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U.S. House Votes to Pause Acceptance of Syrian Refugees; No More Hostages in Mali Hotel, Rescues Made; FBI on Alert for Copycat Attacks. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 20, 2015 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Here with me to discuss is Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally, a member of, very importantly, the House Homeland Security and Armed Services Committee, and she is also a former combat pilot with the U.S. Air force.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for being here.


BOLDUAN: A lot of moving parts.

MCSALLY: Yes, there are.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk first about the refugee measure that you voted on yesterday, a strong message coming from the House. Democrats joining Republicans in backing this bill. The president, though, he even said beforehand, he said he will veto it. What now then?

MCSALLY: I think that's unfortunate. He's shown in the last week, confusing people within his own party and the American party, he's not showing resolve, a little tone deaf to what's happening, going on in Paris, these unprecedented terrorist attacks. The most we get out of him -- the most excitement out of him is when he's attacking Republicans. It's time to put away the partisanship and really focus on what's going to keep America safe.

I had the privilege to serve on a task force for six months appointed by our chairman to combat the flow of foreign fighters and terrorists, specifically related to this new ISIS threat. We spent six months, we dove in deep, and identified a lot of our vulnerabilities. We came up with 32 findings and over 50 recommendations to really close some gaping holes.

BOLDUAN: In the --


MCSALLY: No, this overall. This is a foreign fighter flow. We have 30,000 people that travel from 100 countries to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. We've had 4500 countries, visa-waiver countries, where people could come back and land in our airports. And they don't need to hide as a refugee. They are legal to come here because they're part of a Western country. We've had 250 Americans and also we have an unprecedented social media campaign by ISIS to encourage people to take things into their own hands.

BOLDUAN: On this refugee bill, though, this is the first action Congress -- the House thought was urgent enough that needed to be taken immediately in response to these attacks. Republican presidential candidate, senator from South Carolina, Lindsay Graham, a man known for his hawkish views on foreign policy, he says this move is missing the mark, though. Here's what he told me yesterday. Listen, Congresswoman.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm concerned this debate about refugees is taking our eye off the ball. The only way to make America safe is to --


BOLDUAN: Are you saying Republicans are wrong and misguided in leading this kind of march --

GRAHAM: I'm saying that it's good to put a pause on refugees. It makes sense. What is not good is to sell to the American people that it makes us safe. What I want to hear from my party is a strategy.


BOLDUAN: Just to repeat it, because we had technical difficulties. You could hear it, she could not. Lindsey Graham says taking our eye off the ball is what matters. This is not what Republicans need to be focusing. What do you say about that?

MCSALLY: It's one step. We had FBI Director Comey and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson testify before our committee saying there are gaps and potential areas that could be exploited by ISIS as refugees.

BOLDUAN: But Comey also said this measure doesn't really do it.


BOLDUAN: He just said that yesterday.

MCSALLY: We need to make sure we can close any gaps we're aware of. The task force I was on identified 32 findings, which are across the board, related to the terrorist threat, the foreign fighter flow, and the homegrown extremism we're seeing. Having been a former combat pilot and participated in targeting and air campaigns on many different levels, we have to unleash American air power in Iraq and Syria. We have to take the gloves off our pilots and stop having them come home with our weapons while we allow ISIS to fund their terrorism and export it abroad.

BOLDUAN: You talk about tone in criticizing the president. Tone has been a big question on the presidential campaign trail. I want to get your take on a couple of points. In praising this move to make it more difficult or making stricter rules, one of the front-runners, Ben Carson, he said this. I hope you can hear this one. He said this about some of those refugees making a comparison to rabid dogs.


BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: If there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you're probably going to put your children out of the way. Doesn't mean you hate all dogs.


BOLDUAN: Equating some of them to rabid dogs. What do you say to that?

MCSALLY: We are the most compassionate country when it comes to refugees. We take in more than any other country. We spend a significant amount of resources to help refugees. The American people really want to make sure we keep our country safe. So, this --


BOLDUAN: Is he helping that?


MCSALLY: I can only tell you what we're doing. I've spent hours in classified hearings and briefings this whole week, working on our own legislation. My intent as a member of the House of Representatives with a national security background is to address all of these threats to make sure we keep America safe. We need a strategy more than ever. The president is failing in that regard.

[11:35:02] BOLDUAN: One thing that would fall on Congress, if this would actually happen, is Donald Trump in Iowa, he seemed to suggest just yesterday that he would put in place or want to put in place a national database for Muslims in the United States. Is that something you think is -- should happen, would happen? You would support if that came before Congress?

