Guests: Dana Milbank
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Who is Robert Novak‘s source? Sources? Will he be revealing them Wednesday night, or in the Plamegate case, have they already been revealed? And legalistically and journalistically, who told Novak he could give it for them up?
The second mass bombing in the last 13 years in the Indian city we knew as Bombay. More than 145 are dead in Mumbai as eight explosive devices detonate on commuter trains at rush hour. It could be al Qaeda. It could be a drug kingpin with financial ties to al Qaeda. It could be internal religious warfare. It could be all of the above.
The Army hits its recruiting targets again, but the Southern Poverty Law Center asks, What are we recruiting for? Fears that some of our soldiers will move on to a, quote, “skinhead infantry.”
The gas line was tampered with. The doctor who owned the place was really, really upset. And just before he blew it up, he sent out a 29-page e-mail. This was no boat accident.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
What began with a July column by Robert Novak in which he outed a secret CIA operative named Valerie Plame back in 2003 now ends with a July column by Robert Novak, in which, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the syndicated conservative columnist finally identifies two of the three confidential administration sources who gave him that story.
Is it a start, or is it the closest thing we‘ll ever get to a finish? Mr. Novak acknowledging today that his role in the CIA leak investigation has been concluded, saying that that has freed him to speak out about the chain of events that led to Ms. Plame‘s outing, at the end of that chain, Mr. Novak‘s office confirming to MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL” that then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow served as a confirming source about Ms. Plame‘s undercover status, White House senior adviser Karl Rove also backing up the identity of Ms. Plame, the wife of the former ambassador Joe Wilson, and still does not answer the question of who originally told Mr. Novak about Ms. Plame, the columnist saying that even now he cannot reveal that source‘s identity, speculation continuing to center on Richard Armitage, former executive editor Ben Bradlee of “The Washington Post” having already suggested that the former deputy secretary of state was Bob Woodward‘s source, Armitage himself not discounting that, and that he played a central role in a recent interview with PBS.
Joining us now, MSNBC‘s David Shuster.
David, thanks for your time.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Bob (INAUDIBLE) Novak is acknowledging that Bill Harlow was his CIA source and Karl Rove his confirmational source. But does that put us any closer to knowing whether Richard Armitage was indeed the primary source?
SHUSTER: No, it doesn‘t, but there is a little bit of information in the Novak column tonight that gives us a few more clues. And that is, again, Bob Novak says that this primary source was not a partisan gunslinger, and he also says that this primary source gave information inadvertently. That would seem to fit the bill of particulars about Richard Armitage, who has stated publicly that, yes, he has testified before Patrick Fitzgerald‘s grand jury, and yes, he has conversations with journalists all the time.
The one thing that Richard Armitage has not stated publicly is, when asked directly, were you both Bob Woodward‘s source, were you Bob Novak‘s source, Richard Armitage has said, I just can‘t comment on that, but he has not denied it.
OLBERMANN: We will explore the political edge to all this with Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” in a moment.
But Bill Harlow had to have known that Valerie Plame was undercover. They were all in the CIA together. Does the fact that he was a confirming source with Novak mean now that he, meaning Harlow, could face some kind of prosecution in this?
SHUSTER: Well, it would, if he knew that he was giving Bob Novak the green light and being a confirming source, and that‘s where this gets interesting, because Bill Harlow has denied Bob Novak‘s account of their conversation. And that‘s significant, because it casts asked questions about Bob Novak and his integrity.
It also would explain why perhaps Bill Harlow is not in any legal jeopardy, because if he told prosecutors, as he has told MSNBC, that he did not provide a green light to Bob Novak, then that would mean that he‘s not violating any sort of rule about disclosing classified information.
OLBERMANN: All right, let me read that part from Novak‘s column that is coming out on—during the day on Wednesday, and then ask you a question about it. “I have revealed Rove‘s name because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection,” as you mentioned. “I have revealed Harlow‘s name because he has publicly disclosed his version of our conversation, which also differs from my recollection. My primary source has not come forward to identify himself.”
In terms of the difference of the recollection, has anybody asked Mr.
Harlow particularly about this? Has he seen the grand jury?
SHUSTER: Well, Harlow has said that he has cooperated with the investigation and has testified, and he has told friends, and he has told friends this evening, that Bob Novak‘s depiction of their conversation, that Harlow knew that he was giving a green light to Bob Novak, that that is not true.
And what Novak is simply saying in this column is that Novak has a different recollection. It‘s worth pointing out that sometimes sources confirm information for you as a reporter and don‘t know it, or don‘t know what other information you have. But again, that‘s an important discrepancy.
