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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Hunt Continues for Salah Abdeslam; Hollande's Diplomatic Battle Against ISIS; Belgium Locked Down, at Highest Terrorist Alert; French Launches Attack on ISIS From "Charles de Gaulle" Aircraft; President Candidates Split on Second Amendment versus National Security; Trump: New Jersey Muslims Cheered on 9/11. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2015 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Pamela Brown. This is CNN special live coverage of the attacks in Paris and the hunt for the people behind them.

France has launched new air strikes on Syria and Iraq from an aircraft carrier that recently arrived in the Mediterranean.

Now, after meeting with French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron is ready to make the case to parliament to have the U.K. join the air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

This comes as Belgian authorities conduct more raids, at least 21 arrests. The terror threat in Brussels hit its highest levels. Subway and schools closed down today.

In Paris, security is still tight. Today, children had bags searched before entering schools and officials worked to identify everyone on their campuses.

I'm joined by Brooke Baldwin live in Paris with more.

How is it over there?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pam, nice to see you.

Good evening from Paris here, the Place de la Republique, one of the heart and nerve centers in Paris. The sun is setting. It is officially winter. People are chilly. It is cold. But that is not stopping so many people, the throngs.

I visited every one of the attack sites in the last 24 hours, in addition to the Bataclan, and I have to say, I've covered a lot of tragedies. I have never seen the outpouring, the flowers, the candles, in mass, quite as I have seen here in Paris. The issue number one, remembering, memorializing, and we'll have the funerals here in Paris. On the other side, you have an active manhunt ongoing.

For that let's go to our senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann, standing by here in Paris with the latest on that.

Jim, what do you know?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, Brooke, they -- police are looking for Salah Abdeslam, who is the man they think got away. They think he may have gotten away to Belgium, so they're pressing Belgian authorities to do what they can to try to track this guy down. They're not sure what he can add, but they may be able to get some information off him. They really want to find him and interview him if he can take him alive.

On the other fronts, there's a diplomatic battle going on here with President Francois Hollande talking to David Cameron. Cameron saying he would go back to parliament, take a look at the restrictions that have been placed on U.S. -- rather, British forces out there. From there, Hollande will go tomorrow to the United States, going to see President Obama. On Wednesday, he meets with Merkel. And on Thursday, he's going to fly to Moscow and meet Vladimir Putin. A very busy diplomatic schedule, basically, Hollande while trying to put together a very strong coalition against ISIS to carry out the attacks on ISIS, which have increased as much this morning with the addition of the "Charles de Gaulle" aircraft carrier. 26 new French aircraft added. There's now 38 French aircraft. They're carrying out bombing raids against ISIS targets. So, it's a heightened military response after those attacks at those attack sites you saw -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Jim, we'll get back to your point on the latest global tour for the president of France here.

Thank you so much, Jim Bittermann.

In neighboring Belgium, authorities are warning of what they're calling a serious and imminent threat. They have put Brussels on a security lockdown and have arrested more than 21 people in a series of anti-terror raids across the city.

Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is live from Brussels.

That city, Fred, at its highest terror threat level, is it just quiet on the streets where you are?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's fairly quiet, Brooke. Some people are coming up. What you do notice, and I think stands out for than anything else, is the massive presence of security forces right in the heart of the one of the European capitals. They have an MRAP.

This is the Belgian Christmas tree. We are on the main square in Brussels where they put up the Christmas tree. There are a few people who have come out, but not very many. That is because of that state of lockdown that is in effect. The subways are not running. The schools are closed. There's a lot of businesses that are closed as well. I see some that are reopening. There are some people coming up. By and large, people told us they spent the day at home. They said, listen, we have no place to put our kids because the schools are closed and others said they are very concerned about their safety.

The man hunted is going on for Abdeslam. One reason, they believe he's implicated in the Paris terror attacks. They believe he could still be dangerous. Also, of course, because they have that threat of possible further terror attacks. They're not sure whether or not he would be involved but they are in a heightened state of security.

I can tell you, last night, I was in this area, large parts of cordoned off, a lot of soldiers, police as well, conducting searches. They were quite nervous about the situation at that point in time. It's eased off a little bit, but however that terror alert level 4 is still in place, for the Belgian capital, for Brussels at this point in time. We'll wait and see throughout the day whether there is some new evaluation of the situation. I can tell you, it certainly is a lot of nervousness in the air here, especially on the part of the authorities here -- Brooke?

