'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for February 22
Guest: Howard Fineman; David Sirota
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Not just no, but, Hell, no. The letter to the president from an angry congresswoman about the United Arab Emirates port deal, an angry Republican congresswoman.
The White House says it vetted the deal, but admits the president knew nothing of it. And, oh, by the way, the former head of the CIA had connected the dots between the royal family of the United Arab Emirates and Osama bin Laden.
The Scooter Libby defense, 12-hour workdays, 200-page briefing books.
He was just too damn busy to remember who he leaked what to and why.
Also, the $365 million lottery prize. It goes to eight ham processors.
Speaking of which, "The Apprentice" meets "Survivor," Martha Stewart...
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MARTHA STEWART: Why would I agree to do an "Apprentice" if there was going to be two of them?
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OLBERMANN:... versus Donald Trump.
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DONALD TRUMP: She actually blames me for her show's failure. And it wasn't me, it wasn't my fault. And it wasn't Mark Burnett's fault. It was Martha's fault. She was terrible on the show.
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OLBERMANN: We're rooting for what here, a simultaneous double knockout?
All that and more know, on Countdown.
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TRUMP: It just doesn't get any better than that.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening.
The raised voices got louder, the international trade implications became clearer, and the political crisis over a company from the United Arab Emirates getting authority over six key U.S. seaports is worse than ever.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, the White House says the deal got
thorough review by the administration, just not by the president. And the
backlash has now escalated to the point where a Republican congresswoman
from North Carolina sent a one-line letter to Mr. Bush, reading, in full,
"In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just
no, but hell, no. Sincerely - "
I'm thinking she just gave back her campaign photo-op with the president.
As for Mr. Bush, he made no mention of the port controversy at either of two public events today, leaving it instead to his press secretary to explain what he knew about the deal, when he knew it, and why he is still standing behind it, despite loud bipartisan bazoo (ph) bleeding in Congress.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did he find out about this deal, anyway? And when specifically? Was it last week, when this blew up, he read it in the paper (INAUDIBLE)...
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, it was coming out, it was coming out last week, and he learned about it over the last several days, I mean, I cannot pinpoint the exact time. But last several days, recently.
This transaction was very closely scrutinized to make sure that all national security concerns were met. The company agreed to additional security measures that they would take beyond what some others have had to in the past.
There was no objection raised by any of the departments during the review process, or any concerns expressed about potential national security threats, and that's why it didn't rise to the presidential level.
Well, one thing that the president did, Terry, and one thing the president did, and even after all this press coverage of this transaction, was go back to every cabinet member whose department is involved in this process, and asked them, Are you comfortable with this transaction going forward?
I mean, in hindsight, when you look at this, and the coverage that it's received, and the false impression that it's left with some, we probably should have briefed members of Congress about it sooner.
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OLBERMANN: Senator John Kerry today adding his voice to the demand for answers, asking the treasury secretary for full disclosure on all documents pertaining to the deal, the other side of the political aisle going even further than that. Former House majority leader Tom DeLay warning the president that if he follows through on his promise to veto legislation that would examine or delay the port deal, the veto will be overridden by Congress.
As for Dubai Ports World, the company has now hired a new lobbyist to help negotiate the process, none other than former presidential candidate, former senator, former Viagra spokesman, Bob Dole. A shipfile dysfunction?
Meantime, despite the insistence of both Dubai and W that the United Arab Emirates is a partner in the global war on terror, more reminders tonight that it wasn't always thus, that, in fact, some in that country actually helped the 9/11 plotters, the newspaper "The New York Observer" pointing readers to testimony that the former director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, gave to the 9/11 commission in March 2004 about that country's relationship with Osama bin Laden.
Back in February 1999, the CIA had a chance to take out bin Laden at a hunting camp in Afghanistan, but one of the reasons it did not, said Tenet, was because bin Laden was visiting with Emirati princes. To quote Tenet, "You might have wiped out half the royal family in the UAE in the process," which I'm sure entered into everybody's calculation.
To take the ever-rising temperatures in D.C., we turn to "Newsweek" magazine's chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman.
Splendid to have you back, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Scott McClellan acknowledged this morning that the White House had vetted this, but the president only found out a couple days ago. A, how amazing is that admission? And B, why would they make it?
FINEMAN: Well, I'm not sure "acknowledged" is the right verb there. It might have been "proclaimed." I mean, I think the president has a lot of credibility when he pleads ignorance.
And in this case, it also gives him some wiggle room politically, because even though he demanded of all the cabinet secretaries today, by Scott's account, you know, Are you guys comfortable with this transaction? it does leave him the opportunity that if the political heat gets too great, he can say, you know, There are some facts I didn't know here, and upon further review, maybe we ought to stand down.
