tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC March 23, 2016 7:00pm-7:31pm EDT
breaking news tonight. nbc news and a shocking trail of terror in brussels. the bomb-maker believed dead, killed with a pair of suicide bomber brothers. 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 blames ted cruz for an ad taking aim at milania trump's modeling past threatening to, quote, spill the beans on ted cruz's wife. tonight heidi cruz fires back. spring blizzard emergency shuts down a major airport. people trapped in their cars on highways. and birth control battle. a big fight today that could impact women across the country. "nightly news" begins
>> announcer: brussels 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 brothers were also directly involved in the paris attacks, too, providing a safe house and weapons. all of this has now unmasked a frightening portrait of isis' next moves. chief correspondent, foreign correspondent richard engel, leads
>> reporter: tonight new information about the men officials say were responsible for all of this. belgian prosecutors identified this man, ibrahim bakraoui as a suicide bomber, a u.s. official said the man standing next to him was najim laachraoui, the bomb-maker, who also blew up in the attack. bakraoui's brother, officials say, also died in the suicide attack on the brussels subway, and 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, salam abdeslam got away and made it to belgium where a senior u.s. official said abdeslam rebuilt what was left of the cell and started to plan for new atrocities. u.s. officials tell nbc newsha
at the airport attack weighed as much as 44 pounds each and belgian authorities today uncovered a huge stockpile of explosives the terrorists left behind. what does that say to you about what they found? >> we found detonators and materiel to produce detonators. we know how they are operated. >> reporter: thomas renard is a terrorism expert who advises the belgian government. >> the question is, one, whether that factory was used for other operations, for making other bombs that may still be out there, so that is something we need to be very careful with. >> reporter: this is yet another house police have raided as they follow the evidence trail. we don't know all the details of what they found inside yet, but what is clear is that they are very much playing catchup. belgian police said today they found ibrahim bakraoui's last testimony, his will on a computer left in a dumpster. in it he said he felt hunted, no longer safe and didn't want to end upja
nbc news has learned that the bakraoui 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 attack. the other brother 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 shows an organization that can adapt and is resilient. >> and makes people wonder if the threat is really over. >> doesn't seem to be. >> richard engel, thank you. the people of brussels have shown remarkable courage both during the attacks and in the aftermath of all of this, but questions persist about whether more can 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 and then defiance from the living. the applause of a people scarred but not beaten.
their morning commute guarded by troops. >> all i can do is show i'm not afraid. >> reporter: you're not afraid. >> no, i'm not. >> we cannot give into 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. so nothing strange? >> nothing strange. >> reporter: but it's what the terrorists left behind here that's 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. >> between 40 and 50 wounded people brought in here into the hotel. >> reporter: but could it have been stopped? u.s. counterterrorism officials tell nbc
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 that this will be another wake-up 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 left to fight for isis. they are overwhelmed and are now hunting bombers on the run. >> it's over. i think it's over. >> reporter: you hope it's over? >> i hope, of course. >> reporter: they hope, they hug, they 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 belgians
faced their capital bombed and troops on the streets was during world war ii. they are resilient, they are tough, but they are tonight asking tough questions of their intelligence services, their police and their government. lester? >> all right, bill. that hope that you speak of being echoed behind me here tonight. the state department says about a dozen americans were jord 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 zaventem airport, investigators combing through the debris, some with a gut-wrenching task of identifying those killed in yesterday's 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.
