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Meet the Press - December 6, 2015

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday morning, the terror attacks in San Bernardino. Did the killers get help? Why did no one see this coming? And can we prevent these kinds of attacks from happening here in the United States? We'll get the latest on the investigation from the very top. Attorney General Loretta Lynch joins us. Plus, the role of Islam. Are we dealing with a perversion of the religion or a strain of it? We'll have a debate. Also, terror and the campaign. Do the attacks help tough-sounding candidates like Donald Trump pull away from the pack?

DONALD TRUMP:

Every time there's a tragedy, everything goes up. My numbers go way up.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me this morning for insight and analysis are Rich Lowry of the National Review, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, and Harvard Law School's Charles Ogletree. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. President Obama will address a nervous country tonight from the Oval Office, on the terror threat and what the administration plans to do to keep us safe. The terror attacks in San Bernardino were the worst in the United States since 9/11. And they both unnerved a country already jittery about terrorism and it's transformed the presidential race.

There are so many unanswered questions. Were Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik planning a bigger attack somewhere else? Could it be that she radicalized him? And what role, if any, did ISIS play? How could no one know about their arsenal of weapons? And was this an isolated incident, or a harbinger of future terror attacks in the United States?

We're going to get to all of those questions with the head of the Justice Department, Loretta Lynch, in just a moment. And we'll look at the implications for 2016, but we began with our chief justice correspondent Pete Williams, who's been covering the story from the start. And of course, Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center under both Presidents Bush and Obama. He's now with the national security company Leidos. Pete, let me start with you. What moved the F.B.I. to label this a terrorism incident?

PETE WILLIAMS:

Well, it's a combination of things. Their extensive preparation, this huge supply of weapons and bombs that they had built, they built their bombs using instructions that are available from Jihadist websites, including Al Qaeda's online magazine Inspire. They modified their assault rifles, trying to make them into automatic weapons using instructions that are available on these online Jihadist sites.

There's her Facebook posts, pledging support for ISIS. There's sort of tradecraft things. They attempted to destroy their electronic media, smash their cell phones, destroy their hard drives in their computers, knowing that the F.B.I. would come back and try to look at all of that. And then of course, he had some contact with people that the F.B.I. had been watching from time to time in Southern California.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me follow up on that. He had some contact with the F.B.I., which leads to the question, and certainly, I mean, a question the attorney general has to answer, which is how much was he on the F.B.I.'s radar screen?

PETE WILLIAMS:

Right. Not contact with the F.B.I., but contact with people that the F.B.I. was watching from time to time. Never people that were charged, but people that came up on the sort of counterterrorism radar. But they say that they don't really know the nature of the contact. They only know that he had the contacts.

Remember, at this point, all they've got is sort of, in essence, phone records, social media records. They say that he didn't have a lot of contacts with them. And one of the things that the F.B.I. looks at in analyzing these things is, you know, what's the frequency of the contact? Are they reaching out to the same networks over and over again? And at the time, they didn't find that. Now they'll certainly go back and say, "Well, did we miss something?" But at the time, there were no red flags raised.

CHUCK TODD:

Michael Leiter, worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. And no group is taking responsibility. How scary is that?

MICHAEL LEITER:

Well, it's scary because it fits the ISIS playbook perfectly. ISIS, in some cases like Paris, may actually try to direct. But what it's really trying to do is inspire. So its directed activities are these inspired attacks. And that means small, isolated groups, where they are, where they live, that understand the culture, and understand in part how to terrorize those communities.

CHUCK TODD:

So what would you need resource-wise? Is there enough resources you could have, the F.B.I. could have, that could stop Syed Farook and his wife from doing this?

MICHAEL LEITER:

Which is a multifaceted plan, and you don't have enough resources. You've got a huge American population, you've got a small, small, small subset that is radicalized, and you have an even smaller subset that actually takes action. And you can't cover everyone who has some contact, someone bad. What you need is offense overseas, defense at home with intelligence and law enforcement, and really deep engagement with these communities.

PETE WILLIAMS:

And even if they have the resources, there are legal limits here. The F.B.I. can't just listen to everybody it wants to. There has to be some sort of predicate that allows them legally to start monitoring.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, we just changed the bulk data collection for N.S.A. How much is that, do you think, impacting this investigation?

MICHAEL LEITER:

I don't think bulk data collection was an enormous factor here, because generally, that deals with overseas calls to the United States. But what bulk data collection did was make the process more efficient. So there were no silver bullets there. But when you do have really tapped out resources that cover so many investigations, it can help you move through and discard some faster. So in that regard, it may have played not a major role, but some supportive role.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Michael Leiter, Pete Williams, thank you both. In what may be a preview of what the president is going to say tonight, President Obama did address the investigation in terrorism in his weekly address, which of course aired yesterday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

It is entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror. And if so, it would underscore a threat we've been focused on for years: the danger of people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies. We know that ISIL and other terrorist groups are actively encouraging people, around the world and in our country, to commit terrible acts of violence, oftentimes as lone-wolf actors.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

For the latest on the investigation, I'm joined by the attorney general, Loretta Lynch. Madam Attorney General, welcome to Meet the Press.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

We are four days since the attack. What can you tell us this morning about the state of the investigation and what we know now?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Well, this investigation is ongoing, it's wide-ranging, it's very complex. Certainly, as you know, that we're four days away from these horrific attacks. Immediately, the F.B.I. began working with our state and local counterparts, with whom we have an excellent relationship. This is an F.B.I. investigation now because of the indications that we do have of radicalization, this is a terrorism investigation at this point in time.