What‘s also important is that Bob Novak is not shedding any new light on either the Harlow conversation or the Karl Rove conversation, where there‘s a discrepancy between the two about what they talked about.
OLBERMANN: Novak says he‘s out of this, it‘s over for him, he‘s in the clear. Rove‘s lawyer said Rove is in the clear. We‘ve just discussed the prospects about Harlow. Do we know, did Richard Armitage go to the grand jury? And if so, is he in the clear?
SHUSTER: Yes, Armitage has stated publicly that he did go to the grand jury, that he cooperated early on, that he went to the grand jury without a lawyer, which was the same case for his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell. And Armitage has signaled to friends that he‘s not facing any legal jeopardy. But he has stated publicly that he thought because his initial role, if he was, of course, the source, or whoever was the source, he does not believe it was part of a deliberate plan, at least not as far as information that may have come out of the State Department.
The focus for Fitzgerald has been on the White House. Was there anybody in the White House, despite the fact that other officials may have been talking inadvertently, were there any White House officials who were deliberately putting out classified information as a way of undercutting Joe Wilson?
And that‘s where you have the case against Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. He‘s not charged with leaking classified information, but he is charged with lying about what he told reporters, lying to the grand jury. And there‘s been a huge amount of political intrigue about what was Scooter Libby doing? Was he trying to protect somebody, perhaps even his boss, the vice president?
OLBERMANN: And that‘s our next point. MSNBC‘s David Shuster on the nuts and bolts here. Great thanks.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s look at the purely political implications now with Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post.”
Dana, who is Bill Harlow? Should we have already known this name? What does his name mean to the whole Plame case now that Robert Novak has put him in this mix?
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Well, Bill Harlow is a spokesman, really, for the CIA, which, you know, is like being a spokesman for the mob or something. They don‘t do a whole lot of speaking over there, so you wouldn‘t necessarily know his name.
But if you‘re a careful reader of “The Washington Post,” you would have known his name, because he said, Yes, I spoke to Bob Novak, and I warned him in the strongest possible terms not to identify Valerie Plame. And evidently, Bob Novak just took that as confirmation and went from there.
So Harlow‘s really a small fish in this whole thing. I think what we‘re really seeing, from what Novak‘s revealed, is, first of all, he did give up all three of his sources to Fitzgerald, saying Fitzgerald knew who they were anyway. And I think the other thing we‘re really seeing is the fact that Fitzgerald gave Novak freedom to talk now really indicates that this whole thing really is winding down.
OLBERMANN: All right. If it really is winding down, and we have all the names, or at least two of the three initial names here, and all the ancillary names on the table, or at least we believe we have them, what was this politically? What was this thing? Can you summarize it now?
MILBANK: It was terrific for cable news.
OLBERMANN: Besides that.
MILBANK: It wasn‘t bad for the newspapers, either.
Basically, what this indicates—in fact, Novak is saying it‘s his impression, based on what Fitzgerald told his lawyers, that none of his three sources are being indicted here. There‘s every sign that this is only about Scooter Libby at this point. And even that is not the original crime that was alleged and investigated here, it‘s a matter of lying to the grand jury.
So it means that something really naughty happened, something that wasn‘t supposed to happen in terms of identifying, outing this CIA agent, but it‘s something that‘s almost impossible to prove, and sure enough, it was impossible to prove.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Novak is now also writing this, quoting him again, “There were a lot of crazy things being said, that I had taken the Fifth Amendment or I had made a plea bargain. It‘s obviously caused me a lot of trouble. If I had to do it all over again, would I have done it? It‘s a hard question to answer.”
If this is all besides the Libby trial, Dana, that we see here, did Novak get through this unscathed, and did he get through this unscathed because, as you suggested, he gave up his sources to the special prosecutor?
MILBANK: Well, he certainly took a less-stringent standard than Judy Miller did. He was presented with those same kind of waivers that she was presented with from Scooter Libby, and was unwilling to accept that. So he took a lower standard there. It‘s a defensible thing, I suppose, to say that the sources have identified him—and have identified themselves to Fitzgerald.
And he‘s still, to some extent, protecting the source, because you and I do not know for sure who the mystery original source was.
But look, Bob Novak‘s been in this business for 50 years. He‘ll come out just fine. It looks like the Bush administration has weathered it. And the only question is Scooter Libby.
OLBERMANN: Well, I wasn‘t losing sleep over Mr. Novak, but that was my last question here. With the exception of the possibility of some fireworks that we don‘t know about in the Libby trial, there—face it, there were Watergate trials that had fireworks we didn‘t know were coming in the Watergate hearings. Has, in fact, the Bush administration gotten through this unscathed?
