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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Defends Aide Over Battery Charges; Cruz Slams 'Abusive Culture' of Trump Campaign; Democrats Prepare for Battle in Wisconsin; Investigators Turn Electronics for Terror Insight. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 29, 2016 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, battery charge. Donald Trump's campaign manager charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly grabbing and pushing a reporter. It was all caught on video. Now Trump is accusing the reporter of grabbing him and asking if he can press charges. We're going to hear live from Trump this hour.

[17:00:17] Facing the voters. Three Republican candidates, one crucial state, and a room full of voters asking very hard questions about the real issues in the campaign. We're counting down to a critical moment in the fight for delegates and the Republican nomination.

And terror messages. The FBI cracks the code, finally gaining access to secret information inside a cell phone belonging to the San Bernardino terrorists. Are there clues that may stop the next terror attack?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Following breaking news and another very unexpected twist in the presidential race. Just moments ago, Donald Trump insisted he will stick by his campaign manager, who Trump says is being unfairly and very seriously maligned.

Corey Lewandowski turned himself in this morning and was charged with simple battery. Police released this video, which Trump says his campaign supplied that appears to show Lewandowski grabbing and pushing former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields three weeks ago tonight. Trump's campaign says Lewandowski is, quote, "absolutely innocent" of this charge. Trump is holding a rally this hour and will take questions from Wisconsin voters and CNN's Anderson Cooper at a CNN presidential town hall later tonight.

Our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin with CNN's Jim Acosta, who's at a Trump rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, right now. Jim, what is Trump now saying about the charge against Corey Lewandowski, his campaign manager?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf, Donald Trump just finished taking questions from reporters at an impromptu news conference here in Wisconsin after he landed in the state. The GOP front-runner is standing by Corey Lewandowski, calling him a fine man. Here's what he had to say just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think if you look at it, he was trying to block her. That's the way I would view it. She's grabbing me and asking questions. She's not even supposed to ask questions.

You know, the press conference lasted for a long time, like 45 minutes, and I was leaving, and she runs up. And you can see -- in fact, there are pictures where she's grabbing -- I can show you some. I actually have some in the other room. That there are pictures where she's grabbing my arm, and I'm going like this, trying to get her off.

I think it's a disgrace that something like that could take place. And I'm shocked by it, and I stick by people. And I know it's probably not even politically good for me to do, but when somebody's maligned so unfairly as that, I will stick by you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, Donald Trump is supposed to speak at this rally at any moment here in Wisconsin. But as you can hear in that audio, Wolf, he is doing heavy-duty damage control after Corey Lewandowski was arrested and charged with battery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Police in Florida released this surveillance video to make their case that Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, broke the law when he grabbed a reporter earlier this month. This notice to appear in court issued to Lewandowski states, "Probable cause exists to charge Lewandowski with one count of simple battery."

The reporter grabbed by Lewandowski, Michelle Fields, is feeling vindicated. Moments after Trump tweeted, "Lewandowski, my campaign manager and a very decent man, was just charged with assaulting a reporter. Look at tapes, nothing there."

She fired back: "My story never changed. Seriously, just stop lying."

For weeks the Breitbart reporter has pointed to photos showing bruises on her arm and this audio of the alleged incident.

MICHELLE FIELDS, FORMER BREITBART REPORTER: I can't believe he just did that. That was so hard! Was that Corey?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, like what threat were you?

FIELDS: That was insane. You should have felt how hard he grabbed me. That was insane. Oh, my gosh, I've never had anyone do that from a campaign. ACOSTA: Trump spokeswoman countered sometimes campaign events get physical.

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: This is no different, for example, when I am in the middle the scrum and get smacked around by television networks. I don't go and sue the television network because I have a cut on my arm from a camera.

ACOSTA: Trump has also stood by his embattled campaign manager.

TRUMP: Everybody said nothing happened. Perhaps she made the story up. I think that's what happened, OK?

ACOSTA: Lewandowski was even more adamant, tweeting to Fields, "You are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you."

After the arrest the Trump campaign and Lewandowski's lawyers released identical statements saying, "Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated."