But we continue to work closely with our state and local counterparts. Also A.T.F. marshals are on the ground. And we're also really focusing on the victims of this horrific attack. Four days, over 300 interviews, several locations searched. A lot of information being processed, being analyzed, and being gathered. And more to come. So what I would say to people is, that this investigation, as it has already been stated, is a marathon and not a sprint. But it is one of great concern to the American people. And so we're committed to keeping people informed.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you say definitively this morning they were both radicalized?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, I think I can't say definitively right now, what led either of these two people to pick up guns and become murderers. I can say that that is the focus of our investigation. We're looking at everything we can find out about the two killers' lives. How they grew up, where they grew up, how they met. All of those things will provide us guidance.

CHUCK TODD:

Just from what we can read in media reports, Syed Farook was one type of person before he met his wife, and somebody else after. Is your focus on the investigation primarily through her right now when it comes to the radicalization issue?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, our focus on the investigation is really wide-ranging. And we can't limit it to just one point in time. We are trying to learn everything we can about both of these individuals.

CHUCK TODD:

What have you learned about her time in Saudi Arabia?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, I'm not able to go into a lot of specifics there because we are working closely with our foreign counterparts to gather that information. It will be a long process. It will be an exhaustive process. And we are trying to learn as much as we can about her life, before they met, after they met, and frankly after she came here as well. What we are trying to focus on, again, is what motivated these two individuals. What led them not just to commit the act, but to pick this particular place.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you have any evidence that says that they were planning another attack? And that this just happened to be what they decided to do?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, obviously, we have concerns whenever we see people who have large stockpiles of weapons, or appear to be in the process of accumulating weapons and ammunition. At this point, we do not have any evidence that they were part of either a larger group or a cell, or that they were planning anything else. That's at this time. What I will say is again, we are continuing to run everything to ground we can about these two individuals.

CHUCK TODD:

How cooperative has Pakistan been in this investigation so far?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

So I can't really characterize any country, except to say that we work well with a number of our foreign counterparts.

CHUCK TODD:

Is Pakistan one of those countries?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Pakistan is one of those countries. There are other countries involved--

CHUCK TODD:

That you work well with?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Well, what I will say is that we often work with our local law enforcement counterparts, not just here, but overseas, through the intelligence community, through our military connections, through our law enforcement connections. And we're talking to a number of countries.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you learned more about her time in social media? There was a report this morning in The L.A. Times that perhaps she got radicalized, was interested in the al-Nusra Front, and had started becoming more fundamentalist in her beliefs, and to that her own family said there was a 2009 version of her, and after that, she became different.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, I think what you see with these comments from friends and family, and the information coming out from social media, is a small part of what we're doing, what the F.B.I. is doing in gathering everything that we can find about her to build that larger picture.

Everything that you've mentioned is part of that picture. At this point, it's just too early to say. And so what I would say is, I would caution people not to try and define either of these two individuals right now, because we do not want to foreclose either any avenues of investigation, or any other issues or motivations.

CHUCK TODD:

There's been reports that he had some contact with people that the F.B.I. had under surveillance. What is the threshold to become under surveillance by the F.B.I.? Clearly Syed Farook didn't meet that threshold. Should he have?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Well, I actually don't want to use the blanket term that individuals are under surveillance, with whom he had contact with. He did have a number of contacts with individuals that had come on the F.B.I.'s radar screen for a variety of reasons. And so depending upon those reasons, those individuals may have been under review for any number of things. And he was someone who had contact with them. We are running all of that to ground. We are also looking into what those connections were, if any conversations, if any-- all of that is part of what we're looking at.

CHUCK TODD:

Is that making you rethink though this idea, the threshold should be lowered?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

No, I think every case is different. Every situation is different. People come on the F.B.I.'s radar screen for a variety of reasons at a variety of times. We run everything to ground. Similar to what we've been telling people here. If you see something, say something. Report your concerns to law enforcement. They will be looked at, they will be reviewed.

Sometimes they're nothing, sometimes they're something, sometimes there's a connection that years later may show up. All of this information is useful. Right now, I would caution people not to try and define these two individuals right now. We are learning all we can about them.

CHUCK TODD:

Both you and Director Comey have said, "see something, say something." Is there a line where you worry that people are going to be overly suspicious?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, it's hard to really characterize that. I think in this particular day and age, people are understandably concerned. This horrific attack has people on edge and frightened. We've lost so many victims, and people were wounded. People are concerned. And we understand that.

Our view is that if you have concerns that rise to a suspicion, that someone that you either know or see on a regular basis, is evidencing a change in behavior or discussion, threatening talk, threatening language, this is very similar to workplace dispute as well, in terms of what people can see, alert law enforcement rather than taking matters into your own hands.

