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tv   Washington Week With Gwen Ifill  PBS  November 21, 2015 1:30am-2:01am PST

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gwen: looking back at a sobering week. where lives were losve but escalated. and policymakers struggled to find the right answers. onight on "washington week." the terror of vulnerability. in paris. in mali. and at home. spawning refugee backlash. >> as governor of the state of texas, i will not roll the dice and take the risk on allowing a few refugees in simply to expose texans to that danger. gwen: political declarations. >> our nation has always been welcoming. but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion. >> turning away orphans and applying a religious test,
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discriminating muslims, slamming the door on everyr syrian refugee, that is just not who we are. >> this brutal savagey is a reminder of what's at stake in this election. gwen: and fears of another 9-11. >> i can build you a perfectly safe city. but it will look like a prison. >> the most important thing i think is do not let fear become disabling. >> -- president obama: we are not well served where in response to a terrorist attack we descend into fear and panic. gwen: after paris, what happens next? covering the week, susan davis, congressional correspondent for n.p.r. ed o'keefe, congressional and political correspondent for "the washington post." alexis simendinger, white house correspondent for real clear politics. and pete williams, justice correspondent for nbc news.
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>> award winning reporting and analysis covering history as it happens, live from our nation's capital this is "washington week with gwen ifill." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we asked people to tell u something that happened in their past and something that might happen in their future. the good things were put on yellow magnets. and the bad ones on blue. the results show the past was a pretty even mix of good and bad. yet the future was almost all good things. now that you've seen the results of this experiment, what does it mean to you? >> we all want to think about positive stuff. >> realistically there will be downtime. >> great to face optimistically. but let's plan for whatever the future might bring. >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. additional funding is provided by newman's own foundation,
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donating all profits from newman's own food products to charity. and nourishing the common good. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. since last we gathered around this table, the worlds of politics and of security have shifted dramatically. tonight, we'll examine how the paris attacks have altered the debates on capitol hill, on the campaign trail, and on the front lines of domestic security. from france to belgium, from mali to times square. attorney general loretta lynch. >> our highest priority is and will remain the security of our homeland and the safety of all americans. we're acting aggressively to diffuse threats as they emerge and we're vigorously investigating and prosecuting those who seek to harm the
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american people. gwen: pete, you were there when she made those comments. what does she mean by that? what are we doing to investigate? >> she's talking about the past year and a half efforts. all the way up to the present against isis. this is not something the government just started. they've arrested and prosecuted about 70 people who have either tried to stage attacks here at the urging of esis or have tried to go over to syria and join isis there. in the past couple of days, since paris, what the f.b.i. has done is take a small number of people that they think are the most inclined to follow isis instructions as the f.b.i. director says on the spectrum of just interested to maybe wanting to go operational. he says it was dozens of people that they've redoubled their efforts to is your veil. -- surveil. i'm told that number is 60 or about four dozen and keeping eyes on them. at the same time assuring things to say. it w hatched into belgium and moved into paris. if you think about that model
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here, he says he hags not seen any indication that isis members have tried to come to the united states in the past days or weeks. they remain focused on the homegrown extremists. people swallowing this relentless propaganda from isis and being willing to stage some attacks here. what they wanted to make sure is paris didn't turn up the heat mentally on any of these. sgl did paris become mali or do we not know yet? >> they don't know. they don't know if it's isis or seems to be an off-shoot of al qaeda. whether paris incline these people to act, it's not clear. it may simply be the fact that there was all these international people meeting in the hotel for a peace conference. there were these nongovernmental organizations, people from the u.s., people from other countries. it may have been that confluence rather than paris that made the action happen. gwen: alexis, you spent your time at the white house. and the president was kind of put back on his heels. a week ago he said in an interview, with abc, that he felt like isis was contained. this was in the wake of the attack on the supply lines in
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syria. and now the white house has spent the entire week saying we do too have a strategy. >> yes. and the president who is traveling abroad as we know, and has been and won't be back until next week had to take a pounding from white house correspondents who were asking him questions. and we saw him on the defensive. again and again and again. trying to say -- and his white house aides trying to say that what i meant w that we were talking about them being geographically contained. shrinking their territory. but then he offered this long explanation and said we're going to stay the course and what we're doing is right. it's working and he went through these arguments about why all the suggestions that might be on the table. and we've heard the presidential candidates offer some of them. why he was rejecting them. not combat troops. why he's just going to intensify and talked about improving coordination. and intelligence and intensification of the actual targeting.
