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Cruz and Trump on Foreign Policy; Inside Belgium's Terrorism Hotbed Molenbeek. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 24, 2016 - 08:30   ET

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


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[08:33:29] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two days ago, Donald trump suggested that America should withdraw from NATO. Now, there's a technical term for that. It's called "nuts."

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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's Ted Cruz taking issue with Donald Trump's foreign policy credentials as their campaign war of words escalates, and now the candidate's wives in the cross-fire.

Here to talk about it all, Kellyanne Conway, Republican pollster and president and CEO of the polling company. Kelly works for a pro-Cruz super PAC. Also with us, CNN political commentator and former White House political director for Ronald Reagan, Jeffrey Lord. Jeff is a Trump supporter.

And, guys, you know, we can choose to start with Twitter wars over NATO funding and treaty obligations or candidate wives. I'm going to go with NATO funding and treaty obligations first, you know, behind door A.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Me too.

BERMAN: And, Jeffrey, we heard Ted Cruz there -

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: We heard Ted Cruz there go after Donald Trump for suggesting that the U.S. should or might reduce its role in NATO. And just this morning, Donald Trump is responding on Twitter. Let me read you what Donald Trump is writing. He says, "NATO is obsolete and must be changed to additionally focus on terrorism, as well as some of the things it is currently focused on." And in is second tweet he says, "we pay a disproportionate share of cost of NATO. Why? It is time to renegotiate and the time is now."

It sounds like Donald Trump, in the wake of what happened in Brussels, is now talking about changing the U.S. role in NATO.

LORD: You asking me, John?

BERMAN: Yes.

[08:35:00] LORD: Yes. Well, in essence, what Donald Trump is saying is what President Bush 43 and secretary - then Secretary of defense Rumsfeld were proposing, which is to say, get NATO - get other countries in NATO to pay more of the freight for what - what goes on with NATO, to update it, upgrade it. That the U.S. shouldn't be paying, what is it, something like almost a quarter of the expenses for NATO. He's not saying get out of NATO.

I mean Senator Cruz, God bless him, you know, mischaracterized it for whatever reason. No less than former Speaker Gingrich has said exactly what Donald Trump is saying. So, you know, there's no - I mean this is just a question of modernizing NATO to deal with the threats of the 21st century, and also to take into account our deficit, our debt. I mean, you know, we're $20 trillion in debt. Somewhere along the line we've got to start paying attention to that fact.

BERMAN: Kellyanne, is it as simple as Jeffrey says, A, and, B, do you think Republican voters care when it comes to NATO funding? Do you think that's fertile ground to pick up votes for Ted Cruz or Donald Trump?

CONWAY: Republican voters very much care. In fact, all voters right now, particularly Republican primary and caucus voters, John, are telling pollsters national security and terrorism is at the top of the list for them. I know people talk about jobs and the economy as the important - but that's baked in the cake. Of course we worry about everyday affordability, the cost of tuition and food and fuel, but things like Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino really brings into sharp relief the concern that people have that we need the fight this war over there, not here.

And in terms of NATO, it may sound like a very detached order arcane body to most Americans, but let's - let's be very clear about what this is. This is about, what is America's role in the world when it comes to defeating ISIS? Not containing it. Not, as the president confoundingly yesterday said, you know, unifying against it and showing them who's boss. What is that? A very feckless, very partisan response really. So I think people are starving for leadership.

And when it comes to NATO, I think as we're sifting through the horrors of Brussels, as your colleagues are over there reporting, as we realize ISIS cannot be contained, they need to be destroyed at all costs, we can't be - we can't be hagering (ph) over - haggling over who is paying what dues at this moment.

And, by the way, this country, the U.S., spends a ton of money protecting our neighbor - our friend in the Middle East, Israeli. Is Mr. Trump and Jeffrey suggesting that we pull back on that kind of funding?

BERMAN: This is a very high bow, important and big discussion, while t here's also a very low brow, small Twitter war going on between the candidates about wives.

LORD: Let's go for the (INAUDIBLE), John. BERMAN: Let's go to the Twitter war of wives. Donald Trump, overnight, retweeting this tweet sent by someone about his wife and Donald - and Ted Cruz's wife. It says, "no need to spill the beans. The images are worth a thousand words." This goes into the three day Twitter war now back and forth about whose wife doing what to whom. And Ted Cruz responded on Twitter, "Donald, real men don't attack women. Your wife is lovely. Heidi is the love of my life."

Kellyanne, you've done a million campaigns. What the heck is going on here? Shouldn't this just stop?

CONWAY: Yes. Absolutely.

BERMAN: Both sides.