MILBANK: Well, it would certainly seem that way. I mean, it‘s hard to say the Bush administration is unscathed to any extent now, because the president‘s popularity is so low for other reasons. This contributed to an eroding of his credibility, the public‘s trust in the president. So in that sense, he may have suffered some harm here, but certainly in a legal sense, he‘s free.
Most Americans, you know, when we get around to a Scooter Libby trial, it‘ll be conveniently packed in between after the midterm elections and well in advance of the presidential elections, so as a political matter, it‘s pretty much water over the dam.
OLBERMANN: Water, and not Watergate. Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC. As always, great thanks, Dana.
MILBANK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And one quick unrelated explanation here. We were inundated with e-mails after Monday night‘s show, complaining about this newscast‘s new format. I mean, people were really upset, which led us here to all look at each other and go, Huh?
Then we figured it out. After the interview with John Dean as the number five story, I did not appear again until the number one story about Dan Rather and Star Jones. Well, I probably should have explained what we were doing there, but I didn‘t realize it would cause such a stir.
It wasn‘t a format change. It was a dinner reservation. See, I was supposed to be off last night. And then John Dean was starting his book tour for “Conservatives Without Conscience,” and he wanted to start it here. So I came in, and we pretaped the end of the show, and then I interviewed John, and then I went to dinner. So no format change, but a very nice tuna ravioli.
Also here, terror in India, a series of bombs exploding on commuter trains, the death toll climbing past 160, hundreds more injured, and maybe 100 explanations for what this could have been.
And the U.S. military says it meets another recruiting goal, but there are serious concerns over the lowering of standards, and even a claim that the Army is training future, quote, “skinhead infantry.”
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It does not make the dead any less so. It does not reduce the horror, nor circumscribe the implications. But it may put our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, terrorist bombings in the city we know as—have known, anyway, as Bombay, in India, in some context.
The original terrorists, the ones who were duped or drugged into believing they would be rewarded with virgins in heaven if they carried out political murders, they were in a cult called the Hashishin, or the Assassins. Their reign of terror began in the 11th century. After it ended about 1272 A.D., the Assassins and their families began to call themselves instead Sojas (ph), or Maolas (ph), and their descendants today live throughout the Middle East but primarily in India.
And they acknowledge as their titular leader the Aga Khan of Bombay. That Indian city is now known as Mumbai, and it is at this hour still numb with horror, a series of eight bombs exploding on the city‘s commuter rail network at the height of the evening rush hour, killing at least 163, wounding more than 400.
Authorities are calling it a well-coordinated terrorist attack, just the latest reminder in a matter of days that here at home, public transportation could be an easy target. Amid signs that the U.S.-led war on terror is confronting other new problems of its own, a fresh bout of sectarian violence Tuesday in Iraq claiming at least 47 lives.
Among the incidents, car bombings in Baghdad and in a Sunni area of the city, gunmen ambushing a minibus that was returning from a Shiite funeral. All 10 people on board that bus were killed, a senior Iraqi lawmaker warning the nation is descending into civil war, an Islamic Web site posting video that purportedly shows the bodies of two American soldiers kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad last month.
NBC News has decided not to show that video, militants linked to al Qaeda now claiming that the killings were (INAUDIBLE) -- retribution, rather, for the rape of an Iraqi woman by U.S. soldiers last March.
Meanwhile, that other major U.S. conflict, Afghanistan, getting a surprise visit Tuesday from the American secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld‘s trip coinciding with the most intense phase of Taliban violence there since the U.S. invasion in 2001, Donald Rumsfeld dismissing the notion that the Pentagon‘s focus on fighting in Iraq has created a power vacuum in Afghanistan, claiming that any increase in Taliban activity should be attributed to the calendar and to the Pentagon‘s venerable bookkeeping skills.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF STATE: To some extent, it‘s seasonal. We know that during some portions of the year, it tends to decline, and some portions it goes up. I also would say that I think our accounting and our ability to keep track of the number of incidents is improving, and so that may contribute to some extent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The numbers in this story are horrifying. Over the past four years, terrorists have killed over 400 people in attacks on trains in places like Madrid, London, and now Mumbai, acts of terror uniting communities around the globe. And in three cases, 9/11 in this country, 3/11 in Spain, now 7/11 in India, adding a numerological element to the sickening reality.
The details now of the shocking rush-hour attack in India from our correspondent Fred Francis.
FRED FRANCIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bombs hit the world‘s most crowded commuter trains at evening rush hour, well timed and well placed carnage at the heart of India‘s financial hub, the lead first-class cars of each train.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through interpreter): We heard a blast. We thought an electrical wire had snapped. People jumped out of the train immediately.
FRANCIS: Eight bombs in all on seven trains, police said, placed in high luggage racks, causing many head injuries.
