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 TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump 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."


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 MaddowRachel Maddow extends contract with MSNBC: reports OAN loses appeal in defamation lawsuit against Rachel Maddow Nunes sues MSNBC, alleging Rachel Maddow defamed him 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 PutinErdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system EU 'denounces' Russian malicious cyber activity aimed at member states Navalny knocks Apple, Google for removing voting app 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 GrishamFormer aide sees Melania Trump as 'the doomed French queen': book Former Trump aide Stephanie Grisham planning book: report Jill Biden appears on Vogue cover 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 TrumpMary Trump calls Donald Trump Jr. her 'stupidest' relative Eric Trump lawyer in New York attorney general's fraud case quits Eric Trump to speak at conference led by prominent anti-vaxxers 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."