updated 4/7/2006 12:12:29 PM ET 2006-04-07T16:12:29

Guests: Phil Rogers, John Dean

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

Plamegate reaches the Oval Office.  Scooter Libby tells the court he leaked parts of a secret national intelligence estimate to “The New York Times” on the specific suggestion of Vice President Cheney, and with the specific authorization of the president.  Kind of puts his statement of September 30th, 2003, in an entirely different light. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information .  If somebody did leak classified information, I‘d like to know it and we‘ll take the appropriate action. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  David Shuster on the nuts and bolts, John Dean on the president‘s right to declassify stuff, if any.  Dana Milbank on the political bombshell; a bombshell diffused, perhaps.  Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is welcomed to the COUNTDOWN “Apology Hall of Fame.” 

The Bud Selig interview.  He won‘t rule out suspending any player caught in the Senator Mitchell steroids investigations.  He won‘t even rule out rewriting the record books, if necessary. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUD SELIG, MLB COMMISSIONER:  No one has done that before.  And, obviously that‘s a very, very, very difficult thing to do.  But I guess, Keith, the answer I would give to that, as I just did to Dan, is it will depend on what the senator comes up with. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And after yesterday on “Today,” what did our friends at “Today” come up with today for tomorrow on “Today”?  V for Vieira! 

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  The president of the United States was today placed for the very first time square in the middle of the chain of events that led to the outing of a covert CIA operative, the infamous Plamegate leak.  Our fifth story on THE COUNTDOWN, Scooter Libby testifying before a grand jury that he was given permission to leak sensitive intelligence information about Iraq directly to “The New York Times” indirectly from George W. Bush, according to documents filed in the case by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. 

Mr. Libby said he did not receive authorizations straight from the president himself, but chain of approval going from Bush to Cheney to Libby -- the Plamegate equivalent of Tinker (ph) to Everest (ph) to Chance (ph) Vice President Cheney telling his then chief of staffer early in July of 2003 that President Bush had given him authorization to talk to reporters about contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment, one that the president would be declassifying for just that purpose. 

It was during a subsequent conversation with “New York Times” reporter

Judy Miller on July 8, 2003, that Mr. Libby allegedly revealed the identity

of CIA operative Valerie Plame, who was outed later that month in a column

by Robert Novak. 

Mr. Libby‘s fingering of the president, described in court papers filed yesterday by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, who wrote, “Mr. Libby”—quote—“testified that he was specially authorized in advance to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE, National Intelligence Estimate, to Miller.  Why?  Because Vice President Cheney believed to be very important.  Mr. Libby further testified that he, at first, advised the vice president that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE.  Libby testified that the vice president had advised Libby that the president authorized Libby to disclose relevant portions.  If correct, the president‘s public statements about the CIA leak investigation would need to be viewed in an entirely different light.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I don‘t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information .  If somebody did leak classified information, I‘d like to know it and we‘ll take the appropriate action. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today‘s revelation barrels down at least three different tracks.  Ahead, the political fall-out with Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” and the legal implications with Nixon White House counsel John Dean. 

But we start with more on the allegation itself and correspondent David Shuster, who has been following this story for us from Washington.  David, good evening. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This has been reported everywhere today, with this caveat that there‘s no suggestion that the president did anything illegal.  Is that necessarily a valid disclaimer? 

SHUSTER:  No, it‘s not.  But I think what reporters are trying to get at is not the president‘s legal status, but rather the focus of Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.  And what he is focused on right now is Scooter Libby and whether he was honest in front of the grand jury, and then from there, Fitzgerald might build the case up the pyramid. 

The other issue I think reporters are trying to get at is trying to explain that the president does have the authority to decide where and when to declassify information, but in this particular case, the only people who knew about the president‘s decision to declassify the NIE were the president, the vice president and Scooter Libby.  Nobody else in the administration knew, nobody at the CIA knew about the president‘s decision.  I think that‘s where the president finds himself in some trouble, perhaps, with the public, but also with Congress. 

OLBERMANN:  David, is there any indication in that filing that the president authorized Mr. Libby to disclose in particular Valerie Plame‘s identity to anybody? 

SHUSTER:  No, there‘s no indication he specifically knew that Valerie Plame‘s identity was going to be revealed or even what her identity was.  However, the president clearly set in motion a chain of events.  And remember, at the time that the vice president told Scooter Libby about this authorization from President Bush, the vice president and Libby a few weeks earlier had already discussed Valerie Plame‘s identity. 

