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Romney 'Repulsed' by Trump, Backing Cruz; Paris Terror Attack Suspect Wounded and Captured; Undercover in Syria: The Air Crisis. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 18, 2016 - 17:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Debut of "Wonder List" season 2. That is Sunday night, 10 p.m. right here on CNN.

I won't delay any longer. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'll turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: two major breaking stories. Captured alive, one of the world's most wanted terror suspects linked to the Paris massacres is arrested after being wounded in a shootout in Belgium. Will he be the key to unlocking a terror network in Europe? How many others are out there?

Romney repulsed. Former Republican nominee Mitt Romney says he's revolted by Donald Trump's statements. Romney announces he's backing Ted Cruz and calls for an open convention to stop Trump's march to the nomination.

Unconventional threat. As the "stop Trump" movement intensifies, the Trump campaign is warning of serious consequences if the front-runner is denied the nomination.

And Anonymous target. The hacker group known as Anonymous declares total war on Donald Trump, calls on its followers to take down his campaign and begins releasing what it says is Trump's most personal information.

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: We have two major breaking stories tonight. In an extraordinary announcement, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney openly now joining the "stop Trump" movement, saying Trump has promoted, in his words "racism, bigotry, violence and much more." Romney says he's backing Ted Cruz and an open convention.

Donald Trump has just tweeted that Romney, quote, "doesn't have a clue," and the Trump campaign is warning of serious consequences for the Republican Party if the front-runner is denied the nomination.

Our other big story: a top suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks is now in custody. Salah Abdeslam was captured during a police raid near Brussels. Belgian officials say he was wounded in a shootout, but he is alive. Abdeslam was tracked down to an apartment in Molenbeek which has a reputation as a hotbed of jihadism. Gunfire and explosions have echoed there now for hours.

Abdeslam escaped another raid just days earlier. He had been on the run since last November massacres in Paris, which left 130 people dead. He's thought to have driven a car that dropped off three of the suicide bombers, including his brother.

I'll speak this hour with Trump supporter and former "Apprentice" contestant Omarosa. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin with the breaking news right now. Mitt Romney, the 2012 presidential nominee, has just dropped a bombshell, announcing he will vote for Ted Cruz in Tuesday's Utah Republican caucuses as part of an effort to stop Donald Trump's march to the nomination.

Romney is calling for an open convention, and he's slamming Trump, saying -- and I'm quoting him now -- "Through the calculated statements of its leader, Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence. I am repulsed by each and every one of these." That's Mitt Romney.

As Republican leaders look for ways to stop Trump, there's a sharp warning from the Trump campaign.

Let's go live to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She's joining us from Phoenix right now.

Sunlen, the Cruz campaign must be very happy right now, right?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. We saw Ted Cruz respond almost immediately on Twitter saying very simply, "Thank you, Governor." This all wrapped up in this escalating showdown that's going on between Donald Trump and those desperate to stop him.


MITT ROMNEY (R), 2012 PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hi, there, how are you?

SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight Mitt Romney announcing he's voting for Ted Cruz and endorsing an open convention, writing on Facebook that, quote, "a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail."

Ted Cruz is also stressing the urgency of the moment, framing the race at a pivotal crossroads.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): This primary, I think, is a critical moment, where Donald Trump obviously has a lot of momentum. He's in the lead right now. And I think the only way to beat him is for us to come together and unite as one.

SERFATY: But as the anti-Trump movement intensifies, so does the pushback from the Trump forces. SAM CLOVIS, CO-CHAIR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: If that's the path they want to

go down, there will be consequences for that kind of thinking.

SERFATY: The Trump campaign ratcheting up its warnings of an all-out revolt if Trump opponents block him in from becoming the nominee at the convention.

CLOVIS: If the Republican Party comes into that convention and jimmies with the rules and takes away the rule of the people, the will of the Republicans and the Democrats and the independents who have voted for Mr. Trump, I will take off my credentials, I will leave the floor of that convention, and I will leave the Republican Party forever.

