Guests: Howard Fineman, Lance Williams, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Should the CIA be led by an Air Force general, or is that just a red herring? Wasn‘t Jimmy Carter‘s CIA chief a Navy admiral?
Are real questions being missed? Should the CIA be led by the sculptor of the wireless wiretap program? Should the CIA be led by John Negroponte‘s deputy? Real questions asked by leaders of both parties about CIA director nominee General Michael Hayden.
And the fish question. Asked the worst moment of his presidency by a German reporter, Mr. Bush said 9/11. Asked the best moment of his presidency, Mr. Bush said catching a seven-and-a-half-pound bass. Something lost in translation? Was he joking? Or was he right? Carter had Begin and Sadat, Bush had a big fish.
Will Patrick Fitzgerald get a big fish? A time frame on a decision on indicting Karl Rove appears to be at hand.
A new front in the war on reporters, the guys who broke the Barry Bonds steroids story now subpoenaed about where they got grand jury testimony. One of them, Lance Williams, joins us.
And Bonds moves to within one home run of Babe Ruth‘s total. When the Bonds fan who caught the ball asked him to autograph it, Bonds said no.
And them again. Yes, I know, I‘m sick of them too. Then again, he just gave her a $41 million prenup, even though his movie only grossed $48 million. Prenup, post-stardom.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM CRUISE: It‘s up to you how this goes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
One can only hope his command of the nation‘s premier intelligence agency would be a lot stronger than is his grip on the U.S. Constitution.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Michael Hayden, the creator of the domestic eavesdropping program, the Air Force general who displayed a shaky understanding of the Fourth Amendment at a National Press Club event in January, the man who insisted multiple times that that particular codicil to the Constitution does not include “probable cause.”
He is President Bush‘s pick to run the CIA, the general joining his commander in chief for this morning‘s announcement at the Oval Office, Mr. Bush describing the former head of the National Security Agency as a perfect fit for Central Intelligence, an agency being described as being in turmoil under Porter Goss and still reeling from the intelligence failures of 9/11 and Iraq, the Decider deciding that General Hayden is the right man for the job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike knows our intelligence community from the ground up. He has been both a provider and a consumer of intelligence. He‘s overseen the development of both human and technological intelligence. He has demonstrated an ability to adapt our intelligence services to the new challenges of the war on terror. He‘s the right man to lead the CIA at this critical moment in our nation‘s history.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: In the confirmation process, I look forward to meeting with leaders of the Congress, better understanding their concerns, and working with them to move the American intelligence community forward. This is simply too important not to get absolutely right.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: Winning that confirmation fight, no slam dunk, the battle over the general joined even before the announcement of the nomination itself, Republican lawmakers Sunday voicing concerns about the wisdom of having a military guy in charge of a civilian spy agency, NBC‘s David Gregory reporting Hayden may indeed retire from the Air Force to clear that up.
But there are still his ties to that controversial eavesdropping program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK,” ABC)
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think the fact that he is a part of the military today would be the major problem. Now, just resigning commission and moving on, putting on a striped suit, a pinstriped suit verses an Air Force uniform, I don‘t think, makes much difference.
REP. PETE HOEKSTRA ®, CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think he‘s done a very good job in the positions that he‘s had. He‘s had a distinguished career. Bottom line, I do believe he‘s the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time. We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, more fallout over at CIA itself, Porter Goss‘s appointment to the number three job at the agency deciding to retire himself. Kyle “Dusty” Foggo under investigation as part of the Duke Cunningham bribery probe, having already acknowledged that he was in attendance at some of those poker and possibly prostitute parties thrown by two defense contractors at the Watergate Hotel.
In a moment, “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman on the cascade of questions from both sides of the aisle about the Hayden nomination.
But first, the president nearly upstaged his own general with a fish story. Germany‘s largest newspaper, “Bild am Samtag,” a pro-American, pro-Bush outfit, interviewed Mr. Bush on Friday, posted the transcript in German early Monday morning, the White House posted it in English. In any language, it‘s a little fishy.
Reporter Kai Dykman (ph) asked simply, “What was the most wonderful moment, in your terms, of being president so far? And what was the most awful moment?”
President said 9/11 was the most awful moment. The best moment was, he said, “You know, I‘ve had a lot of great moments. I don‘t know, it‘s hard to characterize the great moments. They‘ve all been busy moments, by the way. I would say the best moment was when I caught a seven-and-a-half-pound large-mouth bass on my lake.”
On that note, let‘s call in “Newsweek”‘s chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman.
Welcome back, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
OLBERMANN: I‘ve got 33 questions about Hayden, but let‘s get the fish thing out of the way first. The president obviously wasn‘t serious, but he wasn‘t misquoted either, it wasn‘t mistranslated. He answered seriously about his worst moment as president. Why didn‘t he answer seriously about his best moment? And why does this weird joke seem to have resonated so strongly on the Web and on talk radio?
FINEMAN: Well, the first reason is, it‘s kind the mirror image of a couple of years ago, when the president was asked, in that famous press conference, if he‘d made any mistakes, and he couldn‘t think of any. Of course, that‘s when he was at 60, 65 percent approval rating. Now he‘s at 31 percent approval rating, and no mission is accomplished.
I think it‘s fascinating that he didn‘t say the war in Iraq. Of course, if he had, you know, that would have been even more of a cause for firestorms on the Internet.
The other thing that I—that struck me about it, knowing him, and having talked to him about fishing on that lake, or various lakes, is, I think he‘s thinking about that. I actually think he kind of wishes he were out there fishing right now. And he told me once, in the middle of the 2000 campaign, when things were going badly, he said, You know, if this doesn‘t work out, I‘d be just as happy sitting on my lake in a fishing boat fishing.
And for a guy who was out at Stanford not long ago talking about setting up his post-presidential think tank, I think in some ways, when you got a 31 percent approval rating, and things aren‘t going too well, you start thinking about what you‘re going to be doing after you‘re president. And I think that‘s sort of what he was doing.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And obviously it would be a fish tank as opposed to a think tank.
But let‘s turn to General Hayden, this parade of questions about the nomination. Is this either the worst idea this administration has ever had, personnel-wise, or does the administration see some sort of element of political lightning-rod, unify the party by picking a fight, some sort of element the rest of us can‘t see?
FINEMAN: Well, I think the first thing to know is that they thought this was the most qualified person at a time when they don‘t have many of them. Most experts and—who study and report about the intelligence community here in the United States say that it‘s a complete mess. And they‘re having a hard time organizing the organization that Congress told them to create, which is this vast national intelligence network.
You‘ve got John Negroponte, who‘s head of it. He‘s now bringing in Hayden at the president‘s request to try to make sense of the CIA and the whole rest of it.
So first of it is, the guy is skilled. Number two, the president really likes him. He‘s a regular guy. He‘s from a blue-collar background in Pittsburgh. He‘s a guy who understands how the press works. Hayden once even called me to talk about the Steelers, and I don‘t even cover security issues. So he knows his way around town.
And he‘s a tough guy. And he has some background in organizational management.
The key thing, though, is that politically, Karl Rove and George Bush see this as a fight they‘re willing to have. The Democrats want to fight about that spy program, that domestic spy program, Bush is perfectly willing to have that fight.
OLBERMANN: It‘s going to come down to that, right? I mean, the military status is basically a red herring. The CIA, after all, was essentially founded by Wild Bill Donovan, who was a serving Army general at the time.
FINEMAN: I think so. I think it‘s going to be—the nomination hearings are going to be a forum for people to argue about whether this domestic program, whether the spy program, domestic or otherwise, is in some way unconstitutional, if (INAUDIBLE) if constitutional mandates are not followed.
The Democrats talk a good game about this, and yet they have not put in a single piece of legislation to try to strip that out. They have not sought a direct constitutional confrontation with the president. Somebody like Russ Feingold in the Senate, who‘s thinking for running for president on the left wing of the Democratic Party, is going to make a lot of noises.
I think that Bush and Rove are saying, Come on, if you want that fight, we‘ll put this guy in a uniform from the blue-collar background, who has the experience, who‘s a tough guy on the war on terror, we‘ll put him up, you put up your person to take him on.
I think at a time when the president‘s approval ratings are so low, and Republican chances look dicey at best, the people inside the White House view this as a political winner.
OLBERMANN: The other question that I‘m wondering how quickly this gets raised, the idea he‘s currently number two to John Negroponte, at—as director of national intelligence. If he‘s confirmed, by osmosis, does that not make the institution of director of CIA nothing more than an assistant to the director of national intelligence?
FINEMAN: Yes. And I think that‘s the intention. The intention is to bring the CIA to heel. The problem is that the CIA internally is so demoralized that Hayden is going to have to do things to cheer people up before he puts them in their place.
And I think his plan there is to bring the old number two from the CIA back, a guy named Steve Kappes, who is really well regarded by the regulars inside the CIA, by the bureaucracy that rebelled at the notion of going to war at Iraq, and that has been demoralized and sensing being defeated bureaucratically and retiring and so on.
So that‘s what he is going to try to do. He‘s going to try to raise their spirits by bringing their old favorite number two back, and then he‘s going to say, Look, we are subordinate to Negroponte, and you‘d better like it.
OLBERMANN: Right, so he‘s got a new number two. He‘s going to need a number three. Porter Goss‘s guy left, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo.
FINEMAN: Yes, and so—we‘re so sad to see him go, too.
OLBERMANN: This, well, the ties to the Duke Cunningham thing, it‘s being spun as part of the White House extreme makeover, CIA edition. Is it, (INAUDIBLE) is there the chance that it‘s not as simple as that?
FINEMAN: I, I, I think, I think there, there, there, there, I know everybody is saying that this was long in the works, that Porter Goss was going to go, and that Mike Hayden was going to come in. I think that may be true, but I also think it‘s true that the investigations going on in and around the Foggos of the world, who are now fo-gone, you know, very much speeded up the process.
And Hayden is known as a clean-cut guy. People respect his morals, even if they‘re not sure about his gasp of the Constitution.
OLBERMANN: “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, grasp of all things, from fishing to the CIA. Great thanks for your time.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: From the shakeup at CIA, to the investigation into the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, another deal or no-deal date reportedly set on the possible indictment of Karl Rove.
And the grand jury investigating the leaked grand jury testimony in the Barry Bonds steroids investigation. Bonds is chasing baseball history. The government has decided to chase the reporters. They have been subpoenaed, and one of them, Lance Williams, will join us here.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: There are stories, possibly apocryphal, from the medieval Courts of Chancery in England of legal actions that took so long to resolve that they were passed down from generation to generation like property, or some really good axe (ph).
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, if Karl Rove hasn‘t thought of that analogy yet, somebody else probably has mentioned it to him. Or, they still have time to get around to it.
(INAUDIBLE), not a lot of time. An end of one kind or another may be in sight, “The Washington Post” reporting Plamegate special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is reviewing just one aspect of Mr. Rove‘s five appearances before the grand jury, namely, whether Mr. Rove testified falsely in February 2004 when he failed to disclose that he told “TIME” magazine‘s Matt Cooper about Valerie Plame‘s position at the CIA, that particular testimony coming only seven months after Mr. Rove had talked with Mr. Cooper.
Mr. Rove said he forgot, that the discovery of an e-mail about that conversation jogged his memory. Rove reportedly expects to know as early as this month whether Mr. Fitzgerald will indict him. We‘ve heard something like that before.
Check this one out. Let‘s call in MSNBC‘s David Shuster.
Thanks for your time, David.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What are you gathering on these two main points? Is the decision by Mr. Fitzgerald coming soon? Would it be an indictment?
SHUSTER: Well, Karl Rove‘s legal team has told me that they expect that a decision will come sometime in the next two weeks. And I am convinced that Karl Rove will, in fact, be indicted. And there are a couple of reasons why.
First of all, you don‘t put somebody in front of a grand jury at the end of an investigation, or for the fifth time, as Karl Rove testified a couple—a week and a half ago, unless you feel that‘s your only chance of avoiding indictment. So, in other words, the burden starts with Karl Rove to stop the charges.
Secondly, it‘s now been 13 days since Rove testified. After testifying for three and a half hours, prosecutors refused to give him any indication that he was clear. He has not gotten any indication since then, and the lawyers that I‘ve spoken with outside of this case say that if Rove had gotten himself out of the jam, he would have heard something by now.
And then the third issue is one we‘ve talked about before, and that is, in the Scooter Libby indictment, Karl Rove was identified as Official A. It‘s the term that prosecutors use when they try to get around restrictions on naming somebody in an indictment.
We‘ve looked through the records of Patrick Fitzgerald from when he was prosecuting cases in New York, and from when he‘s been U.S. attorney in Chicago. And in every single investigation, whenever Fitzgerald has identified somebody as Official A, that person eventually gets indicted themselves, in every single investigation.
Will Karl Rove defy history in this particular case? I suppose anything is possible when you‘re dealing with a White House official. But the lawyers that I‘ve been speaking with, who know this stuff, say, Don‘t bet on Karl Rove getting out of this.
OLBERMANN: It‘s like when the president calls you Stretch, you don‘t want that nickname.
In Mr. VandeHei‘s piece in “The Washington Post” described the scope of the Fitzgerald investigation as having really narrowed to whether or not Rove misled the grand jury about his conversation with Matt Cooper. Is it really that narrow? And if it is, does that, in fact, narrow the kinds of potential charges against Rove?
SHUSTER: Well, it‘s narrow as far as what prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been telling Karl Rove‘s attorneys. But and so in that case, you could be looking at possible making false statements or perjury or obstruction of justice.
But the big danger for Karl Rove is that prosecutors tend not to give you all of the evidence or information they‘ve collected against you. So if there is some testimony, some memos, some documents, some statements against Karl Rove that he was not aware of in his final appearance before the grand jury, that‘s where the possible problems for him could broaden, and where the investigation could be going as well.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s switch over to the ever-burgeoning and ever-growing Jack Abramoff investigation. Talk about something that may be passed down from generation to generation here. The former chief of staff to Representative Ney of Ohio has now pleaded guilty to conspiracy, Mr. Bowles (ph). His sentence is said to cooperate—or depend entirely on how much he cooperates. Is this going to advance our knowledge of what happened here? Is he going to cooperate?
SHUSTER: Well, he is going to cooperate, because that apparently is part of the deal. But what it means is, this advances the investigation that much closer to Bob Ney. Bob Ney has already been notified by the Justice Department task force that he is facing possible indictment. He‘s been notified officially he is a target.
And what this does is, this means that Bob Ney may learn the charges against him that much sooner, because Bob Ney was referred to as Representative Number One all over the criminal information that Bowles signed onto.
Again, it tightens, it squeezes Bob Ney in the sense that prosecutors can now go to Ney and say, Look, we‘ve already warned you that you‘re facing indictment. We now have the top witness against you, your former chief of staff. This is your last chance. Either plead guilty to a set of charges, or we‘re going to indict you.
And, by the way, this also broadens the investigation as far as anybody who dealt with Bob Ney, his friends, who were also friends with Jack Abramoff. Now that they have a captive witness in Bob Nay‘s former chief of staff, all of those questions now start to come into play. Were you dealing with Bob Ney? Did you have any contacts with Jack Abramoff?
Members of Congress who are in that circle, they are the ones who also have reason to worry tonight.
OLBERMANN: I guess we have to go do the research on what happens to Representative Number Ones in this, in these various investigations, in that case.
MSNBC‘s David Shuster on scandal watch for us again.
Great thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It was the British statesman Disraeli who described politics as climbing the greasy pole. Ah, but he never foresaw the sticky-bun goodness at the top of the greasy pole.
And if my producers think I‘m going to segue out of that into the latest Tom Cruise story they‘re forcing on me, they‘re goofier than I thought.
Marriage prenups, movie postmortems ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It‘s the 70th anniversary of the greatest comeback in sports. On May 8, 1936, jockey Ralph Nevis (ph) was killed during a race at the Bay Meadows track outside San Francisco, trampled by four horses after a terrible spill. Even after adrenaline was injected directly into Nevis‘s heart, he was declared dead and toe-tagged at the city morgue.
Half an hour later, horrified spectators at Bay Meadows, mourning the young jockey‘s death, saw Nevis running back onto the course, half naked, toe-tag still in place, insisting he was late for his ride in the eighth race.
That‘s a comeback. And he won five races the next day.
In his memory, let‘s play Oddball.
A race of a different kind. We begin in Hong Kong for Oddball‘s favorite event of the year, the exciting festival of dangerous climbing for bread products, that is, the big annual bun-snatching contest. It‘s annual, only in its second year back after a 26-year hiatus.
There was an accident, see, and also the celiac people complained. But it‘s much safer now, trust me, the rules are simple, just climb to the top of the 46-foot tower with a sack on your back, and begin carbo loading. The sweet, sweet buns at the very top are worth more, and the man with the most points wins this fabulous trophy, a Perspex (ph) obelisk with a bun stuck on top. So worth risking your life for, buddy.
Now, here‘s a big robot elephant. It‘s three stories tall, weighs 42 tons, is plowing through the streets of London like the Battle of Pelennor Fields. I bought that geeky “Lord of the Rings” reference for 49 cents off one of my producers.
Hundreds came out to see the big wood-and-metal pachyderm, which was built by a French performance-art company. The real lifelike elephant not only squirts genuine water out its trunk, but the guys covering the other end have got to drive a bucket-loader, if you know what I mean.
Finally, to Tokyo for the COUNTDOWN weird Japanese trend of the week, doggy massage parlors. Animal lovers are reportedly flocking to the dog spas these days to pamper their pooches with 15-minute rubdowns. They say the dogs get the same treatment the people customers get, to relax those achy muscles and speed up the blood flow. A little shiatsu for your Shih-Tzu.
Most of the pups don‘t seem to have any idea what is going on. They just know some woman is rubbing away their stress, and that‘s a happy ending to any dog‘s day.
Speaking of dogs, Barry Bonds hits his 713th home run and refuses to sign the baseball for his fan who caught it.
Meanwhile, the reporters who broke the Bonds steroids story are subpoenaed about the grand jury testimony they quoted. One of them, Lance Williams, joins us.
And how do you become a British lord? Simply polish your accent, pick a cool name. But for Lord Buckingham, the jig is up.
Those stories ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Lillian Asplund has died. And then there were none. She was the last American survivor of the sinking of “Titanic,” the last in the world who was actually old enough to have memories. She was 5 when it sank, 99 when she passed away.
Number two, Karel Randak of the Czech Republic. Now, this, this is how you should name the new guy to your intelligence agency. You know, this big televised ceremony, you promote the guy from colonel to general, and so he can keep actually working as a spy, you dress him up in glasses, a wig, and a beard so nobody recognizes him, which is what they did.
And number one, Dondi Bowles of Vermilion, Ohio. The latest perp in a seemingly endless series of guys who have been arrested for DLUI, driving a lawn mower while under the influence. On the sidewalk, no less, for those of you old enough to remember the comic strip of the same name, this is probably all explained by the fact that the guy actually answers to the name Dondi.
OLBERMANN: It was evidence from day one as two books broke open the scandal of Barry Bonds and steroids as major league baseball turned to a former Middle East peace negotiator and senator to investigate. The lone talking point in defense of bonds was sounded. What about investigating the reporters and where they got the grand jury testimony where that seemingly damns bonds?
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the other shoe has fallen in that. Somebody is now chasing reporters Mike—Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, just as Bonds is chasing Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. And the three men are now sharing something else: Subpoena.
Lance Williams joins us in a moment. First Bonds. On the platform of the Sunday night game of the week, he hit his 713th homer in Philadelphia, one shy of Babe Ruth‘s epic total of 714, 42 behind Hank Aaron‘s record of 755.
More on the ball and the fans and the fan that caught the ball in a moment, but about the reporters. Fainaru-Wada and Williams first quoted grand jury testimony from the steroid distribution in the “San Francisco Chronicle” in 2004 and then again in their new book “Game of Shadows.” Details of Bonds admitting he used stuff that he thought or said he thought was flaxseed oil. Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees admitting, after getting immunity, that he used performance enhancing drugs and knew it. On Friday, the two reporters received subpoenas to testify in federal court about just how they accessed those sealed grand jury witness statements. As the former deputy attorney general of the United States, Jamie Gorelick told the “New York Sun,” quote, “I‘m not aware of an ordinary leak case resulting in subpoenas of reporters. It may have happened but I‘m not aware of it.”
Regardless, an attorney for Bonds went back to the original talking point, quote, “We think it‘s about time.”
As promised, Lance Williams of the “San Francisco Chronicle,” co-author of “Game of Shadows,” joins us now.
And thank you for doing so, sir.
LANCE WILLIAMS, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: It‘s my pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Did you anticipate this turn of events? Do you have any idea why it‘s happening?
WILLIAMS: I don‘t, really. You know, those stories are a couple years old now and if I could be modest for a minute, they did tremendous good. We thought there was a public service component to the reporting, awareness of steroids and baseball‘s effort to clean up itself wouldn‘t have happened if we hadn‘t had access to this material and published it.
OLBERMANN: As an outside observer and—who works in the sports world I‘d have to agree with you 100 percent. About grand jury testimony, it‘s not black and white, as the way people seem to think of it in terms of secrecy. Any witness can voluntarily repeat in public what they said to a grand jury and since President Clinton‘s testimony was broadcast to the nation eight years ago the idea of the utter secrecy of the grand jury pretty much went out the window. Can you tell us anything? What you can tell us how you‘re going to respond to this or defend yourself from this?
WILLIAMS: Sure. My understanding is the government does not contend we did anything illegal. And, in fact, we didn‘t do anything illegal, we were just doing newspaper reporting. It‘s my understanding that the “Chronicle” and Hertz Corporation are going to move to quash the subpoena on first amendment grounds. We don‘t think there‘s a better example of why you need a reporter‘s privilege and confidentiality in certain circumstances than this case.
OLBERMANN: It has been suggested that what you‘re facing is almost unprecedented, as the quote from the former deputy attorney general suggests, but that there is a policy here being changed that doesn‘t have anything to do with the story or public good, but it has to do with the Bush administration. Do you think, in some sense, your case is now connected to the Matt Cooper case, to the Judith Miller case?
WILLIAMS: Well, some people have suggested that to me and I am confounded by that simply because the Plame case, that‘s national security, those are state secrets. In our case it‘s a story about sports and wrongdoing. There‘s no tremendous national interest at stake where you can have an argument about this so, I see them as different, but perhaps there‘s something else going on.
OLBERMANN: I mentioned Judith Miller, whatever else she did and didn‘t do, whatever the topic was relative to yours. She went to jail to protect a source, which is the idealized response by any journalist in this situation; any one of us would think we would do that. Have you contemplated facing that scenario?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. But, you know, we think we are going to prevail through the legal system. We think we have a strong argument for being allowed, in this circumstance, to protect our source because of the public good the stories have done. We think that far outweighs the harm to the court‘s procedures that may have occurred. So that‘s what I‘m pinning my hopes on. If they want to send me to jail for writing a true story in the paper, I guess that‘s where I will go. But I really don‘t think it‘s going to come to that in the United States.
OLBERMANN: Judith Miller might have said the same thing. Has there been any counsel to you or any suggestion that the world has changed, not necessarily for the better, on the subject of reporter‘s responsibilities, reporter‘s rights and the public right to know?
WILLIAMS: Well, perhaps it‘s changed. Or perhaps the cases are so different that you can‘t generalize. In any event, you know, we‘re a nation of laws. There is a first amendment and we think it will provide us some protection here. I am eager to have this tested, now that the subpoena has come to us. I would have much preferred to go on about my business, but here we are.
OLBERMANN: Well, if it comes to people asking whether or not it‘s had an impact on baseball and you need somebody to testify on your behalf in that point, count me in. Lance Williams, investigative reporter, “San Francisco Chronicle” co-author of the book “Game of Shadows.” Thanks for your reporting. Thanks for your time.
WILLIAMS: Thanks so much.
OLBERMANN: Meantime just as Barry Bonds is about to collide with baseball‘s obvious wish that he would not hit 714th homerun, he does something that makes it almost impossible to argue with that wish. No. 713 smacked an ad sign on the third deck on Philadelphia, landed in the pavilion level, into section 202 row 7 seat 24, to be precise about it. That‘s where 25-year-old Air Force service man Carlos Olivares, a Barry Bonds fan and a serviceman picked the ball up, hid it between his legs and prayed the Philly fans would not make him toss it back on the field in protest. He ended up keeping it and thought Mr. Bonds might be nice enough to sign the ball for him after the game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Are you going to sign today‘s ball?
BARRY BONDS, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS PLAYER: Am I? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Bonds would give Mr. Olivares only a photograph and that smirk, but he did demand that Olivares sign something for him, a release form allowing bonds to use that photo op in his reality TV series, “Bonds on Bonds.” Class all the way, Berry. Your one fan in Philadelphia catches that ball and you won‘t sign it. The rest of the Philadelphia crowd expressed itself in other ways. That enormous sign was made for Friday‘s game. If you thought that was a big one. Sunday‘s version of it read—well, it took a while to read it “Ruth did it with hot dogs and beer. Aaron did it with class. How do you it?”
That prompted a commentator, during the game to ask in defense of Bonds, “Wasn‘t beer illegal in Babe Ruth‘s day?” In fact it wasn‘t. The 18th amendment banned the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors, but never anything about making drinking them illegal.
Another question, is this Lord Buckingham of England or just a missing Beatle‘s fan from Florida?
And when the prenup costs you almost as much as your new film has grossed on opening weekend, you either need a new agent or new wife. Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top Three Sound Bites” of this day:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every shopper seems to have a theory on why the Doughboy disappeared. After 20 years watching over the Pillsbury products from his perch above the croissants and biscuits at Market Basket, Poppin‘ Fresh was doughnapped. Almost every day new clues arrive in the mail.
Messages and pictures of the 4-foot-tall Styrofoam Market Basket mascot. The first showing the dough boy blindfolded, then buried up to his neck in sand with a message. “If you close the store, the Pillsbury Doughboy will be baked.”
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) bring a message of great hope, there‘s life after English (INAUDIBLE). I know the professors who taught me English marvel at my way at words.
Michael WILLIAMS, WTVJS REPORTER: We‘re climbing it up to 500 feet per second. It‘s a 5g climb, so hard and so fast I‘m feeling five times the normal pull of gravity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we‘re pulling.
WILLIAMS: Huh-uh huh-uh.
(voice-over): Yep. I blacked out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can hear me? Put it in 1428, man.
WILLIAMS (on camera): I‘m sorry, what?
OLBERMANN: For 20 years he convinced his wife, his kids, and the British public he was really Lord Christopher Buckingham, actually turns out he‘s not even English. And unfortunately for the people behind “Mission: Impossible III” apparently that is the real Tom Cruise. That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: For 23 years he has claimed to be an English lord named Christopher Buckingham, nobody, not his wife, not his two children, not anybody else who heard that ordinary nature of that name thought to question his identity until authorities stumbled on the truth entirely by accident. He‘s not an Earle, he is not a Buckingham, he‘s not even a Christopher. As Dawna Friesen reports on our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, is he about as British as Disney World.
DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years he lived as a British aristocrat, his family crest proudly embossed on his stationery, Lord Buckingham. Educated at Cambridge, his British accent was flawless. Then in January of 2005, while taking a ferry from France to Dover, British immigration officers ran a check of his passport. They were shocked. His details matched those of a baby with the same name who died in 1963. It had all been a lie. As in the movie “The Day of the Jackal,” He was an impostor who‘d stolen a dead child‘s identity. He was convicted of passport fraud and jailed in this Kent prison. The man who claimed to be Christopher Buckingham had fooled everyone, including his British wife and children.
JODI BUCKINGHAM, STOPFORD‘S WIFE: I never, ever thought that he wasn‘t who said he was.
FRIESEN: They began searching his belongings and found a replica James Bond gun and more alter egos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hans Peter Schmidt.
FRIESEN: And then last week, a breakthrough. An American family recognized him and today police matched his DNA with an American Charlie Stopford, a former Navy intelligence officer who disappeared from Orlando in 1983 after he was convicted for trying to blow up his boss‘s car.
CHARLES STOPFORD, STOPFORD‘S FATHER: We didn‘t know where he gone. It‘s been 23 years of worrying and concerning and deeply hoping that someday we could find him.
FRIESEN: He was, his father says, fascinated by things British, especially Beatles and was a perfect mimic of the British accent.
(on camera): All along Stopford has remained silent, refusing to reveal how and why he assumed a dead child‘s identity and since his arrest, he‘s refused to speak to his own children, returning their letters unopened.
LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM, STOPFORD‘S DAUGHTER: It‘s just a big let down when you find out your dad has been lying all your life.
FRIESEN (voice-over): But why he did it, only he knows. He‘ll take his secret back to the U.S., where it‘s expected he‘ll be sent soon. Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London.
OLBERMANN: From head cases pretending to be British to a Brit with a case of something wrong with his head. That, the segue into your roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” Keith Richards released from the hospital again, this time after surgery. The 62-year-old Rolling Stones‘ guitarist had successful surgery at Ascot Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. According to his publicist, he is, quote, “already up and talking with his family.” Do you mean talking or kind of mumbling in the way we—rest of us don‘t really understand? The procedure, not acknowledged by the publicist, but widely reported to drain a small blood clot from Richard‘s brain he had reportedly fallen from a palm tree while on vacation in Fiji last month and originally diagnosed with only a mild concussion. Richards‘ publicist said he will need a few weeks recuperation. There will, therefore, be a delay of the European leg of the Rolling Stones latest concert tour, but they will not be renaming it from “A Bigger Bang” to “Oh Good another Hole in my Head can I Smoke Stuff Through.”
And perhaps a book tour is not far off Valerie Plame Wilson. She has agreed to write her memoirs. Former CIA covert officer has signed with Random House for a little more than $2.5 million, according to those familiar with the bidding war. The senior vice president and publisher of Crown, the imprint at Random House, Steve Ross, says that Ms. Wilson will write about her actual role in the intelligence community, particularly in the build up to the Iraq war. Publication is set for fall of 2007. Ms. Wilson, he says, “has been this mysterious woman at the very eye of the major storm and the concentric circles keep widening.” Wilson has already submitted a 50 page outline with sample material the working title with words supposedly said to her to our own Chris Matthews “Fair Game.”
Talk about deals. The prenup that Katie Holmes gets whether she Mary‘s Tom Cruise or she does not. Is that a prenup or a pre-prenup? That‘s next, first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person of the World.”
The bronze goes to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee—Dr. Senator Bill Frist. He put secret amendment into a defense bill that shields manufacturers of vaccines from lawsuits claiming negligence or recklessness, you know, like if the vaccine hasn‘t been tested enough and say it kills you. Turns out the amendment was composed for Senator Frist by a trade group representing—guess anybody? Vaccine manufacturers!
The runner up Michelle Malkin complaining about the Texas Rangers baseball team celebrating Cinco de Mayo by wearing uniforms that read for that night only “Los Rangers.” She wrote of the selective political correctness. “Can you imagine,” she wrote, “if someone proposed changing the Ranger‘s jerseys to confederate Rangers to celebrate confederate hero‘s day?” Well, apart from that little sticking point that the confederacy was pro-slavery and in revolt against the legitimate government of the U.S., confederate hero‘s day happens to be celebrated on January 19th, not the time of the year they play baseball, a fact that even the uninitiated could check on the Internet in about half a second, nitwit.
But our winner, somebody at the U.S. Army recruiting station Corporal Ronan Ansley (ph), from the south district of Portland, Oregon. That‘s who signed up 18-year-old Jared Guinther. Nothing against him wanting to sign up, ordinarily that‘s his right, nothing against them recruiting him, ordinarily that‘s their right. Nothing against them signing him, ordinarily that‘s their right, too. Except they signed up Jared Guinther and are sending him to basic training in August even though he is autistic. Corporal Ronan Ansley (ph) at the U.S. Army recruiting station in Southeast Portland, Oregon, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: Ah, some more validation. Turns out I‘m not the only who is sick to death of Tom Cruise. Thousands of moviegoers nationwide, who didn‘t show up at theatres to see his latest film this past weekend, agree with me. Unfortunately, that still isn‘t enough to stop my producer, who may need forced trips into some kind of Cruise news detox rehab from forcing me to cover it as the No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, no less, again.
“Mission: Impossible III” garnering $48 million on opening weekend, sounds like a lot, but it‘s $2 less than the studio expected, $10 million less than “Mission: Impossible II,” only narrowly beating “Scary Movie 4” in opening take. Well, given the star, it might have done better if the studio had called it “Scary Movie 5.”
Word out of a British newspaper, meanwhile, that Cruise has finally settled on a prenuptial agreement with fiancee Katie Holmes—sorry, Kate Holmes, now—for $41 million. She‘s already been given a $15 million trust fund for her and their newborn daughter, Suri, even if she never marries him. If they get married and then divorced she‘ll get $26 million. The wedding is now reportedly set for July, which gives Ms. Holmes only two months to shed the 40-pounds of baby fat Cruise apparently thinks she needs to get rid of before they walk or skip down the aisle.
There‘s only one person to turn to for tomcat news, the inestimable Michael Musto of “The Village Voice.”
Thanks for joining us again, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with the prenup, or is it really that? She and the kid get $15 million even if they never even get married. That‘s not a prenup anymore, is it? That‘s just a carrying charge?
MUSTO: Prenup? I thought she was a preoff (ph), oh, prenup, yeah, yeah, it is a prenup. It‘s amazing, whatever it is. It‘s like we‘re going to cover you whether you‘re married, divorced or single, no matter what. It‘s an incredible deal. There‘s just one catch, you‘re going to be stuck with Tom Cruise and you‘ll be an international laughingstock. Happy, whore? I kid.
OLBERMANN: Wow. What about polygamy? Is polygamy covered in this whole thing?
MUSTO: Everything‘s covered no matter what. Even monogamy is covered.
