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14 People Killed, 100 Hurt In Spain Terror Attacks; National Debate Over Confederate Monuments; NYT: Trump Tells Aides He Has Decided To Remove Bannon. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired August 18, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:45] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Welcome back. A grim statement when short time ago by the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirming one U.S. citizen among the dead after those multiple terror attacks in Spain. At least 14 people in all killed. And now police they are fully involved in an urgent nationwide hunt for the terrorists responsible.
We've just seen video. This is new to CNN of a police officer in Spain shooting at one of the suspects. I want to play this video for you a few moments of it. I warn you it is frightening and parts of it quite graphic is a man believed to be wearing some sort of a suicide vest being shot at by police.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey.
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KING: That chaotic scene last night in the seaside city of Cambrils, that's where five attackers were shot, spotted and then shot dead by police. We've not confirmed that this man was one of those killed and also officials are not saying yet whether any of the suspects killed is the driver of that van that plowed through the crowd yesterday in Barcelona. Police do say they are not rolling out that possibility.
CNN's Isa Soares is in Cambrils, CNN Melissa Bell by an hour north there in Barcelona. Melissa, let's start with you. Just a confirmation, an American citizen has been killed, but let's put this in a context. People from 34 different countries are among the dead and the wounded in this terror attack which is affecting the world community, not just Spain. Tell us where do police now stand on the search for those, I believe, responsible?
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the key question is really the one that you just pushed, John. Whether the man who plowed his van just over 24 hours are going to that crowd of people on the pedestrian zone of Las Ramblas here in Barcelona was indeed one of those alleged terrorists who was then killed in Cambrils.
That is a crucial question we believed him to be on the run since the event here in Barcelona last night. But we heard from the Catalonian chief of police earlier today who suggested that we weren't clear actually whether he was still on the run or whether or not indeed he had been involved in subsequent events in Cambrils.
So, one of the big questions that needs to be resolved is that even as the police try to piece together the events, I think the major questions tonight, John, is whether in fact we might not have seen a far worst attack if a giant explosion hadn't taken place on Wednesday night in a house outside of Barcelona. It is believed this is a theory that is be doing the rounds that that explosion in that house could be a crucial thing. And that is the focus of this investigation, because it is possible that that explosion was apparently an accident could have precipitated then the attacks that we then saw here in Barcelona and the subsequent events in Cambrils.
KING: And Melissa, when you look behind you there, it's a central part of a driving city, a big tourist attraction. Back to relative normal today with the crowds going to behind you or people still rather stunned?
BELL: You know, as ever, in these sorts of tragedies in Europe has become all to familiar with them. You have on one hand the sort of sense of normalcy. People are trying to go about their business wanting to show a determined resilience in the face of these sorts of atrocities but also a genuine sense of shell shock.
We heard it from the officials. We've heard from today including the Spanish prime minister -- the Spanish prime minister expressing himself earlier today, the interior minister as well, but also from the people who've been coming around here. And it's extraordinary scene down there on Las Ramblas tonight where people, both of those who were involved last night and people who weren't at all have come together to try to make sense of precisely what happened here. Even as the investigators try to understand the facts, people are trying to come to terms with these extraordinary emotions that have been with them.
KING: Melissa Bell in Barcelona. Let's move on to Isa Soares down at Cambrils. And Isa help me with the question that Melissa touched on a little bit, the three incidents. Are they linked to the house explosion of Barcelona? What's happening in Cambrils? Where are police as they're trying to put these pieces together?
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, police have spoken in the last two hours or so. And they said they are focusing their investigation exactly, John, on what happened in that house. So one of the house could potentially, let's say, could have been the cell for where these attacks could have been created and led and operated from.
Police focusing on that house because on Wednesday before the horrific attack in Las Ramblas, in Barcelona before what occurred here, just several hours afterwards, what we know is there was an explosion in the house, and police said that the explosion was an accident.
[12:35:15] And the fact that it was an accident created perhaps stopped the terrorists in their tracks, and in that explosion, which they believe they were preparing butane gas, basically, and explosive -- butane explosives. They basically said that one individual died because of the explosion, and one had injuries in the last few minutes.
We have heard that individual has now been moved to a local police station and is being detained. So they are focusing their investigation clearly on exactly that location, and who exactly was working and operating from there. And they're focusing on that.
In the meantime, John, to give you some perspective, what we saw in Barcelona, what we saw here in this beautiful picturesque coastal town where people are still pretty much going to the beach, very similar to what we saw in Barcelona, people are trying to get about their daily business despite a sense of shell shock. We saw an Audi A3 just several hours after that attack in Las Ramblas coming down this main road here, where you can see that, to the left those yards, coming out high speed through those roads. But police patrol warned another one further down here, there was a suspicious car coming at high speed.