[17:05:12] SERFATY: As the race turns to Utah and Arizona next week, Cruz is making the case that a vote for John Kasich is a vote for Trump.

CRUZ: And if Kasich manages to pull enough votes in Utah to pull me below 50 percent, the effect of John Kasich will be giving Donald more delegates, which I think would be a big, big mistake.

SERFATY: All this comes as Trump issues ominous warnings about a contested convention.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that you can say that we don't get it automatically. I think you would be -- I think you'd have riots. I'm representing a tremendous -- many, many millions of people.

SERFATY: And his rivals are scolding him for it.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We might have a riot if I can't get the delegates at the convention? You know, frankly, I don't think that's the way we ought to be conducting a campaign for president.

CRUZ: No one should be surprised that Donald Trump is trying to stir up riots. I wish we had a presidential candidate that was bringing us together instead of encouraging such things.

SERFATY: Trump is not only facing political attacks; the hacking group Anonymous also taking aim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump has set his ambitions on the White House in order to promote an agenda of fascism and xenophobia.

SERFATY: The hackers declaring total war on Trump, releasing online what they allege to be Trump's phone number and Social Security number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not forgive; we do not forget. Donald Trump, you should have expected us.

SERFATY: The Trump campaign says officials are seeking the arrest of people behind it. While in a separate incident, one of Trump's sons, Eric, received a

threatening note at his Manhattan apartment that contained a suspicious powder. The contents appear to have been a lemonade mix, but authorities are investigating.


SERFATY: And as Donald Trump heads to Salt Lake City, Utah, tonight to hold a rally, he is out taunting Ted Cruz over Twitter saying, quote, "Lyin' Ted Cruz should not be allowed to win there. As in Utah, Mormons don't like liars" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thank you. Sunlen Serfaty reporting. Donald Trump will be campaigning in Salt Lake City later tonight. Our political reporter, Sara Murray, is already there for us.

Sara, is there any reaction to the news of Mitt Romney's announcing he will vote for Ted Cruz in next Tuesday's western Utah caucuses?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is sort of an unprecedented moment in politics to see the 2012 GOP nominee come out and say, "I will vote for Ted Cruz." And all of this in an effort to stop Trump. I want to read a little bit more of that statement that Mitt Romney put out.

He said, "The only path that remains to nominate a Republican other than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention. At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many remaining nominating elections as possible."

This is really a double blow to John Kasich, because he continues on in this statement saying, "A vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail."

So you get a sense of just how concerned Mitt Romney is of the idea that Donald Trump could continue snapping up these states and potentially pick up the nomination.

Now, as we know, Donald Trump never takes these jabs quietly. He has taken to Twitter to defend himself. And he tweeted, "That failed presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, the man who choked and let us all down, is now endorsing Lyin' Ted Cruz. This is good for me."

Now, Wolf, we'll see if it is, in fact, good for Donald Trump here in Utah. Remember, Mitt Romney is still very popular in this state. There is a large Mormon population.

But I think there are a couple of people who are in line already waiting for Donald Trump who have signs slamming Mitt Romney, so at least a couple of people will be on Trump's side tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sara, thanks very much. We'll stand by for that.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, Donald Trump supporter Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on "The Apprentice." Omarosa, thanks very much for joining us. Let me read to you once

again: I just want to read what Mitt Romney just put out this statement, and I'll get your reaction. Here is the key sentence or so:

"There is a contest between Trumpism and Republicanism. Through the calculated statements of its leader, Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence. I will vote for Senator Cruz, and I encourage others to do, as well, so that we can have an open convention and nominate a Republican."

Those are incredibly strong words, as you see. What's your reaction?

OMAROSA MANIGAULT, FORMER CONTESTANT ON "THE APPRENTICE": Well, the one thing on that list that you can't call Trump is a coward, and I believe what Mitt Romney is doing right now is very cowardly. He decided not to endorse any of the candidates until now, because the enemy of his enemy is now his friend. And we've got all these back room deals going on, trying to stop Trump. These anti-Trump movements are trying to undermine the will of the people. And we see right through Mitt Romney.

