Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jack Jacobs
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Who done it? Scooter Libby says he knows who done it, knows who probably leaked Valerie Plame Wilson‘s identity, Karl Rove and former press secretary Ari Fleischer. Rove in Libby‘s latest court filing, quote, “He allegedly spoke both to Mr. Novak and Mr. Libby about Ms. Wilson‘s affiliation with the CIA.”
Fleischer, in Libby‘s latest court filing, he, quote, “played a key role in orchestrating and implementing the administration‘s strategy for rebutting Mr. Wilson‘s claims.”
Scooter Libby throws Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer under the bus and then calls them as witnesses.
Next, the call to oust Donald Rumsfeld. Now five ex-generals insist we need a new secretary of defense.
Hide and seek. When the 4-year-old who is hiding is better than the adults who are seeking. You will not believe where they finally found him.
And where did “New York” magazine find this, a photo of a baby, the Pitt-Jolie offspring, who‘s not going to be born until late next month? Or video of Elton John in a tutu he never wore, shots of Camilla dressing up her stepson? We‘ll meet the master of the lookalike photo. Of course, we amateurs can still play.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
If the conventional wisdom really was that Scooter Libby would go silently into that good night, that there would be no buck-passing, that the longer Patrick Fitzgerald‘s Plamegate prosecution of Libby went on, the better it would be for President Bush and the White House, we‘re going to need a new conventional wisdom.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, in court documents, Mr. Libby has pointed the finger of guilt at the man called Bush‘s Brain and the artist formerly known as Bush‘s press secretary. The latest pretrial filing from Mr. Libby‘s defense team not so much clarifying the plot of the revelation of Valerie Plame Wilson‘s identity as introducing new characters.
One week after special prosecutor Fitzgerald first revealed that President Bush, with Vice President Cheney as middleman, apparently authorized Mr. Libby to leak intelligence to reporters, Mr. Libby had a different story, claiming that his former bosses did not instruct him to disclose the identity of CIA operative Plame Wilson. A propos of nothing, we might add.
Two of Mr. Libby‘s former colleagues at the White House do not get off as easily as the P and the VP, Libby‘s defense team pledging to call Karl Rove to the stand, saying that Mr. Rove allegedly spoke to both columnist Robert Novak about Mrs. Wilson‘s job with the CIA, and that former press secretary Ari Fleischer played a key role in discrediting Mr. Wilson‘s claims about the Bush administration‘s case for war in Iraq. They intend to call him to the stand as well.
Time for us now to call in correspondent David Shuster, who‘s been following this story for us from Washington.
Good evening, David.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This seems to have been responded to kind of tepidly around Washington. Am I missing something? Or didn‘t Scooter Libby just pin Plamegate directly on Karl Rove and also hit Ari Fleischer with a kind of indirect shot?
SHUSTER: Yes, what he‘s trying to do is, he‘s trying to simply impugn the testimony of the key people who are going to testify against him, and that is Tim Russert and Judy Miller. What Scooter Libby‘s trying to suggest is that perhaps Tim Russert is somehow mistaken, Judy Miller‘s mistaken. They didn‘t really hear about Valerie Plame from Scooter Libby, they really heard it from Ari Fleischer and Karl Rove and simply got their testimony wrong, and therefore, when Scooter Libby says, I didn‘t tell these reporters, they told me, the jury may somehow believe it.
The problem that Scooter Libby has is that is Tim Russert and Judy Miller are pretty firm that, no, they didn‘t hear about Plame from Ari Fleischer, they heard it from Scooter Libby.
OLBERMANN: If that‘s what‘s believed, though, and Mr. Libby has just thrown out these two names, Rove and Fleischer, did not Patrick Fitzgerald try to connect the dots back to Karl Rove before? Was there not some expectation that he might get cornered by the prosecution? Is this the political if not the legal equivalent of what Fitzgerald was trying to do courtesy Scooter Libby?
SHUSTER: Absolutely. And Fitzgerald noted last week, he was not going to call Karl Rove, one of the reasons being because prosecutors tend not to call a witness when that witness may still be a target another prosecution.
So with the defense calling Karl Rove, you essentially get the same bang for the buck. And that is, there is Karl Rove, having to take the witness stand, having to acknowledge publicly for the first time that he leaked to Bob Novak, that he leaked to “TIME” magazine reporter Mathew Cooper, and then you start getting into the problem of, Well, for the first time, there is his testimony in public, and let‘s go back to the president saying, Well, if I ever learn that anybody‘s leaked, they‘ll be fired.
That‘s the main political problem for the White House in all of this, as Scooter Libby tries to defend himself by pointing the finger at other people. It may not work for Scooter Libby, and at the same time, it may cause huge political damage to the White House.
