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Interview With California Congressman Darrell Issa; ISIS Leader Killed; Trump vs. Cruz; Terror Investigation; New Arrests in Wave of Anti-Terror Raids; Cruz Blaming Trump for "Tabloid Smear". Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 25, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:22]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: shoot-out, gunfire and explosions rocking the streets of the Belgian capital, terror raids continuing to unfold there and beyond. Multiple plots now believed to be in the works. Will a series of new arrests disrupt them?

Terrorists identified, a source telling CNN U.S. officials believe they know the identity of that man wearing the light-colored jacket seen with the airport suicide bombers. The information now in the hands of Belgian authorities, will it lead them to one of the most wanted men in Europe?

ISIS strike. U.S. force go inside Syria to take down a key ISIS figure believed by many to be the group's number two leader. Now we're learning the initial plan was to capture him alive. Why did American helicopters wind up firing on his vehicle and killing him instead?

And dirty tricks? Ted Cruz accusing Donald Trump of planting a salacious story in a widely read tabloid. Cruz calling it garbage and full of lies. And, tonight, Donald Trump is responding. Is their increasingly personal war damaging the Republican brand?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We are following breaking news in the terror investigation unfolding in Belgium, France and beyond.

Gunfire and explosions rocking the streets of Brussels as police carried out a new terror raid. A suspect shot in the leg and arrested. At least nine people are in custody in a series of anti- terror operations in Belgium and France with French officials saying a plot there was in an advanced stage of planning.

Also breaking, the Pentagon announcing U.S. forces in Syria have killed a top ISIS figure, a man that many experts consider the terror group's number two leader. And tonight sources are telling CNN the U.S. intended to capture him alive, but as helicopters carrying special operations forces closed in on his vehicle, something happened that caused them to decide to open fire instead.

And there's breaking political news tonight. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz blaming rival Donald Trump for what Cruz is calling a tabloid smear that he says is full of "complete and utter lies." Tonight, Trump is responding and the war between the two men is more bitter and personal than ever.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news this hour with our guests, including Congressman Darrell Issa. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pamela, tell us, there's still some active manhunts tonight in connection with the Brussels attacks. What do we know about them?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna.

Police are moving swiftly across Europe right now to arrest suspected terrorists. And as of right now, the second metro suicide bomber and the man who delivered one of the bombs at the airport are still believed to be alive and on the run.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, anti-terror raids across Belgium and beyond. Dramatic video shows one suspect believed to be linked to Tuesday's attacks wounded on the ground in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek. Police shot him in the leg and then the bomb squad moved in, using a robot to check the man's backpack for explosives before dragging him down the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They shoot one guys. They're shooting behind me. I was watching him. It was with a little girl and that was very, very fast. And he looked back, and after, robots come to take the bags.

BROWN: At least six suspected terrorists were arrested overnight in Belgium. And we're getting our first look inside this safe house where the Brussels terrorists allegedly plotted their attacks. Another suspected terrorist was arrested near Paris believed to be involved in an advanced terror plot there. French police recovered two kilograms of the explosive TATP and a Kalashnikov rifle following the arrest, according to a source briefed on the investigation.

FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): In Brussels and in Paris, there have been some arrests and we know there are other networks are still out there. Although we can say the terrorist cell who committed the Paris and Brussels attack is being wiped out, we are still threatened.

BROWN: And in Germany, police captured two men with alleged ties to the Brussels terror cells, one of them a 28-year-old Moroccan man who allegedly received two text messages before the attack, one with the name of the Brussels metro bomber, Khalid El Bakraoui, and the other message with a French word for end, just three minutes before Bakraoui detonated his bomb, according to a source briefed by German officials.

[18:05:12]

And Belgium prosecutors have now confirmed 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui, the alleged Paris bomb-maker, is one of the two suicide bombers at the airport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And American officials have exchanged information with Belgian authorities about the possible identity of the man in the white outfit at the airport, one of the most wanted men in Europe and beyond. So far investigators are still trying to identify the second bomber at the metro stop, this as they try to round up others in their network to prevent further attacks -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward now. She is in Brussels for us tonight.