OLBERMANN: Yes, particularly to the point of that wiggle room, in
saying that, he's insulating the president, obviously. Are they
specifically setting somebody up to take a fall? Because they can't,
obviously, politically, let this end up with Republicans overriding the
first veto ever from this Republican president. There's got to be another
way out. If there's another way out, there's got to be a fall guy. Is it
· is John Snow being set up? Is somebody else being (INAUDIBLE)?
FINEMAN: Well, I don't think it's anybody in particular at this moment. I just think they've got an exit route if they need one. They don't know precisely what the details (INAUDIBLE) are going to be, or who's going to be bound and gagged in the trunk at this point.
But the thing is that this hits so many different parts of George Bush's own political base, it reminds me of the sort of foreign policy and trade equivalent of the Harriet Miers nomination, Keith...
FINEMAN:... because it goes after all the Republican base's concerns about border security, it goes down to the Southwest as well as at the ports, goes to the whole sort of eminent domain question among populist Republicans, about overreaching of government power. It just hits everything all over the place, and really hurts the Republican base.
And that's why somebody like Tom DeLay can say, Hey, we can override this veto.
OLBERMANN: But it also goes to party loyalty. And as DeLay intimated, the administration is setting itself up for a fall if Mr. Bush vetoes anything from Congress, McClellan today saying the president's standing by the veto threat. But if it gets to that stage, and Republicans have to choose up sides on whether or not to stand by their own president, do they not effectively neuter him, at least in terms of the elections in the fall?
FINEMAN: Well, Keith, he's at 39 percent in the latest polls, which is awfully low for a sitting president, 39 percent approval rating. You've got a lot of Republicans looking for ways to distance themself from this president now, going into this election year. And in that sense, this is a Godsend. I mean somebody like Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, in a difficult race, said tonight on MSNBC, repeated his contention that there are a lot of things that need to be examined about this. He comes at it through the Port of Philadelphia. He's looking to distance himself here.
My rule of thumb is, if a president issues a veto threat in the very first inning of a ball game, it means that he's not going to end up doing it. I think either they'll cut a deal here to review this thing to death, or the Congress will mandate something that the president will not, in fact, veto.
OLBERMANN: Of course, it may not be the first inning. He may just have shown up late to the ball game because nobody told him that there was a ball game.
But you mentioned the Harriet Miers thing, and there was a brief effort during that to turn it essentially into a vote of confidence by Republicans for the president. Today, Senator McCain said, Trust the president on this. Senator Warner said, The administration followed all the rules, trust the administration on this.
Is this the same defensive tactic as during the Miers nomination?
Does it amount to a loyalty oath of sorts?
FINEMAN: Well, they're going to try, but this is very difficult to enforce in this situation. And I'm not convinced that the more facts that are known about the United Arab Emirates, which has tried very hard, by the way, to be good citizens and good players since 9/11, but there's a lot of history there. The more of it that's raked over, the less politically palatable this is going to be, I think. It's going to become more difficult for the president to defend it, not less so.
It is true that there's a lot of fake shock here from Democrats. They're shocked, they're shocked to learn that there's foreign ownership of American ports. That's baloney. Anybody who spent two minutes studying this knows that that's a fact. It's just this surprised the heck out of them. It's very difficult to sell to the voters. It undercuts the Republican base.
I don't see how they're going to be able to sell it, unless they study it more. Now, McCain said he supports, he trusts the president, but McCain, who's, by the way, trying to get Bush's mailing list for the 2008 campaign, also said, you know, Let's see what the facts are. So even he is going to be looking for some more investigation.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but this is more about emotions than facts. This is closer to a Terri Schiavo story than it is a terrorism story.
FINEMAN: It's a foreign policy equivalent, you're right.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek," as always, great thanks for joining us. Good to talk to you.
FINEMAN: Sure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And the subplot to the ports controversy moved closer to center stage today, the whole vexed issue of the treasury secretary. John Snow used to run the CSX Railroad Corporation. A year after he left it to run Treasury, CSX sold its world terminals to Dubai Ports. Snow's department also headed the approval process for this Dubai Ports sale. He's standing by everything, going even further than the president did yesterday, underscoring the business end of the deal as the priority over everything else.
"Having vetted the process and having concluded that it would not present national security risks, the implication of failing to approve this would be to tell the world that investments in the United States from certain parts of the world aren't welcome."
What has not really been mentioned by the administration is why it does not want to upset investments from Dubai in particular. The government is currently negotiating with the UAE to set up a free trade zone that might eventually throughout the Middle East.
