Guest: Jonathan Turley, Mo Rocca, Gerald Posner, Dana Milbank
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The offensive in Fallujah as fighting goes door to door. At least 1/3 of the Iraqi population urged to boycott the elections in response to an offensive designed to preserve the elections.
Preserving our elections. Ohio begins to count the provisional ballots. And Craig Crawford on why little of the mainstream media has touched the stories of voting irregularities. Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley on what happens if those stories turn out to be decisive after an inauguration.
He demanded media attention and he got it. The hostage taker at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles.
And the running dogs of capitalism. Well, of the White House. No offense meant. We talked presidential pooches with Mo Rocca, dog.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening. This is Tuesday, November 9. One week since our elections. Two months and 18 days until the scheduled elections in Iraq. The continuing story of what may or may not have gone wrong here later in the news hour with my guests, MSNBC‘s Craig Crawford and constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley.
But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the sobering facts of what‘s going on on the ground in Fallujah and how it may have already affected the Iraqi votes slated for January 27th. The Association of Muslim Scholars, a powerful group of Sunni clerics has fulfilled its threat to call for a boycott of those January elections. The director of the group, Harith al Dareed(ph) said the vote would be held quote, “over the corpses of those killed in Fallujah and the blood of the wounded.” Sunni Muslims make but that 35 percent of Iraq‘s population. Both the interim government and the U.S. have previous expressed concern that a lack of Sunni participation may undermine the legitimacy of the vote. Last week U.N. Secretary General Annan warned that a full scale military operation in Fallujah, while designed to improve the chances of the elections going off as planned, might have exactly the opposite impact.
There is no doubt that it is a full scale military operation. 15,000 U.S. and Iraqi troop punching through northern and eastern quadrants of the city, reaching the central highway intersection earlier today. Resistance has been sporadic with streets deserted and marines only encountering small bands of insurgents. Thus far 10 U.S. soldiers and marines and two Iraqi government troops have reportedly been killed in the two-day offensive. To try to get a grasp on what we‘re doing in Fallujah, we‘re honored to again be joined by the MSNBC military analyst, retired U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey. General McCaffrey, good evening.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, US ARMY (RET): Yeah, hi, Keith. I‘m out in Tacoma, Washington, thanks.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. Let me start with the reporting that the house to house resistance that the U.S. forces were expecting has been less than expected. Is that good news or is that too reminiscent of what didn‘t happen in Baghdad after the invasion itself, when it proved just to be a precursor to insurgency?
MCCAFFREY: Well, the insurgents would be unwise to try to take on marines in house to house fighting. They are backed up by two battalions of the 1st Cavalry and 1st Infantry Division using tanks and mechanized fighting vehicles. We have AC-130 Air Force gunship and precision strikes by naval aircraft. So fighting, they will be destroyed. It is not surprising that so far, they‘re trying to go to ground. We‘re going to end up taking the city. Hopefully it will be the easiest way in two or three days instead of seven to 10 days of hard fighting.
OLBERMANN: This has been billed throughout as a means of increasing the chances of those Iraqi elections that are supposed to occur less than 80 days from now. Is it going to have that effect? Is it going to hinder the insurgents sufficiently?
MCCAFFREY: No. I don‘t think so. I think the reason we have to take down Fallujah, and Ramadi and Samarra and these other places, is because they are acting as a sanctuary for armed attacks by these former regime elements, Ba‘athists. All throughout Baghdad, all throughout the northwestern part of the Iraq. I can‘t imagine the Sunni Muslims are going to agree to a democratic mechanism of government under which they, 20 percent of the population, that dominated Iraq for 50 years, political, economic, military, why would they agree to that? They‘re going to fight and they‘re going to try to regain control of Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Ultimately, General McCaffrey, what will the outcome in Fallujah be? You‘ve already suggested how long it might take. What there its impact be on the big picture there?
MCCAFFREY: Well, a pretty good one. I don‘t think we could have tolerated a continuing erosion of casualties, U.S. and allied. Terrible destructive attacks on the Iraqi police and National Guard and the governmental figures. So a lot of that was coming out of Fallujah and Ramadi. We‘ll go in and kill those people and then hopefully, re-assert control. That‘s the tough part, it seems to me, Keith. Is that I‘m very skeptical about the ability of these National Guard battalion, Iraqi and police units, to actually stay in control of this hotbed of insurgency. It doesn‘t sound like it is likely to happen.