You know what's repulsive, Wolf? Is the comment that he made about the 47 percent of this country. I mean, he still has to deal with the fact that he has betrayed the voters that supported him by making comments like that and advancing the idea that people who back Donald Trump, their vote should not count. And they're undermining the democracy that we fight so hard for in this country.

[17:10:20] BLITZER: Omarosa, do you think if Donald Trump doesn't reach that magic number, the threshold, the majority of 1,237 at the Republican convention in Cleveland, do you think the Republican Party effectively could still go ahead and block him from getting the nomination?

MANIGAULT: They would be wise not to. First of all, there is a movement going on. Wolf, this is not just a moment that Donald Trump is having. There are millions and millions of voters who believe in the vision that he has for this country.

When he says that he wants to make America great, that's not just a campaign slogan. He means it passionately from his heart. And if they try to steal this idea that these folks and their votes and what they stand for don't matter and that just a handful of people can actually choose who the Republican nominee will be, then there will be a lot of pushback; and the people will not stand for it, Wolf.

BLITZER: You've known him for several years, and you've gotten to know him a lot better, obviously, than most of us. The -- I guess the accusations from Mitt Romney -- racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity, threats of violence -- have you seen any of that in all of the encounters that you personally have had with Donald Trump?

MANIGAULT: I have known Donald Trump for 13 years, and I can tell you I have not. Donald Trump is a very kind person. He has a very good heart. I spent time with him and his children, his family. And you can look at his family and see how close-knit they are and how wonderful they are to know that this is not a man who is being painted out by Mitt Romney to be this monster.

Mitt Romney is just a coward. And now he's standing on the side throwing rocks at Donald Trump's motorcades as it's going by. It's not going to work, it's not going to stop this movement that we have going.

BLITZER: But some of his public comments, you have to admit, have gone beyond, shall we say, what would sometimes be appropriate. You would have rephrased -- you would have revised some of those comments, right?

MANIGAULT: Well, let's just acknowledge, Wolf, Donald Trump is a businessman. He's not a politician like Ted Cruz, who's been doing this for many, many, many years. And Donald Trump is tough. And I believe that we need tough leadership for this country at this time.

He's unapologetically aggressive in areas that he needs to be. Fighting ISIS, fighting those who threaten the freedoms that we fight for in this country, standing up for those who don't have a voice. Donald Trump is tough and sometimes he's rough around the edges, but the things that Mitt Romney describe him to be are just not true.

BLITZER: Do you think there are two Donald Trumps as Dr. Ben Carson suggested the other day, the public version that all of us see and the more private version?

MANIGAULT: You know, Donald Trump is who he is. I mean, he's a very, very difficult person to get to know, because all you see are these caricatures that people paint of him in the public. He seldomly gets to show his witty side. He seldomly gets to show his generous side: when he's interacting with veterans, when he's interacting with young people. I have gotten to see that, because I have known him for so long.

But I would love to see the public just get to see him instead of the videos that I see over and over of these images of his rallies, of anything negative. They should show the positive things that Donald Trump does, specifically for the veterans of this country.

BLITZER: Omarosa, I want you to stand by. We have more to discuss. There's other information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:17:57] BLITZER: We're back with Donald Trump supporter Omarosa Manigault. As we follow the afternoon's breaking political news, Mitt Romney announcing he will vote for Senator Ted Cruz in next week's Utah Republican caucuses. He's also calling for an open convention to deny the nomination to Donald Trump.

Omarosa, Trump tweeted this today about senator Lindsey Graham's support of Ted Cruz. Let me read it to you, @TheRealDonaldTrump: "Lindsey Graham made horrible statements about Senator Ted Cruz, and then he endorsed him. No wonder nobody trusts politicians."

But Trump, he traded barbs, as you know, with Ben Carson when he was a candidate, with Chris Christie when he was a candidate; yet he later accepted their endorsements. So is this a bit hypocritical?