And now we begin to see why the company is not being judged by the company it seems to keep. The UAE may be linked in the past to 9/11, to drug trafficking, to conditions dangerous enough now that the State Department tells Americans who go there to, quote, "keep a low profile."
On the other hand, they have cash.
Joining me now, David Sirota, author of "Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government, and How We Take It Back," a book that will be coming out in April.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
DAVID SIROTA, AUTHOR, "HOSTILE TAKEOVER": Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: So does that explain why this deal went through without very above-board review, because the U.S. is negotiating a free trade deal with the United Arab Emirates?
SIROTA: This is running through the whole thing, and it's run through the whole thing since the beginning. The fact is, this is not a scandal about one deal with one company. This is what's motivating this, what's especially motivating the president in his threat to issue a veto, is the fact that he knows that if Congress is allowed to override this, a precedent is set.
And the precedent would be that trade, America's trade policy, which, for the last two decades, has been entirely corporate-owned free trade, but if this deal is allowed to be blocked, it would set a precedent that security concerns are now going to be put into our trade policy. And that is something that his big corporate donors do not want.
OLBERMANN: So the threat is not to ports, the number one threat to this nation, it's not to security, it's to unfettered international business?
SIROTA: That's exactly right. And that's really honestly the only thing that can explain why a president of the United States would threaten a veto, his first veto of his entire term, to go to bat for one company in the United Arab Emirates, a country that has connections to terrorists?
There's got to be - there is a much, much bigger thing at play here, and that is, over the last two decades, we've seen these trade deals. I mean, during NAFTA, we saw labor and environmental standards thrown out the window. During China, the China PNTR deal, we saw human rights standards thrown out the window.
And now what we are seeing here is essentially security concerns being thrown out the window, basically to have government policy allow corporations to pursue the profit motive no matter what they want.
OLBERMANN: This administration in particular got burned about the various big contracts with Halliburton, particularly in Iraq. It got burned, at least tangentially, from Enron. Yet here it is, stuck in another one of these very focused business-related problems.
Is there no learning curve regarding this? Or is this considered par for the course, you have to toughen this out to protect these corporations?
SIROTA: Well, I think that what's really interesting is that it's not
only this administration, but it's, in many ways, bipartisan. You've got -
· you know, both parties in Congress are claiming to be outraged, but nobody's talking about the trade policies that basically allow this to happen all the time. I mean, just last year, Congress approved a multibillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded loan to a British company to help them build and improve nuclear technology in China.
So this - what we're seeing here, I mean, this happens all the time. So it's not necessarily - I mean, it is the Bush administration, because President Bush is the president right now. But the fact is, is that this is a bipartisan complicity not to talk about how America's trade policy not only sells out American workers, but clearly puts our security at risk.
OLBERMANN: I feel like I'm Howard Beale listening to the speech about the college of corporations in the movie "Network."
It's not just the administration, there are other business leaders who have been saying that nixing this deal could affect other trade with Dubai, with the Middle East in general. Are those legitimate concerns? How much business would actually be affected if they - if this got stopped or delayed interminably?
SIROTA: Well, look, I think that's a euphemism, really. We don't right now, in terms of the entire globe, do a whole lot of trade, relatively, with the world. I think what those business leaders are saying is, Uh-oh, security concerns might actually start factoring into our more important, bigger trade deals.
Again, I'll go back to China. I mean, that is a big market. You know, business leaders do not want the issue of China's oppressive policies, China's potentially aggressive military behavior, to become an issue.
OLBERMANN: David Sirota. He is the author of the upcoming book "Hostile Takeover." Good luck with the project. Thank you for your time.
SIROTA: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: It is not the dog-ate-my-homework defense, but it's close, the Scooter I'm-too-busy-to-remember-everything Libby defense.
And America's newest multimillionaires, eight Nebraskans, three of whom are first-generation immigrants. They will share $365 million before taxes. That rarest of lottery stories, the one with actual meaning to it.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It appeared early in special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the CIA leak, kind of refined, new and improved version of the old I-can't-recall defense from the Scooter Libbys of this world, the I-can't-recall-because-I'm-so-busy-saving-the-country defense. Now it's officially part of the defense of the indicted former vice presidential chief of staff. It's hard work. We work hard. We come in on Saturdays.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, a new filing in Plamegate, no more classified documents requested, 277 of them plenty enough, apparently. Besides, when would Mr. Libby find the time to read any new documents? Libby's lawyers making several claims in last night's court filing, that the request for classified material does not compromise national security, that it is not so-called graymail. And then there is this excerpt from Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony.
