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CNN TONIGHT

Barack Obama Set to Meet President Hollande at the White House Tomorrow; Bombs Raining Down on ISIS Capital of Raqqa; New Clues to Whereabouts of Fugitive. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 23, 2015 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT SHOW HOST: You're looking live right now at the White House, it's where President Barack Obama is set to meet tomorrow with French President Hollande after the Paris attacks.

But do we have intelligence that we need to fight ISIS?

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Here is what we know right now. Bombs raining down on the ISIS capital of Raqqa. Today, as France launch air strikes. And meantime, in Paris, a new clue to the whereabouts of fugitive Salah Abdeslam. His cell phone tracked to the suburb of where it appears to be a suicide vest is found tonight.

And in Brussels, a city under the highest alert amid fears of another terror attack, terror team waiting to go strike there.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump doubles down in Ohio tonight, saying this about the terror attacks and guns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at Paris as an example. If some of those folks that were gunned down. You had hundreds and hundreds of people in the room. If some of those folks carried guns, you wouldn't have this. You wouldn't have this.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We're going to get to all of that this evening, but we want to begin with some breaking news tonight. CNN's Evan Perez has some new information on the Paris attacks.

Now, Evan, as I understand, you've gotten some new reporting on the attackers there. Tell us about it.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Don. The FBI, the Homeland Security Department and the National Counterterrorism Department has issued a new intelligence bulletin to police department around the county telling them to be aware of people who might be doing surveillance of soft targets to carry out terror attacks. Now this is all in the wake of the Paris attacks. And it had some

really interesting new information about what the attackers in Paris did. For instance, the bullets in the intelligence bulletin says that these attackers appeared to have had some kind of tactical planning and perhaps training ahead of time.

They conducted surveillance of some of the sites that they were carrying -- that they carried out these attacks against. They've found a cell phone as we've reported previously, we've reported that they had found a cell phone outside of the Bataclan Theater that it included instead -- included an encrypted apps and a message which appeared to be a coordinated message that the attackers used to carry out these attacks.

This is all information that's contained in these bulletin that was intended to help prepare law enforcement around the U.S. to make sure they have updated their training for active shooters, to make sure that they be on the lookout for people who might be doing surveillance on soft targets, places like stadiums and concert venues, makes like cafes, things that they -- that these attackers in Paris carried out these attacks against, Don.

LEMON: Evan Perez with our breaking news tonight. Evan, thank you very much for that. Let's follow up now. CNN's Martin Savidge joins us from Paris and Nima Elbagir is in Brussels tonight. Martin, I'm going to start with you. Police apparently found a suicide belt in the trash in the southern suburb of Paris today, along with this new information. So, talk to us about this. Tell us about what you know.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as was the city was really just starting to maybe relax a little bit after the horrible terror attacks of November. But this evening, late this afternoon, there was a street cleaner that apparently discovered this explosives belt is the way that the authorities have described it.

And as a result of that, finally the bomb squad was called in and they have apparently rendered it inert. It is unclear whether it actually had a detonator on it, but authorities are apparently are saying that it did have the same kind of explosive that they detected in the explosions that were detonated by suicide bombers in the attacks of Friday the 13th.

And then on top of that, they say it was in the area of where they had discovered a phone that had been linked to the last of the eight terrorists. In fact, the only survivor, which is now the most wanted man in all of France and that is, of course, is Salah Abdeslam.

So, many are wondering is that his vest? And if so, why is that vest there? Some are saying possibly it was defective and he left it behind. Others are saying, no, he had a change of heart. This is what his family is saying and that he abandoned both the mission and the vest and fled.

Right now, authorities aren't giving any answers on that, but it certainly has raised so many more questions. And now in this city, the level of fear, as well. Don. LEMON: Absolutely. Let's go to Nima now. Nima, you know, Brussels now

is in its third day of a lockdown because of a serious imminent threat, that's what it's called. What is the latest? What does this mean for the people there?

[22:04:58] NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, authorities, Don, have extended that serious threat level up until next Monday. So, we're looking potentially at about a week and a half. They are hoping, however, to reopen schools and the subway system on Wednesday.

But they're saying that that isn't any signifier of any real sense that the threat level here is lessening. In fact, they're asking people to be on high alert, to be vigilant, to call in anything that they see. This city is going through some of the most stringent security procedures since the Second World War, Don.

You really do get the sense that this is a city under siege. Some brave souls did venture out during today day, but by nightfall, most of them had gone in. It is so extraordinary haunting to see soldiers, to see these kind of procedures, empty buses driving past us in a major European capital city.