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but not changing the strategy. gwen: and doubling down o things like closing guantanamo. >> the president isre supposed be going to paris what? why is he going to paris at the end of this month? to talk about climate change. so his mind has been going at a different direction. and this -- this whole panoply of crises has brought him back to an arena he definitely does not want to be in. and has been forced to really defend what he's doing. gwen: on the campaign trail, and there has been so much discussion about the american engagement and issues like this. but you all have a new poll out tonight which shows that americans may think differently about our engagement in the world than we often think so. >> this was an incredible set of numbers that came out tonight showing this very quickly. things have shifted at least among americans overall. look at this. 59% of americans believe we're at war. with radical islam. including a majority of democrats. that's -- gwen: hold that phrase -- >> that's the phrase the
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republicans have seized upon for years, really. and have been throwing at the president and hillary clinton this week saying you won't call it that. well, a majority of americans agree with them. 60% support deploying more ground troops but only a third call for a large number. that plays in favor of the republicans who have been calling for ground troops. 73% support u.s. taking part in a military response to paris. but notably not taking the lead. and that i think shows the sort of modified stance that americans have on all this. that we're going to have to respond. but maybe not as aggressively or forcefully as we have in the past. all of this, though, plays into what republicans have been saying in the weeks since. be more forceful. be more -- deploy the military. really rethink the way that we're engaging this around the world. gwen: who in particular and been leading the charge especially on the military? >> the one that was most clear on it, i would say, at least among the republicans was jeb bush. who said we have to be overwhelming in our force and it should include more ground troops. now, he as the others defers to what military commanders might
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recommend, but the prospect of a third man named bush deploying troops into the middle east was raised by him saying this. and he clearly sees an opportunity here for himself to rebound. by focusing on national security. because more broadly his campaign sees it as a conversation about who has the soberness and the experience and the maturity to hold the job when you got guys like donald trump and ben carson out there saying some pretty interesting things. gwen: sue, we all remember after 9-11, that the conversation on capitol hill, very quickly, turned to what we should do to protect ourselves in terms of passing the patriot act or declaring war. pour having at least debates about the declaring war. is that what happened this week or was it different? >> yes. i think that the first turn we looked at was the refugee program. the refugees that are coming into the u.s. it largely because one of the suspected terrorists in paris allegedly used the refugee program to infiltrate that to come into the country. and that scared people.
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and when you talked to lawmakers they were hearing this at home. those poll numbers underscore that americans are very aware of this threat. and the homeland security chairman michael crflt ol said we can't send lawmakers home and not vote on anything. this is one vote in what they expect to be a multi-pronged legislative effort to look at this. what the bill did this week, what effectively halt the program. only about 1,800 refugees have come into this country in the past two years but president obama has said up to 10,000 syrian iraqi refugees can come in by the end of next year. and what they said is essentially the f.b.i. has to come up with a better background check system. gwen: i want to stop you there. bus -- because before we talk about refugees, it turned into a conversation so quickly about refugees. we'll get back to that but why not a conversation about american involvement abroad? >> because i think that people are afraid and there is a fear center around this refugee program that it is somehow a possibility that terrorists could infiltrate it. and come into the u.s. this way. and that the white house has
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defended it. and said we're confident in the system. these people are thoroughly vetted. it takes up to two years to bring these people in. but i think you saw in the vote this week, even after the white house said they would veto this bill, nearly 50 democrats voted with republicans on this. and if those margins hold, it's enough to override a veto. there's a disconnect between the white house and what sentiment is like in congress. gwen: there's demplet a disconnect. even in the nature of the debate. let back up for a second and pete, you start with this. what do we know and what don't we know? >> well, in terms of policy, in the u.s., what we don't know, for example, is something that f.b.i. has talked about a lot. about whether the terror plotters in france used encrypted communications. the signs are that they didn't. we merd a lot of warnings about the danger if terror plotters are talking to each other using text messages that the government can't intercept. then this is the going dark problem they call it.
