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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Paris Reels In Aftermath Of Friday's Terrorist Attacks; Interview With Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California; Sixteen States Banning Syrian Refugees; Cruz: Obama's Refugee Plan Is Act Of "Lunacy"; Parisians Return To Work, School.. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 16, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:10] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper reporting live from Paris.

You can see the scenes of grieving behind me at the Place de la Republique, where so many Parisians have come and others from outside Paris to pay their respects and grieve the 129 killed last Friday.

This is a nation still reeling in very real ways from Friday's horrific Islamist terrorist attacks. It's a nation still on edge, with a possible eighth terrorist still on the loose.

At the G20 summit in Turkey earlier today, President Obama vowed to defeat and to destroy ISIS. He called the group the face of evil. Cameras captured Mr. Obama huddling on the sidelines earlier with Russian President Vladimir Putin discussing, we're told, both countries' role in the anti-ISIS campaign.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president. He filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the defensive, but staying the course, President Obama responded to the attacks in Paris, determined to keep and expand his plan to defeat ISIS.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But, as I said from the start, it's going to take time.

ACOSTA: The president responded to critics who insist he's not fighting hard enough to destroy the terrorist army, arguing those detractors are proposing what he's already doing.

OBAMA: Folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan.

ACOSTA: But Mr. Obama brushed off calls to pour thousands of U.S. troops into Iraq and Syria, saying that would only repeat past mistakes.

The president was visibly annoyed that his strategy was even questioned.

(on camera): Why can't we take out these bastards?

OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it. But that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also defended the assessment he made just days before the attacks in France, that ISIS had been contained, maintaining the terrorist army has lost ground. He denied that he misjudged ISIS from the start, despite once describing the group as the J.V. team.

OBAMA: There has been acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West.

ACOSTA: The president also weighed in on the discovery that at least one of the Paris attackers had posed as a Syrian refugee, insisting that the U.S. should not keep out those trying to flee ISIS.

OBAMA: Many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves. That's what they're fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values.

ACOSTA: Without mentioning his critics by name, Mr. Obama snapped at Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, who urged a focus on aiding Christian migrants.

OBAMA: When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians, but not the Muslims, we don't have religious tests to our compassion.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's the most responsible way to do that?

ACOSTA: The president also noted Marco Rubio, another GOP contender who's called for a halt of Syrian migrants to the U.S., is the son of Cuban refugees.

OBAMA: When some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that's shameful.

ACOSTA: Time and again, the president promised the White House along with the U.S. intelligence community is working urgently to thwart every possible threat to the homeland.

OBAMA: We will do what's required to keep the American people safe.

ACOSTA (on camera): From the G20 summit, the president next heads to Asia, where his planned agenda will pull him away from the war on ISIS, even if that fight will likely overshadow the rest of his trip -- Jake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

How worried are U.S. officials about this new ISIS threat to the United States? We will ask the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein. She's just been briefed. And she will tell me what she knows next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:51]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. And I'm live in Paris.

U.S. officials are currently on heightened alert, scrambling to protect the American homeland from any possible attack at the hands of ISIS or any other terrorist group.

Joining me to talk about this risk is Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us, as always.

As you know, ISIS today issued a threat to attack Washington, D.C. You have just been briefed. Is there a credible terror threat against the U.S. right now from ISIS?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I believe it's as you said. There is a threat, and so threat levels go up. And everybody does the best they can to prepare.

I think we're in a very difficult time, because ISIS is not under control. And I think the three big events which have been pointed out on your show over and over again in a month, whether it's Beirut, whether it's the Russian passenger liner, whether it's Paris, indicates a scope and a depth to the ability of ISIS to operate.

So I don't think any of us can make light of it. But I think we have to be prepared. And I believe that's what's happening.

[16:40:05]

I think far more important is, how do we get the free democratic Western world together to be able to work together to provide some element of safety to people and also to defeat what is the worst scourge I have seen in my political lifetime?

TAPPER: I want to get to the Syrian refugee question and dilemma in a second, but before I do, I just want to ask you. Are intelligence officials, as far as you know, picking up any chatter that might be concerning from sympathizers of ISIS and other terrorist groups within the United States?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I haven't had a chance to discuss chatter with anybody today.

The Intelligence Committee tomorrow will be discussing this. And I will be sure to ask that question.

TAPPER: Were any of the eight terrorists, as far as you know, known to U.S. law enforcement or the national security apparatus in any way?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think the names are known. More than that, I can't tell you.

TAPPER: Senator, we're going to have much more on this story in just a second, but I do want to ask about the fact that the governors from more than a dozen states in the United States have announced that they are refusing to accept any refugees from Syria.

There are some states that have said the opposite, that they will accept them. But more than a dozen have said no. What is your take on that response? And are you confident that there are sufficient measures in place to screen these Syrian refugees and make sure that no terrorists are embedded or smuggled amongst the thousands of refugees who may resettle in the United States?

FEINSTEIN: Well, we're going to be in the process of checking on the vetting and going through it from A to Z to see that it is broad-based and effective.

California will not be one of those states, I believe. This, you know, comes at such a terrible time, because you have people literally fleeing for their lives. And, of course, it's possible for somebody to intermingle with them that has really evil intent. And that's a terrible problem.

But come winter, to see children freezing in the snow, I don't think that's what the Western world wants either. So I would hope that governors would be very slow to make these statements. I don't think that befits our country very well.

The president has said that he will take 10,000. The president has said that our vetting will be full and comprehensive. And it's up to us on the legislative side to see that that in fact happens.

TAPPER: Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, it's always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.

FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Jake. Right.

