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UP, Transcript 12/12/2015

Guests: Gian-Carlo Peressutti, Suzy Khimm, Geoffrey Corn, Rick Kriseman, Wesley Clark, Haroon Moghul, Saba Ahmed, Chris Geidner

Show: UP Date: December 12, 2015 Guest: Gian-Carlo Peressutti, Suzy Khimm, Geoffrey Corn, Rick Kriseman, Wesley Clark, Haroon Moghul, Saba Ahmed, Chris Geidner

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD LUI, MSNBC HOST: Elbowing Donald Trump out of the Republican nomination.

A very good morning, I`m Richard Lui, thanks for getting UP with us. Donald Trump is speaking out for the first time about reports that Republican Party officials are discussing the possibility of a floor fight to deny him the nomination to the Republican National Convention next summer. Those details in just a moment.

Plus, our conversation with the Florida mayor who wants to ban Trump from his city. A California mosque, a firebomb just before afternoon prayer yesterday. More of that on our discussion on what it`s like to be Muslim in America in the age of Donald Trump.

There are new takes this morning, a Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia`s comments on affirmative action that some are condemning as racist.

And world leaders reaching a tentative agreement on the climate change in Paris. We`ll tell you what`s in the deal, the question is at a breakthrough. But we begin this morning in Iowa with Donald Trump firing back at the establishment last night responding to reports of Republican leaders that they`re discussing the possibility of a contested convention or brokered convention which would mean a floor fight between party factions this summer in Cleveland if delegates are unable to coalesce around one nominee.

Robert Costa of the "Washington Post" reporting on a discussion this week allegedly taking place at an informal meeting of more than 20 Republican matter figures this week. At that meeting, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggesting the party should begin preparing for that kind of scenario elbowing their way to a nominee who is not Donald Trump perhaps. And here`s what Trump had to say about last night in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we win like I think we`re going to win, because we have such a big lead, honestly, it`s not going to matter, they can`t do anything, I don`t care about the establishment, they can`t do anything. If I`m two votes short I`ll have a problem. Because I`ll have to go into that convention and I`m dealing with all these blood sucker politicians and they`ll make their deals and I have all their money guys around, they`ll be in the back room making deals. But if I get the number of delegates, there`s not a thing they can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUI: NBC`s Luke Russert is in South Carolina for us this morning where another Trump campaign rally is scheduled for this afternoon. And Luke, so we had that reporting this week, what do we know more about how much of a concern it is for Republican leadership?

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it`s a deep concern for Republican leadership Richard and my day job on Capitol Hill I can tell you on Tuesday morning. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had a forceful denunciation about Trump`s comments about Muslims. I started talking with Hill operatives and other aides and I said these sounds like to me, that people like Ryan, people like McConnell, they are really starting to try and figure out how perhaps to lay traps for Donald Trump so he does not move forward. I have hard time from the conversations that I`ve had believing that if Trump actually were to get to Cleveland with enough delegates that they would not try everything in their power to stop him. Who is also interesting Richard is Senator Jeff Flake yesterday on "MEET THE PRESS" daily --

LUI: Right.

RUSSERT: Chuck Todd asked him, would you support the nominee if it was Donald Trump. And he goes, well, I`ll support whoever the nominee is, however I will not say no to Trump because it will make him run as a third party candidate. That`s the dance that the establishment GOP is doing right now. They always knew that Donald Trump was going to be a thorn in their side. The Muslim comments really got them worried and they realized the ramifications of that and I think it`s fair to say that they really are having conversations as Bob Costa reported, but there`s a general atmosphere around, just like Capitol Hill around K-Street that okay, we really need to have a plan B because this could get out of control really quickly.

LUI: So, Jeff Flake will also going to visit a mosque as we know. What are some of the traps that they may be discussing, shall we say, here, Luke, as the leadership are putting their brains together that might be able to avert a Donald Trump nomination here?

RUSSERT: So, McConnell, Reince Priebus, Ryan, they`re very careful, never to be directly quoted, never to have any of their top, top, top people participating in the discussion. It`s always more flowing down at the lower level.

LUI: Right,

RUSSERT: But if you move forward, I sincerely think that you will see an outside money really try and power against him at some point. They haven`t been able to coalesce around a single donor, a single idea. But once it becomes more of a clear race, perhaps there`s a Marco Rubio, a Cruz, and a Trump, I think they`re going to do something to pump up Rubio, this is all speculation and it`s all hearsay. But there is a worry that`s real, Richard. And when the worry is this real at this point, I still think it lends itself to saying that this is not fun and games anymore, they realize they have a big problem.

LUI: It`s great to hear from you my friend. NBC`s Luke Russert in Aiken, South Carolina. Thanks so much, Luke.

RUSSERT: Sure.

LUI: All right. Let`s join -- bring in now our panel. Victoria Defrancesco, MSNBC contributor and professor at the University of Texas, Center for Mexican American Studies. Gian Carlo Peressutti, former aide to Karl Rove and former spokesman for President George H.W. Bush. And Suzy Khimm, senior editor at to the New Republic.

So, we heard some of the reporting coming from Luke Russert. What are you hearing? So it`s been talked about, we have the reporting from Robert Costa. We`re also hearing that, you know, this is pretty typical that in terms of part of the discussion, as leadership gets together. There`s a whole series of items that they go through, one of which is appropriate convention?

SUZY KHIMM, NEW REPUBLIC: I mean, I think that this is just the Republican establishment trying to work through in their minds a path to avoid not just a Trump nomination, I think really what`s at stake here is the future of the Republican Party. What is it? What does it stand for and is it going to be a party of Trump, regardless of whether he`s the nominee. I think convention is sort of one way to think through that. But there`s really sort of a broader problem here, which is, you know, Trump has a good portion of the Republican electorate who agrees with him. Who agrees with him on banning Muslims from entering the country, who agrees with him on building a wall to keep out immigrants at the Mexican border, so I think this is really a part of a much broader question of sole searching for the future of the GOP.

LUI: Well, talking about the soul searching that`s really saying, let`s prepare to lose in 2016?

GIAN CARLO PERESSUTTI, FORMER AIDE TO KARL ROVE: I think that once again Donald Trump has said something that is patently false. To suggest that the quote establishment can`t do a thing about his earning the nomination, is just false. Political conventions are the ultimate establishment exercise and I think you can bet your bottom dollar that if he looks like he`s going to be the nominee or he`s a few votes and a few delegates short of reaching that, there will be a huge movement.

LUI: So, it`s been 40 years since we`ve had one. Right? Seventy six, we have to go back to the word, Ronald Reagan very well loved by the party. So, what does -- if that were to happen, is it good for the party? Is it that come to Jesus moment of them finding that center that we have been talking about now for what, six years?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No way, Richard, they want to stay away from any possibility of a brokered convention. And picking up on what Luke was saying --

LUI: Yes.

DEFRANCESCO: It`s this very fine dance, so your establishment wants to hint that they`re not going to let Trump get too far, but at the same time they just want to let it play out. And I think they`re letting Cruz do this thing in Iowa, he`s doing very well there lately. You`ve seen the polls, he got a really big boost in terms of an evangelical endorsement. So, I think the establishment doesn`t want to push too hard. Because they think that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio are going to surface to the top by themselves. I think the establishment is saying, you know, Jeb Bush is DOA, we`re not going to worry too much about him. If we get into April, May and we still see Trump on top, that`s when we`re going to see the rhetoric ramp up by the establishment.

KHIMM: I mean, but I think the problem though -- I think the establishment also realizes about Trump like all of his other opponents, is that, you know, we saw this at the focus group that Frank Luntz, the well-known Republican pollster conducted which is that he found that the more you attack Trump, the more outrageous things they said, the more that people push back, the stronger that he got. That after hours of showing the people in the room these videos again and again, they actually liked him even more. He`s someone who I think defies a lot of the political conventions and wisdom that a lot of people, you know, put out over the years so I think it`s really flamex (ph) to decide what he`s even do to counter it.

But the question is, are these people going to vote? So, I agree with you, it`s fascinating to see the response that Republicans, even Republican registered voters have, but are these the people that are going to vote? We know that the public opinion within that conservative Republican sector likes the Trump lack of political correctness, but these are not necessarily likely voters. Will they vote? Maybe, but we don`t know. And that`s the big question mark.

PERESSUTTI: It`s one of their point here that I think it`s much discussed but often overlooked and that is the fear that somehow if Trump is pushed too far, that he`s going to run as an Independent and that would be a disaster. Well, it might be a disaster for the Republicans in terms of winning the White House, but it would be less of a disaster than having him be the Republican nominee because if Trump is the nominee, I believe for the Republican Party, the Senate is gone and the House is put in jeopardy. If he runs as an Independent, it certainly wouldn`t be good and chances for the Republicans to reclaim the White House would not be good at all but I think there`s a much better chance that the integrity of the party remains as it is and that we keep our hold in the House.