Clarissa, first, tell us, what else are you hearing about this suspect who was nabbed in Germany?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting, Brianna. Essentially, this was an accident. Police in Germany saw him lingering in a train station. They determined that his behavior was somewhat suspicious. When they checked his passport, they found that he had a ban. A ban had been issued essentially preventing him from traveling freely in this Schengen or border-free European area.

That was because he was involved with a string of robberies. But they also found on him a medical bill, a medical bill that showed that he had been treated for injuries sustained on his torso. And we're now hearing from a German investigator source that they believe possibly he was actually here in Belgium and received treatment after being wounded in one of the raids that took place here last week.

So, obviously, they also believe that they found documents that determine that he did travel back and forth between Germany and Belgium. Really illustrating for you how even with a ban, it is so easy for people to move freely between different countries here in Europe. And the second man that they arrested in Germany also has a tie to the Bakraoui brothers.

We're hearing that they believe he was deported from Turkey with Khalid El Bakraoui last year and authorities believe that essentially they were trying to enter Syria. He was deported with Bakraoui to the Netherlands. Again, we're seeing, Brianna, this is stretching beyond Belgium, beyond France, now to Germany. Really illustrating the difficulties that European authorities here are facing, Brianna.

KEILAR: And these raids in France that have been going on, what else are you hearing about what's found there?

WARD: They found a large amount of explosives, TATP. You are hearing this acronym again and again. This is the explosive that ISIS operatives appear to be using for these attacks, both in Paris, here in Brussels. It's relatively easy to buy.

You can find it in hair bleach, nail polish remover. And they said that this man was in the advanced stages of planning this attack. Again, we have learned he traveled to Syria. Again, we have learned that he had ties to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who of course was the ringleader of the Paris attacks.

You are seeing that these networks are spilling across borders, that making it that much more difficult and highlighting the need, particularly with these returnees from Syria, for all intelligence officials, border officials across this continent to be sharing every single piece of information about any man coming back from that region.

KEILAR: Clarissa Ward for us in Brussels, thank you so much for that report.

Let's get more now on all of this with Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs, as well as the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

And we now know that you have two Americans who are dead. A bomb went off near the Delta counter there in Brussels. This was two hours before most flights to America were set to take off. Do you think Americans were targeted here?

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I suspect that, in fact, Americans are disproportionately a target in Europe.

They are a target of opportunity or they're a target of planning. In the case of going to a ticket counter of American-flagged aircraft, that would be certainly looking for targets of opportunity. And this goes right to the challenge that we're facing, which is 15 years into what one might call a war on terror, we still don't seem to understand how to both take the war to the enemy and change the hearts and minds around the world to prevent new recruits.

And it's that twin problem that two administrations now have tried to deal with unsuccessfully.

KEILAR: So, what more do you want to see then in terms of moving forward if you feel like not enough is being done to stem recruitment? And certainly the problem that we're seeing in Iraq and Syria, ISIS still holds a lot of territory there.

ISSA: There's no question that, in Syria, what is becoming a failed state, Libya, which is a failed state, and portions of Iraq, we need to both be in there eliminating the strongholds and the breeding and training grounds. [18:10:12]

But the other part of it, Brianna, is what I think that Americans should focus on today, is billions for defense, absolutely. We have spent over a trillion dollars on this war. But we have to come up with -- the next president, if you will, has to come up with a structured plan for probably almost 100 nations around the world to aggressively stem the tide of the recruitment.

Some of it is in the U.S. Obviously, we have had a small share. But in Europe and particularly in Belgium, they have had a breeding ground for terrorists for decades. They have known about it and they are only now trying to come to grips with it.

KEILAR: What do you make of this State Department bulletin that is warning Americans of near-term tacks? How serious do you take this warning?

ISSA: I try to always take these things seriously, but let's be candid. The raising or lowering the threat probably has very little to do with anything other than a current fear.