[11:05:56] BALDWIN: Yeah, the word heavy, heavy atmosphere is what I keep hearing in Paris.

Fred, thank you very much.

In Brussels, turning back to Paris, people on high alert. Several new safety measures are in place, including an extended ban on public gatherings until the end of the month. Also, schools will have two mandatory drills before breaking for the holidays.

I want to bring in CNN contributor and French journalist, Stefan de Vries, who has been here for so many.

Thank you for having me in your city, which is so beautiful.

I've been so struck, like Fred showed in Belgium, it's this juxtaposition. Beginning with Francois Hollande, he has a full next couple of days, starting with a trip to Washington to see President Obama. What will that conversation look like?

STEFAN DE VRIES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & FRENCH JOURNALIST: I think he'll probably ask for logistical support. He knows he can't ask the U.S. for boots on the ground. That's a no-go for the moment. So, he will ask -- well, the U.S. to give anything they can, because that's also what he needs. France and the U.S. are working closely together in many operations around the world. This will probably be just a formality. It also show Francois Hollande wants to create a global alliance this week. He's not only seeing Obama tomorrow but also Putin, who was an enemy two weeks ago. You see these events in Paris only ten days ago are creating a whole new playing field.

BALDWIN: To Washington, to Germany and Merkel, and then, as you mentioned, Putin. There are pictures we're getting in. The Russian Defense Ministry showing some of these missiles that are being used from Russia to target ISIS sites in Syria. Some pilots are writing "For Paris."

DE VRIES: Yes, yes.

BALDWIN: Did you ever think when you talk about France's relationship with Russia, that this would be happening?

DE VRIES: Absolutely not. The relationship with Russia was pretty tense the last two years, especially what's happening in Ukraine, for instance. But somehow Francois Hollande got him back to the table. I think he realizes with the bombing of the airport in Egypt, suddenly, ISIS is attacking Russia. So Putin has no choice than to joins Francois Hollande.

BALDWIN: I just got here yesterday and I wanted to make sure I could soak it up to tell an accurate story, how Paris feels, coming from those watching on television and being in front of the sites, like the Bataclan. That's where we saw this photo of President Hollande and Brit Prime Minister David Cameron. Did you see the video?

DE VRIES: Yeah, sure. The two countries are friends. They're friends and they are so close to each other and it also shows Cameron probably now was going to change the involvement of the U.K. because now it's only bombing Iraq. It may well be that the U.K. starts bombing Syria. It has really changed. The leaders are getting conscious of a global threat and the only answer is a global alliance.

BALDWIN: Stefan De Vries, I really appreciate it.

DE VRIES: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Pamela, as I toss it back to you, I'll be up in a couple more minutes. As I mentioned, I've been here just for 24 or so hours. I just want to bring you the story. For those who have never been Paris, it's one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. I have to say, walking around, talking to parents and having them explain to me how they broke the news to their young ones who don't quite understand why there are flowers and candles popping up around the city, and I have some incredible antidotes. The love for Paris is still here but it definitely feels differently.

[11:10:00] BROWN: Clearly, this has had such a big impact on you, Brooke. I look forward to seeing your piece coming up later in the show.

We'll check back in with you, Brooke. Thanks.

Up next, it's the ISIS headquarters targeted by the world, and CNN gets dangerously close to it on the front lines. Nick Paton Walsh joins me live and takes us inside.

Plus, should people on the terror watch list be allowed to buy guns? The debate heating up and dividing Republicans.

And Donald Trump suggests that he approves of his band roughing up a Black Lives Matters protester. The video and the fallout just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: New retaliation this morning from France 10 days after the Paris terror attacks. The French military now launching its first air strikes on Syria and Iraq from the newly deployed aircraft carrier, the "Charles de Gaulle." You're looking at military exercises aboard the ship. Take a look here. The spokesperson for the French Defense Department telling CNN air strikes started a short time ago. Confirmation coming hours after French President Francois Hollande announced he was intensifying attacks on ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:15:11] FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translation): We are convinced that we have to keep striking Daesh in Syria. We will intensify our strikes. We'll choose strikes that will do the most possible damage to this terrorist army and our aircraft will soon be landing in the area clearly aimed at Daesh and hit them hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Daesh, a name he uses for ISIS.