CHUCK TODD:

What-- why do you think the mother, his mother, who was of course who they left their six month old with, apparently didn't know they had a cache of weapons, didn't know they had a pipe bomb factory in their garage?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, I can't speak to that fact of the investigation. Obviously, it's something that we're looking at very, very closely. And we appreciate everyone who's come forward with information about that. So I can't characterize the knowledge of any of the other witnesses in the case. What I will say is that this indicates the evolving nature of the threat that we are seeing. We have come from a time of the large-scale, planned, Al Qaeda-style attacks, to the encouragement of lone wolves: Fort Hood, Chattanooga. To the encouragement of people to act on their own.

CHUCK TODD:

But we've been hearing this for six years--

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--That the threat has changed. And it looks like we have no new ways to stop this threat. I mean, do we have to just accept the idea that this is the way we have to live now? Accept the idea that a lone wolf, inspired by an ISIS website, could just mow people down?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

I don't think we should ever accept the idea that someone can come along and take away our safety and our freedom. I think we have to do everything we can to prevent that. And that is really a multifaceted approach. We've evolved a lot since 9/11 also, in terms of our law enforcement capabilities, our intelligence capabilities, military, counterterrorism.

We have been watching this threat evolve for some time. We are now at a point where because we in fact have been successful at stopping a number of plots, a threat has evolved. We do see these lone-wolf actors. We do see these encouragements for troubled individuals to pick up a gun and act out of this ideology.

Again, not sure which one they picked in this case, despite the media accounts. But we do see this. We have to evolve as well, and we are. We are reviewing everything about this case, but also past cases, to see what are the common threads. And when we look back at the terrorism investigation since 9/11, and there have been numerous ones, one of the things that does come to the fore, Chuck, is that in a number of these cases, when we look back at these individuals, someone did notice a change. Someone did notice a substantive--

CHUCK TODD:

We're hearing that already from family members.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Substantive, substantive change.

CHUCK TODD:

Everybody is now saying that. And so how do you get people to talk about that before it happens?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Yes. What we tell people is alert law enforcement. We are on alert 24/7. And everything that you report will be investigated. We do it in private. We do it covertly. This could be a problem, it could simply be your neighbor having a bad day. But better be safe than sorry.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about the N.S.A. program that had just ended the bulk collection. Is that a resource you wish you had today?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Look, we understand the concerns that people have with not only protecting our values, but our privacy interests as well. We think that the USA Freedom Act was a good resolution of that.

CHUCK TODD:

You still do?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

We're committed to working forward under that particular act.

CHUCK TODD:

You don’t want new reforms? That give you more access?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Obviously, if Congress wants to talk about anything, we're happy to provide information. We're committed to moving forward under the current act. That act does primarily just deal with overseas individuals with contacts there. But every tool is important, Chuck, is what I would say. It is all part of a piece here.

CHUCK TODD:

When you and Director Comey, after Paris, said there was no credible threat, do those words mean anything anymore?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

Considering the world we live in?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

You know, I think that we've reviewed the information that with have, we try and tell people what we know at the time. In terms of the indices and what's on the radar screen, we do want people to know if in fact we learn of an incident that's focused on a particular city.

If we learn of long-term planning, that's focused on a particular industry or infrastructure. And so we feel we have an obligation to let people know if we have information of a credible threat or not. These two individuals, self-radicalized, radicalized by others, that's what we definitely want to learn so we can figure out how to best prevent this again.

CHUCK TODD:

What are we going to learn from the president tonight? And is he going to-- what calls to action is he going to have for either the country or Congress?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Well, the president understands that the country's very concerned about this issue. And I think what you're going to hear from him is a discussion about what government's doing to ensure all of our highest priority, the protection of the American people. I think he'll talk about the actions that we've taken, not just since 9/11, but since Paris, to help keep the American people and American interests safe.

You may hear him call on Congress to review measures and take action as well. But I think what you're going to hear the president say is to call on the American people to pull out the best in themselves and not give into fear at this time.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this a time for a gun control conversation?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Well, I think we're in the middle of that conversation. We always are. You know, when we have the incidents that we have seen, we're talking about this terrible San Bernardino shooting now. A week ago, we were talking about Planned Parenthood in Colorado. And there are dozens and dozens of families--

CHUCK TODD:

Is this a gun problem or a violence problem in this country?

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

I think we have a number of issues here. And I think that dealing with guns is one way to handle the violent-crime issues that we have in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General, I've got to leave it there. I know you're busy. Thanks for coming in this morning.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH:

Thank you, Chuck--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the terror attacks have reshaped the campaign and may have given another boost to Donald Trump. When we come back, two Republican presidential candidates with two very different views on how to fight terror here at home. And as we go to break, it's important to get to know the 14 people who died in the San Bernardino attack. Here they are.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back now for some political reaction to the attack in San Bernardino, from two Republican presidential candidates, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Senator Paul is here in studio, so I'm going to start with you. Senator, I want to get you to respond to something Marco Rubio said.

He just said the following a week ago: "We were still able to see the phone records of a potential terrorist cause, we held them, now you have to hope the phone company still has them, you have to argue with their chief counsel by the time you get access to it, and try to find out who they've been talking to before it's too late." You were on the forefront of trying to change this law. Any second thoughts?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

You know, if Senator Rubio were doing his job and in Congress more, he might know that the program continues. It's been ongoing for the last six months. So the Paris tragedy, this tragedy happened while we were still doing bulk collection, all bulk collection. Also in France, they have a program a thousand-fold more invasive, collecting all of the data of all of the French.

