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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Idaho Senator James Risch; Terror Fears; Trump Stumps Again; Brussels Terrorists Originally Planned to Strike France; : Cruz Expects Win in Contested Convention; Sanders: I Have 'Doubts' About Clinton's Judgment; U.S.-Trained Afghan Soldiers Defecting to Taliban. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 11, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:10]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: Trump stumps again. After several days off, Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail with a vengeance accusing the Republican Party of rigging the system. Tonight, a new poll gives him a massive lead over his opponents in New York, where Trump is about to hold a rally with supporters. We're standing by to hear from the Republican front-runner.

Shadow campaign. Trump is winning in the polls, but he might be losing a crucial battle behind the scenes. Trump's convention manager is now accusing Ted Cruz of using gestapo tactics to win over the delegates he will need to secure the nomination. Does his comparison to the Nazi secret police cross the line?

Questioning her judgment. Bernie Sanders recalibrating his attacks on Hillary Clinton after first saying she was unqualified for the presidency. Sanders now says Clinton lacks the judgment for the job. Clinton is unleashing attacks of her own, accusing Sanders of supporting vigilantes instead of immigration reform. Will the two Democrats escalate their feud at CNN's presidential debate this Thursday night?

And another Paris attack. The suspect who fled the scene in the Brussels airport bombing confesses to police. He says he and his fellow terrorists had been planning a much larger attack in Paris before moving up the time frame. Is the French capital still in the crosshairs?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news.

After a day of leveling brutal accusations at his party and his opponents, Donald Trump is about to address a rally in New York where a new poll shows him with a 33-point lead over his nearest challenger. His anger his aimed squarely at the Republican primary process, which he calls rigged and crooked. Trump's campaign is busy attacking his fellow candidates, as well, his

convention manager slamming Ted Cruz for using gestapo tactics to round up delegates. John Kasich is also going after Cruz's methods, alleging strong-arm tactics by his campaign at the state convention in Michigan. Kasich and his family will appear tonight on 9:00 p.m. Eastern at a town hall with New York voters.

We're also tracking important developments in Belgium right now, where a suspect in the Belgium bombings is spilling secrets to investigators. He says that Paris, not Brussels, was the original target, but the terrorists decided to change plans after a member of their cell was arrested.

We're joined by Senator James Risch of Idaho. He's a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, you're following the race for the Republican nomination. What's the latest?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as this race potentially moves closer towards a contested convention, the emphasis for all the campaigns right now is really about having a solid organizational base and being able to manage the rules to win over delegates.

Donald Trump right now is being outorganized, and tonight he's blaming the system, saying it is rigged.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a crooked system, folks. It's a crooked system.

SERFATY (voice-over): Outraged over being outmaneuvered, tonight, Donald Trump is going on the offensive.

TRUMP: We have got a corrupt system. It's not right. We're supposed to be a democracy. We're supposed to be -- we're supposed to be, you vote and the vote means something.

SERFATY: As Trump voices complaints with the GOP delegate selection process, Ted Cruz's campaign is demonstrating its organizational strength.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the latest thing he seized upon is when people vote against him, they're stealing the election.

SERFATY: Cruz's campaign winning a clean sweep in Colorado this weekend, picking up all 34 of the delegates at stake in the state. But Trump is crying foul on the Cruz campaign's tactics. TRUMP: What they're trying to do is subvert the movement with crooked

shenanigans, all right? And we're just not going to let it happen. We're not going to let it happen.

SERFATY: Trump's new convention manager taking his criticism of the Cruz operation one step farther.

PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CONVENTION MANAGER: You go to these county conventions and you see the tactics, the gestapo tactics, the scorched-earth tactics.

QUESTION: Gestapo tactics? That's a strong word.

MANAFORT: Well, you look at -- we're going to be filing several protests, because the reality is they are not playing by the rules.

SERFATY: But the Trump camp gave no specifics or evidence about what those tactics might be, and the Cruz campaign is firing back, rejecting those charges as just sour grapes, adding "We are winning because we have put in the hard work to build a superior organization."

[18:05:12]

This as the Texas senator is no longer downplaying the chances that the race will be settled at the convention this July.

CRUZ: The odds of going to a contested convention in Cleveland have become much, much higher.

SERFATY: Cruz now openly admitting a contested convention could be his best shot at winning the nomination.