But coming on the heels of outbreaks of violence at Trump events and the more recent war of words over the candidates' wives, the real- estate tycoon's rivals pounced.

[17:05:09] SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign, the abusive culture when you have a campaign that is built on personal insults, on attacks, and now physical violence, that has no place in a political campaign. It has no place in our democracy.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's frankly totally and completely inappropriate. It could have been one of my daughters, for that matter. I think I've said what I have to say, which is if it was me, if I was in this circumstance, I would take -- I would take some sort of action, either suspension or firing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now the Trump campaign insists Lewandowski was not arrested and, in fact, a mugshot was not taken, but the Jupiter Police Department that's handling the case say he was.

And as for Trump, a spokeswoman for the GOP front-runner says he will continue on with his plans to speak at this rally that's coming up here -- or scheduled to come up here in a few moments and participate in that CNN town hall later on this evening.

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

As we await the start of Donald Trump's campaign rally there in Wisconsin, let's go to our CNN political reporter, Sara Murray. She's at the site of tonight's CNN Republican town hall. That's in Milwaukee. Sara, you've been on the road with Trump as a reporter now for several

months. Trump just insisted once again, his campaign manager did nothing wrong, insists the misdemeanor charge against Corey Lewandowski says nothing about the culture of his campaign. Now, what was your reaction? You surprised by this latest development?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I'm not surprised by it, Wolf. What we've seen is that Donald Trump has been fiercely loyal to Corey Lewandowski, and Corey has been fiercely loyal to Donald Trump in return.

Remember, Corey started with the Trump campaign at a time when most political operatives would have refused and were refusing to take the job. They thought that Donald Trump was a joke. They thought his campaign would go nowhere.

Corey Lewandowski, however, signed on very early, and we've seen, even after Michelle Fields made these initial allegations, that Corey was still standing there, right off stage next to Donald Trump when he was holding his press conferences. Trump recently thanked Corey publicly after an election night in which he won a couple of states.

So I think that we have continued to see Donald Trump sort of remain defiant in the face of these allegations against Corey and make it clear he plans to back him up, no matter what. We saw that again today in the gaggle when Donald Trump said, "I don't -- I don't discard people."

BLITZER: You're where tonight's presidential tonight hall will take place with all three remaining Republican presidential candidates. How do you think this might be addressed, whether the voters stand up and ask questions about it, whether Anderson asks questions about it. Clearly, they all have strong views.

MURRAY: That's a great question, Wolf. And I think it's clear that because it has become a story, Donald Trump will have to address it, whether it comes from the audience or whether it comes from Anderson Cooper.

And I think Trump has kind of given us a preview that he plans to sort of say that Michelle Fields grabbed him first and that she overblew this incident and kind of overplaying her hand. I think the challenge for Trump is whether he can then pivot and get to more of the issues that he wants to talk about that might matter to voters and whether he can sort of move past this and prove to voters that this is not emblematic of how he runs his campaign and that this is not an indication that he or his campaign manager or his campaign, generally, has some kind of problem with women.

This is a narrative that Donald Trump has tried to beat back, this sort of unfavorability among women voters generally. And that's something that people in Wisconsin say could hurt him here.

So I think his goal, going into tonight has got to be move beyond this narrative and to sort of make his case to Wisconsin voters so that he can try to come out on top of Ted Cruz here. BLITZER: Sara Murray on the scene for us at the Republican

presidential town hall that will start at 8 p.m. Eastern later tonight. Sara, thanks very much.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, one of Donald Trump's key supporters, Scottie Nell Hughes of U.S. Radio Networks. Scottie, thanks very much for joining us. How big of a problem is this charge against Corey Lewandowski for the Trump campaign?

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, U.S. RADIO NETWORKS: Well, I think at first when we first heard this, there was a lot to digest. I think the initial response would have been better if Corey would have said I'm sorry in a tweet instead of causing this firestorm in this tit-tat battle that's gone back and forth between him and Michelle Fields.

Now that we've had a few hours to actually review it, review what the police have filed against him, there are some inconsistencies that are starting to come out, Wolf. You know, "The Daily Mail" actually just did a story where they're posting that an anonymous person, an anonymous member of Trump's Secret Service campaign is saying details saying that Fields touched Trump twice and was warned not to by agents to stop.

