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Lawrence O’Donnell Retracts Claim of Russians’ Role in Trump Loans

The MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell retracted a story he reported on Tuesday night that claimed President Trump had made a financial arrangement with so-called Russian oligarchs.

Mr. O’Donnell said the reporting, which he had attributed to a single source on his 10 p.m. program, “didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process.”

“I shouldn’t have reported it, and I was wrong to discuss it on the air,” he said on Wednesday, referring to a report he issued on air the night before.

Hours before his broadcast on Wednesday, Charles J. Harder, an attorney for Mr. Trump, had sent a letter demanding that the network and NBCUniversal, its parent company, “immediately and prominently retract, correct and apologize for the aforementioned false and defamatory statements.”

“These statements are false and defamatory, and extremely damaging,” Mr. Harder wrote in the letter, addressed to NBCUniversal attorneys.

He added that without a retraction and an apology, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization would consider “immediate legal proceedings” against Mr. O’Donnell and NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.

Mr. O’Donnell offered both on his program on Wednesday night.

“Tonight, we are retracting the story,” he said. “We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate but the fact is we do know it wasn’t ready for broadcast, and for that, I apologize.”

Deutsche Bank said Tuesday that it had tax documents being sought in a congressional inquiry into Mr. Trump’s finances, igniting a storm over what they may say.

Mr. O’Donnell’s statement on Wednesday was likely to be fuel for Mr. Trump, who has attacked specific media outlets repeatedly since Tuesday, including The New York Times, Axios, The Washington Post and even Fox News.

On Tuesday evening, before his show, Mr. O’Donnell wrote on Twitter: “A source close to Deutsche Bank says Trump’s tax returns show he pays very little income tax and, more importantly, that his loans have Russian co-signers. If true, that explains every kind word Trump has ever said about Russia and Putin.”

Mr. O’Donnell said on his show that the “co-signers are Russian oligarchs.”

But the MSNBC host also suggested at times that his reporting might not have been that robust, repeating during the hour that it would be explosive “if true, and I stress the ‘if true’ part of this.”

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s 9 p.m. host, told Mr. O’Donnell as she was handing off to his show that his reporting “obviously would be absolutely flummoxing, but I don’t know.”

“I’m going to now sit and watch your show,” she added.

Mr. O’Donnell replied, “It would test the Trump theory that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would still be with him.”

“Yeah, man, seriously,” Ms. Maddow said. “That’s the financial equivalent of that, yeah. Wow, thanks Lawrence, geez.”


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