CRUZ: In that scenario, I think we will go in with an overwhelming advantage. I believe the first ballot will be the highest vote total Donald Trump receives and on a subsequent ballot, we're going to win the nomination and earn a majority.

SERFATY: Meantime, "The Boston Globe" launching an attack on the GOP front-runner, publishing a satirical front page in the opinion section of its Sunday edition, warning readers about the deeply troubling risks of a Trump presidency.

TRUMP: I couldn't care less.

SERFATY: Trump brushing it off and blasting the newspaper.

TRUMP: They made up -- the whole front page is a make-believe story, which is really no different from the whole paper for the whole thing. The whole thing is made up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And in the midst of all this focus on the organizational strength of each campaign, it turns out that two of Donald Trump's children will not be able to cast their vote for him in next week's New York primary.

Both Eric and Ivanka Trump missed the deadline to switch their voter registration from Democrat to Republican. Now Donald Trump, Wolf, reacting to that news today, saying they were both unaware of the rules and for that they feel very, very guilty -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure they do. All right, thanks very much for that, Sunlen.

Let's go to our political reporter, Sara Murray. She's following the Trump campaign in Albany, New York, right now.

Sara, what can we expect to hear from the Republican presidential front-runner? I see the crowd beginning to gather behind you.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We're expecting to hear from Donald Trump in just a few minutes.

And I think we're going to be looking for him, of course, to hit Ted Cruz. He's been hammering him hard in New York. But I think we're also going to see whether Donald Trump vents more of his frustration over the way the process has been playing out and also whether he directs more of that to the Republican Party.

Remember, he just had a meeting a few weeks ago with officials from the RNC. They were kind of trying to mend fences. And these are important relationships, important interactions to maintain as you're trying to woo these delegates, woo these state activists.

Last night, Trump took a much sharper tone toward party officials. We will see if he keeps that up tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Trump's convention manager, Paul Manafort, is insisting that Trump will get the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination by June. How realistic is that?

MURRAY: I spoke to a number of people today who have been involved in convention organizing, who have been involved in contested conventions. They have kind of pegged Donald Trump's odds at clinching 1,237 delegates before Cleveland at around 50/50.

They also give a sense of why we're seeing Paul Manafort come out there and say, we're going to get the delegates we need before we get to Cleveland. And that's because when I talk to these folks, and these are reportedly Republican Party insiders, they say, look, Donald Trump is out there and it goes to a second ballot, you are pretty much guaranteed to have this be anyone but Trump.

And I think you're seeing a little bit of recognition of that within Donald Trump's own campaign. That's why they are pushing so hard to get what they need before they get to Cleveland. But to do that, that's probably going to mean winning over a number of unbound delegates too. And they're to need to show that they have the seeing and organizational prowess to do that, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sara, thanks very much, Sara Murray in Albany, New York.

We will stand by to hear from Donald Trump.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM is Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho. He's a member of both the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.

Lots to discuss, Senator Risch. Thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: So, you know that Trump says the people of Colorado had their votes stolen, if you will, taken away, even implying that the Cruz campaign is bribing delegates, if you will. You know the Republican rules.

Is Trump right? Did Ted Cruz go beyond the acceptable, if you will, to get all those delegates in Colorado?

RISCH: First, a disclaimer. I'm not a surrogate here for anybody but, having said that, for whatever reason, there seems to be this myth out there in the American public that somehow the nominating process belongs to the government or belongs to people.

This is a Republican process. We're not in the process of electing a president. We're in the process of selecting a candidate to represent the party in the election that will be held in November. In November is when you have a government-sponsored election to elect the president of the United States.

Until then, it is governed by a private entity that is protected by the First Amendment freedom of association. They can write whatever rules they want.

BLITZER: Are you OK with a bunch of Republican elites, if you will, establishment, basically coming up with a decision to go ahead and allocate these delegates for the convention?

RISCH: What I'm OK with is that every state, indeed sometimes every precinct does it differently. We started in Iowa, as you know.

[18:10:00]

And I was there in Iowa caucusing for Senator Rubio. And we had -- we went to a number of different precincts. And the rules are different in every place.

BLITZER: But you would like to see the Republican Party move towards one person, one vote, instead of having all these convoluted systems, basically different rules all over the place?

RISCH: That's the government. No. I think the party ought to be able to write its own rules, and not just the national party, but I think the state parties, the county parties and the precinct parties all write their own rules. This is Americans doing what they do best.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, it's OK that in some states, you have a primary and majority rules, that's how they allocate the delegates?