All of their raids, all of the searches so far, only one person is now in custody with a direct link to the Paris attacks since this threat level was raised.

LEMON: And beside that's vest that allegedly belonged to Abdeslam, are there any more leads for the hunt for him?

ELBAGIR: Well, all leads do seem to come back here to Belgium. But this is obviously an incredibly wide hunting ground. Police have been moving throughout so many different districts, coming back again and again, to Molenbeek, that suburb of Brussels that has emerged which is a nexus in this investigation. But you don't get a sense really, Don, that it's been narrowed in any way.

In fact, many of those intelligence sources we've been talking to say that this is such a critical time period because, often, when the net does begin to close in, that's when those being hunted start making some pretty drastic decisions. So, there is so much on the line here in Belgium. But people are beginning to try and return to some sense of normalcy.

LEMON: Martin, President Hollande is coming here to the U.S. Tomorrow to meet with president Obama. What does he want from the U.S.?

SAVIDGE: Well, I think what he's trying to get is to encourage a strong coalition of European forces to join together. Of course, there are separate nations that are all conducting air strikes and are carrying out their own objectives when it comes to taking down ISIS.

I think as a result of this, he believes that France is trying to encourage these nations to come together, work out some grand strategy to destroy ISIS. That is something that he has pledge to doing. And it's no secret, he has declared war. And in many ways France feels it is at war. So, I think that is what he is trying to do. He'll be meeting with the president and, clearly, trying to encourage a joint strategy.

LEMON: Martin Savidge and Nima Elbagir, thank you very much for your reporting. I want to turn to CNN's Paul Cruickshank now. He is our terrorism analyst. So, Paul, I want to ask you about this new information quickly that Evan Perez got for us.

The terrorist attacks conducted prior to surveillance of it, at least some of the locations. There was a bulletin issued by the FBI, Homeland Security Department, the National Counterterrorism that warns U.S. law enforcement to review training and on and on and on here.

Also confirmed to U.S. officials advises local law enforcement to go over shooter scenarios and ask for them to be on lockdown for any suspicious people doing surveillance as soft targets in similar locations. What do you make of this new information?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, obviously vigilance is going to go up here in the United States after such an awful terrorist attack in France. The worry that there could be copycat attacks, but also the worry that ISIS may try to infiltrate operatives into the United States.

The most likely scenario that could do that would be to recruit European extremists and to train them in Syria and Iraq. And we know that some of the plotters involved in this attack in Paris on Friday could have got into the United States under the visa waiver program, they weren't necessarily on the watch list. So, renew concerns, renew vigolance here in the United States.

LEMON: How should Americans read that going into this holiday week, a very heavily traveled holiday week, as well?

CRUICKSHANK: Keep calm. But carry on, I think the advice would be the threats are much greater in Europe, 30 times more European extremist who have traveled to Syria and Iraq than Americans. So, by the lowered of number you have 30 terrorist attacks in Europe for everyone in the United States.

Clearly, a much bigger threat, then much more stretched out with authorities dealing with this. The FBI has huge resources, more resources than most European countries. And so, I think the risk of terrorist attack is significantly lower here in the United States.

LEMON: That is what I was going to ask you. So, now let's move on to the worldwide because the Department -- the State Department has issued a travel alert worldwide because of increased terrorist threats. What does that tell you?

CRUICKSHANK: I think this is reflective of ISIS getting increasingly into the international terror business. I mean, just the last two months, you saw that terrible attack in Ankara from ISIS' suicide bombers, more than a hundred killed. You saw the Metro Jet being brought down probably by ISIS' affiliates in Sinai, suicide bombings in Beirut from ISIS to Paris attacks. [22:10:04] And now there is unprecedented threats in Belgium where the Belgians have some information that would have here that there is a possible additional attacks in plotting that something simultaneous and large scale in Brussels.

LEMON: How important is this suicide vest for investigators?

CRUICKSHANK: It could be s gold mine of information because all the other ones blew up. So, that's a much more difficult to stress information but they'll be examining it looking at the signature of the potential bomb maker. The bomb maker is believed to be still at large.

And by going through it and examining it, going through the forensics, you might be able to find out where the bomb maker purchased these chemicals. You could probably buy those things in everyday stores in Western Europe. It may help them to get on to some of these extra cell members.

LEMON: There are -- there was a talk that Abdeslam was planning another series of attacks somewhere, you know, throughout, somewhere in Paris or in Europe but then panicked.