We almost always, after an attack, remain on a high threat level while, in fact, we're usually not on a high threat level just before an attack. And that tells us the so-called chatter is not, if you will, reliable predictor of the first attack. That happened in Paris. It happens again in Brussels, where there was no elevated security just before a major attack.

KEILAR: Following 9/11, I think everyone remembers that one of the big issues was coordination between agencies here in the U.S. Now what we're hearing about these attacks in Europe is there's a failure to coordinate on intelligence between countries in Europe.

How much do you think needs to change between -- coordination between European countries and also between Europe and the U.S.?

ISSA: Well, that's a very good point, that Europe has never unified its -- it has no umbrella for its intelligence organizations, and Brussels takes a lot of credit for going from 80 police to about a 10th of that. And they're considering that an improvement, a city that had more police than you and I could possibly keep track of.

Europe does need to, in fact -- if it's going to have a free travel zone, as it does, it has to unify its intelligence. It has to streamline its communication. It has to harmonize some of the laws related to it. What you can do in Britain in the way of surveillance is much better than some of the European countries.

And after the French attack, both France and Belgium began really looking at whether or not America was all wrong in how we have observed and combated the movement, if you will, of suspected terrorists in the United States.

KEILAR: I do -- certainly, I ask that because the Brussels attackers were known to authorities there. But this Moroccan man, now we jump over to Germany. And it just shows you how wide, I guess, a stretch you see this cell. A man detained in Germany, he had text messages that mention Khalid El Bakraoui. It was sent minutes before the blast. What does this tell you about the reach of this cell?

ISSA: Well, first of all, you don't go through half-a-tank of gas going from Brussels in to Germany. So, they are close. You know, it's sort of Rhode Island to New York.

I think we have to understand that much of these areas are very close and people constantly transit. So we have to assume that that freedom is there. What I do see, though, is the association that's going on throughout Europe is obviously closer than the Europeans thought. They are less able to deal with it.

I was in Paris and in Brussels after the attack, and that was one of the things they were coming to grips with was that what goes on in Brussels can quickly in a matters of hours turn into a terrorist attack in France and in many cases a return of those terrorists to Belgium. That's part of what they have to deal with.

But let's go further. These people disproportionately have associated themselves with, if you will, the headquarters of ISIS. They have associated themselves with a growing ideology. And that's what we have to look at. Decades before you and I were looking at politics and the world, we had the growth of fascism. Then we had the growth, if you will, ideologically, of communism.

These ideologies are always underestimated until way too late, until a lot of blood has been shed. And we're in the same situation. Just as we didn't take the fascists serious enough soon enough, and World War II was the result, or the 60-plus years of Cold War because of communism, we have not taken -- the president just a matter of less than two years ago calling ISIS a J.V. team.

[18:15:10]

What he was missing then and the world is still missing now is this is a powerful ideology. It's powerful in the Sunni community and equally powerful in the Shia community, although somewhat opposing. We need to look at these ideologies as seriously as we eventually looked at fascism. We need to fight the growth of this ideology.

The moderates in these regions in dozens of countries that are, if you will, infested with this ideology have to get serious about realizing this will topple governments. This will destabilize the world for the rest of our lives if we don't treat it as seriously as we eventually treated, if you will, fascism.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Issa, I have more questions for you ahead. Stay with us. 7

And we will be back after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:08] KEILAR: We are back with Republican Congressman Darrell Issa.

And we do want to talk to him about the breaking news out of Syria, the Pentagon saying that U.S. forces have now killed a top ISIS leader there.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working this story for us.

This is a key figure in the ISIS network, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A very key figure, Brianna.

The mission did not go exactly as planned, but the Pentagon today was still pretty happy with the result.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): U.S. special operations forces secretly sent into Syria trying to capture this man alive, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al- Qaduli.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter briefly described the target.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Was an ISIL leader, senior leader, serving as a finance minister and who also is responsible for some external affairs and plots.

STARR: Somebody the U.S. government put a high priority on grabbing, including a $7 million bounty on his head.

COL. STEVE WARREN, U.S. SPOKESMAN FOR OPERATION AGAINST ISIS: In fact, we know that he was actively planning external attacks, presumably in the West or even in the United States.