RISCH: If that's how they want to do it, absolutely.

BLITZER: In other states, they have nothing. They just have a little convention. People show up and they decide, a small percentage of the actual Republicans in that state.

RISCH: Well, actually, each state is different.

If you drill down into each of those states, there's a reason they have the rules they do. And everybody is aware of the rules. They haven't changed.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But should the rules be changed, though? I guess that is the bottom-line question.

RISCH: No. No.

BLITZER: You like it the way it is?

RISCH: Absolutely.

In Idaho, we do it with an election that is handled very similar to a regular election. But four years ago, we did it by a caucus. And there's people who grumble about it and there's people who are happy about it. But we're free. We're free to do it the way we want to do it.

BLITZER: Was it appropriate for Paul Manafort, the convention manager for the Donald Trump campaign, to use the words gestapo tactics in going after the way the Cruz campaign is getting these delegates?

RISCH: I think it was naive. This is politics. This is what you do in politics, is you go out and you try to persuade people to vote for you or vote for your candidate.

And you can call it gestapo candidates. If they use that word gestapo candidates...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Gestapo tactics is the way -- that was -- the gestapo, in World War II, you know what the gestapo did.

RISCH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And that goes beyond the pale, to start accusing the Cruz campaign of engaging in -- quote -- "gestapo tactics."

RISCH: Whoever uses a Nazi metaphor first loses.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That should be a rule. You don't make Holocaust -- you don't use words like that easily, given the sensitivities involved.

RISCH: Right. No question about it.

BLITZER: You agree that was inappropriate?

RISCH: When people are not winning, they get stung and they say things that probably in retrospect they wish they hadn't said.

BLITZER: All right, the last time you were here, you caused a little buzz out there.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We had an exchange about whether or not you're going to endorse any of these three remaining Republicans.

I will play a little clip of that just to remind you of that exchange.

RISCH: Do we have to do that?

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So far your only, I think, by our count, the third senator -- Republican senator who now effetely on this program has come out and endorsed Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee your colleagues that they have. But I haven't seen a whole ...

RISCH: Did I just endorse, Wolf?

BLITZER: I don't know, you sort of said you prefer him over the other two.

RISCH: I do.

BLITZER: That sounds like an endorsement. Doesn't it?

RISCH: I guess it depends on your definition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sort of an endorsement.

Well, have you now fully endorsed Senator Cruz? Where do you stand now?

RISCH: Well, I'm no different than when I was here before.

By process of elimination, I think Ted Cruz is the one that will do best for the party in November. Now, I don't consider that an endorsement. We may be able to get out the dictionary and talk about it. BLITZER: Can we say you have endorsed Ted Cruz?

RISCH: No, you can't say that.

BLITZER: So, you're still....

RISCH: You said that. I didn't say that.

BLITZER: I say it, because you say you like him better than either Kasich or Trump.

RISCH: And that's what's you ought to say.

BLITZER: Yes, because a lot of people have added your name to the list. There are three senators now who have -- quote -- "endorsed Cruz."

RISCH: I doubt that's going to sway the race one way or the other that dramatically.

BLITZER: You aren't taking it back, though, what you said? You're sticking by that?

RISCH: No, no, I think we had a good exchange. You used the word endorsement. I didn't.

BLITZER: Don't want to use that word.

RISCH: We will go forward as...

BLITZER: So, you still have some qualms about Ted Cruz?

RISCH: Look, we can do it again. There's three people in this race. If you do it by process of elimination, it comes down to Cruz.

BLITZER: Stand by. We have more to discuss.

I want to get into some other issues as well. Much more with Senator Risch after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:18]

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear once again from Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump. He's getting ready to speak with his supporters at a rally in Albany, New York.

In the meantime, let's discuss more of today's news with Senator James Risch of Idaho. He's a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.

President Obama, as you know, yesterday in that interview with FOX News, he described Hillary Clinton's e-mail practices, saying -- quote -- "There's classified and then there's classified."

Do you believe it was appropriate for the president to weigh in on this current FBI investigation into her private e-mail server?

RISCH: Interesting you used the word appropriate, because I was going to start by saying it's inappropriate for him to do so.

Look, there's an investigation going on by the Justice Department. The Justice Department is headed by the attorney general, who is answerable to the president of the United States. If he gets up there and says, look, this is a foregone conclusion she didn't do anything wrong, where is the fairness? Where is the objectivity?