And yet, they still weren't able to see this coming. So my question is, how much liberty do with want to give up for a false sense of security? The government has investigated our program of collecting through a generalized fashion, everyone's phone records in the country. And they found that no terrorist case has been thwarted through this.

CHUCK TODD:

What would you do if you were president tonight? The President's going to address the nation. What would you say to the country to make them feel safer? Because right now, this idea of a lone wolf doesn't make me feel any safer.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think what we've had in the past is the government has said, "Well, we need to collect the whole haystack." And the haystack is Americans' privacy. Every Americans' privacy. We have to give up all of our privacy. But what I'd like to do is make the haystack smaller. So I think that we have to be very careful about who comes here from the Middle East. And I've introduced legislation to say, "For right now, let's stop it," from about 34 countries.

CHUCK TODD:

That's a version of profiling.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well, people who want to come to this country don't have constitutional rights. Once they get here, they do. But coming here is not a constitutional right. So with do, as a nation, have the ability and should have the ability to decide who comes here and when they come here. Right now, we don't know who is here. The woman that was admitted, ended up being married to this terrorist, I don't think she was properly vetted.

I think she came here and I don't think we adequately knew enough about her. And I think also there's some indication that the papers she filed to come here were a lie to begin with. So I don't think we're doing an adequate vetting process of those who are coming to our country.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think this visa program, whether it's a fiancé visa, student visas, tourist visas, I mean, any terrorists that have come here and committee acts from 9/11 to this woman, have come here in some form of a visa. How in jeopardy is this program?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

This is where the big problem is. We have 11 million people said to be in our country illegally. Forty percent of them are said to have overstayed their visa. Do we know where they are? There's 150,000 students here from the Middle East. If 40% of them have overstayed their visa, don't we need to know where they are, what they're doing, are they obeying our rules?

And so what I'm asking for, let's make the haystack smaller. Let's say for a while, until we can figure out who's coming, who's going, and who's overstayed their visa, let's have extra scrutiny and figure out what's going on, because there's a whole segment of the world that is intent on sending people here to attack us.

CHUCK TODD:

These folks accumulated quite the arsenal. Is there any federal regulation you would support that would try to figure out a way to regulate how much of an arsenal somebody could have in their garage?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Interestingly, they accumulated this arsenal in California, that has ten-day waiting period, has no private sale of guns. Every gun regulation that President Obama has advocated for, California has already. And it didn't stop this. I think ultimately that the rules that you make for gun control, people who are intent on killing themselves aren't too concerned with the rules. Law-abiding citizens are.

The other thing to realize is that almost all these shootings, including this shooting, happened in a government building where people are not allowed to defend themselves. While it's not the ultimate answer, the ultimate answer would be no violence, part of the answer is saying, "We need to allow people to defend themselves."

CHUCK TODD:

But you'd like to get rid of these no carry rules?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Paul, I'm going to leave it there.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you sir. Stay safe on the trail. Let me go to Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham, let me start with this with you. What do you want to hear from the president tonight?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

That he's going to change his strategy and come up with a regional army to go in and destroy the caliphate in Raqqa, Syria. That he's going to abandon what is not working. He's overwhelmed by radical Islam in general. He doesn't have a strategy to destroy ISIL. I just came back from Iraq with my 36th trip. And here's what I can tell you. The Paris attack was highly sophisticated, well-planned, very clever, took months in the making, very much like 9/11. And there is a 9/11-style attack coming to America.

And I can tell you who's planning it. The leaders of ISIL. And I can tell you where they're at. They're in Raqqa, Syria. So for God's sakes, Mr. President, change your strategy. Come up with a ground force to go in and destroy the caliphate before we get hit here at home. That would be my advice to you.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, it seems as if you can militarily take care of an Al Qaeda. You can militarily take care of an ISIS. We haven't defeated the ideology. The ideology is as strong as ever, given what just happened in San Bernardino. What is your plan to defeat the ideology, sir?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well you start with the leaders, you take down the caliphate. I'm convinced that the caliphate, the size of Indiana, if it were destroyed, it would be harder for people--

CHUCK TODD:

But we took down Al Qaeda, and this just rose up, a new version of this, a new strain rose up.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I can tell you this, that Al Qaeda has been placed on the run, but not destroyed. ISIL is not the JV team. I cannot stress enough that there's a terrorist army in Syria and Iraq that wants to attack the homeland and we're not doing anything about it. So how do you defeat the ideology? Build up others? You reject Rand Paul.

This flirtation with isolationism in the Republican party is over. It's giving way to a more muscular foreign policy than I've been advocating. But I'm also advocating building up others. Build a small schoolhouse in Afghanistan to help a poor young girl have a say about her children will destroy the ideology more than a bomb.

I'm an internationalist. I want to help others, not just kill terrorists. But I can tell you, there's a sense of urgency that the president does not possess, that there is a 9/11 in the making. I just came back from Iraq. It is a matter of time that we get hit by ISIL, not some lone-wolf attack. Hardened terrorists are coming here to hit us hard if we don't hit them first.

