tv The Lead With Jake Tapper CNN March 25, 2016 1:00pm-2:01pm PDT
presidential candidates will take questions from voters in wisconsin. that is next tuesday, april 5th, ahead of the badger state's crucial primary contest. that is tuesday night, 8:00 eastern. have wonderful weekends but don't move. my friend, pamela brown, is up next. >> thanks, brooke. a key kill and new arrests, but are more attacks already in the works? "the lead" starts right now. explosions and gunfire. a suspect shot and arrested and a new terror raid sparked by the brussels terror attacks. plus, he had a $7 million price tag on his head and now he is dead. the man being called the number two terrorist in isis killed in syria by u.s. troops. also, instead of talking terror, they're trading insults, and now ted cruz is blaming donald trump for a tabloid shocker.
welcome to "the lead." i'm pamela brown in for jake tapper. the western world engaging the terrorists on two fronts and two continents. the pentagon is confirming the military killed a high-level isis operative, a man analysts believe was the group's number two. at the same time we're learning police in europe are working at a frenzied pace to stop the next isis attack. u.s. intelligence indicates there are multiple isis plots in various stages of planning. we've seen raids in three countries, france, germany and belgium, including an hour-long operation in schaerbeek. this is all fallout from the twin terror attacks tuesday in brussels that killed 30-plus people. today, the state department confirmed two of the dead are americans. our nick paton walsh is in brussels with us for the very latest. what have you uncovered today with all these raids going on, nick? >> reporter: well, pam, since last night there's been an uptick clearly in police
activity here. a total of nine individuals arrested in the last 24 hours here in brussels alone, three since released, but we were ourselves at the site of one of the most intense instances of police intervention today. tonight dramatic video taken during a raid on an alleged armed individual, shot in the leg by police. as he laid on the ground, a police robot was sent in to inspect his backpack before police dragged him away. all of this as an explosion and gunfire hit the city of brussels. heavily armed police conducting an operation in the district of schaerbe schaerbeek, the same district a taxi driver picked up the three men suspected in carrying out the airport bombings. belgian prosecutors have confirmed the second bomber was najim laachraoui. >> translator: we accept that we need to improve in the fight
against terrorism in europe and belgium. >> reporter: u.s. authorities believe they know the name of this man seen wearing a hat and light-colored clothing in airport surveillance footage. he allegedly left a bomb behind and fled. u.s. officials have shared this information with belgian authorities. german authorities arrested a 28-year-old moroccan man that allegedly received two text messages before the attack. one with a name of the brussels metro bomber, and the other saying french for ending. just three minutes before bakraoui detonated his bomb. >> translator: we have had success in finding the terrorists, both in brussels and in paris, there have been some arrests and we know there are other networks. with a number of its members arrested, there is still a threat looming. >> reporter: french officials believe they followed a planned
attack after police raids in the outskirts of paris recovered tatp explosive and a rifle and caused the arrest of a terror plot suspect. now, the key thing, of course, is some sense of comfort potentially for those in brussels and around europe because of the volume of activity by police but also for concern as well. you saw there as a text message sent to somebody in germany three minutes before the detonation in the metro, that suggests a link in germany and an arrest in france led to a further arrest here this morning in brussels. that across europe increasing the evidence and police i'm sure struggling to act on every piece of information they're getting as they continue to detain people. >> some of that information too fragment fragmentary to act on.