AMITABH DUBEY, EURASIA GROUP: And it‘s very easy to target a large number of people in a small space. So, you know, transit systems are a very obvious target.
FRANCIS: The screaming of the wounded, the running of escaping survivors, and driving monsoon rains multiplied the chaos, hampering emergency teams.
CNBC reporter Tina Tanden (ph) was at one of the destroyed trains.
TINA TANDEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: So everyone was panicking. Everyone was under a lot of stress and tension, because they didn‘t know where to head, and where the next blast was going to hit.
FRANCIS: The terrorist blasts crippled India‘s largest city, temporarily knocking out the phone system.
(on camera): Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell NBC News that today‘s attack was more likely than not the work of Kashmiri rebels. The rebels have been fighting for independence from Indian rule.
(voice-over): The militants were suspected in multiple bombing attacks in a Delhi market last October that killed dozens. Today‘s attack had a chilling effect on India‘s most vibrant city.
SUMANTRA BOSE, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: It‘s a very dark message, it‘s a very sinister message to India‘s financial and political elite, that we can hit you where it hurts.
FRANCIS: Tonight, India‘s military is on high alert. Its prime minister has called emergency meetings. Its police are arresting suspects. And its people are badly shaken.
Fred Francis, NBC News, London.
OLBERMANN: The first thought in New York City Monday morning was terror. The best adjective now might be tragedy-comedy. A New York City newspaper headline on this story, “Is There a Doctor Under the House?” New and still weirder developments.
Perhaps also for Barry Bonds. Is a grand jury about to indict him?
That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Thomas Bowdler was born on this date in 1754. Not only did he once try to edit out all the dirty stuff from the plays of Shakespeare, but he also left behind one of the worst typographical errors of all time. Though his name was Bowdler, B-O-W-D-L-E-R, his efforts to ruin art for the sake of prudery are remembered as Bowlderizing, B-O-W-L-D-E-R, et cetera. He who would edit, being edited by history. Ahh.
On that note, let‘s play Oddball.
And we begin once again in Spain for day five of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. These are the bulls. The two-legged runners, we like to refer to as the drunks. After four action-packed days on the cobblestone, today‘s participants seemed to just be going through the motions. No gorings reported. Couple of hard falls, but overall, a lackluster performance from the bovine team during the day, almost as if the bulls had been told, Hey, guys, run down to the big stadium at the edge of town. There‘s going to be prizes and stuff.
Of course, the only thing waiting for the bulls in that stadium is brutal death at the hands of a guy in colorful clothes that better suit a much taller man.
So we‘re a bit disappointed to hear none of the bipeds took a horn through the spleen on the way down, but there is always tomorrow. Go bulls, go bulls.
To the Internets, and that vast treasure-trove of wacky video has provided us with yet another gem. Do you ever watch any of those home shopping channels, I mean, really watch them? Oh, you should.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, print it out. Now, while we‘re doing that, let me show you something really impressive. That picture, remember the picture of the horse I showed you earlier? Well, here it is, blown up. This is a big horse. Order now. You get the camera, you get the printer.
4-X optical zoom. Snyder lens, photo printer, SD card.
Look at that horse. The bushy tail, the big teeth, the hooves. I mean, my producer, Tara Kitts (ph), just told me this isn‘t a horse, it‘s a butterfly. Actually, it may, in fact, be a moth. But look at what this (INAUDIBLE)...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In fact, it‘s a Rorschach test, pal, and you just failed. Moth, butterfly, horsie, whatever. What is perfectly clear here is that there is no drug test required for employment within the world of home shopping channels.
Nor is there a drug test to be a dumb criminal, though being on drugs would help. These guys thought they were being smart when they robbed a Dallas apartment building that you‘re seeing here. Take out the cameras, man, just like in “Ocean‘s 11,” although this is more like IQ 11. One guy brought this big hammer to get the job done, whacking away unsuccessfully while giving the thing a perfect view of his face.
When that didn‘t work, they tried the old, Dude, hoist me up, dude. No, it didn‘t work either. Police have not yet arrested these two, but as soon as they stop laughing, they plan to go out and round them up. Wheee!
One hesitates to call the doctor police think caused all this carnage in New York a dumb criminal. Of course, sending a disjointed 29-page e-mail to his wife and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Scarborough, among many others, just before you blow your building up, that does not exactly win you mastermind of the year honors.
And has the Army met its recruiting quotas by forgetting its standards? Could the result be training home-grown hate groups to wreak havoc after their discharges?
Details on these stories ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Bill Kern, a University Florida—University of Florida bee experts, telling firefighters in Palm Beach County how to handle swarms of killer bees. His advice, run, and keep running, because they‘ll keep chasing you for about 900 yards. So just keep running. There‘s no real news story here. It just sounded like advice I wanted you to hear. It may come up someday.
