Guest: Bernard Trainor, Tom DeFrank, Stanley Brand
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Politics and the Pentagon. The president says he won't listen to the generals who used to be on the ground. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Mr. Bush says, is exactly what is needed at this critical period.
And the commanders sure are critical, period. Now it's up to six ex-generals who want to run Rummy, some inspired, evidently, by a new book co-authored by our old friend General Bernard Trainor. He will join us.
As the New Orleans mayor's debate looms, what's wrong with this candidate's campaign picture?
Barry bail Bonds? A Bay Area grand jury reportedly reinvestigating the beleaguered slugger for perjury. Did the books about Bonds bring this on him, or did he bring it on himself by suing over one of the books?
Fear in the national parks. In Tennessee, a bear kills a 6-year-old girl, injures her 2-year-old brother and her mother.
And pythons, abandoned in Florida when they got too big to keep in the house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're eating everything in Everglades National Park.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Also, car thieves caught, by the cars.
And good news for Katie Holmes. Tom says she can make noise during
childbirth. Something like, “You, you did this to me, you son of a—“
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
In the '60s paranoia film classic “Seven Days in May,” it was the military taking over the civilian government. In the reality of 2006, it's not seven days in May, but six generals in April. They fear one civilian has taken over the military, with disastrous consequences for the nation and for its fighting men.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, they say Rumsfeld must go. The president today insists he must stay. The political battle over the Pentagon is joined.
The only voice that really matters, still declaring his captaincy of Team Rumsfeld, the president denying in a statement this afternoon that his defense secretary has mismanaged the war in Iraq. Quoting, “I have seen firsthand how Don relies upon our military commanders in the field and at the Pentagon to make decisions about how best to complete these missions. Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation.”
Mr. Bush apparently issuing his atypical statement in response to increasing calls for the secretary's resignation. As we mentioned, it's now six former military commanders saying it is time for Rumsfeld to go, but in an interview that aired today on Al Arabiya television, Mr. Rumsfeld replying that he intends to stick around as long as the president still wants him to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The fact that two or three or four retired people have different views, I respect their views. But obviously, it—out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed, we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Say this about him, he always still gives good sound bite.
The Sayonara Six, however, not men who can be easily dismissed nor ignored. With any number of stars and stripes among them, having accumulated vast experience on the ground in Iraq, retired Army major general John Riggs, the most recent to step forward, former director of the Objective Force Task Force, he saying that Rumsfeld helped created an atmosphere of arrogance among the Pentagon's top civilian leadership.
Retired general Charles Swannack, who led troops on the ground in Iraq as recently as 2004 as commander of the Air—the Army's 82nd Airborne, also saying yesterday that he believes what Rumsfeld has micromanaged his generals in the field, only taking their advice when it suits his own agenda.
Also on the list, retired major general John Batiste, the former commander of the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, retired lieutenant general Greg Newbold of the Marines, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2000 to 2002, retired Marines general Anthony Zinni, the former head of U.S. CentCom, and retired Army major general Paul Eaton, who commanded the training of Iraqi security forces until 2004.
One of those six, General Batiste, saying this morning that one reason so many are now raising questions about Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership is a new book, “Cobra Two: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.” Its co-author, our old friend retired Marine Corps lieutenant general Bernard Trainor, one of the most cogent and no-nonsense of our analysts here on MSNBC in the weeks and months following the start of action in Iraq.
Kind enough to join us again now.
General, welcome back to the program.
GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR (RET.), CO-AUTHOR, “COBRA TWO”: Thanks, good to be here.
OLBERMANN: How do you come down on the matter of Donald Rumsfeld's career prospects at the Pentagon. Might you be general number seven?
TRAINOR: No, I'm not going to fall into that category. The president makes the secretary, and he stuck with him for better for worse. But the interesting thing, and I don't know if the president recognizes this, but up until this point, the battle has been between the generals and the secretary of defense.
But now the president himself has put himself right in the middle of the target zone, and a lot of people are going to be saying, particularly, I think, the opposition party, is that, Well, why did the president tolerate this guy? And he's going to get a lot of the blame which up to this point has been dumped on Rumsfeld.
And you have to say to yourself, this is kind of unprecedented to have all these generals doing a postmortem and showing their frustration and agony. And so you have to say to yourself, Well, if there's smoke, there's got to be some fire there somewhere.
OLBERMANN: Ultimately, is the commander in chief chiefly in command? In other words, how much of this blame now focused on Mr. Rumsfeld might be better focused on the president, or either of the last two secretaries of state?
