Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jack Jacobs, Emil Steiner, Christian Finnegan
ALISON STEWART, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Subpoena sisters. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees strongly suggest former White House counsel Harriet Miers and ex-political director Sara Taylor speak up about the firings of those U.S. attorneys. Will all roads lead to Rove?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The only way we can find out is by questioning them, and questioning the people in his office. And that‘s what we‘re going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: In Iraq, a sacred site hit by insurgents. It‘s the second strike on one of the most religious destinations for Shiites. This, while a U.S. general on the ground says Iraqi troops can‘t cut it.
Mr. Bill O‘Reilly says this network is obsessed with violence in Iraq, because MSNBC, in O‘Reilly‘s mind, wants Americans to think badly about President Bush.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY: Do you care if another bomb went off in Tikrit? Does it mean anything? No. It doesn‘t mean anything.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEWART: (INAUDIBLE) 911 calls from inside a Los Angeles hospital.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on phone): And she‘s definitely sick, and everybody‘s ignoring her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): OK, you‘re at the hospital, ma‘am. You have to contact them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have—they‘re the problem. They won‘t help her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: A woman dies in a ER waiting room. Now the hospital is being investigated.
The case of the $54 million pants, a judge suing a dry cleaner over a pair of allegedly missing trousers has to leave the courtroom in tears over the missing knickers.
Speaking of missing pants, ladies, a word of advice. If you see this man, cross your legs or run the other way. Rumor has it Kevin Federline has fathered a fifth child. The baby mama, his ex, Char Jackson. And just in time for Father‘s Day.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
And good evening. I am not Keith Olbermann, I am Alison Stewart, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.
Harriet Miers never got a chance to testify before the Senate in her brief bid to replace Sandra Day O‘Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. But it looks like she might get another chance to be the star witness on Capitol Hill after all.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the former White House counsel, as well as a former top aide to Karl Rove named Sara Taylor, were both issued subpoenas today by congressional committees for their roles in the U.S. attorney scandal, President Bush‘s White House officially dragged into Gonzales-gate‘s investigation for the first time today, with the delivery of those subpoenas this morning. Not that they haven‘t been asked to comply willingly.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy said today, quote, “The White House cannot have it both ways. It cannot stonewall congressional investigations by refusing to provide documents and witnesses while claiming that nothing improper occurred,” end quote.
The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoena to Ms. Taylor compels her to testify on July 11, while the House Judiciary Committee subpoena to Ms. Miers demands that she testify the very next day. Mark your calendars, but maybe you should do that in pencil.
Time now to get the details from our man on the scandal beat, correspondent David Shuster, in Washington.
Good evening, David.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Alison, great to see you.
STEWART: So Harriet Miers got one, the former political director got one. Why didn‘t Karl Rove get one of those subpoenas too?
SHUSTER: Well, great question, Alison. It really has to do with two reasons, the first having to do with evidence, the second having to do with strategy.
As far as the evidence is concerned, the documents collected from the Justice Department already show White House involvement of former political director Sara Taylor and former counsel Harriet Miers. The evidence regarding Rove, though, is not as direct just yet, so the Democrats want to keep building the case for Rove to testify by first using his own colleagues. And the more evidence the Democrats can collect on Rove, the easier it will be for him to actually be forced to testify.
Now, regarding strategy, as dramatic as it is for Congress to issue subpoenas, and it is very dramatic for Leahy and others to actually issue these subpoenas, it‘s also pretty dramatic if the White House then tries to turn around and say, No, we‘re not going to testify, and goes to federal court to try to litigate this.
So the Democrats are hoping, however, that the White House will not take that dramatic step to protect a couple of White House officials that most people outside of Washington have never heard of. And then, if Taylor and Miers do testify, then the Democrats can go back, issue a subpoena for Karl Rove, and say, Well, wait a second, precedent has already been set. You‘ve got these other White House officials who have testified. Why won‘t the White House allow Karl Rove to testify?
So it‘s basically a pressure tactic. But again, there‘s also a chance that all this is headed to the courts.
STEWART: So there was this big document dump that led to these subpoenas. And the e-mails in that dump, did they reveal anything about the White House reaction to the Justice Department officials‘ disclosing Karl Rove‘s potential involvement in the first place?
SHUSTER: Yes, the documents show that the White House political shop, which reports directly to Karl Rove, was infuriated at the testimony from a Justice Department official that there was the sort of suggestions that the Sara Taylors and others in the White House were involved.
Sara Taylor, the White House political director, was especially angry at the Justice Department attorney—the Justice Department testimony that U.S. attorney Bud Cummins was fired to make room for Karl Rove aide Tim Griffin. Taylor sent an e-mail to the attorney general‘s chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, on February 16. Quote, “Tim was put in a horrible position, hung out to dry with no heads up. This is not good for his long-term career.”