So at the very least, you can suggest that the president, by giving his vice president the authority to leak classified information through Scooter Libby, he set in motion a chain of events that essentially did learMDNM_d to outing of an undercover CIA undercover agent. 

OLBERMANN:  Also in his filing, Mr. Fitzgerald stated that he won‘t be calling Karl Rove or Stephen Hadley or George Tenet as witnesses at trial.  What does that mean and why is the vice president‘s name not on that list? 

SHUSTER:  Well, this is one of the big issues that a number of lawyers have been talking about today.  Federal prosecutors say that you don‘t usually call somebody to the witness stand if you are thinking about making them a target in a separate case.  And that would complain Karl Rove and Stephen Hadley, who clearly might have testimony, all from this particular case.  And they have both been mentioned in legal documents. 

George Tenet is not so related to the idea of did Scooter Libby testify truthfully about his conversations with reporters.  And for Vice President Cheney, there are two ways you can read this.  You can read this as yes, the prosecutors want to leave open the possibility, however remote, that Scooter Libby becomes a government witness who can put together a conspiracy charge that might involve Vice President Cheney.  Or the other way you can look at this is Scooter Libby‘s conversations with reporters, that is an entirely different matter than whatever sort of conversation he had with the vice president leading up to those disclosures. 

OLBERMANN:  And pertaining particularly to Mr. Libby, is there anything in this that changes the nature of the charges or the perception of the charges against him, that he indeed lied to investigators? 

SHUSTER:  Well, what it does is it seems to suggest that he‘s not going to get some of the documents, the pretrial documents, that he wants.  Scooter Libby in his pretrial phase has been arguing, look, if I made any mistakes at the grand jury, they were innocent mistakes, not intentional ones.  The information has suggested that Scooter Libby was focused on so many other issues during the summer of 2003. 

The prosecutors have come back and said, look, this other information is irrelevant.  And by the way, this was a central theme for Scooter Libby, because after all, Scooter Libby himself testified that he was told by the vice president you have the authority by the president to deal with this information and to leak it to reporters.  And the point that is being made is that this was a big issue for Scooter Libby and that tends to undermine the defense that he was preoccupied with other things. 

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s David Shuster.  As always, David, great thanks. 

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s also the question of what happens if the president did not actually have the authority to declassify documents in the manner that Scooter Libby describes?  Would that mean that Mr. Libby has—just to pick a phrase out of midair—left the president to twist slowly, slowly, in the wind? 

As mentioned, time now to call in Nixon White House counsel John Dean, also the author of “Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush.”  John, good evening to you.

JOHN DEAN, AUTHOR, “WORSE THAN WATERGATE”:  Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Would the president have the authority to declassify information like that at will whenever he might find it politically expedient to do so? 

DEAN:  There‘s no clean, quick answer on this, although I‘ve heard several today and—by a number of reports.  What you have is a national security classification system that‘s based on an executive order issued by the president.  It‘s a long practice, started back in 1935, and it‘s been followed—many amendments to it, reissues.  So the president can change the procedure, he can eliminate the procedure.  But there is also law, Keith, that says he has to follow the procedure once he puts it in place.  This followed no procedure. 

OLBERMANN:  David Shuster pointed this out, and it‘s been pointed out a couple of times here that—regarding the lack of procedure.  If the president did declassify this particular document, he apparently did so certainly without the knowledge of his CIA director at the time, George Tenet.  The former and current senior U.S. intelligent officials who we‘ve been talking to today said that Mr. Tenet was completely unaware that the president had declassified any of the agency‘s national intelligence estimate on Iraq, which seems to be backed up by the fact that Mr. Tenet promptly declassified this document himself 10 days after Scooter Libby had his conversation with Judith Miller. 

Even hypothetically, John, does a declassification count if your CIA director does not even know about it?  Are there not procedures, if not things written in stone, for this sort of thing? 

DEAN:  Well, under the executive order, a superior officer has the ability to declassify.  In this instance, obviously Bush is Tenet‘s superior officer.  But there‘s so many irregularities, and we have only sparse knowledge of what actually happened. 

The same thing happened with Stephen Hadley, the—who was then the deputy national security adviser, who was proceeding to get Tenet to declassify.  And Libby deliberately did not tell him that he leaked part of the information in it.  So they were playing on lots of levels.  And theoretically, that could raise questions about whether or not there was a true declassification. 

OLBERMANN:  Would this argument of declassification versus classification finally explain why the president and so many others in the White House have been able to claim that they did not leak classified information, that they believed the information was no longer classified at the time that they leaked it?  I mean, it‘s a kind of intelligence community version of President Clinton‘s “It depends what the definition of is is,” isn‘t it? 