And then Lewandowski had to be -- step in. "She crossed in between agents and our protectee after being told not to." If that turns out to be true, that might back up why Corey decided to step in.

Also, you want to look at possibly looking at inconsistencies of the photos. If you look at video you played it shows that her shirt is being pulled, more like the top of her shirt, which would suggest that she was pulled on her -- on the top part of the arm. Yet the pictures she tweeted out a few days later were on her wrist; it was on her forearm.

[17:10:14] So there are some questions that still are going to need to be out there. But unfortunately, those people that are anti-Mr. Trump have already made Corey be -- Corey be guilty and that whole idea of being innocent until proven guilty seems to be out of window.

BLITZER: But if this reporter, Michelle Fields, Scottie, was in fact, on two occasions, you say, reaching out and inappropriately touching Donald Trump and if she had been warned -- we don't know if this is true -- but she had been warned by the Secret Service agents on the scene don't do that, isn't it their job to prevent her from touching a presidential candidate not the job of a campaign manager?

HUGHES: Well, you have to wonder, then, why if you sit and you look in that video, Corey's reaching across probably what I assume is a Secret Service agent. If Miss Fields was going to be assaulted, if she was going to be in some sort of fear of trouble, why wouldn't that Secret Service agent step in to protect her as much as Mr. Trump or Corey from that happening?

You had hundreds of people in that room, Wolf. We did not get video for at least 24 to 48 hours of this event happening. If she was in so much -- and let me say this. Michelle Fields is a great reporter. She is definitely one that pushes. She is definitely a very, very aggressive reporter and does a great job at it.

If she was pushing, if she was actually in fear and actually going to -- her life was in turmoil or in danger, don't you think somebody else would have stepped in and said, "You know what? That's not right what just happened"? There was enough men and women both standing around that should have said something if it was that dramatic of an episode, enough to warrant a charge.

Now, Wolf, let me say this. Last year in 2013, 23,000 cases were reported of significant injury due to assault at work. I wonder, of those 23,000, how many of those were filed police reports and how many of them were just because of a few bruises on the job.

BLITZER: Let's listen to Donald Trump just moments ago aboard his plane. He was answering reporters' questions. He said this about the bruises.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think when people see that tape and they take a look at that tape and they take a look at her initial statement, before she knew she was on tape, take a look at that -- you have to see it -- you take a look at her initial statement, it sounded like she got thrown out of a building. You take a look at that, and then -- excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She did get bruises on her...

TRUMP: I don't know if there were bruises from that. Why? Who said they were bruises from that? How do you know those bruises weren't there before?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what the police said.

TRUMP: I don't know what the police said. How do you know those bruises weren't there before? I'm not a lawyer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You heard what he said: he's not a lawyer. How do you know those bruises were from when Lewandowski grabbed her, touched her arm? Your reaction?

HUGHES: We don't know either way. But in this case, I do know both people involved. And just like, you know, the previous hour, there was a great interview with Amanda Carpenter, who I respect so much, who brought the idea, the fact that, you know, "This is not just slandering me. This is not politics. You're slandering my family. I am a wife; I have children." This whole thing has gotten so dirty.

The same thing can also be said for Corey. Corey is an amazing father of four children and an amazing devoted husband if you go back and you actually get to know him. A man of faith. So you know, that just shows how sad this whole political campaign has gone, is that it's not just going after the candidates. We're now trying to attempt to smear families and destroy families; and that is not the Republican Party I belong to. And I would really hope that this might be the last incident in both -- both candidates.

And it starts at the top. Both Senator Cruz and Mr. Trump to say, "You know what? Let's put this aside. Let's go back to focusing on issues, because it's not just about us; it's not only just talking about us. We're destroying families right now that are not only going to affect people but their children for generations to come.

BLITZER: We showed the pictures of the bruises on her arm she herself had tweeted after the incident. There they are once again. She says those were done by Corey Lewandowski. He originally insisted he never even touched her. He, in fact, tweeted at Michelle Fields, "You are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you." Clearly, the video shows he did, in fact, touch her, right?