OLBERMANN: Wow, the whole package, $41 million. It seems like it‘s a large amount of money, but is this the normal range in Hollywood, or what?
MUSTO: Yeah, I mean, to put it in perspective it‘s not even what “MI3” made at the box office over the weekend. And that‘s such a bomb that Bush is thinking of dropping it on Iran. Even more damaging if he‘s thinking of showing it. Katie, I think, needs a new agent. So, to be fair, thank you for smoking. Unlike “MI3” has turned a profit mainly out of morbid curiosity. And at least, thanks to this deal, which is pretty decent, Tom will never even think of marrying her. He‘s not going to want to shell out that divorce money, so she‘s pretty safe as a single mom with a traveling dad who is going to have $15 million to spend on flat shoes. Good deal.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, so, he‘s—she‘s going to go with the buyout, in other words, the short deal? OK.
MUSTO: She has no choice, yeah.
OLBERMANN: Now, I was asked this question on the radio and I wasn‘t sure how to answer it delicately yet truthfully. What could possibly, if they get married, what could possibly go wrong with this marriage? I mean, you know, another woman? How is this question correctly answered, Michael?
MUSTO: Yes, another woman could come and steal Katie away, that‘s quite an option. But I think everyone should just chill out (ph), Katie is not going to forfeit the $15 million. Don‘t worry, it‘s not going to happen. Is that gracious enough?
OLBERMANN: Yes, it is.
OLBERMANN: Jeanette Walls, the excellent reporter from msnbc.com, reporting here that cruise forked out $900 for some pink flowers in a special vase, as a Mother‘s Day gift for the bride to be. I thought, did I get it wrong, Mother‘s Day is next weekend, not this past one or is there a different in the Scientology calendar that we don‘t know about?
MUSTO: Look, if Scientology says Mother‘s Day was last weekend, it‘s last weekend. Any argument? They also say Christmas is L. Ron Hubbard‘s birthday and crucifixion day was the day “Battlefield Earth” came out. Oh, those horrible critics. Said Easter, the resurrection was when Tom met Katie, and of course, Valentine‘s Day was when she got, what was it again, oh yeah, $41 million. Who needs peonies in a stupid vase? She could buy the whole floral shop.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. A $900 gift with a $41 million prenup, suddenly seems cheap. Doesn‘t it?
MUSTO: She bought a new name: Kate.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. What‘s with that, by the way. I thought Katie was a more popular name than Kate.
MUSTO: She‘ll go back to Katie, trust me.
OLBERMANN: Because she won‘t remember, the change?
MUSTO: The public will resent her and she won‘t remember, she‘ll be brainwashed.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. As to this film. Again, $48 million seems like a lot of money, except the expectations have been 50 to 70. There were eyewitness accounts of Scientologists buying up hundreds of “Mission:
Impossible” ticket at a theatre in Los Angeles over the weekend, but the rest of the country didn‘t buy them up. Was the movie concept worn out here, could that be the explanation or is it just Tom Cruise‘s welcome with the public that‘s warn out?
MUSTO: Both. But look, there was tough competition at the box office. “Hoot,” “Lucky Number Slevin,” “The Bench Warmers,” you know, and to be fair, “MI3” did better than “Far and Away I.” But, no you‘re right. The franchise is worn out, nobody wants a 43-year-old running with that toothy grin, playing (inaudible). It‘s ridiculous. For “MI4” they should slash the budget to $150, not $150 million and just have Tom running across the screen with Katie manually changing the slides and, of course, baby Suri can costar for free. Tom can play Ethan running from the bundle of joy, as he did in real life.
OLBERMANN: Now, even if the moviegoers did not love Tom Cruise, he can take comfort in the fact that his ex-wife does, we have a quote from Nicole Kidman to the “Associate Press,” “He was lovely to me and I lived him, I still love him,” end quote. That‘s three “loves” in one sentence. This is a woman who still calls their divorce a major shock, yet still loves him and now Katie Holmes reportedly in response to the Cruisian request that she has to be the most beautiful bride ever, is on this crash diet to lose all the weight before wedding day. What—I mean, when you become a 38th level Scientologist, do they give you a super convincing ray or what? How does he do this with these women in his life?
MUSTO: First of all, Katie needs to lose 160-pounds, namely, Tom Cruise. But no, Tom does have a spell over these women. They love being taller than him, they love being better actors than he is, they love getting famous through him, they love the red ribbon. Oh, that‘s Kabbala. But there is one thing they really love, now what is it again? I can‘t—oh, yeah, $41 million. Or even $15 is OK.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right, the discount prize, the consolation.
MUSTO: It turns them into Godzilla, they don‘t care. Just give me the $15 million.
OLBERMANN: Then you also—not only you get that $15 million, you also home version of the Tom Cruise game on the way out.
The one and only Michael Musto, always helping us make sense out of the senseless headlines of celebritydom.
MUSTO: Call me Kate, thank you.
OLBERMANN: Yes, thank you, Kate.
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,103rd day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Scarborough Country.”
Joe, good evening.
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