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 opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes 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 MaddowKrystal Ball accuses Democrats of having 'zero moral authority' amid impeachment inquiry Biden town hall on CNN finishes third in cable news race Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Elijah Cummings's widow, will run for his House seat 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 PutinOvernight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Highly irregular: Rudy, the president, and a venture in Ukraine Biden responds to North Korea: 'I wear their insults as a badge of honor' 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 GrishamTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Trump grants pardons to two service members in war-crimes cases Trump criticizes Yovanovitch during her public testimony 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 TrumpThe Memo: Debate over style vs. substance shadows impeachment hearings Trump hotel sales brochure touts 'tremendous upside potential' of government-related business: report Eric Trump on impeachment hearing: 'This clown show is horribly boring' 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."