Number two, somebody in Houston, amateurs who made a professional-quality mock billboard and pasted it atop a real outdoor ad spot. It depicts an image of Jesus holding a can of Budweiser. And it reads, “Jesus, King of Jews, and Jesus, King of Beers.” The real headline here is, this thing‘s been up there at least a week, and nobody‘s bothered to take it down yet.
Number one, Fred Clark, a retired Verizon staffer from Richmond,
Virginia, who died last month at the age of 61. He had written his own
obituary, which was printed in “The Richmond Times-Dispatch.” His family
and the paper are now explaining that Mr. Clark delighted in humor,
especially at his own expense, which was why his obituary began with this
sentence, “Frederick Arthur ‘Fred‘ Clark, who had tired of reading
obituaries noting others‘ courageous battles with this or that disease—“
They also explained that the late Mr. Clark really didn‘t mean it when he wrote of his own demise that it had, quote, “deprived him of his final wish, which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party,” unquote.
Got to say, I am sorry I did not meet the late Fred Clark.
OLBERMANN: It has perhaps been the mantra of mantras of the Bush administration to justify the war in Iraq: We are fighting them over there so we don‘t have to fight them over here. But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, but is it backfiring? Are the armed forces inadvertently training home-grown terrorists over there who wind up fighting us over here?
That the conclusion of the Southern Poverty Law Center which says not only are with white supremacist groups encouraging their members to join the armed forces so they get free training in urban combat for what they call the coming race war, but that according to investigators at the Department of Defense, recruiters are knowingly allowing white supremacists and neo-Nazis to join the armed forces, that some are fighting in Iraq already.
The report comes as the U.S. Army hit its recruitment goal for June, sending nearly 8,800 new men and women into training. And while the armed serviced says the standards are still high, they have started several programs aimed at bulking up the recruitment numbers, including raising the maximum age from 40-42, allowing a higher percentage, up to four percent of recruits who score low on aptitude tests, and allowing more waivers for people with drug or alcohol problems, and recruits with prior misdemeanor criminal offenses.
I‘m joined now by retired Army colonel, medal of honor recipient MSNBC analyst Jack Jacobs.
As always, Jack, thanks for your time.
COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Start with the Southern Poverty Law Center statement on white supremacy in the military. Is it a realistic fear or problem?
JACOBS: Well, I don‘t think so. You know, it‘s the law of large numbers. We‘ve got 1.6 million men and women under arms in the armed forces and in any organization that large, you‘re going to have a small, but definitely measurable number of nincompoops. This is almost inevitable and it‘s these people I think we‘re talking about, but you‘re not going to find them coalescing into an Army that‘s going to threaten the American public any time soon.
OLBERMANN: But, of course, anyone who remembers Oklahoma City and Timothy McVeigh, even one of even moderately trained white supremacists can do horrific damage. Is there a policy to deal with this? Is there a policy to identify these folks or.
JACOBS: Well, there is a policy to identify them. You know, anybody who exhibits any kind of anti-social behavior, supposedly, is not let into the service in the first place. But it‘s interesting to note that there‘s a significant number of people who create al kind of mayhem on the American public all the time, and very few of these people learn their craft in the Army. Indeed, Timothy McVeigh used a weapon which no one uses in the armed service, and the kind of bomb he constructed, the instructions for doing it can be collected in any book and on the internet. So, I think there is not necessarily a very close relationship between being in the armed forces on the one hand and being a psycho on the other.
OLBERMANN: Are you worried about hearing that some of the misdemeanor criminal records are now being considered acceptable or the numbers, the ages are going up or that these—sort of, they may seem like small incremental reductions in standards are being made. Are they justifiable? Are they necessary? Or do they lead to trouble just within the Army, never mind what happens to these people after?
JACOBS: Well, yes, yes to all those things. I think that the military is justifying them because they need to make their numbers, so they‘re reducing the quality—the requirements for the troops. I don‘t like it. Usually people who have disciplinary problems before they get into the service have disciplinary problems when they‘re in the service, and we wind up spending 80 percent of our time dealing with those people instead of spending our time training our soldiers to defend the republic.
No, I don‘t like the qualities going down, particularly in the area of discipline and the harder we work to keep the quality high, the easier time we will have in fielding an Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine corps that does its job properly.
OLBERMANN: Was this done exclusively to keep those numbers whole, to not have to say we missed this by this again?
JACOBS: Yeah, I think so. As a matter of fact, I‘m almost certain it has. I‘ve had—I spent a lot of time in the Army. I had good—I had smart soldiers, and I had dumb soldiers. Smart is better.