MANIGAULT: You know, you can't let these comments go unchecked, Wolf. I mean, he is taking attacks from every single different direction. He's taking attacks from the establishment, from the Republican Party, from all of these candidates, from people trying to undermine him. Donald Trump is a fighter, and that's what we need right now.

We need somebody that's tough, that's not going to stand by and let people say all these off-the-wall comments about him and then go into a back dark room and try to cut deals and have secret meetings in order to kind of steal this nomination from Donald Trump. I'm glad he spoke up, because we need someone who's going to be a voice for us, and that's what Donald Trump will do.

BLITZER: As you know, earlier this week here on CNN, Donald Trump suggested there could be riots -- he used the word "riots" twice -- if he's close to the number need to clinch the nomination, but the party doesn't embrace him as the nominee. Some have suggested this is a form of inciting violence with his comment. Your thought?

MANIGAULT: Wolf, I've known you for a very long time, and I know as a journalist you know that that was just a figure of speech. There's no way that he was trying to incite riots.

But I will say this. If these folks who are trying to cut these back deals, this handful of people who are trying to undermine our democracy, and they try to steal this from Donald Trump, you will see a tremendous outpouring of anger, disappointment and an implosion of the Republican Party.

[17:20:04] No doubt there will be a big blowback from them trying to steal this from Donald Trump.

BLITZER: But -- but you're not going so far as to worry about actually violent protests emerging, shall we say, at the Republican convention in Cleveland?

MANIGAULT: No. That's actually a strategy from his competitors, trying to paint him as somebody who would incite that. He was certainly not suggesting that. But he is speaking for the people. You cannot steal this nomination from Donald Trump. The people will not have it. Their voice count, their vote count, and our democracy stands for something, Wolf.

As you know, Donald Trump is already framing this as a race between himself and Hillary Clinton, the likely, shall we say -- she's the front-runner right now, the Democratic presidential nominee.

And he tweeted this. He said, "Hillary Clinton has been involved in corruption for most of her professional life." Those are strong words as far as Hillary, the former secretary of state, the former senator, former first lady. What does he mean by that, she's been involved in corruption most of her professional life?

MANIGAULT: Well, I am assuming that he is referring to the investigations that are currently going on right now of the former secretary. And I would hope that they will be able to go head to head without the race getting ugly and nasty, but you know, he's stating some facts. She has been under investigation for a large part of her career.

But beyond that, just pivoting back to Donald Trump, he has a vision. He's focused on winning his nomination; and that's what we have to do first before we can even start thinking about the general.

BLITZER: What do you believe her greatest vulnerability might be?

MANIGAULT: I think she's going to have to really firm up women. I mean, we've seen in each of these primary states that women haven't significantly united behind her. I mean, she is campaigning on the fact that she is going to make history by being the first woman getting this nomination, but if women don't back her, then it undermines the key support that she's counting on, and that's women.

BLITZER: Well, he's -- Donald Trump has a lot of trouble getting women's support. We did a look at some of the exit polls in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina.

Take a look at these numbers. Only 40 percent female voters in Florida, 38 percent Missouri, 36 percent North Carolina, 35 percent in Illinois, 32 percent in Ohio. He clearly has a problem generating enough women supporters out there at the same time, right?

MANIGAULT: You know, he has some work to do in that area, but I will tell you that there are some surprising gains. I mean, the areas that he's done very well where people said he wouldn't. He has a large Hispanic support base, and he has a large support in the African- American community. I mean, you will see that people will get behind him once he gets the nomination, people who he has never even expected to. The large number of Democrats who have crossed over to vote for Donald Trump.

You have to say, Wolf, he's done significantly better than most people projected seven months ago.

BLITZER: He certainly has. A lot of people didn't think he was going to go very far. He's the front-runner right now, and he seems to be well on his way to getting the nomination. But when you say he has large support among African-Americans, among women, you mean Republican African-Americans or generally? Because the figures out there...