STARR: But even though the U.S. forces went in to capture him, they kills him in a highly dangerous mission about which little is being revealed.

The troops were part of the Pentagon's covert expeditionary targeting force, a team of 200 special operations forces with orders to kill or capture ISIS leaders. The unit had been tracking Qaduli. From helicopters overhead, they prepared to land and grab him from a vehicle on the road, fighter jets overhead ready to act if the troops needed more firepower.

But sources tell CNN something went wrong. The commandos ended up having to open fire from their helicopters and kill Qaduli.

CARTER: The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization's ability to conduct operations both inside and outside of Iraq and Syria.

STARR: Qaduli, who some analysts call the number two in ISIS, would have had crucial intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is somebody with significant credentials in global jihad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, if they had been able to capture him alive, the plan was to take him back to Syria -- pardon me -- back to Iraq, interrogate him in Iraq and then turn him over to authorities there -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

And let's bring in Congressman Issa to talk about this.

Number two ISIS leader taken out here. Certainly, they wanted some intel. I think that would have been more helpful, but they're still happy at the Pentagon about this, as Barbara reports.

Is U.S. intelligence getting better on the ground that you're seeing something like this happen?

ISSA: Well, I think, once again, SIGINT probably played a large part in this. And that's something we can do with large standoff.

Our problem in Syria is, we go in, we bomb, we leave. What we have ultimately learned and we certainly learned in Iraq is, you have to take and hold if you want to ultimately win the war. One of our challenge is, this was a good day. No question at all. I don't want to take anything away from the risk that our special forces took there, but we have learned again and again the best intelligence is when you hold and make a community safe.

Suddenly then and only then do you start having people willing to give you the kinds of information that lets you round up the rest of them. Taking out the number two can be very important. But let's remember, Brianna, we took out Osama bin Laden. The president had hope that that would be the end of Islamic fundamentalism.

Well, it wasn't at all. These people are not unique. Their teachings and well-educated people rising through the ranks will continue for the rest of our lives if we don't begin to disrupt this.

KEILAR: A hydra, as Congressman John Garamendi describes this. You cut off one head and there's another one.

You say signals intelligence important here. What you need to do is clear and hold these communities and make them safe. What are you proposing to do that? That's a lot of resources dedicated to this area.

ISSA: Oh, it absolutely is. And I don't think that currently the United States is prepared to go back in.

And one of the reasons is -- and I'm not trying to be partisan in this case. This administration exited Iraq and said mission accomplished. If we have to go back in, the American people on a bipartisan basis need to understand that it's going to take certain things, well- planned, well-briefed, for us to go back in with a plan to take and to hold, to change the facts on the ground, to begin making Syria and Iraq not a safe haven for terrorists.

And, oh, by the way, we have got to have a comprehensive plan that includes 25 or more nations doing the same thing behind their walls.

[18:25:03]

So, is this something that can happen overnight? No. It's exactly what should be being talked about by both Republicans and Democrats on the campaign trail. This is much more like, if you will, an Eisenhower era, where the Cold War is well under way and you choose your next leader because he or she has what it takes to plan and to execute a winning strategy.

We're not hearing it from Hillary Clinton. We're also not hearing from Republicans right now.

KEILAR: All right, being skeptical, bipartisan skepticism. I see equal opportunity there.

Congressman Issa, thank you so much for being with us.

ISSA: Thank you.

KEILAR: And we do have breaking news continuing next. We will go back live to Brussels, where investigators have identified the second airport suicide bomber. What was his link to the Paris massacre?

And the breaking political news, Ted Cruz accusing Donald Trump of being a -- quote -- or of a, I should say -- quote -- "tabloid smear."

The GOP race getting pretty personal, pretty ugly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:47] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Major breaking news. Developments in the Brussels terror attacks, including a series of anti-terror raids and multiple new arrests as investigators linked this week's bombings with last fall's terror massacre in Paris.

CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in Brussels.