HUGHES: I don't know what -- there was definitely some very close proximity, obviously, until you zoom in. But either way, like I said, as we started this off, Wolf, I wish that Corey would start off by saying, "You know what? Whether or not it happened, it's unfortunate. I apologize if I did that." In this case, I think apology would have gone a very, very long way. Unfortunately, though, I know apologies and the team is probably a very -- an apologetic administration don't necessarily resonate well within the Trump campaign, whether they're warranted or not.

BLITZER: All right. Scottie, stand by. We have more to discuss, more information coming in. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:19:01] BLITZER: We're standing by for a Donald Trump rally in Janesville, Wisconsin. You're looking at live pictures over there.

Trump's campaign is under fire tonight after a top aide was charged with misdemeanor battery. Trump is defending his campaign manager, telling him to never settle the charge. We're talking about Corey Lewandowski.

We're back with Donald Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes as we follow the hour's breaking news.

Scottie, this is not the first time, as you well know, that Corey Lewandowski has faced accusations of being overly aggressive. Also in March, after this first incident, Lewandowski was caught on camera appearing to grab a protester by his collar during a rally in Tucson, Arizona. We're showing the viewers some pictures. We will show the viewers some video of that in a moment. There it is right there.

So, I guess the bottom line question, is Lewandowski now a liability for Trump?

HUGHES: Well, I don't know about a liability. But let's point this out, that yes, prior to Secret Service coming on, Lewandowski was a part of what they considered to be the body men, the people that helped secure Mr. Trump going from place to place.

And he does -- I'll be the first to say, he definitely does have a hot -- a little bit of a hot head sometimes, but that's because, I mean, look what his background was. He was a state trooper in New Hampshire. He does have some law enforcement training. And I think once you have that kind of training, it's hard to put that away.

That's what I think makes this so interesting and why this is so controversial, Wolf, is because now he is a campaign director. This is not something traditionally you see amongst the campaigns is the campaign directors actually out in the crowd, talking with the people, interacting with the people, whether positively or negatively. Normally, they're in the back.

But that just goes along with the whole idea of the Trump campaign. It's been very nontraditional. It hasn't followed the same stereotypes and the same points that every other presidential campaign has. And there's good and there's bad with that.

And in this case, you know, I think Corey after this, this is going to change how much the media can be a part of any presidential campaign going forward. I guarantee the next time Mr. Trump decides that he's just going to do a casual walk-through, which could be considered a nightmare for most Secret Service agents, a casual walk-through after a media press avail to go to the end and just to say hi to folks, I guarantee next time he probably will second guess that and be afraid that there might not be as much availability to the press after events like this.

BLITZER: As you know, Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich, they both reacted to the charge against Lewandowski today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: It's a very sad development, and this is the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign. The abusive culture. When you have a campaign that is built on personal insults, on attacks and now physical violence, that has no place in a political campaign. It has no place in our democracy.

KASICH: I don't know this guy. I don't know exactly what happened. My understanding is that the report is that he grabbed somebody, and that's frankly totally and completely inappropriate. It could have been one of my daughters, for that matter.

Look, I think I've said what I have to say, which is if it was me, if I was in this circumstance, I would take -- I would take some sort of action, either suspension or firing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Go ahead. Your response?

HUGHES: Of course, this is just another glob of mud that they can throw at the candidate, the front-runner, and hope that they can continue to smear him. I have to ask a question, though. If this person's name, instead of

being Michelle Fields, was Mitch Fields, do you think that this would be an issue? Do you think that there would be police reports files? Just because they're supposedly this smear against Mr. Trump as being anti-woman or having an issue with women, which when you actually look at his acts -- the facts that he does have more women at the top of his organizations, the more he had the first female project manager built his skyscraper here in New York and that we've all seen what he has done to glorify his own daughter within the business world, as well deserved, I think that right there, the actions speak louder than words that these other guys are trying to use against him.