MANIGAULT: In general. I think you're going to be surprised.

BLITZER: ... in general, they don't seem to back that up.

MANIGAULT: I think you're going to be very surprised. I've been hearing that the Democrats assume that they have a lock on the African-American vote, that African-Americans will support the Democratic Party wholesale, and that's not the case.

We have been seeing on the campaign trail African-Americans who are speaking out who are eager to support Donald Trump's vision for this country. And you have seen in each of the exit polls that African- American voters have come out for Trump and have voted and supported him.

And so I think that these numbers where people said he wouldn't have that support are very surprising to some of his competitors.

BLITZER: Omarosa Manigault, thanks so much for joining us.

MANIGAULT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And this important note to our viewers. Donald Trump will join me here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Monday. That's this coming Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern. You'll want to see that interview.

We'll take another quick break. Much more of the news when we come back.


[17:28:35] BLITZER: We're following the breaking political news ahead of next week's western Tuesday contests.

This afternoon 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he'll vote for Ted Cruz in Tuesday's Utah caucuses. Romney called for an open convention.

With us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our CNN political commentator, the radio talk show host Michael Smerconish; also hosts a show here on CNN. Our senior political reporter, Brianna Keilar, is here; and our political director, David Chalian, is here, as well.

So, David, Mitt Romney says he's going to vote for Ted Cruz in the Utah caucuses. He said this. He said, "A vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail." What's your reaction?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I know we have gotten used to all these constant crazy developments in this race, but we have to step back and realize how astonishing it is to see the nominee of the party last time around speak this way about the party's front-runner and all-but-certain nominee at this point in the race.

In addition to what he just said there, Wolf, he also said that Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity, violence. This is -- this is extraordinary.

Now, we watched that speech that Mitt Romney gave a couple of weeks ago. It had no appreciable effect on actual Donald Trump's support. He was still able to win some contests. But it did start galvanizing this "stop Trump" movement in some way.

[17:30:08] He's clearly trying to continue to contribute to that and to sort of give a shot in the arm to all those forces out there, those folks that want to donate to it. Mitt Romney is trying to give voice and saying, "Let's still try to stop him."

BLITZER: And he also says this, Michael. He says -- about Trump. "The only path that remains to nominate a Republican rather than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention. At this stage the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible. I will vote for Senator Cruz and I encourage others to do so as well so that we can have an open convention and nominate a Republican."

In your analysis, Michael, how big of a deal is this?

SMERCONISH: I think it's a very big deal. Now notice he didn't say so that we can nominate a Republican, Ted Cruz. In other words, Wolf, he's engaged in strategic voting. There's an awful lot of it taking place all across the country. I know that because on a day-to-day basis I get telephone calls from listeners all over who have said to me, I registered as a Republican and I did it to vote for Donald Trump, or I registered as a Republican to vote against Donald Trump.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, 50,000 Democrats have become Republicans just since the beginning of this year. So this is now the way in which individuals are getting involved and trying to head Donald Trump off at the path. Is it too late? We're going to find out.

BLITZER: Do you think it's going to impact, Brianna? Because so far over all these many months, none of this has really had much of an impact. Trump's popularity at least getting out the vote has increased.

KEILAR: No, that's right. And I think what it does is it plays into exactly what Trump supporters expect of the establishment so it's just reinforcing this entrenched, I guess, frustration that they have with the establishment. I really -- I don't see it changing anything. In fact I actually see it exacerbating how they feel and reinforcing how they feel about Donald Trump.

BLITZER: And, Michael, in your Sunday column in "The Philadelphia Inquirer," and I'm going to give our viewers a sneak peek, you write this, quote, "I'm thinking of rejoining the Republican Party. It's not exactly a homecoming worthy of celebration but more like joining a rundown country club just to throw out the golf pro. I can't stand the thought of sitting out the April 26th Republican -- Pennsylvania Republican primary."