Quote, "I tend to get between 100 and 200 pages of material a day that I'm supposed to read and understand, and I - you know, I start at 6:00 in the morning and I go to 8:00 or 8:30 at night," Libby told the grand jury. "I can't possibly recall all the stuff that I think is important, let alone other stuff that I don't think is as important."
Libby's defense fund Web site also opened up, yesterday this was, claiming to have already raised $2 million out of $5 or $6 million it says it is necessary for a solid defense. Glowing remarks about Mr. Libby available without cost or prescription.
Let's call in our frequent point man on the CIA leak investigation, MSNBC's David Shuster in Washington tonight.
Good evening, David.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's start with the I-was-so-busy defense. We've heard dribs and drabs of this before as the testimony leaked out in little places here and there, but what's the significance of these quotes from the grand jury testimony?
SHUSTER: Well, the significance is that for prosecutors, they have to prove intent in order to convict Scooter Libby. And if Scooter Libby's his defense can convince the jury in this trial that he was so busy handling national security that he couldn't exactly remember his conversations with reporters, then the defense might also be able to convince the jury that if Scooter Libby made mistakes in front of the grand jury, or in talking to the FBI, that these were innocent mistakes, not intentional mistakes.
The problem that Scooter Libby has is that when he talked to the FBI and the grand jury, he didn't say, Oh, maybe I told Tim Russert, instead of, Tim Russert told me. Maybe the vice president told me. No, Scooter Libby was certain at points. He said, for example, one line of his grand jury testimony, "All I had was this information that was coming in from reporters." And again, that sounds like somebody who was certain, not somebody who was too busy to remember.
OLBERMANN: Does this part of the defense, the so-busy defense, conflict with the other part of it, in which he expresses the need for all the sensitive documents, for the presidential daily briefings? I mean, do you really need 277 classified notes to prove you were so busy? Don't ordinary notes do the trick?
SHUSTER: Well, I think what the judge is going to do in this case, Keith, is, the judge is going to grant Scooter Libby some of the classified documents related to June and July 2003, the period under which Valerie Plame's identity was leaked.
But what Scooter Libby's doing in this particular strategy is laying out his possible appeal if he gets convicted, because what Scooter Libby could say to the appellate courts is, Look, I'm entitled to put on whatever kind of defense I want. The judge wouldn't give me classified information. I worked with classified information. Thereby my due process rights were violated, and throw out the charges. And legal experts say that's not a bad legal strategy for Scooter Libby early on in this case.
OLBERMANN: David, last week we saw Mr. Fitzgerald respond to the request for the PDBs by calling this "graymail." Explain to me the Libby rationale for saying, or his lawyers' rationale for saying, this is not graymail.
SHUSTER: Well, graymail is an espionage term that refers to classified information. Prosecutors are essentially trying to show that Libby is hiding behind the protections afforded to classified information to essentially gum up the trial to delay it.
What Libby is arguing is, No, we're not trying to do that at all. I worked with classified information, I'm entitled to classified information. And furthermore, Libby's lawyers are pointing out that Congress did pass a law that is called the Classified Information Procedures Act, which essentially eliminates graymail. So they're saying it's simply ridiculous for prosecutors to throw around this term in the first place.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of classified information, am I right about this, there was nothing in the filing from that Oh, by the way revelation from the vice president last week during the whole shooting controversy, that he, meaning the vice president, has the right to turn the what's classified, what isn't classified switch on and off?
SHUSTER: Yes, there was nothing about Vice President Cheney. But we'll get to Vice President Cheney. There are going to be battles over witnesses and what they can and cannot say. And that battle over Vice President Cheney and classified information, that is still coming later this spring.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC's David Shuster on the latest from the Libby defense team. Many thanks, sir.
SHUSTER: You're welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And no, this guy has not just keeled over after hearing the Scooter Libby defense. How do Japanese zookeepers catch an escaped gorilla? Practice, practice, practice.
What exactly are Martha Stewart and Donald Trump practicing? She says he sabotaged her show. He says no, she just stunk at it. Publicity stunt? Or will there be hair-pulling? Will it even come off?
That and more, ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Seventy-eight years ago today, the actor Paul Dooley was born. He's been in everything from "Get SMART" to "Desperate Housewives." He was probably best as the father in the movie "Breaking Away." He has nothing to do with today's news. He's evidently in good health. I just always thought if you could calculate who was the best actor in the world who got the least amount of publicity, it was him.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin at the Tokyo Zoo, where it is time once again - thank you, zoo - once again it's time for officials to practice what to do if a dangerous animal escapes. And this year, there's a monkey on the loose. There's a loose monkey.
Not to worry, folks, I know you're fooled by it, but that escaped gorilla is really just a guy in a costume. You can tell, we think, by the ears. Pretty sure it's not a gorilla, not with those ears. More like a skunk.
