Late Night Tackles Trump and Russia
June 19, 2019

"By now it's well established that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and they're not done interfering," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. According to the FBI, Russia is already meddling in the 2016 race, so "keep an eye out for any suspicious online accounts — like anyone who says they're voting for Bill de Blasio," he joked. "But this week, we learned that the Pentagon is fighting back against the Russians," hacking into the country's power grid, according to The New York Times.

And also, according to the Times, nobody told Trump about the operation, and for "the reason you fear," Colbert said. "The military thinks they can't share intelligence with the commander in chief because he'll either stop the program entirely to protect Russia or go blabbing about it." He imagined the conversation with Vladimir Putin, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

March 14, 2019

Stephen Colbert began Wednesday's Late Show with the troubles surrounding Boeing's 737 MAX passenger jets. "The only people not grounding the MAX 8s were the United States," until President Trump joined the rest of the world late Wednesday afternoon." Colbert showed Trump's announcement and imagined what he might mean by "grounding" jets, and it got a little Freudian.

"It's important to realize that we all make mistakes," Colbert said, but few of us make as many mistakes as Paul Manafort. "A lot of people were shocked last Thursday when despite a sentencing range of 19 to 24 years, Manafort got 47 months in prison," he said. "It was the most unexpectedly light sentence since Leatherface got community service. But today was Round 2 for Manafort," and one of the big questions was whether he would serve both sentences concurrently or consecutively. "Now, it might sound impossible to serve two sentences at the same time, but I think Manafort's up to it," Colbert said, "because he served two countries at the same time."

Manafort got 60 months, 30 of them concurrent with his other sentence, plus another 13 months, and Colbert made a show of calculating the damage. "Yeah, he's screwed," he concluded. "Manafort's facing a total of 7 1/2 years in prison. So someday, Manafort's gonna have to walk up to the biggest guy in the yard and say, 'Mr. President, can I have a pardon?' Literally minutes after Manafort was sentenced today, Manhattan's district attorney said 'Hold my beer,' because New York State issued an indictment charging Manafort with 16 crimes" — and Trump can't pardon any of these. Colbert did a little dance to that news, then ended on the overheated speculation about Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia report. Watch below. Peter Weber

February 19, 2019

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe explained on 60 Minutes Sunday night why he opened a counterintelligence operation into President Trump and Russia, and on Monday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert suggested an answer to McCabe's question about why Trump was acting so strange about Russia when he fired FBI Director James Comey: "Because he's guilty?"

McCabe said Trump gave him lots of reasons to suspect nefarious ties to Russia, including one exchange where the president reportedly told U.S. intelligence analysts he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin over them. Colbert added on to McCabe's quote from Trump: "I don't care what our intelligence agencies say, I believe Putin ... has the director's cut of the pee-pee tape."

McCable also discussed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's casual suggestion about invoking the 25th Amendment, irking some Republicans, Colbert said, poking fun at Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) vow to investigate whether the Justice Department and FBI plotted to remove Trump from office: "Yes, Graham says we need a federal investigation into the FBI. You know what that means: It's time to call the Federal Bureau of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Investigators. Learn all about it in the new hit CBS midseason replacement series The FBFBII." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 29, 2019

"The U.S. government reopened on Friday afternoon, but the FBI was already on the job at the crack of dawn," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "That's right, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now charged a sixth associate of Donald Trump. This time it was Roger Stone, personal adviser to the president and what Mike Pence would look like after one drink."

This indictment looks pretty bad for Stone and President Trump, but it's also "really interesting" to watch the outrage from their supporters on Fox News over the FBI's show of force, given how they shrug off police excesses against black people, Noah said. Honestly, "I agree with Roger Stone" that "the amount of force the police used to arrest him did seem excessive," Noah said. "But I also don't blame the cops. They were just following orders from the top. ... Poor Trump: He thought rough policing would only apply to MS-13. Who knew they would also be using it on the MAGA 6?"

The Late Show had a COPS-inspired reminder of some of those arrests, and playfully forecast the next FBI raid.

"Remember, Trump brags that he only hires the best people, calls the Russia investigation a hoax, calls CNN fake news, and his government shutdown left FBI agents without pay," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. "So it was especially ironic when one of Trump's closes associates by unpaid FBI agents working for the special counsel in the Russia investigation, and the whole thing was caught on tape by CNN." Also, he added, "imagine being such an a--hole that FBI agents will come into work and arrest you for free."

Still, there's a logic being Stone's audacious complaints about the FBI's treatment, Meyers argued. "Stone is obviously angling for a pardon from Trump, who has shown a willingness to praise witnesses who refuse to cooperate and attack those who do." He also made copious fun of Stone's outfits. Watch below. Peter Weber

January 18, 2019

The government shutdown hit Day 27 on Thursday, and The Late Show noted some of the real-world consequences.

One thing President Trump likes about this record government shutdown, though, "is that there's a chance it might make you forget, for a little while, that there's this thing called the Russia investigation," Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. But with the news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sending internal polling data to a likely Russian agent, "the links to Russia are wrapping around Trump like a boa constrictor around a Florida grandpa."

So it's newsworthy — as well as entertaining — that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani "basically went on TV and admitted that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia," Colbert said. "That is so shocking — you saw it — he shocked himself when he heard him say it." Colbert tried to imitate Giuliani's crazy eyes, then animated his eyeballs fleeing his head. "Now, that looks bad, but only if we're going to start counting evidence as proof," he deadpanned. "Rudy's comments are just another example of the Trump team moving the goal posts," sometimes "to a whole different sport: 'It's a hole in touchdown, you're out!'"