BLITZER: Having said all that, the police report, the charge, which was filed today, Jupiter, Florida, concluded with these words, and I'll just read them to you, Scottie. "Based on the above-described investigation, probable cause exists to charge Corey Lewandowski," and they cite his date of birth, "with one count of simple battery, in that he did intentionally touch Michelle Fields," her date of birth, "against the will of Michelle Fields." That's not -- that's the police making that accusation, that charge. I'll give you the final word.

HUGHES: And that's a very simple accusation to make right there. And of course, I think it's obvious. She obviously would not want him to pull away -- her away from Mr. Trump when asking a question.

The question is, though, was she supposed to be there in the first place? Should she have been there pushing Mr. Trump, or had she already been warned, "Please stay away. This is not the time," or "We're trying to get him out"? Who -- who, you know -- actions have consequences. And so it kind of depends on -- we'll find that all out in court.

BLITZER: Scottie Hughes, thanks very much for joining us.

HUGHES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And please be sure to watch later tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern, as Anderson Cooper moderates the CNN Republican presidential town hall. The final three Republican presidential candidates will take voters' questions, Anderson's questions, as well, later tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, we're awaiting Donald Trump's rally before he attends our CNN town hall later tonight. We're also keeping our eyes on the potential for protests over there in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Also, the FBI breaks the code and begins analyzing the information of the San Bernardino terrorists' cell phone. Will it prevent new terror attacks?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:28:44] BLITZER: pTake a look at this. These are live pictures coming in from Janesville, Wisconsin, outside a rally. Donald Trump getting ready to address folks in Wisconsin right now, but the protesters already have shown up. We're going to have coverage of this coming up. Janesville, Wisconsin, by the way, the hometown of the House speaker, Paul Ryan.

We're also counting down to tonight's CNN Republican town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That's not too far away. And following the breaking news at the same time, Donald Trump strongly depending his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who's facing a misdemeanor battery charge for allegedly grabbing and pushing a reporter.

Senator Ted Cruz is slamming what he calls the abusive culture of Trump's campaign. Our Sunlen Serfaty is covering Senator Cruz right now. She's joining us. What else is he saying, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Cruz is calling it sad and unfortunate, really not mincing words at all. And also trying to portray this as a pattern of the Trump campaign, one that he basically is saying comes from the top down, it comes from Donald Trump himself.

But Senator Cruz is making a very notable, important, very quick pivot here, as well. As he's talking about this drama of today and around the Trump campaign, he's pivoting, and it's back to issues and saying, "Look, my campaign is the one that's talking about opportunity. My campaign is the one that's talking about jobs."

So really trying to paint a clear contrast between the two leading campaigns right now. And this is a real recalibration of strategy that we've seen from the Cruz campaign on the ground here in Wisconsin this week, really laser-focused on the issues.

[17:30:17] In fact, today at his campaign event earlier this morning, Senator Cruz debuted very new branding of his campaign events with the big words up, all bold, all caps, saying, "Jobs, freedom, security," so really trying to refocus on the issues. Very clear the Cruz campaign sees here an opening for him to present himself as the one candidate focused here on the issues.

BLITZER: Looks like Donald Trump now arriving at that rally. We're showing an overhead shot for our viewers in Janesville, Wisconsin.

How crucial, Sunlen, is Wisconsin for Ted Cruz? It's one week from today, next Tuesday.

SERFATY: Well, that's right, Wolf. It is crucial for Ted Cruz certainly in the math here. He has to keep pace with Donald Trump in terms of the delegate counts. That's very important to their strategy overall.

But certainly, it is much more crucial, I would argue, for the momentum. This campaign is entering a phase where there's going to be a big gaps between these primary contests. They're not going to come as fast as we've seen them in recent weeks and months.

So this momentum and really grabbing hold on that momentum coming out of Wisconsin so important for any candidate but especially for Ted Cruz as he's trying to argue that he is the alternative to Donald Trump. He has to walk away here with firm grasp of that -- that argument that he's the alternative, especially as he's trying to argue that Republicans are rallying behind his campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen. Thanks very much. Sunlen Serfaty reporting for us.

We're showing our viewers once again these live pictures of protesters outside the rally in Janesville, Wisconsin. Donald Trump is now on the scene. He'll be speaking shortly there.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM is our CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro; also joining us, our CNN politics executive editor, Mark Preston; our political commentator, the Atlantic Media contributing editor, Peter Beinart; and our legal analyst, Joey Jackson. Lots to assess right now.

Mark Preston, first to you. How much damage do you think this is doing to the Trump campaign, this charge against Corey Lewandowski?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, Wolf, it certainly hasn't been a good day today for Donald Trump. But it's still unclear how much this is actually going to hurt his campaign. He's had several other controversial instances that have happened over the past six or seven months. He seems to come out of them stronger.

Now, we know he just held a news conference with reporters on the plane coming on the way out, and he said he's going to stand by Corey Lewandowski. He said that, even though it might not be politically good for him, he's going to do it. He doesn't leave people behind. This is the kind of tone and rhetoric that really gets the Donald Trump supporters to stay with him and stick with him.

The concern that if I was in the Trump campaign, I would be worried about those centrists Republicans who might be going towards his campaign but are now seeing an incident like this and might have second thoughts.

BLITZER: Ana, you saw a very, very strong defense by Donald Trump of Corey Lewandowski, showing his loyalty to his campaign manager. What's your reaction?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, I think he's, you know, taking a page out of the Donald Trump playbook. That's what he has...

BLITZER: Taking a page out of his own playbook?

NAVARRO: Out of his own playbook. That's what he has been doing for the last ten months, Wolf. He does not back down. He does not apologize. He does not admit mistakes. He just, you know, continues on and barrels on.

I think it's time for him to pivot to be a unity candidate. He is the front-runner. He could very well be the Republican nominee. And he's got to figure out a way to bring Republicans like me into the fold. And there's a lot of us. BLITZER: Is that doable?

NAVARRO: But with me, probably not. But with a lot of others, probably yes. And I think that, in the same way, as Mark just mentioned, that some of his supporters will double down with this kind of attitude, some of us who are his opponents will double down in opposing him when we see this kind of violence, this kind of reaction, this -- this environment that this campaign promotes and has enabled now for months.

It's over and over and over again that it is happening, and it is very distressing for those of us who love democracy, love the process, to see things that, frankly, we see in places like Cuba and Latin America but not in the United States. You don't manhandle reporters. You don't manhandle protesters. You don't do that when you're part of a campaign.

BLITZER: Peter, I'm anxious to get your reaction, especially what you think the loyal base that he has among conservatives, Republicans, independents, for that matter, maybe some so-called Reagan Democrats when he shows this fierce loyalty to his campaign manager.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, his base has been very loyal since he began running last year. The problem is that, even though as his base has remained with him, the rest of America has become increasingly hostile. His -- the level -- his disapproval levels amongst women are approaching 70 percent.

So, in a Republican primary, especially one where he doesn't have to win a majority of the vote and when he's running against Ted Cruz, who has a lot of his own problems in winning among more moderate non- evangelical voters in the north, sure, he may still be able to win Wisconsin and go on to win the nomination.

But where I think a lot of smart Republicans have already come to terms with is that this is repelling so many people who are not his core supporters, that his chances of winning the nomination -- Hillary Clinton is beating him with white women. Mitt Romney killed Barack Obama with white women. If Mitt -- if Donald Trump cannot beat Hillary Clinton with white women, and right now he can't, he has no shot at winning the general election.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the law, Joey. You're a lawyer; you're a legal analyst. You've taken a close look at the video. The police, they say there's probable cause there to file this charge, what they call simple battery, even though there may have been a little touching going earlier from her to him and all of that. What's your analysis? Is there legal basis to go ahead and charge Corey -- Corey Lewandowski with a misdemeanor simple battery charge?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, Wolf, there's a legal basis. The issue is whether or not it will stick. Now, like politics law's about competing narratives that ultimately carry the day.

So the prosecutor's narrative is what the statute says. The law says that battery is when you touch someone and you don't have their consent to do so. That represents a problem for him in this instance.

In addition to that, there's no requirement in the statute that there be any injury, and so the bruises or no bruises become irrelevant.