What he should have said is, look, there's an ongoing investigation. I'm not going to wade into this. It's up to the Justice Department.

But he gave them a clear clue and a clear direction as to where they should take this. It was totally inappropriate.

BLITZER: Because when he says there's classified and then there's classified, there are different levels of classification.

RISCH: True.

BLITZER: There's confidential, there's secret, there's top secret, there's secure, compartmented. There's all different levels. Do you think that is what he was referring to?

RISCH: I can't answer what he was referring to, other than I think he was trying to get the investigation moving in a direction he'd like to see.

But , look, if it's classified, it's classified. And it is subject to very clear and certain rules that anybody who deals with this material will know in a second if they look at a piece of paper that's got information on it, they will know whether that's classified or not.

[18:20:05]

BLITZER: Even if it wasn't marked classified?

RISCH: Clearly. Clearly.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about what happened in Brussels.

RISCH: We get lots of material that is not marked classified, but we know it's classified.

BLITZER: As a member of the Intelligence Committee?

RISCH: Of course, yes.

And our -- we get information the same way the president and the secretary of state does.

BLITZER: When you go into that secure room and read classified information, it clearly says classified? RISCH: Sometimes, it does. Sometimes, it doesn't. There are people who you get things from that you know what they are giving you is classified.

BLITZER: You have got to be careful in disseminating that kind of information, obviously.

RISCH: Very, very careful.

BLITZER: Let's talk about what happened over the weekend in Brussels. They arrested the so-called man with the hat on, that white jacket.

Supposedly, he's cooperating now, saying there was a much bigger plan to go after targets in Paris, but after the arrest of one of -- other member of his cell, they decided to accelerate their timeline and go after those targets in Brussels at the international airport and at that metro station. What else do we know? What else is he saying?

RISCH: Well, I think pretty much the Belgians have released what he is saying. They do it a little differently there than they do in other places. But there's a lot of information that's come out of this. None of it is...

BLITZER: Is this guy cooperating, Mohamed Abrini?

RISCH: He is cooperating.

BLITZER: He is?

RISCH: And beyond that, he is cooperating.

BLITZER: I assume the Belgian authorities, they get this information, they share it with their allies, including the United States. Do they?

RISCH: Well, they have rules in Belgium that are a little different than other places.

But these matters do have a way of getting passed to other agencies. And it is being disseminated amongst the European intelligence community.

BLITZER: And so I assume the United States gets access to that at some point?

RISCH: We will get access to that information. That's correct.

BLITZER: Are there other plots by this cell in the works right now?

RISCH: I am not aware of any specific plot.

From a general standpoint, what this whole scenario has -- should teach people is that these -- this planning is going on, that there is plotting that's going on. There is a very difficult environment on the ground in Europe right now because of the substantial population of people that they have who have traveled back and forth from Syria and who have actually fought with ISIS and then come back to live in the communities in Europe.

It is a different situation there than we have here.

BLITZER: And if these guys are now cooperating, I think they have three of these members of the cell in their custody right now. Obviously, potentially a bonanza of information could be made available.

RISCH: Hopefully.

BLITZER: Senator Risch, thanks for coming in.

RISCH: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're standing by once again for Donald Trump. He's about to speak to a rally in Upstate New York in Albany amid a nasty feud with the Republican Party and his GOP rivals.

Plus, the Democratic candidates are changing tactics ahead of next week's crucial New York primary. That's a week from tomorrow. Bernie Sanders now questioning Hillary Clinton's "judgment" and says he has doubts about her ability to do the job. How is Hillary Clinton fighting back? We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:27:48]

BLITZER: Donald Trump is campaigning in his home state of New York. He's about to hold a rally with his supporters in the state capital of Albany.

First, let's dig deeper with our political experts. CNN senior political commentator former Obama adviser David Axelrod is with us. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here. David Swerdlick, an assistant editor at "The Washington Post." And CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza, he's the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.

Gloria, Donald Trump, he is lashing out at Senator Cruz after Cruz won all of Colorado's delegates in that state convention this weekend. Is this a smart strategy for Trump?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, in the short term, I think it makes a lot of sense, because what Donald Trump is saying plays right into his brand, which is that the establishment of the Republican Party, i.e., Ted Cruz, is trying to rig this election against Trump.

