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INSIDE POLITICS

Police: Van Hits Crowd In Barcelona In Apparent Terror Attack; Trump Rips GOP Senators Amid Charlottesville Fallout; Trump: "You Can't Change History, But You Can Learn From It". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[12:32:39] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: I'm John King in Washington. You're looking at live pictures, Barcelona, Spain. A white van has crashed into a crowd of people. More than one person is dead according to local media reports, 20-plus perhaps injured in this. Eyewitnesses say two gunmen run into a restaurant in this very popular tourist area in central Barcelona.

Trying to get more information as this plays out, authorities now do say it is an apparent terrorist attack, again, in the heart of one of Europe's most driving cities, popular tourist destination.

Isa Soares, our CNN International Correspondent is tracking all these breaking news. She is in London this hour. Our Isa, obviously, we're trying to get more information. What's the very latest you received?

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, a very fluid situation, very urgent and very worrying situation for those in Barcelona. We are hearing from authorities that, like you said, a number of deaths and many injuries. Authorities, local police basically saying most likely a terror attack, and calling this pretty much a mass trampling.

This is what we know. Let me give you some context. In Plaza Catalunya, the main square at least to last run those live pictures you're looking at there. A truck, (inaudible) should say a van, as the Spanish call it, a van plowed into a sidewalk, mounted a sidewalk, and then plowed into a crowd of people.

We know there have been several injuries. Police saying there are many injuries now. We do not know how many, how severe those injuries are but we know the police have cordoned off the area. We have seen those live images there. We know they have closed off pretty much all of the shops, all the metros.

And we know as well from speaking to witnesses on the ground that what they have seen was this white van with blue writing, basically, plowing down that main street, that very wide and popular main street going at 80 kilometers per hour and plowing into a group of people. Witness then said, John, they've seen these men, these two men. One of them described is between 23 and 25 years of age looking very angry and carrying something in his hand. He did not say exactly, could not tell exactly what they were carrying. Then these men have gone into a bar. I've heard one person say a bar. And others say a restaurant and Boqueria area where all the bars and restaurants are in this area, and they seem to have pretty much barricaded themselves inside that bar.

[12:35:07] Authorities say they have no motive. They cannot confirm the motive, but in the last minute or so they have said they have activated the terror response. The plan they have in place when they believe it's a terror attack. Taking this very seriously. The Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, they telling people to stay away from the area, stop posting on social media and to really let authorities chase and discover who is behind this.

But I have to tell you, going through Spanish media, listening to TV, there are reports that are not confirmed this, John, that perhaps we may be looking at two vans rather than one. This is not confirmed. This is what local media is reporting.

But these individuals barricading themselves in this bar, people seen running with families and children crying as they go in to the side streets, the alleyways of course, very popular part of Barcelona. Many tourists at this time of the year, very warm, sunny day with many restaurants, many shops, and clearly a very disconcerting moment for authorities there. But what we're hearing this hour, a number of deaths and many injuries. Police saying this is the most likely a terror attack and describing the van plowing into the people as a mass trampling, John.

KING: Isa Soares in London. Isa, continue your reporting. Stay with us. We'll continue to stay in touch.

I just want to bring our viewers this information. And this happens in these situations unfortunately. When you conflicting information. Authorities with local reports, authorities have been saying more than one dead. The Catalonia government is now saying what it can confirm is one killed in this apparent terrorist attack and says 17 more injured.

We had heard more than one. We had heard, in the ballpark, a 20 people injured. Again, often in the first hour, two, three of these situations the information changes, but the government saying, one killed, 17 more injured. We'll continue to pursue more information there.

I believe we still have our national security correspondent Jim Sciutto with us.

Jim, the Catalonian police have said they still don't have definitive word of the motive but they suspect terrorism and they are implementing their terrorist response protocols. Obviously, that means a heavy and a highly trained presence on the scene. But take us through the different layers. Does it also mean, for example, as you respond to the scene, are they checking on the whereabouts, checking on the identities and the locations of what I'll call the usual suspects, the people on their watch list? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Absolutely. That would be likely. I have to tell you, John, I happened to know someone who is been in Barcelona recently, (one of these tourists) who has shared some videos from an eyewitness to this attack. And I've just been looking extremely graphic and extensive. And what I hear from this is that there are many, many people hurt and injured.

I watched about a minute-long video, John, of a long stretch of that very busy tourist street, Las Ramblas in the middle of Barcelona and I tell you, I couldn't count the number of bodies I saw on the ground. It is -- a -- injured, at least -- it looks to be a truly horrific attack here.