MCSALLY: No. Look, what we identified is there is a sophisticated threat of homegrown extremism. That doesn't necessarily mean if you're Muslim. We've seen individuals being radicalized, the average age is 24, from Western countries. We have investigations right now in America, in all 50 states. 70 arrests so far this year. And the uptick is really straining our resources with federal investigators. This is something we all need to work together, all hands on deck.

BOLDUAN: What about that?

MCSALLY: We've got to make sure we in our own neighborhoods and communities are identifying those that are becoming radicalized for any different reason. It doesn't have to be, you know, related to their faith. I think the Muslim community also needs to step up because their religion has been hijacked. This is a very complicated issue.

BOLDUAN: Complicated, no question. I mean, if there was --


MCSALLY: And we need a comprehensive strategy, which this administration has not given to us. We need leadership, we need resolve and we need a strategy that is coherent --


BOLDUAN: You want to change the leadership in the White House, no question. You want a Republican in the White House. If this Republican is in the White House and he wants to make a national database, is that --


MCSALLY: Right now we have someone in the White House, commander-in- chief, leader of the free world, and what we need right now -- we can't wait another 14 months. Right now my focus is this current commander-in-chief is stepping up, showing leadership, coming up with a comprehensive strategy to hit ISIS where they are, work with our allies in the region, to keep our interests and allies safe, and also to address the homegrown extreme that's happening here. We have very real vulnerabilities. Our task force identified them. I'm focused on getting solutions right now and not all the political theater.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

MCSALLY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A very urgent time, a very urgent need for solutions. Absolutely. Let's get back to our other big breaking story at this hour, the

attack ongoing, an ongoing situation at the hotel in Mali in West Africa. U.S. Special Operation forces are assisting in the situation. We'll talk about that, their role and what's next, what's going on there right now in Mali.

Also, an important programming note for all of you this week in the premiere of "The Hunting Ground," that airs this Sunday. The film is an in-depth look at how two college students, both survivors of sexual assault, join forces to challenge universities to take sexual assaults on campuses more seriously. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've known for probably 25 years now that the problem of sexual assault on college campuses is enormous.

DANIELLE DIRKS, AUTHOR: On college campuses it is not the person jumping out of the Bushes or in the parking lot who is going to rape our sexually assault you. It is a person whom you know, the person you may have classes with, the person you see at a party.

You think about, you know, the people we don't know that we should be worried about but it's really the people that you do know you should be worried about.

JOHN ROUBERT (ph), PROFESSOR, OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY: I think a lot of parents think, well, we'll drop our daughter off, she'll have a great college experience and everything will be fine because the college has a reputation for being a safe place. It's not.



[11:43:06] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The breaking news out of Mali. AFP reports there are no more hostages in the Radisson Blu Hotel, in the capital city of Bamako in Mali. No more hostages. It may not mean the situation is over. Officials there say that 10 bodies have been found in the halls of the hotel, 10 bodies. Again, there are fears there could be many more killed. Two gunmen have also reportedly been killed, but it is not clear if they were the only two gunmen. So, there was still a lot more information we need to get from that.

We do have some video, where you see security forces storming the building, hostages being taken outs of the building.

The U.S. State Department is warning Americans on Twitter that the situation is still ongoing. The military in Africa says that six Americans were rescued from that hotel, at least six Americans in that military personnel were involved in that rescue.

The standoff started early this morning after two or more gunmen stormed the hotel, open fire inside.

I want to get the very latest. There are new developments right now. CNN correspondent, Robyn Kriel, joins us.

Robyn, what are you hearing?

ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to an eyewitness at the scene, we're hearing that he's seen many bodies. This is also being echoed by several U.N. officials who are at the scene who say that the death toll could, indeed, rise above 10. AFP reporting that they -- that 18 people have been confirmed dead at this time.

As you said, Mali security minister being quoted as saying that the hostages have all been freed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the siege is over because there could be more gunmen. Two gunmen reported to be dead, thus far, but this is a huge hotel. There are many, many places for someone to hide. And that is most likely what is happening at the moment. Teams would be coming through the room, looking for hostages hiding, trying to rescue them, perhaps looking for more bodies and, of course, making sure there are no gunmen or perhaps anything that the gunmen could have left behind that could be dangerous, such as improvised explosive devices left behind as well.

[11:45:23] BERMAN: Robyn Kriel for us in Nairobi, watching the situation in Mali.

I want to discuss the rescue operation now. I'm joined in Paris by CNN military analyst, Cedric Leighton, former air force colonel.

Cedric, this had to be a very complicated rescue operation. You have Mali Special Forces, trained by U.S. Special Forces. You have French forces as well, and some Americans involved. How do you assume they went in?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Basically, John, in a case like that, is you find the best entrances you can. You don't use front entrances. You use side entrances to try to surprise the terrorists. You do that by going in at a higher level you had, where we normally would find them. They try to surprise them. They try to use stun grenades or something like that to get in there and actually, in essence, vacate the premises of bad guy. It's a very tough operation because not only do you not know exactly where those terrorists are going to be, but you also don't know where the hostages are. And that's often where they get caught in the cross fire.