And so what it does in the short-term is it motivates his voters and motivates his base and gets people out there and maybe motivates some of his supporters to try and become delegates to the convention and get on the rules committee.

In the long term, however, Trump's got a problem, if he can't figure out how to, you know, get his delegates committed to him on the convention floor, because the rules are the rules. They're not going to change. You can't change them in the middle of the game. He has to figure out a way to win once he gets to the convention if indeed it's contested, as it looks like it's going to be.

BLITZER: David, Senator Cruz clearly dominating the behind-the-scenes fight for delegates right now over the weekend. He said he likes his odds on the convention floor. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald's path to 1,237 is almost impossible. It means the odds of going to a contested convention in Cleveland have become much, much possible. I believe the first ballot will be the highest vote total Donald Trump receives and on a subsequent ballot we are going to win the nomination and earn a majority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, David, how does Cruz's strategy change now that he's seemingly acknowledging a contested convention is his only path to the nomination?

AXELROD: Well, Wolf, what I think is becoming increasingly clear is that Ted Cruz can't win on the first ballot, and Donald Trump probably can't win on the second, third, fourth or any subsequent ballot. And that's the nature of this race.

[18:30:15] Donald Trump needs to win on the first ballot. I think Ted Cruz is right, and he wants to at least get close enough so that he's within hailing distance and can persuade some of these unbound delegates to come with him.

But once it goes to a second ballot, and a lot of these delegates are released from their obligations, it's very unlikely that Donald Trump can win. And that's -- that's coming into sharper focus by the day.

BLITZER: It certainly is. You know, David, Trump released a video, shared a video, if you will, hosted by one of his supporters in Colorado. A Colorado delegate reacting to Senator Cruz's clean sweep of the delegates there. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a copy of my Republican Party registration. And Republican Party, take note. I think you're going to see a whole lot more of these. I've been a Republican all my life, but I will never be a Republican again. Now what do you think is going to happen when millions more like me do the exact same thing? Good-bye GOP. I will not be forced to vote for somebody that I won't -- don't want to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So David, is this a sign of stuff to come if Trump is denied that nomination? If he gets close but not -- doesn't get over the majority?

AXELROD: Well, it's probably the sign of more videos to come. I hope it's not a sign of, you know, chaos and conflict at the convention.

But, look, here's the thing. That is in line with the sentiment of many Trump supporters, right? They feel like the establishment, the Republican Party establishment, the establishment on both parties has betrayed rank-and-file voters on the other hand.

The Colorado Republican Party decided on these rules. And even if he has a point that there's a superior way to choose delegates, a primary or even a caucus, rather than just having a party convention. Those are the rules.

BLITZER: Majority in a new poll, 64 percent, Ryan, of Republican voters say the party should give Trump the nomination if he has the most delegates going in, even if he doesn't necessarily go over that 1,237, that magic number. So does that narrow the chances, the result of this pole presumably for Cruz?

LIZZA: I don't think it does. I think what it means is a lot of voters, because we haven't had a contested convention in so long, don't really understand the rules of the game. Right? And all these candidates going in knew the rules of the game, that the delegates at the convention choose the nominee.

Now, most delegates are bound by their state results. If you win the primary, you win the caucus, those delegates go to the convention, and they have to vote for you on the first ballot. If you don't -- if you haven't won enough primaries and caucuses to get to a majority, then you don't win on the first ballot. And those are the rules of the game. I think this poll reflects the fact that a lot of people don't quite understand that.

And as a democracy, intuitively, we think whoever gets the most delegates at the end of the process, they should get the ballot. I think the RNC has to do a much better job educating the American public about what their process is, or this lack of understanding is going to continue.

BORGER: You know, Wolf, I think it ado depends on what the margin is, right? I think if, say, hypothetically, if Donald Trump were to go into the convention, and he sort of was 50 votes shy of 1,237, I think it would be very hard to deny him the nomination, because I think he could wrangle those -- those 50 votes.

But if it's more substantial margin, then I think it gets more and more difficult for him. So I think the game right now for Trump is, can he find a pathway, no matter how narrow, to get close to the 1,237, even if he can't cross the finish line, because then he has a better case to make, I think, to the convention delegates?

LIZZA: Between June 7 and the convention, it's a big period of time. It will be a big group of delegates that are free agents, and that will be a wooing process.

BLITZER: Five weeks or so, six weeks.