One of the cities being hit hard by coalition air strikes is the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. Kurdish fighters can see and hear the constant bombardment from their position about 20 miles away.

CNN International correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, traveled to the Kurdish front lines to see the situation firsthand. He joins us from Irbil, Iraq. What's it like?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pam, it's remarkable how close Kurdish fighters, with U.S. assistance, have gotten to Raqqa. We just heard from French defense officials the first two strikes from the "Charles de Gaulle" have hit ISIS targets inside Iraq, but most of the strikes we've seen in the past appear to have been focused toward Raqqa, which ISIS's capital self-declared caliphate. The Kurdish fighters staggeringly near.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATON WALSH (voice-over): After Paris, the Sinai in the crosshairs is here, Raqqa. Lost in the haze, yet they can hear it, loud thuds, heaviest at dusk.

"Three days ago," says Bahas (ph), "we saw 14 air strikes suddenly hit just nearby. Then the French said they'd started bombing. We'll do our best to avenge Paris."

He, like the other young Kurdish fighters here, have lost friends, but say fighting ISIS is a duty for humanity, rather than vengeance as they man a series of trenches and outposts about 20 miles from the city.

(on camera): We have heard distant thuds of what could have been air strikes. From where we're standing, here is the Kurdish front line, a trench dug as far as we can see. All in this direction, flat, open land until you reach the outskirts of Raqqa, the capital of ISIS's self-declared caliphate.

(voice-over): Four Russian missiles hit ISIS in this day, activists said, but otherwise, it's the silence stalemate in the desert.

Weapons here are scant. This man carries the A.K.-47 of his friend who died eight months ago.

Out here, in the flat, open ground, with ISIS in the next village, they still scorn ISIS's leaders and welcome help.

"If French, Russian or American fighters," this commander says, "come here to fight, we'll cooperate with them as we're all fighting to clean the area of is for humanity."

ISIS left their mark on nearby Annalisa (ph), as has the fights for it. Even the mosque littered with mines.

(on camera): The silence here is breathtaking. This is directly the road down to Raqqa. You can just hear the complete absence of human life.

(voice-over): There is little in victory left to fight for.

On the way out, we meet these guys. They don't look much like white knights but that's what the Pentagon hopes they are. The Syrian Democratic Forces, getting American aid, who explain they've secured the major defection of Sunni tribes inside Raqqa to fight ISIS.

"We weren't expecting this large number to join, but there are now 4,000 tribesmen," he says. "When we want to move, all of them are ready and we've already managed to sneak weapons to them. We're moving forward."

Western leaders call this a global fight, but here, alone, you feel the dust, death and determination.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PATON WALSH: Now, Pam, it is clear that that area is still very volatile. Within the last 24 hours, ISIS and Kurdish fighters around that town were in heavy clashes. But also, in came four coalition strikes. Those Kurdish fighters and Syrian Arab fighters you saw there, Sunnis, they feel like they have momentum to move towards Raqqa. It is optimism, frankly, fueling them. They don't have the numbers themselves. They rely on those tribesmen defecting inside the city to fight ISIS, local tribesmen.

We do think the American Special Forces announced by Barack Obama in the last month or so may be in the area. We heard them talking under their breath not to refer to them. Still a lot of work ahead if they're trying to take a place is not going to give up easily -- Pam?

[11:19:52] BROWN: Absolutely. An incredible report.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. Coming up, should people on terror watch lists here in the U.S. be

allowed to buy guns? That question is splitting the GOP front-runners right now.

Plus, he was protesting Donald Trump and then this man ended up on the ground punched and kicked. Trump says maybe he should have been roughed up. We'll discuss after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: It's the convergence of two important issues, the Second Amendment and national security. A proposal to ban people on the terror watch list from buying guns is creating a split in the Republican race. Front-runner Donald Trump says he's for it, but Ben Carson has a different view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR, GOOD MORNING, AMERICA: Yes or no, should someone on the terror watch list be allowed to buy a gun?