CRUICKSHANK: That's one theory that investigators are looking at, that he aborted the mission for some reason.

LEMON: What's the evidence?

CRUICKSHANK: He just didn't blow himself up. And so, that could either a, you know, that it could be a defective suicide vest so he decided that he couldn't continue the mission at that point or he got cold feet, that he didn't want to die at the end of the mission.

But they do believe that he helped transport some of the attackers, particularly to the Stade de France stadium, that he was driving a Renault clear around. And so, he played a significant role in this terrorist attack. Now the theory has gone to ground somewhere perhaps in Brussels or Belgium, that that is where his last whereabouts.

LEMON: Belgium is on the high -- on the highest alert, they carried out a number of sweeps this weekend, only one arrest. They brought in a lot of people. Only one arrest though. No cache of weapons found. Are police -- should that make police even more worried?

CRUICKSHANK: They're clearly very much concerned and you and I were still on the air on this breaking late on Friday. And clearly, they got some very specific information, and that that could be an additional attack team that was aiming something towards Brussels.

This goes far beyond just concern about Salah Abdeslam being on the run. If they did have a handle on it, if they did know where this was coming from, I don't think they would have put out such an unprecedented warning raised the terror alert.

They didn't do that, for example, before they thwarted a major plot by ISIS in eastern Belgium in Verviers in January, because they had a handle on it. They were doing 24/7 surveillance. They knew exactly who was likely involved. In this case, it doesn't seem they know who -- they don't seem to know who is involved, who isn't involved and what they're planning and when this attack could take place. And given what we saw take place in Paris just on Friday, the other week, they can't take any chances.

LEMON: Yes. A week ago, Friday. I want you to stay with me, Paul. We have a lot to talk about here. When we come back, do we have the intel that we need to fight ISIS or are we flying blind against a brutal enemy? Plus, Donald Trump doubles down insisting that he saw people cheering in New Jersey after the September 11th attack.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Breaking news tonight, the latest intelligence showing that ISIS leaders are fleeing their strong hold, the Syrian City of Raqqah due to the air strikes by the United States, France and Russia. They may be trying to move their operations to safer locations.

Yet tonight, questions about the accuracy of the overall U.S. intelligence on ISIS. Let's discuss now with Ambassador James R. Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence, and Paul Cruickshank is with me.

Sort of a long question, Mr. Ambassador, but I need to ask this because I want to get some clarification from you on this.

The New York Times, this is what the New York Times is reporting, that the president is seeing skewed intelligence on ISIS that some analysts in the Defense Department report their supervisors charged some of the tougher report or changed some of the tougher reports about military failures and mistakes.

The times says that U.S. Central Command known as CENTCOM, may have given the White House a more optimistic assessment of the military campaign against ISIS. Is that true? And if so, what impact would that have?

JAMES R. WOOLSEY, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE DEMOCRACIES CHAIRMAN: I don't know whether it's true. I understand the inspector general is looking into it. It's the kind of thing that can happen over time in something like this. The administration, right from the top, including the president, has generally had and set out a fairly rosy view of how things have developed.

They killed Bin Laden, so they talk about that. They have a narrative, as they call it, and the narrative has been for some time things are going well, we've got things in hand, we've got things contained. Now, it may be that some mid-level bureaucrats or intelligence officers, one or the other, thought that they were doing the boss's will by emphasizing and asking to have emphasized and reports that were -- they had some responsibility for how well things were going.

That would be a shame. That's not the way it's supposed to work. The analysts are supposed to work together, but they call it straight and continue to call it straight if they're doing their jobs right. But there may have been some distortion. We'll have to see. Too rosy a

picture. But that overall type of distortion, at least in that direction, has been around for some time and some of it has come from very close to the top.

LEMON: If that reporting is indeed, true, then do you think that would explain, in your words, a rosy or a rosier view of the fight against ISIS?

WOOLSEY: Well, it could. I mean, people -- and sometimes in bureaucracies do what they think the boss wants even if they haven't been ordered to do something. And the -- they start with a narrative and the narrative is what everybody talks about.

And then they -- if something happens that doesn't fit with the narrative, if the narrative is everything is going fine but, whoops, here comes something that doesn't look that way, there's a database often an effort to sort of change the way reality is described just enough to fit in with the narrative.

[22:20:04] I think we ought to scrap the idea of the narrative. It's another word for narrative may be lie. But -- and just call it straight. And there will be disagreements, certainly, among analysts and within the various agencies that are involved and you hash those disagreements out. Once you decide, what you think the best characterization is, call it straight and stay with it. Don't go fiddling around with things that the last minute in order to put a rosy gloss on it.