All right, guys. Stand by. We have a lot more to discuss.

Stay with CNN, by the way, all this week as the Republican presidential candidates, their wives, their kids, they take questions from New York voters in three town halls over three remarkable evenings.

Tonight, John Kasich and his family. Tomorrow Donald Trump and his family. Wednesday, Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, all starting 9 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:39:39] BLITZER; We're standing by for a campaign rally. Donald Trump getting ready to speak in Albany, New York. But there are other important developments on the Democratic side, as well, where New Yorkers are choosing between two candidates with very strong ties to the Empire State.

Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is following the campaign for us. He's in Port Washington, New York, for us right now. What's the latest, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Hillary Clinton may be running television ads against Donald Trump. But on the ground here in New York, she's aggressively going after Bernie Sanders on everything from immigration to guns to how prepared she is to be president.

[18:40:10] When asked about this dual-track strategy today, she said, "I can walk and chew gum at the same time."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, everybody.

ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton started the day with one rival on her mind.

CLINTON: Trump's rhetoric, his divisiveness, his incitement of aggressive behavior, even violence, is absolutely unacceptable and needs to be called out.

ZELENY: From the campaign trail to a new campaign commercial.

CLINTON: Donald Trump says we can solve America's problems by turning against each other.

ZELENY: But in her fight for the New York primary, Clinton's fixation on Trump is actually all about a far more pressing rival, Bernie Sanders. She's hoping to show Democrats she's the toughest candidate to take on Trump.

But Sanders is focused squarely on Clinton, reminding Democrats they have a choice. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be damned

if we're going to see the American dream die.

ZELENY: Traveling in upstate New York today, Sanders said voters should think big and not take no for an answer.

SANDERS: What may have been considered unrealistic or pie-in-the-sky just a few years ago has now been achieved in New York, because you made it happen.

ZELENY: At a diner in Queens, Clinton raised questions about how prepared Sanders is for the job.

CLINTON: I have noticed that, under the bright spotlight and scrutiny here in New York, Senator Sanders has had trouble answering questions.

ZELENY: She called out his vote against immigration reform in the Senate.

CLINTON: I started co-sponsoring the DREAM Act back in 2002 or '03. And I consistently did that. Senator Sanders, by contrast, was supporting vigilantes. The so-called Minutemen on the border.

ZELENY: And tried to portray Sanders as soft on guns.

CLINTON: The state that has the highest per capita number of those guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from Vermont. So this is not, "Oh, no, I live in a rural state. We don't have any of these problems."

ZELENY: But Clinton is also bracing for more attacks from Sanders on her ties to Wall Street.

CLINTON: Let it happen. I have the plan that will actually work. Senator Sanders couldn't even answer questions about whatever his plan is. So we'll talk.

ZELENY: A shift in tone from her appearance Sunday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, where Clinton downplayed her differences with Sanders.

CLINTON: I don't have anything negative to say about him.

ZELENY: But Sanders has plenty to say about Clinton.

SANDERS: I have my doubts about what kind of president she would make.

ZELENY: He amplified the criticism in a new ad today, raising questions about her ability to stand up to corporate interests.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bernie, he can't be bought by them, because he's funded by you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: Now Sanders is fighting hard for New York and there's good reason for that. A new Monmouth University poll out tonight said that he is behind by some 12 points.

The Clinton campaign, though, believes this race could be closer than that. The next eight days here, Wolf, are so critically important.

And one other note: She was asked today how, if she was surprised that this race was going on as long as it did. And she's like, "Look, I stayed in this race until the very end in 2008. I'm not surprised at all." But of course, this time she hopes for a far different conclusion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll has her behind by, what, 14 points 55-41. We'll see what happens. The most important poll. That's a week from tomorrow. Thanks very much.

Let's get some analysis right now from our political experts. Our Gloria Borger is still with us.

Gloria, Senator Sanders has shifted his attacks on Hillary Clinton. He's now questioning her overall judgment rather than her qualifications. Her judgment to become president. Will this shift resonate better with voters?

BORGER: Well, I think it was silly when he said he wasn't qualified to be president. I mean, whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, whether you agree with her or disagree with her, her resume is her resume. And she's been secretary of state. She's been a United States senator, first lady. So, you know, the resume question needs to be off the table.

I think he refined it, because he realized that he misspoke. And in questioning her judgment, it allows him to go to the issues, which he disagrees with her on. It allows him to talk about the war in Iraq, for example, or her support for previous, you know, trade deals.

