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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  March 23, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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breaking news tonight. nbc news and a shocking trail of terror in brussels. the boum maker believed dead. tonight what richard engel has learned about how the horrific plot may have been set in motion. and a secret message found in a garbage can. fight over their wives. donald trump blame ted cruz for an ad, threatening to spill the beans on ted cruz's wife. tonight heidi cruz fires back. spring blizzard emergency shut down a major airport. people trapped in their cars on highwa highways. birth control battle. a big fight today that could impact women across the country. "nightly news" begins right now. >> announcer: brussels
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terror attacks, this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. reporting tonight, from brussels. >> good evening. behind me, a scene that has become all too familiar in europe's latest wave of terror. this is the plaza in front of the stock exchange in central brussels, now a place of remembrance for the victims of yesterday's terror attacks. this region remains on high alert. investigators made some important headway today, identifying a pair of brothers as the suicide bombers, and zeroing in on the other attacker who appears to have escaped. and breaking news tonight, nbc news has just learned those procedures were also directly involved in the paris attacks, too, providing a safe house and weapons. all of this is now unmasking a frightening portrait of isis' next move. richard engel leads us off with late details. >> reporter: tonight new information about the men officials say were responsible for all of this. belgian prosecutors
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identified this man, ib bra ham, as a suicide bomber. a senior counterterrorism official now identified the man standing next to him as najim laachraoui. he was the bomb maker and blew up with him. and his brother also died on the brussels subway. right now an urgent manhunt is still under way for at least one more suspect. now nbc news is learning from u.s. intelligence officials it all goes right back to the paris attacks, four months ago. brussels was the work of the same cell, reborn. it unfolded like this. back in paris, amid the shootings and bombings, one of the attackers, abdeslam got away. he made it to belgium, where a senior u.s. official said abdelsam started to plan for new atrocities. the three suitcase
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bombs at the airport attack weighed as much as 44 pounds each. belgian authorities today uncovered a huge stockpile of explosives the terrorists left behind. what does that say to you about what they found? >> the detonators, enough material to produce detonators. we know how they operated. >> reporter: thomas renard advised us the belgian government -- >> the request eis, one, whether that factory was used for their operations for making other bombs. they may still be other. that is something we need to be careful with. >> reporter: this is yet another house police have raided as they follow the evidence trail. we don know all the details of what they found inside yet. but what is clear is that they are very much playing catch-up. bal jan police said today they found ibrah ibrahim's last testimony in a dumpster. in it, he said he felt hunted, no longer safe, and didn't want to end up in jail.
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nbc news has learned that the brothers were deeply involved in the paris attacks. one of the brothers rented the last safe house some of the paris attackers used before carrying out the attacks. the other brothers helped find them weapons. lester, back in paris, these two brothers were mostly involved in logistics. but once they came here, they became operational, active attackers. >> it makes people wonder if the threat is really over. >> it doesn't seem like it anyway. >> richard engel, thank you. the people of brussels have shown remarkable courage in the aftermath of all this. the questions persist about whether more could be done here to stop this kind of horror from happening. nbc's bill neely has more on that. >> reporter: in brussels today, a minute silence for the dead. then defiance from the living. the applause of a people scarred, but not beaten. their morning commute
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guarded by troops. >> all i can do is show i'm not afraid. >> you're not afraid? >> no, i'm not. >> we cannot give in to fear. >> reporter: defiance and patriotism. you're wearing belgian colors. >> i think everybody needs to wear it now. >> reporter: but there's disbelief, too, that men from their city would do this, and could make their bombs in this building without anyone noticing. nothing strange? >> nothing strange. >> reporter: what the terrorists left behind her is staggering. nearly 40 pounds of unused explosives, nearly 50 gallons of explosive liquid, nails, shrapnel, a suburban arsenal of terror. their bombs massacred commuters. a nearby hotel became a triage center. >> 40, 50 wounded people brought in here, into the hotel. >> reporter: but could it have been stopped? u.s. counterterrorism officials tell nbc news belgium had
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warnings of attacks, but not enough to disrupt them. they did not raise their terror levels. >> the belgian security forces are not regarded as the best in europe. and i think this will be another wakeup call. >> reporter: their police forces, 19 separate ones in brussels alone, failed to stop the terrorists. they are undermanned in immigrant areas from where hundreds of locals are left to fight for isis. they are overwhelmed. and are now hunting bombers on the run. >> it's over. i think it's over. >> you hope it's over? >> i hope, of course. >> reporter: they hope, they hug, they pr pray, and they march. for the airport workers, this was a day of remembrance and resolve. that the bombers of brussels will not win. the last time belgium faced a bomb and troops on the streets was during world war ii. they are resilient,
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they are tough, but they are tonight asking tough questions of their intelligence services, their police, and their government. lester? >> all right, bill. and that hope you speak of being echoed behind me here tonight. the state department said about a dozen americans were injured in tuesday's attacks, and a number of u.s. citizens remain unaccounted for, including some staffers at the u.s. embassy here. today i spoke to one american couple who managed to escape the bomb blasts with their lives. the scene today at the airport, investigators combing through the debris and smoke. some with a gut-wrenching task of those killed in yesterday ooh explosions. two bombs were detonated here in quick succession, around 8:00 a.m., followed by a third explosion at the metro station. >> we were counting our blessings. >> reporter: this arizona couple were awaiting a connecting flight, just on the other side of the terminal that was struck. >> we felt it, yeah,
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just kind of came through us. it was a shock wave. that we felt throughout our whole bodies. >> did you immediately think terrorism, bomb? >> we -- i would say yes. >> reporter: the explosions injured hundred kreds, including several americans. a group of mormon missionaries traveling together from utah. 66-year-old richard norby is in a medically induced coma. joseph emby and mason wells, both recovering with shrapnel injuries and second-degree burns. belgian basketball player who played college ball in the u.s. seen here following the terror attack, suffered serious leg and hip injuries. meanwhile, the state department is working to account for other americans, as families desperately await word on their loved ones, including new york brother and sister sasha and alexander penchowski. on the phone with a
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relative when the airport blast happened. they haven't been heard from since. they say they and hundreds were evacuated outonto the tarmac and told virtually nothing. >> it seemed like norever. a couple hours maybe. and then a flight attendant got on the plane and opened the emergency door and was just throwing blankets out to women and children. >> all those evacuated were told to leave their belongings right where they were in the airport. no one knows when they'll be able to fly out of the airport here. but that's a small price to pay for their lives, and they're, of course, happy to be alive here tonight. as the state department alerts americans about the risks of traveling to europe, there is noticeably increased security across the u.s. from subway systems to trains, airports and schools. but beefing up security comes with a big challenge. finding that balance between guarding against terrorism and safeguarding freedom of movement in a
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democracy. tom costello has the details. >> reporter: in atlanta this morning -- >> they're making us evacuate. >> reporter: -- panic. the south terminal evacuated. a false alarm as police across the country move to a heightened state of alerted in airports, subways and train stations. at union station in washington, amtrak police dogs were working the next krout bound train. a viper team walks inside. >> we want to keep the terrorists off their game. we want to be unpredictable and we want to be in places when it's best to be there. >> reporter: security experts insist the show of force is a powerful deterrent. but americans pass through so-called soft terror targets every day. schools, shopping malls and sporting events. the 2013 boston marathon bombing, a prime example of a 26-mile soft target.
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since that day, boston police have added more than 150 cameras, and made terrorism a daily priority. >> it's all about tenls intelligence, all about outreach and the public stepping up to help us. >> reporter: homeland security said it's critical the public remains vigilant, looking out for people who seem to be surveilling a location, gathering information about things like shift changes, and testing security with false alarms. and evolving security challenge, and an enemy who only needs to get through once. emerging technology might also help. eventually the possibility of when someone pulls up to the airport occurside, facial recognition will compare it against the database of known terrorists. that technology may be years away. back to you. >> tom costello, thank you. president obama defended his strategy to take on isis today during his visit to argentina. he said defeating these terrorists is his top priority.