Taylor noted her own involvement and that of White House—of the White House in another e-mail, though, by describing Cummins as, quote, “lazy, which is why we got rid of him I the first place.” Actually, though, the performance records of Bud Cummins do not indicate there were ever any problems with his work ethic, and again, lawmakers suspect that Cummins was, in fact, terminated to make room for that aide to Karl Rove, Tim Griffin.
STEWART: I should ask you, why did these people continue to e-mail to each other. But that‘s for another day. Let‘s talk about how the White House might try to block having these former aides testify.
SHUSTER: Yes, it all involves going to federal court. And again, as we said, it is a very dramatic step for the White House to go to federal court. But they could. And if this litigation begins, the suspicion is that it would essentially last for another year and a half, throughout the end of Bush‘s term. So this could be the end.
But again, this confrontation has been building for months. I mean, the Congress and the White House have been negotiating, sort of, for the last several months over documents and testimony from the White House. Again, the administration has provided documents and testimony from the Justice Department. But the White House essentially has not made any progress with the Congress, and vice versa, as far as the testimony the lawmakers want from White House officials.
And so a lot of people on Capitol Hill believe that the confrontation was headed in this direction anyway, although White House spokesman Tony Snow today refused to even speculate about a court battle. But that certainly seems to be the direction that this is headed.
STEWART: Now, David, before I let you go, I got to ask you about this latest bit in the Scooter Libby case, a new report that Mr. Libby has invoked Martha Stewart‘s name in some recent court documents. Can you explain that intersection?
SHUSTER: Yes, tomorrow, Scooter Libby has this hearing in which a judge is going to decide whether Scooter Libby has to report to prison this summer to start serving his 30-month sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice convictions, or whether Libby can not go to prison, and essentially wait for his appeals to be exhausted.
And in the documents that have been filed leading up to this hearing tomorrow, Scooter Libby‘s team has invoked a number of high-profile convicted felons, including the domestic diva Martha Stewart, who a judge ruled was entitled to stay away from prison until her appeals were exhausted, although she decided to go ahead and go to prison anyway, and not bother with that.
The problem that Scooter Libby has is that the case against Martha Stewart, which involved lying to investigators about a stock deal, it‘s a very different than Scooter Libby‘s CIA leak investigation, which investigators believe Libby still has information about Vice President Cheney, and furthermore, Libby has not expressed any contrition for his actions in the case which got him convicted, and also the judge has indicated he is not likely to allow Libby to stay out pending appeal. But we will find this out tomorrow, Alison.
STEWART: All right. David Shuster. Hey, welcome back from your honeymoon. Sorry, ladies, he‘s off the market. Let‘s see the ring.
SHUSTER: There it is (INAUDIBLE).
STEWART: There you go.
SHUSTER: It‘s a great institution. I‘m happy to join you and all my other married colleagues here.
STEWART: Congratulations, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Alison.
STEWART: Seemed like a bad case of d’j… vu when the news crossed the wires, another attack on one of Iraq‘s holiest sites. It‘s fueling new fears tonight of an escalating civil war. Suspected Sunni bombers possibly linked to al Qaeda managed to get into the heavily guarded Samarra mosques and blow up its twin minarets, prompting 30 members of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr‘s party to withdraw from the Iraqi government in protest, why Ayatollah Ali Sistani asked for calm.
Militants had already destroyed the dome of that sacred mosque just over a year ago, an attack that the Bush administration blames for sparking the current sectarian crisis.
And apparently the Iraqi military is still unable to really stem any additional violence resulting from today‘s attacks. General Dempsey, who just spent two years training Iraqi troops, say the Iraqi armed forces need at least 20,000 new recruits, and it will be many years before Iraq is able to take full responsibility for its own security, and that the United States needs to maintain a long-term military relationship with Iraq.
Now, as far as the Iraqi government making strides, it apparently is not. Thus far, it has failed to pass any of the laws that were considered benchmarks of progress. And apparently the current administration isn‘t expecting those to be met anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, U.S. ARMY: Well, I don‘t think we‘re looking for the completion of any of those benchmarks, but I think we‘re looking for a recognition on the part of the Iraqi government that those benchmarks are the path to the future, in terms of their relationship with us, and also important for their own increasing stability as a government, as a government, as well as of a nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Let‘s bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Nice to see you, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
Good to be with you, Alison.
STEWART: I want to be clear about this word benchmark. Merriam-Webster‘s dictionary defines it as just a point of reference from which measurements may be made. But if the Iraqi government isn‘t even expected to make it to a point of reference, how is anyone supposed to know or claim that progress is being made?
