Return to Transcripts main page

WOLF

New Suspect Named in Paris Terrorist Attacks; Trump Meets with Congressional Members; Sanders Pressured to Talk about trump, not Clinton; Obama's Historic Visit to Cuba. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 21, 2016 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:50:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Phil, at a joint press conference in Belgium just a little while ago, Paris and Belgium prosecutors said they are far from solving the entire nature of the Paris attacks but are moving closer. There's a lot of work to be done.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A couple of things they have to do here. We apparently have a suspect in custody. Salah Abdeslam is talking. The first question they are going to have, Wolf, is not about the Paris attacks. It will be about people. This is a human hunt. To prevent the next attack you have to determine whether people provided documents, who kept Salah Abdeslam when he went back to Brussels and you have to take them down before there is another attack. They are desperate now they see the noose tightening.

BLITZER: When prosecutors say Salah Abdeslam is talking, giving them information that is broadcast on local TV and radio. That's got to make some of the other suspects nervous.

MUDD: That's not the only thing. This is a unique case. Typically, they go down in a hail of gun fire. They do not want to be taken. It is interesting that he declined to participate in an ISIS attack. Second piece, that is document exploitation. Did they get hard drives, laptops, phones? That, in addition to the interrogation, is the fastest way to find the footprint around the next attackers, who did he talk to.

BLITZER: He was on the run for four months and caught blocks from his parents' home in Belgium right there. That suggests there were a lot of people helping him.

MUDD: I think it suggests a couple of things. Not only people helping him. We learned he wasn't always with friends. He was in abandoned houses, which suggests he did not have a commit plan but a broader issue is a culture n this case in Belgium, you see the same thing in the U.K. and France where there are communities that feel disenfranchised and don't want to talk to law enforcement. It's not just about protecting him. It is about keeping the state out of their neighborhoods.

BLITZER: Belgium investigators are currently investigating 244 terror-related cases in Belgium right now. It seems like a lot.

MUDD: It seems like a lot. You can not verdict that number of cases. When you hear language like that, you have to understand you have a top 10, top 5 percent of people who may have traveled to Syria of people you can prove have access to weapons and explosives. You may have people doing fundraising on the periphery. Even the FBI, you want to do 250 cases simultaneously, that's too much, Wolf.

WOLF: What does it say about what potentially could happen in the United States based on what is happening in France and Belgium right now?

MUDD: We have a similar situation. Our numbers games are smaller. They are dealing with thousands. We may be dealing with hundreds. The problem is, in either circumstance, the parallel is we are dealing with so many cases, more than -- FBI in 2005, 2008, or 2010. You can't cover them simultaneously. Something will happen.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, thank you for joining us.

MUDD: Thank you.

WOLF: Donald Trump is meeting right now with a group of influential Republicans here in Washington, including several members of Congress. He's expected to speak live after the meeting. Coming up, why the private sit-down was called, who attended, and what may come out of it.

And President Obama is expected to speak live any moment with the Cuban President Raul Castro. We will bring you those moments live at soon as they start. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:32:32] BLITZER: Once again, any moment now, President Barack Obama and Cuban leader, Raul Castro, they will speak about this historic trip to Cuba, the first visit by an American president in 88 years. Moments ago, the president released a statement saying, among other things -- let me read it to our viewers -- "I have come to Havana to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. I am here to bury the last vestige of the Cold War in the Americas and to forge a new era of understanding to improve the daily lives of the Cuban people."

That's from the president of the United States. We will bring you his speech as soon as it begins. Stand by for that.

Tonight, on CNN, the final five presidential candidates making their pitch before tomorrow's western primaries. Each of the candidates sitting down for a one-on-one interview with myself and Anderson Cooper.