CONWAY: Absolutely. I would - look, I run a pro-Cruz super PAC that would not go into this territory whatsoever. I - I've met Mrs. Trump. I know Heidi Cruz. They're both lovely women. Wonderful wives. Wonderful mothers. And it goes beyond really are they fair game. Again, what are the number one issues that we're talking about today, terrorism, ISIS, and we're going to get into a Twitter war about each other's wives? I think it's very dangerous also. And what I don't like is that people take whatever's on Twitter, whatever's said on TV, where nobody's under oath ever, and truth and just sort of run with it. And I think, look, there's a lot of emotion, there's a lot of heated rhetoric in this campaign no doubt. But this seems to me to be out of proportion and it also seems to me to be beside the point of what really matters.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Lord, let's just stop it, right?

LORD: You know, I have to say, I agree with Kellyanne more or less 100 percent. I mean I just think these two guys love their wives. They're defending their wives. This was started by a third party who supported Senator Cruz. It got it off and running. I think it's on the wrong track.

BERMAN: Excellent. Well, good, maybe they'll all listen to us and they'll stop it right now.

Jeffrey, Kellyanne Conway, thanks. Thanks for being here.

CONWAY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John.

It is a part of Brussels that has become the center of violent extremism. Ahead, Alisyn will take you inside the neighborhood. You might be surprised by what she found in Molenbeek.

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[08:43:23] PEREIRA: All right, here's your five things to know for today. The massive manhunt in Belgium expanding now to two unidentified

terror suspects still on the run. One spotted on surveillance video in the airport, the other at the metro station.

Back here at home, Hillary Clinton slamming her Republican rivals Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the wake of the Brussels attacks. She says their ideas about fighting terrorism are reckless, even dangerous.

The Iraqi military says the operation to retake Iraq's second largest city from ISIS has begun. Army officials say several villages outside Mosul have been liberated. Mosul has been a stronghold for ISIS for nearly two years.

President Obama wrapping up his trip to Argentina today after declaring a new partnership between the two nations. At a state dinner last night, the president and first lady, well, just the president, rather, showed off his dance moves by doing the tango.

So, March Madness is continuing today. Eight games in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Number one seed Kansas taking on Maryland. Top seed Oregon battling Duke. I think my - I have a bit of a chance that it's not completely busted my bracket.

For more on the five things to know, be sure to visit newdaycnn.com.

All right, Molenbeek, we've been hearing a lot about it, right, the little Brussels neighborhood that has been thrust into the global spotlight. Ahead, we'll take you inside Molenbeek. Alisyn speaking with an imam about what is going on there.

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[08:48:31] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: By now we have all heard of the Brussels neighborhood called Molenbeek. It's about 10 minutes from where I'm standing and that is where Salah Abdeslam was captured on Friday. It's also where the November Paris attacks were plotted. It's been described by officials as a dangerous, extremist neighborhood where police have lost control. We wanted to see and understand Molenbeek for ourselves, so we ventured into the area yesterday afternoon, the area called a "hotbed of violent extremism."

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CAMEROTA (voice-over): This is not what we expected when we arrived in Molenbeek. Children playing and laughing at the youth center in the heart of this working class immigrant neighborhood.

JOVIC MAFUTA NSENGE KUMONKUNGULU, SOCIAL WORKER, LE FOYER MOLENBEEK: We make the workshop, the activity with the young people. Theater activity. We write music. We play music with the young.

CAMEROTA: Jovic is a social worker here. Originally from the Congo. He knows well the challenges of trying to fit into Belgian culture.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) KUMONKUNGULU (through translator): Most of these kids were born here this Belgium. They were born in Belgium so they are Belgian outright, but they find it hard to feel Belgian because on other side, the belgo (ph) Belgian, the native Belgian, don't see them as pure Belgian.

CAMEROTA: Still, it came as a shock to everyone to learn that two of the suspected Paris terrorists spent years here at this youth center as children. Salah Abdeslam, who until his capture on Friday was Europe's most wanted man, and Mohamed Abrini, his accomplice, who is still on the loose.

[08:50:07] ILIAS M'RABET, MEMBER, LE FOYER MOLENBEEK: It's weird to know that the guy that went here and had fun when he was little to do this. Like I don't know what went through his head when he did it but you can't really put a connection to his act and this.

CAMEROTA: Today the center's leaders try to reconcile how these quiet, well-behaved boys could turn into cold-blooded killers.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

KUMONKUNGULU (through translator): They push each other to do bad things. Instead of encouraging each other to be on top of the class, they encourage each other to do foolish things.

CAMEROTA: It is hard for 15-year-old Ilias to understand why anyone would turn to terrorism, though he sees the challenges ahead in a neighborhood with 40 percent youth unemployment.