As they came down this highest road, they met two police cars who then blocked them right here. As they blocked them, the car, according to witnesses I've spoken to, tipped to one side and that is when a police shooting ensued. Five people were killed. First, four of them were killed right here by one person. Locals tell me it was a female police officer who shot them.
And then one individual holding a knife went walking -- went basically running down that lane avenue. And you played that video. And that is when the police said to him bajar, bajar, get down, get down. He did get down once. He got up back again, and then that is where he was shot. And the splatter of blood is still on the floor.
But people here somewhat in shock as it's understandably so, but also extremely proud of the heroic acts of the local police, John.
KING: Understandable. And in that heroism, thank you for the description. Isa Soares in Cambrils and Melissa Bell, thanks to you as well.
Next, an emotional debate back here in the United States which the President says would erase parts of U.S. history.
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[12:41:54] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, this week, it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
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KING: That the President on Tuesday. We know the President is paying a giant price for his response to Charlottesville, but he is on much shape of political ground in making the case. It is wrong to take down confederate statues and memorials. "Sad to see the history and culture of our country great country being ripped a part with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments."
The President said in Twitter, "You can't change history but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, who's next? Washington? Jefferson? So, foolish." Again, that's President on Twitter.
This is a big national question and national debate. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are more than 1,500 symbols or tributes to the confederacy across the countries. 718 monuments and statues, 109 public schools named after confederate figures, 80 counties and cities. Ten major military bases. Nine state holidays or observances. Virginia, the one-time capital of the confederacy has the most.
We will hear from the Charlottesville mayor later today. He promises a statement about the future of the Robert E. Lee memorial that was at the center of last weekends march by the neo-Nazis and white nationalist.
As we await that word from the mayor, what to make of this debate. It's a conversation that we've seen across the country for some time. Whether it's the confederate flag in South Carolina, which is defined politics for a very long time. It took more than a decade to get a resolution to that. There's still some complaining about it from time to time.
It is obviously front and center again now in a much more dramatic way because of, a., first what happened in Charlottesville and then, b, the President's response. Where will this go and what is the complication to it? Were -- again, the President is on pretty safe political ground, but can he lead this debate or lead this conversation?
JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK: No. He chose his side in the debate and it's a side that actually has a fair amount of support. And Chuck Schumer yesterday who is not on his first rodeo here politically, he saw what the President and Steve Bannon were doing and he put out a statement. And I thought was actually a pretty brassy for a Democrat to say which is they're trying to change the subject here.
KING: But let's put that up to Sean (ph) and Chuck here because this what Chuck Schumer said, "President Trump and Steve Bannon are trying to divert attention away from the President's refusal to unequivocally and full-throatedly denounce white supremacy and neo-Nazism, and other forms of bigotry."
MARTIN: What Chuck is saying there is we want to fight this on the train of Nazis and Klansmen. That's 99 percent issue for us. When we're talking about the confederates, the monuments and the history of this country and a broader conversation about the imperfect people of the past including Jefferson and Washington, that's a far trickier place for Democrats to be. And of course, that's where the President and Steve Bannon, who, at least, as of yesterday was still working for the President, want to take this conversation. And it's just not nearly as clear-cut and there are folks, some Democrats actually who are not comfortable with taking down these statues.
It's going to play out, John, this fall and the governor's race in Virginia front and center. The Democrat and Republican have taken two different stances on the issue. And as you pointed out, former confederacy in county after county having statues on the courthouse lawn.
[12:45:07] It's so wrapped up in the history of the state. And the fact that this happened in Charlottesville last weekend, it's going to put this issue in front and center for the -- in the governor's race.
KING: And it's a different conversation when you have it in different parts of the country.
KING: In this sense, I just want to put out the national numbers. And these are national poll numbers. But NBC, PBS NEWS HOUR, NPR, excuse me, PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll asked this question, 62 percent of Americans say the statues should be allowed to remain. 28 percent say removed, 11 percent unsure. That's what makes an interesting conversation. When you're traveling to -- especially along these southern states or part of the confederacy.
You ask the average Joe about it, not a politician. To them tearing down the statues is to say, look up here in the teleprompter. Sorry. Bannon is going. We are told this is a Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweet, Maggie Haberman at the New York Time tweet, Bannon going. Administration officials say it was Trump. People close to Bannon insists he resigned.
So this is now moving your colleague Maggie Haberman one of the best reporters on the beat covering Trump. I want to read it again. Bannon going. Admin officials say it was Trump. People close to Bannon insist he resigned.