CHUCK TODD:

Are there more resources you want to give the F.B.I.? And you think that if somebody like, essentially, the way law enforcement has described this, that Syed Farook maybe had read, liked a Facebook page, it was the equivalent of that. And when it came to people that they were monitoring. Should that have been enough for us to trigger surveillance or an investigation into him? And if that's the case, how much more resources do we need?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Number one, I would set aside all these budget cuts that are going to devastate the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the N.S.A. Sequestration, cuts, are not only gutting the military, they're gutting the F.B.I. So if I were president, I would set these cuts aside. I would reinstate the N.S.A. program as robust as possible within the constitutional limits.

But more than anything else, if you get nothing else out of this interview, the source of the problem is in Syria. Raqqa is the headquarters of ISIL, which is a lethal terrorist organization, now army. If you don't go after them over there, they're going to hit us over here, and there's no substitute for that in my view.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there any new regulation on the purchase of firearms by anybody? On the no-fly zone, on the no-fly list, or anything else, that you would support?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Gun control is not part of a strategy to defeat radical Islam or take ISIL down. However it is a problem back here at home. A million people have been adjudicated a danger to themselves or to others at the state court level. I would pay to have those adjudications enrolled into the federal background system so we could detect people who are mentally ill before they buy a gun. That is a real problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, but on the no-fly list?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

You've got 40% false-positive. Let's make it better. You're on a no-fly list, a no-fly list has less false-positives, count me in from that being in the background check system. But this is not the issue with California. Did she get radicalized before she came here? Is this a terrorist-arranged marriage? Is this a breakthrough in terrorist efforts to penetrate the homeland? Did they marry off a radicalized woman to a man in the country as part of a terrorist-arranged marriage penetrating our system? That's what I want to know about California.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's the scariest part of this potential story.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

It is. Yes it is.

CHUCK TODD:

If that's what the case is.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yes it is.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you sir. Stay safe on the trail.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. Coming up, one of the most divisive questions facing us now after San Bernardino. Are we dealing with a perversion of Islam or a legitimate strain of it? We'll have a debate.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, we’ll have a debate. Does the terror threat we’re facing grow out of a perversion of Islam, or does it represent and extreme, but durable, strain of the religion. And then, he said it himself, every time something terrible happens, his numbers go up. Why Donald Trump continues to surge, and why that makes many Republicans very nervous.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP: How many events where Trump is going down, this should be the end. A week later the polls come out. He’s up seven points, what happened?

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Two currents of thought have emerged as a result of the San Bernardino attacks. One is that we'll witness a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. The other involves the role of Islam itself in the attacks. Is the Islamic extremism espoused by ISIS a warped distortion of Islam? Or does it tap into a strain of Islamic thought?

To discuss this, I'm joined by Dalia Mogahed, research director at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and Asra Nomani, author of Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam. Let me start with this question for both of you. Dalia, is ISIS preaching a strain of Islam?

DALIA MOGAHED:

I would say that ISIS wants us to think so. And I think that's the real danger here. It's that what ISIS wants the narrative to be is that they are the true Muslims. That they are standing with true Islam. That everyone else, the people like and and Asra are the apostates. And if we give into their narrative, we're actually doing their propaganda for them.

And I think we should really take that to heart and think long and hard about it. When Dylann Roof walked into a black church, he wanted to start a race war. We didn't let him do that because we didn't cast him as a representative of the white race. We didn't give into his narrative. We did the exact opposite. And I think that we have to be careful not to give into the apocalyptic narrative of ISIS that wants to start a war between Muslims and everybody else.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, everybody seems to agree with that. Asra, I know you've argued though that Muslims need to take back their religion from ISIS. How?

ASRA NOMANI:

We absolutely do. We are doing it. On Friday, I stood with a group of brave and courageous Muslims. And we stood and we provided a declaration to the world of reform. We are calling ourselves the Muslim Reform Movement. And we are opposing a very real interpretation of Islam that espouses violence, social injustice, and political Islam.

And what we did is we walked through the gates of the Islamic center of Washington here in D.C., that's very much run by a government of Saudi Arabia, and we posted our precepts on the door of that mosque. Because the problem is not simply in Syria.

The problem is sitting in the birthplace of Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where this interpretation of Islam has gone out into the world over the last four decades, creating militancy groups from Indonesia, to now, San Bernardino, California, vicious attack. We have to take back the faith. And we have to take it back with the principles of peace, social justice, and human rights, women's rights, and secularize governance.

CHUCK TODD:

Dalia, when Americans find out, we're learning more about the woman here. We found out that her own family is saying, "Yeah, she became really religious and she changed." Americans are going to see that as the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely they're going to end up somehow fighting for ISIS' cause.

DALIA MOGAHED:

I can understand that. I think those are real fears. I think we have to keep a few things in mind though. This particular couple, we're learning more and more about them. First of all, they actually stopped going to mosque about two years ago. Another thing that many people aren't talking about is that they targeted the only Muslim in the room and shot that woman four times.

