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April 23, 2018

If you don't know who Ryan Zinke is, don't feel too bad — President Trump pretty clearly isn't sure what his interior secretary does, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, kicking this off with a NSFW analogy. "Zinke's job is to serve as a steward of America's public lands, although so far he's overseen the largest reduction of federal land protection in the nation's history," he noted. Also, Zinke is a serial exaggerator or outright fabulist and, "it turns out, may well be an extremely weird man,"

As evidence of his quirkiness, Oliver cited the fact that like Queen Elizabeth II, ZInke flies his own special flag when he's at the Interior Department headquarters, plus his minting of a special coin and, most persuasively, his decision to grab Vice President Mike Pence's wife, Karen Pence, for a dance during a political rally. "You might not have even heard of him before tonight, but he is an important, deeply strange man," Oliver said. "If I may sum him up in the way he would sum himself up in a campaign ad, Zinke is an oil-friendly, coin-commissioning, non-bin-Laden-killing weirdo who throws second ladies around, and he is not a f---ing geologist — America." Watch below — yes, there is NSFW language. Peter Weber

April 23, 2018

"It is a busy time for diplomacy in the Trump White House, what with them planning the North Korea summit, weighing what to do about Syria, and a state visit with [French President Emmanuel] Macron next week," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. And on top of that, Trump faces a massive decision on whether to re-certify the Iran nuclear deal on May 12 — and there's a growing sense that this time, Trump might actually kill the agreement.

Trump has made no secret of his disdain for the pact, signed by former President Barack Obama, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, and the European Union, but its demise "could have huge, lasting consequences," Oliver said. "So tonight, let's look at the Iran deal: What it is, why Trump hates it so much, and what's likely to happen if he kills it." Oliver ran through Trump's objections, explaining that each was based on false information. Iran can't keep sanctions relief and still make a nuclear bomb, for example, Oliver said. "What Iran could do, in theory, is wait for part of the deal to expire in 10 years, then it could ramp up its nuclear program, getting it closer to a bomb. But here's the thing: If the deal blows up, Iran could start doing that right now, in zero years. And 0 is less than 10 — trust us, we ran the numbers on this ourselves."

"You can't just be against something without having any plan for what comes next," Oliver said, and like "a cat on an airplane trying to escape from its carrier," Trump has only unrealistic demands. Also, his top advisers — John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Sean Hannity — hate the deal, too. To try to insert a moderating voice, Oliver said, he'll run a catheter cowboy ad during Hannity this week. You can get a preview, and learn more about the Iran deal, below. (There's NSFW language.) Peter Weber

April 16, 2018

"Tonight, in honor of upcoming tax day, we thought we'd give you just a glimpse of the lengths that companies will go to to legally avoid paying taxes, both," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. Like Cardi B, "many people are perplexed and mystified by our tax system," he said, breaking down where your tax dollars go, roughly speaking.

When President Trump signed the GOP tax overhaul last year, he "made some clear promises about who stood to benefit," Oliver said, most of them "clearly nonsense, because if this bill were really helping the people that like Donald Trump best, it would exclusively benefit Eric Trump, Rosanne Barr, and anyone who's looked both ways before whispering, 'It was the Jews.' And the truth is, for all Trump's talk of pipefitters, the biggest tax rate cut by far actually goes to businesses."

Oliver walked through the "long and infuriatingly proud history" of corporate tax avoidance, with a special nod to Apple and Google for being top "innovators in weaselly accounting," though GE and other huge companies paid zero federal taxes for much of this century. The new tax bill does force some of those companies to pay taxes on money stashed overseas, but at bargain rates — a gamble that did not pay off in terms of job creation in 2004, and probably won't this time either, Oliver said. "We just had a huge chance to reform our tax code and we absolutely blew it. Because effective tax reform is not just about lowering rates, it's about closing loopholes."

"So, on Tuesday, as you scrape together your taxes and like Cardi B, wonder what Uncle Sam is doing with your motherf---ing money, rest assured that Donald Trump's tax reform continues to let companies engage in sophisticated tax avoidance schemes," Oliver said. And he had a parting gift for those companies. There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber

April 16, 2018

John Oliver kicked off Sunday's Last Week Tonight with former FBI Director James Comey's interview with ABC News, and he focused on one of the few parts he'd watched, where Comey discussed telling President-elect Trump about the "pee tape" and other rumors in the Russia dossier. "Yeah, James Comey thought that conversation was 'really weird,'" he said, "and I will remind you that this is a man who has seen Anthony Weiner's emails."

But the Comey interview just capped a "ludicrously dramatic week" that began with the FBI raid on Trump's lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, Oliver said. Cohen kept on making news when it emerged he helped pay off a Playboy model who got pregnant after a consensual extramarital affair with now-former RNC deputy finance chairman Elliot Broidy. Also, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he's retiring, Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, and it emerged that the National Enquirer paid off a doorman who claimed Trump fathered a secret child in the 1980s with his housekeeper.

"Oh, and on Friday night, we bombed Syria," Oliver pointed out. Not everyone thinks Trump had the legal authority to do that, and some people are concerned that the U.S. is being drawn deeper into a war with no real strategy, "but don't worry on that front, because Trump has already declared 'Mission Accomplished!'" he said. When people questioned using George W. Bush's infamous phrase, Trump doubled down.

"It does not fill you with confidence to have a president who announces, 'I know I'm repeating one of the most notorious political blunders in recent history, I meant to do it, everyone should do it, and I'm going to do it again, forever,'" Oliver paraphrased. "I've got to say, if Trump's intention was to descend so far into self-parody that he somehow burrowed though the Earth's crust and came out the other side, mission f---ing accomplished." That f-bomb isn't bleeped out. Watch below. Peter Weber

April 9, 2018

John Oliver has already taken a look at abortion clinics — or the lack thereof — "but tonight we're going to focus on the exact opposite of an abortion clinic, something called a crisis pregnancy center," he said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. These are "facilities whose primary purpose is talking women out of terminating a pregnancy — something they don't often make that clear," he said, and they now outnumber abortion clinics nationwide, 2,752 to 1,671 — or 38 to 1 in Mississippi, for example. "If they are that prevalent, people should absolutely know what they are," Oliver said.

"Look, if you believe abortion is immoral, you are of course allowed to set up a center dedicated to convincing women of that," Oliver said, "but what is happening with CPCs is that way too often, women with unplanned pregnancies are being actively misled." And CPCs often appear to encourage that confusion. Lots of them use the word "choice" in their name, something Oliver likened to false advertising, but they also "catfish" women searching for abortion providers online, try to physically intercept women visiting abortion clinics, emotionally manipulated or mislead them, and worse. He had plenty of examples. "And here's the thing," Oliver said. "For all the lengths that CPCs will go to to prevent abortions, many of them don't do a key thing that would really help that, and that's give women access to birth control."

"The real point here is, the tactics that CPCs often use are disingenuous and predatory, and it's absolutely critical that people understand that," Oliver said. "But they really don't." And to show how easy it is for religious organizations to set up legal CPCs, Oliver's legally recognized religious charity/tax shelter, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, set up Our Lady of Choosing Choice, a mobile "Vanned Parenthood" CPC. This isn't a dispassionate or neutral look at abortion, certainly, and there is NSFW language, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

April 9, 2018

Scott Pruitt has reportedly racked up a $3 million personal security bill at the EPA, including 24-hour security that accompanied him on personal visits to places like Disneyland. "I'm a little torn on this one," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "On the one hand, that does seem wasteful. But on the other hand, if anyone needs security at Disneyland, it's Scott Pruitt — a man who even Mickey and Minnie Mouse would tell to go f--k himself: 'Hey, Space Mountain is going to be under water in 10 years, you son of a bitch!'"

The recent raft of scandals make for "a pretty sudden fall from grace for Pruitt," beloved by conservatives for a "pro-industry stance so aggressive, in fact, that even though he is literally in charge of the EPA, his LinkedIn page still lists him as 'a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda,'" Oliver said.

And Pruitt's cleanup visit to Fox News ran into the buzzsaw of Ed Henry's aggressive questioning. "That is clearly not the Fox News tone that Pruitt was expecting," Oliver said. "That is the face of a man who thought he was walking into an Applebee's and ended up in an apple full of bees." And his excuse for his $50-a-night rental deal was "frankly pathetic," Oliver said, trying to be "fair" by showing some actual AirBnB rentals that go for $50 a night in D.C. — if you don't mind a lack of privacy, or a bed.

Still, "Pruitt somehow still has a job," Oliver said, speculating that President Trump is standing by his man either "because Pruitt is doing exactly what Trump wanted him to do, dismantling the EPA and wrecking the environment," or because Trump "now knows that if you want to get rid of Scott Pruitt, you're going to have to kick his door down, wake him from a nap, drag him out, and eventually change the f--king locks." Peter Weber

April 2, 2018

Egypt held presidential elections last week, and while the results haven't been officially tabulated, the winner is strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, John Oliver not-so-boldly predicted on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "And the reason I know that he's the winner is that he had no serious opponents, possibly because one was arrested and three more withdrew amid reports of intimidation." Still, el-Sisi's ridiculous claim that he was devastated by the lack of competition had a grain of truth, Oliver said. "The tricky thing is, if you're going to have something that even looks like an election, you badly need at least the appearance of an opponent. And he did get one of those — kind of."

Mousa Moustafa Mousa, an open el-Sisi supporter, registered to run against him 15 minutes before the deadline, and up until his nomination he had el-Sisi's campaign banner on his Facebook page. "But the key rule of a sham election is make it look legitimate," and el-Sisi's projected 92 percent of the vote was further undermined by the low turnout, Oliver said, despite "a desperate attempt to make it look legitimate" by election officials threatening $28 fines for people who didn't vote and open bribes by government supporters. "Wow, $5 and discount tickets to an amusement park?" he said. "Say what you like about el-Sisi — and if you live in Egypt, you can't — but it is pretty depressing that seven years after the Arab Spring, he's now trying to win over the voters the same way a divorced dad tries to win over his kids." Watch below. Peter Weber

April 2, 2018

Last year, Last Week Tonight's John Oliver dedicated 20 minutes to Sinclair Broadcast Group, "the most influential media company that you've never heard of," with a notable conservative bent and a penchant for sending its 170 local stations — a number soon to expand significantly, if its proposed acquisition of Tribune Media is approved — "must run" commentary and other segments. Notably, Sinclair hired Boris Epshteyn, a lawyer and campaign surrogate for President Trump, to provide reliably pro-Trump, must-run hot takes.

"Recently, Sinclair took their game to a new level," Oliver said in a brief update Sunday night. "Because a few weeks back, a script leaked for a statement they wanted local anchors to deliver, warning that national media outlets were publishing 'fake' stories — which was echoing one of Trump's favorite talking points." Deadspin compiled a bunch of those clips in a creepily surreal video that went viral over the weekend, and Oliver played a taste. "Yeah, nothing says 'we value independent media' like dozens of reporters forced to repeat the same message over and over again like members of a brainwashed cult," he said. He ended by pulling a Boris Epshteyn on Sinclair. The clip is decidedly NSFW in parts, so watch below at your own risk. Peter Weber

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