LEMON: The president, Paul Cruickshank, yesterday, in Malaysia, saying it's not that I've been getting a rosy or glowing portraits. He's saying that he's pretty clear eyed sober assessment of where we've been -- or where we've made the real progress and where we have not. So, he's standing, he doesn't believe that he's getting that. What do you make of that?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, I mean, CENTCOM is just one of the feeds now going out of this...

LEMON: To be going into...

(CROSSTALK)

CRUICKSHANK: The president as always there are other intelligence agencies, as well in that other part also, going up to the president. I think the track record of U.S. intelligence has been pretty good on the ISIS threat. But whether the administration has always taken heed of it, paid attention to it is perhaps a different question.

When you saw the rise of ISIS in the first part of 2014, you had a president talking about, you know, the JV remark, he got a lot of fact for this. But that was a time when the U.S. intelligence community was warning by and large that ISIS -- or what it was then known as a predecessor organization or ISIS was as an emerging, and rising and insurgent threat in Iraq. LEMON: This -- I want to read something. This is something that the

U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN's Barbara Starr today. She's our Pentagon correspondent. Here is it. This is according to it says, ISIS is under intense pressure. It has lost territory, key leaders and it can no longer rely on seizing large swaths of land to rally its fighters.

Although ISIL continues to attract foreign fighters, the pace is barely able to keep up with its battlefield casualties. Is this square with what you're hearing from your sources about, you know, this rosier scenario? Is this the reality on the ground?

CRUICKSHANK: I think the reality is that there's been some process in Syria and Iraq against ISIS. They have lost some territory. They are under pressure from these air strikes. They have lost some important leaders.

But they still hold very significant urban centers in Iraq. You're looking at Mosul, Ramadi, Raqqah in Syria. And I think, you know, one of the criticisms that this strategy is it's going to take too long. You know, it's going to take years to really significantly degrade ISIS and remove this caliphate.

And during this period, ISIS will have plenty of opportunity to use this terror safe haven to plot more outrages like they saw in Paris, Friday, a week ago. And that's a real -- a real, real concern. At the same time, this is a group that's expanding on several other fronts in the Middle East. Notably, in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula where it recently appears to have taken down that Russian jet.

And also in a big way on Libya on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Not to mention Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and several other countries that you can mention where it has an expanding presence.

And I think a lot of these strategies predicated on the idea that you're going to have at some point when ISIS is weakened and the situations in places like Mosul get really bad that the Sunni populations there are going to rise up against ISIS.

And that may happen or it may be wishful thinking. Because ISIS is brutal the way they deal with the Sunnis, Don. There's not much oxygen for people to rebel.

LEMON: Ambassador, I want to talk to you a little bit more about intelligence because there are a lot of fingers that pointing criticism of French intelligence, of the European intelligence system as a whole. So, who screwed up here? And what went wrong here?

WOOLSEY: Well, it's a little hard to tell. I think the French responded very quickly and effectively once the terrible incidents began to occur and they missed catching people and stopping it from happening, just as we missed stopping 9/11, even though we had some chances that might have worked out to do so if we had done everything right. I wouldn't be particularly critical of the French in this. I think

Hollande has taken a brave and decisive stance and I think France is -- probably would have been delighted to have had early and strong American help. It didn't really get it. So, it's turned away from NATO and is asking for the group to be of supporting countries to be put together based on the European Union's language about countries of the E.U. being under attack.

[22:25:04] I hope that we continue to be able to have a close and effective alliance with our oldest ally, but I think we have not dealt with them that well.

LEMON: Yes. President Francois Hollande meeting with President Barack Obama tomorrow coming here to the U.S. Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you, Paul. I appreciate it.

Donald Trump campaigning tonight in Ohio and widening his lead in the polls. Has the Paris terror attacks changed everything in the GOP race? We're going to look at that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Donald Trump campaigning tonight in Columbus, Ohio, as two new polls show him opening up a double digit lead over Ben Carson, his nearest GOP competitor.

CNN's Sara Murray in Columbus for us this evening. Good evening, Sara. Did Donald Trump address seeing crowds cheering in New Jersey on September 11th? If so, what did he say?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: He did. He's been getting, you know, a lot of scrutiny over these remarks that we're saying that he saw people celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11, celebrating as the Twin Towers fell.