denise and andrew brandt were waiting a connecting flight just on the other side of the terminal that was struck. you felt it? >> yeah, felt. it just kind of came through us. it was shock wave that we felt throughout our we felt throughout our whole bodies. >> reporter: did you immediately think terrorism, bomb? >> we -- i would say yes. >> reporter: the explosions injured hundreds, including several americans. a group of mormon missionaries traveling together from utah. 66-year-old richard norby is in a medically induced coma and joseph empey and mason wells, both recovering from shrapnel injuries and second-degree burns and belgian pro basketball player sebastian bellin who played college ball in the u.s. seen here following the terror attacks 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 sascha and alexander
pinczowski on the phone with a relative when the airport blast happened. they haven't been heard from since. the brandts say they and hundreds of others were evacuated out of the cold airport tarmac and told virtually nothing. >> it seemed like forever. a couple of hours maybe, and then one -- a flight attendant got on to one of the planes 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 will be able to fly out of the airport here, but that's a small price to pay for their lives, and they are happy, of course, to be alive tonight and sorrowful for all the victims. tonight, as the state department alerts americans about the risk 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
[000:09:59;00] freedom of movement in an open democracy. nbc's tom costello has details. >> reporter: at hartsfield airport in atlanta this morning. >> for some reason they are making us rush out of here and evacuate. >> reporter: panic as a suspicious package took on a post-brussels urgency. the south terminal evacuated. a false alarm as police across the country move to a heightened state of alert in airports, subways and train stations. at union station in washington, amtrak police dogs were working the next outbound acela train while a tsa viper team made up of normally undercover air marshals watched the lunch crowd inside. air marshal in charge ray wilder. >> we want to keep the terrorists off their game, be unpredictable and in places where it's best to be there. >> reporter: security experts insist the show force is a powerful deterrent, but americans pass through so-called soft terror targets every
day, schools, marathon bombing, a prime example of a 26-mile soft target. since that day boston police have added more than 150 cameras and made terrorism a daily priority. >> it's all about intelligence. it's all about outreach, and it's all about the public stepping up and helping us. >> reporter: 15 years since 9/11, homeland security says it's critical the public remains vigilant. looking out for people who seem to be surveilling a location and gathering information about things like shift changes and testing security with false alarms. an evolving security challenge and an enemy who only needs to get through once. and emerging technology might also help. eventually the possibility that when somebody pulls up to an airport curbside like this one, facial recognition cameras will capture that face and immediately compare it against the database of known terrorists. lester, that technology may be years away. back to you. >> all right. tom costello, thank you. president obama defended his strategy to take on isis today
during his visit to argentina. these terrorists is his top priority, but 2016 republican candidates accuse him of not doing enough to combat the threat with terrorism now dominating this campaign again. 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 are 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 terrorism as their number one concern. now after brussels donald trump renewing his call to ban muslims and torture terror suspects, and 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 senator cruz escaped for america. >> reporter: cruz lashing back. >> and we have seen president obama's weakness and apeacement give rise to radical islamic terrorism. >> reporter: do the campaign one-liners match the challenge. >> we'll bring them to justice, you know. we'll fight them over there so that 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 in 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 two parties sharply divided. lester? >> andrea, thank you. the events here in brussels aren't the only thing making news on the campaign trail.
the personal attacks between donald trump getting dragged into their nasty rivalry. here's nbc's hallie jackson. >> reporter: this racy anti-trump ad meant to turn off utah mormons now turning attention to the tone of the gop race. meet milania trump, it says, your next first lady, or you could support ted cruz on tuesday. >> that ad was completely inappropriate, and 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'd quote, spill the beans about wife heidi. still not clear what trump is talking about. >> there are a lot of things that donald trump and his campaign say that have no basis in reality. >> reporter: cruz tweeting back with the #classless. so agitated he typed the message himself, the campaign says. >> 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 sidney allen wade is 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 nasty. >> reporter: liz mayer created the digital ad featuring the former model in "british gq." >> i think donald trump has obliterated all conceivable lines in the course of this campaign, and i'm perfectly comfortable with what we've done. >> for cruz there's some lines you shouldn't cross. >> we shouldn't attack each other's spouses and children and 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, but how will the vacancy on the bench impact the decision? needles of diabetic nerve pain, these feet played shortstop in high school, learned the horn from my dad and played gigs from new york to miami. but i couldn't bear my diabetic nerve pain any longer. so i talked to my doctor and he prescribed lyrica. nerve damage from diabetes causes diabetic nerve pain.