I want to bring back our political panel to discuss what is going on, political strategist, Angela Rye, a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus; Matt Lewis, a CNN political commentator, senior contributor to "The Daily Caller"; and John Phillips, a radio talk show host at KABC, and a Donald Trump supporter. Matt, we just got from the "Washington Post," Donald Trump, while

he was in Washington, sat down with the editorial board of the "Washington Post" and he released a listed some of his foreign policy advisers, first time he has done so. He's been under pressure to release that list. He said, according to the "Washington Post," Walid Phares, a Middle East expert; Carter Paige; George Papadopoulos; Joe Schmidt, he was Department of Defense; Keith Kellogg. There were a few others. He has released a list. He was under pressure to do so. Your reaction?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He has been under pressure and he was promising to do this for weeks now. Maybe it is the beginning where Donald Trump pivots and becomes a traditional politician that people can coalesce behind. It is tough for Trump because, if you want to find someone who is an experienced foreign policy expert and has experience in a presidential administration, you either have to go to a Democrat or someone who worked for the George W. Bush administration. So you have the problem of people who have served in the administration that are know for nation building and adventurism. So these are serious people it looks like. Smart, serious people that he got. That's the problem. You can't go and get for instance, Brent Scowcroft or James Baker, so you will either choose people not at the upper echelon or people associated with the George W. Bush era.

BLITZER: John, I think it is fair to say the better he does in the campaigns, the more likely some experienced national security types will volunteer to go and work for him, because they are looking at they would like to serve as a national security adviser or secretary of state or defense.

[13:40:15] JOHN PHILLIPS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, KABC: No question. As he moves closer to the convention in Cleveland, and he looks more and more like the nominee every day, all of these people, or many of them will sign on board. Donald Trump, while he hasn't had any specifics on what he could do in terms of foreign policy, he's been consistent with his big-picture idea. And from a president, that's what you need. A lot of these guys have very specific policy goals and detailed papers on their website. But the reality is when you go to Washington and you deal with Congress and you make the sausage, often times, what you end up with is nothing close to what you promised during your campaign. The big picture is what the nominee and the candidate should focus on. Donald Trump has been doing that. I think you are right that these experts and advisers will fill in the gaps.

BLITZER: Angela, he said the other day on MSNBC. He was asked who are his advisers, who do you talk to, and he said I talk myself.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLF: He got some grief for speaking like that, but now he has a list of advisers.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Quickly, I want to point out this list is very important. The timing is important because he has a big foreign policy speech today at AIPAC. The problem is, if he does not make the foreign policy advisers group look good, by reaching the speech and reading what's in that speech, I think he is creating another problem for himself. I don't think it is making sausage, but knowing what to put in the sausage, as well.

BLITZER: Matt, you know Donald Trump. Is he going to step up to the plate and hit a home run at the speech later today before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee?

LEWIS: I think he will perform as well as he can. I think he will bring it. I don't think he will go off script and say anything unseemly. But he has a lot to overcome. When you are on record saying you want to be a neutral broker between Palestine and Israel, you are coming in to a room where there are problems you have to fix. It is hard to hit a home run.

BLITZER: As you know, John, there's about 18,000 AIPAC supporters who will be at Verizon Center, usually where the Wizards play. It will be a huge audience there. We have already heard there will be some rabbis, religious leaders, others who will walk out as soon as he starts speaking. I'm assuming he is bracing for that.

PHILLIPS: There is a chance that the audience could be less than warm to Donald Trump when he speaks today. But we saw that during the debates. The donor class, the people who are influential and active enough to show up to these events, don't like Donald Trump. That much we know. The polls show the people like Donald Trump. A poll out of Israel showed Donald Trump as the most popular Republican candidate right now in the race. They also, in the same poll, showed that they trust Donald Trump on Israeli issues more than Hillary Clinton with a plurality. It is one of these recurring themes we see over and over again. And if I were Donald Trump during this speech today, I would focus most heavily on immigration. That resonates with a lot of people that care about the security of Israel. They have a restrictive immigration policy. They have a wall. And let's face it, if we were more hawkish on immigration, we wouldn't let the Tsarnaevs in the country. We would have let the San Bernardino shooting in the country. We wouldn't have let the terrorists in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in the country, or any of these other dinner-theater Mohammad Attas. So I would beat the drum on that, if I were Trump.

BLITZER: Angela, you want to respond?

RYE: I don't.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: You don't?

RYE: I don't. There's so much in that. And, Wolf, you probably have other --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: So let's end there.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You don't have to.

RYE: I'm fine on Twitter.