DEAN:  That‘s—you know, I don‘t know if there were enough people aware of what had happened that they could draw that kind of a nuanced description of what they were doing.  Because the talking points went out, they were fairly wide, but I don‘t know who wrote those talking points and how fine they were slicing it.  That is one explanation that‘s a fairly perceptive one, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  From a legal stand point, John, could the allegations that Mr. Libby made to the testimony that he gave before the grand jury be not anything more than hearsay?  He said that the vice president said that the president said.  There does not seem to be a direct line to President Bush. 

DEAN:  It is pure hearsay, no question about it.  It is what—Libby is saying what he heard the vice president say about the president.  That‘s almost the definition of hearsay. 

But there are also a number of exceptions to the hearsay rule.  We don‘t need to get into them here.  But this, in short, Bush is still shielded by his vice president in this instance.  The charge by Libby is hearsay. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the next stage in this process for Mr. Fitzgerald the subpoenaing of Vice President Cheney. 

DEAN:  Well, I suspect Cheney is going to be testifying in the trial.  We know that Cheney has been interviewed by Fitzgerald as was the president.  We don‘t know what indeed was revealed in those interviews, and we don‘t know if they were under oath, on the record or how they were handled.  It‘s all a little fuzzy.  It‘s a possibility.  You know, the way it came out as a part of a response to a pleading suggests that no, this is not a new move.  It‘s just more of the same ongoing investigation, and that Libby‘s document demand flushed this up. 

OLBERMANN:  One last thing, John.  Amid all the uncertainty, there‘s one thing seems somewhat certain here.  The administration doesn‘t seem to be chastised by any of this, or the attention to it.  The attorney general, Mr. Gonzales, who‘s testified to a House Judiciary hearing today.  They asked him if the president had the right to order wiretaps on entirely domestic phone calls, nothing international about that, without a warrant, and he answered, I‘m not going to rule it out.  Your thoughts on that? 

DEAN:  Quite remarkable.  Quite remarkable. 

Obviously we have a commander-in-chief who believes that anything in the name of fighting terrorism he has the authority to do.  I would remind people who don‘t feel concerned about that, that a nation that loses control in the check on its the commander-in-chief is something other than a democracy. 

OLBERMANN:  And it‘s also a more practical and immediate reminder that that whole stuff about international versus domestic on the phone call definition seems to have been semantics at best. 

John Dean, the White House counsel to then-President Nixon, author of “Worst Than Watergate,” finewa.com (ph) columnist.  As always, sir, great.  Thanks for your time. 

DEAN:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, as promised, there is a political angle to all this.  Shocking, I know. 

Dana Milbank joins me.  And baseball‘s investigation into steroids.  Mr. Bud Selig speaking frankly talking about the possible punishments, even the prospect of getting out the eraser and changing the record books. 

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was President Bush himself who memorably said, fool me once, shame on you, fool me—you can‘t get fooled again.  Will the Democrats take today implication of the president and the classified leak and sell it that way during the election campaign this fall? 

Dana Milbanks joins me next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Charles Schumer hinting at the political ramifications of Scooter Libby‘s revelations.  In a letter to President Bush, quote, “The president said he‘d fire anyone who leaked this kind of information, but it now seems like he authorized those leaks in the first place.”  Probably not going out on a limb here by reading between the lines that the senator‘s implicating that maybe the president should be fired himself? 

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, how the implication of the president in the CIA leak affects the republic.  Where the investigation may prove complicated or nuanced, its function as a political issue, about as subtle as yellow cake uranium. 

And the pressure is already on: Mr. Bush dodging a shouted-out question on the Libby case after making a statement on immigration reform today.  Expect to hear a lot of more of that in the weeks and months to come. 

Joining us now, Washington post national political report, Dana Milbank.

Good evening, Dana. 

DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith. 

Just yesterday I was saying that Mr. Bush had sidestepped the Enron scandal, maybe the Abramoff scandal, certainly Plamegate.  I‘d like to say that the last part of my statement is no longer operative.  In your assessment, is this a directly hit politically, a glancing blow?  What is it?

OLBERMANN:  Well, as you‘ve already established tonight, it really isn‘t necessarily a direct hit legally, because there are all kinds of things the president can do, but as a political matter, the president is starting to sound like Louis in “Casablanca,” saying Major Strasser has been shot, round up all the usual suspects, when in fact he knew all along what was going on.  He is vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy.  And if Scooter Libby, I don‘t think it‘s too strong to say, that if Scooter Libby is telling the truth, then the president was lying.  So one of them has to be on the wrong side of the facts here. 