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let's talk about your old 401(k) today. back now with that big fight over birth control. president obama's health care plan back today at supreme court. groups that object on 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: little sisters of the poor, catholic nuns who care forth elderly, say they should be exempt from obamacare's requirement of providing employee health insurance coverage for contraceptives. the government says they can opt out if they provide notice that they object on religious grounds and turn over information about their insurance, but the nuns and dozens of other
religiously affiliated charities, seminaries to do even that is too much. >> the services will still become a part of our health plan hand that's just something that 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. justice anthony kennedy used that same word, hijack. >> we welcome you into our nation. >> reporter: the obama administration says a group's religious freedom does not include the right to restrict access to health care for employees and even for students at religiously affiliated colleges. >> students, faculty and staff need access to contraception. it's not some sort of
third class or second class health care. >> reporter: the court seemed split 4-4. a tie would leave in place the decision among the lower courts. that would be bad for the little sisters who lost in the appeals court and it means that women who work for religiously affiliated organizations would get the contraceptions in some states but not the others. lester? >> pete williams, thanks. we're back in a moment with a spring blizzard grinding part of the country to a halt. and the big milestones. and just like i'm there for her, pacific life is there to help protect me and my family so i can enjoy all life's moments. pacific life. helping families for over 145 years achieve long-term financial security with lifelong retirement income. talk to a financial advisor today to grow your future with confidence. you can't breathed. through your nose. suddenly, you're a mouthbreather. well, just put on a breathe right strip which instantly opens your nose up to 38% more than cold medicine alone. shut your mouth and say goodnight mouthbreathers.
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kathleen mathews and i approve this message. three days into spring a blizzard has shut down the airport and major highways around denver. people trapped in their cars in a storm that stretches across several 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 the shelter in place. the road to go home impassable. across colorado zero visibility and interstates shut down
stranding drivers. state patrol tweeting when tow trucks and 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 and the front rains will then 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. i had so many thoughts once i left the hospital after a dvt blood clot. what about my wife... ...what we're building together... ...and could this happen again? i was given warfarin in the hospital, but wondered, was this the best treatment for me? i spoke to my doctor and she told me about eliquis.
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and that unlimited 2% cash back from spark means thousands that's huge for my bottom line. what's in your wallet? finally tonight, we remember someone close to us, a legend who was the voice of baseball for decades right here on nbc. joe garagiola, the big-leaguer catcher who went on to a long career as a hall of fame broadcaster, has died at 90. nbc's ron mott looks back at his incredible life and career. >> i grew up in st. louis. >> reporter: joe garagiola and baseball were as connected a pair as baseball and
apple pie. >> what number press you? >> after a nine-year run as a catcher in the '40s and '50s, the st. louis native made a turn towards broadcasting and found lasting success. >> tiant could have beaten him if he was an airplane. >> reporter: his folksy midwestern way and quick smile a hit with a nationwide audience. in a statement bob costas said joe garagiola led a truly extraordinary american life, becoming one of the most prominent baseball broadcasters and popular television personalities of his time and too much more to list. >> you'll have to watch the infield and outfield. >> reporter: he called games for nbc for a quarter century, filled in for johnny carson and served two stints as host on the "today" show. >> like going to 5:00 mass again. here i am. >> matt lauer tweeting he was part of the soul of our show and in more recent years he worked as a broadcaster for the arizona diamondbacks where he lived for many years. former "today" colleague bryant
gumbel recently wished his pal a happy birthday on his >> he fought against chewing tobacco, formed a foundation to help former players in need and worked tirelessly to try to help native american kids. by any measure that's a full life. >> reporter: joe garagiola was 90 years old. ron mott, nbc news, los angeles. >> and that will do it for us. i'm lester home. for al l ♪ he's begun forgetting words. forgetting
where he lives. but when the day comes when he forgets who i am, i'll still know who he is. the first time we said i love you we didn't use words. we simply held each other's hands. we still are.