WOLF: Let's talk about the Democratic candidate. Bernie Sanders -- first of all, put up on the screen the current delegate count. With the super delegates, she has 1,643. He has 868. If you subtract super delegates, she has 1171 and he has 845. Pressure is now building on him to stop talking negatively about Hillary Clinton and focus his attention on Donald Trump, to which he said this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When we began this campaign about 10 months ago, the general feeling of the media and the pundits is that we were looking at a coronation, that there was an anointed candidate who would simply and quietly get the Democratic nomination. 10 months --

(BOOING)

SANDERS: 10 months have come and gone, and it doesn't look to me like that's the case.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So clearly, he's going to argue there's significant differences between himself and Hillary Clinton. He keeps talking about the fact that she takes Wall Street money. He's doesn't.

[13:45:09] RYE: Right. I think there are a couple of things. One, he's 100 percent right. The media made it clear they thought Hillary Clinton was a shoe in. I think the reality is now she is probably a shoe in. The other part is Bernie Sanders has made Hillary Clinton a much stronger candidate. She has come out far more aggressive than she has been on issues, like on Wall Street, on criminal justice reform. And has often times apologized for the record of the Clintons in the '90s on criminal justice issues. In that regard, he made her a better candidate. The challenging piece is now what is his role? That's the question you are asking now. He's staying in until the convention. It would be great to see them come together as so she has more traction with progressives, with young people and with some others.

BLITZER: She a better general election candidate because he will stay in the race presumably until the convention? What do you think, Matt?

LEWIS: I think it's a toss up. We saw Obama became a better candidate after 18 or 19 debates against Hillary. So in a way, having a coronation is not healthy. It forced her to get tougher. But I wonder about forcing her out on the left if that opens her to vulnerabilities, especially if somebody other than Donald Trump emerges to take her on.

BLITZER: All right, guy. We will continue to watch this. Obviously, a lot going on.

Thanks to all of you.

All day tomorrow, by the way, we will be bringing you the latest on the Western Tuesday primaries and caucuses in Idaho, Arizona and Utah. Stay with us all day tomorrow, only here on CNN.

And, once again, we are waiting and watching for President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro to speak to the news media after meeting for two hours in Havana. You are looking at live pictures right now. We will bring you the president's remarks live from Cuba as soon as he begins speaking. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Live pictures coming in from Havana. Expecting to hear momentarily from President Obama. The president has been meeting with Raul Castro, the Cuban leader. These are going to be his first public remarks since meeting with President Castro during this historic visit to Cuba, the first time an American president has visited Cuba in 88 years.

As we await the president, let's bring in CNN analyst, Lisandro Perez, joining us from New York. He's the chair of the Studies Department at John Jay College, the founder of the Cuban Research Institute also at Florida International University.

Lisandro, thank you for joining us

As we wait for the president of the United States to speak, what is your sense about this visit? Is it more symbolic or more substantive?

[13:50:20] LISANDRO PEREZ, CNN ANALYST: I think there's a lot of elements about it, but I think the president is looking for substantive improvements in the relationship. I don't think we'll see a breakthrough on any of the things both governments want to resolve. I think the president has got nine months in office. I think he wants to move it forward. But of course, he can move it. He's within a certain limited, you know, constraint on how he can change the relationship because only Congress can actually lift the embargo, such a critical piece in this relationship. So I think this trip is meant by him to really push the envelope here and to really open up Cuba as much as he can.

BLITZER: I'm reading from some of the advance text the White House released about the president's message. Among other things, he says this, Lisandro. Listen to this. He says, "There continue to be real and important differences between our governments, including profound differences on the way to promote safety, security, opportunity and human rights, but there's so much Cubans and Americans share, our cultures, our passions, our hopes for the future, not to mention the love of baseball." It's a delicate line he's walking, trying to promote human rights

democracy in Cuba, while at the same time, establishing a new normalized relationship.

PEREZ: Yes, he's walking essentially a line here. For example, his meeting with the dissidents that's going to take place I believe later on today is an example of that. I think that's mainly for consumption in the U.S. I don't see any substantive changes coming as a result of meeting with those dissidents. The dissident groups in Cuba are groups, they're not an organized unified movement. They include bloggers. They include groups, political groups. They include the demonstrators, the Lady in White. I think he's really doing the meeting with the dissidents because it's sort of expected of him in the U.S. But I don't think anything major is going to come out of it. It's something I think he needs to do. There are things in this trip that are for consumption in the U.S. and there's things that are for consumption of the Cuban people. I think he's mainly in his message, you know, directing it at the Cuban people and trying to end what has been a very unhealthy relationship, not just since the revolution but, indeed, historically, between Cuba and the U.S.