WOLFFE: Well, it‘s a great question. And you have to be clear what the benchmarks really represent. If you just focus on benchmarks, you‘re really just shuffling the chairs on the deck of the “Titanic.” The whole point about benchmarks is that they point towards reconciliation. That‘s the political solution to this violence.
When I asked the president about what progress he saw towards reconciliation just last week in Germany, all he could point to was this eagerly anticipated, long-delayed hydrocarbon law, which, by all accounts, is going to solve everything in Iraq. You know, never happens, and ultimately, people inside the White House, from the president down, are deeply frustrated with the kinds of actions or inaction that‘s happening among the Iraqi politicians.
The question then becomes, how do you stop the violence? Which is the question they‘ve been confronting all along. And that‘s why they‘ve returned to this question of training, and—which actually was the plan before the surge.
STEWART: And in terms of violence, let‘s talk about the long-term relationship, the military relationship, General Dempsey says the U.S. will have. Are we talking about a permanent military presence, possibly?
WOLFFE: Well, I guess it depends what you call permanent. A generational presence, absolutely. I mean, this was always going to be the idea, whether it‘s Iraq or somewhere else, but most likely Iraq, the American forces are going nowhere. They may leave Iraq ultimately, but they‘ll still be in the region, because of the long-term threats of Iran and because of the strategic importance of that region.
But listen, if you look at the kind of progress or lack of progress among Iraqi politicians, they‘re going to need help for a long, long time to come, so 10, 20, 30, 40 years, you pick it.
STEWART: Still, Senator Harry Reid says Democrats will try to fold a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq into a defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2008. Democrats were unsuccessful this year. Is there any indication that Congress might follow through this time?
WOLFFE: No, there isn‘t. And it‘s really kind of befuddling why he would want to raise this again, after it effectively failed last time. And it‘s so soon after. Wait until September, wait until the benchmarks have obviously failed to be met, and Republicans can join Democrats on this one, because they need to get out ahead of this one. Doing it now doesn‘t make any sense at all.
STEWART: It‘s interesting, we talked about the president being stymied and Congress being stymied. Let‘s talk about approval ratings for both the president, and his lowest ever in a new NBC News-“Wall Street Journal” poll, just 29 percent, but that‘s actually higher than Congress, which is only at 23 percent approval rating. Is the honeymoon over for both the new Democratic Congress and the old Republican administration?
WOLFFE: It‘s so over. I mean, 29 points is a terrible number, 23, given the kinds of spirit of change the Democrats enjoyed straight after the 2006 elections, it‘s a dismal performance. And yes, they‘ve been dragged down because of this knockdown fight over Iraq, but they‘re going to—this is a warning sign for Democrats for the next election. I mean, the only people who are really benefiting here are the presidential candidates. And it‘s up to them to show that they can really change the direction of the country.
STEWART: Before I let you go, we understand that the White House announced a replacement for Dan Bartlett. It‘s going to be Ed Gillespie. What does he bring to this White House?
WOLFFE: Well, he has a certain amount of trust with the president. He looked after some of the Supreme Court battles. And the relationship, informally, at least, goes back several years. But i8t‘s not going to be the same relationship as Dan Bartlett. Look, he‘s a wily figure. He‘s been around, he‘s been in the RNC. But ultimately, his old candidate, George Allen, flamed out.
STEWART: Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. Always a pleasure, Richard.
WOLFFE: Any time.
STEWART: Bill O‘Reilly goes after us here at MSNBC for reporting what‘s actually happening over there in Iraq. In O‘Reilly‘s world, reality has an agenda, apparently.
On the subject of reality, a horrible one at an L.A. emergency room. A woman dies in a hospital waiting room as she is ignored by staff and emergency workers. We‘ll bring you the 911 calls for help.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
STEWART: Well, I guess it takes some kind of talent to have opinions that are so offensive to so many people. Bill O‘Reilly‘s recent accusation of anti-American tactics, in which CNN and especially MSNBC, allegedly engage, that we and our Time Warner colleagues are egging on terrorists in Iraq by showing what happens there.
O‘Reilly‘s comments sort of turned into a critique of his own network‘s Iraq coverage, including an apparently unwitting jab at those from Fox who put their lives on the line in Iraq.
In our fourth story tonight, it started with an independent think tank study showing that CNN and MSNBC both spend about one-fifth of their time on Iraq. The same report says Fox News spends about one 20th of its time, just 6 percent, discussing or reporting on the war President Bush claimed is America‘s most vital cause.
