“It’s not clear how O’Donnell’s reporting made it to air, given that NBC News was unable to verify his reporting,” writes CNN’s Oliver Darcy of MSNBC’s latest iteration of the “Russia owns Trump” theory.

The network should just be honest. After 8 p.m. ET, and especially after 9 p.m. ET, it’s the wild west on their airwaves for anything having to do with Trump and Putin. It’s what that audience craves and so it’s what that audience shall have. If a friend of a friend of a friend claims he’s seen the pee tape, well, there you go. That’s a “source.” Run it.

I wonder if MSNBC will force Scary Larry to address this clusterfark on tonight’s show or if they’ll issue a statement stressing that they’ve been unable to confirm O’Donnell’s reporting and hope that that makes Trump’s legal team go away. From attorney Charles Harder’s letter to the network, via Darcy:

It’s damn near impossible to slander a public figure as public as the president but former prosecutor Renato Mariotti thinks Trump might have a case given the specificity of O’Donnell’s claim:

O’Donnell said during last night’s show that “I want to stress that is a single source, that has not been confirmed by NBC News. I have not seen any documentation from Deutsche Bank that supports this and verifies this. This is just a single source who has revealed that to me.” Legal eagles, would that be enough to get a defamation suit dismissed? He’s not claiming it’s a fact that Russian oligarchs guaranteed Trump’s loans, he’s not claiming that he’s seen evidence to that effect, he’s not claiming that a second source has confirmed that it’s true. All he’s saying is that some guy says so … and, uh, that he trusts that guy enough to report what he said to the entire country.

Smells defame-y.

MSNBC will figure out a way to retreat somehow. Even if they don’t, I wonder if Team Trump would press ahead with a lawsuit given the risk posed by discovery. What if the case went to trial and MSNBC insisted that the only way to know if the basic claim here that Russians were involved with Trump’s debts is to have him hand over his tax returns? Trump’s lawyers would refuse and say that that’s not the claim O’Donnell made: He didn’t report that Russians were wrapped up in Trump’s loans generally, he made a specific claim that they co-signed for loans at Deutsche Bank. The scope of discovery shouldn’t exceed that narrow question.

But what if they draw a hostile judge and lose that argument? They don’t want Team MSNBC looking through Trump’s returns, right?

I think Harder’s letter is mainly a publicity ploy aimed at embarrassing MSNBC into officially backing off O’Donnell’s reporting, hanging him out to dry. That would be enjoyable if it happened but there’s no response yet as I write this at 3:15 ET. Stay tuned.

Update: Hoo boy. Management must have put the fear of God into him to make him eat this much crap. Total humiliation for MSNBC — again:

This clown network should have a blanket rule that no one in primetime gets to report on Trump/Russia stories anymore. Only the news team does. There are simply too many overhyped disasters littering the road to trust them going forward.