You've always been very proud in noting that your identity is no affiliation, you're an independent, you have said so for the past six years. But do you think a lot of other independents are feeling the same kind of pressure as you're feeling?

SMERCONISH: I know that they are and, Wolf, I can't take it anymore. I'm in a closed primary state. I talk about this each and every day on radio, every weekend here on CNN. I want to play a role. And quite candidly, I'm doing in a different style what Mitt Romney is advocating people do, and I know because I shared this with my radio audience today. I know there are a whole host of folks all across the country who are not necessarily viewed as Republicans, but who want to have a say in this process before the decision is down to two individuals.

BLITZER: Very strong column in "The Philadelphia Inquirer." I want to remind our viewers to catch your one-hour show Saturday mornings, 9:00 a.m. Eastern only here on CNN. It's simply called "SMERCONISH."

All right, guys, stand by. We're following other breaking news. One of the world's most wanted terror suspects linked to the Paris massacres is arrested after being wounded in a shootout in Belgium. Will he be the key to unlocking a terror network in Europe?


[17:38:09] BLITZER: Turning to our other big breaking news story, the capture of one of the world's most wanted terror suspects who allegedly played a key role in November's Paris massacres which left 130 people dead.

CNN's Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Brian, an extraordinary turn of events today. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight Belgian authorities, Wolf, are wrapping up a major assault on a safe house in Brussels. A total of five people are now in custody, but it is the capture of Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, this man, that's got the leaders of France and Belgium and counterterrorism officials throughout Europe declaring victory tonight.


TODD (voice-over): A dramatic shootout in a top European capital and a major victory tonight for counterterror forces. Salah Abdeslam, a chief suspect in the Paris attacks, is shot in the leg in Brussels but captured alive.

CHARLES MICHEL, BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER (Through Translator): It is a very intense work that has been undertaken today.

TODD: The 26-year-old, who had once served jail time with Paris attack plotter, Abdul Hamid Abaaoud, had almost been caught three days earlier. The Belgian prosecutor says his fingerprints and DNA were found after a raid on another Brussels apartment earlier this week. During that operation a Belgian sniper shot and killed Mohammed Belkaid, a militant believed to have directed the November 13th attacks in Paris by phone.

Analysts believe Belkaid had helped Salah Abdeslam hide in Brussels. With Abdeslam's capture one of the most intense manhunts in law enforcement history ends successfully.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This was a very significant breakthrough for Belgian security services. He's been on the run for four months. There was concern that in the wake of the Paris attacks that he would carry out a follow-on attack somewhere in Belgium, somewhere in Europe.

TODD: Just before 9:00 in Paris, on the evening of November 13th, investigators believe at that moment Salah Abdeslam, driving a black Renault Cleo, dropped off three suicide bombers at the Stade de France.

[17:40:09] Abdeslam's brother, Brahim, was identified as another suicide bomber at another location in Paris that night. Officials say Salah Abdeslam likely had an order to attack himself and wore a suicide belt. Although he's believed to have had a more volatile temperament, Salah decided not to follow his orders.

CRUICKSHANK: He did not go through with that operation for whatever combination of reasons. Perhaps there was a malfunction with his device. Authorities also suspect he may have chickened out, not wanting to go through with it.

TODD: Later that night Salah Abdeslam was whisked away from Paris by two friends. Near the Belgian border they came through police checkpoints but because Abdeslam had not yet been identified as one of the Paris suspects he was allowed to go on his way. Then friends and fellow o operatives helped Salah Abdeslam melt away in the Belgian capital.


TODD: Now analysts say Abdeslam's capture could help European counterterror forces in two ways. First, if he was part of another forthcoming terror plot that threat could now be neutralized and Abdeslam could now be a great source of intelligence on the wider network behind the Paris attacks. Experts say there are still suspects at large, some of them operating on European soil, Wolf. They're eager to get them as well.

BLITZER: Here's a question, Brian. Could he lead investigators to Fabien Clain, one of the chief plotters of the Paris attacks?

