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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 11/16/15

Guests: Michael Burgess, Adam Schiff, Will McCants, Eleanor Acer, LindaSasour

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Seventy-two hours after the worse terrorist attack in Europe and in decade, Europe, the Middle East, the E.U., the U.S., Russia, and broader community of nations finds itself in a crossroads. Within a span of two weeks, ISIS has murdered civilians in Beirut, Lebanon, Paris, France, and possibly Russian passengers flying from Egypt as well. As the French president tells his nation it is now at war as investigators across several continents traced the network that plotted and carried out the atrocity, men who so far appear to be European nationals. As French Muslims, and Muslims around Europe wait for the backlash to come as world leaders convene in Turkey for the G20 and discuss proper response as nations and churches and mosques and synagogues unite across the globe in condemnation of ISIS, and its cult of death, and as hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing the horror of war and the cruelty of ISIS, now wonder if that same cruelty, combine with political posturing will deny them safe harbor. We`ve got lots of late breaking developments on this day. MSNBC`s Brian Williams has been on top of all the breaking news today. What`s the latest, Brian? BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, Chris, thanks. Light rain started to fall in Paris about five hours ago. It blotted out some of the votive candles burning on the sidewalks. It blotted out some of the chalk drawings people have made in memoriam over these past two days. But still, the people came out. They came out in their sadness. They came out in defiance. Their president has said they are a nation at war. They came out beneath the beautiful tricolors lit up on the Eiffel Tower after two days plunged into darkness. Correspondent Bill Neely is in the center of Paris for us tonight to set the scene and look at the day in the investigation as well. Bill, good evening. BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brian. A day of high emotions and warnings from French leaders, not only from the French President Francois Hollande who had a direct message for ISIS in the French parliament, he said, you won`t destroy France. France will destroy you. It was also the day that French investigators named the man, the so-called mastermind they believe is behind the Paris massacres. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NEELY (voice-over): This is the man France believes was behind the Paris massacres. This ISIS propaganda video is showing Abdelhamid Abaaoud, once jailed in Belgium, now believed to be in Syria. What you can`t see behind his vehicle are the bodies he`s about to drag on ropes. He was close to at least two of the Paris killers. Police are still hunting for this suspected accomplice, Salah Abdeslam, who they describe as dangerous. His brother is believed to be one of the killers, another brother questioned and released after police raided the family home in Brussels. "More attacks in France are being planned," the French prime minister warned today, which is why police raided more than 160 homes, arresting two dozen suspects and seizing dozens of guns and a rocket launcher. The French president addressing lawmakers vowed to destroy ISIS -- ordering a French aircraft carrier closer to Iraq and Syria. A dozen French warplanes hit ISIS overnight bombing its stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, in the biggest French raid so far. In Paris today, not the noise of war, but silence for the city`s victims. Millions remembering, though they can`t forget -- praying, too, for the critically ill. Dozens of victims remain critically ill, clinging to life at this and other Paris hospitals, shot multiple times and, say doctors, utterly traumatized. PHILIPPE JUVIN, CHIEF OF CASUALTY, GEORGE POMPIDOU HOSPITAL: I never received 50 patients together. NEELY: One surgeon who served in Afghanistan says he`s never seen anything like it. Worse than Afghanistan? JUVIN: Yes. NEELY: It must have looked like war here on Friday. JUVIN: In fact, it was a shooting of war, you know? NEELY: France`s Muslim leaders condemned the killings. They honored the dead today and sent a message to ISIS. YASSER LOUATI, MUSLIM COMMUNITY LEADER: Whatever you do, no matter how long it takes, we will beat you. (END VIDEOTAPE) NEELY: And it`s not just French police investigating this, it`s police in Germany, Spain, and Belgium, intelligence agencies in Britain, the U.S., and Israel. ISIS now a global threat, Brian, demanding a global response. WILLIAMS: And, Bill, along the same lines, I heard you say earlier this evening, it wasn`t just the French people in the intended audience when the French president said they are a nation at war. I heard you say he was aiming for a different audience entirely. NEELY: Yes. When you think of what NATO means -- I mean, one of the clauses in NATO is that if one of the countries is attacked, everyone should help it, should join in, possibly as far as going to take military action. So, I think Francois Hollande was not just speaking to the French people. I think he was prompting other NATO nations, especially the United States, to help more. It was interesting that at the beginning of his news conference in Turkey today, President Obama said very