OLBERMANN:  We touched on this with John Dean.  But could it be explained in another way besides lying?  Is there a potential there that there‘s a miscommunication between President Bush and Vice President Cheney, or Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby?  Is there some other option? 

MILBANK:  Well, in a way.  And the president never, as far as we know, explicitly said to Cheney or to Scooter, you‘re authorized to leak the identity of Valerie Plame.  But if what Libby is saying is correct, the president was definitely encouraging the release of classified information, at the same time he was talking about what an offense this is to the security of the country. 

Now, his administration is going after journalists over the NSA leaks, over the secret prisons in Europe leak, over the APEC case, all of this enforcing to a degree we‘ve never seen before the laws about secrecy.  So this puts him in an awful position in terms of hypocrisy.

OLBERMANN:  Now it may be less “Casablanca,” it might be more like, who will rid me of this meddlesome National Intelligence Estimate?  He‘s already facing the censure motion over the NSA spying program, although it‘s likely it‘s not going anywhere. 

But given that potential lawbreaking and now this potential lawbreaking, is this the kind today—this stuff today, the kind of tangible evidence around which those Democrats were pushing to punish him, or even impeach him, might campaign on the midterms this fall.

MILBANK:  You can certainly believe they‘re going to campaign on it.  And obviously the president could ship nukes to Iran right now and this particular Congress isn‘t going to impeach him.  It doesn‘t mean that the Democrats necessarily have legal ground.  Once again, it‘s not clear that the president did anything illegal at all here but it‘ s certainly a campaign issue, and the Democrats now already are having dreams of possibly retaking the House and Senate. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the other side of the ball?  The Republicans, especially those who have been up for re-election, have been, if not overtly distancing themselves from the president, they have been standing a little bit further apart in the photo-op.  Are more Republicans going to see him as radioactive?  Are the Republicans as a party going to carry this through the fall? 

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s hard to measure.  When a president is in the 30‘s, as the president is in popularity, people are going to distance themselves regardless, so this gives them perhaps one more reason to do so. 

Now their one hope was that Cynthia McKinney would keep making headlines for them, but as pointing out earlier she seems not to be cooperating with them right now, so that‘s not looking good for them. 

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post,” giving a little plug for our later segment of the Countdown, Apology Hall of Fame.  Thanks for that.  As always, thanks for your insight.  Thanks, Keith.

Finally on this subject tonight, after seven people turned down the tempting prospect of becoming either senior management or the next director of FEMA, mainly out of concerns that the agency is irrevocably broken, the president decided to nominate as the new head the guy who‘s been doing the job already.  Acting director David Paulison will now assume the directorship permanently, unless he figures a way out of it.  No truth to rumors that the who originally propose plastic sheeting and duct tape as a defense against radiological terrorism had those materials used on him to make him take this job. 

And such finding required to get yourself a new co-host for The “Today” show.  Although after today‘s raunchy news conference announcing this hire, maybe that stuff will turn up recreationally. 

And there‘s this wild story going around that there are elephants out in front of our studio making off with the equipment.  Hey!  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in the year 1722, Tsar Peter the Great of Russia gave up the ghost on one of the least thought through tax reforms in his world history.  To hasten his plan to westernize Russia, Peter had a levied a 100 ruble tax on every Russian man who refused to shave his beard.  No record on what the fine was for Russian women.  But it just proves once again you can‘t superimpose on culture‘s values over that of another. 

So let‘s play “Oddball.”

Well, maybe you can superimpose one culture‘s values over that of another.  You are looking live at Thailand and the world‘s first ever cable-ready elephant, riding through the jungle with 179 channels of top notch programming plus HBO and—what?  Oh.  Sorry.  He‘s just carrying that satellite dish to a remote medical facility near the Myanmar border, where communications equipment is desperately needed to help treat the sick.  That‘s not very funny, is it?  Somebody bail me out here.  Huh, no?

Oh, there you go.  Rollerskating monkey from the Internet.  Look at him go!  Not sure where or when this was made.  We don‘t care, really.  When the Internet hand you a rollerskating, leaping monkey, you do not ruin the mood by asking a lot of stupid questions about where the tape came from.  Oh, just look at him!  Let‘s see Katie Couric put that on the “CBS Evening News.”

Finally to Oregon, where the fish hatchery at Bonneville (ph) Dam apparently has better security than most U.S. ports.  Caught on tape here, a stowaway sea lion trying to capture a free ride on barge in order to sneak past hatchery guards and get at the tasty fish inside.  The image and the big mantle captured by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after it made multiple attempts to sneak in for free lunches.  But they figure, a couple of months in Gitmo will cure him of that appetite. 

That puffed up creature in left field for the San Francisco Giants is not a sea lion, it‘s Barry Bonds.  Commissioner Bud Selig on the investigation into steroids use by Bonds and others leaves the door open for erasing any steroids-inflated statistics from the record books. 

And Barry Bonds may never make it to the baseball hall of fame nor the COUNTDOWN “Apology Hall of Fame,” but Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney just has.  We‘ll show you how and why. 

Those stories ahead, but first hear COUNTDOWN (INAUDIBLE). 

Beverly Johnson, once a bipolar homeless person jailed 20 times in Fort Lauderdale for trespassing and loitering and such, she‘s gotten treatment and she‘s also gotten some property from the a divorce settlement, so she‘s gone back to the jail in Fort Lauderdale.  She spent $1,641 dollars to bail out 24 homeless people, inviting many of them to stay in one of the apartments she now owns.  Six times she‘s done something like this.

Number two, Malcolm Fitzpatrick, curator of mammals at the London Zoo says he has had to retrain his squirrel monkeys after visitors started taking pictures and video of them with their cell phones.  The monkeys responded by taking the cell phones.  So next time you think you‘re standing next to some monkey on a cell phone, it could be worse.  It could be literally true. 

And number one, Mel Brooks, not only a comedic genius, but a business one, as well.  First he turned his movie “The Producers” into a stage musical, then he turned the stage musical into another movie.  Now he tells an interviewer next year he‘ll open on Broadway with a stage version of his movie “Young Frankenstein.”  To quote Peter Boyle from that film, “Super duper!”

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  A federal judge in Boise, Idaho, has become an unlikely participant in the investigation into the use of steroids by baseball stars.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, always remember you never know who that stranger you‘re talking to in the airport might turn out to be.  So, if you might be acting as a drug mule maybe you want to leave that out of the banter.

That and some frank talk about the possibilities of player suspensions and statistical erasures from the commissioner of baseball.  First here comes the judge.  “San Francisco Chronicle” reporting that Chief U.S.  Magistrate Larry M. Boyle of Boise wrote to baseball Commissioner Selig last week to tell him—or last month, rather, to tell him of an encounter he had in June 2002 with a man who said Barry Bonds was his best friend and client—best client.

He said Bonds had sent him from San Francisco to Minneapolis to help his close friend, Gary Sheffield, like Bonds implicated in steroid use in the so-called BALCO investigation.  Sheffield was then playing for the Atlanta Braves who were facing the Twins in Minnesota.  The talkative stranger says Judge Boyle was Greg Anderson.

Anderson was Bonds‘ personal trainer, allegedly his steroid provider and a man who just got out of federal prison after a three-month stretch for money laundering and drug conspiracy.  Anderson, Boyle wrote, told him -- quote—“He would reserve the hotel exercise facility and work privately with Sheffield on body mechanics, weights and also take a blood or urine sample, test it to determine if his body chemistry is what it should be and then give him nutritional supplements. 

Well, what are friends for?  Judge Boyle‘s letter will no doubt be turned over to the investigation committee just launched by baseball last week, chaired by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.  The Mitchell investigation was the focal point of a wide-ranging interview today as Commissioner Selig joined Dan Patrick and me on ESPN Radio. 

During it, Mr. Selig did not rule out punishments like suspensions for active players or even rewriting baseball‘s cherished statistical record books and said his bible on all of this will be Senator Mitchell‘s report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUD SELIG, MLB COMMISSIONR (via phone):  Senator Mitchell‘s report should be the facts that I use in making any future judgments, not what was -- not something somebody else determined.  I have to let the senator and his team of investigators do what they‘re going to do.  Then once I have the information, which incidentally, Dan and Keith will be made public.  That was part of the senator‘s request and I agree with it.  I think it should be made public.  There is no attempt here to be either subtle or disingenuous in any way here.  I mean whatever he finds they‘ll write up and this report will become public. 

DAN PATRICK, ESPN RADIO:  Are suspensions possible for those who...

SELIG:  You know, Dan, I‘ll be able to tell you once I have read the material.  I just can‘t tell you right now.  I don‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  Would you take the step conceivably of changing records, of going into the record book with an eraser?  No one has done that before.  Would you do it under the right circumstances?