I. M'RABET: For me personally, I think it is going to be much harder to get a job if they know you are from here.

CAMEROTA: The people we met in Molenbeek do not want the link to terrorism to define them and they pray that these children will have brighter futures.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BACJOR M'RABET, COORDINATOR, LE FOYER MOLENBOOK (through translator): I hope that in the coming days we try to think about what happened, to what's happening to us, to this reality. Trying to think about all of this and maybe tell ourselves that we can't go lower and that we can only go forward for something more positive by going from misfortune to something happier.

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CAMEROTA: Joining us now is imam Asad Majeeb. He is the imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Molenbeek. Thank you very much for being here.

So we were surprised when we to Molenbeek yesterday because they are the warmest, loveliest, most welcoming people, even to our camera. We thought maybe people wouldn't speak to us, but they did. But how do you explain that these lovely people live alongside of known terrorists and extremists? ASAD MAJEEB, IMAM, AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY: Yeah, exactly. The

people of Molenbeek, where I come from, they are peace-loving people. The majority of Muslim are peace-loving, as you said, and there is only a small minority who are doing this on the name of Islam to defame its name.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, of course it is a small minority. However there are at least four known terrorists who are connected to the Paris attacks and now these Brussels attacks, Abdeslam and his brother. So how can the community be protecting them and not be turning them into the police?

MAJEEB: I think the most of people didn't knew about their presence in Molenbeek. So -- There are thousands of Muslims living in Molenbeek. And as you said, there are only four who went to Paris and did some inappropriate acts.

CAMEROTA: Four that we know of. I mean, four that we know of. But police tell us that they think that Molenbeek does have a network of terrorism. That there are -- is a cell of terrorism. Do you dispute that?

MAJEEB: I live in Molenbeek and being an Ahmadiyya Muslim imam, we don't face anything like this. In our community since childhood, the children are taught to be peaceful people and (inaudible) us that we should love our country of residence. But yeah, however, it does exist, the factor of radicalization. I think the government of Belgium should look deep in this area. And especially in the religious areas, likewise in mosques. I think doors of the mosques should be open for the government like the doors of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community's mosque is open for everyone, even for the government.

CAMEROTA: So when you say the doors of the mosque to be open to the government, you mean you would not object to surveillance?

MAJEEB: No. I'm for that. I think the mosque should be monitored. As the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community said a few months back, he said clearly that the mosques of Europe or everywhere should be monitored by the governments. It is the future of the government to make sure the safety of its people. And we know that these people are radicalized by some religious factor. So we have to look in the source of it. So maybe the government should be looking deep in the -- all religious areas.

CAMEROTA: You know, we also here from people, they say the imams don't speak out enough against radicalization. They don't speak out enough against violent extremism. In your mosque, do you speak out against radicalization?

MAJEEB: Yes. I can speak only on behalf of the Ahmadiyya community. And I know that since yesterday, since this attack happens, we were the first ones to condemn it. And our youth here, there were hundreds and we were like with the banners of love for all and hatred for none here. So this is the message we are trying to give here of the people of Europe, to the media, to everyone. CAMEROTA: How do you keep young people in Molenbeek in your mosque

from becoming radicalized? We've heard about the unemployment in Molenbeek. Something like 40 percent youth unemployment.

[08:55:07] MAJEEB: Yeah. 43 percent --

CAMEROTA: 43 percent. So what do you tell young people about avoiding the ideology of radicalism?

MAJEEB: I think there's two things. First there must be good knowledge about the teachings of the holy Quran. The peaceful teaching of the holy Quran, and this is the duty of all religious leaders, imams and (inaudible). So in our mosque we teach our youngster the real teaching, the peaceful teaching of the holy Quran.

Secondly, I think we should engage our youngsters in the community work, like we did here in Belgium. When this attack happened, the government made an appeal to give blood. We gather the youth of Muslim youth from Molenbeek and from Brussels and we went to the hospitals with these youth to show them that the Muslim -- the real Muslim are those who give blood and they are not those who take blood.

CAMEROTA: That is beautiful. Imam Majeeb, thank you very much for being here and explaining Molenbeek and explaining your mosque. We really appreciate your --

MAJEEB: Thank you very much for having me.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Thank you. So as you can hear, there is so much soul searching going on here in Brussels. In the police community, in the intelligence community, in the mosque community, obviously in Molenbeek and we're trying to bring it all to you live. I will be live here again in Brussels tomorrow from this public square.

Meanwhile, CNN's coverage of the widening manhunt for those two terror suspects continues on "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello right after this quick break. Thanks for joining us.

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