On his radio show, O‘Reilly did not dispute the breakdown. He defended it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RADIO FACTOR”)
O‘REILLY: I don‘t do a lot of Iraq reporting because we don‘t know what‘s happening. We can‘t find out. We don‘t know if the surge is working, if security‘s better. We can‘t find out. Why? Because our correspondents can‘t give you that kind of breadth. No correspondents could.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEWART: Of course, correspondents of both MSNBC and CNN are quite capable of reporting on and analyzing metrics relevant to the surge and security, especially considering that the Pentagon hands out as many of them, such as today‘s quarterly report concluding that President Bush‘s surge has not changed the level of violence in Iraq.
O‘Reilly‘s attack on the competence of his own correspondents could be called unfair, or just plain wrong, considering those reporters, like others, risk everything to tell the truth. Just ask Bob Woodruff or Kimberly Dozier, who still have scars. They lived to tell about it. Others have not.
But at least O‘Reilly was fair and balanced by admitting he doesn‘t know what the hell is happening in Iraq. He also said he doesn‘t seem to care. More on that in just a moment.
Mr. O‘Reilly said the only thing news organizations seems to care about is showing explosions.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RADIO FACTOR”)
O‘REILLY: Now, the reason that CNN and MSNBC do so much Iraq reporting is because they want to embarrass the Bush administration, both do. And all their reporting consists of is, Here‘s another explosion. Bang. Here‘s more people dead. Bang.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEWART: Which, given the work of our own Richard Engel and Brian Williams, just isn‘t true.
Finally, O‘Reilly claims that the in Iraq doesn‘t mean anything.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RADIO FACTOR”)
O‘REILLY: Do you care if another bomb went off in Tikrit? Does it mean anything? No, it doesn‘t mean anything.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEWART: For the record, Sergeant Ryan D. Jopeth (ph) was killed by a bomb in Tikrit on August 2 last year.
MSNBC actually does not report every bombing in Iraq, but I bet each one at least—at the very least means something to the families, American, British, or Iraqi, who have to bury their loved ones.
Let‘s bring in Colonel Jack Jacobs, who has worn both hats, as a Medal of Honor winner for his service in Vietnam, and as a military analyst for his service to MSNBC.
Colonel Jacobs, nice to see you.
COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, good to be—good to be—good to be with you.
STEWART: O‘Reilly‘s central premise is that he and his network don‘t report much about Iraq because the specifics do not seem to matter. Do they?
JACOBS: Oh, they do. Facts are everything. If you‘re in the news business, facts are the essence of absolutely everything. And if you want to tell the story, whatever story it is, you deliver the facts, and you let people decide.
I‘m fascinated by his comment, I don‘t do a lot of Iraq reporting because we don‘t know what‘s happening. It‘s easy to find out what‘s happening. The government has very good—the Defense Department, in particular, has very good relationships with the media. We get all the facts we need. All we have to do is ask. Sometimes we get more information than we need.
And at the end of the day, what we got to do is sort it out. But we know lots and lots of stuff, and all you have to do if you want to know more stuff is to ask. If Mr. O‘Reilly can‘t be bothered to ferret it out, I‘ll—he can call me up, and I‘ll give him a precis of the whole thing.
STEWART: Just do a little bit of research. You got college kids, we‘re (INAUDIBLE) what‘s going on.
JACOBS: Well, you got to do your homework.
STEWART: O‘Reilly also claimed that MSNBC and CNN help terrorists by reporting, quote, “useless explosions.” Is he right? Any sense that terrorists want coverage? But isn‘t there a greater long-term damage in not covering what‘s going on?
JACOBS: Well, I mean, the terrorists do want coverage, and if you want to watch the terrorist coverage, you can go on the Net. They‘ve got sites everywhere where they show absolutely every explosion. And their focus is not on us, not convincing us. Their focus is on the Middle East, and convincing the people in the Middle East.
But the thing to remember is that you have to have a free flow of information. That‘s what the media are all about, that‘s what this country is all about.
And we‘ve got an ally in this, in Justice Alito, who‘s no leftist, I can tell you that. And today he was up talking to a bunch of people on Capitol Hill. And he said, I‘m a very strong believer in the First Amendment and the right of people to speak and to write. I would be reluctant to support restrictions on what people can say. And it‘s because of the sacrifice of the men and women in the armed forces now and in previous generations that Mr. O‘Reilly can say anything that he wants.
STEWART: Rupert Murdoch recently said that his network tried to shape the public agenda in favor of the Iraq War. Of course, we all know you served in Vietnam. Now, historically, are soldiers better served by investigative journalism about the conflict, or by journalism that helps get the government‘s message out?
JACOBS: Well, the first thing is that soldiers, sailors, and the Marines are spending most of their time trying to kill the bad guys and accomplish the mission and protect each other. They don‘t have—and my recollection in Vietnam too—is, they don‘t have very much time to think about or care about what O‘Reilly or what I say or what you say.