[22:29:59] And look, even though fact checkers, even though the media, even though, even government officials have disputed these claims, Donald Trump was not backing down on them tonight. He reiterated them and he even led into detail talking about his experience on 9/11, saying he was home in his apartment and he remembers seeing people jumping from the Twin Towers and bodies falling. So, it was a pretty sort of extended riff on this tonight, Don.

LEMON: Sara, also you know the headlines today about what happened to a protester over the weekend at a Trump event. What did Donald Trump say about that? Did he discuss it?

MURRAY: This has gotten a lot of attention. There was a protester over the weekend at his event who said he was punched, choked, kicked during this rally. Tonight, Donald Trump came on stage and addressed it. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two nights ago, we had a phenomenal room just like this. And the place was packed. And we had one protester in the very back and he started screaming and yelling. And really, it was very bad -- it was terrible, actually.

But security -- nothing to do with my security. It's a local security, the convention center security. They took him out. The cameras never moved. I said show the crowd. The cameras stayed. Just now they stayed the same. They never move. They don't do it purposely.

I figured maybe they weren't adjustable. But as soon as this guy was taken out, all of the cameras were right on him, you know? They were right on him. They were following him right out the door and then they said he got treated rough. First of all, it wasn't my people if they treated him rough, but he was really misbehaving badly. It's one of those things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: So, you can see there, Trump not denouncing any violence that came from the crowd, but just saying, look, it wasn't me. It wasn't my guys. And it was interesting talking to some attendees here tonight. They felt like the story was totally overblown. Many of them didn't even believe that the protesters actually faced any threat or any violence. Don.

LEMON: Just look at those video, it's everywhere. Thank you, Sara. Joining me now is Hugh Hewitt. We is going to be one of the panelists for the CNN's GOP debate, that's on December 15th. So, Mr. Hewitt, first your reaction to Trump saying that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on September 11.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HUGH HEWITT SHOW HOST: Well, I asked George Pataki today on my show, Don, if he recalls that and he does not and no one has yet been able to find any video footage. I was on the air six to seven hours that day and I don't recall it. I do remember jubilant crowds, I think it was in Gaza.

But like Mrs. Clinton remembering being under fire in Bosnia or trying...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hugh, Hugh, don't deflect. Let's discuss.

HEWITT: People remember what they want to remember.

LEMON: Let's discuss this.

HEWITT: I am. I'm talking about memory.

LEMON: Come on, Hugh, Hugh, you're better than that. You're better than that.

HEWITT: Mrs. Clinton remembers being under fire in Bosnia that...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But what does this have to do with Mrs. Clinton? We're talking about Donald Trump. HEWITT: It goes to memory.

LEMON: We're talking about Donald Trump. We're not discussing that. You're deflecting it at this point. And you know I respect you.

HEWITT: I'm making a point.

LEMON: I have you on the show all the time. But let's discuss this.

HEWITT: I'm making a point.

LEMON: OK.

HEWITT: Here is my point.

LEMON: Go ahead.

HEWITT: Today, Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post published a big fact check of Donald Trump. It was originally wrong because there were some reports of at least some people jubilant over the attacks in New Jersey. The fact check by Glenn was wrong. John Hinderaker of Power Line called out. I don't remember it. No one else can find video of it, but Donald Trump can remember what Donald Trump wants to.

Ben Carson walked it back today. I'm not saying it's true. I'm saying that the media has a double standard when it comes to Trump to try and track down and get him on every single detail to be able to understand him.

LEMON: But this is my next question. This is my next question. If you -- you know, listen, let me just give you that. I'm not saying it's true. Let's just say the mainstream media is, you know, somehow bias against Donald Trump.

Again, I'm not saying that that's true. But wouldn't someone be able to produce the video or show some sort of evidence, the fact that no one can show evidence that this is a -- doesn't mean that there is some mainstream conspiracy. It's just about the truth. That's it.

HEWITT: No, but Don, here is my point. In the last four days, three Americans have been killed by Islamist terrorists, one in France, one in Mali, one in Israel. The president, by the way has not brought up as a resorts. The media ought to be focusing on that and...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: We covered here on our show.

HEWITT: I know. You just did, I was following the Cruickshank-Woolsey conversation very, very close. It was important. But what they want to do is -- because Donald Trump generates ratings. They want to bring Donald Trump down rather than talk about the bigger issue, which is as you mentioned earlier.

He's in Columbus tonight. By the way, I hope he was endorsing the bucks over the Wolverine this weekend. That would have been wise. But the bigger story is what is he saying about the Islamist threat in the world, not what he remembers because you can remember something wrong.