LUI: What comes of a brokered convention, who is the candidate that might bubble up that has been discussed?

DEFRANCESCO: Marco Rubio has surfaced as the establishment favorite right Now. We`re still, 10, 11 months away, so anything can happen. But I do think that we are seeing leaning toward Marco Rubio. Also perhaps even Ted Cruz. Everything in life is relative. Ted Cruz was seen as very right of center, none establishment. But I think when you compare him to Trump, he seemed even a little bit more establishment candidate. So, I`m thinking two Cuban Americans are going to surface to the --

LUI: Chris Christie though, he got the nod there in New Hampshire two weeks ago, he`s looking good in the latest poll, at least bubbling up just a little bit.

PERESSUTTI: Well, I think in the context or our last -- of our last conversation, I would put Jeb back in that and say, if there is a brokered convention and if there is a chaos --

LUI: -- Chris Christie at the moment. Again, because he`s not pulling -- pulling below Christie in some places.

PERESSUTTI: I think that every candidate in this race as has been true in Republican primaries in the past, they have had their moments, they have risen from the ashes and Christie seems to be doing that now, but I think it is still far too early and too unsettled to write any word.

KHIMM: I mean, I think that the question of course isn`t that, you know, by the time -- if we reach the point where there`s a brokered convention, you have to have a path that all these candidates will have to have shown that they can go make both through the primary and into the general election. I think the problem with thinking hypothetically speaking, yes, on paper, someone like Rubio seems great, he sort of checks off all the boxes, but it`s hard to see exactly what his base is. What the lectured it is that come together. I mean, the thing that`s impressive about Ted Cruz is that he`s managed to identify key strings of voters, evangelicals and others.

LUI: That`s where we`re going in the next hour, we`ll talk about Ted Cruz. And I know that Victoria also wants to talk about him. Gian Carlo, no doubt.

Coming up, we`re following a developing story in Paris and the release of a tentative agreement by world`s leaders on a global climate pact there.

France President Francois Hollande has called the deal unprecedented. We`ll go live to Paris for more details on that agreement on just a few. But first, can a podcast affect Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl`s fate, especially when it`s not just any podcast?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: For the next several weeks, you can expect Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to be the talk of social media every Thursday. And that`s because Bergdahl is the subject of Season Two of "Serial," that popular podcast that folks is on several aspects of a single story with new episodes released each Thursday. So, Bergdahl of course was the U.S. soldier who left his outpost in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban, spending five years in captivity, before President Obama negotiated his release and exchange for five Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. And now, right now, Bergdahl is an active duty soldier in Texas, but he is facing two charges from the army, charges that could land him behind bars for life.

Season Two of "Serial" which premier this past Thursday uses audio from interviews that Bergdahl gave to filmmaker Mark Boal, the man who wrote movies like "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty." In the first episode. Bergdahl told Boal he left his outpost in order to sneak off to another base, a walk of nearly 20 miles so that he could warn commanders about leadership problems within his unit. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOWE BERGDAHL, U.S. ARMY HELD CAPTIVE BY THE TALIBAN: And what I was seeing from my first unit all the way up into Afghanistan, all I was seeing with was basically leadership failure to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were literally, from what I could see, in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUI: We`re joined now by Geoffrey Corn, an assistant professor of the South Texas College of Law who served in the army for more than 20 years, including as a JAG officer. Geoffrey, thanks for joining us.

LT. COL. GEOFFREY CORN, RET., U.S. ARMY JAG OFFICER: Thanks for having me.

LUI: You may have heard more of this. What`s your thought on what this means, this audio that we`re getting now from "Serial"?

CORN: Well, I mean I think what it`s doing is it`s previewing for you his defense theory if his case is actually sent to court-martial, which I think it probably will be. And that`s going to be what lawyers call the defense of justification or necessity. He`s going to tray and argue that he was trying to serve some greater good. But candidly, I think its more implausible listening to him than it was when it was hinted in the media. And for a number of reasons. There`s an obvious irony there. His decision to leave is what in fact put his unit in jeopardy and that is the nature of one of the charges he`s facing.

But the most obvious inconsistency with what he`s saying and what the facts seem to reveal is that he left without his weapon or his helmet. And if you`re going to make a kind of special operations 20-mile dash from one combat outpost to another in hostile territory and your purpose is to make it to the other end, you obviously would bring some capability to defend yourself if that`s really what you wanted to do. So that`s my reaction to it.

LUI: I`m going to play a little bit more from that interview where Bergdahl described what his captivity was like. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERGDAHL: How do I explain to a person that is just standing in an empty dark room hurts? It`s like, well, you know, someone asks you, why does it hurt? Does your body hurt? Yes, your body hurts, but it`s more than that, it`s like this mental, like you`re almost confused. You know, there`s times I would wake up and it`s just so dark, like I would wake up not even remembering like what I was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUI: So, Geoffrey, as you listen to that and you looked at the transcription there, not necessarily easy to follow in terms of his logic or the point he`s trying to get across. Why do you think he is allowing this interview now and giving it to Boal?

CORN: Well, listen, I don`t think there`s any way that this interview would have been given if it hadn`t been discussed and essentially cleared by his Attorney Gene Fidell and his Military Defense Attorney Frank Rosenblatt. Those are very fine attorneys, I know them both. And so what we`re seeing here is a preview of probably what the evidence will be if he`s brought to court-martial. And the suffering that he endured was unacceptable, to be very honest. It`s a reflection of how illegitimate and pernicious the Taliban are to hold themselves out as any type of military or combatant force because it violates the most basic notions of humane treatment that are obligatory to anybody in a war.

But it doesn`t justify his conduct. It`s important information that the court will consider if it reaches the point of deciding what punishment Bowe Bergdahl deserves --

LUI: Right.

CORN: -- but it doesn`t in anyway justify why he abandoned his post.

LUI: How will this be used if at all, this interview that we`ve been talking about. It indicates --

CORN: In a court-martial, as any lawyer who`s practiced in a military court knows, the sentencing hearing is very, very comprehensive. And the defendant is given the opportunity to the present whatever evidence is relevant to mitigation and extenuation. So, how is this relevant? One of the issues that will be on the table for the court will probably be whether or not he should be sentenced to confinement as part of the comprehensive punishment that they craft.

And I think it is relevant for them to consider that because of the nature of essentially the Taliban misconduct, and the way they treated this soldier, that more confinement would have a more excessive effect on him than it would have on some other soldier that was facing confinement. So it`s a very important consideration. And it also, I think, informs the public, so that they will better understand if the outcome of this process does not result in a sentence of jail time, why that might be logical in this case.

LUI: All right. Well, episode one as the episodes continue, we`ll get a better picture at least of what he is saying and what he is thinking. Bowe Bergdahl moving forward to the case. Jeffrey Corn of the South Texas College of Law, thank you so much for your perspective.

CORN: Thank you.

LUI: Still ahead what, will the next phase in the war against ISIS actually look like? We`ll talked with former NATO commander Wesley Clark as President Obama heads to the Pentagon on Monday for an update on the tactics that might be used.

And next, developing news out of Paris where world leaders have reached a tentative agreement on climate change after days discussing it. Is this breakthrough, the one that many have been hoping for? Live in Paris, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: World leaders have just released a draft agreement on climate change in Paris. The deal coming after two weeks of difficult negotiations, the legally binding agreement will require all participating nations to take steps to reduce emissions. Organizers are hoping to adopt the agreement later today.

NBC`s Tony Dokoupil joins us now with the latest. And Tony, they got the draft, they agreed on it this morning, they translated it into different languages and they passed it off. When do they vote and what is expected to happen here? And what is in this draft agreement?

TONY DOKOUPIL, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: So moments ago, the French foreign minister emerged with what he calls the final draft of this two-week negotiation process. And what happens now is it`s been translated into the five official languages of the United Nations. And sometime this afternoon, we`re told, although it could stretch into Sunday morning. All the nations of the world -- a plenary session will be called, the French foreign minister will convene it, and he will say to the room, do we have consensus? And then if the room remains silent, it`s a voice vote, it`s a room remain silent, then he will bang the gavel and we will have a historic deal to limit and slow global warming.

Now, here are the details, a 1.5 degree temperature goal. Right now global warming has been about a one-degree rise since industrial times. The world is committing to a target of 1.5 degrees with a little bit above that aptitude. They`re trying to go below two with a goal of 1.5. And also, there`s going to be a tremendous amount of money from developed countries to poor nations to support the transition from dirtier forms of fuel to cleaner forms of fuel. And you mentioned legally binding, it`s not clear yet how much of this is going to be -- legally binding, it`s being called an agreement, not an accord or a protocol or a treaty. And that`s because in the American context, there`s almost no way that this would get through Congress. So Obama is going to ratify it as an agreement, portions will be binding, portions will not be, Richard.

LUI: Tony, as we`ve been watching as the last couple of weeks as well. Protests, and what have you seen?

DOKOUPIL: Yes. We have seen some pretty democratic protests and France is still under in a State of Emergency following the ISIS terror attack last month. And officially there`s been a ban on demonstrations, although this morning there was a last minute special permit for a peaceful gathering not far from the arch behind me. That went off without trouble. It`s a little bit confusing. You`ve got diplomats 10 miles away from here at an airport complex where the U.N. session is taking place. They`re optimistic. They`re celebrating. They`re saying this is an historic moment.

Meanwhile protesters are filling the streets saying, this goes nowhere near far enough. We need system change, not climate change and this is just inching towards something and we`re still on a catastrophic path. Now, the truth is probably somewhere in between, and we`ll have to see what the final document has in it. And we should get that in a matter of hours and we`ll check back in with you, Richard.

LUI: Okay. Thanks so much. MSNBC`s Tony Dokoupil live for us there in Paris after the climate change draft just coming out and translates some of the details there. Thank you so much for that. For more on the Paris talks on the devastating effects of climate change in the United States and across the world. You can go to MSNBC.com, you can check out our in-depth multimedia feature, our old familiar globe is gone.

Still ahead, how long until we find out which American woman will soon be the face of the new $10 bill.

And next, we`ll be joined by the mayor whose tweet said, I`m banning Donald Trump from my city? It`s gone viral.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: Trump`s proposal this week to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. has been met with criticisms from around the world. For instance, a petition seeking a black Trump from entering the UK, that`s reach over half a million signatures when I was last looking it was like 300,000. So many here that the parliament now has to consider the notion for debate on Donald Trump. And a little closer to home, several mayors here in the U.S., looking to ban Trump from their cities, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter one of those to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: He and his message of hate have no place in Philadelphia. Should have no place in Pennsylvania and should be rejected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUI: So one Wharton man to another what Wharton man. Trump firing back on Twitter calling Nutter a, quote, "low life." Saying, he is doing a quote, "terrible job." Kansas City Mayor Sly James also sharing his disapproval saying, "Trump`s proposal is inflammatory. It is nonsense. It is unconstitutional. It is illegal. And frankly, it is just plain, flat-out wrong."

Rick Kriseman, mayor of Saint Petersburg, Florida joined in the retaliation twitting, "I am hereby banning Donald Trump from entering Saint Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps."

Now, Kriseman`s tweet has since been shared nearly 20,000 times. And joining us away from his twitter account from Washington, DC, mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida Rick Kriseman. Mayor, thanks for being here with us. How do you see such a ban possibly working?

MAYOR RICK KRISEMAN (D), ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA: Well, you know, when I tweeted that out, I never intended to actually be able to ban Donald Trump from coming to St. Petersburg, it was really a statement that was being made to show how ridiculous his statement was. I felt like I`m going to address something that`s ridiculous, with something that`s equally ridiculous. And so, if you look at the language I used, even talking about banning all Trumps, that was the sarcasm was very intended.

LUI: Ivanka as well, is what you`re saying?

KRISEMAN: Yes. We did think about excluding her. But no, you know, his comments were really outlandish, outrageous, and quite frankly un-American.

LUI: What made you do this? Because you`ve heard the comments over the course of time, this is just the latest in a long arc that have been controversial. Has this been a short buildup for you?

KRISEMAN: Well, and you`re absolutely right, if we look at the comments that Mr. Trump has been making, I mean, whether it`s Mexicans or it`s the disabled community and now it`s Muslims, who`s next? You know, this is all that`s what`s wrong with this campaign. From a mainstream presidential candidate, you know, when you look at the history and you see in an individual religious group being targeted, the results have been dangerous. And, you know, the community I come from were one of the largest cities in the state of Florida.

LUI: Right.

KRISEMAN: We talk about being the city of opportunity.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISEMAN: It is. And we`re a city of opportunity for all. America is founded on opportunity. The statements he is making are absolutely un- American and certainly stand against everything we believe in in St. Petersburg.

DEFRANCESCO: So Mayor, what has been the reaction of residents of St. Petersburg? So, we know that this tweet came from a visceral reaction that you had. But in the last couple of weeks, what has been the conversations that your residents have been having, what has been the climates surrounding, the reactions to Donald Trump and his multiple remarks about different groups?

KRISEMAN: Well, I think this one kind of was in some ways the tipping point. And the response that I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. When I`m walking down the street of Saint Petersburg, I have people that had stopped me and said, hey, thanks for saying what you said and standing up for what`s right. The only negative comments that I have received have been from Trump supporters and some of the comments have been pretty ugly. And, you know, what it says is the amount of hate that he is topping into. And I believe at seven years of hate toward our president that`s manifested itself through this one candidate. Almost like creating Frankenstein and now they can`t control him.

LUI: And we`re talking about Florida here, a very important state --

PERESSUTTI: Absolutely.

LUI: -- 2016.

PERESSUTTI: Not only that. I find it interesting that the mayors that spoke out come from the states of Pennsylvania, Missouri in Florida respectively --

LUI: Right.

PERESSUTTI: Three states that are quite consequential in terms of both the primary but even more so the general election, so.

LUI: And one might wonder how more might join the fray here, of course the UK, will not be voting during our 2016 election. But that`s also very interesting, as we have seen the numbers grow within the last week.

KHIMM: Well, what`s also interesting is just seeing, you know, you have heart a lot of contrast, comparisons between Trump and Le Pen in France. Obviously there are a lot of parallels between the two -- one of the things that stood out to me was the fact that even Le Pen herself said that Trump`s ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. went a step too far for her. So, I mean, just to put this in a bit of context, in terms of what we`re dealing with them, what we`re coming from. And as I`ve mentioned before, this is a sentiment that actually doesn`t seem to be isolated to Trump, but is shared by some good portion of the Republican electorate and the American community as a whole.

LUI: In that interview, Le Pen said, did you ever hear me say something like that? So, even though she`s seen as being from the far right, she`s in a country that has certainly gone through a lot within the last month, and if you look contextually, one might say that it would be a breeding ground for such a view a little bit earlier on. But we`re getting it here in the United States and from Donald Trump.

PERESSUTTI: You know, one tactical point here, I think we`re increasingly seeing the Donald Trump ceiling and his floor are reaching parity, and clearly he and his campaign have realized that no matter what he says, that 20-25 percent of the Republican electorate is not going anywhere in terms of their support. And so all these comments can be put in the context of him trying to solidify that number as we head into what is looking to be increasingly a fracture process.

LUI: I want to go back to the mayor here. So, Mayor, you`re not going to give Trump the mayor the key to the city, certainly. Instead what might you say to Donald Trump if you had a face to face with him?

KRISEMAN: You know, if I had a face to face with him. I think I would tell him, choose your words carefully, you are tapping into a hatred that`s really scary. You are dividing our country. That is not good for us as a country, as a people. This is not who we are as a county, it`s certainly again isn`t who my community is and I think it`s time for others not only in the Republican Party, but around this country, to step up and say, this is not who we are as a country. We are not about hatred, we are about uniting our citizens, bringing people together and being about opportunity for everyone.

LUI: Thank you so much, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. Thanks for joining us on this Saturday.

KRISEMAN: Thanks for having me on this morning.

LUI: Already. President Obama heads to Pentagon to get an update from the military`s top brass on the fight against ISIS as Defense Secretary Ash Carter calls for a stronger U.S. presence in Iraq and Syria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: President Obama will pay a visit to the Pentagon on Monday to speak with military commanders about new efforts to combat ISIS. These meetings come as a U.S.-led coalition confirmed that ISIS`s finance minister and two other senior leaders were killed this week in U.S. air strikes. The last ten days, more than 200 bombs were dropped on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria bringing the total to nearly 9,000. This comes on to the heels of Defense Secretary Ash Carter saying more special ops forces will be sent overseas sometime soon as part of a major revamped war effort. The announcement was made during a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill over the President`s ISIS strategy. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASH CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that we are building momentum against ISIL.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: How long do you think it will be before we retake Mosul or Raqqa?