We're having this conversation about the monuments. We're talking earlier about how this has been a week where started with Bannon on the outs. Bannon seemed to have the President's ear about where we're going. What does it mean if Steve Bannon, Chief White House Strategist, a couple weeks after Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, is shown the door? And Bannon has to -- I think, added importance because of his connection to the Trump base.
JULIE PACE, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Steve Bannon has been the ideological center of this White House for better or worse. He is one of the few people in there who has a set of core beliefs that he very rarely strays from, no matter, their political popularity.
And he's then the person when the President has been swayed or attempted to be swayed by others in the Republican Party, others in the White House. Bannon is always there to remind him. These are the issues that you ran on. These are the issues that your supporters care about. These are the issues that you need to be caring on as president.
Him, leaving removes that ideological center from the White House. But frankly, Bannon has not been a particularly productive player in this administration. And there has been a lot of concern from other people that while he says he's there for the President's best interests. Well, he says he's there to promote that agenda than he's really there to promote himself.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: This is interesting though, now, because Bannon does represent -- it does have a fall in from a lot of the Republican base that helped get Trump elected though.
DEMIRJIAN: And now, he is a free agent potentially. And what does he decide to do with that power? And is there a revolt from that part of the base against the Trump Administration which we've seen when it's been a question of, you know, Bannon versus H.R. McMaster and other people like that. Does this now -- is Bannon on the out? Do they care if he resigned or was pushed out or whatever the adult (ph) planned story --
KING: To that point, his former organization Breitbart News which he ran is talking about the speculation about this earlier in the week. Where they said essentially the Dems inside the White House, meaning which is that label they put on Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. We're going to push him out and it was a quote middle finger to Trump voters.
Now, the President has a personal connection and relationship with his base. But there is no question that Bannon was his, if not someone who pushed him to this, his soul mate on the issues of America first, on the issues of nationalism, on the issues of trade policy.
KING: Trump is Trump. Trump has a connection with his voters. But if the Breitbarts are now in Trump's face all the time, what does that do?
MARTIN: Well that's the question is, does the populist media coverage now become harsher on Trump? That a lot of he Trump voters can sue (ph). I think that's important to watch.
I do think that the Jeff Sessions departure, where they're more consequential with the base though. I think he's a bigger figure than somebody who is a staffer at the White House in terms of the connection with Trump himself. But what's important is what the future holds.
They are basically two parties here who are not going anywhere in the White House. There's a Trump family. And there's a vice president of the United States, right? Who is ultimately going to win Trump's ear in terms of how he governs and how he even acts as president? Is it going to be the instinctual centrist, even Democrats who are in his family? And also who are -- some of his top advisers, or is going to be the more conservative aligned people who are close to Mike Pence and Mike Pence himself?
KING: I want to welcome our international audiences joining us. We're now being broadcast around the world as well. The breaking news is the New York Times reporting where the President has told his aides that Steve Bannon, the Chief White House Strategist, the key figure in the Trump general election campaign. Bannon going.
You see the tweet from Maggie Haberman, the New York Times White House Correspondent. Administration officials say it was Trump. People close to Bannon insist he resigned. So we will have a debate apparently about how this happened. That happens often in these cases. But let's talk about the significance.
Let's start with this. This is a lot to unwrap beginning with Bannon's role, what he means as we were just discussing. What backlash we might get from the Bannon part of the Republican Party, the conservative Trump base.
Let's start, but first the President of the United States. And what this tells us about him, about his mind-set about where he thinks his White House is. And we do know the new Chief of Staff, John Kelly, is among those. To Jonathan's point he made earlier who decided he thought Bannon for all his saying, I'm here for the President was sort of trying to advance an agenda on his own. What does it tell us?
PACE: Well that is the -- that tends to be the tipping point with Trump.
[12:50:04] If he feels like there is someone there who is pushing their own agenda, who is trying to promote themselves over him that is when he turns on that. And he has increasingly come to believe that about Steve Bannon there have been different moment in the young presidency where that has happened when Bannon has been on the on the cover on TIME Magazine, when he very clearly participated in a new book that focusing on his role. Even when Saturday Night Live started talking about President Bannon, those things Trump internalizes them.
But there has just been a real sense that this -- even though Trump won't say this publicly ever, there has been a sense in the West Wing, in the Oval Office that this has not been going well. And the fact that Reince is gone, that the Scaramucci hire was so short lived and that Bannon is out. I think --
KING: Three com directors.
PACE: Three com directors. Is there a reflection that he is searching for the right combination of people in this White House to get this on track, and plus to be successful.
PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I do want to say in a week like this, when we talked about, you know, the confederate monuments and so on, the fact that the person who said I'm the, you know, my website is where the all right started. The fact that he, you know, that he was in the White House. So it's such a big sign to a lot of people about what Donald Trump would be like.
And even if Donald Trump is a -- in a consume (ph) of the -- nationalist and so on. The fact that Steve Bannon who a lot of people viewed as, you know, in terms of White Supremacy and so on. Whatever these actual views are is leaving this particular week is an important story. And then suggests whatever Donald Trump says, he may have conceded to the liberals slightly here by having Bannon leave.
KING: And again, this is the President who, as a candidate, said I hire the best people. I'm a business man. I'm going to run Washington like a business. He's now turned the chief of staff. He's turned his chief strategist. He's turned three communications director. He has not one single big legislative achievement. The only big piece of legislation he has signed is the Russia sanctions bill he despises. What does this tell us?
I don't say it to be flippant. That's where we are, seven months into this administration. And in the wake of that absent any great policy successes, we have the week we just lived with the President. I'm sorry. You know, the Trump loyalists may dispute this. But failing the moral character test of what an American president should say after what we saw in Charlottesville. What if anything just sit giving Steve Bannon the door to do the Trump Presidency now?
DEMIRJIAN: I think it gives -- it's throwing a bone into all these critics right now in the GOP who are focusing in on Bannon. Even though it's not clear that Bannon was the voice whispering in his ear for this entire Charlottesville episode, right?
But we have to see what happens next to actually get a verdict on what the significance of this departure is, right, because Steven Miller is still there. It's not like all the nationalist are out of the White House. The President has clearly made a stake for himself about where he stands on certain issues. That he is separating apart from his advisors.
And just because one person that had influence goes does that mean it's all of a sudden they start adopting different policies position or, you know, a different outlooks on what they think that the base and GOPs. Does that mean Trump's ego changes? I mean, there's so many other things.
MARTIN: You know, this administration is in a rolling crisis essentially. And it has been for six months. I had a colleague --
KING: A rolling crisis that got significantly deeper this week. I would pause it because it's not a policy issue. It's not a Washington issue. He failed an American test.
MARTIN: And I had a colleague who showed an observation sheet. This is basically like year six or seven of the Bush Administration.
BACON: Or left in your six (INAUDIBLE).
MARTIN: At the depths of the challenge with Iraq, post Katrina, the first six months of the administration. And by the way it's not just a Katrina or an Iraq. It's one thing after another, week after week. And almost all and come back to a simple fact that the President of the United States conducts himself in a way that many Americans, including those in her own party, believes it's beneath the presidency.
KING: And so, I used the term earlier there's a Trump exhaustion across the town. And it is now inside the Trump administration in some of his own aides saying they're just exhausted. They can't take this anymore. It's straining their relationships at home and the like. And they have this question.
So Steve Bannon gets the door, what does it do? The establishment Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, gone, the populist America First Chief Strategist gone, they fear among the quote on quote conservatives out there whether it's the Breitbart conservatives or a lot of more mainstream conservatives have been. And then you have a White House with General Kelly who may bring discipline, who's not a political figure.
KING: And then so Jared, Ivanka, Gary Cohn, a Manhattan centric --
PACE: Democratic leaning --
KING: -- group of advisors who are Democratic leaning. Some have given money to Hillary Clinton. Many on the record in the past saying we should have comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes, gives citizenship to undocumented. What will the conversation be?
MARTIN: And who care deeply about how they are perceived by elite society, I should add, too. As -- that President Trump even though he's awfully denying about it. But that's an important thing to add, too.
They care about the perception of them when they're back in New York. And I think that really mattered. I think this hits up, Julie, and you know better than I do, but a test here of who will be more influential. That crowd on center left, or people around Mike Pence.
PACE: Yes. A great point.
MARTIN: You know, Marc Short, who is the White House legislative liaison. But a little bigger than that in reality and Nick Ayers who is new chief of staff for Pence and Pence himself.
[12:55:02] MARTIN: These are all -- they are traditional conservatives.
KING: I just want to state for the record. CNN has now confirmed this according to two administration officials that Steve Bannon is out as the chief strategist in the Trump White House. Steve Bannon, came to the President during the general election. Not a big figure during the primary campaign, but a big figure as the President shook up his campaign.
He came in in those shake ups. One year ago today Jonathan reminds me sort of the, America first, tough trade policy, go after China. Not an interventionist on military policy. Saying in an interview just this last week essentially criticizing the President's rhetoric on North Korea saying that's not true, we don't have a military strategy. Steve Bannon out. The Trump White House in crisis. The question is where do we go from here?
PACE: Well, Jonathan makes a really smart point. Mike Pence is -- the Vice President of the United States and yet has been on the sidelines for --
KING: Is he more than that? Because I have talked to people close to the President who have relayed comments made by the President --
KING: -- quite scathingly critical --
KING: -- of his vice president saying, Mike was among those guys, you know, you could go camp. Where are my Obamacare votes? If Mike Pence is so great, where are my Obamacare votes?
MARTIN: Here is what I would say. I think in terms of personnel and in terms of some politics deregulations especially, those have Pence's fingerprints all over that. It's not the high profiles but absolute -- some of our conservative appointees and some of these regulations are all Pence.
KING: But there's no question he's about now. He's about only -- with Reince Priebus gone and a lot of the people Reince Priebus brought in, either leaving or gone. Mike Pence is the one person. If you're the speaker of the House and you need to talk to somebody in the White House whether it's to say please help me or please stop the President, that's who you call.
PACE: He's the voice of mainstream conservatives in the White House now, pretty much the only voice, Pence and his people. He has struggled at times in this administration to find his place. How aggressive to be on certain issues when he should stay in the background.
He has also lived in this almost alternative reality. This whole week, when all of these has been happening. When this White House has been really at a point of crisis, he was in South America doing a very normal, almost presidential-like trip.
BACON: Right. The strategist left. The strategy didn't work. I mean, that's (INAUDIBLE). The chief of staff and chief strategist have been -- have left or been pushed away of you. Trump is admitting things are not going well. He is not winning. He is still doing the minimum.
KING: I think that is the big question. The chaos approach has not worked. Reince Priebus, the establishment. Steve Bannon sort of the pitchfork, nationalist here, the New York group and, you know what, Steve Bannon used to derisively called Javanka, Jared and Ivanka. That sort of this, it's called a three negative four or five different competing factions. That hasn't worked. The question is, what do we get from this?
And as part of that as one of the big fears inside the White House has been, if you let Bannon go, do you, quote on quote weaponize him? Does he go back out into this media environment and turn into a Trump critic?
DEMIRJIAN: He's abridging (ph). And also Pence hasn't delivered a win yet. His whole thing is the hill. Where is the hill? And there's less set of people on the Hill right now to work with the President because of what we've been going through especially with Charlottesville.
And there's nobody else in that administration that shown themselves capable of managing up right now and that's a problem. Because the President can still call the shots and still wants doing will.
PACE: That's a great point. I mean, we have gone through these moments again with Priebus, again Scaramucci bubble, Trump will remain Trump no matter who ends up in the west wing with him.
KING: But who is Trump? Do we know the answer to that question? Who is Trump? In the sense that Steve Bannon's influence was supposed to labeled, China, a currency manipulator on day one. The President talked about it during the campaign as if he believed it. He hasn't done it.
Steve Bannon in his interview with the American Prospect the other day told Bob Kuttner, I agree with you completely. We're at economic war with China. But that's not how the President has conducted himself.
PACE: I don't think we know who Trump is ideologically. But we know who he is temperamentally. And that's almost as important as when you're president of the United States.
BACON: This will-- and slightly Trump over the border wall from the beginning. We know he has a certain ideas like that. We know -- the things he said about the monuments were basically, you know, his sort of view of the world as in kind of likes or in under attacking in some ways.
As view of the world he's expressed for a long time. He talked about out birtherism for a long time. I think we do have a sense of like where Trump is. And he is sort of a conservative on few things, a nationalist on a few other things. But ultimately like Julie said going to be kind of erratic (ph). KING: I think what we don't have is any sense of how he takes what he believes and tries to work it into a governing philosophy and then government strategy and success. That we haven't seen from this President.
You see the breaking news there in the bottom of the scream. The White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is out. He, of course, has been at the President's side. He is famous for having a list in his office of the President's big achievements. Say to get those things done. The question is -- someone, everyone can have a quick last word as we finishing here at the top of the hour. What next?
PACE: Tax reform. I mean, really. That is where the rubber meets the road for Republicans. They end this year without getting tax reform done for both the President and for Republicans who are on the ballot next year. That's a really problematic situation.
MARTIN: I think the President has going to stabilize his standing in the next few days and weeks before he think about tax reform. I think he is still real in Charlottesville.
KING: But he has to reach out to Americans who do this. Again, the breaking news, Steve Bannon, the Chief White House Strategist out. Administration officials confirming that to CNN. The New York Times saying Trump pushed him out. Bannon aides saying he resigned.
Our breaking news coverage continues to the top of the hour with Wolf Blitzer. Don't go anywhere.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much --