OLBERMANN: General Barry McCaffrey as always, we greatly appreciate your insight and your time tonight, sir.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One more note from Iraq, underscoring the danger there. Charles Duelfer, the head of the Iraq survey group which recently reported there had been no weapons of mass destruction there, has survived a car bomb attack in Baghdad. A senior Pentagon official says it occurred yesterday and it claimed the lives of two security men traveling with Charles Duelfer.
If the fight in Iraq is a fight against terror, then another aspect continues to play out in of all places, Paris, France. There the condition of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat continue to deteriorate. Arafat‘s prime minister, foreign minister, and foreign prime minister were all admitted to his Paris hospital room last night. A spokesman for that facility has for the first time publicly confirmed that Arafat is in a coma which in his words, became deeper this morning.
But medical authorities insist his majoring organs are still functioning. That foreign minister, Nabil Sha‘ath said that there is no chance that Arafat will be removed from life support systems and no plan to move him. There is no talk, Sha‘ath told a news conference, of his return until he is cured. As to the angry phone call from her husband‘s bedside which Arafat‘s wife Suha claimed that Palestinian leaders were trying to bury him alive, Sha‘ath said the delegation met with her for two hours and that that dispute had now been solved.
There is one more terror-related story that strikes close to home as it possibly could. One dispute that may never be resolved is the exact cause and timeline of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Has the chance of resolution been increased or decreased in the last month? You may have seen the following paid advertisement on this network or others between October 20 and November 2.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: A third tower two blocks from the world trade center.
Crumbled into dust at 5:25 on September 11. It was not hit by any plane. It had no significant fire. No explanation for its collapse has been given. The collapse looks just like a typical demolition by explosives. Call 888-investigate or go to ReOpen911.com to reopen the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A second commercial suggests that no plane flew into the Pentagon. As ever, when the subject of 9/11 comes up, we‘re fortunate to turn to the most respected authority on the subject, the author of “Why America Slept” and before that the book that overwhelms almost every aspect of the various JFK assassination conspiracy theories, “Case Closed,” Gerald Posner. Good evening, sir.
GERALD POSNER, SCHOLAR: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What are these ads and who is responsible for them?
POSNER: These ads are sort of straight out of “X-Files.” They are the types of things that warm the cockles of Oliver Stone‘s heart. Who is responsible for them is a multi-millionaire, a fellow, James Walter out of Santa Barbara, California. He is worth about $7 million. Mostly inherited from his family. He had a building construction company in Tampa, Florida. And he has been a social activist in the past, good causes, things like voter registration, prison reform. But this time he‘s gone off the far end.
We‘re talking about ads that in essence are saying, World Trade Center 7, a building two blocks away from the World Trade Center Towers, really wasn‘t destroyed by the damage from the planes that went into the other two towers that day. But somehow, the owner of that building must have thought, gee, you know what? I don‘t have enough people filling that building. I have too many vacancies and sent in a secret team to plant explosives and bring it down on 9/11 with nobody noticing and the government should be investigating that.
And the plane we all thought went into the Pentagon with all those people that died onboard, that‘s just a bit of fiction made up. This is really pretty far down the field. One of his own friends recently described James Walter as an eccentric sweetheart. I can‘t speak to the sweetheart part but eccentric would be a mild term to describe these ads.
OLBERMANN: He was also, this man, James Walter, was quoted in “The New York Times” yesterday as saying “It just isn‘t possible that 19,” this is the quote, “19 screw-ups with box cutters pulled this whole thing off.” Is he right to raise an issue like that that might be in the backs of people‘s minds for the last three years but has gone off on a tangent here? Or is the whole premise damaging to the continuing research into 9/11?
POSNER: The whole premise is damaging in this sense. Look, there are plenty of legitimate questions about 9/11. You know I have raised some of them that remain unanswered to this day in my own book. I‘ve got the dead Saudi princes and the dead head of the Pakistani air force and the 9/11 Commission gave a pass to the Saudis. There are plenty of things leading up to 9/11 and after 9/11 that I would love to have investigated.
But the exact details of what happened that day, those planes taken by 19 hijackers, that‘s not in doubt. And when he says that he can‘t believe that 19 screw-ups did it, first of all, he underestimates our enemies. This was a clever plan, years in the making. They weren‘t screw-ups. And secondly, he has the mind of the conspiracy theorists. They can‘t believe something that large can happen and have a simple explanation.
People can‘t believe Princess Diana died in a car wreck. But she did. They can‘t believe single a assassins killed John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. But they did. And they can‘t believe in the end that flight 800 was just an accident, but it was. And that‘s the problem we have here.
OLBERMANN: Most of the ads were seen by what are called local buys. They were sold by the cable systems operators in New York and Washington during the local breaks. Not by the cable networks themselves. Is there culpability here? Especially when it comes to 9/11, should anybody be able to put out advertising as news, as long as they have enough money?
POSNER: Boy, I certainly don‘t think so. I‘m a believer in free speech and you should get a right to stand up on the corner soapbox and say whatever you want, but just because you have money, we have families of victims. And these families of victims are the ones who created the 9/11 panel. They‘re the pressure for finding out the truth in this case. But nobody should be using it for what I call a wild and completely unsupported hunch in this matter. And these cable shows that are putting them on and selling time and profiting the money, they would not be putting on an advertisement from an American neo-Nazi that said the Holocaust was a hoax. They would draw the line there. So why we are allowed to put on something that has no basis in fact, in which there are answers and explanations for all of this, just generating more confusion over the legitimate problems of 9/11. I‘m not sure why.
OLBERMANN: Investigative journalist and author, Gerald Posner. As always, sir, pleasure having you on the program.
POSNER: Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: And as has been forecast here for days, the Cabinet shuffle in the Bush administration got underway late this afternoon. The Attorney General and the Commerce Secretary calling it quits. And the vote tally that put the president in the record books. More states surfaced with counting problems. Are they normal, regular tabulation problem or a sign of something bigger? Stand by, you‘re watching COUNTOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Resignation day at the White House. The Attorney General quits, saying he has secured America against terror. The Commerce Secretary leaves, too. The Cabinet shuffle off to a running start. Details next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Over the last 10 day here on COUNTDOWN, this is where we‘ve examined prospective Cabinet changes in the second Bush administration. They are prospective no more. Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, as expected, Attorney General John Ashcroft has resigned today. The date of his departure as yet undetermined. An event considered a certainty, at least since aides last week leaked the news that he would go because he was exhausted at just the same time the president was describing all Cabinet positions as exhausting. Ashcroft had been one of the lightning rods for criticism of the administration. But also one of the strongest connections from it from his conservative bases. He will be obviously remembered, primarily for his spokesmanship for the PATRIOT Act. In his five page handwritten resignation, he made an indirect reference to that fact.
“I take great personal satisfaction in the record which has been developed,” he wrote, “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” Nice to know that‘s all wrapped up. At the same time it was also announced and accepted and announced that Ashcroft‘s resignation would indeed be accepted. The White House also announced that the Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans had also submitted his resignation. Don Evans and the president were friends who had met in Texas in their 20s. The president met the future Mrs. Evans in elementary school.
The Ashcroft resignation may have been as easily foreseen as a cab coming down Broadway with its doors open. But it still marks the first major resignation in the entirety of the administration. Dana Milbank, White House correspondent of the “Washington Post” has been good enough to take a few busy news minutes out to join us now. Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, “WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: If you keep pictures of the cabinet up on your bedroom wall like baseball cards...
MILBANK: As I do.
OLBERMANN: Me, too. Or you read and watch the news endlessly, the Attorney General‘s resignation is no surprise. But presumably, a lot of people who are not like that are going to be surprised. Did he jump or was he pushed?
MILBANK: Oh, definitely, he jumped on his own. He might have had a little push had he been reluctant to jump. It was clear the White House was eager to have some calmer presence there over at the Justice Department. But he is tired and he has had some medical issues. So nobody is begrudging him this at all.
OLBERMANN: The inflamed pancreas and such. The removal of the gallbladder. But before a lead cabinet officer like the Attorney General goes away, speculation about his successor is somewhat muted. Not completely but somewhat. But afterwards, obviously, not so much. Do we have a better idea tonight who replaces him? Does Mr. Bush have a better idea?
MILBANK: Mr. Bush may and we don‘t necessarily. But that wouldn‘t stop us from speculating at all. So we have Larry Thompson, who was his deputy. Who happens to be African-American. Might be a savvy political choice for Bush. We have Mark Racicot, who was bush‘s campaign chairman, who would be a bit of a payback for him there. We have John Danforth who is a favorite of religious conservatives and is now over at the U.N. So that‘s sort of how I would handicap it now.
OLBERMANN: Can he get Larry Thompson, though? Because the latest stuff out of people close to him is supposedly that he loves his job as the general counsel for Pepsi and found so coning the political lifestyle. Namely the security and other matters, that he would be loathe to go back to Washington. Is that a performance? Or is Thompson really a tough hire?
MILBANK: You certainly don‘t want to go campaigning about how eager you are for the job. But Thompson was on the campaign trail a couple of times with Bush. So we don‘t know his thinking. We don‘t know Bush‘s thinking. But certainly it has to be taken as a serious possibility.
OLBERMANN: And not to dismiss the outgoing Secretary of Commerce, but he did have time to be a guest on this newscast on Election Eve. So we know this job is not like National Security Adviser. Why did Don Evans go and will we recognize whoever replaces him?
MILBANK: Poor Don Evans. He‘s only important to those who care about the sausage making of politics. But he is an old friend of the president‘s. For that reason, it will be important that he will be gone.
He is not a guy to frequently hang out at the White House. We can expect -
· It is sort of a patronage job. It doesn‘t matter that much. But it is a bit of a payback. So maybe Mercer Reynolds who helped Bush raise all that money for the campaign might get that job or one of his other friends in corporate America.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank, the White House correspondent of the “Washington Post.” As ever, great thanks for your time and insight, sir.
MILBANK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The security of the world‘s—Play the tape—Turtle population. Sure as heck is not on the top of the NSC priority list but it is topping our list in “Oddball.” Promise. And a dramatic stand-off in Los Angeles. The suspect wanted the attention of the media. He got it. And in ways he was not expecting. Standby.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and it is that time of night when we step away from the real news to deliver a full report on the surreal news. Let‘s play “Oddball.” And we begin with this reminder that strange things go on in this great big world of hours. Things you may never have imagined. Things like turtle smuggling.
Luckily the Brazilian police are always on the case and thanks to their tireless efforts, the turtle traffickers are being hunted down and brought to justice, going to the big house. In the port town of Manacaporu this week, a group was arrested after police raid discovered more than 100 turtles in their small home. Turtles headed for the black market. We should note those turtles had indeed been placed on their back but they‘re not suspects. It‘s for their own safety.
The four men face charges for crime against the environment, the turtles will be sent to a nearby ecological reserve, and as for the cops, they will become consultants to the new NBC series “Law and Order, Turtle Victims Unit.”
And an update on our number one story from last night, Santa in the line of fire. That‘s him on the right. If you recall, 62-year-old mall Santa Saint Nick Pelotto (ph) had been denied access to a flu shot because despite that he comes in contact with something like 10,000 children this winter, he was too healthy and he did not meet the minimum age requirement under the new restrictions.
It seemed this year there may be no Christmas. But hold on to your stockings, because yes, Virginia, there is a nursing home with an extra flu shot. Hearing about Saint Nick‘s plight in the news, as he told us last night, a Colorado Springs retirement center offered up one of its own precious shots this morning. So Santy rolled up his sleeve and the nurse found a vein and in went the needle so there would be Christmas again. But Santa‘s world is still topsy-turvey, his reindeer have mad cow disease and half the elves have scurvy.
Christmas with the sniffles? How about the election with every bug in the book. What went wrong and who is going to fix it? COUNTDOWN is making your vote count. Possibly on the second try.
And the Peterson jury showed up to court today in their good duds. Verdict? No. New juror? Yes. And the news that they go right back to square one in the deliberations. Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers. Number three, hey, more voting irregularities. And unnamed German citizen now in Norway. He tells the newspaper there he was a student in South Carolina in 1997. He got a U.S. driver‘s license and a few weeks ago, an absentee ballot for the presidential election even though he is German citizen. So he voted. Germans for Kerry!
Number two, Debbie DuPeire of Jefferson, Louisiana. When she went to vote for the president last week, she was told she could not because she was wearing a Bush-Cheney T-shirt. So she took it off and voting wearing just her jeans and brassiere. Topless for Bush.
And number one, the “Florida Times-Union” newspaper of Jacksonville. Its editors apologized for having on the front page of last Tuesday‘s special election issue, printed a phone number that the paper said was for an emergency line for voting problems. It was in fact a sex talk service. Hotline indeed. Presumably when you called it, it was answered by the topless voter from Louisiana.
OLBERMANN: Whether you voted for President Bush or for Senator Kerry in Broward County, Florida, last Tuesday, your vote counted. Unfortunately, it may have counted as a negative number.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the countdown and other hair-raising tales of the ballot box and electronic voting angst, Craig Crawford on the deafening silence from the mainstream media on this story, Jonathan Turley on its constitutional implications.
But, first, it‘s your tax dollars in action, day eight of the 2004 election irregularities investigations. Elections officials in Broward, that is, Fort Lauderdale, said they have undone the damage wrought by optical scanning equipment provided by the company Election Systems and Software. When a vote total for a precinct there reached 32,000, its machines began to count backwards, count backwards.
Broward County officials noticed the choose-and-lose problem immediately and that the only actual vote counts that got messed up were for eight of the state ballot propositions. In Ohio, Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has announced that the so-called provisional ballots would be counted starting this week, probably Saturday. There are 155,428 of them, but a large percentage is likely to be ruled invalid by Mr. Blackwell and his employees.
While the mismatched precinct totals from the Cleveland area, at 29 locations, there appeared to be more presidential votes than registered voters, have been still not been officially explained, they may turn out to be absentee ballots added to precinct totals. Youngstown, Ohio, meanwhile, has revealed that one slight glitch there was caught in time, a Youngstown precinct where the vote total was negative 25 million.
That was close. Where‘s the Democratic Party in all this? Ralph Nader asked that question today, issuing what he called a challenge to Senators Kerry and Edwards to fulfill their promises to make sure every vote counts, particularly in Ohio. Nader did not actually go as far as to even urge the Democratic candidates to pursue a recount or legal remedy.
He didn‘t say anything, particularly. North Carolina has another problem, too. First, it was UniLect Corporation machines in Carteret County that simply count not higher than 3,000 votes. Officials there said they are now being told by the manufacturer that the votes are not missing. They‘re gone, anywhere from 4,500 of them to 12,000.
Now from Craven County, North Carolina, comes news of every vote counting twice; 11,283 votes there for both Bush and Kerry were added in, then added in a second time by another elections systems and software machine. In correcting that mistake, a human error produced a second set of bad numbers for a local county board seat. When that was fixed, it made a loser out of the Republican who had initially been declared the winner.
And a new state with a new voting nightmare, Nebraska, home of Election System and Software company. Sarpy County—that‘s where Offutt Air Force Base is—has at least 10,000 extra votes in its returns; 32 of the 80 precinct there still do not have their numbers figured out. That‘s thanks to election equipment borrowed from Election Systems and Software. One candidate for Papillion City Council said he was stunned to see that 3,342 people had voted in his ward, when less than 3,000 people were registered there.
Last night, we began our newscast with a rundown of the irregularities in Florida and Ohio and talked to Representative John Conyers about the urgent request to the General Accountability Office for an investigation of electronic voting which he and five other Democratic congressmen had made;
7,500 e-mails have reached us so far, hundred of phone calls, the ratio of positive to negative holding at about 22-1.
Yet, otherwise, there has been virtually no coverage of either the specifics of the often dubious election of 2004 or the larger issue of the broad unreliability shown this year by electronic voting.
I‘m joined now by Craig Crawford, MSNBC political and columnist for “Congressional Quarterly.”
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I‘ve already been pre-blogged by some of your e-mailers lobbying me on what to say tonight.
OLBERMANN: Sorry about that.
OLBERMANN: But why is that it this is like the second large-scale report on this on a national level? Did every news organization give up on this story the moment John Kerry conceded the election?
CRAWFORD: I think two or three things were going on.
The glib answer, which is part of the truth, is, I think everybody was tired after that election. And it was a grueling one. And so since John Kerry—and this is the second factor—since John Kerry conceded, then there wasn‘t the great desire to run out to Columbus or wherever and try to figure this stuff out.
And the concession is the key, because we‘re often wimps in the media. And we wait for other people to make charges, one political party or another, and then we investigate it. But this is the time to do this. There‘s still time before the results are certified. It doesn‘t mean it will change the outcome. But it is good and I congratulate you for looking at some of these irregularities.
OLBERMANN: Well, I congratulate you—not to turn this into the mutual society that it is when we get together. But I congratulate you for joining me on the crap list for saying that there are wimps in the media. Amen, brother.
OLBERMANN: We know it and now everybody else knows it.
But you had actually—you‘ve been studying this much more carefully than I have in Ohio, the voting machines that added 4,000 votes for the president in a town that has 638 voters, the Cuyahoga County precincts where they may have been thrown in the absentee ballots in the counts. It‘s not clear what happened there. Is there in Ohio a case for a recount, a formal contesting, something?
CRAWFORD: Well, there is the process where the secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, is looking at these matters. That‘s the first step, is for the secretary of state to investigate any problems.
You don‘t have to file a lawsuit for that. The recounting question comes later, actually, after the absentee ballots come in November 12. He has got until probably December 1 is his target for certifying these results. So there‘s plenty of time. And this is the window. This is the time to look at this.
But I have got to say, when I look at the numbers, Bush won so handily, well over 130,000 votes in the unofficial count. Even if you take everything into account, it would have to go perfectly for John Kerry for this to even get close in Ohio. But, of course, if it did, if the outcome changes in Ohio, it would change the outcome of the election in the Electoral College.
But you would have to manage such a conspiracy, Keith, of supervisors of elections around the state that—my experience with election supervisors is that they‘re very independent, often real characters, and hard people to actually organize into a conspiracy. I think it would be easier to herd a bunch of cats across a parking lot.