But it is very, very important to the defense of the republic that we continue to have a free flow of information. And I‘ll tell you, the press establishment has done great things, being in the kind of adversary position that it is. Take a look at what happened at Walter Reed Army Hospital. That, I wouldn‘t say, would never have come to light if it weren‘t for the press. But it did come to light because of the press, and the troops are much better served because of it.
STEWART: Colonel Jack Jacobs. As always, thanks for your time tonight, Jack.
JACOBS: Good to be with you.
STEWART: With all that going on, it almost makes a $54 million lawsuit over pants seem legit, almost.
And blowing them up real good.
That‘s ahead on COUNTDOWN.
STEWART: I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.
And once again, we pause the COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for a few minutes of goofy Web videos and stupid criminals who aren‘t in Washington, D.C.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Ha! We begin in Clarksburg, West Virginia, for an amazing display of pyrotechnics down at the old Adamson Flat (ph) Glass Plant. (INAUDIBLE), everybody loves a good building implosion. And, well, if you live in an area where there aren‘t a lot of buildings, you might have to make do with smokestacks, I suppose. A huge crowd turned out for the show. And I‘ve never been there, but I‘m guessing it might be the most exciting thing to happen in Clarksburg since they built the old Adamson Flat Glass Plant.
To the Internets for an oldie but goodie for a (INAUDIBLE) USA hockey game, resurrected on the video sites. We call it the worst night ever for a singer of the National Anthem. We‘ve seen these people forget the words before, but this is ridiculous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (singing): ... can you see, by the dawn‘s early light what the twilight‘s...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Sweety, you ever heard the old saying, quit while you‘re ahead, or behind?
As long as we are on the net, let‘s check in with the underground community of extreme off-loading. There are tons of videos of this on the web, of guys taking their four wheel drives into crazy situations. I take that back, there aren‘t a whole lot of ones like this one.
Dude. The driver was uninjured, luckily and he might have sued somebody, like the frivolous lawsuit to end all frivolous lawsuits, the case of the 54 million dollar missing pants that probably are not even missing. The plaintiff is a judge. We will take you inside the courtroom.
And Kevin Federline offspring news just in time for Father‘s Day. Rumors are he‘s going to be a daddy again. Details ahead. But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.
Number three, 25 year-old Isaac Talavera of Hilton Head, South Carolina. He has been arrested for burglarizing an apartment and stealing cell phones, car keys, cigarettes, and 13 pairs of socks. Police say he might have gotten away with it he hadn‘t had to call his mom for a ride home from the crime scene.
Number two, Timothy Farmer, of Sumter, South Carolina. What‘s going on with South Carolina? He has been arrested along with three other men who police say surrounded and threatened to kill a man with a deadly weapon in a parking lot of Shucker‘s Bar and Grill. The deadly weapon was a poisonous snake, a deadly Cottonmouth Water Moccasin. But it all went bad when the snake actually bit Farmer and the victim escaped unharmed.
Number one, Kyleray Katherman, a middle school student in North Bend, Oregon. For an English assignment, he decided to test the bacteria content of the school‘s water fountain verses the school‘s toilet. Guess which water was cleaner? The toilets. Administrators quickly replaced the spigots and casings of the water fountains and custodians gave them all a thorough cleaning. But you still get an F kid. It was an English assignment. Take that stuff to science class.
STEWART: A lot of people argue against cameras in the courtroom. But our number three story could make the case for lights, camera, action, just because it is better than any reality show on TV right now. The seemly, or rather unseemly, 65 million dollar lawsuit over a pair of pants. A Korean immigrant family, the Chungs, who own a Washington, DC dry cleaners, have spent the last two years fighting a customer, a judge who says they lost his pants.
There have been attempts to settle out of court. The Chungs even offered him 12,000 dollars to keep the pants suit from being press. And the judge who sued them lowering his damages to only 54 million dollars. But at yesterday‘s opening day of the trial, Judge Roy “Pantless” Pearson, who was acting as his own attorney, launched into an hours long tirade, describing the emotional pain caused by the loss of his trousers, and the hundreds and hundreds of hours he spent on the case.
He also cross examined one witness who actually drew a comparison to a Nazi persecution. The pantless plaintiff also broke out into tears at one point. Emil Steiner is the off-beat blogger for the WashingtonPost.com, who has been live blogging from the trial, the number one story at the newspaper—the most e-mailed, I should say. Emil, thanks for joining us.
EMIL STEINER, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Thanks for having me Allison.
STEWART: The plaintiff, a judge himself, says he is allowed to go after the Chungs based on a D.C. consumer protection law, but what is his real beef here? Is it the pants or the consumer law?
