updated 9/18/2007 1:59:07 PM ET 2007-09-18T17:59:07

Guest: Dana Milbank, Craig Crawford, Michael Fletcher, Michael Musto

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

Alan Greenspan’s got a new book and a new controversy, too.  The former Fed chair backs away from his written words that the Iraq war was about oil.  The White House no likey Mr. Greenspan’s words. 

The fight to change course in Iraq.  Barack Obama signals a big shift, no more war money unless it’s tied to withdrawal deadlines.          

And the nominee is not Michael Chertoff, not Ted Olson. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I’m pleased to announce my nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to be the 81st attorney general of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  A guy Chuck Schumer likes a lot.  Did the White House say uncle when it comes to pushing through insiders to prominent posts?   

The justice system set to go another round with O.J. Simpson, this time without the glove but with audio tapes and maybe a bar of soap.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER PRO FOOTBALL PLAYER & ACTOR: don’t’ let nobody out of this room.  Mother (expletive).  Think you can steal my (expletive) and get away with it?  Don’t let nobody out of here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Days of our lives, the Britney and K-Fed edition, y’all, as the custody battle continues, there are rumors the FBI is investigating a hit on K-Fed’s so-called life. 

All that and more now on “Countdown.” 

(on camera):  Good evening, everybody, I’m Alison Stewart in for Keith Olbermann, who we are happy to report is recovering at home tonight after emergency surgery to remove his appendix.  Feel better, Keith.          

Now onto the show.  After spending nearly two decades as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan is like E.F. Hutton in the old TV commercials, when he talks, people listen.  So when, in our fifth story on the “Countdown,” Mr. Greenspan seemed to state that the invasion of Iraq was largely about oil, people were definitely listening.  And the fiscal guru created a firestorm to say the least. 

With just 20 words, the former Fed chairman has re-ignited a years old battle cry for those who are convinced the Bush administration wasn’t interested in WMD. 

In Greenspan’s new book “The Age of Turbulence,” he wrote:  “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows, the Iraq war is largely about oil,” end quote.

Now once you squeeze out a sentence like that, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

But on “Today” show this morning, Mr. Greenspan, who is married to NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, tried to do the administration a solid, by claiming that coverage of that one sentence has been, quote, “unfair.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER CHIEF, FEDERAL RESERVE & AUTHOR:  It’s utterly unfair.  I was expressing my view.  Saddam Hussein was obviously seeking to get a chokehold on the Straits of Hormuz where 18 million barrels a day flow from the Middle East to the industrial world.  Had he been able to get a hold of a nuclear weapon and indeed move through Kuwait and into the Saudi Arabia and control the Straits of Hormuz, he would have caused chaos in the international community. 

UNIDENTIFIED HOST:  So are we talking about semantics here, Alan?  In other words, the administration went to war saying it was all about weapons of mass destruction. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREENSPAN:  I believe that they believed that.  I’m not saying that they believed it was about oil.  I’m saying that it is about oil and I believe it was necessary to get Saddam out of there. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  Let’s turn now to Dana Milbank, national political correspondent for the “Washington Post.” 

Good evening, Dana. 

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “WASHINGTON POST”: 

Good evening, Alison. 

STEWART:  Can you lay out for me the problems this poses for the White House that someone as revered and respected as Mr. Greenspan writes something like the Iraq war was largely about oil? 

MILBANK:  He’s also known for his ability to speak with great nuance or, as he used to say, mumble with great incoherence.  He had $8.5 million reasons to say things more clearly.  That was the size of his book advance.  He went out here and did it in this case. 

The actual damage is somewhat limited in that everybody has already

turned against the war.  By two to one, Americans say it was a mistake.  So

what he’s doing now is sort of echoing the left wing’s cry that this war is

or the complaint about no blood for oil.  He’s saying, yes, it was blood for oil. 

STEWART:  But then there’s this odd turn, because the 81-year-old took on the economy as well as saying the Bush administration was not fiscally responsible.  Now he hasn’t backed off that comment like he has on the oil comment.  Can he have it both ways?  The oil thing misquoted, the financial thing, yeah, I said that. 

MILBANK:  Well, even there, when he backed away from the oil, he did and he didn’t.  He pointed out to Bob Woodward in the “Washington Post” that one of the White House officials responded to him saying unfortunately we can’t talk about oil.  So not saying this wasn’t an important part of the consideration but I think ultimately the economic damnation he directs at the administration is going to be a lot more difficult.  And that’s where I think history is going to give the Bush administration a great deal more trouble because of Greenspan’s words. 

STEWART:  One of the White House spokespeople says this sounds like, quote, “A Georgetown cocktail party analysis.”  Dana, I’m not a Washingtonian, but I think that’s a swipe.  Can you decipher what that means? 

MILBANK:  There are no more Georgetown cocktail parties, it’s moved to an entirely different part of the town right now.  But look, it’s not that sort of thing because this administration, in part, built up Alan Greenspan to such a tremendous level.  You know, when he was in power at the Fed he would say things like there wasn’t a housing bubble, it’s housing froth.  He would be very delicate about the way he describes the economy.  And now he’s coming out with barn-burner phrases like recession and suggesting that this tax cut that he endorsed was completely misunderstood. 

STEWART:  We’re talking about that tax cut—one person not buying what Mr. Greenspan is selling is the Princeton economist Paul Krugman.  He wrote in today’s “New York Times,” quote, “The fact is that if Mr.  Greenspan’s wasn’t intending to lend crucial support to the Bush tax cut, he had ample opportunity to set the record straight when he could have made a difference.”

Dana, if you look at Greenspan’s media roll out for this book sequentially, “60 Minutes,” flattering newspaper article profiles, then this op-ed page in that column from Krugman, it was like wham.  Do you think the book tour is going as Greenspan planned or is there too much blowback? 

MILBANK:  Well, he’s getting a great deal of attention.  So if you believe that’s how you sell books, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. 

He’s had this blowback before.  Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, called Greenspan a hack while he was actually still at the Fed and it was over this very reason of supporting the tax cut.  And there is a fair argument to be made that sort of now he tells us when, in fact, he could have put the brakes on a good deal earlier.  He makes a strong case that he did not mean to set the Congress off on this spending spree.  And if you look carefully at his words, he indeed did not mean to do that, but everybody is always over interpreting Alan Greenspan. 

STEWART:  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.”  Nice to see you, Dana. 

MILBANK:  Thanks, Alison. 

STEWART:  This is back to the Democrats, trying to hold down one job on Capitol Hill while running for another, president of the United States.  All dropping by Senator Tom Harkens Annual Steak Fry in Iowa over the weekend. 

Less talk about grilling, more talk about the war in Iraq.  Senator Barack Obama, having resisted some attempts by his colleagues earlier this year to tie funding for the war it a deadline for withdrawal, said yesterday that he would only support future spending bills if they included deadlines. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are going to bring an end to this war and I will fight now in the United States Senate to make sure that we don’t pass any funding bill that does not have a deadline to start bringing our troops out and a deadline to start bringing our troops home. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Also at the steak fry, because it’s just fun to say steak fry, Senator John Edwards said President Bush had, quote, “Destroyed America’s reputation in the world.”  And he challenged all his Democratic rivals to tie pay for the war to a schedule for bringing the troops home.  Of course, Mr. Edwards is not in the Senate anymore so this might be one of those easy for you to say kind of things. 

Meanwhile back on Capitol Hill, Senator Jim Webb is expected to have a whole lot of support for his proposal calling for all troops to get as much time at home between deployments as they are now spending on the ground in Iraq. 

For more on the war and what Congress can do about it, time now for our own Craig Crawford, columnist for the “Congressional Quarterly.” 

Hey, Craig. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, COLUMNIST, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Good to see you Alison. 

STEWART:  Good to see you.  It seems some members of the Senate are willing to challenge the Bush administration on the war in Iraq.  Does the Democratic leadership agree with them? 

CRAWFORD:  They would like to but they don’t have the votes, Alison.  It’s simple arithmetic.  The last time Congress vote on the anything that set timetables or would take it in that direction, they got 52 votes, eight short of what they need to break the filibuster, to break a veto, to override a veto.  This approach that Senator Webb is talking about is similar to some others, sort of a back door, at cutting the troop size, because by saying, as he would do in this legislation, that these troops have to come home after a certain period of time that would mean fewer troops available for President Bush to send over there because this is not infinite.  And President Bush has already indicated this response would be, well, I’ll just call up more National Guard.  So that’s the road we go down, lots more argument and probably not too many troops coming home. 

STEWART:  Let’s take a look at this.  Democrats seem to be jumping on some sort of withdrawal bandwagon.  If so, might that lead to some much needed momentum for the Democrats on the war? 

CRAWFORD:  The critical time is in the next couple of weeks.  If the Senate can put something together, like a Senator Webb’s approach, that’s not a direct limit on withdrawals but creates conditions that would require fewer troops, that might attract enough Republicans over to threaten president Bush’s leverage against the Congress which is his veto. 

Now if the Senate can pull that off, and oddly enough it seems like that’s the best case scenario for Democrats to pull it off first is in the Senate to get that number of Republicans, that might create some momentum on the House side to eventually draw some Republicans over to the Democratic side on that.  The whole idea is to change the definition of the mission and the length of stays of the troops in Iraq to try to create conditions that would require fewer troops in Iraq.  That’s currently the Democratic approach, whether that will satisfy anti-war Democratic based voter, it might seem like a half measure to them, but it’s as close as Democrats can get to the arithmetic they need to overcome the president. 