I don't think it happened. I have seen no evidence that it happened other than The Washington Post account from 2001 that said that it occurred with some people that appeared to be tailgating. It's a convoluted thing. But I don't think it happened.

Nevertheless, let's move on and move to the fact that three Americans are dead, 180 plus Frenchmen are dead, Brussels is locked down. Mali is under attack, Israel has had a series of terror attacks and the media wants to go after Donald Trump on something he remembers? I don't think it makes any sense.

[22:35:12] LEMON: Listen, Hugh, with all do due respect, Donald Trump is running to be the leader of the free world. And what I'm saying here is if Donald Trump brings ratings, as you say, then why would the media -- why would the media want to bring him down? What's in it for the media to bring down someone who brings them big ratings?

HEWITT: They just pay attention to whatever he has to say. All I'm asking for is when Hillary Clinton remembers being under sniper fire in Bosnia, or when Hillary Clinton remembers trying to join the Marine Corps, that as much time is spent on her unusual memories as are spent on Donald Trump's unusual memories. Because what the media is not doing is applying the same level of scrutiny, the democrats as they are to republicans. And I just want that to level out, Don. It just got a level out on December 15th.

LEMON: I just -- I do remember, Hugh. I covered the last election, the last two elections and this election very closely right here on CNN. And I remember a big deal was made about Hillary Clinton and the helicopter and all of those issues. We covered that add nausea. That was part of the last election.

HEWITT: Do you think -- do you -- well, this is fact checkable. Do you think you spent as much time on this show...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I don't know that.

HEWITT: Covering Hillary Clinton in Bosnia and...

LEMON: I'm not a fact checker, but I do know it was covered. So, let's move on, let's move on.

HEWITT: OK.

LEMON: Do you think that this is going to -- because Donald Trump is at the top of the polls followed by Ben Carson. Do you think that this is going to affect them negatively at all?

HEWITT: No.

LEMON: It doesn't seem to affect Donald Trump at all.

HEWITT: No. Where was he tonight? He was in Columbus because there's a big buckeye/Michigan game going on. There is a huge audience in Columbus. The people that supported Donald Trump actually gain energy from media attracts on -- attacks on Donald Trump. They don't like it. They believe that it's part of the effort to silence them by silencing Trump.

And so, it's not going to hurt Donald Trump. I don't know if it grows his numbers, either. I see a race right now with the top tier being Trump, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz and then another tier there with Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina, and then the rest of the gang.

We'll see if we shake that up on December the 15th. So, I think this is a Commander-in-Chief debate. I think this is a debate about who is going to lead the country in very difficult times and I think the most important issue will be what will you do in the aftermath of a Paris- style attack in the United States?

Tom Cotton is on my show tonight. And he said and he just got back from the Middle East. Every American, you, Don, me, Hugh Hewitt, everyone should be saying what will we want done after a Paris-style attack in the United States?

Well, we want a -- we should want that done right now. It will not be fly specking candidates memories. It will be talking about what do we do about terrorism?

LEMON: All right. To that point, let's -- Donald Trump tonight talking about the Paris attacks. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're calling them all sorts of names, of all these beautiful, incredible names. The word I hear more than any other name is mastermind. The mastermind. I called him the guy with the dirty filthy hat who is a semi thug. He's nothing. He's nothing. But I watched the news and I see -- and actually he treats me nicely, so I'm not going to say anything badly.

One of the few anchors who actually treats me -- but he's talking, the mastermind is being hunted right now. They're trying to figure it out. You know, he's a brilliant, brilliant young man. Brilliant? He dropped a couple of kids into a room and they started shooting people indiscriminately. There's nothing brilliant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: People are scared. Does that help Trump?

HEWITT: Oh, I think that talking about it as at length and being opened to people following his conversation does help Trump. We have not seen Mrs. Clinton. All we've seen the president do is attack republicans. We have not seen the president try and rally the country to the threat. We have not seen the president call up our Sunni Arab allies and ask them to join a coalition.

I have had 12 interviews with republican candidates since Paris, each one of which more serious and in-depth than anything the president has said about what to do about this threat. They disagree by the way, about whether or not we have to ally with Putin or not to ally.

The president is silent, Mrs. Clinton is hiding, Donald Trump is winning votes because he is talking about it. In terms of average Americans voter understand. Now some people will be repulsed by it obviously. But the important thing is, republicans are talking about the president's failure.