One thing that struck me in watching Jeff's piece, though, is that, you know, Hillary Clinton sometimes wants to be above the fray and say, "Well, you know, there aren't huge differences between me and Bernie Sanders, and we're not like those Republicans."

On the other hand, she does attack him, and she says he wasn't prepared to answer the question about Wall Street reform when he had that interview with "The New York Daily News," and his position is wrong on guns.

[18:45:00] So I think you either contrast yourself or you don't, but it's kind of hard to have it both ways.

BLITZER: David, Hillary Clinton is running this new ad in New York that attacks Donald Trump by name. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD ANNOUNCER: He says we should punish women who have abortions. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There has to be some form

of punishment.

AD ANNOUNCER: That's Mexicans who come to America are rapists.

TRUMP: They're rapists.

AD ANNOUNCER: And that we should ban Muslims from coming here at all.

TRUMP: Total and complete shutdown.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump says we can solve America's problems by turning against each other. It's wrong, and it goes against everything New York and America stand for.

AD NARRATOR: With so much at stake, she's the one tough enough to stop Trump. Hillary Clinton.

CLINTON: I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: David, Hillary Clinton is running against Senator Sanders, not Donald Trump in next week's Democratic primary in New York. How does she hope this ad will help her?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it makes some sense to attack a guy who Democrats hate rather than attack a guy who Democrats like.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: And so, going after Donald Trump has a reverberative effect in the Democratic race. But she's also setting herself up as Jeff suggested as the one who's big enough and tough enough to take on Trump who Democrats see as a big threat. And at the same time, she's suggesting that Sanders has been less than sure-footed, creating questions about whether he's prepared to take on Donald Trump.

One thing I'd add, Wolf, is on the Sanders side of the strategy, he did something interesting over the weekend. He started attacking both Bill and Hillary Clinton very strongly on aspects of Bill Clinton's administration, welfare reform in particular. Because Bernie Sanders' big problem is he cannot break through or he hasn't yet with minority voters, particularly African-American voters. And if he's going to succeed in pulling off an upset in New York, he has to do much better than he has in the past with these voters. So that's a shift in his strategy.

BLITZER: He certainly does.

All right. You know, Ryan, President Obama said in this interview with FOX News over the weekend, his biggest regret over these past 7 1/2 years was not following up on the removal of Gadhafi from Libya. What the U.S. should do afterwards. Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state during those days as well. You and I remember travel --

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was going to say, yes.

BLITZER: I remember your article in the New Yorker leading from behind. Is this going to come back to haunt her in a general election?

LIZZA: You know, I was just going to say, we were on those trips with her when she went to France and to Egypt and did all the tough diplomacy to get a use of force resolution through the U.N. and to put together a coalition. And it all ended in tears.

I mean, I think the original mission to protect the city of Benghazi, which was under an imminent threat from Gadhafi's forces was justifiable use of force and the administration has a lot to be proud of to go in and do what they did to protect Benghazi, but the follow- up was not what it should have been.

BLITZER: Yes.

LIZZA: And I think the Democratic primary, it's not really much of an issue but in the general election, it's going to be a big one.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right.

All right. Guys, stand by.

I just want to remind our viewers, this Thursday, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they will face off for the final time before the critical New York primary. I'll be moderating CNN's Democratic presidential debate live from Brooklyn Thursday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Just ahead, Donald Trump about to speak at this rally in New York. He's back on the campaign trail after a notable absence, lashing out at Ted Cruz and the GOP.

Plus, we're getting new developments in the Brussels terror investigation. We're learning the city Brussels was not the terrorists' original target.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:53:10] BLITZER: Chilling new details emerging right now from the Brussels terror investigation, including the killers' original plan to launch more attacks in France, targeting one of the world's most popular sporting events.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is gathering details for us.

What are you learning, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's alarming how ambitious their plans. We're learning that they were planning to target the Euro 2016 Soccer Championships, which is really on the scale of Olympics with multiple games in multiple cities over weeks. Now, it is not clear what level they had undertaken, but what is clear is that the group felt great freedom to pick and choose targets across Europe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Mohamed Abrini arrested on Friday on a Brussels street corner now telling investigators that his terror cell was planning an attack on one of the biggest sporting events in the world, the Euro 2016 Soccer Championships in France.