And because of the M.O., that (this is a) car, and apparently, an after-attack, the four gunmen leaving those vans and perhaps going into a restaurant. Gunshots heard. That fits an M.O. that we have seen before from ISIS and other terror-inspired groups. Use your vehicle and then attack. We saw it play out on the streets of London just a few weeks ago, and it's because of those things that you see the Spanish authorities without definitively saying terrorism, moving into a counter-terror mode quickly.

KING: And you heard from Isa Soares I believe, Jim, from local accounts anyway. And again, I want to stress this information, often comes in from eyewitness it might be in a distance, people who see things from different perspectives, see it a little differently.

So in the early hours, we know there are conflicting accounts or changing accounts as it comes through. But reports said these two men, one of them carrying something. They've -- eyewitnesses have said somebody armed, other eyewitnesses saying they can't be sure what it was, barricading themselves in a local bar or restaurant. I assume that will be priority one for the counter-terrorism response to the scene?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Because you have to -- you want to minimize casualties and hope that they don't -- the terrorists don't hurt or kill more. And, remember, the protocol has become, don't wait, right? Because these are not people you negotiate with, assuming they are -- they're fitting the profile that police are speaking about right now, that they're terrorists.

[12:40:03] These are not folks looking for money, they're not looking to negotiate. They're looking to kill. And the police response therefore would be err on the side of going in rather than circling and waiting.

KING: We're looking at --

SCIUTTO: If they have an opportunity.

KING: Jim, I don't know if you can see the monitor on your screen, but we're looking at pictures from moments ago where you see a much heavier all of a sudden police presence in the scene. Automatic rifles being used by the authorities there as they're going down one of the streets here just moments ago. Looking in the windows, looking door to door.

You see the police officer there, a handgun in his hand. Other pictures have had other officers with automatic rifles. Obviously, it looks like a door-to-door hunt for these suspects, as you look at this very dramatic video playing out. And it reminds you of the risks, it reminds you of the risks these heroes take every day around the world, but we're seeing it unfold right here, quite a situation.

We will keep on top of it. Jim Sciutto, keep working your sources. We will continue to watch this scene. Those first responders -- taking risks on the scene right there in Barcelona, that traumatic video.

Again, one person killed, at least 17 injured a van crashing into a crowd in a bustling neighborhood in central Barcelona. The police say this is most likely a terrorist attack.

The White House Chief of Staff says the Chief of Staff is aware of the situation and keeping the President of the United States abreast. We're trying to get more information obviously from the local authorities as well. We're going to take a quick break and continue our breaking new coverage in just a moment.

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[12:45:50] KING: I'm John King in Washington. You're looking here at Barcelona, Spain. Dramatic pictures, a law enforcement sweep just moments ago of an area in central Barcelona.

You see the armed police officers. There are some with handguns, some with automatic rifles. A sweep in an area where a van, at least one van hit a crowd of people. The government saying, authorities saying, one person dead, 17 wounded. Obviously a search underway for the suspected assailants in this area in Barcelona, Spain, heavy police presence as we seek to get eyewitness accounts.

I want to bring in on the telephone Arno Ahpar who's a radio journalist who was in the area as this played out. Arno, tell me exactly what you saw.

Arno, try one more time before we let go. Arno, it's John King in Washington. Can you hear me, sir?

ARNO AHPAR, RADIO JOURNALIST (via telephone): Yes, I hear you bad, very, very bad. We are now actually -- and there's very confusing moment, because there's a lot of police, special police vans and in Las Ramblas for our cafe. We only can see that it seems that one restaurant in Las Ramblas, inside of it, there's one terrorist inside.

But we are confident that insides are workers there, and now -- one woman -- sorry. I'm very nervous. Because it seems that this is very important moment. The police are -- we see guns, going -- down to Ramblas and it seems that they will go in to this cafe occupied by the terrorists.

KING: Arno Ahpar on the scene saying police now approaching at least one cafe there as they continue this manhunt. We've seen some of those dramatic pictures come in. Arno, stay in touch with our produces team as this unfold and we're also try to improve the quality of the communication.

Again, according to that eyewitness on the scene, and we showed you pictures just moments ago, a dramatic police response in central Barcelona, an apparent terrorist attack, a white van jumping the curb to strike a crowd of people. You see here in this the cafe area, police, some with handguns, some with automatic rifles making their way on a (inaudible) saying one cafe seems to be of particular interest to them, an eyewitness on the scene.

We'll continue to get more information, continue to watch this dramatic sweep, manhunt unfold in Barcelona, Spain. We'll be back in just a moment.