Don, this is a five-word presidency right now. Leading from behind. JV is contained. The president has been wrong from day one about this threat. He is wrong tonight, he remains wrong. His policy has failed.

And Donald Trump is just the most popular person right now talking about that failure, but all the republicans were talking about that failure. And it's a failure that Hillary Clinton owns. In fact, they just heard Paul Cruickshank mentioned Libya. Do you know that Libya is now the second largest ISIS stronghold and that's Mrs. Clinton calling...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And she was reeling off...

HEWITT: We should be talking about that.

LEMON: As he was reeling off as all those areas that ISIS was gaining stronghold. And it make a little bit nervous. But I have to say, you know what, people can learn a lot from you because you stay on message.

[22:40:00] But this is the way you have a discussion or a disagreement. I appreciate the conversation with you, Hugh Hewitt.

HEWITT: As I always do with you, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: All right. I'll see you soon. Coming up, more on Donald Trump doubling down on his claims that thousands of people cheered the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey. Why Dr. Ben Carson does not agree now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Donald Trump in Ohio tonight refusing to back down from his claim that he saw thousands of people in New Jersey cheering the 9/11 attacks. Dr. Ben Carson changing his tune on that.

Joining me now, Buck Sexton and Charles Blow. Good to have both of you. Twice this weekend, Donald Trump says -- you know the story. He saw thousands of people cheering in New Jersey after the 9/11 attacks.

Ben Carson said that he saw it but then backtracked and said, no, I don't -- it didn't happen. So, what do you think, do you think this discussion is dangerous, Charles?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the larger discussion we're kind of anti-Muslim, very broad discussions about Muslims in general and not specific to ISIS. Not specific to refugees and whether or not we should deal -- you know, whether to improve our screening process.

[22:45:00] Which is that in fact, pretty good at this point it seems based on the data we have already for the number of people who have been allowed into the country, as refugees since 9/11 and the number of kind people who have either been removed or arrested because of terrorist kind of links.

Since they seem to be doing a good job. And during that time, Al Qaeda was trying to do damage to Americans. So, they seem to be doing a pretty good job. If you're going to keep it specific, that seems like one thing. If you go very broad, it seems dangerous to me because I think about the millions of American citizens who are Muslim Americans. And what impact kind of ratcheted up rhetoric has on them.

It's millions open people, it's hard to know exactly how many. The estimate ranges from a few million to over 10 million. maybe if you can plug it in the middle just for a reference point, maybe at six million people, that's about as many as Jewish people as we have in this country.

That's a large number of people. And those are people who have found a way to reconcile their religion to our laws, to find a contact sport and just like the rest of the people with religion issues in this country.

LEMON: The way we have a conversation, the language are both important and being specifically about exactly what we're talking about is very important. So, what do you make of Donald Trump's comments about 9/11 and the question, do you think it's dangerous or not?

BUCK SEXTON, EX-CIA AGENT: Well, I think he's wrong on this point and I think it's unhelpful. And dangerous rhetoric is exactly that. But I also have a concern from the other side of things, which is that there is a prevailing sentiment and it's actually why some people are willing to give Donald Trump a lot of slack when he discusses Islamic issues of any kind whatsoever, and that is that there is an attempt to silence all the time.

The use of this term like Islamophobia to always go with this very, very broad stroke of why are you criticizing all Muslims when, in fact, there are many people of good faith in this country who want to have a discussion about Jihadism and Islamism, who want to empower moderates from within Islam. Who want to talk about what the bad ideas are, that some of doctrine in his faith tradition, how to stop them and how to counter them.

That's often shut down. It's shut down by people who claim, for example, that criticism of Islam is racist which would be news to people with red hair and blue eyes in Palestine, or blonde hair and blue eyes in Kurdistan.

It's not a racial issue. It's an ideological issue. And like any other faith tradition or belief system, it has to be open to criticism. And the case of Islam, as we know, that is a sore point. There is a very serious global...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, why do you think that's happening? Why do you think that's important? Why do you think it's -- to have the conversation you think is deemed as being Islamophobic?

SEXTON: Yes. I think many people deemed as Islamophobic. I think the moment that you start to say that there are problems that come specifically from within the Islamic tradition, not necessarily saying that it's predominant or even a majority. But when you say that there are some very bad ideas that are widespread enough, that they are causing problems including thousands of violent terrorist Jihadist incidents around the world, year in and year out.