STEWART:  We’ve had a bunch of reports in the past couple of weeks—the GAO report, the General Petraeus report, another report out today from the Pentagon out today, which tracks the political and security situation in Iraq from the end of May through mid August.  The report shows explosive attacks against U.S. forces in May and June were the highest they’ve been since 2003 and that political process is likely to remain stalled in the near term. 

Now, Craig, this report came out quietly today, 5:00 eastern standard time.  Any coincidence that it’s today instead of the way it was, oh, last week at this time when General Petraeus was testifying before Congress? 

CRAWFORD:  Maybe about as coincidental as the president’s speech causing Keith’s appendix to blow up.  We saw last week much selective use of data by this general, one of the real failings of those hearings in both the House and Senate, I thought, Alison, is a that there were so many lawmakers talking and making speeches, there really wasn’t much boring in at the supporting materials that he had for the claims that he made.  Even things he was claiming were wide open to attack or at least some serious questions. 

Senator Clinton called it, said it required the willing suspension of disbelief to actually believe his report.  And that was before we learned this new information which would have been very inconvenient if it had come out last week. 

STEWART: You bring up such an interesting point.  General Petraeus and the president focused so much on the surge, can the Democrats—are they going to be able to transition from this focus, focus on surge to the Iraq war as a bigger whole? 

CRAWFORD:  That has been the real advantage of the surge.  I call it surge protection for the president in this whole debate over the surge.  It’s almost a manual for how future unpopular presidents can maintain an unpopular war—is create a mini war within the unmanageable war, one that has defined tasks that are achievable, and get everybody arguing about that instead of the larger war and the president has pulled that off.

STEWART: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly.” 

Thanks for your time tonight, Craig. 

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here.       

STEWART:  President Bush loses his buddy Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and now he’s nominated someone he barely knows for that job, imagine that.  So far, there’s an early thumbs up from the Democrats.  Look, it’s a pig flying. 

The juice, not loose.  O.J. Simpson behind bars waiting to hear if he’ll be allowed to make bail after the bizarre Vegas stolen stuff saga.  The judge says O.J. is a flight risk.  Ya think?  You’re watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  It followed the resignation of an Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who had been criticized for disregarding the United States Constitution.  And it came after that same attorney general had been accused of incompetence by both Republicans and Democrats in the scandal over the U.S. attorney firings. 

So our fourth story on the “Countdown,” maybe it should come as no surprise that President Bush did not want a fight in his choice for the new attorney general.  And so far, golf claps all around for the Democratic side of the aisle.  The president nominated Michael Mukasey, a retired federal judge who’s handling of some high-profile terror cases were cited favorably by the president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Judge Mukasey’s clear eyed about the threat our nation faces.  As a judge and a private lawyer, he’s written on matters of constitutional law and national security.  He know what is it takes to fight this war effectively and he knows how to do it in manner that is consistent with our laws and our Constitution. 

MICHAEL MUKASEY, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE:  The department faces challenges vastly different from those it faced when I was an assistant U.S. attorney 35 years ago.  But the principles that guide the department remain the same, to pursue justice by enforcing the law with unswerving fidelity to the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  To the Democratic response which was largely positive with hear, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying in a statement, quote, “I’m glad President Bush listened to Congress and put aside his plan to replace Alberto Gonzales with another partisan administration insider.”

STEWART:  But from the Senate Judiciary chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, a not so fast.  Leahy says he wants administration on the information about the U.S. attorney firings and warrantless wire tapping program before consideration of the new attorney general can proceed. 

Quoting from his statement:  “The administration took months

determining that a change in leadership was needed at the Department of

Justice and then the President spent several weeks before making a

nomination.  Our focus now will be on securing the relevant information

that we need.”     

STEWART:  Joining me now, the White House reporter for the “Washington Post,” Michael Fletcher. 

Hi, Michael. 

MICHAEL FLETCHER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Hey, Alison, how are you? 

STEWART:  I’m doing great.  Let’s get to Senator Leahy’s comments first.  He also added that he was hopeful the committee would obtain the information it says it needs.  Leahy has been after all of this information regarding the attorney firings and the  warrantless wire tapping programs, documents he says the administration has been unwilling to produce. 

In his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he makes the schedule, so he can hold things up to get the info he wants, why would or wouldn’t he do that? 

FLETCHER:  Technically, he can hold it up.  But I think he won’t in this case.  This is my prediction.  Too many Democrats have signed on and Mukasey is a compromise candidate for President Bush.  He’s very strong on President Bush’s signature issue which is the fight against terrorism and national security, but Bush also could have gone with Ted Olson.  By not doing that, he’s showing he’s kind of offering an olive branch to the Democrats.  And I don’t think the Democrats won’t turn that down.  They don’t want to be viewed as obstructionists on this, I believe. 

STEWART:  In the meantime, President Bush did change things up today.  Solicitor General Paul Clement was thought to step in as the acting attorney general but Mr. Bush said it will be Peter Keisler.  After making somewhat of a concession nominee, why would the president install Keisler, a die-hard conservative? 

FLETCHER:  It has to do with the Supreme Court calendar.  He would like to have Clement in there when the court opens for business in October.  To have him place to argue the cases for the administration before the Supreme Court.  So I believe when it comes to that—and probably—and also they’re trying to force a compressed confirmation schedule for Mr.  Mukasey.  So it becomes a little bit of leverage as well for the president. 

STEWART:  Meaning, you’ve got this conservative guy in there to speed things up for the more moderate guy in? 

FLETCHER:  Exactly.  And also the Democrats have made a big issue about the Justice Department being dysfunctional.  It’s a key agency, 130,000 employees.  It’s in the administration’s interest as well to get some leader someplace in the department.  The whole leadership structure has resigned essentially.  They need to get some permanent leadership there and get things back on track for the final 16 months of this administration. 

STEWART:  Now to the actual nominee.  In these high profile terror cases, Judge Mukasey has agreed with the Bush administration on some points regarding the handling of terror suspects, disagreed on others. 

Senator Charles Schumer of New York said he appeared to have the independence from the White House that the Senate rates as a good criteria.  Senator Schumer even suggested Mukasey as a good choice for the Supreme Court back in ‘03.  You read all this.  You think about this.  Are these confirmation hearings going to be a big giant yawn? 

FLETCHER:  I think they may well be.  You usually have these advocacy groups, the People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice, who normally oppose Bush’s legal area nominees.  And they’ve come out so far with sort of a tentative endorsement of Mukasey.  So I don’t expect a big fight on that this, not unless there’s a surprise, of course. 

STEWART:  There’s always a possibility for surprise, right?  Big picture, how much of a role does the Democratic Congress play in the president’s choice? 

FLETCHER:  I think it was a major role.  Because I think the administration was clearly leaning towards Ted Olson.  When Harry Reid said he would oppose Olson and the Democrats would stop him, I think the president backed down and they have been trying to mend fences with the conservative base.  They had Mukasey meeting with conservatives over the weekend.  And White House officials were fanning out and talking to conservatives groups to hold down their insurrection, if you will.  And I think they’ve been successful. 

STEWART:  It’s interesting you mention that, because there were some rumblings from conservatives they may not have been happy with Mukasey.  Bill Kristol, the editor of the “Weekly Standard” said as much but then Mr.  Kristol endorsed him.  Would there be anything more than rumbling, do you think? 

FLETCHER:  I think not.  When the White House made his record known and particularly on national security—the White House is trying to refocus on national security, which is their one trump card among many.  That is where the president remains strong politically.  I think conservatives are begrudgingly coming on board because this is a guy who everyone agrees is a conservative but not so much in the ideological sense, but in the old passion fashioned sense of the term. 

STEWART:  Michael Fletcher of the “Washington Post,” thanks for being with us. 

FLETCHER:  My pleasure.                

STEWART:  From the Justice Department to the wheels of justice for O.J. Simpson, behind bars and facing a buffet of charges in Vegas.  Could this be O.J. at trial, part 3?      

And extreme sports going super extreme.  A major malfunction at 300 miles an hour, not a good thing.  That and more ahead on “Countdown.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I’m Alison Stewart, in for the recuperating Keith Olbermann.  It was the great Army surgeon Captain Benjamin Franklin Hawkeye Pierce who once told a pre-op subject, “Don’t worry, I never lost a patient, I never lose anything.  Have you seen my stethoscope?”  On this date in 1972, the TV version of M.A.S.H debuted on CBS.  We’re sure our own patient was in much better hands as he gained strength for his triumphant return. 

But until then, let’s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Houston.  And you’re looking at the “Oddball” jam cam out of the northwest freeway.  Things moving along well now but that wasn’t this morning.  Here’s the traffic report as it happened live on the Houston affiliate KPRC.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE RADIO SHOW HOST:  Already some traffic troubles on the northwest—Wow. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE RADIO SHOW HOST:  Oh, my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE RADIO SHOW HOST:  Please, God, they’re hit.  Hopefully nobody got hurt.  Bad situation out there on the northwest freeway.  Believe that if you can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Yeah, I would say that’s a bad situation. 

Don’t worry.  Nobody gets hurt in “Oddball.”  Six people were injured, only one going to the hospital as a precaution. 

It’s an “Oddball” bonus traffic.  If your commute takes you anywhere

near the Brisbane Motorway Speedway find an alternate route.  The guy in

this wreck was not hurt.  The dude was going 300 miles an hour down the

track when he lost control of the funny car.  In spite of all the smashing

and the burning, driver Phil Lamatina (ph) -- that’s him on the left there

suffered just a small boo-boo on one of his fingers.  They’re not sure what caused the crash.

And finally, to Kostroma region of Russia, where this woman is kind enough to let a camera crew in to tape her milking a moose.  Because moose milk is higher in fat and protein, farmers out of the Kostroma region believe the moose juice has special healing powers that you can’t get from regular old cow liquid.  I wasn’t really sure if one could milk a moose, but then I remembered the words of Gaylord Focker, reminding us all, you can milk just about anything with nipples. 

Speaking of juice, O.J. left chilling in the slammer until at least Wednesday.  Given Mr. Simpson’s proclivity toward White Broncos and the board, is there a chance the judge will let Simpson post bail? 

And the bizarre circumstance surrounding the Spears-Federline custody fight.  Secret witnesses, rumors of contract hits; we’ll separate fact from fiction in this celebrity skank off. 

Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN’s top three news makers of this day.  Number three, Judge Paul Sacco of Fort Lubson (ph), Colorado, who has a unique plan for dealing with noise violators.  Get caught blasting your music too loud and you get an hour of easy listening in court.  Sacco makes offenders listen to the light new sounds of Barry Manilow and the Carpenters and Barney music, in lieu of fines and jail time. 

Number two, jungle Jack Hanna, director emeritus at the Columbus Zoo, who met his match not in the jungle, but at the airport.  Hanna tried to squeeze a two foot by three foot case containing a live flamingo through an airport turnstile.  Didn’t work out so well.  They both got stuck in the turnstile and had to wait for the fire department to set them free. 

And at number one, another rescue.  This time it was in Yonkers.  New York’s bravest, who after seven long days, tried to get a cute little kitty cat out of a tree for weeks.  They tried ladders.  They tried food.  They tried everything.  Until finally, they turned the hose on the stubborn little feline.  Firemen shot the cat out of the tree, where it landed unharmed and soaking wet.  The cat was then adopted by one of the 50 people watching in the crowd. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  O.J.’s not so excellent adventure.  Day number one behind bars.  You knew somebody was going to start a COUNTDOWN clock.  After all, we could be in for another long run with Orenthal James Simpson.  Our third story tonight, allegations of stolen guns, men with guns barging into a cheesy Vegas hotel room and a secret audio recording of the whole mess that just materialized.  It’s a chain of events you couldn’t make up and you don’t have to, because they happened in the Nevada desert. 

Here’s George Lewis. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Court officials said today it’s likely O.J. Simpson will remain in jail until at least Wednesday, when he’s expected to enter a plea to the charges against him.  Those charges include two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, coercion with the use of a deadly weapon and two conspiracy counts. 

This is Simpson’s booking photo as a judge ordered him held without bail, apparently concerned that Simpson might flee, as he did during that famous 1994 Bronco chase, when L.A. police finally talked him into surrendering on murder charges.  Now the Nevada judge doesn’t want this repeated.

JUDGE NANCY DESTERLE, CLARK COUNTY COURT:  He’s concerned about the flight factor.  And two, he has no known ties to the Las Vegas community.

LEWIS (on camera):  Simpson claims he was just trying to recover some of his sports memorabilia when he and a group of friends entered a room at this hotel.  But police claim they barged in at gunpoint. 

(voice-over):  On an audio tape, obtained by the website TMZ.com, Simpson can be heard apparently barking orders. 

O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL PLAYER:  Don’t let nobody out of this room. 

You think you can steal my—

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Even if this was his, quote, stuff, that doesn’t allow him to go in there with a bunch of other guys with guns. 

LEWIS:  Walter Alexander, also accused in the robbery, denied conspiring with Simpson. 

WALTER ALEXANDER, CO-DEFENDANT:  It wasn’t my problem, you know.  I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

LEWIS:  And part of the continuing legal problems of America’s most notorious celebrity. 

George Lewis, NBC News, Las Vegas. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  Now live from Vegas, MSNBC’s own Dan Abrams, who does double duty as NBC News’ legal analyst.  Hey Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Hey, Allison. 

STEWART:  OK, I want it talk about the legal stuff in just a minute. 

But can we just talk for minute.  O.J. under arrest, what are the odds? 

ABRAMS:  I never thought I would be using the words O.J. Simpson is behind bars tonight.  That’s how I’m leading my show.  It is unbelievable that ten years later we’re talking about O.J. in some bizarre scene with a gun.  I’ve described it before as sort of like that scene in “Trading Places” with Dan Aykroyd.  By the end of the movie, he’s totally lost everything.  He’s stealing food off the tables.  He’s got a gun in his hand, totally disheveled.  That’s the image I have of O.J. now. 

STEWART:  I know, it’s hard to think, he’s 60 years old at this point. 

That’s the thing that jumped out at me. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, you would think that he is sort of passed this.  Even if

even if he believed that someone had his, quote, stuff, even if he believed this was his memorabilia, you’re right, 60 years old, you would think he would figure out some other way other than allegedly coming in with a bunch of guys with guns to just take it. 

STEWART:  Let’s follow up on a couple of details though.  Of the charges he’s being held on, there’s a weapons charge, however one of the alleged victims in the room has said publicly that Simpson didn’t have a gun, and that he, the victim, didn’t feel threatened by Simpson at the time.  So how solid is this charge, if one of the victims disputes it? 

ABRAMS:  If any of the group had a gun and they were in there together to achieve a robbery then they’re all responsible for that weapon being pulled.  If Bob and Joe and Steve brought guns and yet O.J. and a couple of other guys didn’t, and yet the plan was to go in there and get this stuff back and use guns if necessary, then O.J. is still responsible on the armed robbery charge. 

If, on the other hand, there were literally no gun, someone made it up, and the authorities don’t have any proof of that, then you’ve got a different story. 

STEWART:  At today’s news conference, the judge said that O.J. Simpson was being held in isolation.  But she wouldn’t say whether that was because he’s a celebrity or to protect him from other inmates or just to watch him closely.  What do you know about that? 

ABRAMS:  There’s no question that O.J. Simpson is being held in isolation to protect him.  The last thing the authorities there need is trouble with O.J. Simpson in jail.  They simply cannot put him in with the general population.  It’s not an option.  If you’re going to arrest O.J.  Simpson and hold him without bail, you’ve got to figure out a way to hold him and to protect him.  And as a result they have to keep him in isolation. 

STEWART:  Dan, I just do want to let you know we’re getting something here at NBC News confirming that there actually has been a third arrest in this case.  We’ll get more details.  I’m sure your staff is working on that right now. 

We know surveillance in Vegas is incredible, but there’s this audio tape of the actual incident.  Does this pass the smell test that someone happened to have a recording device running when O.J. Simpson happened to walk into the room? 

ABRAMS:  Well, yes.  It’s clear it wasn’t random.  I mean, it’s clear that someone didn’t just say, my goodness, I ought to get this on audio.  It’s clear someone went in there thinking, I got to make sure that I memorialize this.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not authentic.  It doesn’t mean it’s not relevant.  And it doesn’t mean it’s not O.J. on that tape.  But it does mean that someone else involved in this is thinking ahead, in my mind.  It means that someone else is thinking, huh, this could be something of value, or this could be something I want to make sure is on tape. 

So yes, it passes the smell test in terms of its authenticity, but it certainly doesn’t in terms of the idea that low and behold, someone just happens to be there and says, oh my goodness, I got to get this on tape. 

STEWART:  All right, Dan Abrams, we’re going to let you go, and follow up on that third arrest, which has been made in this case.  Live from Vegas, Dan, thanks a lot. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Allison. 

STEWART:  You can catch a whole hour on the latest Simpson saga anchored by Dan at the top of the hour.  That’s at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

More celebrity justice.  This time the custody battle edition; what could be another blow for Britney Spears, no longer Federline, amid tension she could lose her kids.  She did lose something else today, her lawyer and breaking Britney news.  Within the last few minutes, she just lost something else.  We’ll have the latest details and breaking news analyst with Michael Musto. 

And TV’s big night nabs a big win for NBC.  “30 Rock” snags the Emmy for best comedy.  We’ll have the night’s highlights and low lights and the trigger happy censor ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  It was a green kind of awards show; the red carpet was made out of recycled materials.  Coincidentally, some of the winners at the Emmys seemed a bit recycled too.  However, the biggest loser of the night appears to be the Fox network, with Sunday’s broadcast drawing 20 percent viewers than last year.  Note to Ryan Seacrest, don’t wear costumes next time, at least not professionally, anyway.  Britney a no-show.  Good thing, because she probably wouldn’t have made it to air.  The Fox sensors were working overtime.  They did try to silence Norma Ray and that guy everybody loves.  Our number two story tonight, the Emmys.  Our correspondent is Natalie Morales.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATALIE MORALES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  For “The Sopranos,” it was bada-bing and thanks for the memories.  While, for a new kid on the block, it was welcome to the club. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “30 Rock.” 

MORALES:  NBC’s “30 Rock” won for best comedy series. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why are you wearing a tux? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It’s after 6:00.  What am I?  A farmer? 

TINA FEY, “30 ROCK”:  I want to thank the parents, child, spouse and gay partner of every person that works on our show and our dozen and dozens of viewers.  Thank you. 

MORALES:  In one of the night’s biggest upsets, “Boston Legal’s” James Spader won best actor over favorite James Gandolfini, AKA Tony Soprano. 

JAMES SPADER, “BOSTON LEGAL”:  I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the mob. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “The Sopranos.” 

MORALES:  But in the prestigious best dramatic series category, “The Sopranos” whacked the competition again, proving that despite one of television’s most abrupt and controversial endings—Tony’s family still demands respect. 

DAVID CHASE, “THE SOPRANOS”:  If the world and this nation was run by gangsters—maybe it is.  I don’t know. 

MORALES:  Fox’s sensors also cut to black several times during Sunday night’s live telecast, first covering a joke from presenter Ray Romano.  And then bleeping best actress winner Sally Field, when her acceptance speech veered off course. 

SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS:  If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no—

MORALES:  Actress Jamie Presley got her first statuette for her role as the spit fire ex-wife in NBC’s comedy “My Name is Earl.” 

JAMIE PRESLEY, “MY NAME IS EARL”:  Here’s to our little engine could. 

MORALES:  But the biggest laugh of the night came when one winner didn’t show. 

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Ricky Gervais couldn’t be here tonight, so instead we’re going to give this to our friend Steve Carell. 

MORALES:  Proving the saying, sometimes half a victory is just showing up. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  That makes an easy segue tonight to our roundup of celebrity news and entertainment, Keeping Tabs.  It seems like Rosie O’Donnell isn’t the only one getting (INAUDIBLE) form her former co-host and cuty patooty (ph) conservative Elizabeth Hasselbeck.  Hasselbeck’s strong views have now struck a nerve with Barry Manilow.  Oh Mandy, you know you’ve got skills when you can get Barry Manilow’s panties in a twist.  According to the celeb website TMZ.com, producers on “The View” reportedly pulled the plug on an upcoming Manilow appearance after his people said he would perform just as long as Hasselbeck wasn’t there. 

Manilow told TMZ in a statement, quote, “I strongly disagree with her views.  I think she’s dangerous and offensive.” 

Now Ron Burgundy would be proud.  Will Ferrell is adding a charitable twist to his upcoming movie “Step Brothers.”  Ferrell is auctioning off a bit role in the film to raise money for charity.  Online bidding begins today at CancerForCollege.org.  The winner will join Ferrell on set and appear in a scene.  The proceeds of the auction will go to the charity, which awards scholarships to cancer survivors.  Will Ferrell, staying classy, San Diego. 

British singer and all-around trouble chanteuse Amy Winehouse is back in the headlines, this time for not living up to her nickname whino.  Instead, she appears to have been in some sort of fight, maybe with herself.  According to the British tabloid “The Daily Mail,” Winehouse was seen exiting a cab in London nursing a bloody hand, which onlookers say she tried to cover up, the wound, by using a hankie as a makeshift bandage.  But according to her people, the singer just came back from some R&R in Saint Lucia.  So not the best advertisement, if it’s true. 

And from the troubled to the troubling.  We travel to Israel, where nothing says happy Rosh Hashanah like a visit from out of town guests, such as Madonna and husband Guy Richie.  The couple rang in the Jewish new year by attending a Kabbala conference in the Holy Land.  And as if the Israeli president didn’t have enough to do, he had to play host to the artist, formerly baptized as Madonna Louise Ciccone, who declared before all, “I am an ambassador for Judaism.” 

The self-minted religious envoy, who was born Italian Catholic, was given a copy of the Old Testament for all her efforts. 

To the top of the COUNTDOWN and the bottom of the celebrity barrel, breaking news on Britney.  The topsy-turvy day for Britney and K-Fed, which included custody hearings, a fed up lawyer, rumors of a contract hit.  Only Michael Musto can analyze all that for us next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Yes, indeed, breaking news regarding Britney Spears career, or lack thereof; her management company has just announced they’re dropping her.  The firm confirmed that, saying in a statement that, quote, current circumstances have prevented us from doing our job, end quote.  This breaking news arrives on the same day that Britney Spears’ custody battle turned really ugly.  In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN—and she has reportedly been banned from a Chic restaurant because she spreads food on her face sometimes. 

But the good news for Britney, compared to that, her performance at the VMAs is looking better and better, not really.  At a hearing today in the custody battle, with Glory Allred escorting her client, who is a former body guard of Miss Spears name Tony Baretto.  He had reportedly signed a declaration, which alleged, quote, nudity, drug use and safety issues after Miss Spears was released from rehab.  According to TMZ.com, Baretto was reportedly ready to say that Spears had taken drugs in the presence of her children. 