TRAINOR: Well, I think it—it's—the president, I think, is now going to get a great deal of criticism, I think, from the Democrats, because it has expanded beyond the secretary of defense.
But the secretary of state and the national security adviser were largely, in the process of building up for the operation in Iraq, cut out of the picture. Rumsfeld was the guy who controlled everything. He controlled the information, he controlled the decisions. The post-Saddam period was not going to be something that the State Department would do, which you would have thought the State Department would do in terms of reconstruction.
No, he was going to do it all, and Condi Rice, who was the national security adviser, and Colin Powell, the secretary of state, were pretty much cut out of the whole thing. Everybody other than general—than Rumsfeld, the president, and the vice president, Dick Cheney, were in pretty much in the outer corridors. The decisions were made by the troika, joined at the hip there in the administration.
OLBERMANN: To the, to your book, “Cobra Two,” and the research that went into it, and the president's statement today that, quote, “I have seen how—firsthand how Don relies upon our military commanders in the field and at the Pentagon to make decisions about how best to complete these missions,” something he has asserted in one way or the other many times.
And yet, in your book, you write that intelligence warnings about the roots of the insurgency were ignored, that the war was not run from the field, it was run from Washington and CentCom. Where was the—where is the disconnect? How is it possible that two completely different views of reality could exist simultaneously about the same war?
TRAINOR: Well, you have to understand the way things are run, that things are run out of the Department of Defense under Rumsfeld. He had a vision, as did the others in the top level of the administration, as to what the reality was. And the reality was that the regime would fall very quickly, and we would be in and we would be out very quickly. And the Iraqis would pick up the pieces with the support of the international community.
That was the assumption. And that they anticipated that just a small number of forces with a transform modern Army would be able to do the job very quickly. And they overlooked the fact that there's something that comes after the war, that we are going to be stuck with the business of the security and the stability within Iraq.
They rejected, the administration rejected that idea. That was not the focus of their attention. So the assumptions that they made, which they never adjusted throughout the war, looking for a plan B in case those assumptions were wrong, came back to bite them, and to bite the United States with a lot of casualties ever since.
And I think this is the thing that frustrated, frustrated a lot of the American military leaders, and they're speaking up now because they've seen three years of misjudgments leading to terrible agony for the U.S. military, lots of troops being killed, and the prestige in the United States being besmirched.
And I think “Cobra Two”—or it certainly was unintended, but each of them saw the problem within their own slice of the action, their own stovepipe. But when they read “Cobra Two,” they saw that this misjudgment and these poor assumptions were across the board. And I think a lot of them, that prompted, in their agony of the post period for the last three years, to speak out.
OLBERMANN: Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, great thanks once again for your time, sir.
TRAINOR: Great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: And Donald Rumsfeld still has his job, entirely the president's choosing, Mr. Rumsfeld having already submitted his resignation twice, President Bush refusing to accept it on both occasions. If that sounds a little Richard III-ish, so be it. The politics certainly will not disappear, even if the man does.
Time now to call in “New York Daily News” Washington bureau chief Tom DeFrank, who has a long history covering the career of Donald Rumsfeld ever since the Illinois congressman left Capitol Hill for a job at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in the White House of Richard Nixon.
Tom, good evening, thanks for your time.
TOM DEFRANK, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Rumsfeld clearly serves, as they all do, at the (INAUDIBLE), the pleasure of the president. Today's statement from the president certainly bears that out. Politically, is there anything redeeming about the president standing by his man here? Is this a nice loyalty flag being waved, or is it just as disastrous as face value and controversy would suggest?
DEFRANK: Well, I think it's an extraordinary statement of the president, and his surrogates have been defending Rumsfeld for a couple of years. And Scott McClellan, the press secretary, a couple days ago delivered yet another ringing endorsement of the guy. And yet 24 hours later, or 36 hours later, I suppose, the Rumsfeld—the president had to come out with a three-paragraph (INAUDIBLE) which I—a statement which I thought was extraordinary.
I mean, maybe this will hearten the president's political base, but it basically just reminds everybody that it's not really Rumsfeld's war. It may be Rumsfeld's Pentagon, but it's Bush's war. And I think it's—it doesn't help. I mean, if you were Machiavelli, and—Keith, you might say that a statement like this saying, I'm behind Don Rumsfeld 1,000 percent, might be preparatory to, two or three or four or five months down the road, Don Rumsfeld deciding to leave.
But what I keep hearing at the White House is, Rumsfeld doesn't want to go, and at the moment, the president's not going to make him go.
OLBERMANN: Well, I am Machiavellian, and moreover, I was trained in sports, where this kind of thing from management about a manager is always the precursor to that manager being fired or replaced.
But the question becomes, as you pointed out, it's Friday afternoon of Easter weekend. Why release a statement when the president gives eight televised speeches a week and could have very easily worked something like this into something in a—a little bit more in the forefront?
DEFRANK: I think the White House is getting very nervous about the—what could be described as the revolt of the generals. I mean, Rumsfeld tried to make it sound like it was two or three or four malcontents out of thousands of generals and admirals. But anybody who hangs around the Pentagon—I've been hanging around the Pentagon since I was a second lieutenant there in 1968 -- knows that there are hundreds of admirals and generals who don't think Don Rumsfeld has been a good steward of the war in Iraq. And they're on active duty, they're not ready to resign, so they're not going public.
But the notion of this as just a handful of bitter enders, as Rumsfeld might say, is really stretching the—stretching credibility.
OLBERMANN: Another Machiavellian idea, is it perhaps part of the Rumsfeldian appeal to the president that he's taking all the bullets at this point, no pun intended, in criticism of the war?
DEFRANK: Well, maybe so. He is a lightning rod. He is a symbol. Somebody at the White House said to me not long ago that as long as Rumsfeld was there, we can't really change the subject. We can't get a fresh start on trying to convince people that the war is going better than they think.
On the other hand, there's no way to separate the president from his secretary of defense on this. Rumsfeld is the chief operating officer of the war, but the president's the commander in chief.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Tom, give me the overview of the political playing field here. Is this going away, because the president says the secretary isn't going away?
DEFRANK: No, not at all. Not at all. (INAUDIBLE) I suspect over in the weeks ahead, you'll have more generals coming forward. There's a lot of Army generals who are talking with each other, they're e-mailing each other. Not just Army generals, other generals and admirals, who are debating whether they should go (INAUDIBLE) go public, whether they should resign their commissions.
I don't think this is going to go away, because the war's not going away. And at the moment, however you slice it, the war is not going particularly well. And as long as that's the case, Rumsfeld's going to be controversial, and this controversy will not subside.
OLBERMANN: Tom DeFrank, Washington bureau chief of “The New York Daily News.” Great thanks for joining us. Have a good weekend.
DEFRANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, nature versus a family at a national forest in Tennessee, a bear attacking a campsite. A young girl is dead. Her brother and her mother are in critical condition.
And his lawyer said he thought the government's investigation of Barry Bonds was a setup for a future perjury rap. Might have hit that nail right on the head. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, it's not the steroids that'll get you, it's the coverup.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: That we are lulled into a false sense of security about our relationships to animals is underscored in some way every day. And then, on rare and terrifying occasions, the reminder is not small in any sense.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the inevitable outcome when people mistake pythons for pets (INAUDIBLE) out in the Everglades.
And worse yet, an occurrence in a national forest in Tennessee so horrific that it leaps out from even the typical shocking intersections of innocent life and wildlife.
A bear has killed a 6-year-old girl and mauled her 2-year-old brother and their mother.
Our (INAUDIBLE) Rosalind—correspondent Rosalind Jordan joins us now from Benton, Tennessee. Rosalind?
ROSALIND JORDAN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, this should have been a happy outing for a family from Clyde (ph), Ohio. But instead, it turned out to be the stuff of nightmares.
According to wilderness experts and officials here on the scene, some children had encountered a bear on the road that takes you down to the lake, and to that little wading pool. And when they saw the bear, they turned and ran back to the pool. Apparently the bear followed, saw a 2-year-old boy in the pool, grabbed the little boy by grabbing him on the head.
Obviously, Mom jumps in, tries to fight off the bear. Others try to fight off the bear. What's remarkable is that the bear was not spooked by people's shouts and throwing rocks and throwing sticks to make it scram. Instead, it turned on the mother. She suffered many bites, including bites to her neck. And she needed surgery for that overnight.
In the chaos, the woman's little girl runs away. The bear catches her, she's killed her.
The family is obviously devastated by this, Keith, and certainly officials here are saying that this is the second black bear mauling in North America in some time. They're saying that this is certainly not a reason to be alarmed, but they do say that people need to be careful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just like anything else, you know, you take a
risk when you leave your house. But the risk of being killed or attacked
by a black bear are really slim.
JORDAN: Meantime, the family is asking for privacy at this very difficult time. They're mourning the loss of 6-year-old Laura Petraseck (ph) of Clyde, Ohio. Her mother, Susan Fenkis (ph), aged 45, is in critical condition after undergoing surgery overnight. She is, however, expected to recover. Also undergoing treatment at this time is the 2-year-old boy, Luke Fenkis. He is expected to be fine. He is listed in stable condition this evening.
One relative said that while there is a definite tragedy for the family, he also said people needed to know just what kind of little girl Laura was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laura just basically happy-go-lucky. She pretty well watches over her brother when they're both outside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: The general campgrounds area in this particular part of the Cherokee National Forest has been closed until further notice. Day by day, officials are going to be taking a look at their efforts to try to track down and capture this bear in order to figure out why it attacked this group of people Thursday afternoon. They will be back here at first light on Saturday morning.
Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Rosalind Jordan in Benton, Tennessee, thanks.
And further south, what is more the problem of beast than man, for now, anyway, but might be OK to throw your goldfish in the river or maybe even set your pet rabbit free in the woods. It is all too apparent it is not OK to release your pet Burmese python into the waters of the Florida Evergay—Everglades. Goldfish do not breed, do not grow to gigantic proportions in the wild environs in which we eject them.
But as Mark Potter reports, pythons do.
MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Everglades National Park, with its subtropical mystique, there is now something so big and unwelcome that wildlife officials are fighting back.
DAN KIMBALL, EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK: They're eating pretty much everything in Everglades National Park.
POTTER: Burmese pythons from Southeast Asia are among the biggest snakes in the world, growing to more than 20 feet. They're imported and raised as pets. But when they quickly outgrow their cages, many are released into the wild. And in the warm Florida Everglades, they have found a home and are breeding. More than 200 have been found.
TODD HARDWICK, ANIMAL TRAINER: I think they're going to be breeding as fast as we're capturing them.
POTTER: The invasive pythons threaten native birds and mammals, and have even gotten in fierce battles with alligators. This 13-foot python actually ruptured and died after swallowing an alligator.
In fighting back, scientists are going high-tech. At Davidson College in North Carolina, this 16-foot python is among four snakes captured in the Everglades, then surgically fitted with radio transmitters. They were then released back into the wild to lead scientists to other snakes.
SKIP SNOW, PARK BIOLOGIST: Now the snake is no longer in front of us.
It's back behind us.
POTTER: Park biologist Skip Snow uses a radio receiver to find the implanted snakes. The louder the beeps, the closer the giant reptiles.
On this trip, Snow found one of them, a 10-foot python, hiding in a clump of grass. Since last fall, these so-called Judas animals have betrayed 12 other snakes for capture.
The problem is so bad, park officials are asking the state for help.
(on camera): Florida lawmakers are now considering a bill that would make it illegal to release Burmese pythons and other snakes into the wild. Pet owners would have to register them and pay a $100-a-year fee to keep one.
(voice-over): The bill's sponsor says too many casual python buyers have no idea what they're tangling with.
REP. RALPH POPPELL ®, FLORIDA: What we're trying to do is bring common sense and reality into something that some people look at as being harmless...
POTTER: But some pet store owners oppose the snake license fee.
RIAN GITTMAN, REPTILE STORE OWNER: It will force a lot of people to just buy them out of state and go underground with it.
POTTER: One more concern for biologists facing a giant intruder in its new home.
Mark Potter, NBC News, in the Florida Everglades.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, a more familiar pet, an all-too-familiar problem, except for the duration. A cat caught somewhere inside a building wall in New York for two weeks.
And a brief vacation from the news. Let's go water-skiing downtown.
To you, it's a flood. To him, it's a partay.
OLBERMANN: It was on this date in 1191, as you no doubt recall, that Giachitto Bobbone (ph) became Pope Celestine III, not a historical oddity, certainly, there have been a boatload of popes. But at the time of his election, Deacon Bobbone was 85 years old. Disproving the clich’ it's the thought that counts, Pope Celestine lasted until he was 92, possibly because he was married, and also the emperor of Germany. If he isn't the patron saint of this part of the show, I don't know who could be.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Missouri, where they say there's been a baby boom at the St. Louis Zoo, and officials have released a video of all the newborn animals who've arrived his spring. Ha-ha, so cute. In fact, it's so cute, I've written a song to accompany the videotape. My music, please?
(singing): There's a ringtailed baby lemur, and a little camel too, a pair of twin gazelles, and...
What? That's it? Just the four of them? Cut the music. Never mind.