TODD: That's a big question, Wolf. Experts say that may be unlikely tonight because Fabian Clain is believed to be with ISIS in Raqqah, Syria. Clain still could be taken out in a drone strike, though, if Salah Abdeslam may have some knowledge of Clain's whereabouts or his routine. It's possible he could give that information, not clear really how close he was to Fabien Clain. He may not have that information.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuens, he's a former FBI assistant director and our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Paul., do you think Salah Abdeslam will speak to Belgian authorities? Because under Belgian law, he has the right to remain silent.

CRUICKSHANK: He may say nothing at all, Wolf, if he's a true believer. Still he may just not cooperate. And the Belgians have been frustrated in past terrorism investigations, notably when they rounded up that cell after that operation last year -- at the beginning of last year in Belgium. Some of the -- at least one of the people they arrested wouldn't talk at all, wouldn't give any information. So they're going to have to use very skillful methods to try and build a relationship with him, try and get him talking.

Every indication, though, is he is still a true believer. He was still with this very senior ISIS operative, one of the masterminds behind the Paris attacks, holed up in this safe house in Brussels. So it may take a long while before they're able to get any information out of him at all, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, three suspects, including Abdeslam, were apprehended. Could there still be many others at large in connection to Abdeslam?

CRUICKSHANK: It's certainly possible that there are others still out there. One name to throw out for our viewers is Mohammed Abrini, a Belgian Moroccan who lived in Molenbeek, was friends with all these attackers and helped ferry a lot of them over from Brussels to Paris to launch the attacks. His whereabouts still not known. There's another senior planner who was working with this Algerian terrorist who was killed in the safe house earlier this week in Brussels who is still believed to be at large. Not clear whether he was one of the two suspected terrorists arrested today in that operation.

But a number of people both in Europe connected to the Paris attacks and then also back in Syria, notably Fabien Clain, but they think this went all the way up to the senior leadership of ISIS, something that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his top deputies would have authorized. They're obviously still at large as well, Wolf,

BLITZER: Yes. That's obviously true.

Tom Fuentes, how critical is his capture, Abdeslam, to the entire counterterrorist effort right now?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's actually pretty critical, Wolf, for a number of reasons. One is he's captured alive so he's denied the opportunity to be a martyr. And secondly, when they come to interrogate him in the days and weeks ahead, one of the buttons they can push psychologically is you're not really a true believer, you're a coward. You were supposed to die in Paris and you didn't. You could have died in the apartment and gone out in that gun battle and you didn't.

This is twice now you saved yourself instead of fighting for the cause. So they've got couple of levers that come out of having him captured alive.

BLITZER: What are you hearing from U.S. sources about his value -- how valuable he might be to U.S. intelligence in this effort?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: He's only valuable to the extent that he gives anything to the Belgian or French authorities. And as Tom has noted, they don't have the influence, the levers that America has even legally, for instance, plea bargains to get them to talk. And that's why you often see in countries such as France and Britain, that these guys will be captured and they won't talk.

[17:45:08] And that's of course an issue, whether they can use methods, like Tom is describing, here to publicly, perhaps make him worried about his own safety, right, because he didn't blow himself up. He didn't kill himself for jihad. That's a possibility. But really the onus is now on the Belgians and the French to get that kind of intel value out of him.

BLITZER: There may be an opportunity, though, from his cell phone or his computer if they find that. They find cell phones, computers from some of the other suspects who were apprehended, that could have a treasure trove of information potentially, right?

FUENTES: Well, it could have. But if they have been doing like they have normally been doing and using the encrypted applications, that will make that very difficult. Again, you know, he's been hunted now for four months since the last Paris attack and it almost looks like they tripped over him in this apartment. That they came up on him expecting that apartment to be vacant at 4:00 in the morning yesterday and suddenly they're in a major gun battle. So I don't think they have had quite the use of phones for lead purposes that we would have hoped they would have.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more on this breaking news coming up, stand by.

Also coming up, we have an exclusive report. CNN goes undercover inside Syria. We're going to show you the danger faced by aid workers as they try desperately to accept civilians caught in the crossfire of a savage war.