BLITZER: How blunt can he be -- when he delivers a speech and we're told it will be televised inside Cuba, how blunt can he be in talking about some of the human rights violations that the U.S. doesn't like that's going on in Cuba right now?

PEREZ: I expect that he's going to be very -- he was very blunt in the meeting with Raul Castro on the human rights issue. I expect that his message to the Cuban people, when he speaks, I believe tomorrow, at the National Theater -- maybe it's later today, I'm not sure. But when he speaks to the Cuban people on television, I think he's going to bring a message of friendship, that the United States is no longer an enemy of Cuba. That's the kind of message he's going to portray. I don't think he's going to address, for example -- I listened to the interview with the Senator that you had, and she was saying that there's an interest in changing the government. I don't think that the president is going to end that speech saying we're interested in changing the government here. That's not the message to be taken. I think his message is this is for the benefit of the Cuban people, and that's what essentially this visit is about.

BLITZER: You heard Donald Trump say that President Raul Castro effectively snubbed the president by not showing up at the airport to personally receive the president of the United States. Do you believe that was a snub?

PEREZ: The White House released a statement earlier today saying there was no expectation that President Raul Castro was going on there. Now, that said, I was surprised, yesterday, when I saw President Raul Castro was not there because usually he does greet heads of state at the international airport. He's greeted the pope. He's greeted others. And so I was surprised at that. It may be simply that there's an attempt, many ways, by the Cuban government to lower expectations about this trip with the Cuban population and sort of minimize, to some extent, its importance. It was interesting also, they had no coverage at all of the

motorcade going from the airport to the city. The CNN producers tell me they're dependent on the feed from Cuban television, and that apparently did not come in because it wasn't covered to the Cuban people, so we couldn't tell the degree of enthusiasm, the size of the crowds. I think there's a limited coverage that the Cuban government is doing about this visit. He's not -- they're not showing President Obama with a lot of, you know -- sort of with the people, you know. And I'm a little disappointed at that.

[13:55:19] BLITZER: Lisandro Perez, thank you very much for joining us.

PEREZ: Thank you.

WOLF: We'll hear from the president shortly.

We're also getting some other news coming in to CNN. We're hearing the meeting between Donald Trump and Republican members of Congress has just ended.

Manu Raju is outside the law offices where the meeting took place in Washington, D.C.

Manu, what are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Hey, Wolf. This meeting just broke up. It was about roughly a 90-minute meeting. We are hearing about two dozen people attended, mostly Republican officials, a lot of who actually supported him. We're just down the street from the capitol. A lot of those Trump supporters, members of the House, who endorsed Trump, just made the walk down here to talk to Mr. Trump. A lot of them said they have never met him before.

Not many neutral members of Congress actually showed up here. One neutral Senator did. That's Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. He did attend this meeting. Some former officials as well. South Carolina Senator DeMint, who heads the Heritage Foundation, was here at this meeting, as was Newt Gingrich the former House speaker, and Bob Livingston, former House speaker as well.

But we're hearing this talk had a wide range of topics from foreign policy, even to a discussion of what's happening in the Republican Party, trying to unify the Republican Party behind Trump. Particularly, that was something that was pushed by some Trump supporters on Capitol Hill. Not much talk about some other controversies that have dogged the Trump campaign, including the violence at some of his rallies.

A Tennessee Republican who supports Trump came out and we asked him if they discussed the violence happening at the rallies and he said they did not discuss that. The discussion was at the 30,000-foot level. It didn't sound like it got into the granular details of policy, but a lot of black and forth, a lot of questions and answers.

One thing we did hear, Wolf, we're expecting a lot more of these meetings to happen, possibly with people who are not supporting Donald Trump next time as he tries to unify the party behind his candidacy.

BLITZER: Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Once again, we're still waiting for President Obama to speak live in Cuba. We'll have live coverage of that as soon as he begins.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back, 5:00 p.m. eastern, in "The Situation Room," and at 8:00 p.m. eastern, for our special tonight featuring interviews with the five remaining presidential candidates.

The news continues right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)