It was actually someone that used to go to their mosque. It's very hard to understand what inspired these people. But what we know broadly from research is that religiosity does not correlate with sympathy for terrorism. It's actually quite the opposite. The more religious someone is, the more often they go to the mosque, the more likely they are to actually reject attacks on civilians.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to expand the conversation here. I'm going to bring everybody else here. We've got Amy Walter, Cook Political Report, Rich Lowry from National Review, Charles Ogletree, professor at Harvard, Elisabeth Bumiller from The New York Times. Rich, why don't you fire away?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, it seems to me that this debate, whether Islam is a religion of peace or not, really, it's irrelevant for outsiders. It's for Muslims to decide whether it's a religion of peace or not. And if enough of them do, then you cut off the oxygen to the radicals. But at the moment, the extremists have significant financial popular and theological backing in the Middle East. And that is an enduring phenomenon. And it's one that is going to require a long, ideological war to win.

DALIA MOGAHED:

I'm sorry, I'm going to have to disagree with you. They simply do not have ideological, theological, or popular support. And this is a criminal organization that is funding their criminality with things like drug trade and selling oil. They do not have the ideological support that you're describing at all. In fact, it's quite the opposite. They've had a number of voices from across the spectrum say that what they're doing is completely un-Islamic. They have no support popularly, in terms of the general public. So--

RICH LOWRY:

But yet they’re still there.

DALIA MOGAHED:

But so are many other terrorist organizations. And their primary victims are Muslims. I think that's very important.

ASRA NOMANI:

And to that point, I think what speaks loudest and what speaks to your point is the blood that's spilling from Australia, to now California. I mean, how much blood has to be spilled until we recognize inside of a Muslim community that with do have an ideological problem? And that we do have support? I mean, there are--

DALIA MOGAHED:

I think the blood is spilling in Syria and it’s mostly Muslims--

ASRA NOMANI:

Excuse me. There are hundreds and hundreds of followers of Islamic State around Europe and the U.S. The Saudis are showing this. And all you have to do is look at the conversation inside of our mosques and inside of our communities. And you will hear it. And I hear it. And I have to say that I saw it in 2002, went to Islamabad, Pakistan, and met women who were supporting this ideology. I call them the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary back then. This young woman in California would've been a star member of it.

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead, Elisabeth.

ELISABETH BUMILLER:

I had actually, after the Paris attacks in this country, we all patted ourselves on the back and said, "Well, we have a much morE assimilated Muslim population here than they do in Europe." Does that give you pause now? Are we wrong about that?

ASRA NOMANI:

When we talked about a wall, right, to try to keep out this threat. The problem is that these are ideas. And they are filtering throughout the world. And it was naïve, and I think ultimately, the reason why we, as Muslims, stood on Friday and went to the mosque and took the risks on our own lives, is because we've had enough. I think the world has had enough. We have to--

RICH LOWRY:

And that's an important thing. That requires bravery to do what she's talking about.

CHARLES OGLETREE:

But I'm hearing here that this Muslim movement, well, for women, is what we have to focus on. And women have been doing, I think, the right thing. Having the conversations, talking to people about that. And I hate this idea that we, as Americans, are going to say we're going to have a sense at the border, someplace else, that-- to figure out whether or not Muslims can come to the United States.

Muslims have a right to every other people, like everybody, to come to the United States. And we have to be concerned about the gun killing that people who are Americans, who are Irish, and who are English, who are all around the country. And so we don't want to--

ASRA NOMANI:

Just as we don't want to bury our heads in the sand about serious issues. You know, a meme is now circulating that's called the Ostrich Brigade. And it's used to describe all those people who are burying their heads in the sand. I call it the three D strategy. It's denial, deflection, and a demonization of those of us who want to speak honestly about these issues of extremism. And Dalia, with have to do it.

This is a book called Women in the Shade of Islam. It's published by the government of Saudi Arabia. I picked it up in Pakistan, where the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary, and our young wife in California would've picked up an item like this. And it puts out that Salafi-Wahhabi ideology that is ultimately the toxic poison that is crossing all these borders.

CHUCK TODD:

Dalia, I want you to have the last word.

DALIA MOGAHED:

I think it's important to understand that ISIS's biggest enemy are ordinary Muslims. That's why they're fleeing. That's why they are the primary victims of ISIS. Muslims are the ones who want to do the most to defeat this ideology. It's important that we don't do their propaganda for them, by giving them the legitimacy that they crave.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Dalia Mogahed, Asra Nomani--

ASRA NOMANI:

I just want to say one last word, which is this is the declaration and we're going to share this with the world, because--

CHUCK TODD:

We’ll show people on our--

ASRA NOMANI:

--this is the Islam that we want to see in the world.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll let people that want to see more on that, we'll put the link on our website. All right, thank you Asra, Dalia. When we come back, the Republican establishment's great fear that the terror attacks have only helped one man: Donald Trump.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

As Donald Trump continues to dominate the 2016 field, the Republican establishment’s low-grade anxiety is becoming an all-out panic. In a CNN out this week, but conducted before the San Bernardino shootings, Trump led the field with 36%. Twenty points ahead of his nearest rival, Ted Cruz. Ben Carson has slipped down to 14. In case you’re keeping track of this, Jeb Bush is down to three percent.