And then you have on the other side, people saying how dare you say that? There's going to be a surge of violence. There is going to be a backlash against Muslims. No, we're trying to prevent violence against Muslims by talking about where these beliefs come from and by helping those within the faith repudiate these bad ideas.

LEMON: Charles...

SEXTON: And that can't happen if we're always being told that you're racist, you're Islamophobic or you are endangering your fellow American laws -- American citizens in the American soil.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Charles Blow writes in the New York Times today, "Anti-Muslim is anti-American." He says "This demonizing a single religious faith -- this demonizing a single -- excuse me, religious faith, is a slippery slope. It feeds something that is at odds with the most noble ambition of this country's better angels. Equality." What do you mean about -- what do you think about this language and using that the GOP candidates you believe is using against the...

BLOW: Right. This is a simple concept, right? This is a country where we have freedom of religion, we have separation of church and state, th, you know, towards equality for Muslims trying to honor this idea that people are born equally. Sometimes being force in that idea but also -- but just -- but over the long arc of history moving in that direction.

LEMON: Do you see part of his argument, what he is saying?

BLOW: Listen, I think that if you -- if we are targeting that the idea that there are people who are hijacking our religious faith, whatever that religious faith may be, that we need to target those people and keep it specific to the people who are doing the hijacking and not broaden to have dangerous language about a whole faith.

Because in this country, we have freedom of religion and I think that that is one of the things that makes America really special. And one of the other things is to be specific about where the Jihadists are coming from. There is a lot of -- it's like, you know, like 1.7 billion Muslims in the world.

This is not happening in every Muslim country and not happening or even some of the ones with the most Muslims in it. You don't have the same set of circumstances in Indonesia, you don't have the same set of circumstances in India, you don't the same circumstances in Bangladesh, even. So, I think you have to be very specific and say there is an area where this is very permanent, bigger than what's happening in that particular area that is making area this...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. We've got to get on a break. You'll get a chance to respond. OK. Since we haven't talk about this more.

When we come right back, the refugee crisis, which we allude to a hot button issue on the campaign trail. So, of course, well, Saturday Night Live is taking it on, as well.

[22:50:05] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The refugee crisis is one of the hottest issues on the campaign trail. But that hasn't stopped SNL, Saturday Night Live from taking it on.

Back with me now, Buck Sexton and Charles Blow. So, Saturday Night Live, you know, sometimes in humor, right? We learned things. They didn't shy about which refugee crisis. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I am thankful that our governor is not going to let those refugees in here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I heard the refugees are all ISIS in disguise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, that is true. I actually saw an ISIS an ISIS in the A&P today when I was picking up the yams.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you didn't, Aunt Cathy. That was an Asian woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You know, you may laugh, but it's not far from what some of the candidates are saying and it's not far from what we are hear sometimes from people and from viewers, as well, Charles.

BLOW: Well, I see. I mean, and one very interesting part of that was when the lady says, well, I thought I saw somebody an ISIS and no, you saw an Asian lady. In this gives to the idea that even though, you know, people can move in anybody can be part of ISIS. Anybody can be Muslim.

[22:55:03] We kind of identify and stereotype based on appearances. And so, this will be -- the racial overlap -- race overlaps tremendously with the way that people stereotype about religion, particularly Muslim religions because they think about kind of areas where people are from.

LEMON: Yes. What we are talking about here, does the truth matter anymore? Because people see things, they take one bit of information to shape their truth. Does it even matter anymore, not only with the candidates but just over all in general?

SEXTON: We're getting almost existential here, but, yes, I think the truth matters in some context. I don't know exactly, we're talking about the demagoguery around refugees.

LEMON: Right.

SEXTON: For example, the truth matters and there is truth in both sides of that when you said that there is demagoguery. Look, I was in this refugee camp since 2013. This has been an issue for a very long time. The Obama administration has not cared about refugees very much at all until just now in the aftermath of the Paris attacks where it seems like a very convenient way to get the discussions going on to something else.

I have to say that it's a bit late in the game for them. And also 10,000 is a very small fraction of refugees that we're actually dealing with here.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm sorry. The refugee. I understand what you're saying.

SEXTON: I think it's -- look, I'm somebody who's in favor of bringing refugees...

LEMON: I got to go. I have to get to a break.

BLW: I would just -- I would say one thing. The truth shouldn't matter just in some context, it should matter and always and forever and that's the way it should be.

ON: Absolutely. I think we all agree, the truth matters. That's what I'm here for.

LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate it.

When we come right back, the man who says if Donald Trump gets the nomination, the GOP will be, in his words, the party of hate.