pointedly that the U.S. was going to give more intelligence to France, more quickly. I thought that signaled a very small shift in the military relationship between the United States and France, which, as we all know, has been catchy at times. So, I think Francois Hollande was calling on all NATO countries to do more to abide by the idea of collective defense, and I think that was aimed at the United States more than any other nation, Brian. WILLIAMS: Bill Neely, thank you so much -- reporting for us on a cold, rainy night in Paris. As Bill mentioned in the setup piece, a lot of police efforts were aimed almost immediately at Belgium. NBC`s Keir Simmons is there for us tonight. KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brian. That fugitive, that wanted man who is believed to have fled Paris with two others got to the border with France and Belgium, was stopped, but then was released by police. Salah Abdeslam comes from this suburb of Brussels, and the fear is that he is still in this vicinity. The police have been searching for him. Earlier today, they closed off a number of streets. Police commanders went from house to house. There were snipers on the roof, and witnesses talked about hearing gunfire, but in the end, when they led people away from a building, they do not have appear to have found him. Over the weekend, they arrested seven people. Five of them have released, two charged. One of those released was Salah`s brother who came out today making a statement saying, "We don`t know where he is. I am innocent. My parents are shocked and bemused by all this." But there`s a sense of bemusement in the community as to how it`s possible that this particular suburb has been linked to a string of terrorist attacks going all the way back to the 2004 Madrid bombings. People I speak to here say they believe, the young people here have been brainwashed. They say that there is a strong criminal element in this community that is very poor. They say there is drug dealing and even gun running and some of those people have become radicalized, and they have got involved with is. Around 500 more per capita than any other European country have left here and gone to fight in Iraq and Syria including with ISIS. Many of them have come back. And, Brian, the lesson people are talking about is that the politicians here have turned away. They have closed their eyes. They have covered their ears to the problem and hope it would go away, and instead, ISIS has grown stronger in the heart of Europe, this capital city -- Brian. WILLIAMS: Keir, thanks. Keir Simmons reporting tonight for us from Belgium. And let`s get the mood of the streets in the city of light tonight. NBC`s Richard Lui is there for us. Richard, two things, number one, when the barricades come down and when people are allowed to go near where there`s been such an awful loss of life, it can take on a very spooky feeling, and after a trauma like this, there are stages. Like shock and sadness and then denial and anger and defiance. And I imagine you have seen the whole kaleidoscope of emotions during your time there so far. RICHARD LUI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Brian, we have seen all three. We saw it on Saturday, we saw it on Sunday. But you talk about those barriers coming down at the Bataclan Theater, today, they opened the streets, so we were able to get close to that very theater where 89 people lost their lives, and that just happened today. We also saw the Eiffel Tower lit up today. But, you know, I think one of the conversations that sort of characterizes it for me, there was a woman who came by on the plaza here, just a day ago, a woman in her 60s, she said, Richard, took my by my elbow, she took to the corner of this plaza. And she said, there is this sign here (SPEAKING FRENCH) where Secretary Kerry mentioned that today, "buffeted but not toppled." She said, Richard, I`ve lived in this area for 50 years, and I`m not going to let these people topple me. And that, I think, was a very clear indication of the spirit of the groups that are here in France, specifically here in Paris. And I was mentioning earlier to you today on this very plaza, which is 400,000 square feet, it was amazing from noon to 4:00 filled halfway with those chalkings, statements about how they feel about their lives, statements about how they feel about the terrorists, and statements about how they`re going to get through the three stages that you mentioned earlier -- Brian. WILLIAMS: MSNBC`s Richard Lui on the streets of Paris tonight. And, Chris Hayes, the streets have seen so much history in that city, not quite this much tragedy as you mentioned in over a generation. Back to you. HAYES: Brian, thank you very much. All right. Joining me now MSNBC contributor Christopher Dickey, foreign editor at "The Daily Beast". Christopher, you were there for the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks, and I had been reading the reporting and actually corresponding with some folks in Paris who were for both, and wondered if you could talk about the mood of this in the wake of compared to what happened after "Charlie Hebdo"? CHRISTOPER DICKEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, the thing to remember about "Charlie Hebdo" is it was a very focused attack. There had been a vendetta by al Qaeda for a long time against "Charlie Hebdo". They`ve been threatening it, they`ve been attempts and so on. And there was a feeling that this was a