CARTER: Well, Raqqa there and, you noted this yourself Mr. Chairman, the Syrian Kurds to the north have done an excellent job of clearing their territory --

MCCAIN: You`re not going to go into Raqqa and you and I know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUI: When it comes to treasure, over $5 billion in terms of costs of fighting ISIS since August 2014 has been spent. Many thousands of bombs have already been dropped, so what is the next phase of the fight against ISIS going to look like and the accomplishments and goals related to it? With us right now, Four Star General Wesley Clark joining us from Little Rock.

Welcome, General. When you look at what has been done and I went through some of that which has been done and then the success rate thereafter, what are the future military options that would work on the ground?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, RET., FORMER NATO COMMANDER: Got to get more eyes on the ground if you`re going to drop more ordinance. As everyone has said, it`s not productive to put U.S. ground combat troops in at this stage. Got to have the fighting on the ground done by people in the region. That`s difficult. Because the Kurds don`t want the go past the Kurdish areas, and the Saudis don`t want to come out of Saudi Arabia and the Iraqis don`t want the Turks in their country. So it gets difficult to pull together the coalition that can do the ground fighting. But for now, let`s focus on Iraq, we do have the Iraqi army and Iraqi Shia militias. And some Sunni participation trying to secure Ramadi.

Now, the key on that is, can you identify the targets? If you`ve got people on the frontlines or near their frontlines with GPS and with laser designators and ground to air communications, you can past those targets coordinates in and the pilots can strike them. If you`re only going on radio intercepts and satellite imagery, it`s much more difficult to find the targets. So, I think the key on this is eyes on the ground, finding targets for our aircraft to strike.

LUI: You know, I`m just looking through at some of the escalation announcements which you`ve probably been following on August 14 and the 130 advisors to Iraq, that was an announcement moving into June, 2015. Four hundred and fifty troops to Iraq, and that is what we were just talking about, Ash Carter saying more special ops may be sent soon. Do we know the solution?

CLARK: Well, we know what the solution is. You have, ISIS you see, is an artifact of the controversies in the region over the future shape of Syria. And whether Iran or Saudi Arabia is going to dominate the region. And ISIS is the product of Sunni struggles against the Iranian Bashar al Assad alliance. So until you can work out the agreements between Saudi Arabia and Iran, ISIS is like a Frankenstein, it`s grown out of all proportions to what its founders and what its original founders thought it might do. So it`s out of control, but until they can agree on the politics, they can`t come together to eliminate it. And it`s a political problem that shapes the region, not the military problem.

LUI: General, are those numbers -- do they sink what you`re thinking -- if you had to put together a strategy here to defeat ISIS?

CLARK: What I would with be doing is exactly I think what the President`s doing, I would be working behind the scenes diplomacy to try to bring the respective parties together. Like last week, the Saudis brought together a bunch of the jihadi groups not ISIS, but the others, to try to get them to work together against ISIS. And then you`ve got to get the Saudis and the Iranians and the Turks to agree. You`ve got to cut off the funding to ISIS. Bashar Assad`s buying oil. Where is he going to get the oil if he doesn`t buy it from ISIS? Are we going to flatten the oil infrastructure? We can do that. Should we do that?

These are all questions that have to be resolved at the political level before you can work them at the military level. We don`t militarily know how to work all this. But as we found out in Iraq, if you don`t address the political instate, what is the goal you`re after through the use of force, you won`t succeed. Simply getting rid of Saddam Hussein left a mess in Iraq. Simply getting rid of Bashar Assad for ISIS is going to leave a mess in Syria. So we have got to put together a vision for what the region looks like before we go pell-mell in there to completely wipe things out.

What we`re doing right now is more or less a holding strategy, we`re distracting, disrupting ISIS, we`re not going to eliminate it this way, everybody understands that, but you`re not going to get it eliminated until you can bring some greater convergence at the diplomatic level from the principal funders of the respective parties in the Syrian conflict.

KHIMM: General, this is Suzy Khimm. Earlier this week we heard President Obama call yet again for Congress to actually hold a vote to authorize this war, which they have so far refused to do. Do you feel like that would have any impact in terms of this attempt to build political consensus and build a coalition and the partners we need on the ground in the region?

CLARK: I`m not sure it would do much diplomatically, but it would do a lot politically in the United States. It`s very easy to sit on the sidelines and harp at the President`s policy. And say, just got to put those ground troops and just 10,000, just 20,000, just 30,000. And before you know it, you`ve got to the Iraq invasion all over again coming further. So, there should be some political debate, they should be authorized. This is a long-term commitment of force, but it`s directed to something political and so we have to get our arms around the politics.

The difficulty of it of course, the more the administration publicizes the politics of it, the more difficult it is to get it done. Because just as we found 20 years ago in the Balkans. If you run around and say you got a peace plan and then the peace plan doesn`t come through, then you look like a failure. So you want to do the diplomacy behind the scenes until you can get everything pulled together so that a diplomacy will be successful.

LUI: General, we have to go because --

CLARK: It has been yet.

LUI: Our panel is so engaged in what you`re saying. A rapid fire here quickly, question, question, and then General we want you to try to answer it quickly, so.

PERESSUTTI: General Clark, Gian Carlo Peressutti, what would conditions on the ground have to look like for you to determine that sending more soldiers into combat would be warranted?

LUI: Go ahead, Victoria, your question.

DEFRANCESCO: Building on that, General. Victoria Defrancesco here. What is your reaction to the rhetoric we`re hearing from some of the candidates, Ted Cruz saying this week that he just wants to carpet bomb the region, what is your reaction to that?

CLARK: Yes. Well, you can`t carpet bomb. I mean carpet bomb is what we did in Vietnam when we designated a one kilometer by three kilometer box on the ground and put down a couple of thousands of 500-pound bombs in that box in the jungle. You`re not going to do that in Raqqa, you would kill tens of thousands of people. And besides that, much of the ISIS headquarters airport is probably already dug in underground. So that`s not going to be effective. For U.S. ground troops to come in, first of all you`ve got to have a political agreement as to who`s going to take over afterwards? Do you really need ground troops? I mean, what is the point?

U.S. tanks to shoot at an ISIS tank. You can do that better from the air. But if you can identify the ISIS tank. U.S. troops to surge a house, you can do that better with Iraqi forces if the Iraqi forces or Syrian forces or jihadi forces will cooperate and get there. So I think that the push for U.S. ground forces is like a -- it`s a lashing out for, give me a quick fix, give me a quick fix, there`s not a quick fix on this. This can conflict is not really about terrorism in the region. It`s really about who`s going to control the region. Is it going to be the Sunnis operating out of Saudi Arabia? Or the Turks where the greater auto man empire or is it going to be the Shia, with Persia reaching across and through Iraq into Lebanon and able to confront Israel directly.

That`s what`s at stake here. So we have to be careful not to push for the U.S. ground troops` solution when that`s not going to make things easier would make it harder. Because once you put troops in on the ground, and then you start counting your own casualties, then the clock starts to tick, and the budget numbers run up. This is the time for heavyweight diplomacy behind the scenes, but we`re distracted, we have got climate change, we have got Ukraine, we have got a refugee crises, we have got China. So there`s lots of stuff going on behind the scenes that pull the administration and it`s key leadership in many different directions, not going to bring ISIS to heel until we can get Saudi Arabia and Iran and Turkey to agree on the future makeup of Syria.

LUI: All right. Thank you so much, General Wesley Clark, former presidential campaign, also Clinton supporter, I appreciate your time today for joining us.

CLARK: Thank you.

LUI: And we had good conversation there. Thank you to our panel as well for that.

We want to bring you the latest on our story as well that we`ve been following in California. Authorities are calling the fire-bombing of a mosque a hate crime there. Here`s what we know after Coachella police saying, someone intentionally set the fire at the mosque in Coachella which is in Riverside County. No one was hurt. Officials have detained what they`re calling a person of interest. And the FBI is investigating Riverside County adjacent to San Bernardino.

We`ll have more on that next hour and we`ll discuss what life has been like for Muslims in the country in the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Up next, a $10 tour as well. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: Another full hour of news and politics straight ahead for you including how Donald Trump`s proposed ban on Muslims may actually be helping him remain at the front of the field.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: All pulling ahead of Trump in Iowa.

Good morning to you. I`m Richard Lui. Thanks for staying with us on this Saturday morning.

Donald Trump is firing back at Ted Cruz. The war of words between them heating up as Ted Cruz starts to climb in the Iowa polls.

Plus, what is it like to -- what is it like to be Muslim in America these days in the age of Donald Trump.

We`ll find out with our special guest as authorities investigate last night`s fire bombing of a mosque in California.

Also, new tapes of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia`s comments on affirmative action that some are condemning as racist.

Divers heading back into a San Bernardino lake today in a search for clues.