STEINER: Well, to be honest with you, I‘m not sure if it‘s either the pants or the consumer law. It seems to me that Judge Pearson was going through a very messy divorce. He owed a fair amount of money. He put on 20 pounds. And he was going through something of a mid-life crisis. You know, it was sort of a perfect legal storm for him to take out all that on the Chungs.
STEWART: Now, I know you have been there. You have been observing the players. Does the plaintiff—the pantless judge seem like he doesn‘t have all of the oars in the water? If you know what I mean.
STEINER: It‘s interesting, during the first day of the trial, he seemed calm. He seemed lucid. He really seemed to have a grasp of the legal proceedings and how it worked. Then towards 3:00 p.m., he sort of was on the stand himself, talking about the loss of these pants, and he became emotional. He sort of cleared his throat a little bit. He paused. And then he actually broke down.
He asked the judge for a five minute recess, and he left the room with a tear coming down his so. So, crazy? I am not sure. But certainly very emotional about his trousers.
STEWART: Can you describe what the Chungs are like in court? How are they taking all of this?
STEINER: Sure. You know, the Chungs—I feel that they don‘t really have a full grasp—they don‘t fully understand what is happening here. You know, they‘re immigrants who came over from Korea in 1992. They don‘t speak English that well. They left the charcoal factories of Korea to come, to find a better life. They toiled and toiled and finally were on the cusp of achieving the American dream, and now they have it torn asunder by that other American tradition, the frivolous lawsuit. So, you know—
STEWART: Do they actually have a translator? Is there someone there?
STEINER: Yes, they actually do. They have two translators and they have headphones on. So they‘re getting it through that. Yes.
STEWART: Tell me about any witnesses that really stand out. And how many witnesses are we talking about in this lawsuit?
STEINER: Well, originally he had wanted to call—Judge Pearson had originally wanted to call 27 witnesses. But the acting judge—Judge Bartinoff (ph), she put a quick end to that, saying you could have nine witnesses and that‘s it, including yourself. So he had eight witnesses and then he himself went up to the stand during his emotional moment about the pants.
Probably the most interesting witness, as you touched on at the beginning, was Doctor Grace Hewell (ph), who is an 89 year-old World War II veteran. She actually fought over in Germany and she had a falling out with the Chungs. She claimed that Mr. Chung had actually chased her out of Custom Cleaners. And she on one level said, well, I was in the Women‘s Army Corps, so I didn‘t think that it would be too much trouble.
But then she went on to say that, then I remembered what Hitler did to thousands of Jews during the Holocaust and so I got quite nervous about what he might do to me. When she said this, there was definitely a muted sort of snicker that went across the courtroom. There was a reporter there from Germany, who could be heard—he leaned over and said, I knew it. We were the ones to blame. So she was the character of the trial.
STEWART: So what is the judge doing in all of this? Is she even keeled? Is she rolling her eyes? How is she handling all of this? Why hasn‘t this been thrown out?
STEINER: That is a great question. She has shown the patience of a parent with a kid in a toy store. She has really just given great latitude in allowing Judge Pearson—Mr. Pearson, the plaintiff, to spell out his case in often quite painful in detail. And so, you know, she is basically covering her bases just in case an appeal comes it seems like.
STEWART: And I know this isn‘t over yet. They‘re expecting a ruling next week. But have the pants made it to court?
STEINER: They did. They did made an appearance today, though Judge Pearson did deny that those were the pants in question. He still feels they are lost.
STEWART: Emil Steiner of the WashingtonPost.com, thanks for sharing your reporting.
STEINER: Thank you.
STEWART: Good luck with the story. A tragedy in L.A., a woman doesn‘t get treatment in an ER as onlookers call 911 and begged to have her taken to a different hospital. That women is dead and the hospital‘s future is in jeopardy.
And Donald Trump‘s new TV show is in the works. What does he think he could possibly know more about than business? I‘ll give you a hint. It is not hair. First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
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DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: Here‘s a segment. We‘ve never done this one before. This one is called, CNN, the most trusted name in news.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello Wolf. Worse than Watergate, that is how Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler describes the actions of the Bush administration. When it comes—do you want to scroll the prompter up so I can continue here? Now that is backwards. Turn it the other way.
BUSH: I appreciate the fact that Southern Baptists understand the importance of fair minded and impartial judges to our democracy. I was proud—I was proud to nominate John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court. And I will—and I will continue to nominate good judges who will interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.
SEN BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: On this vote, the yeas are 45. The nays are 50.
JOHN STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: That is how immigration reform ends, with a failure to reach a 3/5 majority on a motion to cut off debate. Wow, could you make that any more anti-climactic?