Colbert also recapped the crazy story of Michael Cohen paying to rig polls for Trump, and for a vanity Twitter account: "So he paid fake women to say nice things. That's refreshing — usually he pays real women to say nothing."

"Remember when Trump said he would run the country like a business?" Jimmy Kimmel asked on Kimmel Live. "Turns out the business was Radio Shack. Trump is desperately trying to pin blame for this shutdown on Democrats. He lashed out this morning, he wrote: 'The Left has become totally unhinged. They no longer care what is Right for our Countrty.' That's right, you see how he spelled it — he's just as good at spelling 'country' as he is at running it." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 18, 2019

President Trump "appears to be on a collusion course with the law right now, and his alleged lawyer Rudy Giuliani was back on CNN last night and Rudier than ever," Jimmy Kimmel said on Thursday's Kimmel Live. If we didn't have video of his "crazy appearance on Chris Cuomo's show," it would "almost be too much to believe." Giuliani claimed incorrectly that he'd never said there was no collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, so either there's "another Rudy Giuliani out there," Kimmel said, or Giuliani's lying — again. "Poor Rudy. Someday he's going to be in a mental facility telling the nurses that he used to be the mayor of New York and they'll be like, 'Uh-huh.'"

Kimmel also had some fun with the story about Trump ordering fixer Michael Cohen to hire a guy to rig some online polls, Cohen paying him a fraction of the cash in a Walmart bag, then hiring him to create a @WomenforCohen account. "I may have underestimated Michael Cohen," he said. "He might be a lot more hilarious than I ever imagined."

"It's crazy that Michael Cohen was rigging polls for Trump while Trump was out there complaining that the polls were rigged," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "But one place where there's definitely no collusion is between Rudy Giuliani's brain and his mouth." He showed the clip: "Did Giuliani just admit that there was collusion? I think he did, and look at their faces. Like, neither of them can believe what just happened." Maybe Giuliani's antics are intentional, Noah mused. "Maybe the master plan is to keep creating so many new scandals that Robert Mueller can never finish his investigation."

"It really does seem like the pressure of the job is getting to Rudy," giving the latest of his "trademark accidental confessions," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. He ran through Giuliani's ever-shifting collusion story. "If this keeps going, Rudy is going to be telling Trump, 'It's not jail, it's a gated community.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

January 15, 2019

"It's not every day that you can say: 'Hey, did you see the big story about Trump being an agent of the Russian government over the weekend? No, not that story, the other one,'" Stephen Colbert noted on Monday's Late Show. He began with the New York Times bombshell about the FBI opening a counterintelligence investigation of recently inaugurated President Trump to see if he was secretly working for Russia. "I think that's ridiculous," Colbert said. "There is nothing secret about it, he's just putting it out there."

"I've been talking about Trump laying footsie with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin since July of 2016, back at the Republican Convention, but when you look at the details, it's still shocking," Colbert said. He created a new game show, "Evil or Stupid?" to game out whether Trump was a Russian spy or "unwitting stooge" of the Kremlin. (America loses either way.)

The idea that Trump is "a secret Russian spy" is "just crazy — and not because he wouldn't do it," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Donald Trump would be the world's worst spy." First, "he doesn't even have an inside voice," and he can't "blend in. Red tie, orange skin, blond hair — the only place he'd blend in is a jar of Starbursts." Still, "it doesn't help his case" when he does "shady" stuff like hide his chats with Putin.

Telling your interpreter to not discuss what you told Putin is "not normal," Jimmy Kimmel agreed on Kimmel Live. "Usually when Trump wants to keep someone quiet he pays them $130,000." Still, "of course he's not working for Russia — he's being blackmailed by Russia, there's a difference," Kimmel said. This really has "turned into a witch hunt," he added, "as in, 'Which hunt are you talking about? The collusion, the obstruction, the treason, the corruption, or the tax evasion?"

Late Night's Seth Meyers listed some likely reasons why the FBI was suspicious Trump might be a Russian puppet, ending with "Vladimir Putin's smile every time he sees Trump. I mean, look at that: That's the smile Putin gives when someone says, 'We have captured James Bond.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

January 10, 2019

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort inadvertently revealed in a court filing unsealed Tuesday that in 2016, he'd sent internal polling data to a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, "providing the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign tried to coordinate with Russians," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Prior to this, the clearest evidence was ... everything else." Manafort's legal team revealed this by accident, he added. "His lawyers are terrible! How did Trump not hire them?"

Colbert took some liberties with how Manafort's team messed up redacting the PDF: "They thought they blacked out all the text — turns out they just did it directly onto the screen," with a Sharpie. And he was less-than-sympathetic to Manafort's excuse.

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah was at least sympathetic to the technical difficulties that befell the Manafort legal team — up to a point. "Two things: In his defense, I don't know if you guys have ever tried to edit a PDF, that sh-t is hard," he said on Tuesday's show. "And then the other thing, I was like: But Paul Manafort, you should know how to edit or redact a PDF. Like, you were colluding with Russia, surely you could figure out how to collude with Kinkos." He went on to muse about how "the greatest criminals who pulled of the greatest 'crime,' in a way, are also the dumbest criminals of all time," and Donald Trump Jr. made a cameo. Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads