updated 6/19/2007 10:59:52 AM ET 2007-06-19T14:59:52

Guests: Andrew Thomas, Paul F. Tompkins

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

Karl Rove, Andrew Card, Alberto Gonzales, and others at the center of what might be, quote, “the most serious breach of the Presidential Records Act in its history.”  The House Oversight Committee says the Bush administration has widely improperly used Republican National Committee and Bush-Cheney campaign e-mail accounts for official government business, and then erased most of the e-mails.  And there is evidence that the office of then-White House counsel Gonzales knew the laws were being broken but did nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  This is an administration that is very careful about obeying the law.  We take it seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Take this seriously.  They‘ve changed the Iraq September song again.  And, oh, by the way, says the commander there, we may need to keep an American presence in Iraq until the year 2057.

Senator Obama‘s clean politics platform takes a hit.  Anonymous memos to news organizes about the Clintons‘ finances turn out to be from the Obama campaign.

The sippy cup security scandal, the woman passenger who says airport security in D.C. mistreated her and her toddler because they spilled water from her kiddy cup.  The TSA releases the security video to prove it was right, only it seems to support the position that it was wrong.

The princes, Matt Lauer‘s exclusive interview with Harry and William.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE HARRY:  Whatever happened in that tunnel, you know, no one will ever know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No one knows how this happened.  I go for a week, and Paris Hilton is still news somehow.

And guess who got kicked out of a major league baseball team‘s clubhouse because he didn‘t have the proper credentials?  If that isn‘t a metaphor, I don‘t know what is.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Join Fox Security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

In Watergate, America was astounded by the fact that 18.5 minutes of secret presidential recordings were missing.  Tonight, the latest Bush administration scandal, as yet unchristened, makes that figure seem like a drop in the proverbial bucket.  Try this number, infinity minus 140,216.  Karl Rove‘s improper e-mails, the 140,000, are the ones still preserved. 

The rest, the infinity part, the ones that were destroyed.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, thousands upon thousands of these apparently illegal e-mails have also been apparently illegally erased in a jaw-dropping scandal that touches Rove, Andy Card, and even Alberto Gonzales.  In a preliminary report, the ongoing congressional investigation into whether Bush White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act, uncovering, quote, “what could be the most serious breach of the Presidential Records Act in that law‘s history,” dating back 30 years, what would seem to be hundreds of thousands, if not, perhaps, millions of e-mails that have been potentially destroyed and probably shouldn‘t have been sent in the first place, to give you some extent of the scale, the House Oversight Committee reporting that the Republican National Committee preserved those 140,216 e-mails sent or received by Karl Rove on its server, but only 130 of those e-mails had been sent to Mr. Rove during the president‘s first term, none of them prior to November 2003, and that just accounts for Karl Rove.

Now, imagine 87 other White House officials and what the numbers in their accounts might have been.

In the words of press secretary Tony Snow, that‘s a whole lot of e-mail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You were saying at the time there were, like, 50 staffers.  (INAUDIBLE) no, it‘s more like 80, and there are indications—

I mean, 140,000 e-mails is a lot of e-mails.

SNOW:  (INAUDIBLE) whole lot of e-mail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that‘s just Rove, that‘s not all the other folk.

SNOW:  That‘s a whole lot of e-mail, absolutely right.  Let me put it this way.  We‘ve seen a number of times right now where people have been putting together investigations to see what sticks.  They have had very little success so far.  This is an administration that is very careful about obeying the law.  We take it seriously.  The White House legal counsel‘s office takes it seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But not the White House counsel‘s office when Alberto Gonzales was running it, at least not according to today‘s congressional report, which says Mr. Gonzales took no action to preserve presidential records.  In other words, the man now in charge of enforcing the nation‘s laws looked the other way, the law here relevant to this point, government business is not to be conducted on a political party‘s e-mail servers.

Also, the now attorney general with new problems at the Justice Department.  Defense lawyers in federal cases were using the firings of those nine U.S. attorneys to claim that their clients may have been targeted for purely political reasons as well.

Let‘s bring in our man, our veteran on the scandal beat, correspondent David Shuster in Washington.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening to you, and welcome back.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

First, the White House told us that only a handful of the White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts to begin with.  Today, the congressional investigators say they‘ve uncovered—well, you get to say how many.  How many accounts?

SHUSTER:  Eighty-eight, almost 90.  In fact, investigators say that—and those are, of course, just the ones they know about.  Investigators suspect that it may be 90 or perhaps even 100 White House officials who were involved in this.

And what is so striking, Keith, is that it backs up the long-held suspicion that political business was essentially conducted on government property, which, as you have mentioned, is illegal, and that it was not just an isolated effort at the White House, as was initially claimed by White House officials, but rather that this was organized, orchestrated, and quite widespread.

OLBERMANN:  So if it‘s 88 that they know of, e-mails for how many accounts have been wiped out completely?  How many of them are just blanks at this point?

SHUSTER:  Well, and that‘s where it gets really interesting.  Fifty-one of the 88 are missing.  And some of the key accounts that are missing are from the White House political shop.

For example, Ken Mehlman, who was the White House political director a couple of years ago, his e-mail records are completely gone.  And again, the suspicion that has been raised is that officials like Mehlman were mixing politics and government business, and that somebody wanted to hide the e-mails that would show the mix.

Some of the e-mails that were recovered include Andy Card, the former White House chief of staff, and officials in the office of the vice president.  But the number of accounts missing suggest that several officials may have been deeply enmeshed with Card and others in coordinating official government actions with the Republican Party.

So again, you have two laws that are in play here, the President Records Act, which requires White House officials not to destroy or delete official correspondence, and then the other law in play is the Hatch Act, which says you cannot engage in political business on government property.

OLBERMANN:  So, all right, what happens next?  And I‘m, you know, this is my first day back, but don‘t try to give me the answer that congressional investigators are just going to send the White House a letter requesting information, because that doesn‘t seem to be working.

SHUSTER:  No, I mean, what‘s going to happen now is, you already have some subpoenas that have been issued for White House officials, including Sara Taylor, who was one of the Rove political aides at the White House who sent tens of thousands of e-mails.  There are already subpoenas for her testimony.  And what Congress wants to do is ask her not only about the U.S. attorney scandal, which was the point of the subpoena, but also ask her about the system of using Republican National Committee e-mails.

And on top of what Congress is doing, there‘s this government agency called the Office of Special Counsel, and they have already been investigating what Karl Rove was doing as far as mixing politics on official government property, is expected that this issue of the e-mails and the missing e-mails will also be part of the Office of Special Counsel, which is entitled to make criminal referrals if they find that particularly relevant e-mail accounts or documents have been destroyed, and, of course, that is the claim that Democrats are making, that not only were laws were broken, but that there was a deliberate effort by somebody in the White House, and perhaps at the Republican National Committee, to try to make sure there was no trace of what was really going on, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And one final point, David.  This isn‘t just government business being conducted on the RNC e-mail server, but also on the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign e-mail server?

SHUSTER:  That‘s right, a variety of e-mail servers.  And the point being that, again, you cannot conduct official government business on—you cannot, rather, conduct official political business, whether it‘s for the Republican National Committee in talking about which senator might benefit from a particular policy, or whether the presidential campaign in a particular state might benefit from a policy, you cannot make those sort of decisions or even have those sort of communications with government agencies on official government property.

So if Karl Rove, for example, and this is hypothetical, but suppose he said to a particular government agency, Take this action, because it will help the Republican National Committee.  If there was a communication with the Republican National Committee, or coordination, or asking the RNC, Hey, if I get the Energy Department to do this, might it help Senator Whoever?  you can‘t do that.  And that‘s where the Democrats are justified in saying, What‘s going on here, and why are all these records missing?

OLBERMANN:  And you can‘t wash it through an outside server, and you can‘t erase the e-mails one way or the other.

SHUSTER:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  So it‘s—there‘s three strikes here.

Correspondent David Shuster, busy as ever on the beat in Washington. 

Great thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  No discussion of White House fiascoes would be complete

without mention of the war in Iraq.  Earlier this year, the president‘s

solution for fixing the conflict, you will recall, was escalating it, his

administration now hard at work trying to beat back the make-or-break

deadline of September, when it had promised to tell Congress whether that

the so-called surge of U.S. forces was working or not.  Case in point, just

yesterday morning, the top American commander in Iraq, General Petraeus,

asked whether he thought the job of the escalation would be done by

September.

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GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDING GENERAL, IRAQ:  I do not, no.  I think that we will—we have a lot of heavy lifting to do.  The damage done by the sectarian violence in the fall and winter of 2006 and early 2007, as I mentioned, was substantial.  And this is a tough effort.

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OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to our own Howard Fineman, of course, the senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As General Petraeus was trying to push back this September assessment deadline yesterday morning, at the same time, Mr. McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, was saying he thought the proper time for an evaluation would be September.  So are the Republicans not in the White House going to complicate things for the Bush administration when it comes to buying itself more time on Iraq, say, in September?

FINEMAN:  I think they could.  Keith, I spoke to a Republican operative in town here just a few minutes ago, who‘s very close, about as close as you can get, to both the White House and the Republican leadership in the Senate at this point.  And here‘s what he told me.  He said in September, if Petraeus comes back with anything less than a really upbeat assessment—and I think we can safely assume that he‘s not going to come back with an upbeat assessment—then you‘re going to see Republicans beyond the usual suspects, that is, beyond the names that you always hear about the senators from Maine and Gordon Smith and Chuck Hagel and so on—you‘re going to see other Republicans begin to peel away from the president.

And where that‘s going to focus is on the next appropriations bill for the Defense Department, which is going to be coming up in the fall.  So I think you‘re going to be see another ring of Republicans move away from the president, and that will complicate his situation in the fall.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a sense politically that people understand, within the Republican Party, why the president continues to push this path so relentlessly, when even those around him are saying, Check the watch, we‘re out of here in September?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think there‘s a certain reflexive desire to support the president, the Republican president, at the grassroots of the party.  When I travel around and talk to Republicans at the grassroots, they want to stick with him out of loyalty to the party, they want to stick with him because many of them believe in the mission as he described it.

But that is a dwindling core of people, Keith.  We‘re talking now, that group that I just described, maybe 15 percent of the electorate, 20 percent at best.  What‘s going to happen in the fall is that that next group of Republicans here in Washington and around the country are going to move away from the president.  We‘re talking about people like Senator Voinovich from Ohio, or just to take another example, possibly Senator Warner of Virginia, or Hatch of Utah.  You name it.

Outside of the core deep South, and the very, very inner core of the Republican Party, they‘re abandoning him., and the people who are left behind, they‘re going to stick to the bitter end, but that‘s not enough to allow the president to get his way come the fall.  What the people who know are telling me is that his room to maneuver in the fall is going to be zero.  He can veto something if he wants, but he‘s not going to be able to get what he wants as he did just a few weeks ago.

OLBERMANN:  Let me take you back to where we started tonight, speaking of trying to get what you want, where the Oversight Committee is trying to find these e-mails that have evaporated.  Other than something drastic that they‘re not going to do—impeachment to special prosecutor to pursue erased e-mails, what can Congress do about that?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think you‘ve seen the beginning of it.  They‘re going to subpoena people.  They subpoenaed Sara Taylor, who used to be in the White House political office.  They‘re working their way up the chain.  I wouldn‘t be surprised to see them maybe go after Ken Mehlman, and ultimately Karl Rove, with subpoenas.  The White House counsel‘s office will laugh at the subpoenas and not honor them, and we‘ll be back in the court, which is where the Bush presidency began.  That‘s where this is headed, and that‘s where it‘s going to end, probably sometime next year.

OLBERMANN:  And what—I, ultimately, I mean, does somebody have to hand Alberto Gonzales a subpoena with his name on it, and not as the signatory, before the president punts on him?

Because he‘s not only got this, but obviously today there‘s the blowback out of the attorneys‘ firing, the defense counsels, in numberless cases, are saying that they‘re the victims of political prosecution, using as an example the investigation as to whether or not there were political firings, and there would have been political hirings among the attorneys, this is just—the, the, this thing with him particularly is snowballing to such degree.

Does the president not have to jump off the snowball?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think necessarily, because, don‘t forget, Gonzales goes back with him to the very beginning of Bush‘s political career.  I think he‘s the last man out the door ahead of the president.  But this is a catastrophe for the image of the Justice Department, because of what you‘re talking about, and because of what David Shuster was talking about earlier.

The utter mixture of politics and law is a deadly one.  Now, nobody‘s naive.  Everybody knows that politics is what the White House is about, in part.  But you have to observe certain rules, you have to play by them.  This administration was dedicated to destroying whatever barriers there were between politics and the operation of the government, taking a tradition of America beyond where it had been before, for the most part.  And that‘s going to hurt prosecutions.  But it‘s not going to be Bush who‘s going to admit that.  It‘s got to be the Democrats who make that case in the 2008 election.

OLBERMANN:  Well stated.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek.”  As always, well stated.  Great thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Five hundred and five days till polling day.  The 2008 election surprisingly not turning dirty.  But when the Obama camp tried to mock Hillary Clinton, the smear boomeranged.

And speaking of smear merchants, Bill-O gets more than just a Worst Person nomination.  Take me out of the ball game, you might sing.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps it‘s too much time having campaigned in the sun.  Some of the candidates are showing symptoms of political prickly heat, a rash decision followed by the irritating need to apologize.

Our fourth story tonight, the latest in the countdown to 2008, beginning with Senator Hillary Clinton, and a “USA Today” Gallup poll confirming that the New York senator is bouncing back sharply from a virtual tie with Illinois Senator Barack Obama just two weeks ago.  Democratic voters give her a 13-point margin over Obama, whether or not former vice president Gore enters the race.

As for the Obama campaign, it‘s not the heat, it‘s the stupidity, as in this attack memo accusing the Clintons of profiting from companies that outsource to India, one of the memos labeling Senator Clinton as the senator from Punjab, today, the candidate apologizing to the Indian American community for what he called a dumb mistake and a screwup by his campaign.

The memos might have been pretty much ignored except for Senator Clinton‘s campaign, which made sure as many people as possible knew where the bad stuff about the Clintons documents came from, apparently to show that the Obama pledge of a new kind of politics is not above a dirty trick or two.

Meanwhile, a staffer for conservative Senator Sam Brownback is apologizing to Mitt Romney for circulating an e-mail hinting that Mormons are not really Christians, saying, in effect, his Jesus isn‘t your Jesus.  It‘s the second time Romney has gotten a faith-based apology.  First it was from the Giuliani campaign.  But his religion is an irresistible target for strategists of lesser restraint, what with polls showing that one of every four voters would not vote for a Mormon.

Chris Cillizza‘s political blog is The Fix on WashingtonPost.com, and he joins us once again.

Chris, good evening.          

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First of all, Team Obama issued this apology for the Punjab wisecrack on one of its Web sites, on South Asians for Obama ‘08.  Are we seeing political ethics having gotten so low that they‘re not coming back around the other side, that a candidate benefits more from being attacked than from attacking?

CILLIZZA:  Well, here‘s the problem for Obama, is that every campaign does this.  Let me say as a political reporter, on a daily basis, I get research documents that go through quotes, past votes, that kind of thing, about their rivals.

The problem for Obama is, he‘s held and put himself to a little bit higher standard.  When you say, I‘m going to run a different kind of campaign, I‘m about building this party up, not tearing it down, people expect more.  There‘s a perception issue here.  And the perception is that Obama has set a higher bar for himself.

So any time things like this come out into public view, it‘s bad for the Obama campaign.  Any time that reputation, that sterling image, that un-politician that he‘s really perfected, any time that idea is tarnished, it hurts him.

OLBERMANN:  How could it happen again, especially involving Senator Clinton, when it was the Obama staff that played up the David Geffen criticism of Senator Clinton, and it was this, the company that did that 1984 ad, the company had done work for the Obama campaign, they severed ties, et cetera, but how could, after those two instances, how could it happen again?

CILLIZZA:  Well, because presidential campaigns are 24 hours, seven days a week.  He can‘t see everything that his campaign is sending out.  But look, frankly, it‘s one of the, the buck stops here situations.  Leadership comes from the top down.  You don‘t get to say, Oh, my staff screwed up.  You know, after a while, it‘s his name.  If I screw up a story and someone else inserted something into it, it‘s my name on the story.

So in the end, it is Barack Obama‘s campaign, and he needs to make sure that he is a leader, that he comes out and says, We shouldn‘t have done this.  Whoever did it, it was—it‘s a fault of my campaign‘s, and I take responsibility.

OLBERMANN:  The primary polls, the latest one out of the “L.A. Times,” good news for Senator Clinton, as we indicated.  Most Democrats, most voters want a Democrat in the White House.  But if you say that the Democrat is Hillary Clinton, the support for that and for her drops.  Is that her challenge in the next year, distilled? Has there been a finer piece of statistical information about what she has to face in the next 12, 14 months?

CILLIZZA:  No, I think you put it exactly right.  The issue is that Hillary Clinton is known by everyone in this country.  And she‘s not only known, most people have an opinion of her.  And I would argue, a lot of people say, She‘s too divisive to win.  I don‘t think that‘s right, but everyone has an opinion of her.  Part of her campaign‘s job, both in the primary and if she wins the primary, in the general election, is to redefine her.

One of their lines that they go to all the time, the most famous person no one really knows.  Well, they have to work on making sure the person they want Hillary Clinton to be, the person they want to introduce to voters, they get that out there, because right now, a lot of people know her, and frankly, a lot of people don‘t like her.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of not liking, what is the, where‘s the line going to be defined on Mitt Romney?  We see this thing with now with Senator Brownback after the Giuliani campaign touching the subject of Mormonism, we see this remarkable poll that shows attitudes that sound like they‘re from the Al Smith 1928 presidential campaign against Hoover about religion.  Where is that line going to be defined?  And does Romney benefit from where it‘s defined, or is he going to be hurt by it?

CILLIZZA:  Well, I think that the more things that we see like this, you mentioned Giuliani, obviously Brownback apologizing today, the more things we see like this, I think it, frankly, accrues to Mitt Romney‘s benefit.  If he can be the victim in this situation, being attacked for being a person of faith, I think that‘s a pretty good message for him.  If his Mormonism gets defined as a central issue in the campaign, and he has to walk through each and every tenet, the letter of the law, it‘s much more difficult for him.

So playing the victim right now is very good for Mitt Romney‘s campaign.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza, auteur of The Fix on WashingtonPost.com. 

Great thanks, Chris.

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The TSA fights back, not against terrorists, but against a mother and her baby‘s sippy cup.  Your tax dollars in action.

Maybe this would be terrifying to them too.  It‘s rabbits on the runway.  What is this, O‘Hare Airport?  Ha, ha, ha.  Mmm.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  On this date 829 years ago, June 18, 1178 A.D., at about 9:00 at night, five people in Canterbury in England looked up and saw what sure looked to them like the upper horn of the crescent moon breaking in half, followed by fire and sparks and hot coals bursting off the moon.  This is written in the diary of Gervaise of Canterbury, one of your prominent monks of the time.

It‘s been theorized that what the five late-nighters saw was an asteroid or something hitting the moon and creating what we now known as the Giordano Bruno Crater.  But scientists say that anything that dramatic would have been followed by a week or so of so many meteors falling to earth that it would have looked like rain.  And nobody reported that in Canterbury.  So the latest theory is, those five guys from Canterbury were just high.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Italy, at Milan‘s La Natte (ph) Airport, where we‘re experiencing heavy ramp saturation due to rabbits humping on the runway.  Well, it‘s mating season, you know.  More than 80 of the varmints wreaked havoc on incoming and outgoing traffic, forcing the airport to shut down for more than three hours.  Three hundred rabbit catchers finally rounded up most of the beasts and dropped them all off at the local Hot Sheets Hotel.

To Greece, where the biggest story these days is the Internet video of an Athens police officer allegedly abusing two suspects, then forcing them to abuse each other.  The police sergeant has been suspended during the investigation, and because of the serious nature of the video, we‘re going to stop playing this particular goofy music in favor of something more appropriate.

It is funny because they are in some other country. 

Finally, to Cape Canaveral, where to this day you can still go visit the towers from which hundreds of missions were launched over the many years of the space—never mind. 

NASA doing a little house cleaning today, imploding the 209 foot towers.  Yes, they did this on purpose.  One hundred forty three missions were launched from these towers to the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and that big asteroid in the movie “Deep Impact,” starring MSNBC‘s Tia Leone as like Alex Witt or something. 

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OLBERMANN:  The (INAUDIBLE) cup scandal.  Did security at Washington‘s National Airport mistreat a passenger because of her baby‘s water container?  The government released the videotape in its screeners‘ defense.  But funny, it looks like it backs up the passenger‘s story.

And just how the Hilton heiress is bearing up in jail now that she‘s over the hump of her 23 day sentence.  Those stories ahead.  First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.

Number three, Tomoji Tanabe from the Miyazaki (ph) privature on Kyushu Island in Japan.  He‘s got a birthday coming up three months from today.  He was born on September 18th, 1895.  Today he was recognized as the world‘s oldest man.  His reaction, it is nothing special, he joked.  I have lived too long.  I am sorry.  Sir, nobody likes a 111 year old wise ass.

Number two, not a human, but a car.  A Honda Accord in Yakama (ph), Washington, which was stolen early Friday morning and police found it being street raced.  The officer pursued the fleeing driver, during which the Accord, now bereft of thief, driver and policemen, was stolen again by another passerby. 

That‘s when the car had had enough.  It blew a tire, and was recovered again, having been stolen twice in about 10 hours. 

But our winner, number one, Mr. Rany Galluzi of Seldon, New York—that‘s Long Island.  He is under arrest for having destroyed three automobiles at an auto repair show in Islet, New York.  That‘s the good news, since he‘s really lucky he‘s not dead.  See, he was trying to steal the gasoline from one of them and that‘s when all three caught fire.  

Now how in the hell did he do that?  Well, he was trying to steal the gasoline by putting a hole in the gas tank using a cordless power drill.  Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, kaboom. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  American citizens are not allowed to know who gets meetings with the vice president.  Members of Congress are not allowed to know what White House staffers wrote in e-mails the law forbade them from writing in the first place.  But in our third story tonight, if a private citizen dares to criticize the government, the information gatekeepers loosen up considerably. 

Ask Valerie Plame.  Or now you can ask Monica Emerson.  You may have read about her incident one week ago at National Airport in Washington, with her son now known all over the Internets as the Sippy cup terrorist, on the right here, with his finger in his mouth.

Ms. Emerson claimed she was mistreated while trying to board a flight on Monday.  The Transportation Security Administration has released surveillance video to refute her claims.  Specifically, Ms. Emerson claims TSA officials took her son‘s Sippy cup from him, which she wanted back because he won‘t drink from anything else. 

She offered to empty it or even drink its contents.  They told her she had to go back to the end of the line and come back with an empty cup.  That‘s when this all happened.  Emerson spilled the water, on the purpose the TSA says.  She was then threatened with arrest and detained long enough that she missed her flight. 

A TSA official told the Associated Press, quote, if you look at the video itself, it shows she‘s the she is the only one who is out of control.  In fact, here she is uncontrollably retrieving her 19 month old son and uncontrollably cleaning up the water, while a TSA official watches helpfully, and rummaging insanely through her bags to find the I.D. to show that she, mother of the Sippy cup terrorist, was, in fact, a 14 year veteran of the United States Secret Service. 

As they say, there‘s many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip.  And as we learn about once a week here, if the TSA can slip, it will.  Joining now is Andrew Thomas from AirRage.org, the author of “Aviation Insecurity.”  Mr. Thomas, thanks for your time tonight.

ANDREW THOMAS, AUTHOR, “AVIATION INSECURITY”:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with this incident itself.  If she was willing to drink the water, did any of this have to happen? 

THOMAS:  No, her account states that the fact that they wanted to take away the Sippy cup that precipitated her hostility, if you will.  TSA should have let her drink it, keep the cup.  And it should have been able to be neutralized at that point.  But clearly things escalated.  And even after the incident, things have gotten way out of control. 

OLBERMANN:  And also, before hand—I mean, the tapes do not show everything here, such as what happened before she comes into frame there.  The internal report from the TSA is dated June 14th, three days after the incident, and after the incident began making the rounds online, despite the fact that this report is only two paragraphs long.  What does that whole sequence of events take place—taking place in that way tell us, if it tells us anything? 

THOMAS:  Well, it tells us, as I have mentioned in my books and many others have stated as well, that the TSA is essentially an organization born out of dysfunction and continues along that path.  The fact that they‘re more worried about this woman and discrediting her and making her look bad in the eye‘s of the public, and preserving their image, whatever one there might be left, rather than doing what they are supposed to be doing and that is the very, deadly serious business of securing the nation‘s aviation system, tells you that these people are just way of line, in terms of that which they should be doing. 

OLBERMANN:  So this woman who is, as we mentioned, a former United States Secret Service officer—she has not filed a lawsuit.  There is no official investigation.  Technically, TSA was not required to spend a single minute on its side of the story.  Should we conclude from that that the TSA has security at the airports locked up so tightly that it has all this free time on its hands to engage in assassinating the character of private citizens, including 19 month old kids with their pinkies in their mouths?

THOMAS:  I assume your asking a rhetorical question. 

OLBERMANN:  Maybe, maybe not. 

THOMAS:  Yes.  You know, the fact is that this is what they are spending their time doing.  And the bad guys are looking at all of this stuff.  It just says that we need to have some accountability within our government, especially with regards to Homeland Security.  And the fact that these people can do this with impunity, and nobody calls them into account on Capitol Hill, in the administration or within the bureaucracy itself, that is really disconcerting as a citizen. 

OLBERMANN:  So what ultimately is the TSA‘s response about?  Is this CYA?  Is it cover your agency?  Is it more evidence that, in lieu of common sense, we have put in a million rules, and the TSA is left to defend the emperor‘s new clothes? 

THOMAS:  Yes, I think that‘s a big part of it.  What you are left with is a story about a bureaucracy that was launched in the wake of 9/11 attacks for good reasons, for good intentions.  But, in fact, what we have seen over the past five years now, coming onto six at the anniversary of 9/11, is, in fact, a bureaucracy that really exists simply to perpetuate itself at the expense of everything else, including civil liberties and just common sense and integrity. 

OLBERMANN:  I was going to say common sense and you beat me to it by about a second and a half.  Andrew Thomas of AirRage.org, great thanks for joining us tonight. 

THOMAS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Ten years after a very different kind of a famous videotape, Princes William and Harry, and their exclusive interview with Matt Lauer. 

And Rosie O‘Donnell, come on down.  She gets a key endorsement in her bid to become the possible new host of “The Price is Right,” ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In the nearly 10 years since their mother‘s fatal car crash, Prince William and Harry of Wales have grown up before the world‘s eyes, information about them largely supplied by the same brand of over-reaching paparazzi that, metaphorically or realistically, chased Princess Diana to her death.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, an exclusive interview today with the “TODAY SHOW‘s” Matt Lauer, in which the princes talk about their mother, as well as the importance of making a second impression.  

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRINCE HARRY OF WALES, BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY:  People think about her.  They think about her death.  They think about how wrong it was.  They think about whatever happened—For me personally, whatever happened that night in that tunnel; no one will ever know.  I‘m sure people will always think about that the whole time.

MATT LAUER, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  Have you stopped wondering? 

PRINCE HARRY:  I will never stop wondering about that. 

LAUER (voice-over):  For Prince Harry and his Brother Prince William, the decade that has passed since the death of their mother, Princess Diana, has done little to ease their loss. 

(on camera):  As I was leaving the states, telling people I was going to come talk to you, I can‘t tell you how many people said, wow, has it been 10 years?  That it seems like two years or it seems like three years.  How has the time gone by for you two? 

PRINCE HARRY:  Very slowly, actually.  It‘s weird, because I think when she actually passed away, there was never that time—there was never that sort of lull.  There was never that sort of peace and quiet for any of us, the fact that her face was always splattered on the paper the whole time.  And therefore, I think, when you are being reminded about it, it does take a lot lager, and it is a lot slower. 

LAUER:  Is at the same for you? 

PRINCE WILLIAM OF WALES, BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY:  Yes, when you lose someone that important to you, you always think about—I mean, straight after it happened, we were always thinking about—there‘s not a day that goes by that I don‘t think about her once in the day. 

LAUER:  Princess Diana lived and died dodging the camera‘s persistent lens, a lens that, in their mother‘s absence, the princes find increasingly focused on them. 

PRINCE WILLIAM:  You know, Harry has had his fair share of a hard time given by the media.  And, at the end of the day, no matter what you think, the only person you are ever going to get to know, to be able to form an opinion, is him.  No matter what you read or what you see, you‘re never going to known someone unless you actually get to meet them and talk to them properly.  And that‘s what I say about everyone. 

PRINCE HARRY:  The most amusing point is meeting somebody and then going,  you are so not what I thought you were, to both of us, to our father, to everybody.  You‘re not what I thought you—What did you think?  I best not say it to your face.  Like this.  Well, thanks a lot. 

LAUER:  I hope you mean that they are pleasantly surprised and not disappointed. 

PRINCE HARRY:  -- because they believe what they read, which is—God knows what is said in the papers that we do not read about.  It is just poisonous. 

PRINCE WILLIAM:  Just let them write what they want to write, because, at the end of the day, you can‘t stop it.  There is no point in fighting it. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From the world of the royals to the kings and queens of entertainment and Keeping Tabs, our nightly update of celebrity news.  Friday it was when Bob Barker‘s last new show as host of “The Price is Right” aired.  If it seems like longer ago than that, that is only because the event got more coverage than the most recent launch of the space shuttle. 

Now, Mr. Barker has endorsed a successor, Rosie O‘Donnell.  Barker saying CBS may meet with her.  She knows the show, he said.  There is no doubt in my mind she could do the show.  But as far as I know, they have only auditioned men.  The two became friends a few years ago.  Miss O‘Donnell telling Barker she would like to host “The Price is Right” someday. 

She has already turned down a daytime offer from ABC.  Is there an offer from NBC?  You might very well think so.  I could not possibly comment.

Minor security incident to report from Saturday‘s Mets/Yankees baseball game at New York‘s Yankee Stadium.  It turns out an overzealous fan got inside the visitors clubhouse before the Mets took the field and brought friends along with him.  When security personnel realized the individual did not have the proper credentials to enter their clubhouse, they confronted the man and escorted him and his party from his clubhouse. 

The man has been identified as a Mr. Bill O‘Reilly.  Bill-O and entourage had credentials that gave them pre-game access to the field, just not to the clubhouse.  According to newspaper reporters, Mr. O‘Reilly did not respond kindly to security, saying with anger, quote, you do not have to escort us out.  We‘re going. 

No truth to rumors that the Mets, losers of 12 of their last 15 games, asked O‘Reilly to take some of their players with them.

You may have also heard my name associated with this unpleasantness.  I have reporter‘s credentials because, well, I am a reporter.  But I wasn‘t even inside Yankee Stadium when all this happened.  I had nothing to do with it, probably. 

Paris Hilton has not yet tried to get herself thrown out of jail that way, but she has gotten to see the rents.  That is somehow news.  And that is somehow next.

First time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.  The bronze to the unnamed high school student in Berlin, in Germany.  His grades were so bad, he faced the prospect of repeating his junior year.  So, naturally, he did what all of us would do in that situation.  He convinced two younger kids to burst into his classroom as he sat in the back and threaten the teacher with iron bars if she did not give them his report card. 

He assumed that if his report card disappeared, so would his bad grades.  Obviously, one of his bad grades was in a logic.   

The runner up, J. Steven Griles, the former number two official at the Department of the Interior.  He pleaded guilty to lying to the Senate about his association with the convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  Mr. Griles was sentenced to five months in jail, five months in a half way house or under home arrest. 

His lawyers are now asking that he get no prison time, just community service with the American Recreation Coalition.  The problem is the American Recreation Coalition is a lobbying firm with which Mr. Griles did a lot of business while he was at the Department of the Interior. 

But our winner, Sean Hannity, who told his audience that he was, quote, frustrated that at the Republican debates, the candidates got asked questions about partial birth abortion or not reading the National Intelligence Estimate, but in the Democratic debates, the candidates did not. 

Even though in the April debate in South Carolina, Senator Edwards and Obama were asked about partial birth abortion.  And in the New Hampshire debate two weeks ago, Senators Clinton and Edwards were asked about not reading the National Intelligence Estimate.  Thanks for paying attention out there, slappy.  Sean Hannity, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  While I was off, Paris Hilton found god, was officially described as stable, and had her media coverage criticized by O.J. Simpson.  And yet, she‘s still not free, not even just for a few more hours.  Miss Hilton has, in fact, been back in jail for ten uninterrupted days now.  That‘s ten days without hair care or makeup or even skin moisturizer.  So COUNTDOWN has commissioned a computer rendering of what she will look like upon her release.