However, I think the law's often more complicated than that. And the defense perspective would urge either a judge or a jury to evaluate. What was the purpose of the touching? Should she have been in that particular location? Was she there, and was she authorized? Was she getting too close to the candidate? Should she have been getting too close to the candidate? Did he therefore have a need to incidentally touch her to remove her from him?

In addition to the purpose it's going to urged upon a judge or the jury to evaluate what was the severity, a simple grab? Are we going to start criminalizing and putting people in jail for grabbing each other? Would we all not then be in jail?

And then, whether it's required under the statute or not, as a matter of common sense and reason, what was the severity of all this? Bruising, and you report it three days after the fact?

So those are the narratives that are coming into play. And so in response to your question, certainly there's probable cause, but as a matter of standard practice and prosecutorial discretion, should the prosecutor be moving forward in this instance in a case like this?

BLITZER: The police recommend it. One point I just want to get your expertise, Joey. In the complaint that says incident occurred on Friday, March 11. She waited until Tuesday, March 8, to file a complaint. She waited three days, basically. I'm sure the defense attorneys will argue that's a problem as far as going forward with this case. What do you say?

JACKSON: They certainly will. From a prosecutor's perspective, it doesn't matter. If I went on Friday and it happened on Tuesday, it was the first occasion and opportunity that she went to present the charge, and she did so. And therefore, it's of no moment that she waited three days. That's the prosecutor's position.

Of course, the defense's position if you claim the bruising. Now, on the one hand, bruises develop in three days. On the other hand, how do we know that those bruises are legitimate and they were the result of what he did? Not that bruising at all is an element of the charge, meaning no bruising at all is not required, but it goes to your credibility.

And at the same time, if it was so offensive, if you were so not consenting to it, if it was outrageous to you, why would you not wait that amount of time and not report it immediately?

And so again, Wolf, I end where I began. It's competing narratives in law. What narrative will carry the day? That's going to depend upon ultimately how it moves forward.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everyone, stand by. There's more to assess. Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:21] BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump. He's getting ready to address a rally in Janesville, Wisconsin. Stay tuned for that.

Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential candidates, they're also campaigning in the crucial Midwestern battleground of Wisconsin. Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny's, out on the campaign trail. He's in West Ellis, Wisconsin, right now.

Jeff, on the Democratic side, what's the latest?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Hillary Clinton also weighing in just a few moments ago to reporters in Lacrosse, saying that the ultimate responsibility for Corey Lewandowski rests with Donald Trump for the tone and the rhetoric of the campaign.

But of course, by now, Hillary Clinton had hoped to be focusing on Donald Trump or the Republican nominee. But of course, she still has a hot race on her hands with Bernie Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): The Democratic fight for Wisconsin is on. As Hillary Clinton tries to look ahead, Bernie Sanders is working to block her path.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won, have won 6 out of the last 7 elections, often by landslide victories. That's called momentum.

ZELENY: The Wisconsin battleground will help determine strength of Sanders' argument to stay in the race until the end. In the Badger State today, it seemed like Groundhog Day, Clinton and Sanders making familiar cases.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to keep talking about this.

ZELENY: For Clinton, it was on guns.

CLINTON: I pledge to you, if I'm so fortunate enough to be elected president, I'm going to keep talking about it and acting on it and working.

ZELENY: Appearing with mothers of gun violence victims, and suggesting Sanders is weak on the issue.

CLINTON: There are a lot of powerful lobbies -- don't get me wrong -- Wall Street, drugs, big oil.

[17:45:02] There's lots of powerful lobbies. Nothing is more powerful than the gun lobby.

ZELENY: Sanders says his rival was too close to Wall Street and big campaign contributors.

SANDERS: I'm not wasting my time going to rich people's homes begging them for their campaign contributions. I'd rather be here with you in Appleton than begging billionaires for their money.

ZELENY: In the middle of it all a raging debate over debates. Sanders calling for another debate before the April 19th New York primary.

JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't know why the Clinton campaign is afraid to debate in New York.

ZELENY: The Clinton campaign calling it a publicity stunt for a candidate locked in second place. Perhaps but that's precisely what Clinton did eight years ago.

CLINTON: I'll debate anytime, anywhere. Look, I'm so sleep deprived it doesn't matter. Anytime, anywhere. I'll show up.