SELIG:  No, no one has done that before and obviously, that‘s a very, very, very difficult thing to do, but I guess, Keith, the answer I would give to that as I just did to Dan is it will depend on what the senator comes up with.  That‘s—whatever it is, it will be the depth of what has happened which will determine in which direction that I will go. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now to provide some perspective on what Commissioner Selig said and where all this may be going now is Phil Rogers, national baseball columnist and reporter of the “Chicago Tribune”.  Phil thanks again for your time.

PHIL ROGERS, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Happy to do it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A lot of the criticism against the commissioner seemed to spring from the announcement of the investigation last week when he didn‘t say I‘ll suspend players if merited or I‘ll erase records if merited.  He also did not say those things precisely today but it seemed to me like he got a lot closer.  Is it fair to say anything and everything is on the table from his point of view? 

ROGERS:  Oh, I think so.  And that‘s kind of been my understanding all along.  I think you know there are a lot of people who to look at all the things you can‘t do and the statute of limitations.  But I thought when he announced the investigation he cited his article two powers, best interest of the game powers.  And to me by saying that, he‘s saying that unilaterally I can decide to do anything I want to do here.

OLBERMANN:  There would be new territory.  Obviously players have been banned, players have been suspended, there have been drug investigations of various kinds, there have been investigations about every kind of wrongdoing imaginable and some that have been unimaginable.  But we have never had—literally never had records actually altered or ignored in the baseball record book.  That is—that was something he wouldn‘t rule out today.  How would that—any idea how that would be done or under what—what those numbers would look like after they were dealt with? 

ROGERS:  Well that‘s a really slippery slope, I think, Keith.  And I know it‘s something that in the past the commissioner has really not wanted to strongly consider the asterisk or anything else like that.  You know the problem is, let‘s say you go back and you can positively say that in 2001 Barry Bonds was using banned substances, steroids and you can then go back and say Mark McGwire in ‘98 was doing that.  You know what about Sammy Sosa? 

What if you can‘t say he was doing it and I just think once you start eliminating guys, and you know I think you‘re talking about the single season homerun record with those three names.  To get back to Roger Maris and maybe you‘re talking about the career homerun record if Bonds does pass Aaron.  I‘m not sure he‘s going to pass Aaron because he‘s going to have to stay healthy and have to hit those homeruns in a hurry or suddenly have a lot of evidence disappear.  Because I think you know as you are advancing the story I think he‘s headed toward a suspension on the thing. 

OLBERMANN:  We also got a better idea in that interview what the Mitchell investigation is supposed to produce and what it‘s not going to do.  It‘s basically going to be Bud Selig‘s factual steroid bible.  It‘s going to be baseball‘s record book, if you will, on steroids.  If Barry Bonds used them and it can be proven it will be in there.  If he didn‘t or it can‘t be proven, it will be in there and then Bud Selig could hit people over the head with it as necessary and it will come out whenever. 

There was obviously a lot of fluidity that the commissioner referred to in that interview today.  It could be this year.  It could be next year.  Is there any guesswork even as to when this is going to come to pass? 

ROGERS:  You know, it‘s a broad scope but you got to realize a lot of investigation and work has already been done ahead of time.  When I‘ve talked to the commissioner he‘s been very careful to say he‘s not going to prejudge anything.  He wants us to be very fair.  Mitchell also made that point. 

But you know you can go back.  One of the members on the Mitchell committee, Carluji (ph), a former assistant state or fed in California was monitoring Bonds‘ situation in 2005.  He has all the access to BALCO.  You know you can go back pretty far and I think they already have a lot of evidence that they‘re starting with.  So I will be surprised if a report doesn‘t come out before the 2007 season starts.

I think we‘re looking at probably a one-year process.  I mean it could be open-ended and go on forever because you know one lead could lead you to another.  But he was careful when he announced it, the talk about BALCO, and I think that‘s still the—somewhat narrows the scope depending on what comes and presents itself to Mitchell and the others on the committee. 

OLBERMANN:  After Dan and I spoke to the commissioner today Dan asked me a question, who is going to testify to George Mitchell?  It probably won‘t be other players.  It‘ll probably be people like Barry Bonds‘ ex-mistress and anybody in trouble with the law who needs a recommendation letter to a judge or something.  But will it also turn out to be people like this magistrate from Idaho that I mentioned at the beginning here who ran into Greg Anderson on his way to deliver a package from Bonds to Gary Sheffield, people we don‘t know who know stuff? 

ROGERS:  Oh I‘m sure it will.  And I think they‘re going to be very careful, Mitchell and his committee.  I think they will talk to everyone but I think they‘re going to throw out a lot of people if they feel they have an ax to grind or you know something to gain by testifying against a person.  You know, you go back, the “New York Daily News” last year or two years ago reported in 1994 an FBI agent went to Kevin Howelman (ph), the head of security, to say some of your guys, your players are turning up in some of our investigations into steroids. 

You know they‘re going to go to that FBI guy and see where his now 10, 11-year-old leads go to.  You know, you had other steroid investigations, I think, where you‘re going to find players linked to.  That‘s the kind of information that they‘re going to start with and then just be open to whatever lands in their lap that‘s credible from the public. 

OLBERMANN:  Phil Rogers of the “Chicago Tribune”.  Ray (ph), thanks for your time tonight.

ROGERS:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, did they not wait for the body to get cold?  This is “Today” on NBC.  This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The news was no surprise.  The news conference—that was a different story.  Lesbians‘ backseat conceptions and the new co-host of the “Today” show.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  New job news conferences usually don‘t produce much news.  Occasionally you get something unexpected like the basketball coach hired by an eastern college 30 years ago who asked his new boss to stop the car on the way to the announcement, got out and said, I‘m sorry, I‘ve changed my mind and proceeded to walk back five miles to the airport. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN not quite that level of excitement as the “Today” show moved quickly to replace Katie Couric, but gosh, rather a lot of references to things being conceived in the backs of cars and lesbians for a news conference about morning TV hosts.  To no one‘s surprise, the chair next to Matt Lauer will go to Meredith Vieira, most recently “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and “The View” starting in September and at that time possibly rated PG-13. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To give you a little idea of how this whole thing happened, it truly was conceived in the back seat of Jeff‘s car last fall.  And I mean it.  It was a very special moment. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Conceived in the back of the car...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, Jeff offered to pick me up and drive me from “The View” to “Millionaire”, which is only a few blocks, and did not say why.  And in the car he mentioned—he asked really would you ever think about coming to early morning television to the “Today” show?  And I said, gee, I really thought you were going to skew a little younger, you know, since I‘m pretty old. 

And he said, no, I think you might be great.  And maybe you should think about it.  No offer, nothing like that, but just brought it up, and as the weeks progressed I realized that it would be the right thing to do.  I had the chance to meet Matt and I said at the time it‘s like going out on a blind date and you really like the guy, either because I‘ve been nine years with four women that I‘m just man crazy, become a lesbian, to get a guy, I don‘t know, but...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... I get the guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m thrilled, Meredith, to know that it was me or a lesbian. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that‘s great.  That blind date Meredith is talking about took place at my apartment, just the two of us, and we had dinner.  And I noticed that by the end of the evening we were giving each other a lot of grief.  And yesterday I talked to Meredith.  I was in my car driving back from Greenwich and I was in the car and I‘d had kind of a crazy day with the whole Katie CBS thing and I‘m on my cell phone and I said, you know listen, if, you know, if we get to do this tomorrow I‘ll come over to CBS to pick you up and...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can I tell the story? 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is this going to happen?  I‘ve gone through 10 years of this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought you just screwed up again.  I was trying to help you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I said CBS and hear in the back, Matt, Matt, I work at ABC you idiot.  And so that‘s the kind of relationship we have after one day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look, you work with somebody for 15 years and then somebody else comes along and you forget all about that other person.  No...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I also know you actually seem to be and I‘m excited to get to know someone who would be a great girlfriend.  And I‘m looking forward to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For a more sober update on another leading newsperson topping or list of celebrity and entertainment news and keeping tabs, “World News Tonight” anchor Bob Woodruff is at home receiving outpatient treatment for the horrific injuries sustained while reporting from Iraq.  ABC released this picture of him today, along with a message that he wrote to his colleagues quoting—“Though I know there is still a long road ahead, it‘s nice to be feeling more like myself again, laughing with family, reading bedtime stories, and reminding my kids to do their homework.”  Adding that all the messages of support he received from viewers—quote—“are a source of strength and a constant reminder of why I am putting all my effort toward getting back to work with you.”  There is no word yet on when that might be. 

And when “NBC Nightly News” picked up his Peabody Award earlier this year, Brian Williams called it an enormous honor, one he and our friends there now share with Cartman, Kyle and Kenny.  “South Park” has also won a Peabody.  We do not believe it was in the news category.