Oh, boy.  No wonder the sheriff wanted to send her home.  You‘re fired.  Well, maybe Miss Hilton won‘t look that bad.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, lockup Paris Hilton, day 16, thanks to the L.A. County Sheriff‘s fuzzy math.  Meaning that against her 23 day term, Miss Hilton is well over the hump and in good spirits, though still chilly, says her mother. 

Hilton‘s parents visited yesterday, Father‘s Day.  Kathy Hilton saying that her daughter was rubbing her arm so much from the cold, quote, I thought her arm was broken.  Now this tells you a lot about the rearing of her child, does it not?  Paris did manage to make a Father‘s Day card.  That‘s nice.  As for how she was otherwise filling her time, mother Hilton said, quote, she looks at the four walls and reads some nice fan mail.  One, two, three—three.

Joining me now, one of our senior Paris Hilton analysts, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also a regular contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Paul, good to talk to you. 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH-1:  Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Kathy Hilton reminding people about her daughter‘s cold cell.  We‘re certain she‘s not referring to an unused mobile phone?

TOMPKINS:  No, Kathy is blowing a lid off the Dickensian quality of our nation‘s jails.  I had no idea when I was watching the candy-colored word of HBO‘s “Oz,” because Adabisi never once said I‘m chilly. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s the only cold place in greater Los Angeles.  We heard that Miss Hilton made a lovely Father‘s Day card.  Goodness knows, we don‘t fault her for that.  But where did she get these home crafting skills?  Has she been watching Martha Stewart during her TV time?  What‘s going on here?

TOMPKINS:  This is exciting news.  This might be her talent that we‘ve been waiting to discover, and give us a reason why we should all have her in our lives.  Maybe she‘s going to be the world‘s most famous greeting card writer and have a “Cocktail” like motion picture made about her skills, you know, where she‘s a sort of rock n‘ roll greeting card composer. 

OLBERMANN:  Watch out Hallmark.  Her sister, Nicky, visited this weekend.  TMZ.com, which is everywhere, as we know, says that Nicky left a small red package.  I‘m just lobbing the softball up.  What‘s in the red package? 

TOMPKINS:  I think, in an effort to aid Paris in a daring escape plan, the red box contained a bunch of old keys. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so we also have reports today that she‘s been reading self-help books.  And we‘ve heard this one before.  Besides which, her mother is saying she reads fan mail.  Do you think she is actually splitting her time between reading self-help books and fan mail? 

TOMPKINS:  Based on the response that she got at the MTV Movie Awards, I‘m guessing the fan mail doesn‘t take that long to read.  Those were her people.  And that‘s the response they had to her going to jail.  So, I imagine the self-help books take up most of her time. 

There‘s something really depressing about that, that she‘s reading these self-help books, like just being in jail wouldn‘t be enough to kind of change her mind about things.  But she‘s clearly saying, wow, I really do not have the tools to keep me out of here again.  

OLBERMANN:  As for the fan mail, let me repeat myself from the beginning of the segment, one, two, three.  All right, so it seems people want to keep talking about what Paris Hilton has learned.  We‘ve touched on this hear with this idea of reading the self help books.  She‘s been incarcerated for, as you said, this Dickensian period of time in a Dickensian world.  What do you think she has learned, Paul? 

TOMPKINS:  With all the back and forth of going to jail, getting out, going back, you know, I think that she probably has learned that no one is above the law.  But she‘s also learned that she‘s almost above it. 

OLBERMANN:  We had other celebrities chiming in.  We have the “Entourage” star, Kevin Connolly, who said, quote, Paris is like a cat.  Boy, thank goodness there was more to that quote.  She always lands on her feet.  She always has.

Ellen Degeneres says that if Miss Hilton really was sincere about acting dumb, then it‘s a sad state of affairs.  Combine these things, sum these up for me.  Paris should be, what, a smart cat? 

TOMPKINS:  Yes, Paris should emulate not so much Sylvester, who was never able to catch Tweety, but more the cat who got a white stripe of paint down its back and was always able to evade the unwanted amorous advances of Pepe le Pew.

OLBERMANN:  Last thing, this past week, obviously, has been quite, when it comes to Paris Hilton news, too quite.  Do you think they were just saving it up until I got back from vacation or what? 

TOMPKINS:  Yes, we were hoping to have this all straightened out before you got back, Keith.  Sorry for the mess. 

OLBERMANN:  See if you can look into that for me Paul.  Comedian Paul F. Tompkins, as always, one of our senior Paris Hilton analysts, and, as always, our great thanks for joining us, Paul.   

TOMPKINS:  Thank you for the promotion, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re welcome.  You‘ll get the check.  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,510th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. 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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