now i want to bring in evan perez, phil mudd and cnn terrorism analyst paul cruickshank. gentlemen, a lot has gone on since we spoke 21 hours ago. evan, we were talking yesterday about the fact that there are these imminent isis-related plots in europe. since then, there has been this man arrested in paris who apparently was in the final stages of planning. what's the sense you're getting from talking to folks involved with the investigation in terms of how many other people out there are in europe? >> it really is a remarkable thing. it seems like every arrest seems to beget another list of names they have to go after and it really gives the sense of not only that there's this big network that they had no idea about, but also that it is, as nick just talked about, a pan-european problem, a problem that spans not only france and brussels and belgium but the netherlands and germany. one of the things that they're worried about obviously is the holiday weekend, a big weekend
for travel and for people in europe taking the weekend off. it's a big focus. they want to try to make sure they wrap these people up before the travel happens this weekend for europeans all over the continent. >> and this is so similar to what we saw after, phil, the paris attacks. we saw all these raids and people being arrested. what's going on behind the scenes? are some of these people subjects that they were already keeping an eye on or after the brussels attacks they have gained intelligence to act on it now? what's your take? >> both of these are happening. you don't roll up this many people this quickly. they would have been under some sort of surveillance before but what's happening is an intelligence avalanche. when you're conducting these raids, cell phones, hard drives, pieces of paper, maps, those are going into 24/7 operations centers. you've got software to analyze these mounds of data. out of that information comes the next raid target. do we have people who are
identified off of cell phones that we haven't known of before? do we have e-mails on hard drives we haven't seen before? that's why you're seeing this roll. they're picking up this data, triaging it overnight and scheduling the next raids. >> there's a lot of concern in the community that they were monitoring some of the brussels attackers after paris but didn't actually know this was in the works. >> one of the challenges when you're dealing with this number of people is how you prioritize targets. when you're dealing with five, ten targets, it's not that difficult. when you're dealing with 500 targets, you're going to you through a series of questions. who has access to weapons and explosives, who has access to training, who may have acquired tatp. and who has the intent to do something tomorrow. when you've got 500 cases at once, you're going to miss some. >> and they found one of those suspects, paul, french law enforcement said they uncovered explosives and a rifle in that raid we were talking about. the suspect was convicted on terror charges, sentenced to ten
years in prison but authorities couldn't track him down until now, obviously, as he was planning another attack. how big of a problem is that? >> well, he was sentenced in absentia for terrorism charges. he's believed to have traveled to syria and to have made his way back to europe. and the big problem, one of the very big problems is these european extremists, some of them know that they're on the radar screen of european security services. but what they're doing is they're exploiting these extraordinary refugee flows from syria, from the region into europe to come into europe. on october 3rd before the paris attacks a boat arrived with 200 people on board. two of the paris attackers were onboard that boat, pam, and they were then processed as syrian ref jees. every day on one little greek
island, 400 refugees coming and 950,000 through the whole agean over the last year or so. just recently the european commission had a withering report for greek border security. it's the soft underbelly of europe. >> and, you know, what is alarming to officials too is that they can't really give a number until terms of those that are coming and going, evan, because there's so many going to syria, coming back. they don't even know they left in the first place. but let's talk about this man on the run who could be anywhere at this point. the man in the white that we've seen in that airport picture. what do we know about him? there's been some information exchanged between the u.s. and belgium. are we getting closer to being able to capture him? >> the belgians provided a list of names to the americans to try to see if they can use to figure out who he was. they really did not know. and the u.s. has been working, using its databases.
the u.s. is a controversial issue in europe, the americans have been building a database of europeans who are believed to have traveled to syria and iraq and who may have come back. right now that database is becoming very useful and we're told that u.s. authorities believe that they have identified the guy and that they provided some leads to the belgians. now, the question is, where is he, are they going to be able to use this information to find him because obviously he is one of the most wanted men in the world right now. >> absolutely, along with the other man who was in the metro station that was part of the bombing. phil, this is sort of related, the fact that this -- the second in commandiand of i -- second id of isis, who was in charge of external operations for isis, how big of a blow is that to the terror group? >> in context it's a pretty significant operation. let's look back to where we were in the summer of 2014, isis making land advances in iraq and we're saying maybe even is
baghdad threatened. a year and a half, two years later not only is isis losing territory in iraq, losing territory in syria, but a series of raids over time. this is not the only one that has taken out leadership. when you look at terror threats, you have to look at leadership and whether they're losing space. they're losing both and that's significant. >> they say he was a finance minister. how critical was that job and can others take over the operation for him? >> no doubt others can take over for him in terms of running isis' finances, but the finances have come under strain in recent weeks. there was a document recovered from raqqah indicating that they cut the salaries in half, so they are under more financial constraints than they were just a few months ago because of the pressure of the anti-isis coalition. but he's believed to be one of the very top leaders in the group. the key deputy and the number two to abu al baghdadi.
the fact this they have managed to get him is very significant. there are three isis leaders they really, really want. he's one of them. the other two are the leader and abu mohammed al ananni who is the leader of the international attack planning. the fact they got him may signify they could get the others. this is a huge get. >> paul, evan, phil, we'll leave it there. thank you so much. coming up, we have new details about how the u.s. killed isis' second in command. why the special forces operation didn't go exactly as planned.
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welcome back to "the lead." breaking news in our world lead. the pentagon says u.s. special forces have killed this man considered by experts to be isis' second in command during an operation in syria. let's get right to barbara starr live at the pentagon. barbara, what more do we know about this operation? >> hi, pamela. this was a secret operation by u.s. commandos. it didn't go as planned, but they got results. u.s. special operations forces secretly sent into syria trying
to carry this man alive. defense secretary ash carter bluntly described the target. >> he was an isil senior leader serving as a finance minister and who also is responsible for some external affairs and plots. >> somebody the u.s. government put a high priority on grabbing, including a $7 million bounty on his head. >> we know that he was actively planning external attacks, presumably in the west or even in the united states. >> but even though the u.s. forces went in to capture him, they killed him in a highly dangerous mission, about which little is being revealed. the troops were part of the pentagon's covert expeditionary targeting force, a team of 200 special operations forces with orders to kill or capture isis leaders. the unit had been tracking him from helicopters overhead, they prepared to land and grab him from a vehicle on the road.
fighter jets overhead ready to act if the troops needed more fire power. but forces tell cnn something went wrong. the commandos ended up having to open fire from their helicopters and killed him. >> the removal of this isil leader will hamper the organization's ability to conduct operations both inside and outside of iraq and syria. >> some analysts call him the number two in isis and would have had crucial intelligence. >> this is somebody with significant credentials in global jihad. >> now, if they had been able to capture him alive, the plan was to take him back to iraq, interrogate him there for everything he knew and then turn him over to iraqi forces for detention. >> as we've seen in other cases. barbara starr at the pentagon, thank you so much. joining me now is the former supreme allied commander of nato and he is currently dean of the tufts fletcher school.
admiral, thanks so much for being here with us. the big debate today is how big of a deal is this. is this a big blow to isis or is this just a game of whack-a-mole and they'll replace him with someone else. >> i'll put it in between those two outcomes, pamela. it is a big deal for all the reasons you heard defense secretary ash carter articulate. we do need to remember as we saw with al qaeda, we killed the number three in al qaeda over and over again. someone will pop up and fill these jobs. the key kill would be al baghdadi, the head of the organization. >> so this makes you wonder if we're better at gathering intelligence and are closer to getting baghdadi. >> i think that may be the key thing is finding and fixing and killing repeatedly now some of the leading figures really starts to add up to an improvement in the campaign, which has been stalled for a while. >> and in terms of intelligence gathering, what do you think it shows as far as our capabilities now?
more human sources, better capabilities with electronic interceptions, what do you think? >> i think it's all of the above as well as our increasing ability to use our arab allies in the region. let's face it, they can gather that human intelligence. when you fuse that with the cell phones, with the cyber, you have a very devastating package to apply. >> president obama has said there's no need for a plan b that the u.s. is having success going after isis in iraq and syria. but then you have senator lindsey graham who put out a statement today saying that missions like this, quote, are no substitute for a sustained ground campaign which ultimately destroys the organization. raids like these help, but at the end of the day it will take an army to defeat an army. do you agree with that? >> i think it will take substantial ground forces eventually to go in. i'm not sure we need an army in the context of the 150,000 we had in iraq, the 140,000 troops
that were in afghanistan. we probably need 15,000 u.s. and nato troops. we're going to need to get boots on the ground from the iraqi security forces and the kurds in the north. when you put that package together, it is an army. but it doesn't require 150,000 u.s. troops. probably in the vicinity of 15,000, i would say. >> what is your view, though, when it comes to other arab and gulf states and their role in the anti-isis coalition? what more needs to be done to get them involved, because they're so key here. >> they absolutely are. as you have seen, they have contributed to the air campaign thus far. they're working a bit on intel and special forces, but as we just discussed, we're going to need them to provide real boots on the ground. a good thing that's just happened is that the saudis just conducted a massive exercise, northern wind, which put together an awful lot of the sunni arab states. i think it's the beginning of a coalition that could ultimately be very helpful. >> okay, i want to ask you quickly, donald trump says that
we should re-evaluate u.s. involvement with nato, calling it obsolete and it needs to shed its cold war mentality and focus more on fighting terror threats from isis. you're a former supreme allied commander of nato. what's your take on what he said? >> i think he's wrong. i think the key point that we need to focus on is that transatlantic bridge. here you have 28 nations that represent over 50% of the world's gdp. it's an extraordinary capability. we don't want to renegotiate, we don't want to give up our leadership position. what we should do is encourage the europeans to spend more. they're already spending $300 billion, about half of what we do. that number could go up. we've got to put that kind of pressure on. but in terms of re-evaluating our presence in nato, that would be a mistake. >> all right, admiral, always great to hear your perspective. thank you. >> thanks, pamela. as raids continue for suspects tied to the brussels terror attacks, we're learning more about the victims of those bombings, including two americans.
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welcome back to "the lead." anguish for those who have been desperately praying for their loved ones return has now turned into heart-wrenching grief and despair. officials confirm at least two americans are among the 31 people killed in the brussels explosions. we're also learning others with close ties to the u.s. lost their lives. i'm going to bring in cnn correspondent bren jengrass. how many people are still unaccounted for?
>> it's unclear how many people are still missing given just the sheer scope of all of these attacks but belgian authorities confirm they are on the ground and working to identify the victims. for some families holding out hope -- >> the united states, i want you to know, is praying and grieving with you. for the loved ones of those who have been very cruelly taken from us. >> reporter: a senior u.s. official confirmed two americans are among the 31 people who died. their names have not been released. we do know, though, the identities of three more victims with american ties. alex and sascha pinczowski were checking into their flight headed to new york. the family received a list of survivors at a brussels hospital and the siblings were not on it.
in a statement the family said we received confirmation this morning from belgian authorities and the dutch embassy of the positive identification of the remains of alexander and sascha. we are grateful to have closure on this tragic situation and are thankful for the thoughts and prayers from all. bart migom was also killed. his family identified his body at a brussels hospital. they believe he was checking in for a flight to the u.s. to visit his girlfriend when one of the airport bombs exploded. >> i'm going to miss the fact that he was my best friend and i just feel like i could spend the rest of my life with him. and i always told this to him at the end of our phone calls. it means bart is always in emily's heart. >> two americans are among those still missing.
justin and stephanie shults were dropping off stephanie's mother at the airport. moore was visiting the couple who live in brussels. she survived the blast but says she has still not heard from her daughter or son-in-law. and an emotional reunion for surviving victim mason wells and his parents. wells, a missionary from utah, is suffering from severe burning, as his fellow church member. she talked about her faith when talking exclusively from her hospital bedside. >> simple. god is with us. >> reporter: and it seems talking to families close to this tragedy, faith is what many are turning to now as those injured work toward recovery and those missing are accounted for. >> thank you so much for that. we wish the best for those families. ted cruz addressing new tabloid allegations head on and he is not mincing words when it
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welcome back to "the lead." senator ted cruz losing his cool in a stunning news conference after donald trump's repeated attacks on his wife. meanwhile, some republican officials are worried trump's rhetoric on women could hurt the party in the fall. cnn correspondent sunlen serfaty questioned senator cruz this afternoon and joins me now from oshkosh, wisconsin. a very unusual move from cruz today. >> reporter: it absolutely was, pamela. you know, this was a hastily arranged last-minute press conference called by the cruz campaign here in wisconsin. without being asked at all, ted cruz came right out and went right after donald trump,
blasting trump, alleging that he planted a negative tabloid story about him. >> donald is fond of giving people nicknames. with this pattern, he should not be surprised to see people calling him sleazy donald. >> reporter: ted cruz breathing fire at donald trump today. >> donald trump may be a rat, but i have no desire to copulate with him. and this garbage does not belong in politics. >> reporter: the texas senator bringing up unprovoked a tabloid story about him, accusing donald trump of being behind it, but not offering any proof to back up his assertion. >> this "national enquirer" story is garbage. it is complete and utter lies. it is a tabloid smear. and it is a smear that has come from donald trump and his henchmen. it's not surprising that donald trump's tweet occurs the day before the attack comes out.
>> reporter: trump today responding in a statement saying, quote, i had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it and have not as yet read it. adding, quote, unlike lyin' ted cruz i do not surround myself with political hacks and henchmen and then pretend total innocence. cruz today evading the question whether he could still support trump if he were the gop nominee. >> i don't make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family. >> reporter: this comes as a gop rivals have been sparring in sharply personal attacks involving their spouses. >> and to heidi, isn't she going to make an amazing first lady? >> reporter: campaigning side by side with his wife today, cruz calling out donald trump directly to the crowd. >> you know, in the last few days, donald trump has taken to attacking heidi. >> reporter: part of trump's attacks, a tweet threatening to spill the beans on heidi cruz
and a retweet of a split screen image of his wife, melania, and heidi cruz with the caption "the images are worth a thousand words." cruz looking to frame this as a pattern for trump. >> donald does seem to have an issue with women. donald doesn't like strong women. strong women scare donald. >> reporter: this isn't the first time trump has stirred up controversy with his comments about women, including fox news anchor megyn kelly. >> you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. blood coming out of her wherever. >> reporter: democratic rival hillary clinton. >> and hillary, who's become very shrill. you know the word shrill? she's become shrill. >> reporter: the latest cnn/orc poll shows that while 59% of republican women have a favorable view of trump, 39% have an unfavorable view and his unfavorable mark jumps to 73% among registered women voters nationwide, revealing how much
of an uphill climb he could face in a general election if he emerges as the nominee. and cruz also blasted trump for being act from the campaign trail this week. he said here in wisconsin that trump is just hiding out in trump tower as he wages this fight against him basically over twitter, and trump is expected to return to the campaign trail next week. pam. >> just ratcheting up their rhetoric. sunlan ser faulen serfaty, than much for that. mary katherine ham, emily tisch sussman, thanks for all bowing here. love being with fellow women. let's just speak about what donald trump has said now about ted cruz's wife. this follows other comments he's made about megyn kelly and other women. it seems like up unto this point his supporters have been
unfazed, but mary katherine, could this be a turning point? could this be it? >> i never think that it will be a turning point of 35% of trump fans in the gop electorate. i do think there's a possibility obviously in the general this is a mistake to continue this kind of thing. i think in wisconsin in a republican primary you might get people who say this is not how we do things. we've had a rough run in politics in wisconsin but we're decent people and don't really deal with this kind of thing. >> molly, when you widen the discussion and we look at the recent poll, the cnn/orc poll that sunlen has in her story showing that donald trump has 73% unfavorables among women, could the new ones he bring compensate for that? >> every time he opens his mouth you learn why a majority of republicans oppose him and why
women loathe him. it does seem he has a particular problem with strong, confident women. it's the one thing that seems consistent going back decades. he's changed his position all over the place when it's foreign policy or immigration. going back decades, she seems to struggle with his treatment of women. in the polls he's getting crushed by hillary clinton. it's not just that women don't like him, but so many republican women say they could never support him. it's a huge problem for him. >> on that note, emily, donald trump has signalled that if hillary clinton attacks him over his remarks about women, that trump will bring up bill clinton's history. what do you think, is that fair game? >> talk about a double standard. trump has always said that he thinks his personal life is open, that he thinks he could potentially be -- that it would be something that other candidates could attack him on. i mean i just don't think anybody else wants to take this campaign to the place that he's taken it. trump has no clean record in his personal life, that is for sure. i just don't think anybody else wants to take it there. that's why we're seeing he
greatly, greatly struggles among women, millennials, voters of color. in new polling out today, we saw generally how you look at how a candidate is rated. if you don't like them, it would go from neutral to unfavorable to very unfavorable. his very unfavorable among registered voters are 53%. that's unreal. >> how could that affect the gop, mary cakatherine. >> trump observes no rules or standards and his supporters do not require him to follow any of them. in fact they're excited that he doesn't. >> they like it. >> and that's one of the reasons cruz came out and gave a press conference style sort of angry presentation today, incensed presentation because he wants to say if this is how we're going to do battle, this is how we're going to do battle. this is the problem with kwiegt this guy. when it gets to the general electorate, people are turned off. women specifically are turned off. >> you saw a real change in tone
in ted cruz. calling him a sniveling coward yesterday and today called him a rat. stick around, there's a lot more to talk about. thanks so much. if the republicans have a contested convention, the gop nominee will likely be someone who isn't currently running. that's according to one former presidential candidate. but is it a realistic possibility? that's the big question. we will talk about it, up next.