BERMAN: When this began, we were told there were more than 150 people inside this hotel. These numbers are hard to verify at this point. Right now they're saying 10 dead, but that number probably much higher than that.

The other thing we're told is it was two or three gunmen. Does it seem possible to you that just two or three gunmen did this, were able to hold this hotel and essentially everyone inside hostage?

LEIGHTON: No way. No way just two or three gunmen could have done that. The Radisson Hotel in Bamako is a pretty big hotel and it's comparable to other big hotels in the world. There's no way two or three gunmen could have that many hostages at this point in time.

BERMAN: Again, the sad reality of where we are right now with these terrorist situations, there's no talking. There's no going in and trying to reason with people to free the hostages. Have you to go in as soon as you can, firing.

LEIGHTON: Right. Tactics have changed. The old paradigm was basically this. You go in and you talk to the terrorists or the hostage takers and you try to reason with them. These people are beyond reasoning. And they know what the tactics and techniques are of the counterterrorism forces. Because of that, they have adopted the tactic where they go in and they kill as many people as they possibly can. It's a brutal, unfortunate way of doing business. The counterterrorism forces have to go in and prevent that from happening. That's the real challenge nowadays.

BERMAN: We do note some people have been rescued. We also know many people, perhaps 10 or more, have died.

Cedric Leighton, thank you so much.

Again, the latest news, six Americans, we know, were rescued from inside that hotel.

We have much more on the breaking news out of Mali, much more from Paris and much more from the United States as well, where ISIS has made threats on key American cities. More after this.


[11:52:22] BOLDUAN: We're continuing to follow the breaking news at this hour, the deadly siege in the Western African nation of Mali. This is new video we're going to show you of security forces evacuating hostages from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako. A Mali army colonel says that gunmen are still inside, and no more hostages. He also says 10 bodies were found inside. There were at least six Americans rescued from the hotel.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the Paris terror attacks has risen today and the number is 130, up from 129.

So, all of this adds to -- as we are heading into, one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, new fears of copycat terror attacks here at home. The FBI says it is monitoring dozens of people inside of the U.S. who could add to the threat. Adding to the fear, multiple new ISIS propaganda videos put out, placing a bull's eye on the United States. One of them was just released yesterday and it showed two men threatening to blow up the White House, which follows Wednesday's video that depicting militants preparing to attack New York City. Officials say there are still no credible threats to the homeland.

But let's discuss what this all means after all of the terror attacks.

The former New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, is joining me now.

Thank you so much for being here.


BOLDUAN: As we said, And so the NYPD and FBI say no credible threats to the homeland, but if you were back in your old job, what changes now? What are you doing?

KERIK: Well, there's no specific threat but the threat, the overall threat of ISIS and al Qaeda and radical Islam in the United States is credible. They continue to say they are coming, and I think that a lot of these videos are propaganda tools to scare the hell out of people in the country. But the reality is that we have to be prepared and ready in the event that something happens.

I noticed coming over here today, we have loaded the streets with counterterrorism cops. There are cops at all of the major hotels. You could see them standing in the front. I think that the Commissioner Bratton is collecting a bunch of intelligence. But keep in mind that the New York City Police Department, unlike any other in the country, we actually have detectives in Europe and in the Middle East and in Asia, and so we are collecting all of the intelligence and doing everything in our power to make sure that the citizens off this city are safe. And we just have to send a message to the terrorists that we are not going to cower to terrorism. And they can put out all of the videos they want, but we will go about our business and live in the free society, which is what they want the demise of. [11:55:05] BOLDUAN: And a lot of people are wondering is this the

new normal? I ask that with this in mind, I want to get your take. Some of the victims who have survived the Paris attacks, they say they survived because they ran and others said they survived because they played dead. And so there is conflicting guidance on what to do. What do you say in this new world we live in?

KERIK: Well, it is all about survival in a circumstance like that where you have an active shooter circumstance, because if it is a restaurant or a lobby of a hotel, if you can get out and get away, you run. Get out of the immediate area. If you are in a hotel, in the lobby, don't go back to your room. Get out of the hotel. Watch your surroundings.

BOLDUAN: Something we hope never happens. And be very aware of your surroundings is the best place to start.

KERIK: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Bernard, it is great to see you. Thank you for joining us.

KERIK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all for joining us. On behalf of myself and John Berman, in Paris all week, we want to thank you for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

CNN's special coverage of the standoff in Mali and the very latest coming out of Paris continues after a break, with "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield.