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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Following the Brussels Terror Investigation; Presidential Candidates Disagree on How U.S. To Respond to Brussels Attack; NYPD Slams Cruz Over Comments On Muslims; Manhunt For Terrorist IN Light- Colored Jacket. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired March 23, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE HARMAN, FMR REPRESENTATIVE: places that are unfamiliar. The risk is slightly higher. It's not exceptional. It's not something we should run for, but it's slightly higher.
I'm telling people now, in the next couple days, since we don't know what's going on, and Brussels is still under black -- some sort of lockdown, just wait a couple days. But if you have plans next week, you should go and be vigilant and we smart.
And part of what the State Department advisory is really about is, we, each of us who goes abroad, has the capacity to reduce the risk to ourselves, but the world is -- things happen in the world and we should just be aware of that.
BERMAN: Representative Harman, we heard from Congressman Mike Turner, your friend, a few minutes ago. And he said something pretty chilling at the end of our interview. I asked him if he thought Belgium was currently up to the task right now of dealing with what's going on in that country. The city of Brussels has become the hub of ISIS terror in continental Europe right now.
There are terrorists perhaps on the loose right now who could be planning other attacks. And I asked a member of the Intelligence Committee if Belgium was up to it and he said not currently. That's got to be frightening.
HARMAN: Yes, it is frightening.
I think the Belgians are trying hard. I certainly gave them a shout- out on Monday when they wrapped up the -- what we thought was the last guy connected to the Paris bombing. Well, oops, he wasn't the last guy. And, oops, they didn't predict and should have that the airport and subways were soft targets.
And there was some uptick in security, I'm told, in Brussels over the weekend, but not enough. Belgium is a small country, 11 million people, as we heard, nine intel agencies, three different languages, and doing this alone makes no sense. Europe does need to ramp up its cross-Europe intel capacity. We do have an intel representative in NATO, and that person is capable of helping to connect the dots across Europe, but can't do it alone.
So that's a worry. The other thing on this State Department warning, let me say I think it's too general. There must be intelligence behind it, I agree with that. But someone just called me about his kid going to Spain via an airport in Paris tomorrow. It's a school trip.
These school trips are hard to reschedule. And you can't be secure everywhere, but it sure would be nice to give more detailed, granular guidance, especially to kids on school break.
BERMAN: Paul, quickly, what are your sources telling you about the current manhunt for others who may still be on the loose inside Belgium?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, they're urgently looking for other people.
There's great concern that there could be more attacks in Belgium, that this is not over. There's a significant number of Belgians who went off and traveled and joined ISIS. There's a group of Belgian and French ISIS operatives in Raqqa who are talent-spotting these young recruits coming in, giving them very fresh training, and then sending them back as quickly as possible to launch attacks.
That is something that has come out in police interrogations over the last few months, the police reports obtained by CNN. They are ramping up the accelerator and Belgium is bearing the brunt of this right now.
BERMAN: All right, Paul Cruickshank, Juliette Kayyem, Representative Harman, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
Turning now to our politics lead, a new feud brewing between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and this time you can call it the war of the wives, as one candidate threatens to spill the beans.
BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Presidential candidates sharply disagreeing on how the United States should respond to the terror attacks in Brussels, all that while the race between Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz takes a bit of a nasty personal turn.
CNN correspondent Sunlen Serfaty joins me now live from New York, where Ted Cruz held a rally today.
Sunlen, both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have a little bit of a reason to celebrate after last night's voting.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, John. It was basically a split result, Trump winning Arizona, Cruz winning Utah, importantly there for Cruz reaching that 50 percent threshold, so both walking away with all of the delegates in each of the states that they each won.
But as this campaign rages on, very clear that the terror attacks in Brussels is going to continue to reshape their messages going forward.
SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, the terror attacks in Brussels reverberating through the presidential campaign.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need unpredictability.
SERFATY: GOP front-runner Donald Trump saying he would potentially use nuclear weapons to stop ISIS.
TRUMP: I'm never going to rule anything out and I wouldn't want to say. Even if I felt it wasn't going -- I wouldn't want to tell you that, because, at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use it. OK?
SERFATY: Trump also telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he would support water-boarding and other harsh interrogation methods.
TRUMP: I think we have to change our law on, you know, the water- boarding thing, where they can chop off heads and they can drown people in cages and heavy steel cages, and we can't water-board.
So we have to change our laws and we have to be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis.
SERFATY: Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton today outlining a contrasting counterterrorism agenda in California.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't let fear stop us from doing what's necessary to keep us safe, nor can we let it push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe.
SERFATY: Clinton taking aim not just at Trump, but Ted Cruz, who is calling for stepped-up policing of Muslim communities in the U.S.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is that ostrich head your sand political correctness that has made America so vulnerable.
SERFATY: Cruz earning a rebuke from New York City officials, including the police commissioner.
WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: He doesn't know what he's talking about, to be quite frank with you.
SERFATY: And the mayor.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I just have to say it's reprehensible. His comments are not about safety and security. It's demagoguery.
SERFATY: Cruz pushing back today on New York soil.
CRUZ: And the mayor's response is essentially, who are these terrorists of which you speak?
SERFATY: All this coming on the heels of a split decision in Tuesday's Western state contests, Cruz also rolling out the endorsement of former rival Jeb Bush.
CRUZ: What we're seeing all across the country is the momentum is with us. And I will tell you, one of the things that shows that is, this morning, Jeb Bush endorsed our campaign.
SERFATY: And as the Trump-Cruz feud intensifies, their wives are now being drawn into the fight, sparked by an anti-Trump super PAC Facebook ad showing an old modeling photo of Trump's wife, Melania. Trump blaming Cruz for the ad, tweeting: "Be careful or I will spill the beans on your wife."
Cruz denying that his campaign had anything to do with the ad.
CRUZ: That should be beneath Donald.
SERFATY: Heidi Cruz also getting into the mix on the campaign trail in Wisconsin.
HEIDI CRUZ, WIFE OF TED CRUZ: There are a lot of things that Donald Trump and his campaign say that have no basis in reality.
SERFATY: While her husband borrows a line from "The American President" to punch back at his rival.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR: You want a character to debate, Bob, you better stick with me, because Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.
CRUZ: If Donald wants to get in a character fight, he is better off sticking with me, because Heidi is way out of his league.
SERFATY: And Donald Trump doubled down on all of this, and even picking up on that Cruz channeling Michael Douglas there, tweeting out -- quote -- "Lying Ted Cruz steals foreign policy from me and lines from Michael Douglas. Just another dishonest politician."
And Cruz today calling this gutter politics, John, a new low, he says, even for Donald Trump.
BERMAN: If he wins the White House, it turns out that Ted Cruz will have a flower garden, just to quote more from "The American President."
Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much.
Let's turn to our political panel for more on the race.
Joining us, CNN political commentator Kevin Madden, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson and CNN political commentator Hilary Rosen.
And, Kevin, let me stipulate we are going to talk extensively about what the candidates are saying about the terror attacks in Brussels, which is crucially important, and this spat about who said what about who's wife seems a bit small. But it's because it seems that way that it's so odd they have all spent so much time talking about it. Let's talk about the super PAC ad that used the image of Melania.
What did you think of that?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think, first of all, it's a tasteless ad.
I think that's one of the big problems with this, is that in a sense Donald Trump is right, but also Ted Cruz is. Let me explain. Ted Cruz is right in the fact that he wants to make very clear to Donald Trump forces that this is not an ad that he is in way affiliated. This was by an anti-Trump super PAC that is not affiliated with his campaign.
And Donald Trump is right to think that this is a tasteless ad. Where they're wrong, where Donald Trump is wrong is trying to attach this to Ted Cruz. I think Ted Cruz felt it was very important to come out and refute what he said about his wife, Heidi Cruz, and that this is in any way tied to his campaign.
So, look, but the bigger issue here, the bigger problem for both campaigns is that here we are 24 hours after a major international event and neither one of them are spending the majority of their time talking about national security. This is a tremendous distraction from what should be their core message to voters.
BERMAN: Kristen, quickly, Donald Trump knows or he should know this was a super PAC ad that Ted Cruz isn't connected to, so why do you think he hit back so hard?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Ted Cruz's message is, I am trusted. This is why lying Ted has been the moniker that Donald Trump has thrown at him.
And he's always pointed to things like, for instance, in Iowa, where there were allegations that Ted Cruz's campaign pushed this seedy narrative that maybe Ben Carson was dropping out of the race, that there was a mailer that seems not quite correct, there are all of these allegations that Ted Cruz is not campaigning on the up and up. This just gave Donald Trump one more -- I don't think fair, but, nonetheless, it fit right into Trump's narrative that Ted Cruz does not campaign in an honorable way.
BERMAN: Hilary, were you surprised the extent Ted Cruz to which responded more than once and the extent to which Heidi Cruz got involved in the response? HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No. The only thing you can
do with Donald Trump really is push back and point out how tasteless he is.
And it will be interesting to see whether Ted Cruz takes the same view about attacks on Bill Clinton as he's taken about attacks on his wife. That's the first thing I thought about, of course, today.
But, look, spouses should be off-limits. Kids are off-limits. Let's run the campaign on the issues. And every time Donald Trump does this, it just reinforces the worst narrative about him, which is that he wants this campaign to be about anything but the issues, particularly, as Kevin said, in a day when people are taking the issues so seriously.
BERMAN: Guys, stick around because we're going to talk a lot more about just that. Ted Cruz making something of an enemy of the nation's largest police force, the New York Police Department. Will his comments about policing Muslim communities in the United States, will they hurt him?
Then, new information about the second airport suicide bomber in Belgium. We now know his identity. We're live on the ground in Brussels with the latest.
BERMAN: Let's get right back to our political panel. Kevin Madden, Kristen Soltis Anderson and Hilary Rosen. Kevin, I want to start with you.
All the candidates now talking about obviously what happened in Brussels. I live in a world where I like to believe that all five candidates care deeply about America and want to keep this country safe.
However, there is also a political element to what they say as well. Ted Cruz came to New York City and got himself in a fight with the New York City Police Department and the New York City mayor.
The New York Police Department says Ted Cruz doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. That's the commissioner when Ted Cruz says he wants to patrol Muslim neighborhoods.
[16:50:00]Why do you think Ted Cruz is picking this fight in New York City? And I'm asking you as a son of New York, a son of Yonkers. How does that help him?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think right now the political element of tough talk resonating inside a GOP primary, particularly in the space that we're in right now after a major international event, I think Ted Cruz is finding that extremely alluring.
I think the problem here is that while Mayor De Blasio may look like an easy foil because you are able to draw this contrast against the liberal New York City mayor, you don't want to pick a fight with law enforcement on this.
I don't think it's smart. I think the better response is to talk more to the fears and anxieties that so many Americans have right now in a way that is unifying rather than a way that gets you into a back-and- forth with somebody like Commissioner Bratton.
BERMAN: Kristen, in New York State, which has a primary in a month from now, is there an advantage to picking a fight with the liberal mayor of New York City? Can you pick up Republican votes perhaps around the city in the suburbs and upstate?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: I think another piece -- another element of why this is potentially advantageous for Cruz is not just about picking fights with liberals, but it's about the fears that Americans have that Kevin was just talking about.
Think about what happened after Paris. We had this whole debate about what are we going to do about refugees and are we going to allow them in, are we going to increase screening.
And there were a lot of folks that said Republicans are going too far to the right on this. They are going to out of step with the public and the polls wound up showing that Americans thought, you know what, they took the politically incorrect position in the polls.
So I think Ted Cruz is sort of betting that by coming out with really tough talk that may be divisive and may not be the sort of thing that you'd want in a general election, but you'll certainly at least going to be gaining voters within the context of a primary.
BERMAN: You saw what it did for Donald Trump when Donald Trump said he wanted to ban Muslims. The exit polls say people in state after state, Republican voters approved of that.
Hilary Rosen, Hillary Clinton gave a big speech, a speech in some ways much like she's given before. She took the opportunity to give a very similar speech again on national security and how she would fight terrorism.
This on a day after she won one out of three states. Bernie Sanders won two states handily by 75 percent or higher. What do you think Hillary Clinton is doing?
ROSEN: Look, right now Hillary Clinton feels incredibly responsible to be the grownup in the room. She is trying to give the American people the alternative they want to the rhetoric that Trump and Cruz are espousing.
So, you know, in many respects it's important for her to play this role, to give these messages. What Bernie Sanders says about her isn't particularly relevant right now.
What she wants to do is make sure people know that she is prepared to be commander in chief on day one, that she has put out a plan to defeat ISIS and that she understands that rhetoric that divides Americans will not help the situation at all. BERMAN: Kevin Madden, Kristen Soltin Anderson, Hilary Rosen, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
We're going back to Brussels where officials are warning that the potential terror threat might not be over. Our Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground there. Nick, what are you hearing?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, we know now the names of two most likely of the three men pictured inside the airport. Two went to go and blow themselves up, but one man remains at large as many questions about how safe the city of Brussels can feel. Stay with us.
BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures right now of the Place De La Bourse in Brussels. This is crowded of people out in defiance of the situation in that city right now. The heightened security presence, the active investigation under way.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is there. Nick, there's new information unfolding every minute. Police still don't know, though, how many people they're looking for connected to all of this?
WALSH: Absolutely. We do know they are looking certainly for two individuals. Let's run through what we do know. The key image many have seen of those three men inside the terminal at the airport. We know the man in white is still on the run and they believe the two men in black are Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui.
That is key because Najim Laachraoui according to many officials, this is their preliminary information. They haven't backed that with DNA. He is the man who said to be linked to the Paris attacks, the key bomb maker.
The question people will be asking themselves is if that is him in the picture and he did blow himself up, why? He perhaps felt too much on the police radar. Why did he take all his expertise in bomb making to his grave there in that very brutal act?
But also to one man who was with Salah Abdeslam, he is still on the run as well. Questions really about how it was possible such a well- known fugitive like Najim Laachraoui could be involved in these attacks and how so many of the other individuals have not come across police radars at all at some stage -- John.
BERMAN: Nick, you drove to Brussels from Paris today. Given the manhunt under way and given all the security concerns, what was that drive like? Was there an increased presence that you sensed on the road?
WALSH: Well, it is remarkable, John, frankly, given the fact that Paris and Brussels have been subject to such awful terror attacks that there isn't a sense of increased security when you make that drive. The same drive that Salah Abdeslam did. That's the nature of the European state, but when we drove through it ourselves it was remarkable to see the only real notion of changing country was the mobile phone provider changing on your phone.
So a very tense situation here, but not one where you feel there's an overwhelming security presence -- John.
BERMAN: That is the essence of the European Union, but it is something that people are looking at right now as possibly something that might need to change in some ways to keep people safe. Nick Paton Walsh from Brussels, thanks so much.
That's all for THE LEAD today. I'm John Berman in for Jake. Now turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."