Anyway, the rapid response team quickly moves in to cordon off the area, then they hunt the thing Dick Cheney-style, they shoot it from the car. Ohhh. That's how we roll. Of course, they're only using tranquilizers. And that guy in the suit should be awake and alert in about 14 hours.
Montgomery Gymnasium at the University of Auburn at Alabama, or in Alabama, where you - Look at all these people in their funny noses and glasses. Look like me when I was about 28. You ever seen anything so wacky? Yes, it was an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most people wearing Grouch Marx glasses in one place, about 1,080 of them showed up to break the previous world record, 1,437. Now, these people may look like idiots, but don't let that fool you, they really are.
Speaking of which, is there any method to the Donald Trump-Martha Stewart public madness? Is it a publicity stunt, or just stunted emotional growth?
Let's hope America's newest millionaires, the Power Ball-winning eight out of Nebraska, don't get spoiled that way. We'll go live to Nebraska for their story.
That all ahead.
But first, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Lydia Angyiou of Lvujivik in Quebec, that is on the shores of Hudson Bay. Ms. Angyiou's kids were playing street hockey when a polar bear wandered into the game, a polar bear which Ms. Angyiou promptly beat the hell out of. As the bear and Ms. Angyiou were wrestling a neighbor shot the animal. The bear weighed 700 pounds, Ms. Angyiou weighs 90 pounds.
No. 2, Ms. Arnie Fairclaw of Sarasota Springs, Florida - hello - she is very grateful for having broken her hip hours after the 77-year-old woman fell down and had to be hospitalized the driver of a pickup lost control of his vehicle, drove it through her house and landed on her bed on which she, Mrs. Fairclaw would have been sleeping had she not broken her hip.
But, No. 1, Dennis Crouch of Daytona Beach, he had already slashed himself with a knife, police were running out of time so they taser ed him, probably saved Mr. Crouch's life, but there was a small detail, he had a cigarette lighter in his shirt pocket, so not only was he tasered, but also he was briefly aflame. Did somebody say tasered?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it hurt.
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OLBERMANN: Flatly, we tend not to think of Lincoln, Nebraska as the great American melting pot, yet there they are just as assuredly as 150 years ago immigrants from every spot on the European map trudged out to the far prairie to try to settle the West. An emigre from the Congo, two guys who moved from Vietnam, and five of their colleagues at a meat processing plant. They pooled their money, and they settled on numbers 15, 17, 43, 44, 48, and 29 and now these new pioneers have $365 million in Powerball winnings to split. Our third story on the Countdown, lottery stories tend to blur together pretty quickly, not this one. Our correspondent Lisa Daniels among the who met the eight, the Lincoln ham operators, the winners of all nations. She joins us tonight from Linchon.
Lisa, good evening.
LISA DANIELS, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith. It really was a fun news conference to attend. The winners were joking around, they were laughing, they were poking fun at themselves and at the media. It seemed like a great group of people and you felt good knowing that these people were living the American dream. Let me tell you a little bit about the group. There are seven men and one women and they worked at the ConAgra Meat Packing Plant. By the way, that plant is just two blocks from the U-Stop convenience store that sold that winning ticket.
Now, some of the workers are hourly employees there, some of them are mechanical and sanitation supervisors at the plant and most of them work the second and third shifts. And you might notice that I use the present tense because all but three of them still work at the plant. They haven't quit yet. Now, we also learned at the news conference that for the last couple of years, most of the winners have been putting five bucks into a pool anytime the Powerball was over $45 million and of course, this time they got lucky, but perhaps more impressive their luck, Keith, was there modesty, their work ethic and their personal stories.
QUESTION: How does it feel about winning?
DUNG TRAN, POWERBALL WINNER: I happy.
ALAIN MABOUSSOU, POWERBALL WINNER: He was like, man, we hit the jackpot.
I said, man, stop playing, you know,
DAVID GEHLE, POWERBALL WINNER: It hasn't sunk in yet. I can't picture yet and I don't have it yet.
CHASITY RUTJENS, POWERBALL WINNER: It's still a blur and still thinking we're going to wake up from a dream or something and it's not all true. We're trying to grasp the fact that we're millionaires now.
TRAN: I can't sleep, I scared too.
MICHAEL TERPSTRA, POWERBALL WINNER: I actually have not had much problem sleeping. I've been able to sleep, I can't eat.
ROBERT STEWART, POWERBALL WINNER: I was a maintenance supervisor.
QUESTION: You said "was," is that past tense?
STEWART: Most likely.
QUESTION: Do you still work at the plant?