Now, the establishment Republicans are beginning to say on the record what they had been whispering about in private for months: that Donald Trump at the top of the ticket could mean an electoral wipeout down the ballot. And Republicans are taking the possibility of Trump as nominee seriously enough that the committee that oversees next year’s Senate races laid out a confidential seven-page blueprint for candidates on how to run with Trump at the top of the ticket. For instance, advising candidates to “grab onto the best elements of [his] anti-Washington populist agenda,” but warning that Trump is a “misguided missile,” “subject to farcical fits” and candidates should avoid getting drawn into “every Trump dust-up,” but should quickly condemn some of his comments, including “wacky things about women.” Well, Trump responded to the memo on Thursday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I don't say anything wacky about women. I have more respect for women than anybody would understand and I'm going to give people jobs and I'm going to protect people. And that's why every time there's a tragedy, everything goes up, my numbers go way up.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

The panel is here, of course: Rich Lowry, Amy Walter, Elisabeth Bumiller and Charles Ogletree. So Amy, we haven’t heard from you.

AMY WALTER: Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

So let me start with that memo. I think a freak out is setting in among Republican establishment people.

AMY WALTER:

I think there’s concerns setting in. And you know what? There was a lot made about that memo. But I will say this, the one thing about it that they get to the heart of, which I think all establishment needs to understand is that, since very early on in this campaign, what have we heard from Republican voters? They want somebody that’s new, they want somebody that’s fresh. They don’t want an establishment.

That is what -- if you want to beat Donald Trump -- then you need to be the candidate that is not the establishment in your thinking, in the way you’re presenting yourself. But you present yourself as the most, let’s say, having the-- temperamentally prepared to be president. So the change agent, temperamentally prepared.

That is what they’re looking for. And I thought the Wall Street Journal quote, they got a guy in Iowa to say I think exactly where I think this race is right now for a lot Republicans. He said, “Nobody in Iowa wants Trump for president. But everybody in Iowa wants somebody like Trump for president.” That’s what you need.

CHUCK TODD:

Rich?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, it's clear that he's not going to disappear in a cloud of pixie dust, as many people thought. And I don't think there's any clever way for the establishment to take him down. It's very simple. Another candidate is going to have to find a way either to out-maneuver him, or to just frankly beat him in the argument. And if no one can do that, yeah, he better man the lifeboats, because there's some significant chance he'll win the nomination.

CHUCK TODD:

Does this mean it's Cruz or Christie? That those are the two best foils to defeat Trump? Because they both have the bluster but sort of restraint that goes with the bluster?

RICH LOWRY:

Well we don’t know yet but so far the three candidates that have dealt with Trump most adeptly are Cruz, Christie, and Rubio. But they’ve all avoided him in one form or another. And I think one of the most interesting subplots now, Cruz is creeping up on Trump in Iowa and there’s some internal data campaigns talk about that, actually might have him actually ahead in Iowa. Does Trump blast Cruz? And how does Cruz react if he does?

CHUCK TODD:

You know the irony in all of this, Elisabeth, is that in that same, I think it was in your wonderful publication, the New York Times, with the initial freak out of the establishment. I think it was somebody from the nineties who said, “Oh yeah, but if the establishment takes out Trump, they’re doing Ted Cruz’s dirty work for him.” And some people think Cruz is just as bad of an electoral nightmare down the ballot as Trump.

ELISABETH BUMILLER:

It’s true, Cruz is not at all popular in the Senate. Republicans say he may be too disliked to be a nominee. And there is a real concern about that. I think the one way to go after Trump maybe is go after him as a closet Democrat. That he has supported Democrats in the past. I mean, I’m not saying--

CHUCK TODD:

Now, now--

ELISABETH BUMILLER:

That’s an idea.

RICH LOWRY:

It’s their problem, it’s the Democrats. It’s the Democrats party problem.

ELISABETH BUMILLER: But he, no. He gave money to Hillary Clinton. He’s got this New York style. I, you know, I offer it up.

CHUCK TODD:

I don’t know, I think tree, I think fitness for office and temperament.That seems to be the --

AMY WALTER:

It’s temperament. That’s the only thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I had a phone conversation with--

CHARLES OGLETREE:

Zero chance of being successful.

CHUCK TODD: If you say so.

CHARLES OGLETREE: He’s going to lose. There’s no question about that and I think that --

CHUCK TODD: When?

CHARLES OGLETREE: He’s going to lose now. Because people were attracted to him because he was not elected to an office. He was not a politician. And like you said before, he was a person that people say “Wow! He has the idea!” But the more and more you listen to Donald Trump, the more you have the sense that he is not the person that’s going to run the country. And I have strong views. If Republicans want to put him up, fine.

CHUCK TODD:

Rich, what would William F. Buckley be saying about Trump today?

RICH LOWRY:

I am always cautious about saying what--

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

RICH LOWRY:

-- Bill would say because he had such an idiosyncratic mind. I think he would be appalled at the crude populism. But would like some things about him that would surprise all of us. Can I say, Chuck, I think the guy who gets the least chatter, given how high his chances are of winning the nomination, is Ted Cruz.

CHUCK TODD:

I agree.

RICH LOWRY:

I might prefer to be him than anyone else at the moment.