And whose job is it to police possible terrorist activity online.

All that and more is ahead this hour.

But we begin this hour with Donald Trump, firing off in opening salvo last night on what could be the battle to watch in 2016, the one taking shape between him and Ted Cruz. The two Republican front-runners seemingly circling around each other after crews overtook Trump in a Monday Iowa poll.

Again last night in his first remarks to an Iowa crowd since the polls debuted, Trump attacked the Texas Republicans. Quote, saying ties to big oil as well as his faith. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, if he`s from Texas, to the best of my knowledge, there`s a lot of oil in Texas, right? So, you know, he gets a lot of money from the oil companies and he`s totally against ethanol and everything else you`re talking about.

If Ted Cruz is against ethanol, how does he win in Iowa? Because that`s very anti-Iowa. I don`t know how he wins in Iowa.

I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba, in all fairness. It`s true. Not a lot come out. But I like him nevertheless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUI: NBC`s Luke Russert live in Aiken, South Carolina.

Boy, did we throw you a softball, my friend, lots to talk about there. The rivalry, is it real? Is it now coming about? Will we see escalation? And are folks on the ground surprised about what Trump has said.

RUSSERT: Well, I think you can call him frenemies if anything at this point, Richard. And if you look at what`s happened over the course of the week, those comments Ted Cruz reportedly made to donors saying that he did not necessarily see Trump or Carson as qualified for president.

Of course, Trump here is that, kind of rope-a-dope strategy, Trump is trying to bait him, saying, come over, get in the mud with me. Trump likes to do that because every time he`s on offense, he`s a better candidate and he loves throwing those zingers which he`s very well versed at.

Now, all that being said, though, Cruz is trying to walk it back. He had a tweet saying this is the establishment making this all up.

This is how Donald Trump characterized his relationship this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a feud or is there not a feud?

TRUMP: Well, there`s really not. You know, he`s been so supportive of me. Everything, I`ve said, he said I agree 100 percent. I agree 100 percent, you know, that`s why you`ve covered it better than anybody in all fairness, Tucker. But, you know, we have had a very good relationship, but I`m sure it will end, because, you know, he`s got to come after me at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT: There you see Trump saying, oh, we get along OK, but it`s going to have to end at some point. Trump I would argue would invite this. However, Cruz is a very smart, calculating guy. I have covered him since he has come to the Senate. Everything is planned out four steps ahead, it`s a chess match.

Cruz probably doesn`t want to get in the all out battle with Trump right now. But he is going to want to take his voters at some point. That is why he`s been pretty, shall we say, reserved in what he`s had to say about Trump.

At the end of the day, though, they will have to go after that same slice in Iowa. Evangelicals are backing up Cruz. The God, guns, and guts people are more behind Trump. Eventually, those will inflate at some point. LUI: Two masters of the message, right, Luke Russert?

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSERT: We try.

LUI: Yes. NBC`s Luke Russert in South Carolina, thank you so much, my friend.

So, exactly who are the people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president? We sent Katy Tur to last night`s rally in Iowa to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: First things first, Trump supporters like one thing more than any other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like how he tells it how it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you`re full of crap, he says you`re full of crap.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he sounds like he has a fifth grade vocabulary. Well, you understand what he`s saying.

TUR: They say are angry, fed up and Trump is their only answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m tired of both the Republicans and the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m hoping he can turn our economy.

TUR: Polling done earlier in the race show that most supporters are older, white, male, with a high school degree or less, about a third are evangelicals. Few identify as very conservative and most say to the American dream they knew is gone. That is them on paper. In real life, they say they are just regular folks.

Do you think that you ear a part of the crazy fringe in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not, no, not at all.

TUR: Regular person?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Regular, really boring.

TUR: Not all Donald Trump supporters agree with everything he says, but they do believe, and this is in South Carolina, it`s in New Hampshire, it`s in Iowa, Arizona, Alabama, you name it. They say they don`t have to agree with him because they trust him. And they believe in Donald Trump`s own words that he`ll make this country great again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LUI: NBC`s Katy Tur with that report for us.

Still with us on the panel here this morning on a Saturday for the second hour, we`ve got Victoria DeFrancesco, MSNBC contributor and professor at the University of Texas for Mexican American studies, we have Gian-Carlo Peressuti, former aide to Karl Rove and former spokesman for President George W. Bush, and Suzy Khimm, senior editor at "The New Republic".

So we have the potential beginning of a feud being expressed between two candidates, we have also got who are the voters which is an interesting point to talk about.

Let`s start with that "feud", quote/unquote. Is it really there? Are they starting to can do a little rope-a-dope here?

DEFRANCISCO: He`s sowing the seeds. That`s what Ted Cruz is doing. So, he`s looking down the pipe and he`s saying, OK, in February, February 1, we`re going to engage, January, I`m going to start to take the gloves off. Right now I`m just sewing the seeds. But he knows he can`t get too explicit in the attacks because Trump is very dangerous, and if Trump starts attacking him, then Ted Cruz will not be in a good place.

But I think this is for the long haul, this is two months of little mini- attacks and then he walks it back and then at the end of January, we`re going to see the gloves come off.

LUI: This is Cruz tweeting, "The establishment`s only hope, Trump and me in a cage match." They`re trying to get to the top, get to the primary and then it will be down to them.

PERESSUTI: It was only a matter of time before Donald Trump took the gloves off and as you said Victoria, preview sort of his line of attack against Ted Cruz. I actually think Ted Cruz is in a bit of a precarious situation here, because he`s got to absorb a lot of those attacks, if he pushes back with a level of force that is not commensurate to the water that he`s taking on. He is going to alienate the voters that he will need if he has any hope of coalescing.

DEFRANCESCO: But he`s walking it up. I mean, just that tweet shows that he knows that. So, he`s just going to tease him and walk back, tease him and walk back. And we`re going to see that for the next four weeks.

LUI: What about the Cuba remark, though? That would certainly be an opportunity for Cruz to hit hard.

DEFRANCESCO: I don`t think he has a reason to. He has evangelical support. Just this week, Bob Vander Plaats, one of the biggest evangelical leaders in Iowa, came out and supported him. He doesn`t need to fight back on that because the evangelicals are solidly with him. So, what would be the point?

KHIMM: I think one of Cruz`s strengths as a candidate, I was at the Values Voter Summit a few months ago, which was just kind of a huge a part of his base, and you could see the organization out there he had volunteers, he just blanketed the event, all over the place, that I feel like part of it is that he`s just trying to confine his own constituency. Yes, he does have to negotiate this relationship with Trump, but I think that first step is going to be important, just in terms of having a able to have enough bias to build it out.

LUI: I want to look at this Iowa poll numbers that came out that I was alluding to, I mean, with Ted Cruz at 24 percent, Donald Trump at 19, and Donald Trump now has, if you will, punch down and this is probably the first time that we`ve seen him do that with Ted Cruz. Are we going to see more of that, just because the numbers may be saying to him, hey, hey, I`m not sitting so comfortably as I was early.

PERESSUTI: Well, I also think, we were talking about this earlier. We know evangelicals turn out in the Iowa caucus. That has been proven. If that truly is Cruz`s base of support, then he`s got a leg up on Trump whose base of support is questionable --

LUI: Is that what you`re seeing on that poll?

PERESSUTI: Yes, in terms of whether or not they come out and go to a school gym on a snowy night in February. I mean, we just don`t know that.

DEFRANCESCO: What`s Trump`s ground game in Iowa, that`s the question mark, because he can be great with crowds, and the crowds are eating him up, and he`s great for sound bites, but on those snowy, cold nights in Iowa, is he going to get those folks out? And I think this is where Ted Cruz has an advantage that you were alluding to.

LUI: His campaign manager is saying he`s not worried about what`s happening in Iowa. They feel very comfortable with what`s happening.

KHIMM: I think Trump has invested in -- there`s a point in the cycle which people were starting to ask those questions and I think he has made those investments. But I do think that this is a valid question, I mean, you look at the pollsters trying to puzzle over this. And their response is that, listen, we`re not sure whether the polls are overestimating or actually underestimating it, because previous has shown, at least in Europe with some of these far right candidates, that some folks when they`re polled, they`re afraid the to say publicly that they`ll support someone, or tell pollsters that they support someone. But, in fact, there`s a larger, you know, like a silent majority as --

LUI: And I want to add some data to that which all three of you are very familiar with, "The New York Times"/CBS poll shows the comments that were made by Donald Trump about Muslims and not letting them into the country, and when you look at Republicans, Gian-Carlo, I`ll go to you first on this, it was only 30 odd percent that said, we`re against that statement. Where`s the other 70 percent?