OLBERMANN: Of course, a bunch of cats in a parking lot could probably reprogram some of these computers that have been presented by our fine friends at the various companies.
The last question here is really political. Did ultimately—and we know no concession speech is binding legally—but, ultimately, did John Kerry concede too soon and where is the Democratic National Committee on all this right now?
CRAWFORD: Well, I think, disillusioned Democrats are too busy filling out their naturalization forms for Canada, I think.
But if he had conceded later and opened up this can of worms and then it just turned out the same, that Bush won, Kerry would have suffered a backlash, I think. And we‘re already learning that Kerry is definitely interested in running again in 2008. So there‘s that whole calculation that probably went through his mind.
And to say that Democrats would contest a 136,000-vote deficit when they couldn‘t overcome 537 votes in Florida in 2000, on the face of it, I think they‘re just worried it would look just ridiculous. But the bottom line here, too, Keith, all of these elections offices are underfunded. We actually spend more money on prison food in this country than running elections. And that‘s a big part of the problem with the long lines and everything else. So, if we had thinner prisoners, we could have shorter lines.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly,” with me, I think we‘re two of the people who are not the wimps in the media, at least this week. Great thanks, Craig.
CRAWFORD: Yes. So long.
OLBERMANN: Lest you don‘t think this is a one-way street politically, the state of Florida is continuing its investigation of a registration group called ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, claiming to have registered one million new voters this year, virtually all as Democrats nationwide, but accused also of skirting registration law in Florida and in Ohio, where “The Cincinnati Enquirer” reported a month before the election that officials in Hamilton County had subpoenaed 19 voter registration cards submitted by ACORN after they proved to have similar handwriting and false addresses.
There may have been similar instances in Colorado and Minnesota as well. And in Saint Petersburg, Florida, ACORN reportedly signed up voter Charlie Shoe (ph), a 30-year-old Republican woman. The problem was, Charlie Shoe is a 68-year-old Democratic man, the former mayor of Saint Petersburg.
In the remarkable viewer response to our coverage last night, one question was repeated again and again. Where does all the trouble with the voting, whether inadvertent or fraudulent, leave the election?
I‘m delighted to be joined again by an old friend of this program, Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at the Law School at George Washington University.
Jonathan, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The states start reporting their electoral slates, the Electoral College, on the 7th of December. Is that the drop-dead date in terms of everything? If there was fraud, you have to prove it before then or it ceases to matter?
TURLEY: Well, the December 7 date is when you essentially certify your electors under a federal law that was passed in one of our earlier debacles. And it gives a presumption of legitimacy to your votes. And then, on the 13th, the electors actually vote.
But those votes are not opened by Congress until January 6. Now, if there are controversies, such as some disclosure that a state actually went for Kerry, there is the ability of members of Congress to challenge. It requires a written objection from one House member and one senator. And then, if that objection is recorded, then both Houses separate again and they vote by majority vote as to whether to accept the slate of electoral votes from that state.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s reduce the partisanship level that‘s unavoidable because one side lost and one side won this year and make this next question into a theoretical.
Winning candidate A is inaugurated in year X. Six months later, two years later, whatever, there comes definitive proof, confessions, convictions, videotape, DNA evidence, that people working for candidate A literally changed the vote in the electorally decisive states, say on his personal instructions in writing, something ridiculously transparent like that. What happens then?
TURLEY: Well, the definition of the president of the United States is technically the guy that took the oath of office on January 20. And so the question would become after that point the removal of the president.
Now, a president can only be removed for death or incapacity or through impeachment. You can only be removed through impeachment if you can show the president knew of such a criminal conspiracy. If there‘s no evidence of his personal knowledge or involvement, you can‘t satisfy that constitutional standard. And so what you have is a very disappointed senator B.
OLBERMANN: That‘s presuming it‘s a senator in our hypothetical.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s get back to this one, this election. In Florida, in Ohio, from what you‘ve done to examine both states and their voting returns, do you think there is enough evidence to justify legal action, recount, contested election? And is John Kerry the only person who could legally cause one of those things to happen?
TURLEY: You know, I was surprised on the morning after. I was still on the air around 6:00 a.m. with CBS when the results came on. We went off the air at 6:00 a.m.
And, at that time, we believe that there was a margin. If you included both the provisional and the absentee votes and you also looked at some of these pockets of votes that were being challenged—it‘s a mistake just to talk about provisional ballots. Ohio was rife with allegations. There was litigation over pockets of votes. We also saw that in other states during the day. There was far more litigation than was indicated in the news programming.
And so when you look at provisionals, then absentees and then those pockets of votes, yes, there probably is enough of a margin if things broke for Kerry that he could turn the state. Is it likely? No. But it is not impossible. So when Kerry came out that morning and said, oh, it is impossible I could win Ohio based on the provisionals, it was a very narrow view. And I think it was designed to satisfy Democrats that were upset that he didn‘t fight more.
Also, remember, over 70 percent of Ohio‘s votes were done with punch cards. And we know that when you do a challenge to those, they tend to turn over. So there was room for challenge in that and other states.
OLBERMANN: Could there still be one?
TURLEY: Well, there could. But without the candidate, judges don‘t really work as hard.
And, also, remember, even if you didn‘t take Ohio, he could tie Bush 269-269 if he flipped some of those other 1 or 2 percent states like Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada. Those would actually tie it 269-269. So there was a variety of different challenges he could have made.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School, a man who knows his Constitution. And always a pleasure. Good to talk to you again, sir.
TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One clarification tonight about our report last night. We noted that in 29 Florida counties in which Democratic registration exceeded Republican registration, Senator Kerry received fewer votes a week ago than did President Bush. We mentioned five counties where that swing seemed the largest, where Democratic registration ranged from 69 to 88 percent.
We picked those counties by numbers, not by geography. And thus we did not address that geography which you see there, those yellow states, those five particular counties, their proximity to what we could call Zell Miller country and the possible, some would say probable, impact of the heritage there of Dixiecratic. Additionally, all five of those counties that we mentioned last night voted for Mr. Bush in 2000, although, in each case, by measurably smaller margins. There were 24 others.
We‘ll continue our coverage here on COUNTDOWN—did it count down—and also on the Web on Bloggermann, the official blog of the program. The last full posting was this morning. The next one will be whenever I get to it. And, again, don‘t be afraid of the eyebrows on the caricature. Despite appearances, they‘re not capable of overtaking the planet.
We‘re not done with politics. Presidents and their pets, animals at the heart of power, and these voting controversies as well, as explained by the one and only Mo Rocca.
And it looked like a Hollywood street thriller, but the bullets flying in not one, but two police standoffs were all too real.
This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The daily face-off between the good guys and the bad guys taking a dramatic turn in two different standoffs caught on tape. And the Peterson jury loses a juror, but gets to start deliberations all over again.
OLBERMANN: Crime with cameras rolling.
Our No. 2 story tonight, in a moment, hostage crisis and demand for publicity playing out in Los Angeles.
First, the hunt for one of the most notorious gangs in Texas, the Takeover Bandits, wanted in more than 60 holdups and carjackings. One of them finally turned himself in over the weekend, but as Scott Gordon of station KXAS reports, not before he and his two accomplices led police on a high-speed, high-caliber chase north of Dallas.
SCOTT GORDON, KXAS REPORTER (voice-over): Pursued by police, the so-called Takeover Bandits quickly make it clear they mean business.
Take a closer look. The passenger leans out with a machine gun and opens fire. The driver shoots through back window as the trio races up Central Expressway. The bullets miss Officer Bill Brown (ph) by inches. Incredibly, he tries to continue the chase, but his car is disabled. For a short while, police lose sight of the bandits, but quickly pick up their trail.
The gunmen ditch their red Chevy Suburban in an intersection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, be careful, man. That is automatic weapon fire.
GORDON: Knowing they‘re outgunned, police approach the suspects. But they‘re already in a nearby parking lot commandeering another getaway car, a white pickup. They crash it a few blocks away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re right there. (INAUDIBLE) Let‘s go!
GORDON: The view from another squad car shows the accident as it happens. Look in the center of the screen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We‘ve got a 44 major accident.
GORDON: The other driver escapes with minor injuries. The bandits jump out, guns still in hand, still firing on arriving police cars, hitting this one in the hood and this one in the windshield.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More shots fired. More shots fired.
GORDON: Police think they have the gunmen cornered. But with bullets still flying, the suspects commandeer yet another car and slip away in the chaos and confusion.
OLBERMANN: Scott Gordon of KXAS-TV reporting, no one seriously injured. Police never fired a single shot.
Not so in a case in L.A. this morning, when an armed man stormed into the Mexican Consulate there and came out with a hostage. Police his one demand was for media attention. He certainly got it when he dragged a female clerk, reportedly pregnant, out in front of a cameraman from our NBC Spanish network Telemundo. Surrounded by police, the gunman hid behind his hostage, inched backwards along the street for a few tense seconds before he was shot.
The hostage escaped unharmed. The gunman is in critical condition.
Still no word yet on who he is, nor why he wanted publicity.
The nightly celebrity and gossip roundup, “Keeping Tabs,” consisting of a false alarm about a possible end to a highly publicized trial. You may have heard of it. When the jury in the Scott Peterson case showed up all duded out in its finest finery, trial watchers concluded there might be a verdict or a hung jury or something, yes, on the something part.
Juror No. 7 has been dismissed by Judge Alfred Delucchi after he had reportedly concluded she had conducted her own research on the case. Five alternate jurors had been sequestered for just such an eventuality. So the jury, with alternate No. 2 swapped in, immediately went to start its deliberations from the beginning. Said the judge said smartly, start all over again and keep in touch.
Competition heating up in the battle for the White House lawn. Mo Rocca, chroniclers of pets presidential, on the newest member of the Bush team and a little on the electoral irregularities.
OLBERMANN: We have already discussed the personnel changes that will impact the second Bush administration. We‘ve already discussed the voting irregularities that could dog the second Bush administration.
But only one man can discuss the dog changes that could impact the second Bush administration. His new book is “All the Presidents‘ Pets: The Story of One Reporter Who Refused to Roll Over.” And he is television personality Mo Rocca.
Good evening, Mo.
MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Good evening, Keith. Thank you for having me on.
OLBERMANN: The Bush‘s new dog, the president‘s gift to the first lady, Miss Beazley, who is Miss Beazley?
ROCCA: Miss Beazley is an interesting character. She was the first addition to the administration that was announced after the election.
She‘s a young woman, female dog. She‘s only 11 days old. There‘s a lot of speculation on what influence she‘ll have in this administration. A lot of people are hoping she is a moderating influence. She is, after all, Mrs. Bush‘s dog. And we know that Mrs. Bush parts company with the president on many issues, especially social issues. There‘s some concern among feminists that it‘s miss Beazley and not Ms. Beazley. We can assume she is from the South.
But, on the other hand, she could be post-feminist, she could be embracing “Miss” almost ironically. It‘s not clear at this time. There certainly have been great Scotties in the White House. FDR had Falla. And Teddy Roosevelt had Jessie and other great Scotties. Dorothy Lamour had a Scottie named Peanuts. Dorothy Lamour starred in all those road movies with Bob and Bing. So it could be that Miss Beazley is a multilateralist.
But we must also remember that Charles Lindbergh had a Scottie named Skeen (ph). It‘s some Gaelic name. And Charles Lindbergh was an isolationist and an anti-Semite. So it‘s very unclear. So, basically, what I‘m saying is, we don‘t know anything about Miss Beazley, but we do hope that she is little more activist than Barney.
Barney the current Scottie, who is actually the uncle of Miss Beazley, has been a disappointment to a lot of moderates.
OLBERMANN: And Miss Beazley appointment preceded Attorney General Ashcroft‘s resignation today, which I found interesting.
ROCCA: Well, it is interesting, and also because Zsa Zsa Gabor also had a Scottie. And Zsa Zsa Gabor had very little respect for law and order. I mean, she slapped a cop.
OLBERMANN: Slapped a policeman in Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: The appointment was not announced until after the election last week. Do you think that it affected these controversial votes in Florida and Ohio?
ROCCA: Well, I am not much for crazy theories, so conspiracy or otherwise.
I would point out that Eva Braun had two Scotties named Nagus (ph) and Sagan (ph) and she really wasn‘t one for counting votes. So there might be a connection there. I am not sure. I think really the voting irregularities come down to Jim Traficant. After all, he‘s from Youngstown.
OLBERMANN: In 30 seconds, is there a reason that we have not heard more about, say, Democratic attempts to influence the outcome of the election?
ROCCA: Oh, you mean their animals?
That‘s really my beat. That‘s my bailiwick, if you will.
ROCCA: I still want to hear more about that hamster John Kerry pulled out of the Mekong Delta.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Was that a—no, we just should just, I think, leave that before I get into trouble and describe what that was and—it was pulled out and where.
ROCCA: Dogs don‘t have much use for blogs, because you can‘t pee on them.
OLBERMANN: Television personality Mo Rocca, author of “All the Presidents‘ Pets: The Story of One Reporter Who Refused to Roll Over.”
ROCCA: It‘s a love story starring me and Helen Thomas.
OLBERMANN: And, fortunately, every once in a while, he is our guest here.
ROCCA: And I thank you in the back of it. You are in the acknowledgments.
OLBERMANN: I will run out and get it on my way home. Thanks, Mo.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thank you for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. I don‘t know what happened just then. Good night and good luck.
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