CHUCK TODD: I totally agree.

RICH LOWRY:

He is a favorite to win Iowa, I believe. And he comes--

CHUCK TODD:

If he wins Iowa--

RICH LOWRY:

--head of steam.

CHUCK TODD:

--He’ll be the delegate leader by the end of March. I think that’s pretty clear. But guess what? We still got less than two months to go. We’ll take a quick pause here. In 45 seconds we have our End Game segment and the new, renewed, old debate over guns in America.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

End Game time and the debate over gun control was reignited after the San Bernardino attack. The New York Times ran its first front page editorial in 95 years calling for greater gun regulation and publications from around the country also weighed in as you can see here. Now on the other side of this debate, Republican presidential contenders didn’t hold back when it came to the issue of guns.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

If you look at Paris, they didn’t have guns and they were slaughtered. If you look at what happened in California, they didn’t have guns, they were slaughtered. They could’ve protected themselves if they had guns.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

They’re still out there talking about gun control measures, as if somehow terrorists care about what our gun laws are.

SENATOR TED CRUZ:

Folks in the media ask at the behest of Democrats, “isn’t it insensitive for us to do a Second Amendment rally following this terror attack?” Let me tell you something. I really don’t view our job as being sensitive to Islamic terrorists.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well Elisabeth, it was you publication. I know you didn’t write the editorial, but not-- apparently this issue rose to the level of Warren Harding's presidency.

ELISABETH BUMILLER:

Right right, I just want to say, yes it was a decision of the publisher.

CHUCK TODD:

No doubt.

ELISABETH BUMILLER:

Not of the news department. I am of the news department. But yes, and people have been asking “how effective is this?” it’s not for me to say. I just want to point out that Warren Harding, The Times assailed his nomination for president. And we can see how--

CHUCK TODD:

How effective that was.

ELISABETH BUMILLER:

How effective that was, right, right. Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

And you know Ogletree, that is the question I have heard from some Democrats saying that “You know what? Push for gun control, but not now.”

CHARLES OGLETREE:

I think…

CHUCK TODD:

It’s like “Guess what? You’re going to get lost and lose the argument. That the Times editorial actually made it a lot harder.

CHARLES OGLETREE:

I think that we may lose the argument, but I think we have to talk about gun control. One of my best friends in Mississippi, Dennis Sweed, he has guns. He has taught his son and daughter how to use guns--they’re locked in a case. That’s what gun control is about.

There’s no way you are going to get rid of the Second Amendment, there’s no way you’re going to get rid of the First Amendment, and people have to understand how important this is. But I think when they see more and more killings, we have to figure out, of course what we are going to do about it. And I don’t think the criminal justice system has an answer.

CHUCK TODD:

I can tell ya, Amy I want to read you a quote here because this is--I’ve had my own anecdotals with old friends, here’s a gentleman quoted in the Times about, “I believe my government is suppose to protect me but it has let me down. I resent having to defend myself; I shouldn’t have to but at this point I don’t feel like I have a choice.” More Americans, and I have my own anecdotes of people that have a friend that never would’ve had a gun, thought about, and now is thinking about it. Feeling insecure--

AMY WALTER:

Absolutely. And this deep insecurity has been going on for a while. I mean I picked it up in 2014 sitting in focus groups of women who were feeling terrified, not just about that ISIS was coming, but terrified that their children couldn’t be safe at school, terrified about what was happening in Ferguson and other places.

Look, the real issue on the debate about this is about the messenger more than the message. This has to come from, if we have to have a real movement on this issue if you support gun control, it has to come from the Republican side.

As soon as a Democrat or a liberal organization opens their mouth and says “We want to see this,” it’s going to go over the heads. And same way on the abortion debate, if they want to make a change, it is not going to come from a Republican, it’s going to have to come from a Democrat.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Rich, it is sort of, I think, look, it's clear. Any time there's been one of these shootings, more people want to go and buy guns. I think the question is, are we having the wrong debate? Should it be about weapons of war versus guns? And if you divide the debate differently?

RICH LOWRY:

I don't get this debate at all. Because we have it after every mass shooting. And now a terror attack. And the proposals that are talked about almost always have nothing to do with this specific event.

This couple in California, they didn't get their guns at a gun show. They weren't on the terrorism watch list. They passed a background check. So you could do all of that, and it would have made no difference. And the idea now that we're going to fight terrorism through gun control I think is just utterly fatuous.

ELISABETH BUMILLER:

But they did have assault weapons. And, you know, there is--

CHUCK TODD:

Legally.

ELISABETH BUMILLER::

Yes, but there is a proposal to get rid of assault weapons. And, you know, that, a lot of Democrats ask and a lot of people ask, "Why is it necessary for people in this country, who are not in law enforcement, to have assault weapons?"

RICH LOWRY:

Well, the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the country. And as Rand Paul pointed out, California has rules against assault weapons. It's just those rules are inherently so technical and have to do with cosmetic features, you can easily get around them with any sort of semi-automatic rifle.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, this is not a debate we're going to end here. But the show has to end. I want to thank you all. It was obviously a very busy show. That's all we have for today. I wish we could go another 30, but my bosses won't allow it. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *