Korea to get on the same page from a military standpoint. Thanks very much, Martin.

Those drills due to start on Monday.

Now onto something totally different; across much of the U.S., eclipse fever is reaching a frenzied pitch. On Monday, millions of people will witness a total solar eclipse when the moon blocks the light of the sun and daytime turns into darkness.

While millions watch the eclipse from the ground, scientists will be giving folks a sky-high view of the big event. Researchers from Montana State University and NASA are teaming up to launch 50 high- altitude balloons with cameras that will capture the eclipse as it crosses.

The video will be streamed live online. And just a quick reminder, do not look at it without the right type of eyewear. You need to wear those glasses; otherwise you can do permanent damage to your eyes.

All right. Thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.