What are you learning, Nick Paton, about this new terror arrests?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a staggering nine in the last 24 hours. Only 3 of those 9 have since been released. And in fact, we attended last night forensic searches of one house which didn't even lead to an arrest in itself, a large uptick in police activity here. Some of it resulting in very tense scenes, gunfire, explosions in the heart of Brussels.

We were at the scene of one of those raids just earlier on today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WALSH (voice-over): Tonight dramatic video taken during a seizing of a man allegedly armed. Shot in the leg by police as he laid on the ground, a robot was sent in to inspect his backpack before he was dragged away.

All of this amid anti-terrorism raids across Belgium and beyond. Explosions and gunfire hitting the city of Brussels, including the district of Schaerbeek, the same area where a taxi driver picked up the three suspects in today's airport bombings.

At least six suspected terrorists arrested overnight. Belgium prosecutors have now confirmed the second airport bomber is 24-year- old Najim Laachraoui, the alleged Paris bombmaker.

CHARLES MICHEL, BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We accept that we need to improve in the fight against terrorism in Europe and Belgium.

WALSH: U.S. authorities believe they know the name of this man seen wearing a hat and light colored clothing in the airport surveillance video. He allegedly left a bomb behind and then fled. U.S. officials have shared this information with Belgian authorities.

German authorities captured two men with alleged ties to Brussels terror cells. One of them a 28-year-old Moroccan man who allegedly received two text messages before the attack. One from the name of Brussels metro bomber Khalid El Bakraoui. The other text message saying, quote, "fin", French for "end."

Just three minutes before, Bakraoui detonated his bomb according to a source briefed by German officials.

PRES. FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRANCE (through translator): In Brussels, as well as in Paris, we arrested a certain number of suspects and we know other networks are still out there. Although we can say the terrorist cell who committed the Paris and Brussels attack is being wiped out, we are still threatened.

WALSH: French officials believe they foiled a planned attack after police raids in the outskirts of Paris recovered TATP explosive and Kalashnikov rifle and caused the arrest of terror plot suspect Reda Kriket.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now, obviously, you saw there, it's the pan continental nature of this threat. The fact these raids in Brussels are linked to arrests in Germany and arrest in France and can cause further raids here in Belgium. It's an increasingly sprawling network here. Just 72 hours ago we thought we were looking at the identity of four individuals being established behind these attacks. Well, it simply grows and grows as the leads grow.

But the question is, what does that tell you about the nature of the threat and how wide it is at this day?

Back to you.

KEILAR: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

Let's dig deeper now into all of this. We have CNN justice reporter Evan Perez, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank and former assistant FBI director and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.

Paul, to you first. We saw in Nick's report there this suspect who was shot in the leg. Do you hear -- are you hearing anything about who this guy is?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: No. Belgian authorities are being very tight-lipped about who this individual is. They are just not releasing that information to the media. They're not releasing the information to us at CNN either. They are being very careful about what they release to the media because there are a lot of ongoing operations right now.

But what has become clear today is that these operations that we saw play out in Brussels a little bit earlier were related to that arrest in Paris of Reda Kriket, an associate of the Paris ring leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud. It was found to have in his position two kilograms of TATP. So, a link between the operation last night in Paris and these operations today in Brussels, obviously, also operations during the course of the night last night. Three of those people we understand are still in custody. One of them has been identified, but three of them have been released.

KEILAR: So, and, Evan, when you look at this, the two kilos of this TATP that Paul referenced there. The AK rifle also found in this raid, does that tell you that this was a planned attack like what we in Brussels and Paris?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: It certainly looks like he was ready to do something and that's one reason why he was arrested. And, you know, the remarkable thing that's been found in the series of raids is the fact that these guys seem to have amassed a lot of supplies and certainly, the weaponry in Belgium, especially there's been a tremendous problem with smuggling of weapons.

The Belgians didn't seem to worry about it that much because a lot of it was being exported to Africa and other places. But now, it's being used on their own people. You'll see more action to try to stem the flow not only of this but also these chemicals which are very common chemicals. In the United States, if you go buy large supplies of beauty supplies, you get a call from the FBI.