SANDERS: On this vote, the yeas are 45 --
STEWART: I knew that that was coming.
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STEWART: The family of 43 year old Edith Rodriguez buried her yesterday. She died on May 9th. But her family needed time to raise the money for her funeral. Our number two story is sadly surreal. Rodriguez died after 911 refused to come pick her up, because she was already in a hospital emergency room, an ER where the staff so thoroughly ignored her that a janitor cleaned up around her as she lay dying on the floor.
NBC‘s Michael Okwu has the story and the 911 tapes.
JOSE PRADO, HUSBAND: My wife is dying and the nurses don‘t want to help her out.
MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A desperate call to 911 last month by Jose Prado, who was trying to get medical attention for his girlfriend, Edith Rodriguez, suffering with severe abdominal pain. The call placed from inside L.A. County‘s King Harbor Medical Center.
Relatives say she was ignored by hospital staff for nearly an hour.
Rodriguez sprawled on the ground in excruciating pain. That is when Prado decided to call 911 from inside the emergency room.
PRADO: My wife is dying and the nurses don‘t want to help her out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, what do you mean she‘s dying? What‘s wrong with her?
PRADO: She‘s vomiting blood.
DON KNABE, LA COUNTY SUPERVISOR: The tragedy is that, from my point of view, her life might have been saved if she had got some timely attention. This is just a tragic, tragic situation.
OKWU: Soon after Prado‘s initial 911 call, a second one was placed by an unidentified woman witnessing Rodriguez‘s ordeal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are overlooking her and claim she‘s been discharged. And she‘s definitely sick and everybody‘s ignoring her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, you‘re at the hospital ma‘am. You have to contact them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They‘re the problem. They won‘t help her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re the medical professionals. OK? You‘re already at a hospital. 911 is used for emergency purposes only.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an emergency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not an emergency. It is not an emergency ma‘am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is. May god strike you too for acting the way you just acted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, negative ma‘am. You‘re the one.
GLORIA MOUNA, LA COUNTY SUPERVISOR: We really want to save this hospital, but you can‘t save it at the expense of losing patients every day. And that‘s the biggest fear we have.
OKWU: The emergency room at King Harbor Hospital is now under intense federal scrutiny. It has been given three weeks to fix problems or lose its certification.
Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles.
STEWART: Turning to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. And after firing himself from “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump is looking to sell a new TV reality show, a competition featuring something he delves into with the same gusto as a good business deal, the ladies, specifically, party girl, debutante types like Paris Hilton.
The show, which is yet to be green lit, would pit the fun-loving girls against each other as they struggle to graduate charm school. The show‘s working title, “Lady or a Tramp.” Though presumably nobody informed Mr. Trump that that show was already airing on VH-1 and it‘s called charm school. And it pits, quote, ladies, unquote, who failed to win the affection of Flava Flav in the hit series “Flavor of Love.” It pits them against each other in charm school. Those who fail are expelled by the excellently sassy host, Monique. A show called Lady and the Trump still up for grabs.
And the 80s rock band Journey is burning up the charts again thanks to Tony Soprano. Bada Bing, Ka-ching. The 1981 tune “Don‘t Stop Believing” is now number 30 on the iTunes top songs. It was, of course, featured in that ridiculous final scene of “The Sopranos.” The co-writer and vocalist for that little diddy, one Steve Perry, says he is thrilled with the use of the song. He gave approval when he was assured it would not accompany a bloodbath.
He says his phone has been ringing off the hook with congratulations. That is excellent video. But David Chase, you owe me 236 dollars for the beer, Pinot Grigio, Chiante, pizza and cannoli for my party. You ruined it dude.
Call the Guinness folks, the world record people and the beer. Rumors that Kevin Federline‘s sperm have done it once again. Not even global warming can dry up that guy‘s swimmers. That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.
STEWART: If you ever find yourself standing next to Kevin Federline and you‘re not interested in starting a family, I say run, run away. And guys, I think this means you too. K-Fed has reportedly impregnated his pre-Britney squeeze Shar Jackson again. In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Britney is not much better when it comes to changing old habits.
She‘s on a panties flashing jag, having done it twice in just the past few days. And while we‘re talking about silly blondes, more gripes about special treatment for Paris Hilton.
First, K-Fed, who has gotten his freak on far too many times. According to Cindy Adams of the “New York Post” Federline‘s revolving door romantic interest Shar Jackson is pregnant with his child. That‘s what Cindy says. Of course, Jackson already has two of his kids. But now Miss Jackson is denying the story, so who knows.