OLBERMANN: In theory, then, this is the proverbial Pyrrhic victory, that you could wind up getting no one convicted on this, but everyone found guilty in the court of public opinion. Is this not a political disaster for the White House?
SHUSTER: It‘s a political disaster, and that‘s the way this case is going. We‘ve reached the point where Scooter Libby‘s priorities right now are to save himself, and he‘s decided that if he can muddy the waters, if he can get the issue away from his own testimony about Valerie Plame (INAUDIBLE) and what he said to reporters, if he can get away from that and introduce these other White House officials who may have also talked about Valerie Plame or received information, then perhaps that increases the chances, however slight, for Scooter Libby to essentially not get convicted.
The problem, though, as you mention, is the political one, and that is, you suddenly expose Karl Rove, and you expose other officials who may also be dragged into this Libby trial.
OLBERMANN: With so much attention, David, focused on Rove, it‘s the first time in a long time we‘ve heard Ari Fleischer‘s name, certainly in connection with this case. What do we know about the testimony that he gave to the grand jury, particularly about his conversations with Scooter Libby?
SHUSTER: And this is where it gets, perhaps, as intriguing as you‘ll see in these documents. In the Libby indictment, it was clear that the day after Joe Wilson column comes out criticizing the administration‘s case for war, Scooter Libby takes Ari Fleischer out for lunch. Ari Fleischer testified this was the first time he could ever recall Scooter Libby taking him out for lunch, and Libby tells Ari Fleischer, Hey, Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA, and such information is not widely known.
Ari Fleischer testified he took that to mean that this was information that he ought to leak to the press. Again, it‘s not clear if Ari Fleischer did that. But if Scooter (INAUDIBLE) -- Scooter Libby‘s now arguing that, well, Ari Fleischer leaked to the press, and it‘s his fault, well, Ari Fleischer did so, and he learned this information because he got it from Scooter Libby.
And again, you get back to the same problem, and that is, Tim Russert and Judy Miller say quite clearly, We heard about Valerie Plame not from Ari Fleischer. We heard about it from Scooter Libby.
OLBERMANN: One last logistical thing that I‘m not following here. Maybe you can clear this up for me. In the filings, Libby‘s people say that Libby was not instructed by the president or the vice president to disclose the identity of Valerie Plame. I don‘t recall someone saying that Mr. Libby had been accused of that, or that that was central any more to this case.
SHUSTER: No. And I think that‘s the part of the press, that‘s, that‘s part of the, the Libby filing that I was going to say sounds like a press release. And it may have that sort of effect. And that is, nobody has alleged, nobody has been accused in this case of actually leaking classified information. The charges against Scooter Libby are that he lied and obstructed the investigation, that he lied about his conversations with reporters.
I think that‘s the one part of this document today in which he‘s trying to say, Look, as far as the political impact, as far as who leaked Valerie Plame, we can take the president off the hook here. But again, it‘s totally irrelevant to the charges Scooter Libby is going to face in this trial.
OLBERMANN: Wow, this gets curiouser and curiouser.
MSNBC‘s David Shuster. As always, sir, great thanks.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: More on the potential political fallout at the White House with Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” in a moment.
First, there was still yesterday‘s problem for the White House to deal with. The day two defense against yesterday‘s “Washington Post” report questioning what President Bush knew and when he knew it about postwar intelligence regarding Iraq‘s purported weapons of mass destruction.
You‘ll recall that these trailers, long purported by Mr. Bush and many others to have been mobile biological warfare labs, were, in fact, used in the stealth weather balloon program, according to a secret Pentagon field report dated May 27 of 2003, its findings, if not the report itself, leaking out into the mainstream media at that time, “The New York Times” and the British newspaper “The Guardian” both reporting in June 2003 that the intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence, that is, folks who had actually seen the trailers, were disputing claims that those trailers had been used for making biological weapons.
And yet for nearly a year after the survey was issued, top administration officials kept repeating those claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had the intelligence reporting before the war that there were at least seven of these mobile labs that he‘d gone out and acquired. We‘ve since the war found two of them. They‘re in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing a capacity for an attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, Mr. Vice President, to quote the scripts of “F-Troop,” it is balloons.
In response to questions about when Mr. Bush became aware of that Pentagon field report, the White House today hiding behind another document, a joint CIA-Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that contended its analysts back in Washington were confident that the trailers had been used to make biological weapons, the White House press secretary, the current one, claiming today that the president was referring to that document instead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The view of the intelligence community was expressed in the white paper that was (INAUDIBLE) released on May 28. It was a joint white paper by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. And that‘s what the president‘s comments were based on.
I know that there were still, and that view prevailed for quite some time period. You can go back and look at that time period, because there‘s a lot of discussion about it. And then you had the director of the CIA talking as late as February, has saying that there was not a consensus on this issue, February of the next year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s call in “Newsweek”‘s senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe.
Good evening to you, sir.
RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK” SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll get back to this Libby case in a moment and the references to Mr. Rove and Ari Fleischer.
But about the trailers, let‘s just pick up yesterday‘s story first. If what Mr. McClellan was saying today is true, that the president was referring to a different contradictory report, and that there was not a consensus at the time about the trailers, does that not confirm a previous charge against the White House about the purported WMD in Iraq, that the administration was cherry-picking intelligence?
WOLFFE: Yes, they were cherry-picking for sure, and they were doing something else. You know, when Scott McClellan talks about there being no consensus, well, that‘s kind of true, but they chose, all the way through the runup to war, to ignore the caveats, the disagreements, and present the case against Saddam Hussein as being totally black and white.
And even when Colin Powell raised these mobile labs, the question of these mobile labs, in early 2002 -- rather, 2003 -- people knew that there were—there was wide disagreement, there were huge concerns and disputes within the intelligence community about what they really represented. So it is—it‘s revising history.
On the other hand, you know, the president couldn‘t possibly see all these pieces of paper. And it does take time for paper to filter up through the system.
OLBERMANN: But if you have a roomful of people, and 50 percent of whom have never been out of doors, and they say, The sun, we have here with authority that the sun rises in the west, and the other 50 percent of the people in the room say, No, no, we‘ve been out in, in, we‘ve seen the sky, and the sun rises in the east, is it fair to come back afterwards, three years later, and say, Well, you know, there was no consensus at the time whether the sun rose in the west or the east?
WOLFFE: They are trying to defend themselves in a pretty indefensible position. Look, the bottom line here is, people know that there were, there was no hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The facilities that they could find, at best, could possibly have had a dual use. So, you know, it‘s a pretty legalistic quibbling thing to say, you know, you could find some people who thought that these were really mobile trailers, mobile weapons trailers. But in terms of the politics of it, and how it looks, they‘re on shaky ground.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s shift gears, before we get back to the Libby filing, and play a clip of the president from Monday. And I‘m going to ask you to help us pick out a new magic word in this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘ve learned from our mistakes. We‘ve adjusted our approach to meet the changing circumstances on the ground. We‘ve adjusted depending upon the actions of the enemy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Richard, for 20 points, what was the new magic word from the president here?
WOLFFE: The magic word was hocus-pocus. No, it was “mistakes,” he actually said “mistakes,” “our mistakes.” You know, this is a president who has been incredibly reluctant to say the M-word.
And he‘s also been very good at spinning that he‘d said it before. Back in, you remember, at the end of last year, he said that, he pretended that he‘d said he‘d made mistakes. In fact, he just said things haven‘t gone very smoothly.
And I think this was a real moment, a watershed of one kind or another, for the president to go out and say, “We have learned from our mistakes.” This is the kind of human side of the president that we haven‘t seen for a very long time.
OLBERMANN: All right. Back to that lead story in terms of mistakes, as well. The interpretation (INAUDIBLE) Libby filings, is there one that I‘m missing here somewhere? Or is the only one here that, that, that he‘s protected the president and the vice president, but‘s basically saying to Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer, I‘m afraid there‘s no room for you in this lifeboat?
WOLFFE: He‘s definitely trying to save his skin here. But he‘s trying to do a couple of other things. First of all, get as many documents as he can, tie this whole thing down in document production. Secondly, he‘s trying to say, Everybody knew about this stuff. Everyone was talking about it. And thirdly, he‘s saying, Gee, everybody knew, but I‘ve kind of forgotten the details of it, so you can‘t blame me for getting it wrong.
There are a few things there, but the politics, again, he‘s looking after himself.
OLBERMANN: Am I mistaken in here, though, that, that, that (INAUDIBLE) -- the phrase I used to David Shuster before, that this is, this is a disaster, conceivably, for the White House, that, that, that this essentially proves all the things that have been said against the administration on the subject of the, of the revelation of the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson?
WOLFFE: Well, this is not a conversation that the White House wants to have. It doesn‘t want to talk about this story. You know, there are even restrictions in the White House about whether they can talk about it internally, and people are incredibly sensitive about it. So it‘s to the extent that anyone‘s out there talking about this, and that it‘s up front, it doesn‘t smell good, it doesn‘t look good, that qualifies as a disaster.
OLBERMANN: Just give it a number, and we‘ll follow that case along with all the other ones.
Richard Wolffe, the White House correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.
As always, great thanks for your time tonight.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: Also this evening, bring me the head of the secretary of defense. Now five former top generals have called on Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Is it a full-fledged Pentagon alumni association revolt?
And the lacrosse case at Duke. It‘s ugly, and it hasn‘t even gotten to a grand jury yet. Will it? There are now seeing to be some big problems with the prosecution.
Details ahead. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: A scene in the bitterly satirical film version of Joseph Heller‘s “Catch-22” might be playing in the minds of those at the Pentagon right now. Alan Arkin‘s character, Yossarian, the air bombardier, drops his payload not on a World War II target, but rather over the Mediterranean Sea. Martin Balsam‘s character, Colonel Cathcart, responds by awarding him a medal. Orson Welles‘ character, General Dreedle, tells Colonel Cathcart he shouldn‘t have given Yossarian a medal, he should have had him court-martialed.
We thought of that, Cathcart replies, but a court-martial would get such a bad publicity. They give Yossarian the medal.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, after 2,364 American deaths in Iraq, and countless times that number of civilian casualties there, a fifth retired general has now called for the dismissal of the secretary of defense. Instead, they‘re giving, symbolically, at least, the medal to Don Rumsfeld.
Our Pentagon correspondent is Jim Miklaszewski.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the war in Iraq drags on into its fourth year, and the number of American casualties climbs, it‘s Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who‘s now come under fire. At least five retired U.S. generals have publicly called for Rumsfeld‘s resignation for what they claim is his mismanagement of the war in Iraq.
The latest, former major general John Batiste told NBC News today...
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE (RET.): The best solution is for the secretary to step down, and we get fresh blood in the Pentagon, new civilian leadership, who understands teamwork, and doesn‘t lead with intimidation and arrogance.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry in Iraq, claims mistakes were made because Rumsfeld ignored sound military recommendations and planning.
Former CentCom commander Anthony Zinni claims the U.S. went into Iraq without enough troops or a cohesive plan for reconstruction. Zinni on “MEET THE PRESS.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
TIM RUSSERT, HOST: Should someone resign?
GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: Absolutely.
ZINNI: Secretary of defense, to begin with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MIKLASZEWSKI: With a reputation for being feisty and combative, Rumsfeld is legendary for challenging his military leadership. But many in the military claim Rumsfeld is also abusive and dismissive of those who challenge him.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), MSNBC NEWS ANALYST: That‘s what we‘re seeing going on right now, arrogance, inability to listen, and bad judgment.
MIKLASZEWSKI: In calling for Rumsfeld‘s resignation, retired lieutenant general Greg Newbold wrote this week that the Pentagon sent American troops in to war “with a casualness and swagger of those who have never had to execute these missions, or bury the results.”
In typical fashion, Rumsfeld dismissed the critics.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It‘s historic. It‘s always been the case. And I see nothing really very new or surprising about it.
MIKLASZEWSKI: And some military experts argue, too much focus on Rumsfeld misses a critical point.
MICHAEL O‘HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION MILITARY ANALYST: The generals‘ role in this debate is legitimate, but I think it would be more constructive if it focused more on policy. If there was going to be a referendum on Rumsfeld, it really should have been in 2003 or 2004.
MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): Pentagon officials insist the military had plenty of opportunities to voice any objections to the Iraq war plan. But many of those military leaders, both active and retired alike, claim Rumsfeld wasn‘t listening.
As for Rumsfeld himself, senior Pentagon officials tell us he‘s not going anywhere.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s call in retired Army colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst.
Jack, thanks for your time tonight.
COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: We heard something just there in Jim Miklaszewski‘s report that strikes a particularly sour note, that the president has never missed an opportunity to say that he listens to the generals on the ground and not the political aspects or anything else going on in Iraq. But Mik just quoted General Batiste as saying the opposite was true, nobody‘s listening to the generals on the ground.
Obviously, somebody‘s not got the right picture here. Do we know which one of them?
JACOBS: Well, the president doesn‘t necessarily have to listen to anybody, and doesn‘t listen to anybody. He‘s got a very interesting management scheme. He selects people he really likes and he really trusts, and then he gives them unlimited power and authority and responsibility.
And so the guy who‘s running everything is Rumsfeld, and the president of the United States does not necessarily—is not necessarily inquisitive (INAUDIBLE), inquisitive enough to find out exactly what‘s going on. So Rumsfeld is the guy who runs everything.
OLBERMANN: Again, quoting or paraphrasing General Batiste here, that mistakes were made because Mr. Rumsfeld ignored sound military advice, is, is, is it to be limited to, to Rumsfeld? Is he the key in the, in the disconnect here between the ground and the Pentagon? Or are there other factors involved that, that should be equally considered, as well as his future?
JACOBS: No, I don‘t think there are very few other factors. I think Rumsfeld is the key, and I think it‘s less a question of his style, Rumsfeld‘s style, or the way he deals with his subordinate generals, than it is his judgment. I think Barry McCaffrey had it right when he specified that he‘s got poor judgment.
He does not have a lot of war fighting, he doesn‘t have any war fighting experience, and has to rely on his generals for advice. But he didn‘t listen to them, because he had an agenda he wanted to follow, and he followed it, irrespective of what the generals had to suggest to him.
OLBERMANN: The call in there was for fresh blood, at least from some of the former generals. Who? Is there enough independent thinking left in the Pentagon, or has it been so weeded out by Secretary Rumsfeld anyway that it doesn‘t matter who‘s actually the secretary?
JACOBS: Well, I think it‘s interesting that all the generals who are talking, who you cited, who‘ve been in print and on television, are all retired.
You don‘t find anybody necessarily standing up to the (INAUDIBLE) -- to the secretary of defense, and who is strong enough to say, You do it the way it‘s supposed to be done, or you‘re going to do it without me, and I‘m not going to let you do it, and I‘m publicly not going to let you do it, because I think it‘s important enough for the defense of the republic to do it the strategically correct way.
You don‘t find anybody doing that. As you said earlier, it‘s an alumni association of people who perhaps had an opportunity to say something, to do something when they were on active duty, and have waited until now to be heard.
OLBERMANN: Colonel Jack Jacobs. As always, our great thanks for joining us tonight.
JACOBS: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Outside Washington today, the day after the extraordinary public airing of the cockpit recordings from flight 93 from 9/11, Zacarias Moussaoui took the stand for the second time in the death penalty phase of his trial.
He testified that he felt no remorse for the thousands of deaths on September 11. The goal, he said, was to inflict pain on this country, and that he wished there would be more pain, that it made his day. Moussaoui told the jury that he doesn‘t want to die, so he can kill Americans any time and anywhere. When the prosecutor asked him whether he would do it again tomorrow, he replied, “Today.”
The jury will now determine whether he should live or die for his involvement in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. Moussaoui also says he absolutely believes a dream he had, in which he will be pardoned by President Bush. Surprise.
To a much-need moment of levity, who‘s hungry? Cactus? Cactus, catactus (ph)? I want three orders of cactus, please.
And you‘ll remember the statue of Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug. Which woman celebrity has now been preserved for history by an artist? Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Historically not a good day for composers. This might not be as statically unlikely as it seems, but between April 13, 1728 and April 13, 1928 11 prominent classical composers Johan Schmidt to Gaetano Valera (ph) to Franz Danzi to Louise Agara (ph) died, each on April 13. So whatever you do, that original song bouncing around in your head right now, do not write it down. Not before midnight, anyway.
On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.” We begin with another installment from our award-winning series, “Weird Stuff we Found on the Internets.” Tonight, the guy in Asia eating a cactus. Ow! Ow, ow, ow! Mmmm. Ow, ow, ow! Mmmm, good! OK, that‘s enough.
To Thailand where annual Buddhist new year‘s celebrations bring us one of the world‘s largest water fights. Thousands have taken to the streets armed to the gills with high-powered Super Soakers. The war takes place al over the city including Bangkok‘s Patpong Road where the strip clubs are on the first floors and rooms with which to carouse with women are on the second floor and the V.D. clinics are on the third floor. That‘s no joke, ask Mr. O‘Reilly. But the only weird water support going on this day is the giant squirt gun fight. It‘s a great way to cool down in the 100 degree heat or to get lathered up in the middle of the streets. Just remember it‘s BYO loofah.
Finally to Kali, Columbia where once again a crowd of thousands has gathered to catch glimpse of an apparent image of Jesus who has taken this time to come back to earth to make an appearance on a coffee cup. That‘s a dried up bit of leftover hot chocolate that dripped down the side. A makeshift alter has been set up outside the kitchen where the cup was discovered. Because it during holy week the church has sent representatives to determine whether the images really is Jesus Christ or just Swiss Miss. I don‘t care if it rains or freezes as long as I got my chocolate Jesus riding on the outside of my cup, cup, cup.
And you might be using the phrase chocolate Jesus when you hear this story. Convicted of having had sex with one of her students, now she‘s trying to get back in touch with him.
And even a queen has to attend to personal grooming issues. But of course this leg-waxing video is not what it seems.
Those stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day. No. 3, (INAUDIBLE) Mats Eriksson and Fredrik Terfelt in Malmo, Sweden, they have made their tiny contribution to the historical geographical record. They have discovered 500 million-year-old fossilized worm feces. That‘ll stick it to those intelligent design knuckleheads.
No. 2, Alex Toth of Pasco County Florida. He and his wife Rhoda won $13 million in the state lottery. Elected to take it $666,000 a year and evidently figured out that nobody would notice if they didn‘t report it on their income tax. You fossilized worm feces, you.
No. 1, the dumb criminal of the month. An unnamed 17-year-old in Gillette, Wyoming, he was siphoning gas from the car of a local firefighter when he spilled some of it on his pants. Deciding to check just how wet they were he used for his illumination, what else? His lighter. His burns are not believed to be life-threatening, but given that he and a 16-year-old accomplice made up a story that someone else set him ablaze for a time, this kid literally was a liar, liar, pants on fire.
OLBERMANN: The community has been turned upside-down, a collegiate sports season has been canceled. One man has lost his job and others face the prospect of criminal charges and some of them claim an alleged sexual crime has been turned into a cheap political campaign issue. In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, all this while the Duke lacrosse case, if it should still be called that, seems to be collapsing on top of the prosecutors. Dan Abrams, host of MSNBC‘s “The Abram‘s Report” has been breaking news from Durham, North Carolina, on this one all day on this. He joins us now.
Dan, good evening.
DAN ABRAMS, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”: Keith, an audiotape has just been released of one of the first police officers to arrive at the scene where the alleged victim was found after she claims she was raped. He described her as passed-out drunk, but said she did not need a medic. Now, that would seem to help the defense here, if a trained police officer is saying that he does not believe they needed a medic, but you can certainly make arguments on both sides for that. Add to the confusion a new e-mail that was just discovered today. It purports to be from one of the players. It‘s from his e-mail address, it‘s signed by him, and the title is, “Sorry, guys.” And then it says “I am going to go to the police tomorrow to tell them everything that I know.” Well, sounds like a bombshell. The problem? According to that student‘s lawyer, he never wrote it. They speculate that maybe the authorities are doing this in an effort to trick some of the players because this was sent to a number of players on the lacrosse team.
Another potential issue in this case, and one that‘s leading to many questions, is there going to be an indictment early next week? One of the lawyers is saying he expects it. Many of the other lawyers for these 46 players saying they‘ve heard nothing about it. One thing is for certain, both the lawyers for these students and the D.A. have been ratcheting up the words. This has become a war of words, at least so far. And it‘s clear this case is going to get ugly—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Dan Abrams in at Durham, North Carolina, great thanks.
And continuing the thread, an example of someone who believes they are not just bigger than their entire workplace, nor their entire college campus, nor their entire community, but bigger than the law. Her name is Pamela Turner, and if that rings a bell it‘s because she‘s one of those teachers who had sex with one of their teenage students and did not get the message. Our correspondent from Miami is Michelle Kosinski.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former elementary school gym teacher turned sex offender, Pamela Turner is back in court, arrested less than two months out of prison where she was sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old boy.
PAMELA TURNER, TEACHER/SEX OFFENDER: I wish I could talk to you all, but I‘m not supposed to.
KOSINSKI (on camera): Well, authorities say she‘s been doing too much communicating, allegedly with her victim and his family over the internet on a site they say she posted on Myspace.com.
(voice-over): Prosecutors say the 28-year-old former beauty pageant contestant didn‘t have permission to use the internet, but built a Web site that included sexy photos and, investigators say, cryptic messages to her victim. “To number 32,” which they say is they boy‘s basketball jersey number, “my prance your plans, nothing‘s changes. Say it—say it—always is the word, baby, always.” So, why would she risk everything if violating probation could send her to prison for seven years?
PETER STRIANSE, ATTORNEY FOR PAMELA TURNER: If the allegations are well-founded then I have some real concerns about her judgment.
KOSINSKI: If her release on good behavior has indeed turned bad, she may be behind bars until she‘s 35.
Michelle Kosinski, NBC News, Miami.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, another kind of story that was not what it seemed, kidnapped, lost to a predator? No. This 4-year-old was apparently too skilled at the game of hide and seek.
And authorities are seeking to keep pregnant women from traveling to
countries with outbreaks of malaria. Why is Angelina Jolie already in a
country in the middle of an epidemic of malaria? Ahead on COUNTDOWN>
OLBERMANN: What‘s wrong with this picture? A man found dead, his body so beaten that only his fingerprints were identifiable. Now authorities say it was an accident? And what‘s wrong with this picture?
One artists‘ attempt to fake celebrity Head here on COUNTDOWN,
OLBERMANN: In this age of instant information and of an episode of CSI every hour, this may be hard for you to believe, but the police don‘t get it right always right away. Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, a Utah 4-year-old was not kidnapped, though you will not believe what or where he was. And first a top college football booster wasn‘t murdered even though just the other day police said he‘d been the victim of a crime so brutal they could only identify him through his fingerprints. Sixty-five-year-old Logan Young who had gone to jail for money laundering and racketeering after a scandal involving the football program at the University of Alabama, was found in his home dead day before yesterday. Police initially said there had been a fierce struggle, blood everywhere, such a grizzly murder it took them two days to finish collecting the forensic evidence. Today they announced Mr. Young had died after a fall down the stairs. He apparently hit his head on a metal railing; regained consciousness walked through several rooms of his house, then went back upstairs to his bed where he died. At least that‘s today‘s story.
Sometimes when the first criminal report is, though, it is good news. Ask the family of Taylor Harris. He disappeared Wednesday, everyone assumed the worst. In fact, the 4-year-old simply turned out to be the best at hide and go seek. As Nadine Wimmer from our affiliate in Salt Lake City, KSL reports, where he hid will send chills down your spine.
ROBYN STONE, NEIGHBOR: Everyone was out looking, calling his name.
We walked up and down. Anywhere we could think of.
NADINE WIMMER, KSL CORRESPONDENT: Neighbors tried not to panic when 4-year-old Taylor Harris disappeared.
STONE: I could looked in my car, I looked in the back of my car, I looked everywhere that I thought I could at my house.
RACHAEL HARRIS, TAYLOR HARRIS‘ MOTHER: Well, as a parent sometimes when you have something bad happen automatically you go to the worse case scenario and just couldn‘t allow myself to go to that point yet.
STONE: Thought, well I‘m going to take—I‘ve got to do something. I‘ve got to get in the car and go. Just said a little prayer, “Please help me find him and let him be OK.” I thought I was crazy, but I could hear him crying.
WIMMER: She wasn‘t crazy, he had crawled underneath her car and was holding on for dear life to the shaft between the wheels near the spare tires.
STONE: I looked down and I just pulled him out as fast as I could and held him out and made sure, you know, he was all together.
HARRIS: There‘s not a scratch on him. We all just stood in absolute shock. I still can‘t believe that he held on that tight, but bless his heart he made it and he—we believe that it was a miracle from the heavenly father that helped him hold on and that there must have been angels around him to help him hold on.
We learned a valuable lesson that no place is to small for a child to hide.
OLBERMANN: Nadine Wimmer from our Salt Lake City affiliate KSL, reporting.
The image of that boy under that car may only be half as scary as the image of how the kid in the now infamous Britney Spears statue looks, but leading the entertainment stories in “Keeping Tabs” tonight, you ain‘t seen nothing yet.
Daniel Edwards immortalization of Miss Spears in the act of giving birth on all fours on a bearskin rug, already the center of one controversy, say nothing of considerable boredom when you talk to the artist. But now an artist in the Netherlands has entered the fray with likeness of supermodel Kate Moss saying “Hellooo.” Sculptor Marc Quinn is calling this “Sphinx.” And the riddle is clearly, how in the hell can she do that? He says it‘s the first of five statues of Moss he has planned, each one featuring a model of a model in a different yoga position. Each one carved from three ton rock of solid cocaine. No sorry, that last part‘s not true.
Meanwhile, harkening back to the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors we covered earlier this week. Lions protect celebrity babies from reporters but malaria could harm celebrity babies. That‘s the conundrum facing Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the African nation of Namibia. There, one local paper reported because she and Pitt believe the lions will ward the media away and let them have their baby in peace. The problem, Center‘s for Disease Control discouraging pregnant women from going to Namibia and other such countries because there are malaria epidemics there.
Speaking of their baby, how did “New York” magazine get a picture of the kid when it hasn‘t even been born yet? That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”
The bronze tonight to the America officers and others at the Bagram Air Force Base or air base, rather, in Afghanistan. They have been storing sensitive information on computer flash memory drives, about the size of your thumb. Little stuff like, oh, classified reports, documents marked secret, lists of local militants who should be killed or captured, the social security numbers of military personnel. Little stuff. How do we know this? Because the flash memory drives have been popped out of laptops that were stolen from Bagram Base and are now on sale at the local bazaar in the town of Bagram, 200 yards away from the base.
Tonight‘s runner-up is Svetlana Yankovsky, identified as a well-known a Russian gypsy singer and dancer. Unfortunately for other passengers aboard her flight from Vegas to New York, also identified as a well-know lush. Drinking wine out of a bottle as the plane taxied in Vegas. When the crew told her to stop she began chanting, hexing the plane, predicting it would crash, declaring all the passengers and their children and their grandchildren would die. They put the flight down in Denver where Ms. Yankovsky was arrested. If they was that good at seeing the future, how did they miss that detail, huh?