KEILAR: What is it, nail polish remover?

PEREZ: Acetone.

Things like that, you get a call immediately from the FBI if you buy large amounts of it.

KEILAR: And that's not happening there?

PEREZ: It's not happening there.

KEILAR: You look at that. You look at the smuggling of weapons which only now are really you have Belgian officials saying you need to do something about this. From your perspective?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: From my perspective, I've been dealing with Western Europeans for more than 25, 30 years, they've been in denial about every major problem that was coming up in Western Europe.

When I was running the FBI's organized crime program and warned them, we have Russian and Eastern European groups spreading out through Western Europe -- no, we don't. They are bringing weapons, narcotics, they're smuggling human beings, they're smuggling alcohol, you name it -- no, they're not. They don't want to hear about it.

Then, this terrorism investigation started and we're talking in the FBI about the need to have intelligence on these groups, to store that intelligence, to cross-reference it later. No, we don't need that. We don't believe in violating their privacy.

PEREZ: Right.

FUENTES: So if we don't have new information on the subject and two years go by, we purge the file. We said, are you kidding? Purge the file? Yes, we purge the file. We don't need it anymore.

We said at the time back in the '90s, we said when John Gotti who is the lead gangster in the United States, we said, when he's 48 years old running the Gambino family, it matters who he ran around with when he was 18. They are like, no, we don't need that.

A state of denial for the need for intelligence and aggressive outreach within their community, they don't do that either. So, they don't get any information. So, it's not a question they won't share it. They won't collect it in the first place.

KEILAR: Many more questions ahead. Gentlemen, stay with me. We'll be back to talk more about this breaking news after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:04] KEILAR: More now on the breaking news. New terror arrests and a wave of raids in Belgium, France and beyond.

I'm going to bring back my panel in here.

Paul Cruickshank, to you, I think a lot of people look at what's going on in Europe from an American standpoint and they wonder, what can the U.S. learn from this at home? What do you think?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, they have to be on the watch out for is-directed attacks. Europe is much more in the crosshairs because so many more Europeans have traveled in Europe, so much closer to Syria and Iraq where ISIS has a safe haven. But they need to be on the watch out because some of these European extremists can travel to the United States on the visa waiver program if they aren't on the watch list. And that, of course, is a concern moving forward, Brianna.

KEILAR: What do you think, Evan, about something we've heard from Secretary Kerry. He says, look, ISIS is losing ground. They still hold a lot of it in Iraq and Syria. Aren't we just seeing the front expand into Europe?

PEREZ: Well, you know, I think a lot of people here in Washington, people who certainly work in counterterrorism were a little in disbelief watching Secretary Kerry's interviews today and his comments on the fact that he believed ISIS was on the wane and retreat.

It is true they are losing some territory in Syria and Iraq, but for the past year, they've been sending their foot soldiers back to Europe. Some of these foreign fighters who have gotten training, they're trained bombmakers a lot of them. And apparently, they are so many of them that they are expendable. They were willing to let them blow themselves up.

So, the real concern that people have is that, no, what we're seeing is ISIS really change and adapt with the times and really with the conditions that it's facing. And that's the big concern is now we're going to see a new face of ISIS. It's going to be not in Raqqah, not in Mosul, not in Baghdad but in Brussels and Berlin and Paris and London.

KEILAR: What do you think?

[18:45:01] FUENTES: There's a big difference between what ISIS accomplishes on the ground in Iraq and Syria and what they are able to now accomplish on the ground in Europe. And the difference is that they've got all of these thousands of Europeans to go to Syria to learn how to shoot, learn how to make explosives. Go back and now wage these attacks because of their propaganda machine.

They were able to show whether it's true or not they were acquiring land. That the caliphate was growing, that they were strong, that they were brutal. They were horrible, torturing people, burning them alive, drowning them, whatever.

And the people that watch this, the young psychopaths in Europe that thought, wow, that's cool, I want to join, they bought into that. The only way they're going to un-buy into that is if they think ISIS is losing. It's not going to be enough. I think Kerry has got a good strategy. Eventually they will die of old age and they'll be gone.