And if all of this might make people run at the sight of K-Fed approaching, not Britney Spears‘ mom. She apparently likes Federline because he lets her see her grandchildren more than Britney does. And that is according to “Life and Style Magazine.” And Britney is paranoid that mama Federline are teaming up to get custody of the kids.
But now “US Weekly” says Britney and her mother patched things up.
And covering certain things up is something Britney has learned to do, even though she has not learned to stop showing us said covered up regions. Do they have rehab for serial flashers?
And yesterday‘s jail visit to Paris Hilton by her parents is getting complaints from relatives of other inmates. The Hiltons were evidently allowed to visit their daughter during lunch, unlike all the other visitors, so they would not have to wait.
We‘re joined now by comedian Christian Finnegan, one of the panelists on VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.” Nice to see you, Chris.
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, VH-1‘S “BEST WEEK EVER”: Nice to see you, Allison.
STEWART: Hey, I am getting a little worried here. K-Fed continues to be active, reportedly is also getting cozy with Britney‘s mom. Do you share my concern it could be a really weird family?
FINNEGAN: Well, if the Shar Jackson story is true, I am concerned for Britney‘s mom. This dude, basically—he is plutonium. I met him once. Three weeks later I had morning sickness. I think from now on, Kevin Federline should only be dealt with by people wearing NASA space suits.
STEWART: Can‘t we just get a handle on whether Shar Jackson‘s story is reliable? Yesterday there was reports that K-Fed and Britney were spending a lot of time together again. Why is he dipping that pen in that inkwell again? Can‘t he find anybody new to date?
FINNEGAN: Listen, Allison. When you‘re famous, sometimes you don‘t know whether want you for you money—or in this case, want you for your fun stories about when you had money. So I think Kevin is drawn towards the women who remind him of a simpler time, back when he was just an average every day pariah, and not a professional barnacle.
STEWART: Regarding Britney, it was Monday night when she reportedly climbed into a taxi after leaving a club—shocker—and had that sort of bottoms of moment. But on the same night, she fell out of her dress in the wardrobe malfunction way. But they said she wore it backwards to prevent herself from slipping out. What‘s a girl got to do? Any fashion solutions here?
FINNEGAN: I don‘t know, maybe some sort of bedazzled burka (ph)? Short of mummification, I‘m not really sure what can be helped. As far as those breasts go, it makes me think of the “Shawshank Redemption.” Some birds aren‘t meant to be caged, Allison.
STEWART: I say pants, pants and a turtleneck. That would cover it.
FINNEGAN: Pants will do.
STEWART: Pants will do.
FINNEGAN: Whatever, Grandma.
STEWART: We should say that Britney was wearing underwear this time.
So shouldn‘t we compliment on the progress?
FINNEGAN: Baby steps. It is very important to remember—underwear always important. You know, if we can just get the knees in a sort of inward direction, I say we are all taking a step forward as a people.
STEWART: Paris Hilton and her parents; they got that special visiting hour. But apparently they also asked a guard for a quarter so they could put their possessions in a locker. Now, it is against the rules for guards to give change to visitors. What do you think is going on here?
FINNEGAN: Well, I don‘t blame the other visitors for being upset, because not only did they get special treatment, they were brought in on a chariot carried by oily men with palm fronds and grapes. And then I think Cathy Hilton really upset people when she said, excuse me, does anybody have change for a bazillion? No, didn‘t think so.
STEWART: At least she took off her tiara.
FINNEGAN: Briefly, however briefly. You put that in the locker.
STEWART: When Hilton‘s ex-boyfriend visited her in jail over the weekend, according to “In Touch Weekly,” that great source, he kissed the glass that separated them. Is that wise, kissing glass in jail?
FINNEGAN: It is probably wiser than kissing Paris Hilton. Even still, after kissing the glass, he immediately chugged a bottle of Purel. Although, if he dated Paris, chances are his immunity levels are rather high.
STEWART: Hilton‘s talent agency has officially dropped her. We got a little bit stuck on that word talent. Can you help me out with that one, talent?
FINNEGAN: Well, in this case the word talent refers to the agent doing the booking. Because if you can convince me to cast Paris Hilton in my movie, you sir are truly gifted.
STEWART: Before I let you go, there is a rumor that one day that Paris Hilton was after being reassigned from jail, a plastic surgeon visited her, the same one who worked on Michael Jackson. Huh?
FINNEGAN: If a guy has worked on Michael Jackson, he is very good at making people completely unrecognizable. So I think maybe this is sort of like that movie “Face Off.” I think the real Paris Hilton is on a plane to Tahiti and the woman in jail is just some poor housekeeper.
STEWART: Christian Finnegan, thanks so much for joining us.
FINNEGAN: Thank you.
STEWART: That is the Wednesday edition of COUNTDOWN. I‘m Allison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
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