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but it didn't appear that the terror plotters in paris did. they found a discarded cell phone outside the nightclub that was attacked. and they actually opened it up and looked at the contents. and that helped to lead them to the apartment that they raided on wednesday. so that says two things. the phone wasn't locked. and it wasn't encrypted. but there was a lot of talk this week about what the danger of what happens if the police can't read the content of a phone or can't look at the data when it's in transit. that's something we don't know. i should say one other thing. ordinarily in something like this that unfolds more slowly the foreign authorities are in close touch with americans and others. that wasn't the case so much this week. the french police had their hands full. they were staging dozens of raids every night. trying to prevent what they thought was another imminent attack. and they've sort of said to the american intelligence and law enforcement community, you know, hang on. we're a little busy right now. we'll get you informed later. gwen: really? >> yeah. gwen: the u.s. has been
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actively involved in that to that degree with this investigation. >> that's right. gwen: go ahead. >> let me just add that president hollande will be in the united states. gwen: my point. >> this coming week and he will be visiting moscow as well. and the french asked for information, intelligence sharing, because they're not part of the so-called five eyes network. and really were trying to appeal to the members of that. and the united states in particular. the united states offered intelligence to the french in order to do the strikes. so that the actual targeting -- >> but i'm talking about information come from france. and that's a different matter in terms of this attack. gwen: yeah. >> but there's -- it's related. and you just touched on something which is interesting. president hollande is coming here on tuesday. leaving here and going to moscow. >> uh-huh. gwen: that's an interesting try angular trip right now especially when you draw the line between moscow and washington and syria. >> well, what's interesting about this, well, everything is interesting about it. but the complications of this
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are so extraordinary. and what the french president is interested in is trying to get president obama to think differently about this idea that the united states and the russians are not actually coordinating over what's happening in syria. in other words, there's this facade that two countries are using air strikes against supposedly the same common enemy and we can talk about whether that's really true. but that they're not actually coordinating. although the president speaking with president putin in turkey, the suggestion was that president putin brought satellite photographs. and was trying to explain to the president, here's what's going on in syria. here's what we need to do. putin always has an angle on everything. and in this case, president hollande is trying to say we don't have time. we don't have time for you to work this out with -- gwen: worry about assad -- >> and worry about the fact that you two aren't getting long, russia and the united states have differences over ukraine over whatever. this is happening in europe and now and is urgent and let's talk about this.
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so we'll see. gwen: when we go to the campaign trail, and to congress, let's -- let me pose that question what do we know and what don't we know to you guys? >> i would say we know that republicans are eager to talk about this issue. i think they see this as -- as violent as it was and unfortunate as it is, crassly they see it as a political opportunity because it not only allows them to criticize the president and allows them to criticize the woman who helped shape the feign policy for so long and see big weakness for her if that's what she wants to run on. gwen: we weren't surprised this became such a big political debate and only that it happened so quickly. the flashpoint, however, did not turn as it has in the past on questions of war and retaliation. but as we've been discussing, on whether refugees from the fighting in syria should be allowed into the u.s. front running republicans donald trump and ben carson said muslim syrian refugees should be subject to stricter immigration rules. >> we can't take a chance on
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isis. it could be the great trojan horse. we cannot take a chance that some of these people coming in are isis. >> if there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you probably not going to assume something good about that dog. it doesn't mean that you hate all dogs. by any stretch of the imagination. but you're putting your intellect into motion. and you're thinking how do i protect my children? gwen: trump even suggested all muslims in the u.s. should be database. a the president traveling this week in asia dismissed all of this. president obama: they've been playing on fear. in order to try to score political points. or to advance their campaigns. and it's irresponsible. and it's contrary to who we are. and it needs to stop. because the world is watching. gwen: and democratic frontrunner hillary clinton did the same thing.