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[12:52:44] KING: Welcome back to Inside Politics. We are, of course, continuing to following breaking news out of Barcelona. An apparent terrorist attack, a van plowing into a crowd of people.

Here's what we know right now, at least one killed, 17 injured. An ongoing police situation. Heavily armed police searching the area for the driver amid reports of gunshots, that's in the Las Ramblas area where this all happened. We'll bring you more as we get the details.

Turning now though to big political news back here in the United States. A new bitter angry outburst from President Trump attacking Republicans who say he failed the moral and character test posed by the Charlottesville violence.

With us to share their reporting and their insights, CNN Sara Murray, Politico's Seung Min Kim -- Min Kim, excuse me, Olivier Knox of Yahoo News and Mary Katharine Ham of The Federalist.

President Trump trying to change the subject and stoking an issue front and center after last weekend's Charlottesville mayhem," Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments." The President said on Twitter this morning, "You can't change history but you can learn from it."

The President went on to tweet this, "Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, who's next? Washington? Jefferson? So foolish." The future of confederate monuments obviously an emotional issue, but for the President much safer political ground than, say, his angry Tuesday outburst where he equated counter demonstrators in Charlottesville with the neo-Nazis, KKK members and white nationalists. The President's tweets came from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

There's a crisis atmosphere there. Let's be honest about this. A., why this issue now? The President talk about this Tuesday again, but why stoke it again on Twitter today when you have the NAACP talking about this in Georgia, the governor of Virginia, the one-time capital of the confederacy where the most of these monuments are than anywhere else saying it's time to take them down.

Why does the President do this at a time we know his Chief of Staff is mad at him, his daughter is mad at him, his chief economic adviser who was essentially a prop standing behind the President when he went his dissertation, I will say, for polite word, the other day are mad at him as well?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, everybody is mad, but nobody quit. And they're all still working for President Trump although working for the administration. Look, I think by focusing on the monument, they feel like this is a way back to the base, the way to sort of get back to the notion that President Trump is trying to protect your culture.

[12:55:09] He's trying to protect your history. He's trying to protect your lifestyle. Back to this kind of America first slogan that he ran on, the notion that liberals are changing this into a country that you don't even recognize, and we were told by sources yesterday that the President's mind-set was eminently satisfied with what he had to say in that sort of free-wheeling press conference and that he was sort of in this hunker down mentality he had before the election.

You guys all might be mad at me but you don't know real America thinks. I know what real America thinks. And in his mind, he was proven right because he's now the President of the United States and his head is in a similar place right now.

KING: He still thinks he's in a Republican primary running against Hillary Clinton?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think, look, folks are going after him because it was a failing. There were not very fine people at this Nazi rally and that something that people have to distance themselves from with very good reason. I think he's talking about the statues because that does put him on safer ground politically for this reason.

It is a 60-something, 20-something issue when you poll people, including about evenly split among Democrats. So the question becomes how do the folks who want to take all them down convince the folks who don't? And I think it's actually just a culture war that both sides want to fight and not really have --

KING: My question is, is the President just trying to take advantage of that, to say for political rather because he actually leads as divisive as he is a national conversation that's worth having, that needs to be had about what to do about these things. But I suspect at least what we've seen in recent days, he's not the one to lead that, he anger though, the anger, a lashing out.

If you criticize the President, he comes back. To Lindsey Graham this morning, "Publicity-seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there's more equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer." The victim, of course. "Such a disgusting lie. He just can't forget his election trouncing. People of South Carolina will remember." The President also Senator Jeff Flake, who's on the ballot next year in Arizona. Lashing out against his critics, why?

SEUNG MIN KIM, REPORTER, POLITICO: I mean, think about the two senators that the President has gone off, gone after very forcefully on Twitter and other avenues. You know, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, both very vulnerable Republicans, that Republicans need to hold on for next year. He's not going after the Democrats that the Republicans conceivably have a chance to beat.

And we have a very chaotic, crazy September in terms of the legislative agenda ahead of us and this is not helping that situation right now.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: So pointing (ph) Arizona on Tuesday and do a rally there. Interesting to see a couple things does he endorse challenger to Jeff Flake and does he -- muse more openly about possibly pardoning Sheriff Arpaio? Interesting night this morning right after the President went after Jeff Flake, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Cory Gardner said that they stand unequivocally behind his election.

KING: At a time when the challenge in the county is unity, the President doing things that divide his own party never mind the country. Sorry, we're shorten time today because of the breaking news. Appreciate you coming in.

I'll see back here this time tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer in the chair continuing our coverage after a quick break.

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