terrible atrocity, and it was assault on the freedom of the press, and all those issues. But it was about them. And I hate to say it, but to some extent people could react to the attack on the kosher supermarket in the same way. It was about them. That was their problem. These attacks hit the softest possible targets, outdoor cafes in Paris, a lot of them working class, a lot of young people. There`s a lot more feeling that this is about us, that this is about anybody getting hit for any reason. There was no warning. There was no idea that they had done anything that would provoke this kind of attack. People are just going to a rock concert. People are in cafes, smoking cigarettes, drinking wine, and all of a sudden, people drive up and shoot the hell out of them and blowing themselves up. That`s the kind of thing that really settles in and hurts and rankles with people. And I think that there is a level of fear here that there was not after "Charlie Hebdo", even as bad as that was. HAYES: French President Francois Hollande today saying that among the killed were 19 different nationalities represented, a sort of snapshot of what is tremendous multicultural and pluralistic place of the streets of Paris. He also had this to say about the idea of a war of civilizations. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): This is not a war of civilizations because those killers do not represent a civilization. We are at war against jihadist terrorists who threaten the whole world. We need to be merciless, ruthless, we know, and it is cruel to say it. It is French people who killed other French people on Friday. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Is there a sense in France of what the path forward means? He talked about war, but what does this look like now? DICKEY: Well, you know, I think there`s a lot of action right now in -- especially around Raqqa, the capital of ISIS in Syria. But I think people are still trying to come to terms with what it means, if this is war. Does it mean that we`re going to have to be worried every day, every hour, that there`s going to be a new attack? I think there`s a possibility that that is the case. Is it going to be enough to rock n` roll over Syria and bomb the hell out of some cities there and some towns and some insulation? Or is that just going to insight people more? All of these are open questions. That`s why I think that Francois Hollande would really like some help from the international community. And I think it`s kind of upsetting to people that he`s not getting it. HAYES: All right. Christopher Dickey, thank you very much. Still ahead, continuing coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris and President Obama`s defense of keeping ground troops out of Syria amid renewed criticism of the ISIS strategy. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My only interest is to end suffering and keep the American people safe. If there`s a good idea out there, then we`re going to do it. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Today, faced with a barrage of questions of the U.S. strategies against ISIS, President Obama forcibly defending the policies arguing American efforts degrade and defeat ISIS are ultimately going to work with time. More of the president`s rebuke of his critics and why he doesn`t think the U.S. should send troops into Syria, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: What we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it`s going to work politically or it is going to somehow in the abstract make America look tough or make me look tough. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Today, President Obama forcibly defended his administration`s strategy against ISIS, the group that claimed responsibility against the Paris attacks. Speaking earlier in Turkey at the G20, the president said the U.S. is intensifying its collision air strikes in the region, increasing assistance to local ground forces in Syria, Iraq, all while very strongly defending his decision not to send ground troops into Syria. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: What`s been interesting is in the aftermath of Paris, as I listened to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there had been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground. And it is not just my view, but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers that that would be a mistake, not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIS, but because we would see a repetition of what we`ve seen before, which is if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface unless we`re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Joining me now, Congressman Michael Burgess, Republican from Texas. Congressman, do you favor ground troops in Iraq or in Syria? REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: Well, I wouldn`t mind some Syrian ground troops leaving Western Europe and heading home to protect their homeland. I think that might be a good idea. HAYES: But American troops, do you -- are you -- we can`t control them. We can control American troops. Are you in favor of American troops being placed in Iraq or Syria? BURGESS: Well, I would be in favor of us having a discussion about the strategy. I`d be in favor of the administration being a little more forthcoming in sharing a little bit more than certainly what has been shared with the member at my level to this point. Look, I signed on