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but in 30 state capitols and in the u.s. house, the instinct was to pull back. >> and if in doubt at all, we have to say no to that. we have to say hold back. if you tell us that we don't have enough information to secure our state, we can't go forward. gwen: let's start with the debate on the hill. what is the practical effect of this week's house vote to stop syrian and iraqi refugees? we know that they're talking about it. they know that this is an important -- i guess they can chalk up a couple wins on this. but can they really do it? >> well, you know, it's not over. because republicans are also looking at what we have in december. another funding bill to keep the government open. and republicans said this week, look, we might try and attach it to this and force the president to vote against a bill and may have another government shutdown fight. i think it's the first part in what is going to be a series of votes this fall that lawmakers are talking about. that is not only the refugee program. they're also looking at something called the visa waiver program.
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the program that lets us travel back and forth between countries fairly freely. countries like france. diane feinstein has a bill that would make anyone that's traveled to iraq or syria in the past five years incapable of coming to the u.s. if through that program. >> without a visa. >> without a visa. they would have to come through it another way, through clearances. there's also talk among democrats about trying to revive gun legislation that said if you're on a terror watch list, you can't buy a gun in this country which currently they can do. >> you asked earlier and it's important to point out, they're not talking about potential military engagement. gwen: it's amazing. >> it is. and for years, i mean, since 2013 essentially. gwen: except for john mccain to be fair. >> and a few others. gwen: and lindsay graham. >> tim caine. >> exactly. ine and john mccain revise the laws that allow us to attack these guys militarily and congress refuses to do it
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as the poll shows if there's general support, the specifics that will always catch them up. and the president candidates suffered through it as well this week. >> much easier to blame obama than to force lawmakers to take some kind of ownership in this strategy. which is a large reason why they don't want to vote on another authorization. >> one reason why this visa waiver thing is a big deal is you have roughly -- 5,000 people from western european countries who have gone to syria and come back. now, contrast that with the situation here. we learned an interesting number this week. government has always said 250 americans are in that category. gwen: right. >> but the f.b.i. director told us yesterday is that the total number of americans thought to have come from the u.s. or people in the u.s., gone to syria, associated with isis, and come back, is in the teens. you contrast that with this enormous problem in western europe. that's what's giving rise to the visa waiver issue. if people can go to syria and come back to western europe by the thousands, what's to stop them from flying into the u.s.
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without -- and they don't need to have a visa? that's the energy behind this visa waiver point. gwen: but i also wonder whether the president has the support of his own party on this. we did see a lot of -- democrats jump off the ship this week. especially when it came to this refugee issue. >> in the house, the president very quickly -- i would say not quickly enough, but he did quickly begin to recognize that in the house democrats were going to go their own way on this. out of concern about their districts and out of concern about their own elections and out of concern that perhaps the president was a lame duck at this point and weren't going to stick their neck out for him. the president is now under the belief that if the senate, harry reid, the democratic leader, is going to try to block this legislative move. gwen: harry reid. dismissed a reporter's question this week by saying it's never going to happen. don't worry about it. >> but as -- and suggesting the white house is conversing with senators over these moderating kind of alternatives.