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welcome back to "the lead." our political panel is back with us. mary cath rikatherine, i'm goin start with you again. there's this idea that ted cruz has a limited appeal. if you look at the results, cruz has matched trump win for win everywhere but the south. do you think cruz is still limited? >> i think cruz has some an stacks. if you look at the head-to-head polling with hillary clinton, it's clear he has a better shot head-to-head with her than trump does. trump has some challenges ahead to win some states. there's plenty to show that he's the better general election
choice than donald trump for many of the reasons we just mentioned. >> speaking of the general election choice, you have wisconsin governor scott walker telling reporters today he doesn't think any of the candidates in the running right now will actually be in the general election if there is an open convention. he's it's very likely the nominee would be someone who's not currently running. molly, what do you think about that? >> anything is possible this year and that is one of the possibilities that is out there. >> a lot has happened that we were surprised by this year. let's be honest. >> i think it's more likely it will go to a second ballot and that's what makes it more interesting as to how donald trump, a relative newcomer, whose supporters are independents or crossover democrats, they're not as well positioned to handle a second ballot race. you saw this recently in louisiana, where donald trump actually won more of the electoral vote than ted cruz, but ted cruz took ten more delegates to the convention. he's taking ten more delegates. that's because he and his campaign understood the party rules, they understood how you
allocate delegates. it's this type of knowledge that will be very important if you go to a brokered convention. a totally new candidate, not as possible as a second ballot. >> you've got two groups here, establishment folks and conservative grassroots. if anything can unite them at the convention, it is opposition to donald trump. >> emily, what do you think? >> it's certainly a possibility. i think scott walker would certainly like that to be true. i think he has a lot invested in that being true because he was also at one point in this race and he was considered early on to be a very strong candidate. and taking on that piece of the electorate that rubio ended up occupying a little bit of, that sort of insider/outsider. he's been elected but not totally of the establishment. so he really thought he was going to occupy that space. so i think he would have a lot invested in saying it's could be somebody not on the ballot. but the question is whether they go to a second ballot is what happens to those trump supporters. they do not care about being in the party, about building up the party.