to Jim McGovern, the Democrat from Massachusetts, I signed on to his letter saying, "Let`s have a debate about an authorization for use of military force in Syria." Right now, we don`t have one, and there`s military activities occurring in that country without that authorization. I think we should have that debate. I think we should that discussion. HAYES: Has it a failure of House leadership to not get an AUMF to the floor? They control what gets put for a vote on the floor. They`ve been able to get other things put up. Why haven`t seen an authorization for the use of military force? BURGESS: Well, we can point fingers at each other, but I say to you we have not seen an overarching strategy come back to us from the administration. We`ve heard speeches, but we`ve seen no strategy. Look, Chris, I was in Mosul several times in the last decade. The president does not even give me a lecture of Mosul. We did clear it out. We did hold it. Unfortunately, we walked away from it in August of 2011. I thought at the time, this is not a good idea. This part of the world doesn`t tolerate a vacuum. I assumed it would be Iran would quickly fill that vacuum. I had no idea about ISIS, nobody did at that point. But the fact of the matter remains -- you leave an empty space in that part of the world, someone is going to fill it. HAYES: So, as to the president`s remarks about people urging things that we`re already doing, I mean, I`m curious what the concrete steps are here. People talked about arming Kurdish forces, air support, something we are doing. I mean, are there concrete things you would like to see done? BURGESS: Well, I think the first thing after the events of three days ago, the first thing I`d like to see done is hit the pause button on any further Syria refugees coming to this country. My understanding is 1,700 already placed here with the plans for a lot more over this next fiscal year. In fact, we had a hearing in the Helsinki commission with Assistant Secretary Anne Richard. She talked about the vetting process after I asked her about it. And basically, Chris, five agencies are going to vet these folks before they come and settle in our country. The problem is, you`ve got too many people involved. No one has veto power over the other and -- HAYES: Congressman, do you have evidence to present the 1,700 are connected to terrorism or any reason to suspect they are? BURGESS: Look, after last Friday night, I think for those of us who have a keen interest in protecting our country, we ought to hit the pause button. Let`s rethink what we`re doing. HAYES: Just on that question -- BURGESS: Right now, we don`t know. HAYES: Just to -- (CROSSTALK) BURGESS: The FBI said they can`t vet the people because they don`t have a data base. Don`t you think we need a database first? HAYES: Congressman, is it your understanding, as it is mine, that the folks carried this out in Paris are European nationals, Belgian citizen, French citizens? Are you in support of stopping for instance the visa waiver for French or Belgian citizens? BURGESS: Look, I`m in favor of putting the pause button on people from Syria when we have no idea who nay are, why they are coming here, or what they intend to do. Our own director of the FBI said we don`t have a database to compare. HAYES: The French and Belgian nationals, you favor ending the waiver for them? BURGESS: Look, I think what I favor is hit the pause button until you know what`s going on. The president talks about 10,000, 65,000, 100,000. We don`t even know what the number is. HAYES: Congressman Michael Burgess, thank you for your time. Joining me now, Democrat from California, Congressman Schiff. I want to get your response to your colleague there on a number of things. First of all, on the question of Syrian refugees, your response? REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: My response is, it`s always been the proud tradition of the country to be a haven for people who are fleeing persecution and I don`t think we should have a knee jerk reaction that we`re going to stop taking any refugees whatsoever. We have to do the best we can to vet these people, but I don`t think that we want to turn our back on the worst refugee crisis since World War II. So, I think we have an ethical obligation and it`s in the proudest traditions of the country. HAYES: As to the other question here about the authorization of use of military force, why has Congress not actually 15 months into the campaign against is actually passed anything? SCHIFF: Well, Chris, as you know, I`ve been pushing this issue for over a year now with amendments on the House floor and letters to our leadership. It`s a terrible avocation of congressional responsibility. I think initially there was a confluence of interest between the executive saying they felt they needed one and Congress not wanting to have a vote on one. Ultimately, the administration did send us a proposed AUMF which was the speaker rejected. But instead of rejecting it and amending it and producing something else, the speaker threw up the hands, we`re not going to have a debate or vote on this. At a time when we are sending special operators very much in harm`s way and already have troops in Iraq, I think it is completely irresponsible, and we will rue the day that we did this because it means Congress has taken itself out of a system of checks and balances when it comes to the executive`s power to make war. HAYES: Congressman, are you satisfied that the White House does, in fact, have an achievable strategy in terms of defeating ISIS? SCHIFF: The administration does have a strategy to try to squeeze ISIS territorially, to squeeze its finances to go after its social media campaign. But I am concerned, Chris, the timetable is too long, that ISIS will be allowed to maintain its space in Iraq and Syria from which it can plan and plot and resource attacks against a Europe and the United States. So, I think we do have to do something to change the dynamic on the ground. One of the things I would like to see the administration re- examine, and that is the possibility of establishing a buffer zone or a safe zone to test the Turks who have been advocating this, whether they are willing to put Turkish troops within that zone across the Syria border to protect this zone, if we protect it from the air. That kind of a partnership with Turkey and the Gulf countries may be enough to start to change the dynamic on the ground, but something has to shrink ISIS space more quickly than we`ve been able to do, or we`re at significant risk of attacks like we saw in Paris. HAYES: All right. Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you for joining me. SCHIFF: Thanks, Chris. HAYES: Still ahead, latest from the ground in Paris as coverage of the aftermath of the attacks continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: A three day mourning period designated by France`s president has now officially ended, but people are still bringing flowers and candles to a makeshift memorials not far from the attacks, where my colleague, Thomas Robert, joining me now. Thomas, what`s the mood there this evening? THOMAS ROBERT, MSNBC REPORTER: Chris good evening, or good morning, early good morning. It is the 17th now in France, and it`s just after 2:00 a.m. here, and we are at the site where so many people have come out today to lay flowers and also to light candles to remember those lost in the horrific attacks on Friday. Now, one of the people who we met who was a survivor of one of the attacks at La Petit Cambodge is a young journalist named Charlotte Brehaut. She is from Britain originally, but she is here and is working as a journalist, and she was out to dinner with friends, and that`s when the attack happened. But she came here today with a specific message for ISIS. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHARLOTTE BREHAUT, JOURNALIST: To those of you watching at home, who could imagine this happening on your doorstep, do not let yourselves be ruled by fear. The Islamic state groups are trying to use these symbols of our daily lives for their own political end, and we will not let them. (END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT: So Chris there we were hearing from Charlotte and her message about not wanting ISIS to win, making sure that people know that she is not going to settle for anything less than the life she had before, and we certainly hope for her and all for people that live here in Paris that they get it back. HAYES: All right. Roberts, thank you. Hopefully that commotion will die down bind you, appreciate it. Up next, what the attacks in the last few weeks signal about a possible changing strategy by ISIS and first hand account of alleged ISIS defector just after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Alleged ISIS defector who was interviewed by Michel Weiss of The Daily Beast described a major shift in the militants strategy after their defeat in the northern Syrian town of Kobani earlier this year. Now the long battle against Kurdish forces, supported by U.S. air strikes, ISIS was effectively using the thousands of foreign fighters joining its ranks as cannon fodder, according to defector, and the group`s eventual withdrawal from Kobani marked its first significant loss of territory. And with its forces depleted in the flow of foreign troops reduced to a trickle, the defector told The Daily Beast leadership had to rethink how to best make use of the loyalists from outside Iraq and Syria. They are now asking people to, quote, stay in their countries and fight there, kill citizens, blow up buildings, whatever they can do, according the defector. In just the last few weeks, we`ve seen what appears to be that plan in action. Not just Friday`s attacks in Paris, but the double suicide bombings claimed by ISIS that killed dozens of people last week in Beirut, a devastating attack on a pro Kurdish rally in Ankara last month, in which Turkish officials linked to ISIS, and the downing of a Russian plane over Egypt just a couple of weeks ago, in which the evidence suggests may have been caused by a bomb possibly planted by ISIS. Joining me now, Will McCants, he`s director of Brookings Institution project on U.S. relations with the Islamic world. He`s author of the ISIS Apocalypse. Will, first of all, the book is excellent. I learned a lot from it. Thank you. HAYES: Second of all, what do you make of this? For a long time it seemed that the self-proclaimed caliphate was focused largely on its sort of traditional territorial conquest. It seems to have entered into a new phase. WILL MCCANTS, ISIS APOCALYPSE: That`s right. The Islamic state has always spoken the language of global jihad, but decided to act locally, and with the Syrian civil war and the failure of the Iraqi political system, they focused on state building at home in the middle east. But over the past few weeks, their strategy seems to have shifted, and we think it`s because they begun to lose a lot of territory over the past year, they`ve lost 25% of their land, and they have lost tens of thousands of fighters, as you said in the introduction. HAYES: So what does this mean? I mean, when people talk about disrupting, defeating ISIS, if this is now the strategy, what does it mean for policymakers as they try to think about countering that? MCCANTS: Well, I think in Syria and Iraq, the Obama administration actually has the right policy. It`s put a lot of pressure on the organization, and I think that`s one big reason why it`s shifted to terrorist attacks abroad. It`s a sign of weakness. But, unfortunately, that means we`re going to see more of these kinds of attacks in the future. The other thing I would say is that the Islamic state has a lot of other territory that it can move to in the middle east because of all the security backings that are opening up with the political meltdown in the region. HAYES: There`s been much discussion politically about the notion of the -- basically the phrases used by leaders, radical Islam, for example, are tremendously important, that is it`s some kind of moral cowardice not to use that term, but as someone who studied the ideology of ISIS, what`s your take on that? MCCANTS: Well, I come from at it from an academic angle, and we`re used to talking about Islamism as a political movement, and we talk about military Islamism if you want to be more specific about these guys, they are (inaudible) Jihadis, adherence to a very ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam. I understand the politics and it makes for good talking points, but it doesn`t provide a lot of analytical clarity. HAYES: One of the most striking parts of your book is just learning how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi essentially in an American prison in Iraq essentially cross pollinated with some of the senior offices from Sudan`s military and ISIS is forged as this sort of ghastly alliance between this very violent extreme version of Islamism and the kind of bureaucratic know- how of the vestiges of the Sudan state. MCCANTS: That`s right. It was a nasty stew that we were brewing and we didn`t even know it. All the guys who had been used to running in an authoritarian state met up with guys who wanted to create a new authoritarian state, and we are seeing the results of that marriage of convenience all those years ago. HAYES: And these are the people brought together, just to be clear here, in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq, kept in American custody in a prison that one would later call the academy for the kinds of sort of radicalization that was happening there. MCCANTS: That`s right. This is where a lot of the former Saddamists were indoctrinated, but it`s worth knowing that the current leader of the Islamic state, who was housed and rubbing shoulders with all these guys, he was radicalized well on his own before the American invasion. It`s the invasion that gave him an opportunity to thrive. HAYES: A lot of people talking about what ISIS wants out of this, and real debate about that. What`s your sense of what they want out of an atrocity like the one they committed in Paris or Beirut? MCCANTS: Well, they may want the same kind of thing that Al Qaeda wanted with the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda wanted in the first instance for its enemies in the west to leave it alone, but if that did not succeed, they were willing to accept its enemies going all in with their military to bring on an apocalyptic battle in which they would present themselves as the defender of Muslims. The Americans initially did not oblige, we went in with air power and special forces in Afghanistan, but later we sent in the large number of ground troops and also in Iraq, and we obliged Al Qaeda. And my worry is that we`re going to do the same thing in reaction to these attacks. HAYES: All right, Will McCants, great. Thank you. MCCANTS: Thanks. HAYES: Still ahead, President Obama`s response to growing calls to block the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: We`ll be continuing to cover the very latest on the Paris attack and the manhunt for suspects right here on MSNBC, and tomorrow night I`ll be joining you live from Paris for the entire hour. Up next, the movement among American governors to try and prevent Syrian refugees from entering their states. The presidential candidate suggesting we accept or deny Syrian refugees based on a religious tests. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: President Obama today rejected calls in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks to reverse his plan to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees into the U.S., saying that we should not equate the victims of violence with terrorists. Yet governors in 18 states now say they oppose accepting Syrian refugees either for now or permanently, though it is not clear they can legally keep them out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a greater nexus with Syria to terrorism than any other political body across the globe. As a result, the United Sates and the state of Texas has to be extra cautious as it concerns anybody who is entering from Syria. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, who today called on congress to stop the Obama administration from bringing in refugees, maintains it is simply too dangerous, claiming, quote, "there`s currently no ability to vet these people. By letting refugees in our country without vetting, we are putting America at risk." Joining me now to fact check that claim, Eleanor Acer, she`s senior director of Refugee Protection Human Rights First. You`ve been working with refugees going through this very process. You heard my guests Michael Burgess, congressman, say we really don`t know what we`re doing with this. Can you just describe what kind of process the refugee goes through? ELEANOR ACER, REFUGEE PROTECTION HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: Refugees are actually more closely vetted than just about any population that comes to the United States. First, they are identified abroad. They are registered. Information is taken by the U.N. refugee agency. Then, before they can be resettled to the United States, they are interviewed one on one by a trained department of homeland security officer. Then a barrage of checks are conducted, by U.S. intelligence agencies, by the FBI, the department of defense, the department of homeland security. They are so incredibly thoroughly vetted that, you know, they really present absolutely no risk to this country. HAYES: And, in fact, it has been a trickle of people coming into this country. To be clear, there`s a huge difference between the kind of thing Europe is grappling with, which is waves of thousands of people landing on the shores of Greece and making their way through the E.U. and the kind of thing that`s happening in the U.S. ACER: These are vulnerable refugee families who have been identified specifically to be resettled to the United States. U.S. is essentially hand picking these people and vetting them through a very very careful process. HAYES: Ted Cruz today, who actually turns out to be the son of a refugee, says he`s going to introduce legislation that will bar Muslim Syrian refugees. Is there any precedent for the U.S. government essentially doing religious weeding out as it evaluates people? ACER: The United States is a country with a diverse and rich religious population. We should really be true to American ideals here. This is a chance to really show what America values are and to really demonstrate U.S. leadership. HAYES: One of the things, I want to play you something that Trump said earlier tonight about the refugee population, get your take on it. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a president that wants to take hundreds of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people and move them into our country. We don`t -- think of it. And we don`t even know who they are. There`s no paperwork. There`s no anything. They are strong looking guys, they`re powerful looking guys. So I said, why aren`t they back fighting for their country? That was number one. Then I say, is this a Trojan horse? (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Okay, so two things there. Hundreds of thousands of people. Is the president calling for us to take hundreds of thousands of people? ACER: No, the United States and the president has committed to resettle only about 10,000 Syrian refugees, and that`s a drop in the bucket compared with the millions that are being hosted by key U.S. allies like Jordan and Belize. HAYES: And the second point is something that I`ve actually heard from quite a few conservatives, republicans, who is that this is strong looking guys, powerful looking guys, that these are essentially all young fighting age men. How does that line up with the actual demographic for the refugees we`re taking? ACER: The refugees who are resettling in the United States are actually coming from camps in the middle east, some are living in urban areas, these are refugees that have been monitored for years, their families, they`re torture survivors, children, women -- these are not some kind of Trojan horse or something like that. HAYES: Only 2% of Syrians are military age men with no family. ACER: We also know a lot about them. These are people who are interviewed over and over again. We have biometric data from different points in time. We got a lot of information about these people. We do know who they are. HAYES: Do governors under U.S. law have the ability to keep these people out? ACER: Governors do not have the right to decide who can enter their state or not. These refugees who are given status under U.S. law, they have absolutely valid status and governors can`t decide who can come in and out of there state. That`s not what America is about. HAYES: Once the federal government under the powers granted by the constitution to local immigration grants that status, they have freedom of movement inside the states just as anyone else would. All right. Eleanor Acer, Human Rights First, thank you so much. Thanks for clarifying. Both Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have suggested in recent days that America should accept Christian refugees from Syria, but not Muslims. Cruz explained by saying, quote, "there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror." President Obama today had some very harsh words for that position. We`ll show you what he said next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims. That`s shameful. That`s not American. It`s not who we are. We don`t have religious tests to our compassion. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: President Obama responding to calls from Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush for the U.S. to admit Christian refugees from Syria but not Muslims. The Obama administration efforts to settle Syrian refugees in the U.S. is becoming a major point of conflict in the wave of the Paris terrorist attacks. At least 18 governors now saying their states will keep the refugees out. The GOP presidential candidates competing to take the hardest line. Rand Paul today introducing a senate bill to suspend -- to bar refugees from Syria and other countries. Chris Christie ruling out accepting orphan refugees under five-years-old when pressed by Hew Hewitt. Ted Cruz saying today he plans to introduce a bill specifically banning Muslims Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. There are new reports republicans may have threatened another government shutdown over blocking refugees from coming in. This afternoon, Mike Huckabee tweeted that if house speaker Paul Ryan will not lead and reject the importation of those fleeing the middle east, he needs to step down today and let someone else lead. Joining me now, Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. Linda, your response to this news cycle today on this issue. LINDA SARSOUR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARAB AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK: As an American born an raised in Brooklyn, and that runs an organization that serves refugees, (inaudible) and immigrants right here in New York City, I`m so disturbed by what I`m listening to. I mean, religion test? How do you know what religion someone is? I want to understand what that even looks like. We are trying to bar the very people who are running away from the same terrorism that we`re talking about. The Syrian refugees left there country because of ISIS, because of the regime, and that`s why they flee to places like Europe. And our country is known to be welcoming refugees. I mean, our Statue of Liberty continues to be a symbol of welcoming immigrants into this country. I`m disturbed by the rhetoric of people who are in our leadership, and I`m grateful for President Obama to stand up to this rhetoric. HAYES: I mean, Rupert Murdoch, one of the most powerful men in the world, I think it`s fair to say, says this, Obama facing enormous opposition in accepting refugees, maybe make a special exception for proven Christians. Can you imagine a state department bureaucracy that is effectively able to tell who`s a proven Christian? SARSOUR: What does that mean? Are they going to do a blood test and if it turns into wine? It`s ludicrous to hear what these people are saying, and the majority of the refugees that we`re talking about are young children. These are young children who have seen so much trauma, violence, potentially their parents massacred. They have been displaced. Some have drowned on the way to Europe. And we`re taking a drop in the bucket. To be the greatest nation in the world, one of the most wealthiest nations in the world, and for us to be debating over 10,000 Syrian refugees, we`re not making a dent. HAYES: Okay. What do you say to people you just say, okay, look. We just saw, and I just want to be clear about what we know about what happened, on the bodies of one of the assailants was a passport that appears to be a Syrian passport. It is likely a fake passport, thought it does appear to show stamps that suggested he came in a direction that many refugees are using, Greece, through Macedonia and up into Europe. People are saying, look, we can`t afford taking any more risk. There has to be a limit. SARSOUR: Well we heard from the previous discussed vetting process of refugees is extremely tedious. I know this from the clients who I`ve served and refugees who have come here. I tell people, let`s stop basing our decisions on unconfirmed information. We still do not know if that Syrian passport belonged to one of these people. And let`s remember, most of those who are committing these attacks are homegrown. They`re from Belgium, they`re from France. They are not people who showed up -- we are now seeing the French bombing a country that has huge populations of civilians still. People have to understand that ISIS is playing over this divide and conquer. They want the world to hate Muslims. They want us to push Muslims away. They don`t want the American government to see Muslims as their partners, the Europeans to see Muslims in Europe as their partners. They want to tell you they hate you. They don`t want you. And this is how they play on the vulnerability of these men who are now being sympathizers of groups like ISIS. HAYES: And, I imagine in the work that you have done face to face with people that have come from these places, people talk about the irony the tragic irony of being terrorized by these monsters, frankly, who have been committing unspeakably barbarous acts. To find yourself unwelcome because of another act they committed. SARSOUR: Absolutely. I mean, these people -- what people need to know is that the largest group of victims of ISIS are Muslims. Muslim are the largest victims, group of victims in ISIS. They`ve seen trauma, torture. They have seen thing unfathomable that we as Americans will probably never experience. Here we are telling them, no, you can`t come to our country. You can`t see normalcy in your life. You can`t see safety. This is not the American way. That`s not what we are known for. HAYES: All right. Linda Sarsour, thank you very much. SARSOUR: Thank you for having me. HAYES: That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END