Late Night Tackles Trump versus Mueller
March 8, 2019

"Today has been a rough one for those close to the president," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, and he was mostly talking about Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair. "Earlier today, a federal judge sentenced Manafort to 47 months in prison," he said. "Not quite four years, but with good behavior, he is incapable of good behavior. The 47 months Manafort got is a shockingly lenient sentence, considering the sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of 19 1/2 to 24 years."

Manafort's lawyers "claimed the sentencing guidelines were unfair since he was a first-time offender," Colbert said. "But prosecutors pointed out that for over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law. He wasn't so much a first-time 'offender' as a first-time 'getting-caught-er.'" Manafort may get out early if he's "a smooth-talker" with the parole board, he noted, playing a clip of Manafort and quickly ruling that out.

In any case, Manafort isn't in the clear — next week, a second federal judge will sentence him for witness tampering and money laundering, Colbert said. "You know you're in trouble when the only time you get out of jail is to go get sentenced to more jail."

Colbert turned to the question of whether Michael Cohen lied about asking Trump for a pardon, and if so, which Michael Cohen asked for the pardon. Trump insisted on Twitter that despite Cohen's guilty plea, he himself did not violate campaign finance laws, because he said so. One Republican senator tried the slightly more effective Trump-loves-his-family defense, Colbert said. "Yes, while Trump was being spanked with a copy of Forbes magazine by a porn star, he was thinking of his family. And I believe that because they are on the cover of that magazine." Watch below. Peter Weber

February 21, 2019

Special Counsel "Robert Mueller's report may be delivered as early as next week," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. Among the many unknowns are what kind of "summary" Attorney General William Barr will give Congress, and what, if anything, the public will ever know of Mueller's findings. "We might just get the book report version," he said, stiffly reciting: "The Mueller report was a report written by Robert Mueller. It had many pages and was full of information regarding his report. I found the main character of the president to be cartoonish and unbelievable. And the well represents God."

President Trump would prefer we just don't talk about the Russia investigation, or any of the investigations involving him, as The New York Times tallied on Wednesday, Colbert said. Most of the instances of Trump trying to quash investigations are already public knowledge, and all of them are troubling.

"It's all lies — all of it," Colbert said. "The president attacking his Justice Department, trusting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin over his own intelligence community, calling the FBI a bunch of corrupt deep-state coup-plotters is not normal. It is strange. It's like how Jack in the Box sells tacos for some reason. It may not be illegal but it certainly violates something sacred." The Times had one new revelation, though, and it's quite a doozy.

Yes, "President Trump may have committed obstruction of justice," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "And you're probably thinking, 'Uh, is this a rerun of The Daily Show?' No, it's just that Trump keeps doing the same s--t over and over again. It's like that Netflix show Russian Doll, only with way more Russians." The allegation is that "Trump asked [acting Attorney General] Matt Whitaker to interfere in the Michael Cohen investigation, which is highly unethical," he explained. "Basically right now we're at the point where Trump may be obstructing justice into his obstruction of justice case." Watch below. Peter Weber

December 19, 2018

"I tell you, I'm beginning to think Donald Trump destroys everyone he touches," Stephen Colbert mused on Tuesday's Late Show. "He is like the King Midas of crap," and "the latest Trump aide to hit the fan" is former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn was in court Tuesday to be sentenced for lying to the FBI, and President Trump "was on the sidelines, cheering him on," Colbert said, reading the relevant tweet, which he suggested amounted to "witness tampering in real time."

Flynn's lawyers argued last week that the FBI tricked him into lying by not telling him lying to the FBI is a crime, and the judge at the sentencing hearing, Emmet Sullivan, asked why he pleaded guilty, then. "Over and over, the judge asks Flynn, Do you really want to do this?" Colbert paraphrased. "He's like a tattoo artist at 2 a.m. with a drunk customer who keeps saying, 'No, I'm sure I want my whole back covered with a picture of Tweety Bird puking on Calvin.'" Judge Sullivan was less understanding when it came to Flynn's lobbying work for Turkey, and he told him so in no uncertain terms.

"Probably not a great sign when you're not charged with treason but the judge really wants to know why not," Colbert reasoned. After hinting at treasonous actions, Sullivan asked Flynn if he wanted to postpone his sentencing so he could try to lessen his punishment by cooperating more with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "That's a tough call — that's like choosing between apples and decades in prison," Colbert explained. (Flynn chose the apples.) He ended with Trump's baffling personal war on Christmas, a holiday he reportedly doesn't like because it's not about him: "How self-obsessed can you get? I'd say he's Scrooge, but Trump would probably enjoy a visit from those ghosts." Watch below. Peter Weber

December 11, 2018

President Trump got into a public feud with his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and he's shaking up his White House, and Seth Meyers saw a bit of look-over-there misdirection in Trump's antics. As Tillerson explained, "Trump is fundamentally lawless — not only does he think he's above the law, he doesn't even understand the law," Meyers said on Monday's Late Night, and we just "got the clearest picture yet of his serial lawbreaking."