PERESSUTI: Well, I`m not familiar with "The Times" poll, but "The Journal" had a poll yesterday that essentially put Republican primary sentiment at 50, it was 38 percent to 39 percent, with regard to, do you agree or do you disagree with Donald Trump`s comment on Muslims? And, you know, the party has asked itself a question, are we going to be the party of intolerance? Are we going to be the party of stated intolerance and are we going to support a candidate who wants to alienate, you know, a valued part of the American fabric?

I hope in my heart we come down with the decision that says, no, but it remains to be seen.

LUI: There it is right now, oppose, 36 percent that we`re talking about --

PERESSUTI: Roughly in line of the -- yes.

DEFRANCESCO: We`re starting with some of those seeds that Ted Cruz is sowing, saying, is Donald Trump fits to be commander in chief? So, this week, Ted Cruz came out with it with an ad dangerous, where he sits very presidential, he sits very much as commander in chief and he`s trying to set up that distance between himself and Donald Trump and say, OK, he may be fun to watch, he may have some good things to say, but he`s a little quirky. You don`t want him as commander in chief.

LUI: I want to finish up with the Cruz/Trump comparison again. You know, if Cruz were to be that face of the Tea Party that we`ve seen since 2010 and the wave, then to the question might be, are they vying for that vote at the moment or is that something that`s completely different when we see Trump outflanking, if you will, the Tea Party?

DEFRANCESCO: Tea Party 2.0?

(CROSSTALK)

LUI: Yes, that`s correct. Are you reading my notes? I have it right here.

KHIMM: The interesting thing about the Tea Party as a movement as compared to what we`re seeing happening behind Trump is that the Tea Party is ideologically unified. In fact, they were so unified. I mean, this was they with the establishment.

The Trump supporters as you heard some of the interviews with Katy Tur, they don`t really have an ideology. It`s much more of a more primal sentiment. It`s sort of the lizard brain that is reacting, and Trump really knows how to get those reactions and those emotions that go even --

LUI: The Trump wave, the Tea Party wave --

KHIMM: Beneath the level of ideology.

LUI: Right.

PERESSUTI: There`s a short -- excuse me, there`s a cautionary tale in the short but interesting history of the Tea Party. In the extent that they were birth, or they came to life in 2010. Just two years later, Americans rejected the very sentiment that launched those men and women into office. They were seen as purists, they were seen as non-politician, they were seen as men and women who spoke their mind and didn`t have a background in politics and that`s why they were elected to Congress.

DEFRANCESCO: Caveat, caveat.

PERESSUTI: Then two years later, they were swept out of office by a sentiment that said these people are extreme, they`re uncompromising, they don`t know how to govern, they don`t know what to do. I think if we look at that as a party --

(CROSSTALK)

DEFRANCESCO: Gian-Carlo, you need to come down to Texas where the Tea Party isn`t just alive and well, it`s increasing in strength. So we need to understand the different regions. The general election is a different electorate than your midterm election. So, as we go into to the 2016 election, we have to now contend with three factions, the Trumpians, the establishment Republicans and any lingering Tea Partiers.

LUI: What would the Trumpians look like in a midterm election?

PERESSUTI: I don`t think they would look like anything because I don`t think they would turn out.

KHIMM: I think -- I mean, the midterm elections, you see in presidential races and even now more so I would say than ever, being defined by individuals, being defined by personalities, and Trump has taken advantage of that and exploited that more than anyone else. The midterm election I think really speak to the Republican Party as compared to the Democratic electorate, which has yet to coalesce and sort of be a coalition to turn out, which is why Republicans managed to get control of both houses of Congress, control of statehouses and governor`s mansions. So, it`s really a question of two parties organization versus any individual candidate can coalesce around it.

PERESSUTI: I would just add that we enable that control by not nominating the same suite of people that we nominated in 2012. That`s what I mean --

LUI: We`ll leave it there. All great comments, table rounds. So appreciate that, talking about Trumpians can. We now have a new hashtag I guess that we`ll talk about this morning on UP on MSNBC.

Lots more this hour, including how will Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia`s controversial comments this past week about affirmative action help define this court`s legacy. Our panel certainly has something to say about that next.

Some of the backlash Muslim Americans have faced in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks and whose some of them say is to blame for that anger.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: Two alarming incidents in the past 24 hours of vandalism at places of Muslim worship. This morning, police are questioning a person of interest in their arson investigation and a possible hate crime at an Islamic center in Coachella, California.

And in Phoenix last night, vandals breaking lights and windows and defacing an Islamic community center. Early reports from the police say there is no indication this was a biased crime, but the FBI will be joining the investigation shortly there. These incidents are the latest in a slew of Muslim related incident this is week.

Muslim-American Congressman Andre Carson of Indianapolis receiving a death threat. A Muslim woman being shot at after leaving her place of worship in Tampa, Florida. Another being nearly driven off the road.

And then Thursday, two officers of the Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR, evacuated after receiving packages with suspicious substances and threatening messages. That group reporting that since the Paris attacks last month, violence, discrimination and threats against American Muslims are at their highest point since the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.

Some Muslim Americans believe the aggression is being stoked by rhetoric on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We also need leadership in Washington to stop the president from bringing in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We ought the to be bringing in people like orphans, people that clearly that aren`t going to be the terrorists or Christians. There are no Christian terrorists in the Middle East.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where is the widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUI: Joining me now, Saba Ahmed, the president of the Republican Muslim Coalition who yesterday invited Donald Trump to visit a mosque with her, and Haroon Moghul, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

We`ll start in the studio.

Haroon, it is tough to tell those stories, I don`t think many Americans will look at that and go, wow, that is where we are here today in 2015. Is that your view?

HAROON MOGHUL, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL POLICY AND UNDERSTANDING: It`s a difficult time and it`s actually a difficult time in multiple ways. So, one of the jokes we have is what minority group is Trump going to demonize next. He`s focused on Muslims now. He`ll focus on someone else pretty soon.

LUI: Right.

MOGHUL: But remember the African Muslim community. So, we have a lot of African-Americans. Fastest growing demographic I believe is Latinos. And a lot of us are recent immigrant origin or ourselves immigrants, so whether our parents born or came here for work or school or what have you.

LUI: Asian Americans as well.

MOGHUL: Exactly, South Asians, huge communities. So, all these communities are getting attacked as Muslims, but we`re also victims of the rising anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-black racism sentiment and action. So, it`s like you`re getting hit on a lot of different fronts at the same time. So it is in memory as an American Muslim by far, the worst time that I can remember.

LUI: The attack on many different fronts.

And, Saba, you and I have been talking about this over recent weeks, this is an aggregate statement being made by several politicians running for high office. How do we disaggregate to understand this better as Haroon is intimating here?

SABA AHMED, PRESIDENT, REPUBLICAN MUSLIM COALITION: Well, Islamophobia is on the rise. There is a hostile environment outside, but I think yesterday, I invited Donald Trump to visit a mosque and learn about Muslims and Islam from Muslim Americans. I`m hoping that the presidential candidates from the GOP side are going to the start visiting mosques and meet their Muslim American constituents, to understand what our needs are, what threats we`re facing and how we can solve our national security problems together.

LUI: Saba, how do you put together the list of either threats or attacks that have happened near or closely involving places of worship, Muslim worship and the words that have also been iterated within the last week or so? How do you discuss those problems?

AHMED: Well, obviously, hate crimes should be reported to the FBI, and the Justice Department. But at the same time, I myself have received threats, but that doesn`t mean that I`m going to stop doing what I`m doing.

I believe what I`m doing is worthwhile. I think it`s helping Americans understand and see a different side of Islam. So, we can`t let that fear overcome us. We have to put that behind us. And, you know, in Islam, we believe the best way to deal with problems is through patience and with prayer. We`re going to be patient and we`re praying for the best.

But at the same time, we have do engage at the political levels at the highest levels to defend our community.

LUI: Haroon, how do you talk about this in your prayers?

MOGHUL: You tell yourself that the same country that`s saying all this stuff is also the country that elected Barack Hussein Obama twice. So, there are definitely causes for concerns, but I know of people of color, minorities, this kind of stuff does put you on edge. But you look at the outrage that this has produced.

So, Donald Trump has said some vile things and he has some series support in the Republican Party. But a lot of people, including a lot of Republican leaders have finally woken up to Islamophobia. I have been saying for years, a lot of Muslims have been saying for years, this is a problem, people have been ignoring it.

LUI: So, I want you to put on your Republican hat and I mentioned this with our panel earlier, that is, when asked, do you agree with Donald Trump`s statements about Muslims being accepted in the United States, the numbers in terms of rejecting, from Republicans, was very -- well, low. It was below 50 percent, it was 35 percent or 36 percent from the CBS poll.

