updated 12/15/2006 11:01:30 AM ET 2006-12-15T16:01:30

Guests: Gerald Posner, Jeffrey Ross

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

The health of the Democratic senator from South Dakota, and thus the health of the incoming Democratic majority in the Senate.  What may be just the first brain surgery for Senator Tim Johnson, a reported success after bleeding from a congenital condition that causes vessels in the brain to become enlarged and entangled.  The next 24 hours critical to his recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  He really looks good.

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OLBERMANN:  No expectation he would resign, even if not fully recovered.  But if he‘s absent during recovery, the Senate effectively goes from 51-49 to 50-49.

The Dems go ahead with plans in both houses for the I-word, investigate, a congressional panel to examine the administration intelligence budget.

It used to be the first stop on the presidential campaign trail was New Hampshire, now it‘s Iraq, John Kerry going, Chris Dodd going, John McCain, already gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  The situation, in my view, remains serious.  It requires us to have an injection of additional troops on the ground in order to bring the situation under control, in order that the political process may proceed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Theirs, or ours?

Is the process finally over in the inquest?  Can we finally let the poor princess rest?

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This was a tragic accident.

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OLBERMANN:  Holiday time, the contribution to your Christmas party from the boys at JibJab, “Nuckin‘ Futs!”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Remember when Dick Cheney shot that fun guy in the face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But if you need more in person, Dana Carvey will attend your Christmas party for $100,000, Ken “Eddie Haskell” Osmond for $5,000, and for $4,000...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good evening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Of course, if you‘re Republicans, I think John McCain will show up for 20 bucks.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Fa-la-la-la la...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Senator Tim Johnson has not required additional brain surgery since the initial operation last night, and the attending physician at the U.S.  Capitol, Admiral John Eisold, says that the senator‘s recovery suggests, for now, at least, that he will not need any further surgery.

Thus the fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the health of the senator and of the 110th Congress slightly clearer this evening, the top concern for all involved, of course, remaining Senator Johnson‘s condition, the South Dakota Democrat said to be recovering without complication from that successful operation late last night at George Washington University Hospital, the Capitol physician, Admiral Eisold, saying in a statement earlier this evening that Mr. Johnson has continued to have an uncomplicated postoperative course, specifically, he has been appropriately responsive to both word and touch, late word that he has, as of this morning, been reaching for and holding his wife‘s hand, that in a statement from his wife, Barbara Johnson.

As a result of all this, Admiral Eisold says tentatively, it looks like no further surgery would be required.

The diagnosis, not a stroke, not even clinically an aneurysm, rather, bleeding in the brain, the result of a condition known as arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, in which the arteries end up delivering their fast-flowing blood into veins instead of into tissue and capillaries.  The danger comes when the pressure causes veins to rupture.  It is congenital.  He was born that way.

Among those at Senator Johnson‘s bedside today, the current majority leader of the Senate, Republican Bill Frist, himself a doctor, of course, and the man who would presumably assume Frist‘s old post next month, the Democrat Harry Reid, Senator Reid refusing to say anything about his colleague‘s condition today, not even whether he was conscious or, perhaps, in a medically induced coma, as for what he would say, Senator Reid leaving the impression of being either seriously upbeat or in serious denial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY REID:  I was in his room with him.  He really looks good.  Best

care.  It was perfect.  This (INAUDIBLE) unit that they have at Georgetown

George Washington—is just superb.

There isn‘t a thing that‘s changed.  The Republicans selected their committees yesterday.  We‘ve completed ours.  We—I‘m—I have a very busy schedule today, going ahead and getting ready for the next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For the very latest, we‘re joined now from the Capitol by our Capitol Hill correspondent, Chip Reid.

Chip, good evening.  Thanks for your time.

CHIP REID, NBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith, glad to be here.

OLBERMANN:  What more do we know about Senator Johnson‘s prognosis? 

Do we have any idea at this point how long he could be out?

REID:  We don‘t.  We do know it could be a very long time, but I‘ll tell you, doctors are all over the map in trying to predict how long this could take.

But we are getting a bit of a flurry of good news late today.  Things had been pretty grim before that, but as you mentioned, his wife, Barbara, issued a statement saying that he had reached out for her and held her hand.

He is not yet speaking, as we understand it, but we do understand that he is responding to voices, to her voice, and to other voices, blinking his eyes in response to those voices.  He can, to some degree, move his limbs.  And we are talk—we have talked to some people who have been in the room who say they are very encouraged, especially late today, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As it goes further here, Chip, there‘s a level of precedent.  Most recently in 1998, Senator Joe Biden was recuperating from brain surgery, which kept him out of the Senate for seven months.  Senator Clinton just invoked that in a conversation with me not an hour ago.

But in any previous case, has the control of the Senate or the House ever rested really on a stricken member‘s ability to maintain his or her seat?

REID:  No.  As far as we know, this is unique.  That‘s why it is such an extraordinary situation.  And that‘s why we‘ve been running out these scenarios ad nauseam here.  And I‘m sure it‘s very difficult for the family and others to listen to this.  And some senators, one accused me today of being ghoulish.  And it is our job to be ghoulish sometimes.  We do have to run this stuff out.  And because so much is riding on this, it is important for people to know what‘s going on.

Now, I should say, there have been some dramatic situations in the past.  For example, back in 1964, there was a senator from California who was carried into the chamber to vote on a civil rights bill, and pointed to his eye to vote Aye.  But never one with this much riding on it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and to one point you made there, I think it‘s important to address it.  I mentioned this last night, that we are all, to some degree, sounding like ghouls about this.  And to the degree that that is inappropriate, I‘ll apologize for everybody, again.

But say we have a positive outcome here healthwise, the senator recovers fully, and says, Look, after this, I want to spend the rest of my life with my family, I‘m going home.

It underscores the role of the South Dakota governor, Mike Rounds, in all this, should it fall on him to fill Senator Johnson‘s seat.  How soon before this becomes the political topic of the moment, that he was, or is, widely considered the front-runner to challenge Senator Johnson in 2008, in South Dakota?  Could it complicate his decision?  Could he, in fact, take himself out of running for a Senate seat by appointing another Republican?  Could he wind up somehow appointing himself?

REID:  Well, let me say, first of all, of course, we all hope that this is just a theoretical discussion, and we never get to that point.

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.

REID:  But if it does, as far as I know, there‘s nothing to keep him from appointing himself.  It‘s certainly happened in other cases in the past across the country.

There had been some talk that maybe he would feel obligated to appoint a Democrat.  I don‘t think so.  He has had to appoint people before, not to a position of this kind of importance, but to appoint people to vacancies, and he has picked people from his party, even in Democratic districts.  So I think it is widely expected he would pick a Republican.

But I‘ll tell you, if he felt obligated to pick somebody other than himself, that would be a real downer for him, because he may well be looking at and champing his bit at running for that seat.

OLBERMANN:  One last question about the presumption of the Senate disabled list.  What happens if Senator Johnson is not present, which we would presume would be the case, for the organizational votes when the Senate reconvenes in January, convenes, in this case.  Are the Democrats at risk for a filibuster because they (INAUDIBLE) would only conceivably have 50 votes and not 51?

REID:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think the Republicans would play that kind of hardball.  And certainly there is a history of incapacitated members being given the benefit of a doubt, and not—the other side not trying to take advantage of that situation.  I would be surprised if something like that happened.

OLBERMANN:  Correspondent Chip Reid at the Capitol.  Chip, as always, good to talk to you.  Thanks for your time.

REID:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  In the House, some 30 Democrats would have to experience health crises before the balance of power there would be threatened, as such, Democrats in that chamber proceeding with the sculpting of their power for next month, the key word for how the incoming leadership is planning to do things differently being oversight, Democrats not only planning to assert more control over the billions of dollars a month being spent on the war in Iraq, incoming speaker Nancy Pelosi also taking the unusual step of creating a new House Intelligence Committee that would oversee funding for the nation‘s major spy agencies, the current Congress‘s complete whitewash of the Foley inquiry this week also raising the bar for new standards about ethics.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), INCOMING MAJORITY LEADER:  We‘re going to subject every decision to the—every manifestation of this House to the harshest scrutiny, whether it‘s the page board, whether it‘s the ethics process, whether it‘s smoking in the speaker‘s lobby—whatever it happens to be, to look at it and say, We are responsible for this, these decisions have to be those that have a consensus, and also will, again, uphold the highest ethical standard.

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OLBERMANN:  From his perch on the Government Reform Committee, Congressman Henry Waxman has spent the last six years investigating the White House on everything from military contracts to Medicare prices.  From his new perch as chairman of that committee, Chairman Waxman was saying that the biggest challenge he is facing is picking and choosing what to probe.

Time now to call in our own David Shuster at the MSNBC headquarters in Washington.

David, good evening to you.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Based on what we‘ve heard from the Democratic leadership today and so far, sounds like the exactly the kind of oversight that we have not seen on Capitol Hill for the last four years, maybe the last six.  Is the White House worried, or should the question be, how worried?

SHUSTER:  Well, they should be very worried.  I mean, first of all, the dirty little secret in Washington—and it‘s really not so little, and it‘s really not a secret—is that the $8 billion a month, for example, that is being spent in Iraq, there is no oversight on that money at all, no oversight as far as the feeding of the troops, the energy, the subcontractors, how much the military really needs, how much is being used for former Iraqi exiles who presumably should be back in Iraq but some of them are not, and are still getting tens of thousands of dollars.

All of that is going to be sort of the proverbial worm under the rock that the Democrats are going to turn over.  And at a time when the Bush White House is preparing to ask for another $120 billion to pay for the war through September, the Democrats are going to be able to use that opportunity and twist it on the White House.  They‘re not going to hold the money back, but they‘re going to be very tight, and they‘re going to essentially embarrass the White House as far as how the White House has been spending this money and the lack of any accounting principles to it.

OLBERMANN:  It the wake of the speaker-elect‘s news conference today about her immediate plans for the new session, are the grumblings coming not from the Republican side but from the Democrats, perhaps, that the agenda is not ambitious enough, that these do not meet the incredibly high expectations of not merely the people who put them there, but the people who are going there?

SHUSTER:  Well, there have been some grumblings by Democrats who would still like to go back and revisit how the war was sold to the American people.  And there have been some complaints that the Democrats don‘t appear to be headed in that direction as far as investigations.

But strategically, they really don‘t need to, because you remember that the Scooter Libby trial begins in January.  Here‘s a guy, the vice president‘s former chief of staff, who‘s accused of essentially lying about an administration critic who was criticizing how the administration sold the war.  That issue is going to be front and center in a Washington federal courthouse.

So that‘s going to be in front of a lot of people, even if the Democrats don‘t want to look back and look at, Well, how was this war sold, the shifting justifications for war.  Some of that, some of that is going to come out in this trial anyway.

OLBERMANN:  Might it also come out in the areas beyond oversight, with the—specifically in terms of potential for investigations?  Do we have any idea who might get the first subpoenas?  Who should be the most worried in that front?

SHUSTER:  Well, actually, the people who ought to be the worried the most are the vice president‘s former colleagues over at Halliburton.  Henry Waxman‘s made absolutely no secret that he has been disgusted by how Halliburton has gotten contracts from the government, the lack of oversight, the way that they have charged the military and charged the government for the services that Halliburton has provided, whether it was rebuilding oil refineries and energy lines or serving troops to the—serving food to the troops.

Waxman has suggested over and over that Halliburton has done a dirty job with all of this, and that he wants to get at Halliburton.  He‘s also suggested that some of the no-bid contracts—never mind those that went to companies that received no-bid contracts for Iraq, that some of the no-bid contracts that went for rebuilding Mississippi and parts of Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina, he sees major trouble there.  So that‘s where the betting is, as far as the early round of subpoenas going.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, for Henry Waxman, it is his trip to Willy Wonka‘s Chocolate Factory.  He is Charlie, and he‘s got all the subpoenas he can eat.

Our own David Shuster.  Great thanks for joining us, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.  Take care.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE), eyes on ‘08 apparently means feet in Iraq, Republican hopeful Senator John McCain visiting Baghdad today, Democratic hopeful Senator John Kerry expected at the weekend.  Remember when they used to start in Iowa and New Hampshire?

And it took three years for the British police to figure out what every other inquiry into the death of Princess Diana has concluded, it was an accident.  That still has not stopped the conspiracy theories.  Gerald Posner joins us.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One month after Iraq provided a turning point for political control of Congress, it appears to have become the newest whistlestop for the next campaign, the one for president.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, has anyone told the 2008 hopefuls that Iraq does not have any electoral college votes?

Be that as it may, in the wake of the November elections and the Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq, Republicans and Democrats alike are putting Baghdad on their itineraries.  Senator McCain is in Iraq today, along with five other members of Congress, for Republicans and one Joe Lieberman.

While in Baghdad, McCain again pushed his proposal for fixing Iraq, spending at least five—or sending at least five more combat brigades, which would mean 15,000 more troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  The situation, in my view, remains serious.  It requires us to have an injection of additional troops on the ground in order to bring the situation under control, in order that the political process may proceed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Another possible ‘08 contender, Senator John Kerry, expected to be in Iraq soon as part of a nine-day Middle East trip that he started yesterday, speaking today in Cairo.  Kerry pushed one of the key recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, diplomatic engagement with two of Iraq‘s neighbors, both greatly affected by what transpires in Iraq, and both crucial to Iraq‘s future, Iran and Syria.

That idea, the idea of talking to nations with whom the Bush administration disagrees, is not only being rejected by the White House, but those attempting to forge genuine diplomatic connections are being attacked by the White House, Democrats and Republicans alike.

The Democratic senator Ben Nelson yesterday defied President Bush by meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Bashir Assad, in Damascus.  The White House accuses Syria of fostering terrorism in Iraq, but Nelson said he saw a crack in the door for future talks on how Syria could help stabilize Iraq.

The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, rejected that notion, and, when he was asked today about other politicians who also plan to meet with Assad, he went a step further still.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s not only Senator Dodd who will be going, but also, by the end of the year, Senator Kerry.  And Senator Specter, a member of your own party, is planning a trip to Syria.  Is the president concerned that with the Baker-Hamilton report‘s call for direct engagement with Syria, that, in a way, these visits are costing him control of his own foreign policy?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No.  The president‘s in charge of foreign policy.  It may cost some people their credibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ironically, it was just three months ago that the U.S. was thanking Syria for its defense of America‘s embassy there against terrorist attack.  And prior to Mr. Bush‘s invasion of Iraq, which Syria opposed, President Assad had shown signs of cooperating with post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts.

Also tonight, add another title to the resume of this guy, the tallest man in the world.  He is now the Dr. Doolittle of dolphins.  No word whether he‘s available for party tricks.

But you can rent K-Fed instead, for the affordable price of $20,000, a thousand for each CD he‘s sold.  The burgeoning trade in D-list celebrities.  I got your war on Christmas right here!

That‘s ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date just 503 years ago, Michel de Nostradame, Nostradamus, was born at Saint-Remy de Province in France.  Among his many prophecies, he predicted that Katie Couric would not do well anchoring “The CBS Evening News,” and that I would say that.  And that.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin with scary video from Altamont Springs in Florida.  We all know how hard it is to get a parking spot at the mall during Christmas season, but this is ridiculous.  No one injured in this incident.  The mall was closed at the time, though the driver was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation.  I guess doctors would want to know why the 19-year-old drove his car through the front door of the mall, through a perfume kiosk, then down the escalator to the first floor.  Got to get my TMX Elmo!

To Poshoon (ph) in China, where the dolphins at this aquarium have gotten sick from eating some of the plastic at the edge of their pool.  Veterinarians—their instruments, anyway—were not long enough to get the plastic out, so naturally officials called on Bo Shi Shun, the world‘s tallest man, to save the day.  Standing seven-foot-nine, the herdman from Inner Mongolia—never knew there was an Inner Mongolia too—also has extremely long arms, 41.7 inches long, just perfect for reaching down the gullet of a porpoise.

He reached in, grabbed the plastic out of the dolphin‘s belly, and everybody lived happily ever after, although we‘re guessing that the dolphin will be haunted by nightmares for some time to come.

Inner Mongolia.

Finally, the Oddball Sports Report from the exciting National Championships of College Water Polo.  Admittedly, this took place a couple weeks ago, and we were not really paying close attention at the time.  But the postgame interview on CBS with the Cal head coach, Kirk Everest, has since become a big hit on the Internets.  Can‘t imagine why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRK EVEREST, CAL HEAD COACH:  They deserved that game the whole way

through.  They got a lot of tough breaks at the end, kept stopping them,

kept stopping them.  Yeah!  I always wondered what that felt like.  We were

they were trying to get them (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obviously the water there that was dumped on Kirk Everest has shorted something out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, luckily you don‘t need to hear the coach water polo.

Also tonight, the latest report on Princess Diana‘s accidental death. 

It will do nothing to sway the conspiracy theorists.

And the ever-expanding Brangelina brood may get a new addition in the new year, once everybody figures out which ethnicity the new baby should have.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Malcolm Maddox, the BankOne executive who won a charity auction for lunch with (INAUDIBLE) Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco for $1.  We told you about this yesterday.  Now he and the charity, the Monroe, Louisiana, Chamber of Commerce, have apologized to the governor.  They say this was a prearranged gag, that Maddox was going to pay $1,000 regardless.  He has sent the charity a check for that amount.

Number two, residents of a small historic town in Sweden who have to get government permission to change the name of the place after years of silent suffering—Fjuckby, F-J-U-C-K-B-Y, Fjuckby.  They say globalization has made this necessary.  Too many English-speaking visitors coming by Fjuckby and giggling, or worse.

And number one, Andrea Jaeger, the world‘s former second-ranked professional tennis player, runner-up at the All England Club in 1982, now telling reporters that she felt so badly about winning, about how badly her defeated opponents felt when she won, that she played less than her best in at least a dozen high-profile matches, including the final at Wimbledon in London.  She tanked out of sympathy for her opponents.  So her recent career change makes sense.  Andrea Jaeger is now Sister Andrea of the Anglican Dominican Order.  She has joined the Brides of Christ, from Wimbledon to wearing the wimple, from flying backhands to the Flying Nun.

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OLBERMANN:  It has been observed throughout history that we want conspiracies, psychologically we may even need them.  It underscores the randomness of existence if a nomadic loser can assassinate the president of the United States from the window of text book warehouse in Dallas.  A web of deceit and perfidy, whether it‘s likely to be real or not, seems necessary to blunt the unmanageable horror of a world in which some stranger can unleash chaos all by himself. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, it may be true not just for the murder of President Kennedy, but also for the death of Princess Diana.  And yet, what is supposed to be the final inquest from the British government confirms not a clandestine clock work hit job, but just a tragic, stupid, horrifying accident.  In  a moment, the analysis of investigative author Gerald Posner, first the details from London and our correspondent Keith Miller. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH MILLER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The British waited almost 10 years for this moment, the official 800 page report on the deaths of Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed. 

LORD JOHN STEVENS, LEAD INVESTIGATOR:  There was no conspiracy to murder any occupants of that car.  This was a tragic accident. 

MILLER:  With contributing factors, such as the paparazzi.  The report says photographers were creating chaos at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, forcing Dodi Fayed to change plans.  He switched drivers and ignored the advice of his father not to leave the hotel.  Detectives, using D.N.A., confirmed that the driver, Henry Paul, was drunk.  His alcohol level twice the legal limit. 

Despite speculation, there was no evidence that the U.S. or British Secret Service were spying on Diana. 

STEVENS:  I have no that speculation as to what happened that night will continue. 

MILLER:  Dodi Fayed‘s father, Mohammed, called the report garbage.  He claims the royal family had the couple killed so that Diana would not marry a Muslim.

MOHAMMED AL-FAYED, DODI‘S FATHER:  I will not let them get away with that.  Whatever it cost me the rest of my life, until I find the truth. 

MILLER:  The report said Diana was not pregnant, as Mohammed Fayed claims, and had no plans to marry his son. 

(on camera):  There was no comment from Buckingham Palace today, but a recent poll showed that 31 percent of the population here believes that foul play was connected to Diana‘s death. 

(voice-over):  But her sons, Prince William and Harry, said today, they accept the findings.  At the crash site in Paris people said it was time to let her rest in peace. 

Keith Miller, NBC news, London. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  One of those interviewed by the British police for their inquiry, investigative journalist and author Gerald Posner joins us tonight.  Thank you again for some of your time tonight sir. 

GERALD POSNER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST:  Absolutely Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What information did they ask you about?  What did you share with them?  What kind of light does it shed on the circumstances surrounding Diana‘s death? 

POSNER:  Well, as you know, I‘m cited repeatedly in n this report, because I spent several months on this investigation.  Back in 1999 I had access to Mohammed al-Fayed, his investigators, his lawyers.  I spoke to the paparazzi who had been involved, French investigators and American intelligence.  And what I told the British, essentially, is that the French police had bungled this investigation from the very start. 

That they didn‘t secure the accident scene, that photographers and witness were allowed to leave, that the medical examiner‘s office made some mistakes, some of which were important.  I also—the French were unable to find out what Henri Paul, the driver, was doing in the hours before the accident.  I uncovered that, that he was actually meeting with his own intelligence handler, a member of French intelligence, and I disclosed for the first time that Diana‘s conversations were picked with a friend from the Brazilian embassy, by the National Security Agency, innocuously enough, but were still picked up by American intelligence.  So that‘s the information, in essence, of what I passed on to the British investigators when they came to Miami to see me. 

OLBERMANN:  So the French bungled their job on this.  Did the British do a better job.  Are you satisfied with what you know of this report? 

POSNER:  Absolutely.  Look, it‘s 800 pages.  So I can‘t say that I‘ve been able to read every word of it, but I went through it as much as I could today, the moment it was posted on the web, and I think it‘s remarkably thorough job.  Much better than the French investigation.  The French investigation, Keith, is what I call a C.Y.A. job, cover your ass.  The French had made enough errors that they just wanted to make sure that they looked pretty good.  They issued that report back in 1999.  It was not very thorough.  This report has the D.N.A. analysis.  It has 3-D reconstructions of the accident scene.  They interviewed hundreds and hundreds of witnesses.  It‘s about as good as we‘re going to get.

OLBERMANN:  Scotland Yard was not allowed access to those U.S.  surveillance records.  The agencies here cited security concerns, yet the report concludes that they were not spying on the princess.  Obviously what you have said agrees with that, but will the conclusion, being presented without the factual proof of some sort of information from this country, this government, simply feed in to the continuing conspiracy theories? 

POSNER:  Absolutely.  You‘re right about that.  Look, I‘ve always been a proponent and advocate of full disclosure.  I think government agencies and intelligence agencies do themselves a real disservice when they hold onto files, keep them secret.  It feeds conspiracies.  But in this case, I understand why they are.  Look it, we spy on foreign embassies.  That‘s just the bottom line.  They‘re all on Massachusetts Avenue in D.C. for a reason.  It‘s easier to listen to them.  We lease them the buildings, and either the FBI or National Security Agency picks up conversations from there. 

On Diana, they were actually listening in on a specific investigation, the Brazilian embassy.  They picked up a conversation with Louisa Fletcher de Lima (ph), who was then the wife of the former ambassador from Brazil to the U.S. and Diana, things about hair style and everything else.  But to release those records would embarrass the U.S. government because they were spying on the Brazilian embassy, which technically, they obviously aren‘t supposed to be doing.   

OLBERMANN:  So what, other than some sort of confirmation from American intelligence on those points, is there stuff still missing from the final picture?

POSNER:  Yes, the two things I noticed were missing that jumped out at me is the Mercedes that Diana was in, in which she was killed, clipped a white Fiat Uno as it went in to the Pont Elmo (ph) tunnel.  I had my own suspicions that I drew in the 1999 -- in the article that I did, that said it belonged to a young Vietnamese kid in France, but the British were unable to determine who the car belonged to.  That‘s still a mystery. 

And also, they didn‘t address another issue I raised.  I had the information that the Home Secretary‘s office in Britain had actually called up the autopsy doctors in Britain when they were working on Diana and asked them to omit any reference to a pregnancy.  It turns out she wasn‘t pregnant, in the end, but the report does not address that at all. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the autopsy complete yet?  Why is that still ongoing?

POSNER:  It‘s a strange part of the British system.  My wife is British, but sometimes I tell her they do things oddly over there and they have an inquest that was supposed to be done officially in to the whole question of her autopsy, and they put it on hold because of this police investigation, which has taken three years and costs millions of dollars.  Now the inquest, which will go in to the questions of whether the autopsy was complete, and who might be to blame, will be competed some time in mid January.  But it‘s certainly anti-climatic after this report today.

OLBERMANN:  So would you put this in that classic conspiracy fodder file, that it‘s immediate mistakes, follow-up cover-ups and the labyrinthine processes that draw things out indeterminably? 

POSNER:  You named all three.  And I‘ll tell you something, Keith, as far as I‘m concerned, you need a report like this to really fuel the conspiracy theories.  And what I mean by that is you needed the Warren Commission Report, you needed the 9/11 Report, and now we have the Diana Report.  Conspiracy theorists really don‘t believe they‘re onto something big, like a convoluted murder, until the government has to get together, issue a large report like this, and say there wasn‘t any conspiracy at all.  This confirms to them there really is a conspiracy.  It‘s sort of reverse logic. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, except the one component that‘s not here, that is in the others.  Nobody is going to accuse the British government job of a rush job on this, at least. 

POSNER:  There is no rush to judgment, that‘s true. 

OLBERMANN:  Investigative journalist and author Gerald Posner, always a pleasure having you on the program. 

POSNER:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the year in review Jib Jab style.  Yes, it‘s not over yet, but from the vice presidential hunting accident, to celebrity babies, and a celibate Paris Hilton, it‘s all fodder for them again. 

And how would you like a little piece of Hollywood at your next Christmas party?  Eddie Haskell could be telling your mother she looks just beautiful, for a price. 

That‘s ahead, but here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You do a lot of your Christmas shopping online, do you in a pseudonym, and, like, do you send the stuff to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? 

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  No, I use a pseudonym and I send it to another address? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, do you?   

BUSH:  An undisclosed location. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And then Cheney brings them over, right? 

(SINGING)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  You and I had a conversation last week, it got a whole lot of play in a lot of places, where I used the term partisan in describing one of your questions, and I thought a lot about that, and I was wrong.  So I wanted to apologize and tell you I‘m sorry for it.  And if I expect you to do right by us, you have every right to expect that I‘ll do right by you.  So, in any event, I just wanted to say I‘m sorry for that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sometimes it seems as though year-end retrospectives are doing the same thing the Christmas shopping season does every year, starting a little bit earlier all the time.  So, in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, even though there‘s still almost five percent of 2006 left to go, the year-end retrospectives are already here. 

Trust the Internets to beat old media to the punch.  That‘s right, Jib Jab is back.  You might remember them from their 2004 Bush-Kerry send up.  Well, now they have broadened their range of attack, cramming an entire year, or 95 percent of it anyway, in to just two minutes. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Do not attempt to say the title of that song, either on national television or just in front of other people.  Just don‘t.  But, set title does bring us to our nightly roundup of celebrity and tabloid news, Keeping Tabs, and Angelina Jolie.  Her year-end contemplations include adopting another child.  Ms. Jolie‘s daughter with Brad Pitt, Shiloh, is still fresh from her “Daily News” cover story at seven months, but Ms. Jolie says the family is ready to adopt again, in part so that her two adopted children will not think she and Mr. Pitt value their biological children more. 

Quote, yes we have Shiloh, and it‘s been a wonderful experience, but we want to find another brother or sister in the world for our family.  OK, but then the chosen kids would outnumber, they had to take you child, three to one.  Ms. Jolie added this confession, quote, I‘m on the pill.  And she said she would not randomly choose another ethnicity for her mixed race family, but that it was a question of balance.  That ship has sailed. 

Life appears to be merrily off-balance for Paris Hilton, who has now become cuddly with sister Nickie in the back of a limo.  They were scantily clad, according to MSNBC.com‘s Jeannete Walls, and photographs of them are bouncing around the Internet.  The sisters are both wearing teddies.  Paris Hilton is in stockings and garters.  In some of the photos, reportedly, the ladies had their legs up in the air and their behinds are touching.  Merry Christmas.  Where is a class act like Britney Spears when you need her? 

A decidedly no class-act gets sentenced.  Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild infamy has been ordered to serve at least eight hours of community service a month for 30 months, come on.  His videos of drunken college women on spring break made so much money for him and his Mantra Films that the judge found the 2 million dollar fine insufficient.  Francis‘ company had admitted to using minors in films and violating other laws, so U.S.  district judge Richard Smoke of Panama City, Florida ordered 32 hours of community service per month to be shared among the employees, including Mr.  Francis.  And they have to do it while wearing braziers.  OK, I made the last part up. 

Nothing quite says happy holidays more than having William Hung singing She Bangs at your Christmas party.  It can be a reality if the price is right.  That‘s ahead, but time now for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze, Fox News again, this time it was their website, posted the name of the accused alleged victim in the Duke lacrosse case, the accuser, excuse me.  Management says it was an accident, just like it was an accident when they showed the name of the Kobe Bryant accuser/alleged victim.  So giving you the benefit of the doubt, you guys sure make a lot more mistakes than, say, the “New York Times.”

Our runner up, pitcher Joel Zumaya of the Detroit Tigers, the rookie who hit 100 miles an hour on the radar gun, but missed most of the American League Championship Series, and was not fully effective in the World Series, due to an inflamed pitching wrist and forearm, which we today learned from the Tigers he got from playing the video game guitar hero on Play Station 2.  The Tigers are asking him to put the damn thing away for a few years. 

But our winner, author Michael Crichton.  In his last novel, he dismissed global warming.  So a political columnist for the “New Republic,” who went to Yale, named Michael Crowley, ripped him for it.  Now Crichton has got a new book, in which he‘s created a minor character who is a child rapist, and described as a political columnist who went to Yale, and who‘s name Mick Crowley.  Crichton‘s publisher, Harper Collins, owned by Rupert Murdoch.  The real Michael Crowley is understandably upset that Crichton gave his name to a child rapist, but look, Mr. Crowley, it could have been worst, Crichton could have used your name for a character based on himself.  Author Michael “Vengeance is Mine” Crichton, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s hard to imagine anyone paying 12,000 dollars for Kevin Federline to merely hang out an at a private holiday party.  Maybe that‘s the point.  Here‘s 12 grand, please don‘t sing.  But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Federline and other luminaries are available, if the price is right.  In fact, the hiring of celebrities for corporate, even private holiday shin digs, is growing fast, and in most cases, all they have to do is show up and mingle. 

How about Eddie Haskell, or rather the man who played him on “Leave It to Beaver,” Ken Osmund, a great gentleman, by the way, for the bargain basement price of between two and five thousand dollars. 

Here is William Hung, who should be sending us like, I don‘t know, seven and a half percent for all the exposure he got here.  You can have him at 4,000 dollars and he‘ll throw in two songs.  Say it ain‘t so, but Jeremy Piven has even done this, though he charged a premium, 50,000 grand, just to serve dessert at a birthday party.  Melinda Blaire, five thousand clams, minimum. That‘s clam, no pea soup spitting.  The whole head turning thing is unavailable at any price.

Joining me now for comment, comedian and roaster of the stars, Jeffrey Ross.  Jeffrey, good evening. 

JEFFREY ROSS, COMEDIAN:  How you doing buddy?

OLBERMANN:  Kevin Federline?  Honestly, I mean, so he shows up to your company holiday party and he does what, exactly? 

ROSS:  I guess he impregnates people.  That seems to be his biggest, biggest talent so far.  You get a lot of bang for your buck with K-Fed.  I think he also hands out copies of his CD, which comes in very handy if you have a wobbly kitchen table, you know.  Or if you want to torture an enemy combatant, put on K-Fed‘s new CD. 

OLBERMANN:  And spend the four thousand on William Hung to sing She Bangs—oh never mind.  In a case such as K-Fed, are the party planners hoping for a disaster, or are they looking to discuss art and politics and just have the wrong guy in mind?

ROSS:  Yes, I don‘t think K-Fed can discuss art and politics.  I think for an extra fee he will shovel your driveway and take your garbage out, though. 

OLBERMANN:  He‘ll be doing that full time, I think, next year, right?  So supposedly, this is getting bigger, because it‘s fashionable to have a celebrity at your Christmas party, but it seems like for 12,000 dollars you could get, rather than a real Kevin Federline, you could get a really good fake of, I don‘t know, Marilyn Monroe, couldn‘t you? 

ROSS:  Or you could get—I hear for 12 grand, Michael Richards will come to your house and call you the racial slur of your choice, and then you can beat him like a pinata.  Merry Christmas. 

OLBERMANN:  And Pauley Shore will then come by and stage fake version of the same event—

ROSS:  Man can he take a bunch punch. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, for 350 bucks.  What about the actors from the old TV shows?  Your thoughts on this, you can have Eddie Haskell and the Beaver, although Gerry Mathers is pricier—he‘s up to six grand—you can have Poxy from “Happy Days,” Anson Williams or John Provoste, who played Timmy from “Lassy.”  Timmy from “Lassy,” for god‘s sake.  Is this what these guys are left now?  I mean, to paraphrase scrooge, are there no more dinner theaters, are there no more work houses? 

ROSS:  I have one question, do these people come in black and white or technicolor?  Do they show up for an extra fee in full color? 

OLBERMANN:  I did a thing with Ken Osmund years ago for “Nick at Night,” and I can tell you, he was in full color.  He‘s a very nice guy.  But one last thing on this.  There‘s an—talk about black and white.  How about this for a segue.  There‘s an even more extreme version of all of this, Michael Jackson is making a personal appearance at a Christmas party in Tokyo.  Each person there is going to pay 3,400 dollars to meet him.  Do you have any idea where that figure came from? 

ROSS:  I think what probably happens is they have to offset the cost, because obviously, kids are allowed in free. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, I should have known.  And the last—is there a sad touch here, when you hear the name of the great Jeremy Piven among them, even though it was just one hour at a ladies birthday party, bringing out a dessert tray.  I mean, “Entourage” doesn‘t keep him busy enough? 

ROSS:  I think this is interesting because they actually saved money by hiring Jeremy Piven, because Jeremy is so short, he can jump out of regular-sized birthday cake.  He‘s giving all the money to charity.  That‘s a stripper that I introduced him to. 

OLBERMANN:  Comedian Jeffrey Ross, the roast master general, many thanks for some of your time tonight.  The Federline image will stick with me for hours.  Oh lord.

ROSS:  I can come to your house for five grand and make fun of you Keith, any time you want. 

OLBERMANN:  Thanks.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,321st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Tomorrow night the top baby names of 2006, and we‘ll see of see how the right wing media covers Tony Snow‘s apology to David Gregory, or doesn‘t cover it.  Reporting from New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

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

END   

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