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (voice-over): If somebody on a watch list, an enemy of state, we know it's an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely.

BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: Well, as you, I'm sure know, there are a lot of people on that watch list, and they have no idea why they're on that list. They've been trying to get their names off of it and no one will give them information. You know, I'm a big supporter of the Second Amendment. And I don't want to deprive people unnecessarily of that. There needs to be better due process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:25:18] BROWN: We're talking more about this with Michael Balboni, the former Homeland Security adviser for the state of New York.

First, let's start with our Deborah Feyerick.

Deborah, tell us more about this bill and what the reaction has been to it.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the interesting thing is this is a bill that would essentially ban people who are on the terror watch list from acquiring any sort of a firearm. According to a report back in march, the government accountability office essentially found that 91 percent of those who did apply were able to purchase a gun. That's more than 2,000 guns sold to people who are on the terror watch list. The point that is being argued is that people are put on those lists and they don't know why. They spend years and thousands of dollars on lawyers trying to get themselves off that list and are unable to. The government doesn't have to provide them a reason why their names do appear on those. This is all part of the debate in terms of who's on those lists, do they merit being on those lists and if so, should they be able to buy a gun or not? So, Senator Schumer, Senator Dianne Feinstein, they're all trying to limit the availability of any sort of firearm getting into the wrong hands. This is what this is really focused on.

BROWN: Deborah, thank you for that.

Michael, I want to bring you in on this.

To really understand the issue, first walk us through, what is the standard are being put on the terror watch list?

MICHAEL BALBONI, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR, STATE OF NEW YORK: There are many different factors taken into account. There is obviously, if there is a record of the individual having had a -- come under a security review. If they've had an interaction with security forces, police forces, if they are under active investigation. But I think what is very important here is to recognize that a list -- the terror watch list is just one data point for the decision as to whether or not someone poise poses a threat to this country. It is common sense, why would you give someone access to weapons if they were identified as a potential enemy to the United States? But you don't have that kind of an investigation to the point where you actually say, we're going to start taking away any type of rights you have. You're just suspected at this point in time. The other thing is a practical matter. Let's say you said, no one could have this. First of all, does that mean they're not going to get a gun illegally? Terrorists don't normally try to obey the rules. Secondly, if they did get a gun, and they were on the list, what happens? Are they prosecuted? Are we going to share that list with gun shop owners? You know, in other words, how would the system actually work?

BROWN: That is a big question.

I want to switch gears and talk about what Trump said recently about Muslims in New Jersey cheering when the buildings came down on 9/11. "The Washington Post" fact-checked this and said that was false. And that Trump's 2016 rival, George Pataki, New York governor during the attacks, he tweeted, "Not sure what luxury spider hole Donald Trump was hiding in on September 11th but I saw Americans come together on that day." What's your take on those comments from Trump?

Donald Trump has captured the imagination of a lot of people dissatisfied with the political process, but to talk about that type of an event, when many of us in New York on that day, we never heard about that, we never experienced that. There were maybe some urban legends as to whether or not folks were happy with what happened. But to have the numbers he described, thousands of people cheering, that's nothing I've ever heard from police officers, security officials or, frankly, anybody in and around the New York area during 9/11.

BROWN: What's interesting is Chris Christie also weighed in, New Jersey governor, also said he did not have any recollection of Muslims in New Jersey cheering but he stopped short of saying Trump was wrong. What do you think is behind that hesitation?

BALBONI: I think getting in the signs of Mr. Trump is never good for another candidate. He's very effective at getting the media to take his point of view as to whether or not someone is doing their job very well. At same time, this is, unfortunately, feeding into the whole issue about Muslims in America and whether or not we want to go after an entire culture, an entire society, because of the efforts of these radicalized fanatics. I think what Mr. Trump is doing is tapping into that well of fear and concern about many -- for many Americans as to what the threat really means to them and their family and who's perpetrating it.

[11:29:49] BROWN: In fact, he's up in the polls when it comes to voter trust and his dealing with terrorism.

Interesting discussion.

Deborah Feyerick, Michael Balboni, thank you very much.

And with just 10 weeks until the Iowa caucuses, a brand new poll from ABC News and "The Washington Post," as we just discussed, shows trump holding his a 10-point lead over Ben Carson.