What were other Republicans thinking then?

MOGHUL: Well, the problem with the Republican Party for a long time is that their policies are based on race and ethnicity, and this is rhetorically true. So, you can disagree with Democratic policies. But Bernie Sanders is not saying that we should tax certain ethnicities at a higher rate. Barack Obama is not saying we should deny guns to certain demographics.

But Republican politicians say over and over again, that we should deny certain groups of people certain rights based on their ethnicity, their religion or identity. This is a problem for the Republican Party, and what I would ask Republicans to do is to focus on what are the long-term consequences of this for your cohesion as a party. Where does this go?

LUI: And, Saba, what would you say to those Republicans, that non-36 percent that we were just showing onscreen?

AHMED: I would say that we need to be more welcoming and open to minorities and accept everyone. Donald Trump can come up with whatever unconstitutional plans that he wants, but we have a U.S. government which allows equal protection under the law, and due process rights for all citizens. He can`t just blatantly ban Muslims. We have a system and I don`t expect Congress to pass these laws any time soon, even if he comes up with it out of his mind.

As Republicans, we`re hoping to reach out to Donald Trump and all presidential candidates and hopefully change their minds in the upcoming year.

LUI: Very quickly, who`s your candidate then that does fit into to the space that you`re at as a Muslim Republican?

AHMED: We`re working with all of them. I mean, I have been meeting with different candidates.

LUI: Which one do you think stands out for you at this moment?

AHMED: I`m hoping Rubio has been really good on immigration reform, and hopefully, we can reach out to the other ones.

LUI: Haroon?

MOGHUL: Do I support Republican candidate? No, I don`t.

LUI: OK.

MOGHUL: I`m a Democrat, the majority of Americans --

LUI: Who would you pick one of all that`s out there right now?

MOGHUL: You know, honestly, I`m disappointed by almost all the candidates. I haven`t seen a stand from any of them, wasn`t encouraged on this issue or on any of Trump`s claims or comments.

LUI: Haroon, Saba, thank you so much for your time on this Saturday.

AHMED: Thank you for having us.

LUI: All right. Still ahead, controversial comments from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the court`s latest affirmative action case. New audio we`ll have for you from what he said.

But, first, divers continue to search for clues at a San Diego lake. The FBI seen removing items from the water. We`ll go live to the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: Taking you the San Bernardino. Investigators are diving in a local lake after receiving a tip that Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were seen there in the hours before December 2nd terror attacks. FBI divers were spotted yesterday recovering two small objects from that lake.

NBC`s Morgan Radford joins us live from San Bernardino.

Do we know what those objects are?

MORGAN RADFORD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We don`t yet, Richard, in fact FBI investigators have been combing through this lake behind me for two days now, and once the daylight comes out, officially, they`ll begin for a third day.

Now, we do know that they were able to recover some items from that lake, but sources would not specify exactly what. However, Richard, we do know that of the items they were able to recover in the past week, it appears that this couple had an even larger attack planned.

And speaking of largely attack, focus now on Enrique Marquez. He`s not been officially named a suspect, but investigators say they have been told that Marquez planned a 2012 attack with Syed Farook, but for whatever reason got cold feet.

Now, he is the young man who purchased two of the five guns that Syed Farook used in that attack. And on the day of the attack, Richard, Enrique Marquez posted on Facebook, I`m sorry, it`s been a pleasure. So, it was cryptic and a bit creepy.

But even with all that going on, there`s more questions surrounding the $28,500 that were deposited into Syed Farook`s account before this attack. Now, this happened on an online peer to peer lending market place. It`s sort of like a Craigslist, it`s where online borrowers and lenders can meet together and talk about matching funds.

So, now, investigators are wondering if in fact a terrorist cell funneled this money through that site, specifically for the purpose of this attack. But even with these new details, these new questions, Richard, the community here is focusing on those victims. Today, there`s a memorial service being held for Tin Nguyen. She was eight years old when she came over here from Vietnam, looking for a better life, better education, better opportunities, but she was gunned down just a year before she was set to be married -- Richard.

LUI: NBC`s Morgan Radford, live in San Bernardino, thank you so much for that.

We`re also following developments in Paris where world leaders have reached an agreement on a PAC they hope will stem climate change. A vote to adapt the agreement is expected later today.

Now, that final draft would be legally binding and would require all countries to take steps to reduce emissions. Several reporters and producers in Paris monitoring the situation.

Stay with us right here with us on MSNBC and we`ll keep you up-to-date on what might happen with that. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: There were gasps heard inside the Supreme Court this week over something said by Justice Antonin Scalia. He made a remark about African- Americans and academic performance, concerning a case challenging affirmative action.

NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The University of Texas at Austin says to achieve the level of campus diversity that improves learning, race must be a factor in admissions. But could it be, Justice Antonin Scalia asked, that affirmative action harms some students?

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a slower tracked school where they do well.

WILLIAMS: He said some studies show that most black scientists do not come from elite universities.

SCALIA: They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they are being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.

WILLIAMS: That produced a few gasps in the courtroom. Some called his remarks racist. Others said he was just plain wrong.

SHERRILY IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: I think it was the language of the lesser, slower schools that stung. All of the evidence shows that black students like most students fare best when they go to the best school that they can get into because they are challenged in that environment.

WILLIAMS: But some opponents of using race in admissions say Scalia had a point despite how he said it.

STUART TAYLOR, JR.: To bring people in the universities where they`re not nearly as well prepared academically, grades, test scores, anything else, as their classmates, they`re likely to struggle academically.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LUI: NBC`s Pete Williams reporting there.

Let`s bring in "BuzzFeed`s" Chris Geidner who was at the court Wednesday.

Chris, what was the reaction from the other justices?

CHRIS GEIDNER, BUZZFEED: Good morning.

Well, the time when Justice Scalia brought up those remarks came rating at the end of the University of Texas lawyers` arguments. And so basically, the lawyer`s response was the end of that section of the arguments. So it`s sort of dropped at the end of a segment and didn`t come back up again.

LUI: So really, a mike drop, did you look at the other faces, though, after that mike was dropped?

GEIDNER: I couldn`t really see what the other justices happened to be looking. I mean, Justice Scalia is known for sort of making the headline comments at arguments and honestly, I have been joking with people that he saw Justice Alito getting a lot of the headlines in the argument and decided to grab something in there at the end of that segment.

LUI: Chris, you know, why is the Supreme Court hearing this again now?

GEIDNER: Well, when the Supreme Court heard the case in 2013, what it said was that the lower court hadn`t applied the right, hadn`t used the test correctly. The strict scrutiny, sort of the highest test of whether or not race can be used in a government program. And so, the fifth circuit heard the case again, and said, yes, we still think that this program is right.

And Abigail Fisher, the woman who`s challenging the policy, asked the justices to take it up again and they did. And this time, it came down to -- it was a lot more aggressive and the ultimate question of whether or not these policies are allowed and it seemed like at some points, Justice Kennedy was a little nervous about making a decision.

LUI: Our panel is here with us, Chris.

Your reaction to Justice Scalia`s comments, and his assertion?

Any one of you.

PERESSUTI: I`ll start.

I think that the good justice`s overall point is not without merit. In the name of social engineering and education, it does not serve either the student nor the institution well if students are in an environment where they`re not up to the challenge. That is a debate that we can have.

Justice Scalia took it to another level where he`s singled out a specific group of students, in this case, black students, and tried to make the case that somehow they might not or were not up to the test. And I think that`s where it all went downhill, and he`s got some explaining to do.

KHIMM: Well, I think underlying his comments was this implication that black students or whatever other group you might want to the pick are supremely underqualified and are just being selected because of their race. And I don`t think that`s the way that these university officials think about their policies, these universities think about their policies or the students who get admitted think about themselves.

They basically want to use race as one factor among an entire range of factors that included being academically qualified to attend that university. And I think it feeds a pernicious notion that minority students are just being selected because of their race and they don`t have other qualifications to be there.

LUI: At its very base, does it work?

DEFRANCESCO: You know, as a professor at the University of Texas, let me give --

LUI: Do you have an opinion? An insight?

DEFRANCESCO: Let me give you some insight from the ground right. Suzy`s point is exactly right on. When we`re looking at students, we`re looking at whole individuals, we`re not just looking at race, we look at region, we look at legacy, we look at different interests and majors.

So, I think the problem with these comments ask we keep zeroing in on race, it is a factor, among many, many factors, and I think it`s going to be very interesting to see what happens here, because it`s not just going to be what affects the law school. This is going to affect all admissions across the country.

LUI: And as we saw this in Michigan and California the very same debates. And back to you, Chris, on this, this is going to come down potentially here to Chief Justice Roberts and he will have to make a call on this.