PEREZ: That's a long time.

FUENTES: That's a long time.

But in the meantime, you have to show ISIS losing. It's got to be in videos they are losing.

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: Like this guy we kill today, show it. Show their number two guy getting blown up. KEILAR: That is a discussion for another time as well. Tom Fuentes,

Evan Perez, Paul Cruickshank for being with us.

And for information on what to do to help the victims of the Brussels attacks go to CNN.com/impact.

We have a breaking political news next. Scandalous tabloid allegations against Ted Cruz, he says Donald Trump is behind it, an ugly turn in the Republican presidential contest. Donald Trump speaking out tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:05] KEILAR: The war between Republican presidential rivals Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is growing more bitter and more personal tonight, with Cruz blaming Trump for what Cruz calls a tabloid smear.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on the campaign trail in Wisconsin for us.

And it sounds like Donald Trump is denying having anything to do with this, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. Donald Trump pushed back on this in a lengthy statement this afternoon, saying basically he knows nothing of this story, this after Ted Cruz held a remarkably aggressive press conference today, blasting Donald Trump, blaming him, alleging that he planted this story.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald is fond of giving people nicknames. With this pattern, he should not be surprised to see people calling him "Sleazy Donald".

SERFATY (voice-over): Ted Cruz breathing fire at Donald Trump today.

CRUZ: Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him. And this garbage does not belong in politics.

SERFATY: The Texas senator bringing up unprovoked a tabloid story about him, accusing Donald Trump of being behind it, but not offering any proof to back up his assertion.

CRUZ: This "National Enquirer" story is garbage. It is complete and utter lies. It is a tabloid smear. And it is a smear that has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen.

It is attacking my family and what is striking is Donald's henchmen, Roger Stone, had for months been foreshadowing that this attack was coming. It's not surprising that Donald Trump's tweet occurs the day before the attack comes out.

SERFATY: Trump responded today in a statement saying, quote, "I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it and have not as yet read it." Adding, quote, "Unlike Lyin' Ted Cruz, I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchmen and then pretend total innocence."

Cruz, though, is evading the question whether he could still support Trump if he were the GOP nominee.

CRUZ: I do not make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family.

SERFATY: This comes as a GOP rivals have been sparring in sharply personal attacks involving their spouses.

CRUZ: And to Heidi, isn't she going to make an amazing first lady?

SERFATY: Campaigning side by side with his wife today, Cruz calling out Donald Trump directly to the crowd.

CRUZ: You know, in the last few days, Donald Trump has taken to attacking Heidi.

(BOOS)

SERFATY: Part of Trump's attacks, a tweet threatening to spill the beans on Heidi Cruz and a retweet of a split screen image of his wife, Melania, and Heidi Cruz, with the caption "The images are worth a thousand words."

Cruz looking to frame this as a pattern for Trump.

CRUZ: Donald does seem to have an issue with women. Donald doesn't like strong women. Strong women scare Donald.

SERFATY: This isn't the first time Trump has stirred up controversy with his comments about women, including FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.

SERFATY: Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: And Hillary, who's become very shrill. You know the word "shrill"? She's become shrill.

SERFATY: The latest CNN/ORC poll shows that while 59 percent of Republican women have a favorable view of Trump, 39 percent have an unfavorable view, and his unfavorable mark jumps to 73 percent among registered women voters nationwide, revealing how much of an uphill climb he could face in a general election if he emerges as the nominee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:55:00] SERFATY: And Cruz also blasted Trump from being absent from the campaign trail this week. Cruz saying that Trump is just hiding out he says in Trump Tower, basically picking fights over Twitter.

Now, Brianna, Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail next week.

KEILAR: All right. Sunlen, stick around with me as I bring in Olivia Nuzzi, she's a writer for "The Daily Beast". We also have national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics", Rebecca Berg.

So, Rebecca, you have Ted Cruz. He's addressed this. Donald Trump kind of seems to be stoking the fire in this.

One of the things Republicans have frequently prided themselves on, especially as we're watching this attack in Brussels and the aftermath of it, has been to be very serious when you're talking, when you're sort in the midst of these events.