And, by the way, TMZ says that Baretto was fired because he did not hear Britney when she asked him to pick up her hat.  The frenzy at the court house today spawned a wild and untrue story that the FBI was investigating a contract hit on Mr. Kevin Federline.  The FBI said, nope, we conducted no such investigation.  Let’s call in “Village Voice’s” columnist Michael Musto.  Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hello, Allison.

STEWART:  Let’s talk about the breaking news first.  The firm, the group that Kelly Clarkson kicked to the curb.  They represent Scott Wilan (ph), who has done more kinds of illegal substances that anyone could care to mention, they got rid Britney.   

MUSTO:  They took that little drag queen on YouTube’s advice to heart. 

They left Britney alone.  Get back behind Britney, please, people. 

Somebody help this woman. 

STEWART:  So, we said the early contract hit reports on Kevin Federline turned out not to be true.  So, no worry that he’s going to—K-Fed’s going sleeping with the fishes. 

MUSTO:  Allison, they are true.  But it turned out it was O.J. who was behind this.  He’s researching a book called “If I Put a Hit on K-Fed.”  It’s a shame this fell through, because it would have been the first hit that K-Fed ever had. 

STEWART:  What about the worst of the accusations against Miss Spears, that she might have done drugs in the presence of her kids.  Didn’t her mom teach her better than that? 

MUSTO:  The mother that she fire and sued.  I don’t think so.  But look, drugs are bad, Allison.  We know that.  Just say no, Britney.  But the other accusations are really ridiculous, she was naked in front of her kids.  The kids came out of her vagina.  they’ve seen it, OK.  By the way, that’s not the usual trajectory down there.  Also, there are accusations that she was bad on the VMAs.  That’s not reason enough to lose custody.  Actually, yes it is.  She was horrible. 

STEWART:  That was a little tough.

MUSTO:  Take the kids away. 

STEWART:  However, the bodyguard who wrote that potentially damaging

declaration said he was fired by Britney because he didn’t hear her pick up

say pick up my hat.  So do you think he’s seeking revenge or does this just give us more information about Britney’s sense of priorities. 

MUSTO:  He’s disgruntled.  Interview her current staffs.  None of them have any problems with Britney doing drugs in front of the kids.  And Britney is a mother.  Everything mothers do is fine.  Listen to what Sally Field said on the Emmys last night, you like me—no, she said if mothers ruled the world, there would be no god damn wars.  Then again, Hillary voted for the war, so never mind that. 

STEWART:  You actually heard that, because I thought those Fox censors, man, they were on the triggers. 

MUSTO:  I was in the censors booth.  I heard it seven seconds in advance.

STEWART:  How about this scandalous bit of reportage—that’s what you have to call it when it’s from Europe—from the “Sun” that Miss Spears was banned from the Chateaux Marmont because she smeared food all over her face. 

MUSTO:  Actually, she had just fired her make up artist.  There was no rouge around, so she smeared some tuna fish.  It was so cute.  The Chateaux Mormon is a very classy place.  They weren’t having this.  This is the place that John Belushi chose to OD and die at.  It’s that elegant. 

STEWART:  I was about to say, the Chateaux Mormon is beautiful, but some stuff goes down there. 

MUSTO:  A lot of celebrity blood in the hallways, yes, and tuna fish. 

STEWART:  By the way, the world has turned upside-down now that we’ve got to the point that most people are rooting for K-Fed to win.  How did this happen?

MUSTO:  Not me, I stand by my girl Britney.  I mean, he used her.  It wasn’t even like a husband/wife relationship.  It was a client and manager.  Now he turns on her and says that Britney is an unfit parent.  You test K—

Fed’s blood, you’ll find beef jerky and Vitalis and Dacar (ph) Noir. 

STEWART:  Before I let you go, poor girl, her career flopping.  She’s looking shaky in the custody deal.  What is next for Britney Jean? 

MUSTO:  There are a lot of option, Allison.  There’s the tuna fish cosmetic line.  A line of hats that you can share with your bodyguard.  Best of all is the, oh my god, I look like a fat pig tour.  If she breaks her knee this time, it’s fine, there’s no movement involved.  Just sit there and eat twinkies. 

STEWART:  I like that you provide solutions.  That’s what I like about you, Michael Musto.

MUSTO:  I’m a problem solver and a people helper. 

STEWART:  Thank you so much for joining us.  That does it for this Monday edition of COUNTDOWN.  I’m Allison Stewart, filling in for Keith Olbermann.  Feel better, Keith.  Until next time, please check out my new show on NPR.  It’s called “The Bryant Park Project.”  Our coverage continues with “MSNBC LIVE” and Dan Abrams coming from Vegas.  Good evening, Dan. 

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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