What will this be like, based on his decision, potential decision and his legacy here when it comes to the nation`s civil rights discussion?

GEIDNER: I think the chief justice -- I`m not sure it`s going to come down to the chief justice, because he has made it clear over time that he has real problems with affirmative action, because of the fact that Justice Kagan isn`t participating in this case because she was involved with it. It`s been going on so long, when she was in the Obama administration.

So, it really is going to come down to what Justice Kennedy is going to do and he`s had problems with affirmative action in the past. He`s voted to restrict affirmative action programs.

But at the arguments, it was clear that he was a little nervous about being the justice who casts the vote to side with sort of the comments that were being made by Justices Alito and Scalia that would really strike this down and end to the policy in whole. I think he was sort of looking for -- he kept asking about like whether or not we could remand the case back down to the trial court so we could get more evidence into the record.

LUI: OK. Thank you so much, BuzzFeed legal editor, Chris Geidner. Thanks for joining us on a very, very compelling topic. Appreciate your time

Still to come, should Silicon Valley be required to do more to identify possible terror threats?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: In the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, a renewed call for social media companies to do more to identify potential terrorist threats. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Richard Burr with legislation this week requiring tech companies to alert federal law enforcement about suspicious activity. Law enforcement officials saying San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik posted her support to ISIS on Facebook before the attack.

The terrorist group has used platforms as a well know, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to recruit and plot attacks.

Joining us with the details, MSBNC senior editor of video content, Cal Perry.

So, is there a request here, to the idea monitor yourself?

CAL PERRY, MSNBC SR. EDITOR, VIDEO & DIGITAL CONTENT: Yes, so it`s modeled after really the child porn legislation that already exists. Dianne Feinstein has reintroduced legislation sort of the post-San Bernardino attack legislation phase. It would require big tech companies Twitter, Facebook to report anything they see immediately that`s terrorist activity.

The pros and the cons: number one, they should already be doing that, they should already be letting the government know that this is going on. And in large part they are. Number two, people say this is starting to infringe a little bit on the First Amendment. That this is going to open a bad precedent, that we should not do this.

So, the bill is still this committee so we`ll have to see how it shakes out.

LUI: Self monitoring, is that what it`s basically being called here? And is it the right thing to do saying you must monitor yourself?

PERRY: So, the question is, do we want to set this precedent, right? Do we want to open the floodgates of sort of government really intruding on First Amendment freedom of speech. The other issue is there are apps that exists overseas that we know ISIS is using to communicate. We`re talking about apps that encrypt themselves, so impossible to break. This bill would not address that.

LUI: So, the ACLU says that tech companies, they argued, quote, "It`s not their job, it`s not what they do best, the government already monitors much of this information", they go on to say here.

PERRY: Right, and why not leave it up to the intelligence people who should be looking at it anyway.

The other thing is, when it comes to reporting this for big tech, the question is, will they stick their head in the stand, that`s what some people have been saying, that they`ll just stick their head in the sand because then legally if they see something and they don`t report it, that`s on them.

LUI: Is it better to ask here, government agencies must work with, must collaborate with these social/media companies?

PERRY: And learn from. These are the experts, why not let them tell us the best way to sort of monitor this.

And, again, you know, Twitter and Facebook have been good at doing this. When accounts are flagged, they`ll actually let the U.S. government know, this is a flagged account. Sometimes the U.S. government will say, leave it up, let us track it. They`re already doing it.

LUI: It`s interesting that Dianne Feinstein is the one who`s doing this. Thank you so much.

PERRY: California.

LUI: Yes. Cal Perry, appreciate it.

If you are just joining us, we want to get you up to speed on the investigation a fire bombing at a mosque in California. Here`s what we know at the moment, the incident now being called a hate crime and the FBI is part of the investigation. Authorities say someone fire bombed the mosque in Riverside County yesterday. No one was hurt. One person of interest has been detained in that. We will bring you new information as we get it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: There`s a lot going on this morning. We`ll get caught up open some of the other headlines making news with today`s panel. And so, several interesting articles. We`ll try to get at least three of them.

"New York Times", I was reading this headline. National Front gets a boost in French regional elections happening this weekend. Marine Le Pen, she`s leader of the national front, as many of you know here, a far right party. And when she was asked about Donald Trump`s comments about Muslims coming to America, she said, as you mentioned earlier, that`s not me. Have I ever said something like that?

Yet she`s in a country that one might say based on recent events as well as history might be the place. You might have more Donald Trumps or individuals saying things like that.

DEFRANCESCO: Everything in life is relative. I think we look at the French right as being uber conservative and then a Donald Trump comes along.

But I think what we see if France versus the United States is with Donald Trump, it`s an ultimatum. Let`s kick all Muslims out. Let`s not let any Muslims in.

Whereas in France, it`s more incremental, we don`t want to see the hijab being worn. We don`t want to see external shows of religion. We want to keep religion out of our society.

It`s a matter of degrees more in France rather than here in the United States as Trump saying we`re just cutting it out.

LUI: He`s out to the far right in France?

PERESSUTI: Indeed.

KHIMM: I think what you`re seeing as well, with all of the parallels that you`re seeing in terms of fear of terrorism, fear of Islam, fear of immigrants, concerns that the countries are in decline and that they need a strong leader to turn them around. I think what you`re seeing, the difference in France, is that they have a party organized around that. We`re in a two-party system with one party, the Republican Party, that is in total crisis and disarray and Trump, who solidified a certain segment to suggest that something like a National Front party could be possible in the U.S.

LUI: There is a segment there.

PERESSUTI: I think France has also dealt with the issue of Muslim immigration to a much greater degree than the United States has. For Marine Le Pen to say what she says, for me, is a cautionary tale for although who espouse Trumpian rhetoric.

LUI: Trumpian rhetoric. I want to move to this.

"Washington Post", Saudi women are voting and running for office for the first time. That happened today. So that`s an historic moment for women in the world. There are more than 900 female candidates in the kingdom`s first nationwide election in which women are able to run and vote today. And this is, again, 2015.

KHIMM: So it`s incremental change, local elections, but it`s something in a country where women are still not allowed to drive. I think that is, you know, we should welcome progress where we see it.

LUI: They should get a male guardian`s permission to travel abroad as well.

DEFRANCESCO: Well, in our own history, we`re coming on the 100th anniversary of women`s suffrage, in our history, it was also incremental. It was two steps forward, one step back. We started seeing women being able to vote at the local level. States were allowing women to vote.

We saw pushback at the national level and eventually, we did women`s suffrage nationally come about. So perhaps we might see that incremental two steps forward, one step back change.

PERESSUTI: And I`m hopeful that economically, the Saudis will be rewarded for this liberalization because I think it will do wonders for their economy at a time when oil isn`t exactly knocking it out of the park, let`s bring out more female consumers and let`s do what we can to ignite the economy.

LUI: Since you guys are on the subject, I`ll go to another headline here and we`ll bring it stateside. Let`s talk about the ten dollar bill. What has happened is they`ve delayed the decision on the successor, if you will, to Alexander Hamilton being on the $10 bill. It will be postponed until next year, that according to the Treasury spokesperson.

In this because a lot of folks talking about it, the three of you included. Who should be on the $10 bill?

PERESSUTI: I don`t understand why we`re kicking the father of the Treasury to the curb. It would seem to be that the old hickory on the $20 would be a much better candidate to get tossed, especially when Alexander is selling out seats on Broadway. I think we could keep him on that currency as long as possible.

LUI: Who would you put on the $10 or other dollar bill, $20 bill?

DEFRANCESCO: My vote, either $10 or $20 is with Susan B. Anthony, going back to the women`s suffrage movement. She was the mother of the woman`s suffrage movement. I think we should look to her.

Or we can take a page out of the western political playbook. Let do a referendum. Let`s do a proposition. Let`s let the American people vote.

LUI: Fifteen seconds.

KHIMM: I saw that Harriet Tubman was a very popular choice in the polling. I think there are a number of not only women but also women of color that could be strong contenders. Yes, I think part of the popular -- vigorous popular discourse is maybe the reason that there`s a still deadlocked for this.

LUI: We finish with gender equality right here on MSNBC.

Thank you so much. I like to thank our panel, Victoria DeFrancesco, Gian- Carlo Peressuti and Suzy Khimm for spending time with us and maybe having a doughnut or two.

Thank you for getting up with us today. Join us tomorrow, Sunday morning, at 9:00.

Up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". Today on MHP, the changing electorate and what brought us to the rhetoric and fear we`re seeing today. Stick around. Melissa is up next.

Have a great Saturday.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END