Is it damaging the Republican brand that this is what Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are talking about?

REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I'm not sure it damages the Republican brand anymore than the Republican brand has already been damaged by Donald Trump being in this race. This is certainly par for the course for this election cycle. And I'm sure that Ted Cruz and his campaign would have preferred to focus the attention on something more serious like Brussels, because they tend to think that those more sober policy issues are where he can really flourish against Trump. Not these petty back alley fights, so to speak.

KEILAR: Yes.

BERG: So, it probably doesn't damage the Republican brand, but it's probably not good for Ted Cruz and Republicans hoping to overtake Donald Trump if they're distracted with these fight fights.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a really good point.

Let's talk about the gender problem there, Sunlen. You look at the CNN polling. Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, and then when you look at how women are relating to Donald Trump, only one out of every four registered voters registered voters, you see here, this is just a break down between men and women, and how Hillary Clinton isn't doing quite as well with men, but he's doing very poorly with women.

It's even worse among registered voters, one in four approve of how -- approve of Donald Trump. That's a problem, isn't it?

SERFATY: It certainly is. You know, this is a very clear, a very measurable gap for Donald Trump and certainly would be concerning to any Republican going forward, looking ahead to expanding their base in a general election, but for Donald Trump, that problem seems to be getting worse because if you look beneath those first poll numbers, if you look underneath them, you see month to month more women are taking on more negative views of him from time to time.

So, this is a growing problem. We spent some time today talking to Republican female voters here in Wisconsin, and they largely echo this fact. A lot of women saying that if Donald Trump went on to become the nominee, that they just could not support him and these are tried and true Republican voters.

And these women saying this spat between him and Donald Trump over their spouses in large part contributing deciding that. So, this is a very clear, big red flag certainly for the Republican Party. KEILAR: Olivia, it is a problem for Hillary Clinton that she does

significantly worse with men than Donald Trump?

OLIVIA NUZZI, THE DAILY BEAST: I don't think so. Mitt Romney won white men in 2012. Obviously, we saw how that worked out. He did not become president of the United States. I think it is a much bigger problem that Donald Trump does so poorly among women. I really think it won't matter for Hillary in the end. That won't be a deciding factor if it gets to two of them in the general election.

KEILAR: I want you, guys, to weigh in on something. This is a Jimmy Kimmel bit with Hillary Clinton and it is about mansplaining, which we all know what that is, that's when a man explains something to a woman in a patronizing way.

Let's take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, TV HOST: You go up to that podium and do whatever it is you usually do. Is that what you're going to wear to this?

(LAUGHTER)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, yes, I think.

KIMMEL: I think you need to -- maybe something a little more fun next time, but not too fun. Serious, but not too serious. You want to be stylish without looking like you're trying to be stylish. And also presidential.

CLINTON: OK. I'm just going to wear this.

KIMMEL: OK. You wear that and we'll talk about the outcome later.

CLINTON: So you just want me to talk?

KIMMEL: Yes, just talk. I'll correct you whenever I feel the need.

CLINTON: Well, thank you. It's wonderful to be here with all of you --

KIMMEL: Hold on one second.

CLINTON: Already?

KIMMEL: You're shouting. You're too loud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Olivia, you listen to this. It's almost cringe-worthy in a way. What do you think of this?

NUZZI: I think it's smart for her to talk about that on television, but I don't think it's really going to have a difference in the end. People are very sure about how they feel about Hillary Clinton one way or the other. She's been in the public eye for so long.

So, I don't think really in the end this going to make much of a difference either way.

KEILAR: All right. So, you don't think it is going to make a whole lot of a difference. What do you think, Rebecca?

NUZZI: It's certainly fun. Hillary Clinton has been doing a lot of this sort of self-deprecating humor recently in the campaign. But you look at all this, it's a little too practiced, but kudos to her campaign for realizing that mansplaining is something that millennials will identify and they do respond to.

KEILAR: They do understand.

All right. Guys, thank you so much for being with us.

I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.