This as Abrini also confesses to Belgian prosecutors that he's the so- called "man in the hat" caught on surveillance video in the Brussels airport moments before the attack -- an attack which investigators say was not the cell's original plan.

MANUEL VALLS, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The investigation has established that the group that hit Belgium had originally intended to strike France again. It's further evidence of the high threat to all of Europe.

SCIUTTO: Investigators believe the terrorists scrapped plans to attack Paris a second time after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam alerted them that police were getting closer.

They then set their sights nearer to home and the devastating attacks at the Brussels airport and metro station followed just four days later.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: When you arrest this guy, it's not about what does he know about Paris and Brussels. It's what does he know about the next attack.

[18:55:01] SCIUTTO: Now, there is growing evidence that the Brussels cell was directed by ISIS in Syria. A computer found in a garbage bin last month belonging to two of the Brussels attackers contained an audio file of a conversation between Najim Laachraoui, the bomb maker for the Paris and Brussels attacks, and a senior ISIS operative in Syria. The two brainstorming additional potential attacks in Belgium and France.

On the same computer, police found a file indicating that the cell considered targeting the La Defense shopping mall in Paris, as well as a Catholic association. Investigators piecing together the entire network of the ISIS cell have now identified five members who played a direct role in both the Paris and Brussels terror attacks.

BERGEN: While it's great that this guy is being arrested, the network as we've come to realize includes dozens of people and we may not be at the end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Now, European authorities do believe they have made substantial progress in arresting what remains of this vast terror cell, but the fact is they don't know for sure how far it extends. What they do know, Wolf, and I hear this from both European and American counterterror officials is that there are many more cells still intact in Europe and operating today.

BLITZER: Very, very high state of alert, I'm sure --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BLITZER: -- throughout Europe right now. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto.

Finally tonight, a very disturbing trend is taking hold in Afghanistan. Soldiers trained by United States military and funded with American tax dollars, they are defecting to the Taliban.

Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has this exclusive report from Kabul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know a war is going badly when your enemy is right in front of you. This white flag is the Taliban's. They really are that close to these Afghans defending one of the last government holdouts in Helmand Province.

It used to be NATO that shot from the positions near the vulnerable city of Lashkar Gah.

(GUNFIRE)

PATON WALSH: Hundreds of Americans and British died, many in the town of Sangin where these pictures show the Afghan Army recently in heavy clashes.

(EXPLOSION)

PATON WALSH: But now, Afghanistan is quite quickly watching Helmand fall.

The Taliban are winning partly because of men like these. This is a rare window into the Afghan government's worst nightmare. Soldiers from the Afghan army, who America spent billions training, who say they've defected and joined the Taliban. They never dreamed they'd change sides.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER (through translation): I did 18 months of army training and took an oath to serve this country, but the situation changed. The army let us down, so we had to come to the Taliban. They treat us like guests.

PATON WALSH: They carry their old uniforms, I.D.s, and bank cards used to get their old army wages.

They fought in Sangin where these pictures were more recently filmed. Yet, now, they use their training and experience to train the Taliban. UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER (through translation): I decided to leave the

army when my dad and injured comrades lay in our base, but nobody took them to hospital.

My army training is very useful now, as I am now training Taliban fighters with the same knowledge.

PATON WALSH: Men who've seen the tide turn and voted with their feet.

(on camera): Helmand's the indisputable heartland of the south. And they've worked so hard to push the Taliban back. And the fact that here in Kabul, you can talk to many officials who say its capital Lashkar Gah could fall at any day really. That gives you a sense of how much on the offensive the Taliban are and what could happen in the summer fighting season ahead.

(voice-over): This is the center of Lashkar Gah, the key town in the Taliban's sights. Tense, yet teeming. Some visit briefly from areas the Taliban now control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): It's a bit too soon to say whether people are happy with the Taliban. The bazaar is now full of people, while it used to be empty. That was because the security was bad and some people avoided the government's forces.

PATON WALSH: Others fled to its outskirts from the fighting and flash points like Sangin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): My worst memory is how a wedding party was hit by mortar, killing a large number of women and children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): The police left after the fighting intensified and told me to move to a vacant corner of the village. But the bullets and rocket followed killing 10 people, so I fled here.

PATON WALSH: Just over a year since NATO stopped fighting, and here, the Taliban's white flags are closer than ever.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Very disturbing developments in Afghanistan, over there.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.