OLBERMANN: Colonel Jack Jacobs, as always, sir, our great pleasure.
JACOBS: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Also here is the indictment clock ticking for baseball‘s Barry Bonds. Is a grand jury set to slap him with charges before his term expires? And the latest on the condition of the Kentucky Derby-winning horse. A surprisingly good recovery turning bad surprisingly quickly. Those stories ahead, but first here are the COUNTDOWN “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day.
KEITH RICHARDS, ROLLING STONES: They put me out like a light, you know, (BEEP) when they woke me up because I was in such a great sleep. I was like ouch I bashed my head and went (INAUDIBLE) and came out the other end. It was like—although I realize now that it was like a little more serious than that, but I tell you what, it was an experience.
JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: According to “Time” magazine, the Bush administration is getting away from their cowboy diplomacy. Did you see the press briefing this morning with Rumsfeld? Well, here take a look.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: For the past six years.
SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, LIVES IN A PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA: Who?
RUMSFELD: He‘s been a powerful presence in the Department of Defense.
SQUAREPANTS: I‘m President Bush‘s secret advisor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are known as the amalgamated order of the real bearded Santa Clauses.
SANTA CLAUSE, XMAS: I have had girls come in and say honey, what are you doing? Well, we come in to get my mom a bra.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chevy Tahoe, a set of golf clubs, some new gourmet cookware.
CLAUSE: Give it a good yank.
OLBERMANN: It‘s the final weeks of the Barry Bonds grand jury, reportedly indictments being likely. And as unlikely as they come, the New York City building explosion is one of the must bizarre divorce cases in recent memory, the latest on that one next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Just as with Robert Novak naming his sources, the latest news about baseball‘s Barry Bonds might be important or it might be a lot less important than it seems. The No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, there may be an indictment of one of the least popular figures in sports, there may also be an unhappy end for one of the most popular figures in sports.
The “New York Daily News” reporting that as soon as next week, the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in San Francisco might indict Barry Bonds, possibly on charges of perjury, possibly on charges of tax evasion or both, but that may not be as earth shattering as might be implied. The grand jury that has been hearing evidence against Bonds has just two weeks left before it expires and it is not likely to get an extension, so it‘s indict him soon or not at all.
Last week, Bonds‘ former personal trainer Greg Anderson refused to testify and was jailed. He‘s now asked an appeals court to let him out on bond. No pun. A New York paper says the grand jury has heard testimony from the Giants‘ team trainer, Stan Conte plus a former Bonds physician. Former mistress Kimberly Bell says she got $80,00 to buy a house for Bonds and that he admitted his steroid use to her.
Bonds had told the original BALCO grand jury, looking into steroid use in 2003 that he had not knowingly taken steroids. He admitted, however, to using substances called the Cream and the Clear, substances Bonds claimed his trainer, Mr. Anderson, told him were flax seed oil and a balm to rub on his knees for his arthritis. Mr. Bonds did not mention pancake uranium from Niger.
The “Daily News” also reporters whatever the jury does or does not do, the grand jury, that is, baseball‘s own steroids investigators, under the supervision of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, have turned up, according to the story, plenty of damning information of their own.
It is not Bonds bashing to suggest that he is less a fan favorite than is the star-crossed winner of this year‘s Kentucky Derby. Barbaro who then shattered his right leg at the Preakness is now in for, “tough days ahead.” His seven-week-long recuperation had been going along surprisingly smoothly until last week when the horse suffered an infection in the broken leg. Doctors replaced a titanium plate and 27 screws holding that leg together during three hours of surgery. On the positive side, Dr. Dean Richardson treating the horse says Barbaro is tolerating his new cast well and that his attitude and appetite remain excellent. However, Richardson notes, “I‘m being realistic about it, when a horse has a set back like this, it‘s a problem.”
No easy segue then tonight into our—well, actually now that you mention it, our celebrity roundup entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” begins with Leanne Rimes, canceling three upcoming concerts because of a leg infection.
The 23-year-old country singer underwent surgery in L.A. after a tear in the tissue of one of her legs became infected. A spokesperson says it was minor surgery, but because of the infection it became an urgent situation. Rimes is expected to resume her tour after a three or four-day recovery. Let this be a lesson to all of us, keep those cowboy boots disinfected with a regular alcohol swabbing.
Hopefully Miss Rimes will not have to perform any karate on stage once the concerts resume, because you never know when a drunken Jackie Chan might hop out of the crowd at you.
Reports from Hong Kong claiming the 52-year-old action superstar disrupted a concert by a Taiwanese singer Monday night jumping on stage and demanding to do a duay—duet or a duay. Perhaps that was the problem, he said “duay” and she said, I don‘t know what a “duay” is, dummy.
When that didn‘t work, he tried to conduct the band, but he stopped and started the music several times while audience members heckled him. It would be nice to report that Chan then dramatically fought every member of that audience one at a time while flying through the middle of the air, but officials say nah, he was just drunk.
And lastly, one of the founding members of the rock band Pink Floyd is dead. Sid Barrett co-founded the psychedelic group with Roger Waters in 1965, and wrote many of the band‘s early songs but left in 1968 with his behavior becoming increasingly erratic. He spent his last years living in virtual anonymity in Cambridge in England. A spokeswoman for the band says Barrett died several days ago. Cause of death not disclosed. Sid Barrett was 60 years old.
Also, I got your divorce settlement right here. The bizarre story of the house on East 62nd Street that isn‘t there anymore, it just got stranger still. That‘s next. First time COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”
The Bronze to Irena Briganti, spokesperson for FOX News. There‘s a piece in the “New York Times” about COUNTDOWN the best part is her quote about me. It‘s her third annual version of this same quote. Let me read it in full.
“Because of his personal demons,” says Miss Briganti, “Keith has imploded everywhere he‘s worked. From lashing out at co-workers to personally attacking Bill O‘Reilly and all things FOX, it‘s obvious Keith is a train wreck waiting to happen. And,” she continued, “like all train wrecks, people might tune in out of morbid curiosity, but they eventually tune out, as evidenced by Keith‘s recent ratings decline. In the meantime,” how long is this? “We hope he enjoys his paranoid view from the bottom of the ratings ladder and wish him well on his inevitable trip to oblivion.”
Now, Miss Briganti first used the train wreck line in an interview with the “Washington Post” in May, 2004, in which she was quoted as an anonymous spokesperson. Since about that time, our ratings are up 26 percent and Bill O‘Reilly‘s are down 45 percent. And then Miss Briganti used that paranoid line in a comment to an anonymous or e-mail—anonymous e-mail to a blogger in June, 2005. And since then, our ratings are up 33 percent and Bill-O‘s down 16 percent. So I‘d like to thank Irena Briganti for her latest remark because she‘s obviously such a ratings good luck charm for COUNTDOWN. But moreover, I‘d like to congratulate her for finally getting her shame done with at being the spokesperson for FOX News. She‘s finally used her real name in public rather than hiding behind anonymity. It‘s your first step to a full recovery!
Today‘s runner-up, school administrators at Stone Mountain Middle School. They were a little slow on the old oversight at the school‘s student resources web page. They had indeed a link to “Black Girl Magazine” the website for African-American girls in middle and high schools, but then it went out of business and the name and the site were picked up by a pornographer from Curacao. Oops!
But our winner, “norebounds,” an eBay seller who took a figurine of former pro-hockey goalie, Clint Malarchuk and altered it and painted it so it would commemorate the awful night in 1989 when Malarchuk was accidentally swiped by a teammate‘s skate and his jugular was cut and it looked like he would be dead before they got him off the ice. Complete with hand-painted blood. “Norebounds,” we don‘t know your real name, but you may want to look into getting some help to getting the blood back in your brain, too. “Norebounds,” today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: Four, presumably innocent passersby injured, 10 firemen hurt, a multimillion dollar townhouse with historical significance destroyed, all apparently because a divorce did not want to give up his home or proceeds from its sale to his ex-wife. Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, the gas explosion that put a hole in a New York City street and the doctor police suspect caused it.
Nicholas Bartha ran an internal medicine practice out of this building in the posh upper east side of New York City. On Friday of last week, a judge ordered him out of that house as part of his divorce and early Monday morning, someone rigged a nearby gas line and the whole thing exploded. The $6.4 million building reduced to rubble, the doctor was trapped underneath with severe burns. The main evidence that doctor Bartha had something to do with the blast coming from a rambling 29 page e-mail he sent to dozens of people including his former wife, his lawyer, a medical colleague and Governor Pataki of New York, Governor Schwarzenegger of California, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume and Sean Hannity of FOX News. All this less than two hours before the damn thing went sky high.
In the e-mail he railed against a variety of perceived evils including Dutch society, the New York court system, a pizza restaurant that the mayor of New York apparently frequents, his fellow doctors and nurses, politicians including senators Clinton, Durbin, Kennedy, a variety of media people including Al Franken, Arthur Sulzberger of the “New York Times” and even David Gregory of NBC News. And interspersed among the generalized rants, jabs at his ex-wife, Cordula.