ERIC ZORNES, POWERBALL WINNER: No. I've been retired for about four days now.
TREPSRTA: Dreams? Yeah, everybody has dreams, I mean, you ever bought a lottery ticket with a big jackpot? Gee, what are you going to do? Oh, I'm going to buy an island. You know, I'm going to buy an airplane. Reality, gee, not a fan of flying, don't really like water.
TREPSTRA: I have no idea what I'm going to do.
STEWART: Oh, you're just trying to get all these people in the room and trying to agree on things and hiding from you guys. We probably ate breakfast with you a couple of times, but you didn't know that.
DANIELS: And let me leave you with this, one of the men who works the third shift is actually going to work tonight. His shift begins starts at 10:00 p.m., it ends at 7:00 a.m. and one reporters said to him, why in the world are you doing this? And he answered that he didn't want to let down his co-workers. Keith, that's a work ethic for you.
OLBERMANN: That's a work ethic. Nobody says he's going to work at exactly 100 percent of speed, but we'll see how that turns out.
Lisa Daniels reporting from Lincoln, Nebraska. Many thanks.
Punishment tonight, as well, in the news. Lethal injection on hold on trial in California. Is this actually more cruel, more painful than the experts thought?
And the paparazzi who photographed Princess Diana in the last moments of her life. It's nearly eight-and-a-half years later. Tonight they have been punished, finally, by a French court. Those stories ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first stop on my trip will be India. India is the world's largest democracy. It is home to more than a billion people - that's more than three times the population of the United States. Like our own country, India has many different ethnic groups and religious traditions. India has a Hindu majority, and about 150 million Muslims in that country. That's more than in any other country except Indonesia and Pakistan.
QUESTION: Is this the Farwell tour?
BARRY BONDS, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: It's a big possibility, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just another Monday morning at Chickasha Lumber when a brand new box of Weld Lamont gloves arrived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we found - we went in there and looked at it and kind of looked over in the box and this is a hippopotamus skull. This is what was sent to us when we ordered gloves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chickasha Lumber didn't get their gloves, but at least they had the skull of a hippopotamus.
OLBERMANN: The debate goes back to at least 1789 when a French doctor invented a new means of capital punishment, something humane, something less painful. To us it now symbolizes brutality itself, the guillotine. Tonight in California, the debate over whether lethal injection is not only not humane, but just as barbaric. That is now holding up an execution. That story is next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It is perhaps the ultimate question, is there a guaranteed pain-free way to die? This is not just for the philosophers to speculate about nor physicians nor metaphysicians to argue over. Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, this is now a legal matter delaying an execution in California. What if the supposedly humane means of execution in this country, lethal injection, did nothing to reduce the physical pain of death, but merely prevented the rest of us from realizing how painful it actually was? Details from George Lewis tonight at San Quentin.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At San Quentin State Prison last night, a sudden dramatic announcement, the execution of Michael Morales convicted of raping and killing 17-year-old Terry Winchell in 1981 was postponed indefinitely.
VERNELL CRITTENDON, PRISON SPOKESMAN: The state cannot proceed with the execution under the conditions that have been set by the district court.
LEWIS: California employs lethal injection to kill done demmed inmates, but a federal drict judge said it could cause great pain if not carried out correctly. He ordered it be supervised by physicians. Two anesthesiologists agreed to be present, but then backed out on Monday.
MICHAEL SEXTON M.D., CA MEDICAL ASSOC. PRESIDENT: For a physician to be involved in capital punishment is absolutely forbidden by our code of ethics.
LEWIS: Thirty-seven death penalty states use lethal injection, usually a mixture of three drugs: First an anesthetic to cause unconsciousness, followed by a muscle paralyzer to stop breathing, and a third drug to stop the heart. Now questions about whether the drugs eliminate pain or only mask it led to the legal challenge that the procedure could be cruel and unusual punishment.
LAURIE LEVENSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: This case will set the standard on whether lethal injection, at least the way we know it, is a way that you can constitutionally execute a defendant.
LEWIS (on camera): After doctors refused to participate in the execution, the state yesterday proposed giving Morales just an overdoes of the sleeping drug to kill him. But without a doctor present, the judge said no.
(voice-over): The parent's of the teenag victim's were angry.
BARBARA CHRISTIAN, VICTIM'S MOTHER: It's like getting your - the air knocked out of your stomach to hear something like that.
LEWIS: Now as lawyers get ready to argue whether Morales can be put to death in a humane manner, three dozen other states will be watching this case very closely.
George Lewis, NBC News, San Quentin State Prison, California.
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately death providing the next segue to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."