[17:50:55] BLITZER: Now to an exclusive as CNN goes undercover in rebel-held Syria. In her latest report, CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward shows us the dangers faced by aid workers as they try to get help to desperate civilians in the middle of a brutal war.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a Tuesday in Syria. A British aid worker, Talkir Sharif, is making the dangerous drive to Aleppo.

TALKIR SHARIF, BRITISH AID WORKER: It's really important that we drive with the windows open because any kind of explosions that land close to us, the last thing we want is shrapnel of glass and so on and so forth, you know, landing in our face.

WARD: He is traveling to the devastated city to deliver an ambulance but it isn't long before he is diverted.

Four airstrikes have hit. Sharif runs into the wreckage to see what's needed.

SHARIF: This is a house. Look, it's all houses.

WARD: Remarkably no one has been injured or killed but the sound of another jet means it's time to leave.

SHARIF: Everybody out. Let's go. Let's go.

They are saying that the plane is in the sky. We can hear it. They are saying a tactic that they uses when ambulances turn up they'll hit the same place again, so we're just going to try and get to a safer place.

WARD: Sharif is one of just a handful of Western aid workers living in Syria.

SHARIF: Most of the big aid organizations they don't want to go into the line of fire in a sense. This is something that we have to do. This is something that is a human response. If we don't do it, then who will?

WARD: In the relative safety of an olive grove near the Turkish border he told us that religious conviction played a big part in his decision to come here three years ago.

SHARIF: We need to look at what do the people really want? And if the people are Muslims, this is not saying it. If the people are Muslims and they want some form of Islamic governance then it's important that we help them to establish that.

WARD (on camera): Is that what they want?

SHARIF: In my opinion, that's what I believe. And you can ask -- you can ask, you can go and ask the people, what do you want? And I don't think the people will settle for anything else, especially after all of this bloodshed. Their right to self-determination.

WARD (voice-over): For many of the 6.5 million displaced people in Syria, there are perhaps more immediate concerns. Most live in sprawling tent cities along the border. Conditions in the camps are brutal. There is a lack of food and clean water. And they become more crowded every day.

SHARIF: We just recently done a survey of this camp. Just this camp here alone, which is a conglomeration of about 40 camps, is around 80,000 people.

WARD (on camera): 80,000 people.

SHARIF: And this is just one on this border. There is another one over -- not too far from here, another maybe 65,000, 70,000 people.

WARD (voice-over): Sharif's favorite project is this smaller camp that houses roughly 100 widows and their children.

Syria is now a country full of widows and orphans, some still too young to understand what has happened to their country, others who have seen too much, all of them dependent on the mercy of others.


BLITZER: And Clarissa Ward is joining us now live.

Clarissa, it's particularly distressing to see all those little kids caught in the middle of this war. How dire is it for the children inside Syria?

WARD: Well, unfortunately, Wolf, the reality is that the situation is very dire indeed. According to UNICEF, 2.6 million children are not enrolled in school right now in Syria. And 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 is under the age of 5.

That means, Wolf, that they have never known anything other than bloodshed and war in their entire lives. And you have to wonder, what are these kids going to do when they grow up? They are much more vulnerable to radicalizing forces which, as we know, do have a prominent position on the ground in Syria.

[17:55:02] BLITZER: We really appreciate your reports all of this week, Clarissa. I know you risked your life together with you team to bring us this information. And we are grateful to you.

Clarissa Ward doing an amazing job for all of us. Thank you very much.

Coming up, a fugitive from the Paris massacre is one of the world's most wanted terror suspects now captured alive after a shootout. Can he lead authorities to others?

And Mitt Romney's bombshell. The 2012 Republican presidential nominee says he's repulsed by Donald Trump's statements. He's now backing Ted Cruz and pushing for an open Republican convention.


[18:00:02] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Terrorist takedown. The most wanted man in Europe among five terror suspects arrested in Belgium.