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gwen: they are? even though they put pout a veto threat before the bill was even written? >> yes. because they began to realize that their effort to just say no was not going to be enough. on this. not going to satisfy democrats. and that there might be a need to just or adapt rather than to just plain veto. gwen: what is vting? the one thing people agree on there should be better vetting or clearer vetting and like the discussion that's happening in europe about putting borders back up between countries. don't we bet -- vet already? >> there is a vetting program. the administration admits that there are -- here's the thing. if someone is proposed as a refugee by, for example, the u.n. high commissioner for refugees. someone from the department of homeland security, a person, will meet them. and interview them. and they will look at a number of things. where do they want to go? do they have family members here? do they have some medical or mental problem that suggests they should go one place rather than another to get treatment?
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they look at their background. they say why do you want to come? .are you leaving the country? well, i was at a demonstration on november 13. and they killed my family. then they will look and see, was there a demonstration on november 13? at the look at the criminal backgrounds and all those things. some of the problem here is that both the f.b.i. director and the secretary of homeland security have said look, we admit there are gaps here. we -- we can't go to the police in syria or the justice department in syria and say give us the file on ed o'keefe. because that sort of information isn't available. what they say is they're better at it now. they consult the data bases better and more agencies involved. and they insist that it's very thorough. and that it's quite safe. gwen: this has been a week of a lot of tough talk. especially on the campaign trail. it seems like that was the first option. not only donald trump but also ben carson. not only ben carson but also ted cruz. and they really -- and even hillary clinton's speech was retty tough and uncompron me
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-- uncompromising. are they scared enough that -- when hillary clinton says this is not who we are, is that true? >> no, i think they know that americans are scared. i think they were probably looking at similar polling that they've been doing themselves. that shows that americans are concerned about this. i think honestly they also -- they see it as a chance to hit the president. they see it as a chance, the more substantive candidates let's put it that way. see it as a chance to appear as if they could be commander in chief. and so i think they're more than willing to take the opportunity. >> i also think what the post 9-11 elections have taught us is that if the climate, election climate is about national security, that is good for republicans. >> yes. >> and that another telling thing this week was that democratic senate candidates in nevada and new hampshire gave very favorable comments toward the pause. essentially leaning toward what republicans are saying.
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because that shows you in competitive states, in competitive races, those swinging independent voters tend to come down on the side of republicans when it comes to feeling safe. gwen: and this is not news, alexis. >> it is not new. and i would add because we're looking at all these candidates who don't have a firm idea and there is no consensus, the american people if you look at these polls, they're all over the map, too, right? they feel one way about their fear and they feel another way about their rights. they kneel one way about isis which they may not understand and they feel another way about what they're willing to do with the military. so i'm very sympathetic to the american people who are confused and that's why there's a lot of pressure. gwen: final thoughts. >> this talk about refugees here the president of france said this week how many more syrian refugees france would be accepting. gwen: as much as we're pulling back, other nations are not necessarily very interested. this will develop. thank you, everybody, for a nice thoughtful conversation. there is more to talk about. but it's going to have to happen online. that's on the "washington week"
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webcast extra. where we'll talk about today's release of israeli spy jonathan pollard. you can find that later tonight. d all week long at stay up late with judy woodruff and me on "the pbs newshour." best wishes for a wonderful thinking. do not eat too much. because i will. good night. >> funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> how much money do you have in your pocket right now? >> i have $40. >> $21. >> could something that small
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make an impact on something as big as your retirement? >> i don't think so. >> well, if you start putting that money toward your retirement every week, and let it grow over time, or 20, 30 years, that retirement challenge might not seem so big after all. >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. additional funding is provided by newman's own foundation. donating all profits from newman's own food products to charity. and nourishing the common good. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captionin
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welcome to kqed newsroom, i'm thuy vu. gunmen stored a hotel in the west african nation of mali opening fire and taking hostages. when the siege ended hours later, more than a dozen people were dead. an extremist group led by a former al qaeda commander has claimed responsibility for the attack. the siege in mali took place eight days after islamic state militants launched a series of coordinated attacks across paris that left 130 people dead. this individual i don't obtained by shows people diving for cover after a gunman opened fire into a cafe. those attacks set up a massive global manhunt, a strong military response from fce


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