ZELENY: Back then, Barack Obama declined. Like she's doing now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now of course just a few moments ago, Wolf, she did tell reporters in Lacrosse that our campaign is open to a debate. Now no details have been set yet. It all hinges on what happens here in Wisconsin, this key primary one week from today.

Bernie Sanders is going to be coming here to a rally to the Wisconsin state fair grounds. He's been doing big rallies across the state and he thinks Wisconsin could be a winning place for him next Tuesday.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thanks very much. Jeff Zeleny reporting for us.

A note to our viewers, stay with CNN, a special interview coming up with Senator Bernie Sanders. That's later tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

Coming up here, we're standing by once again to hear from Donald Trump. He's about to speak at a campaign rally in Janesville, Wisconsin. We'll be right back.

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[17:51:21] BLITZER: Counterterrorism officials are digging into unanswered questions from recent attacks in the United States and in Europe that they're often frustrated by a missing piece, data from cell phones and computers belonging to the terrorist attackers. But classified new hacking techniques could be giving investigators a huge boost.

Brian Todd is joining us. He's got details.

Brian, what are you learning? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight the FBI is taking the

offensive in two high-profile electronic counterterror operations. Law enforcement officials tell CNN the bureau with the help of an outside hacker finally broke into the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, Syed Farook, and tonight across the Atlantic, Belgian officials have enlisted the FBI's help in combing through the computers and phones of suspects in the Brussels attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Belgian officials scrambling to track the terror cell that struck in Brussels could not access some of the data on laptops and cell phones they confiscated in raids.

Tonight, they're getting crucial help from the FBI. U.S. officials telling CNN computers, hard drives, cell phones of Brussels suspects are being combed through for clues by the bureau.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Think of the phone or the computer as sort of a memory card, right? And so it's going to link investigators to everyone they were in contact with, what Web sites were they looking at, how were they devising their plan.

TODD: "The Wall Street Journal" reports a laptop computer seized in Brussels led investigators to a nephew of the two brothers who blew themselves up in the suicide attacks last week. "The Journal" reports officials they found traces of explosives in the nephew's hair and clothing. But the FBI could also help the Belgians crack the terrorists' cell phone security codes.

That could be even more critical tonight since analysts say Belgian authorities are at a disadvantage with human intelligence.

TIM LISTER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The level of the intelligence within the community of jihadists, those circles here, it's poor, they admit as much, that they don't have the resources to really get inside these communities which are, if you like, almost hermetically sealed off from the rest of society.

TODD: Meantime tonight, the FBI is claiming success in the notorious terrorism case on American soil. Government officials say the FBI was able to break into the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. They did so with the help of a third party hacker not with Apple's help even though the bureau had been battling Apple in court to get the company's help.

Law enforcement officials are not saying what they found on Farook's phone. Apple wants to know how the phone was breached and privacy advocates say the FBI should tell the company.

CHRIS SOGHOIAN, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTY UNION: The government is also gambling that no one else will independently discover this information and use it to attack Apple's customers. I personally feel like the government should report this information. Cyber security is more important than the FBI surveillance capabilities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: So will the FBI share those hacking methods with Apple? Law enforcement officials are not commenting on that to us and they're not revealing the identity of the third party hacker who helped the FBI break into Syed Farook's phone -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's really amazing fascinating stuff.

But, Brian, tracking the Brussels suspects, I'm told, could be made even more difficult because some of those terrorists are now using what they described as lower-tech methods to communicate, right?

TODD: They're always seem like one step ahead here, Wolf. Terrorists know law enforcement is getting better at tracking and breaking encryption. Sometimes they meet in person to communicate, they use couriers and after the Paris attacks officials said those terrorists had sometimes communicated with kind of primitive prepaid phones that was activated shortly before they were used and then they were tossed.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff, amazing stuff, I must say, and maybe why relatives are involved in some of these operations as well because they can talk amongst themes.

[17:55:05] Brian Todd, thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump is about to speak in a rally in Wisconsin. We're monitoring protests outside that rally. They're beginning to develop. You're looking at live pictures right now. We're going to have details. Much more coming up.

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