Awards director Horace Newcomb saying the show—quote—“pushes all the buttons, turns up the heat, shatters every taboo through the process of offending.  It reminds us of the need of being tolerant.”  He added that the committee also wanted an award on air flatulence. 

They had not given Representative Cynthia McKinney a Peabody, not yet anyway.  But for her, we have a nice second prize, induction into the COUNTDOWN “Apology Hall of Fame”.  That‘s next. 

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for “Worst Person in the World”. 

The bronze:  Tonight, Glen Limpal (ph) and Will Shortz, creator and editor of the crossword puzzle in Monday‘s “New York Times”, 43 down, clue, scoundrel.  Eight letters.  Answer:  Scumbag.  Creator Limpal (ph) said she had no idea that the word initiated as slang for a condom, actually slang for a used condom. 

Tonight‘s runner-up, Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania complaining that a challenger for his seat, former Navy Admiral Joe Sestak should have sent his daughter to a hospital in Pennsylvania or maybe Delaware for treatment rather than the one she went to in Washington.  Four-year-old Alexandra Sestak has a malignant brain tumor. 

But tonight‘s winner, I knew he couldn‘t stop himself.  After days of circumspection, Bill O. explained on the radio that if Hillary Clinton is elected president—quote—“The first thing bin Laden and his killers are going to do is say, oh, yes, this is good.  We like this and they‘ll test her.  What are you an Osama bin Laden spokesman?  Oh holy crap, I never thought of that!  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You might have not recognized her after she radically changed her hairstyle.  She might have not realized he didn‘t recognize her as a member of Congress, who was entitled to go around and not through the metal detector.  Either way, an incident between Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and a Capitol Hill police officer escalated into something that ended up before a grand jury. 

But in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, it may instead wind up ending up in the COUNTDOWN “Apology Hall of Fame”.  Last Wednesday, as Reprehensive McKinney bypassed a metal detector, the officer called after her, then grabbed her by the wrists, she turned around and socked him.  She called it racial profiling.  The police and a local U.S. attorney called it worthy of possible indictment.  The Republicans saw it as political gold, drew up a House resolution supporting the Capitol police.  Today the congresswoman let most of the air out of the rapidly rising political souffle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA:  I come before this body to personally express again my sincere regret about the encounter with the Capitol Hill police.  I appreciate my colleagues who are standing with me, who love this institution and who love this country.  There should not have been any physical contact in this incident. 

I have always supported law enforcement and will be voting for HR756, expressing my gratitude and appreciation to the professionalism and dedication of the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police.  I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all and I regret its escalation and I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But with something special—no doubt Representative McKinney was getting in that one last dig when she said there should not have been any physical contact in this incident.  But when you use the words regret and sorry, not to mention apology on the floor of the House, even if you offer up no tears, then you too are an easy choice to be inducted into the COUNTDOWN “Apology Hall of Fame”. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The past two years have been hard on all parties involved.  I pray with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives.  Again, I offer my deepest apology and I challenge you to read his book. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hire a hooker.  If you agree with this, just look at me and say yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry I did it.  I‘m sorry it offended people and I apologize to people that this has offended. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a mistake.  CBC News deeply regrets it. 

Also I want to say personally and directly, I‘m sorry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Personally I didn‘t think it would have offended anyone and...

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know if it did, you know, we apologize. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am sorry, so, so sorry that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I apologize to anybody that‘s been brought into this unnecessarily. 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I feel so bad.  That dancer (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the wrong song and I had no excuse, so I thought I‘d do a hoedown. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m sorry. 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And unfortunately the whole thing went wrong in the end.  I am really sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression.  I misled including even my wife. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m so sorry.  And I love my wife so much. 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior.  I don‘t feel superior to you at all.  I don‘t believe any man or any woman is superior to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you always hold that view? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think I did. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I feel really bad for Nancy and I feel really lucky that it wasn‘t me. 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What the hell were you thinking? 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think you learn in life pretty much what‘s a good thing to do and what‘s a bad thing.  And I did a bad thing.  There you have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sweetheart, who do you want to be when you grow up? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just like my daddy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Steve...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Poor little thing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me jump in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am sorry, Mack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, that I have behaved badly sometimes. 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That if some of my judgments were wrong and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the nation. 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Please forgive me.  I have sinned against you, my Lord.  And I would ask that your precious...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  You too can learn to do it at home.  I‘m sorry, but that‘s all we have time for tonight.  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,071st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night.  Good luck.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, “LIVE AND DIRECT”. 

Good evening, Rita.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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