Let's go to Serbia, where apparently April showers bring April maniacs. With the Danube topping its banks, local mountain dew types have taken advantage of the flooding in the streets of Belgrade to do a little waterboarding. (INAUDIBLE). It's everything you get with regular water-skiing, only with the added dangers of truck exhaust, foot traffic, and whatnot. Dude, I totally did a backslide whirlybird off that pedestrian's skull.
Nothing against Serbians, but if you're trying to impress us, let's see you do that without water down a city street in a freaking sumo costume. Now, that's extreme.
Finally, it was the 1930s, robber Willie Sutton famously explained why he robbed banks, because that's where the money is. That's why Oddball keeps going back to the good old convenience store security videos, because that's where the dumb criminals are. This guy in Lawrence, Mass., broke into a meat market at 2:00 in the morning and decided to take a little withdrawal with him. He took the entire ATM machine. These things are so convenient!
The amount of cash in the machine has not yet been determined, but after the amount of work this guy did, I dare say he earned it—that and a trip to the Big House.
Speaking of that, already under scrutiny, Barry Bonds now reportedly becomes the subject of a federal grand jury investigation about whether he lied to the first grand jury investigation.
Trouble would be car thieves caught by the car.
Those stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN's top three news makers of this day.
No. 3, Jarman Gray. Jarman is the manager at Hooters in Auburn, Alabama, suing for wrongful dismissal. He says he was fired after he complained to the head office that a visiting training manager, a woman identified only as Kat, told waitresses at the store that they should not be reluctant to make a little extra money by having sex with the patrons.
No. 2, Sam Ehlinger, a senior at the University of Iowa. A tornado hit downtown Iowa City last night, and no major injuries were reported. But some people got a little buzzed. Ehlinger says a local liquor store opened up like a can of tuna, and “all my friends ran up and started taking liquor. The tornado was not a total loss for the community, huh, Sam?
No. 1, Lou Kirchen, general manager of television station WNET in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He refused to allow the channel's tradition—or follow the channel's tradition to televise the home opener of the minor league team there, saying Good Friday, quote, “is not an appropriate day to broadcast a ball game because it might offend practicing Catholics.”
The programs his station showed tonight, Billy Graham crusade?
Something about Jesus, maybe? Religion in—religion in America? No. “Inside Edition”, “Extreme Makeover” and “Prime Time” with the interview with that noted holy man, Tom Cruise.
OLBERMANN: Especially during his ESPN reality program, dubbed today by a San Francisco columnist as his “home improvement show,” baseball's Barry Bonds has been accused of delusions of grandeur. He may soon be accused of delusions of grand jury.
Our third story on THE COUNTDOWN, some of us warned baseball bosses that when it came to Bonds and steroids, maybe it should be suspension first, investigation second, because of the looming prospect that Bonds could still be accused of perjury before a Bay Area grand jury. Too late on that count.
Reports that for more than a month, without even telling Bonds or his attorney, a grand jury has been considering indicting Bonds for lying under oath. The investigation so serious that the surgeon who operated on Bonds' knee has reportedly been subpoenaed.
Bonds and the San Francisco Giants are in Los Angeles tonight, as is our correspondent, George Lewis.
GEORGE LEWIS, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is still the hometown hero. Barry Bonds trying to break all the records for home runs. The nasty questions about steroids and about a possible indictment continue to dog him. Last night, for example...
BARRY BONDS, PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER: You are not supposed to be in the hallway.
LEWIS: Three years ago he testified before a grand jury investigating steroids in sports. A “San Francisco Chronicle” reporter who co-wrote a book accusing him of steroid use says if Bonds lied to the grand jury, he is facing a possible perjury indictment from a second grand jury.
LANCE WILLIAMS, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: We have the unusual scene of a great athlete trying to break a big-time sports record while also trying to fend off a federal prosecution. It's never happened in the history of the game.
LEWIS: But the reporters have it wrong, according to the founder of the Balco lab, where Bonds and other sports figures allegedly obtained steroids.
VICTOR CONTE, BALCO LAB FOUNDER: I repeatedly stated that I did not provide Barry Bonds with steroids.
LEWIS: When the Giants go out of town, opposing fans loudly voice their disapproval of Barry Bonds. Bonds and the Giants are on the road tonight in Los Angeles in a game that could be rained out.
(on camera) Because Bonds is so controversial, the Dodgers are planning to step up security in the stadium. They're trying to avoid another incident like this one in San Diego, where a fan tossed a novelty store plastic syringe on the field.
BONDS: That's what they want to do, embarrass themselves, that's on them.
LEWIS: There's a new reality show on ESPN: “Bonds on Bonds”. He got emotional in the first episode, talking about all the heat he's taking.
BONDS: I'm going to take it. Because there's so many other people that depend on me.
LEWIS: And he depends on the fans in San Francisco to stand by him as his potential legal problems continue to mount.
George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to our guest who has considerable experience in the law and in baseball. Two notes: one, my partner on the radio, Van Patrick, suggested that the show on ESPN might better be renamed “Bonds Out on Bond”.
And the one envisioned that eight games into—did not envision that eight games into the 2006 season, Barry Bonds would be batting 188 without a single home run.
Now to Stanley Brand, noted defense attorney, former counsel to Major League Baseball during the 2005 congressional steroids investigation.
Thank you again for your time tonight, sir.
STANLEY BRAND, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Give me the legal nuts and bolts here first. You told who, what, when, and why are they investigating?
BRAND: Well, this is what has become standard operating procedure in the modern era. It's the Martha Stewart syndrome. You are not indicted necessarily for substantive offenses, but after you've been given immunity as I understand Barry Bonds was. If you lie or obstruct, you are subject to prosecution. And those, of course, are federal felonies with maximum sentences, possibly of up to five years.
OLBERMANN: Why would they be investigating this now? The report in the “San Francisco Chronicle” was that it's been going on for a month.
BRAND: Well, the question is whether it ever really stopped. As you know, these things sort ebb and flow. And the last thing we heard were that the Balco labs people were sentenced and went off to jail.
But that doesn't necessarily mean it's over. You know, the grand jury is like an iceberg. You only see the portion above the water when it issues an indictment or calls a witness. What you don't see are all the things that are going on behind the scenes.
OLBERMANN: After the first book about Bonds and steroids came out, “A Game of Shadows”, Bonds sued the authors under this arcane business practice law to keep them from making money off the book. And I, for one, was saying, “Boy, this sounds like a bad idea.”
When you might be in legal trouble, if there's a perjury charge looming, as you just suggested, and an amorphous state around you, isn't the last thing you want to do is put yourself in court as an aggressor? Did he wind up throwing a rock at the hornet's nest by doing that?
BRAND: Absolutely. And as early as 2003, when the press was announcing that part of what the grand jury might be investigating were obstruction and perjury charges, what you want to do as a subject or a target of that is lay low and not make yourself a bigger target than you already are.
Obviously, the last thing that someone wants to do who is under investigation for having lied is to talk some more, whether that's in a lawsuit that you bring or in any other form.
OLBERMANN: Could the books themselves have provoked the action of an investigating a possible perjury charge?
BRAND: My guess would be, Keith, that this has been going on for some time and has never really been closed. Certainly, the book provides added impetus because it gives the public a view of what went on behind the scenes, and perhaps the prosecutors decided that they couldn't just go on without closing this out.
OLBERMANN: There is no way of telling this for sure, obviously, but does the report of a perjury probe impact baseball's investigation for steroids and Barry Bonds, and how would a perjury indictment impact it?
BRAND: Well, it could, because any time you have parallel investigations, you have the prospect that wires between the investigations could be crossed. Let's say, for instance, that Senator Mitchell wants to talk to Barry Bonds. And so I would imagine he would have to, to do his job.
Does Barry Bonds want to be in a position that he's talking yet again to another party about this stuff? And could the grand jury, for instance, obtain those notes or those materials from Senator Mitchell. So he is further boxed in now by this grand jury investigation, and it certainly complicates the Mitchell investigation as it relates to Barry Bonds, although again, it's broader than that.
OLBERMANN: If you were doing your own reality show and found out that you were being investigated for possible perjury charges, would you cancel the reality show?
BRAND: Well, I don't know, because as long as he's not talking about things that are pending before the grand jury or subject matters that were investigated, I suppose there's little risk of being—crossing over.
However, I would want to lower my profile, because prosecutors are human beings, too. And they are certainly influenced by people who appear to be going about their business as if nothing was amiss.
OLBERMANN: Well, if he keeps hitting .188, he's lowered his profile enough to avoid everything, including our attention. Attorney Stanley Brand, thanks once again for your time and have a good weekend.
BRAND: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, therapists, whale sounds, dry food and baby kittens, all brought in to help get Molly out from inside a wall inside New York City. See, Molly is a cat.
And Tom Cruise sets the record straight on Katie Holmes and childbirth. Epidural, sure. Scream therapy, you bet. Not having to stick to those rules of Scientology, no comment. Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: A desperate rescue attempt in New York City. A cat stuck inside a wall. Turning the tide of car thefts with cars tricked out so they can essentially catch the thief. Speaking of tricks, they're being stuck. Tom Cruise and what Katie Holmes can and cannot do during childbirth. All that is next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The story was called “The Cask of Amontillado”, and even for Edgar Allen Poe, it was really frightening. A guy coaxes his supposed friend into an ancient cellar with the promise of an exquisite port wine and then seals him up behind a wall alive, brick by agonizing brick.
Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, by no means did anyone do this deliberately to poor Molly. But the results are the same. Molly has been stuck behind a wall in downtown Manhattan for 14 days.
Bricks have been not added, but removed. Tapes of whale sounds have been played to encourage her to emerge. Even a feline therapist has been brought in to counsel her, because Molly is a cat. It's a cat version of “The Cask of Amontillado”.
Our correspondent is Monica Morales of our New York station, WNBC.
MONICA MORALES, WNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sounds get louder and louder and the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger. Animal rescue workers say they are the desperate cries for help from an 11-month-old black cat named Molly.
MIKE PANTORE, ANIMAL CARE AND CONTROL: This keeps going. This is the one that won't end. And we've exhausted a lot of options to this point.
MORALES: Molly ran inside this hole and got stuck. Ever since, a careful rescue mission to get Molly out has captivated a neighborhood in the west village.
EDEN WOLLANO, WEST VILLAGE RESIDENT: If it was our cat or dog trapped in there, I would be there day and night. It makes us really, really sad.
MORALES: More than 40 rescue workers have tried everything to get Molly out: brick after brick taken out of the wall, cat food strategically placed. New strategy: kittens just a few weeks old brought in to help. Their cries, animal control officers think, may lure Molly to finally call out.
So far, the whole operation has been a draw for people who love animals and just want to see a happy ending.
PAUL LOPEZ, WEST VILLAGE RESIDENT: Everyone cares about the kitty. And it's such a sad story to hear a noise and know that there's something living behind the wall, to not be able to break through and save that life, it's just tragic.
OLBERMANN: Monica Morales of WNBC on Molly watch in big-town.
From cats trapped by walls to mayors for mayor trapped by garbage cans. That's the segue to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs” and a candidate for mayor, who's apparently impatient with the pace of redevelopment in New Orleans. And that's a nice way of putting it.
Take a look at this picture from the campaign web site of Kimberly Williamson Butler. See anything odd up there? Is it simply Ms. Butler's standing amiably in the city's French quarter?
Not quite. Someone sent the web site Wonkette a tip that that trash can in the circle just behind her to the right looks suspiciously like the ones at Disneyland. Maybe, just maybe because Butler used New Orleans Square in Disneyland as the backdrop for that photo.
So the folks at Wonkette got their hands on what they knew to be a trash can from Disneyland, and it looks strikingly similar. Later, they felt they had confirmation that Ms. Butler used the Disneyland version of New Orleans, because no streets in the French Quarter curve that way.
The web site also cited the presence of, quote, “fanny packing middle Americans” as a wee bit suspicious.
Turning to the endless tabs feast that is Tom Cruise, we have clarification about this silent birth jazz, as it relates to Katie Holmes. Mr. Cruise explaining to ABC that just because it's a silent birth, as mandated by Scientology, that does not mean it has to be, well, silent.
Quote, “It's basically just respecting the mother, you know, and helping to be quiet, but not the mother. The mother makes as much noise. You know, she's going through it. She does what she's got to do. OK?” end quote.
Even though, as Scientologists, Cruise and the bride-to-be don't believe in using drugs, apparently it's OK during childbirth. Again quoting Cruise, “We're there, you know. The doctors, whatever the woman wants. If she needs an epidural, she's going to get her epidural.”
Cruise says that she will not be getting, as was widely reported in the tabloids, an adult-sized binky to keep her quiet.
Meanwhile, the new investment—I'm sorry, the new son of Donald and Melania Trump already paying for himself: a six-figure deal to appear on the cover of “People” magazine. The orange-haired father of the year reporting “People” won the sweepstakes for the right to publish the first photo of baby Barron Trump, outbidding “Us Weekly”, “Hello”, “OK”, “Star” magazine and “Orangutan Groomers Monthly”.
Finally, breaking tabloid news from Bahrain. Michael Jackson is alive. He was never dead, as far as we know, anyway. But Internet rumors of his premature demise reportedly had Jackson's business partners in New York so worried they called Bahrain in the middle of the night to make sure financiers from Sony music had a Jackson bodyguard enter the star's hotel room in the middle of the neck, wake him up to see if he was alive. We will have a Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre edition of this on Monday.
The mirror they shoved under his nose was breathing, but oddly enough, it did not reflect his image.
Also tonight, never mind Jackson. Are these cars alive? The perfect solution to auto theft: cars that capture the people trying to steal them. That's next, but next tonight's COUNTDOWN list of today's three nominees for worst person in the world. And it's a hat trick tonight.
The bronze, Ann Coulter, explaining that the immigration situation could be resolved thusly. Quoting, “I'd build a wall. In fact, I'd hire illegal immigrants to build the wall and throw out the illegals who are here.”
You did read “The Cask of Amontillado”, didn't you, Ann?
The runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh. After Ben Domenech resigned from “The Washington Post's” new conservative Red America blog, admitting plagiarism as he did so, Limbaugh explained “The Post” had simply buckled to the left and, quote, “concocted some phony excuse that the guy that they had hired was a plagiarist.”
I wish Rush would plagiarize a good idea from somebody.
But he winner, Bill O. After a newspaper editorial chastising talk show hosts for railing against an attack on Easter, last night O'Reilly dismissed the piece as a nutty diatribe and reassured everybody, quote, “There is no attack on Easter”.
Tuesday, he had talked about how Christmas and Easter have been attacked by secular interests. His web site says one of tonight's segments is titled, quote, “Easter Under Siege”.
Have I got this right? Tuesday there is, Thursday there isn't, Friday there is. Maybe there are multiple Bill O'Reillys. Run for your lives!
Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world.
Actually, judging from what we found on the Internets, those stories about attacks on Easter, they're entirely backwards.
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OLBERMANN: It is, perhaps, the 21st Century policing adaptation of the Venus Flytrap. The automobile, a fake car, perfectly pimped out so as to be irresistible to car thieves, but also souped up, able in essence to catch the person trying to steal it.
Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, the heck with the 1928 Porter from “My Mother the Car”, from KITT from “Knight Rider”. Don Teague tells us now about the car that can take you for a ride, to the big house.
DON TEAGUE, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you're watching is a car thief about to have a very bad day. He doesn't know it yet, but the car he just stole is a trap set by the Dallas Police Department.
He's already locked in. Every turn he takes is being tracked by satellite. Every move he makes is caught on hidden cameras as police close in.
The same with this guy, and her. They're all just minutes from being arrested.
OFFICER NOEL RENDON, DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: They think they got away, you know, scot-clean (sic). And then all of a sudden they see the police behind them.
TEAGUE: Dallas police have arrested 97 people for trying to steal so-called fake cars since the vehicles were first put on the streets here 18 months ago. Perhaps more importantly, auto thefts in the city have dropped by double digits, as fear has spread among thieves that the next car they steal could be one of these.
(on camera) We'd like to show you the outside of one of the bait cars, but for obvious reasons, police don't want you to see what they look like. Let's just say they're the kind of cars pros like to steal.
(voice-over) And police departments nationwide love the idea of letting the bad guys come to them, or at least, their cars. In Columbus, Ohio, they've even added a soundtrack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a setup car. Coz, it's a setup car.
TEAGUE: It's all bad news for thieves, but a classic win-win for police and insurance companies, who provide the bait cars, hundreds nationwide, for free.
FRANK SCAFIDI, NATIONAL INSURANCE CRIME BUREAU: Most of the companies that provide these cars stand to lose lots of money in the coverage if these vehicles are stolen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better not drive crazy or stupid.
TEAGUE: Still, there's a car stolen in the U.S. every 26 seconds or so. Seven and a half billion dollars worth of wheels gone in 60 seconds.
SGT. MIKE COLEMAN, DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Most thieves are opportunists. If they see an opportunity, they're going to take it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a driver's license, insurance card?
TEAGUE: In Dallas, most thieves are still caught the hard way, by good old-fashioned police work. But officers here are making the most of their new tool, and having some laughs along the way, catching car thieves in the act.
Don Teague, NBC News, Dallas.
OLBERMANN: By the way, who's Scott Clean?
That's COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,079th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. A reminder to join us again at midnight Eastern, 11 p.m. Central, 9 Pacific, for the late edition of COUNTDOWN. Till then, a special presentation of “LOCKUP: INSIDE KENTUCKY STATE”.
I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
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