they do not care about making sure that whoever the nominee is gets elected. do they stay home? do some of them ending up voting for clinton? nobody knows. it's a risk and it's a large piece of the electorate. >> ben carson today claimed that he has helped donald trump act more presidential. do you see any change in donald trump since carson's endorsement, mary katherine? >> i think that donald trump is his id. that's what he is. he's walking around doing that all the time. and you'll see occasionally at these press conferences where he tries to get his tone down and be a little bit more, quote unquote, presidential and the real donald trump just rages forward just a few minutes later. i just don't think he can keep a lid on it, ben carson or no. >> ben carson did tweet out something saying the important thing is that we all be civil when we disagree. everybody mocked him why did you support the candidate that's so uncivil. i take it that he's trying to encourage his buddy, donald trump, to tone it down. >> and there's this other race going on on the democratic side
we haven't gotten to yesterday. bernie sanders implied on an internet show that hillary clinton will go with the wind all the time. we've seen this exit polling showing clinton struggles with honesty and trustworthiness. is there a fix or is it just baked in so much there's nothing to do about it? >> i think there is some truth to the fact that she has been under attack from the mainstream media for 20, 30 years. this has been a very consistent attack on her. there is a piece of people that feel like that's part of who she is. i think once people look at her record, where she's been, the policies she's putting forward have actually been quite consistent. particularly if we do get into this head-to-head matchup, whether it's trump, whether it's cruz, she's putting forward proposals that are quite realistic of the and part of what she struggled with the democratic base, why sanders has done a little better than people expected is because he's speaking in platitudes. everything is very large, it's very extreme. actually her policy positions
are not so different. these are policies that people want to hear about but they're a little bit more toned down because she's been acting like she has to govern at some point on them, which is a little different than other people in the race have been. >> what do you think, molly? >> i think it's a good reminder when we talk about how people will match up against hillary clinton. hillary clinton is a really difficult candidate. she is someone who does change her positions a lot. i think that has to be factored in once she goes head to head that this might be a struggle for her more than people realize. >> molly, emily, mary katherine, thank you so much. be sure to tune into cnn this next tuesday for the next republican town hall starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on cnn. gunshots and a suspected terrorist down in belgium as u.s. forces kill a top isis commander in syria. much more on the breaking news just ahead. ..residue. oh...so gross. well, you didn't use pam. so it looks like you're stuwith me!
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welcome back to "the lead." today the white house is applauding a new economic report. a boost to the gdp. the best snapshot of spending and global trade. presidential candidates who want to take over managing our economy might beg to differ, but pay close attention to how they describe our debt versus deficit. it's often confused, even by politicians. our cnn money team is explaining the difference in our series america's debt -- >> america lives on borrowed money. that's why the terms debt and deficit get thrown around so much. >> u you're mixing up the deficit with the debt. >> $19 trillion? does anybody know what a trillion means? >> good question, what does it all mean? >> you know what it means? it means a lot.
>> right. let's first start with our definition. in a given year a country will raise money through taxes and spend money on everything that a government spends money on. if it spends more than it takes in, it's called a deficit and they have to borrow money to pay for it. this leads us to debt. the debt is the total sum a government owes. in other words, a deficit is your dirty dish from last night. the debt is your sink. people love to talk about how huge and how unprecedented the debt is. >> the biggest threat to america's future is debt that we're piling on. >> the transcendant issue of our era. >> looking at a chart we see the debt in 1950 was around $257 billion compared to now which is around $19 trillion. with inflation, that $257 billion in 1950 is around $2.5 trillion. that's still a fraction of our current debt, $19 trillion, but
we're not entirely there yet. you have to look at the total size of the economy. our economy has grown tremendously since 1950. we have more money. we have more assets. we have more people. the gdp is around eight times what it was in 1950. that's why when economists talk about the debt, they prefer to use this number, the debt-to-gdp ratio. it takes the total amount of public debt and shows it a percentage relative to the size of the total economy. so now if we go back to that scary, terrifying chart of the debt, as a percentage of the total economy, it's a different story. the u.s. number right now is about 103%. if you're wondering is that too high? there's no simple answer. some economists say 85% is too high. some say 100, some say even higher. regardless of what you think the number should be, economists agree those big scary numbers people show around -- >> the 1 trillion 90 million --
>> ignore them. these are the numbers you should be looking at. >> and be sure to tune in to "state of the union" on sunday at 9:00 a.m. eastern time. senator bernie sanders will be jake's guest. that's it for "the lead." i turn you over to brianna keilar in "the situation room." happening now, breaking news. terror raids, arrests in three countries and a shootout in the street as police hunt for suspects in the brussels massacres and try to foil more isis attacks that may be in the planning stages. mystery suspect. u.s. officials say they know the identity of the man in the hat who fled after the airport bombing. could it be the mastermind of the brussels attacks? takedown. the pentagon says u.s. forces have killed a top isis leader. experts say he was the second in commanding. if the aim was taking him alive, kid something go wrong? and tabloid ea