MSNBC's O'Donnell retracts report alleging Trump banking ties to Russian oligarchs

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell late Wednesday offered an on-air retraction of a thinly sourced report alleging that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE obtained loans from Deutsche Bank with Russian oligarchs as co-signers.

"Last night on this show I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting," O'Donnell said on MSNBC's "The Last Word," noting that his reporting relied on a single source and did not "go through the rigorous verification and standards process here at MSNBC."

ADVERTISEMENT

O'Donnell added that "had it gone through that process, I would not have been permitted to report it."

"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. For that, I apologize."

The on-air statements from O'Donnell came just hours after an attorney for Trump sent a letter to NBC Universal demanding an apology and retraction. Charles Harder said in the letter that O'Donnell's report about Trump's alleged banking ties were false and defamatory. 

The previous night, O'Donnell had presented potentially significant information regarding the president's tax returns and his alleged ties to Russia. 

"I stress ‘if true,’ because this is a single source who has told me that Deutsche Bank obtained tax returns," the MSNBC host said as he talked with anchor Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowTlaib says she held Omar's hand during 'triggering' moments at Trump's State of the Union speech Schiff: Bolton 'refused' to submit affidavit on Trump's involvement in Ukraine controversy Tlaib says mention of Kavanaugh was 'trigger' to walk out of Trump speech MORE following the conclusion of her nightly show. 

"This single source close to Deutsche Bank has told me that Donald Trump’s loan documents there show that he has co-signers. That’s how he was able to obtain those loans and that the co-signers are Russian oligarchs."

“What? Really?” Maddow said in response, appearing stunned by the revelation. 

"That would explain every kind word Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin," O'Donnell added, before tempering the statement by saying, “I stress the ‘if true.' "

He later said that his source told him that the co-signers of Trump's Deutsche Bank loans were Russian billionaires close to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinSanders defends Castro comments in wake of backlash from some Democrats Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles Do Trump and Sanders hate America? MORE. O'Donnell then added that the story needed "a lot more verification before that can be a confirmable fact." 

An MSNBC producer later acknowledged that the information came from a source who had not seen the banking records. 

The report followed a court filing Tuesday in which Deutsche Bank said that it had tax returns relevant to House Democrats' subpoenas for financial records of Trump, his family and his businesses. The bank did not publicly identify whose tax return it had. 

White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamSupreme Court allows 'public charge' rule to take effect nationwide Pelosi blasts Trump's 'dangerous' pick for intelligence chief Lawyers to seek asylum for Assange in France: report MORE condemned O'Donnell's report, calling it example of why "a majority of Americans have lost trust in the media."

"Instead of applying ethics and standards to their reporting, journalists and left-wing outlets have weaponized the media, using it to attack and harass people with little to no regard for the truth," she said on Fox News. 

Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpHouse Democrats question Secret Service on payments to Trump properties Trump hotels charge Secret Service up to 0 per night while protecting him: report Beach Boys's Brian Wilson asks fans to boycott concert at hunting event featuring Donald Trump Jr. MORE, the president's son, said Wednesday night that his family was still prepared to sue O'Donnell despite the apology. 

"This was a reckless attempt to slander our family and smear a great company," he said on Twitter. "Apologies are not enough when the true intent was solely to damage and cause harm."