“On 10/17/01 Cordula (and daughter) Serena and Johanna left, a few days after the 9/11 disaster Cordula filed for divorce for mental cruelty. If one is a gold digger any lie will do. She never consulted a psychiatrists or priest or rabbi or marriage councilor!!!”
Later he addressed her directly. “When you read this lines your life will change forever. You deserve it. You will be transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger. You always wanted me to sell the house I always told you ‘I will leave the house only if I am dead.‘ You ridiculed me. You should have taken it seriously.”
Of course he didn‘t leave the house dead and the whole thing made the Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner movie the “War of the Roses” look “The Sound of Music.”
I‘m joined now by the investigate reporter, Jonathan Dienst of our New York NBC station, WNBC, who has been covering this thing since it went sky high on Monday morning.
Jonathan thanks for your time.
JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: My pleasure, glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: Is this pretty much cut and dried now, is there doubt the doctor was responsible for the explosion?
DIENST: Well, police don‘t have a confession because the doctor‘s in medically induced coma and they are still looking at—for additional evidence, but as of now, today, they couple came out and said it was definitely deliberate, that the line was rigged across the basement. The gas line was attached to a rubber hose, that basically this basement filled up with gas and it became basically a gas bomb and exploded, as you said, sky high, knocking down the building and putting the doctor who was inside at risk and also people walking by on the street at risk.
So yes, the evidence appears to be pointing towards this is doctor because of the e-mails, because of this ongoing divorce battle and the list goes on and on. They say he did not want to give up this building to his wife, that he wanted to stay there and live there forever and she, based on a court order was entitled to half that property and the sheriffs were moving in and going to auction that building off on October 11 and she was going to get about $4 million in proceeds from the sale, something he did not want to happen.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan, George Carlin had an old joke that just statistically somewhere in the world, somebody literally had to be the world‘s worst doctor. But was there evidence before this that he was a bad doctor or even a bad citizen before all this happened?
DIENST: We‘ve checked the records, there‘s nothing according to the State Health Department that shows that he‘s been sued or was in trouble. It‘s like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type situation. As a doctor, people who worked with him, who know him said he was caring, said he did a good job, a nice man, but those close said yes, he knew he had these marital problems. Then you look at the court record records and that e-mail and see there is an angry, disturbed man here who his own lawyer says he was shock and disappoint and said for the past year he had not heard from his client who became angry with the criminal justice system, with the legal system and he lost touch and vanish and didn‘t hear from his client again.
OLBERMANN: The ex-Mrs. Bartha, have we heard from her, has she said anything about the explosion? Do we know who what her status is at this point?
DIENST: Well, we know she works for the Netherlands Consulate here in New York. She put out a statement through her lawyer, basically expressing shock and sorrow and actually hoping for a speedy recovery for her husband or ex-husband who is now given about a 50 percent chance of survival in the burn unit to where he is currently being treated. But in terms of her official statement, no, she‘s not done any interviews as of yet. We have reached one of her daughters by phone who said it‘s been a very difficult time, a very upsetting time and please respect our privacy for now. And perhaps they will speak in the next day or two.
OLBERMANN: I was there yesterday in the afternoon, and I wondered if you shared with me this one thought that is extraordinary and bizarre as this story is, that perhaps the truly amazing part is this much damage could have been done to that one building, it is a pile of sticks, but the rest of the area was pretty much intact.
DIENST: Some veteran investigators you speak with say it all depends on when this thing went. You have to remember there‘s a hose attached to a gas line and it‘s just filling up, building and building and building and we still don‘t know what caused the explosion. Was the doctor, if he is in fact responsible, set off the lighter or match to deliberately set off the explosion? Was there a spark that did this? Could this have built up more and more pressure and that if it had exploded at a later time would have caused more damage? There‘s a high rise next door, windows were blown out, pedestrians on the street, several were hit by flying debris. But it‘s amazing that in this crowded Upper East Side neighborhood where there‘s Armani just a couple of blocks away, the flagship store, Aramez (ph) is just around the corner, that no one was hurt, you know, in this shower period, on the upper east side of Manhattan.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, within three hours of the end of this thing or after it exploded, you could still—you could walk—not walk down that block, but on the adjoining ones and it‘s just and extraordinary finish and I have a feeling this not going to be the finish to the investigation on this story, so Jonathan Dienst, investigative reporter of WNBC, our NCB station in New York, good luck in your pursuits on this and great thanks for your time tonight.
DIENST: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN, for this, the 1,167th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Goodnight, and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Scarborough Country.”
Joe, got any good e-mails?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: I got great e-mails, Keith.
And Hey, I‘ve got great news for you too.
SCARBOROUGH: Star Jones, possibly going to FOX News.
SCARBOROUGH: Think of—woo! Think about all the segments, baby!
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