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but the 2016 republican candidates accuse him of not doing enough to stop the threat. we get more from nbc's andrea mitchell. >> reporter: the president called isis vicious killers, but not a threat to the u.s. >> they can't defeat us. they don't produce anything. they're not an existential threat to us. >> reporter: republicans immediately attacked. terrorism a leading campaign wedge issue. after paris, after san bernardino, a majority of republican voters citing trifl as their number one concern. now after brussels, donald trump renewing his call to ban muslims and torture terror suspects. ted cruz calling for surveillance of muslim neighborhoods in the u.s. the president taking that on a day after leaving cuba. >> i just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance. which by the way, the father of senator cruz
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escaped for america. >> reporter: cruz lashing back. >> and we have seenment obama's weakness and appeasement give rise to radical islamic terrorism. >> we're going to bring them to justice. you know, we'll fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here. that is not how the world operates. >> reporter: hillary clinton trying to portray herself as the grown-up this the room. >> when republican candidates like ted cruz call for treating american muslims like criminals, it's wrong, it's counterproductive, it's dangerous. >> reporter: the president under fire on a critical national security issue. and the parties sharply divided. >> andrea, thank you. the events here in brussels aren't the only things making news on the campaign trail. the personal attacks between donald trump and ted cruz have reached a new level with their wives now getting dragged into their nasty rivalry. hooer's nbc's hallie
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jackson. >> reporter: this racy anti-trump ad meant to turn off utah mormons now turning attention to the tone of the gop race. meet melania trump, it says, your next first lady. or you could support ted cruz on tuesday. >> that ad was completely inappropriate. we had nothing to do with it. >> reporter: the image was created by an outside stop trump group, but that didn't stop trump himself from threatening cruz he would, quote, spill the beans about wife heidi. >> there are a lot of things that donald trump and his campaign say that aren't based on reality. >> reporter: cruz tweeting back with the #classless. >> he's better off sticking with me, because heidi is way out of his league. >> reporter: trump accusing cruz of lifting lines. >> you better stick with me. because it's way out of your league. >> reporter: the entire episode raising the question, is anything off-limits anymore? >> i think it's always nasty, but this year it's extraordinarily
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nasty. >> reporter: creating the digital ad featuring the former model in british "gq." >> i think donald trump has obliterated all lines in this campaign. >> reporter: for cruz, there are some lines candidates shouldn't cross. >> we shouldn't attack each other's spouses, we shouldn't attack each other's children. that's gutter politics. >> reporter: hoping to set the rules in a race that doesn't seem to have any. hallie jackson, nbc news, new york. still ahead tonight, birth control battle, a potential landmark case now before the supreme court. how will the vacancy on the bench impact the decision?
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back now with that big fight over birth control. president obama's health care plan back today at the supreme court, groups that object on the religious grounds say they should not have to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. and as our justice correspondent pete williams reports, without justice scalia, this one could be headed for a 4-4 tie. >> reporter: the little sisters of the poor, catholic nuns who care for the elderly, say they should be exempt from providing employee health care coverage for contraceptives. the government said they can opt out if they object on religious grounds and turn over information about their insurance. but the nuns and dozens of other religiously affiliated charities, seminaries and colleges are
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suing, saying having to do even that is too much. >> the services would still become a part of our health plan. and that's something we can't agree to. >> reporter: while groups on both sides staged spirited demonstrations outside the court, inside the four remaining conservatives seem to agree with the nuns. chief justice john roberts said the government wants to hijack their health care plan, just as anthony kennedy wanted to hijack it. the obama administration said a group's religious freedom does not exclude the right to restrict health care for employees, and students at lnlsly affiliated colleges. >> students' applicants need access to contraception. not some sort of third-class or second-class health care. >> reporter: the court seems split 4-4. a tie would leave in place a division among the lower courts. that would be bad for the little sisters who lost in the appeals court and would mean
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that the women who work for affiliations would get the contraceptives in some states, and not others. lester? >> all right, pete williams, thanks. we're back in a moment with a spring blizzard, grinding part of the country to a halt.
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three days into spring, a blizzard has shut down the airport and major highways around denver. people trapped in their cars, and a storm that stretches across serl states barreling from west to east. here's nbc's blake mccoy. >> reporter: heavy snow blowing in so hard and fast today in denver, the airport forced to shut down completely. officials saying conditions had become unsafe. passengers already at the airport told to shelter in place. the road to go home impassable. across colorado, zero visibility. interstates shut down stranding drivers. state patrol tweeting, when tow trucks and fire trucks are getting stuck, it's
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bad. this express delivery ground to a halt. it's weather whiplash for colorado which saw temperatures in the 70s this time yesterday. the monster storm prompting advisories from the rockies all the way to maine. >> steady snow in the front range will transition into the midwest. >> reporter: in minnesota, snow has already started falling, more than a foot forecast for rochester and into green bay, wisconsin. this first week of spring proving winter isn't done with us yet. blake mccoy, nbc news, chicago. when we come back, remembering a legendary baseball player and broadcaster, and longtime member of the nbc family. ===terrvo=
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the legatns heorcedclasates exe inveigate ===js/vo= safe. butheir ther now undearr ===js/next ose==the ws isext. "how didh finally tonight, we remember someone close to us, a legend who was the voice of baseball for decades right here on nbc. joe gar a ji ola, the big-leaguer catcher who west on to a long career as a broadcaster has died at 90. ron mott looks back at his incredible career. >> i grew up in st. louis. >> reporter: joe and baseball were as connected a pair as baseball and apple pie. >> what number press conference is this for you? >> reporter: after a nine-year run as a
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catcher in the '40s and '50s, the st. louis native made a turn toward pra broadcasting and found success. his folksy midwestern ways and quick smile a hit with the nationwide audience. in a statement, bon costa said joe gar a ji ol la led a legendary life. >> you're going to have to watch that infield and outfield. >> reporter: he called games for nbc for a quarter century, filled in for johnny carson, served two hosts on the "today" show. matt lauer tweeting, he was part of the soul of our show. in more recent years he worked as a broadcaster for the arizona diamondbacks where he lived for many years. colleague bryant g gumbattle -- >> he fought against chewing tobacco,
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founded an organization and worked tirelessly to help native american kids. by any measure that's a full life. >> reporter: he was 90 years old. ron mott, nbc news, los angeles. that will do it for us. i'm lester holt. trt:04==tey/vo=righnow as how did this happen during school? where was the supervision? >> right now at 6:00, parents outranged that a grade school bully wasn't given a harsher punishments after allegations he forced classmates to expose themselves. now the police are involved after we started asking questions. i'm terry mcsweeney in for raj mathai. >> and i'm jessica aguirre. parents at san jose's noble elementary school are fuming tonight over the way they say the school and the district handled those allegations. tonight our questions are
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sparking a new investigation. nbc bay area's damian trujillo is live in san jose with a story you'll see only on nbc bay area. we're talking about second graders here, damian. >> reporter: we should emphasize these are allegations at this point. but the district does confirm to us that a quote incident did occur on campus but that they handled the situation. however, some parents are still upset that the alleged aggressor is still in the same classroom as the alleged victims. parents say it happened in this playground at noble elementary. >> intimidated and bullied on the playground during p.e. class, into showing the aggressor their private parts. >> reporter: michelle rojas says her child, a second grader, was one of the victims. the alleged aggressor a fellow classmate. this mom says it also happened to her child. she didn't want to show her face and spoke through a translator who also happens to be a parent at the same ch


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