In nearly eight-and-a-half years after the fatal accident, the three paparazzi who aggressively sought photographs of Princess Diana's last moments have been punished, they've been fined one euro each. Their photographs never published were of Princess Di and boyfriend Dodi Fayed as the left the Ritz hotel, but also later in the tunnel after the accident. The three photographers were also ordered to pay for publication of announcements about their convictions.
In 2002, France's highest court had dropped the manslaughter charges against nine photographers including the same three who got the slap on the wrist in this case.
And a legal victory, so far, for Kid Rock in entirely different circumstances, a judge halting the release of a rather complicated sex video. A U.S. district judge in Detroit signing a temporary order stopping David Joseph and his worldwide Red Light District Company from distributing or promoting the tape, including a 40-second preview clip already put out on the Red Light Website. In this video, Kid Rock, the former Creed singer, Scott Stapp, and four women. Rock's lawyer not denying the authenticity of the tape, but suing for a permanent court order because the tape violates Rock's privacy rights and his trademark. One of his lawyers saying, quote, "Even rock stores are entitled to privacy," end quote.
OK, it's the use of the term "trademark," do they mean it as euphemism as in hey, that's quite a bit trademark you've got there.
And now two people who you will never see having sex, hitting each other over the head with chairs? Maybe. Apprentice wars ahead. But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for "Worst Person in the World."
The bonze to the operators of a fertilizer plant in the Bavarian village of Elsa, Germany. The main tank burst, the picturesque village was soon 20 inches high in flowing, running pig manure.
Speaking of which, tonight's runner-up, last night's winner, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who had said of Saddam Hussein, quote, "Nobody denies that he was supporting Al Qaeda. Well, I shouldn't say nobody, nobody with brains," unquote. Senator is now trying to spin out of that little skid.
He says he may have misspoken saying he met not that Saddam Hussein
supported Al Qaeda but that the post Saddam insurgency was being supported
by Al Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
See, misspeaking is calling the library tower the liberty tower. You might as well now claim, sir, you were giving the Olympic hockey scores in code.
But, tonight's winner, oh he is back! Ted Baxter has called for the firing of one his own network's commentators. The eminent author and journalist, Neal Gabler appears on "FOX News Watch" the only show on that network that actually tries to live up to the catchphrase "fair and balanced," but O'Reilly on the same network called Gabeler a "rabid dog who traffics impersonal attacks." Can we just drop the whining about personal attacks, Billy? I mean, without personal attacks, you would be a mime. Bill O'Reilly, today's "Worst Person in the World!"
OLBERMANN: When the arguments include one of the participants saying in public "I'm a very smart person, by the way," you know this is probably not some feud staged for publicity purposes. When the argument also includes the other participant referring to the first one's time in prison, you know in fact, it's a battle to the death. Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, Martha Stewart and Donald Trump armed with their fully sharpened medieval royalty-sized egos at 50 paces. In a moment the insights of celebrity death match connoisseur, Michael Musto, first the blow-by-blow of the early rounds.
After reading an interview with the high doyen of household hints in the latest issue of "Newsweek," Mr. Trump wigged out. In said interview Ms. Stewart blamed her failure of her "Apprentice" of overexpose exexposure of the franchise. She claimed her show was intended to replace the Trump original with Trump fired from the boardroom on the very first episode. His retort, a letter sent to both Stewart and the media, "Essentially you made up this firing just as you made up your sell order of ImClone."
Then each of them started to taking in there to phoning in to TV shows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA STEWART, TV CELEBRITY: I'm picking no fight with Donald. All I said it was not really smart TV to have two "Apprentices" on at the same time.
DON IMUS, "IMUS IN THE MORNING": Right.
STEWART: And why - I'm a very smart person, by the way, I think.
STEWART: And why would I agree to do an "Apprentice" if there was going to be two of them? I have been a pioneer in my field of living and home keeping and all things having to do with the home. Why would I do a second "Apprentice" if I were going to be second to the one and only Donald?
IMUS: You were drinking.
IMUS: You were drinking?
IMUS: I don't know. Don't be hollering at me.
STEWART: No. But I'm just saying would I? Would I? Would I?
IMUS: I don't know.
STEWART: Well, I wouldn't. OK?
DONALD TRUMP, "THE APPRENTICE": After I saw the show, I realized it was going to be a total disaster. I mean, she just doesn't have what it takes for that particular show, unfortunately. And I could see immediately it was going to be a disaster and that's unfortunate. I mean, she actually blames me for her show's failure and it wasn't me. It wasn't my fault and it wasn't Mark Burnet's fault. It was Martha's fault. She was terrible on the show.
OLBERMANN: I'm sorry I showed you some of Don Imus there, I know some of you might be eating. But now as promised, the voice of the "Village Voice," columnist, Michael Musto.
Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, "VILLAGE VOICE": Hi Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now, this puts faces on that really bad old joke Donald Trump and Martha Stewart are both on fire and you're the only person around you really have to go to the bathroom, don't you still hold it in?
OLBERMANN: How can you root for anybody in this?
MUSTO: You just can't. And I wear depends for that very reason. And in fact, recently I was in a bar and Simon Cowell was having screaming match with Paula Abdul and they were both on fire for some reason, and I stood there so very confidently in my dipy's, saying burn bitches. And this is the new Olympics. This refines "you're on fire."
OLBERMANN: You know, we should - yeah, really - if they're still both under contract to NBC we need to send them to Italy and fast.
MUSTO: Yeah, it'll perk up the ratings.
OLBERMANN: What's nice about this, of course, is that at least Mr. Trump, in particular, seems to be taking the high road here. I mean, equating what she's saying to lying about her stock sale and going to prison, you know, rather than accusing her of having started the Second World War or something.
MUSTO: Oh, yeah. Or saying that she maybe she shot a friend with a pelt gun or she caused 9/11 or worst of all made a bad souffle. But look, Donald's pretty tacky. The only high road he knows is the one on his head, in between that one circuitous hair. Apparently you get to Mara Largo on the lowest road imaginable. No nosebleed danger there. It's in a trench, I think if Mark Burnett wants to do a reality show at Mara Largo call, "If this is the Top, Imagine the Bottom." And Melania Trump has an interesting comment about that, she says "Wa?"
MUSTO: Are we - but we're clear though, I mean, the irony, no matter what Trump says here, are we clear that Martha Stewart indeed started this and do we know what precipitated her doing that? Is she not getting enough attention? Has she forgotten? Has it been too long, she forgotten how that ankle monitoring bracelet felt? The modesty, that brief interruption of modesty is gone now?
MUSTO: She does miss that bracelet because it went so well with her choker peter. And by the way, her choker was named, Peter Bacanovic. But look, she does love attention, Martha, but she can't stand the heat in the kitchen. I mean, she could Mia Tyler, Mia Farrow, she can never say mia colpa (ph) for some reason. When people get food poisoning from her recipes she blames the silverware.
She needs to grow up. Heather Graham didn't blame the Donald for the cancellation of "Emily's Reasons Why Not" after one episode. She doesn't even know it was canceled, she still shows up to work. That's the right attitude, Martha. Learn from Heather Graham.
OLBERMANN: Now, I know that all of us who live under the peacock's brilliant bloomage have seen odd things happen these last few years. But, Ms. Stewart insists the plan was start her show whereupon she fires Trump after Trump's show had basically been the whole NBC broadcast network for about a year. It was that and like, as we say in the business, bars and tone. This doesn't even make NBC sense, does it?
MUSTO: I think it does make a little sense if the Donald show was going to nosedive in the ratings and her show was going to be a smashed, but as we know that's not what happened. And I actually think that's good news for Martha. I mean, here she was trying to rehabilitate her image after being in prison, so what does she do? She take a show where she's literally a corporate headhunter monster chopping people's heads off. Good move, Martha. I guess your career management people are the same people who do your insider trading. They should be fired. We Martha to go back to the queen of nice, just making apples into lawn chairs.
OLBERMANN: Now, lastly here, only a cynic would note that the "Apprentice," the fourth season with Mr. Trump, premiers on Monday. Now, if Martha Stewart were still on the show or were with the network or something it might be a no-brainer, that it's all a publicity stunt, but that doesn't make any sense either, does it?
MUSTO: Nothing makes sense here, but I hear she is going to be on the show with a hatchet and this time it's not to make a salad. But, even if she weren't going to be on the show I do honestly think it is a publicity stunt. I don't trust the little weasel Mark Burnett. He's the one who, on "Survivor" had people eating worms and dirt while he, no doubt, sat in his trailer with a espresso machine and a wok. He should be fired. People out there, take my word. Do not watch this "Apprentice," don't watch Martha's daytime show. Don't buy her towels, don't look at his hair. Just, wear your depends. That's all. Let these people burn. Make lemonade.
OLBERMANN: By the way, can you can confirm this in 10 seconds or less? Is in fact that hair a series of CD's arrayed like you do on the - like you have on the front of a jukebox - Trump's hair?
MUSTO: I think it's more the financial type of CD's then they have zero investment rate.
OLBERMANN: Michael Musto always making some sense out of senseless celebrities and senseless celebrity celebration. Many thanks, Michael.
MUSTO: Make lemonade. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown, for this the 1,028th day since the deliration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Goodnight and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "Rita Cosby,
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END