TAPPER: The list of states now refusing to admit Syrian refugees for resettlement relocation is increasing by the hour, as concern grows over any potential terrorists sneaking into the United States.

Plus, the sadness and fear still profoundly felt in this city. One man tells me he can't sleep and every thought he has is about the attacks -- that visit with the men and women of Paris coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:45:33] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake

Tapper reporting live from Paris. You see there live images from the Place de la Republique, a makeshift memorial for the 129 victims of the horrific terrorist attacks here just on Friday, just a few days ago.

Those attacks have ignited mourning here in France and a fire storm, a political one, in the United States over the plan by the Obama administration to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of next year.

At least one of the terrorists that committed the atrocities here in France snuck into Europe among the stream of refugees fleeing Syria. And now governors from nearly 20 states in the United States are saying that they are not going to take them in, any of the refugees.

I want to get right to CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, President Obama speaking very forcefully about this earlier today saying turning away refugees would be a, quote, "betrayal of American values."

And he blasted Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for suggesting that Christian refugees be a priority.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He did. Specifically it was a pretty thinly veiled hit on Ted Cruz saying that, you know, people who are saying this should remember that some of their people from their family came into this country on precisely the same way, as political refugees.

That as I was saying was a thinly veiled hit on Ted Cruz. I just sat down with Ted Cruz here on the campaign trail in South Carolina and asked him to respond to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing is that we bring to this country tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees. I have to say particularly in light of what happened in Paris, that's nothing short of lunacy.

BASH: What would have happened if your father was trying to get from Cuba to the United States and the political leaders here said, nope, we don't think so because who knows maybe you could be somebody who could, you know, commit crimes against America?

CRUZ: See that's why it's important to define what it is we're fighting. If my father were part of a theocratic and political movement like radical Islamism, that promotes murdering anyone who doesn't share your extreme faith or forcibly converting them, then it would make perfect sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:04] BASH: And, Jake, Ted Cruz also told me that this week he plans to introduce legislation that would ban Muslim Syrian refugees from coming into the United States.

So as you can imagine he is applauding the move by governors across the country including in his home state today of Texas saying that they would not let any refugees into their states -- Jake.

TAPPER: Dana, has there been a reaction today from the U.S. State Department?

BASH: There has. And their reaction is that they are going to go forward with these programs, go forward with allowing refugees from Syria to come into the United States.

They are going to do so as the State Department insists with an eye towards security as they say they were already doing. So they say that this is still a go when it comes to the president's policy of allowing refugees into this country -- Jake.

TAPPER: Dana Bash on the campaign trail in Charleston, South Carolina, thanks so much. And you can catch Dana's full interview with Senator Ted Cruz tomorrow morning on "NEW DAY" live from Paris at 6:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Three days after the terrorist attacks, Parisians are trying to get back to their lives, trying to get back to normal. But the bullet holes are still there, and they are a stark reminder of the horror of Friday night. We went to see for ourselves. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:44]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'm coming to you live from Paris. We're at the Place de la Republique, the city of light has become the city of candle light as this community mourns, though it does remain defiant.

It's the first weekday today that Parisians return to school and to work, those iconic sidewalk cafes. Earlier today we visited some of the sites of the horrific ISIS terrorist attacks to see the city in mourning after those terrorists took 129 lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): At first blush, Paris seemed to bustle today just like any other Monday morning. But the very real fear, the horror, the terror, it lies right beneath the surface, in part because these ISIS terrorists struck at the most ordinary of locations.

ANNE QUENLARD, STUDENT: I was watching the news and they told me that it was like now my school and we were all shocked.

TAPPER: It started Friday evening in the outskirts of the city with suicide bombers at the Stade De France.

(on camera): About 5 minutes later about 5 miles away in this ordinary French neighborhood where Parisians sitting outside enjoying a nice Friday night dinner, a black car pulls up and two terrorists open fire killing 15 people in this outdoor bistro, wounding countless others.

A few minutes later, just a few blocks away the terrorists again attacked killing five people who were just eating outside. If you look over there on the wall of this restaurant, you can see a picture of American college student, Nohemi Gonzalez, who was in Paris on an overseas study program. She was 23 years old. Near her picture you can also see bullet holes.

(voice-over): This man stopped to show us how the terrorists sprayed bullets all over the neighborhood, bullet hole after bullet hole, a mark of indiscriminate evil sparing no one in intent including this shop. Our guide, a Muslim French shopkeeper came from Tunisia more than 40 years ago.

(on camera): These people are doing these horrible things in the name of your religion. What do you think of that?

(voice-over): That's false he tells me. To kill an innocent in the name of Islam, that's hell. You're going to hell. The sidewalks are marked by makeshift memorials, each one symbolizing heartbreaking loss.

A 4-and-a-half-year-old girl left this note, I'm thinking of you it says. Just steps away from where bodies fell stands a flower shop. It's doing business today. They come here to mourn. They come here to pray. They come here because they do not know what else to do.

(on camera): It must be very unsettling to have this happen right in front of your store.

(voice-over): Like you, he tells me, you almost have tears in your eyes. We are all like that. We are unable to sleep. We are thinking only of this. We are talking only of this.

The florist leaves us for a second then returns clutching a printout picture of Gonzalez. I got this to show my children, he says, to explain to them that anyone can be killed. She's just the age of my daughter.

Musician arrives pulling a piano by bicycle to try to inject some hope into the sadness. Paris today is trying to imagine a world where they feel safe again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: As support for Paris swells across the nation and across the world, you too can help. You can go to CNN.com/impact for more information on how you can aid the victims of the Paris ISIS terrorist attacks.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."