And tonight‘s winners: The folks at the Transportation Security Administration who supervised that no-fly list. The one that keeps all the guys named David Nelson and Peter Williams grounded because somebody somewhere thinks that‘s a name being used by a terrorist or a similar name is being used by a terrorist. This time the list kept Daniel Brown from boarding his flight from L.A. to Minneapolis—Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown. Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown going home to Minneapolis after eight months service with the Marines in Iraq. The TSA no-fly guru, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: Here we all know, we all know all too well about the importance of celebrity look-alikes. We caveated the hell out of this tape every time we ran it, but truth be told, I really thought this was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Turned out it was a Berlusconi look-alike in a German political satire film. We never did find out though if it was a real meter maid.
There have been dark whispers about presidential look-alikes used for security purposes. And the still vibrant rumors that there were as many as three Lee Harvey Oswalds. But our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, look-alikes used for far more prosaic, if no less public reasons, making art that makes money. COUNTDOWN‘s chief elicit photography correspondent, Monica Novotny joins me now with details. If that‘s your real name.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith good evening.
We bring you the work of a British photographer who has captured the most personal, intimate, and outrageous moments of the famous and infamous. Nothing and no one are sacred here, and that is the point, because none of what you‘re about to see is real.
HUGO LINDGREN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE: We got the big scoop.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): Better to call it the big “get.” They never really got. The first picture of Brad and Angelina‘s baby featured on the cover of this week‘s “New York” magazine, a baby who hasn‘t even been born yet. Just one example of what happens when seeing and believing collide.
ALISON JACKSON, PHOTOGRAPHER: It‘s the reality of our imaginations.
I visually articulate what is in our minds.
NOVOTNY: The artist behind these images, Alison Jackson, a controversial photographer well-known in her native England. With a reputation for staying one step ahead of tabloid reality by hiring celebrity look-alikes and shooting them as still images and voyeuristic video in scenarios that demand a double take. Her first such work and still her favorite, a graduate school project done just after the death of Princes Diana. Featuring Diana and Dodi Fayed doppelgangers holding what appears to be their baby.
JACKSON: It revealed the prejudices of the British being. So for me, I enjoyed that very much.
NOVOTNY: Since then she‘s moved on to musicians, Michael Jackson, Eminem, and Elton John. American A, B, and C listers, Tom Cruise, J-Lo, Paris Hilton. Politicians, our own President Bush and Tony Blair. Of course the royals, Camilla, Charles, William and Harry and even the queen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe Brazilian.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no name. No, thank you.
NOVOTNY: So when the editors “New York” magazine decided to spoof the pending Brangelina baby photo frenzy, they knew Jackson‘s work would work.
LINDGREN: It makes the reader asks the question, why are we so interested in these pictures? What exactly are we looking for? Why is that so important? Why is that such a big, sort of, cultural event?
NOVOTNY: Critics have called her an identity raider, her work is tasteless.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roll over Tony yeah. Who‘s daddy‘s little bitch then, Tony?
NOVOTNY: But for Jackson in a time where tabloid magazines and reality TV dominate, provoking thought about the cult of celebrity is a worthy goal.
JACKSON: We are totally fixated with celebrities and what you are missing in the image is the real person. So it just makes you want to see that person even more. So, you can never get enough.
NOVOTNY: Though in this case the intention of the magazine‘s editors was not to mislead readers, they say. Make no mistake, Jackson wants people to be to be fooled offering a lesson for a nation of celebrity voyeurs.
JACKSON: So you think you‘re looking at somebody real, but in fact it‘s not real at all. You can‘t rely your own perception.
NOVOTNY: Jackson said the inspiration for her work came from Princess Diana. As a student she watched as the princess was, as she puts it, born in photography while the world watched. As a result as the constant barrage of images, Jackson says, people felt they knew this woman when, of course, they did not know her at all.
OLBERMANN: We will see more of her work in the near future?
NOVOTNY: Yeah, actually, you know, she‘s had some of her clips featured on “Saturday Night Live” already, she has a new book coming out and she‘s hoping to produce TV programs featuring clips like the ones you just saw for an American television station.
OLBERMANN: British already had a series called “Dead Ringers” where they did many things just like this, but not so much Elton John. What‘s with that...
NOVOTNY: Not with Elton John. I don‘t know. She‘s just—something there. Some sort of special interest.
OLBERMANN: Too many CD‘s. COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny. Yeah, I think it‘s you. Great thanks.
OLBERMANN: And that is COUNTDOWN, for this, the 1,078th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Rita Cosby Live and Direct.”
Good evening, Rita.
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