On Friday, federal prosecutors "made it pretty clear that the Justice Department has damning evidence on Trump's ties to Russia" and also "spelled out as clearly as possible in this document that they believe the president of the United States committed a crime by paying hush money to cover up affairs," Meyers said. Trump, who claimed total vindication, also acknowledged he hasn't read the documents. "Every day there are new revelations that seem to fade away, but this feels like a watershed," he said. "The Justice Department just called the president of the United States a criminal."

"That's right, the president has been implicated in multiple felonies — let that sink in," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "And just to be clear, this isn't even the collusion-with-Russia thing, or the obstruction-of-justice thing. We haven't even gotten to those yet. These felonies are about Trump paying hush money to his mistresses."

"It's pretty clear by now, Trump is in some deep sh-t — and he has to know it's getting serious because people on TV are saying so," Noah said. "That's right, things are so serious that people are talking about President Trump going to prison. And I know many people might want to see Trump in prison, but not me, okay? I do not want to see Trump go to prison — mostly because if you put Trump in a prison jumpsuit, it'll just look like he's naked. And why should we be punished for his crimes?" Watch below. Peter Weber

December 6, 2018

Late Tuesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a sentencing memo for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and significant parts of it were redacted. On Wednesday, The Late Show was inspired by Mueller's understatement to debut a new line of Mueller Christmas cards.

In his memo, Mueller noted Flynn's "substantial" help in the Russian collusion investigation and recommended little or no jail time. "My my!" said Stephen Colbert. "He must have given them something really good — if by really good you mean really bad." He speculated on what types of "firsthand" information and documents about the Trump team's contacts with Russian government officials Flynn might have handed over, perhaps including "a note from Trump to Putin: 'Will you collude with me? Check one: Yes or no.'"

"Of course, not everyone thinks Flynn's sentencing recommendation looks damning," Colbert said, playing clips of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) telling Fox News he thinks the memo is "good news for President Trump" and Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy making a similar argument, getting pushback from co-host Brian Kilmeade. "What does Doocy think is under all those black bars? Just nipples?" Colbert asked. And Rudy Giuliani's "SPECIAL WHATEVER" reaction? "I think Giuliani has entered his mean-girl phase," Colbert said. He went on to mock Giuliani, Trump's 74-year-old cybersecurity adviser, for mistaking a hyperlink he inadvertently created for an invasion of his Twitter feed.

"Now I'm not saying Flynn flipped on Trump, but today he and Mueller bought matching Christmas pajamas," Jimmy Fallon joked on The Tonight Show. "Last week we learned about Michael Cohen flipping on Trump, now it's Michael Flynn, today Trump was like, 'That's it, deport everyone named Michael.'" He also had some jokes about the memo's heavy redaction — "Trump was like, 'Did he try to highlight using a Sharpie, because I do that all the time. It doesn't work.'" — and some quips about Roger Stone. Watch below. Peter Weber

December 6, 2018

"It's been an exciting couple of weeks for those of us following the Mueller investigation," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. On Tuesday night, she said, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's sentencing memo for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn dropped, "fetchingly dressed in horizontal stripes, and about two weeks ago," notably, President Trump finally handed Mueller his written testimony on Russian collaboration and "Mueller's team tossed Paul Manafort in the trash like a picked-over turkey carcass."

There's speculation that Mueller wanted Manafort and Trump to coordinate their lies so he could nab both of them, and "if it is what happened, it is absolutely allowed," Bee said. "Despite what you may have heard on Fox News, Mueller does not have to save Trump from incriminating himself."

"We don't know if any of this will come back on Trump in the end, but at least a few more of the people who surround him will go to jail," Bee said. She focused on Roger Stone. "One Trump associate after another is turning out to be in deep, deep trouble," she said, "so this holiday season, as the Trumps gather round the blood tree, Trump will probably be a little afraid that it will be his last Christmas in the White House. Mueller Christmas, everyone."

Late Night's Seth Meyers reminded everyone how Team Trump got here. "So their story went from 'There was no contact' to 'There was no collusion with Russians' to 'We tried to collude, but nothing came of it.' But then, as one Trump associate after another was indicted or plead guilty, the Trump team changed their story again," to "collusion is not a crime," he said. "In order to believe Trump and everyone around him are innocent, you'd have to believe they've been lying for two years because they did nothing wrong," and it's now clear that "Mueller knows they lied and he can prove they lied." Watch below. Peter Weber

November 30, 2018

Stephen Colbert kicked off Thursday's Late Show with a Beatles reference. "I read the news today, oh boy!" he said. "Because Robert Mueller is getting closer and closer to his prey. It's a true game of cat and large, slow-moving man," and the star of the show on Thursday was Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump's Russian business dealings, Colbert said, a "serious offense" that could send him to jail "or to the Supreme Court."

The lie Cohen admitted to was about negotiating a Trump Tower Moscow deal until right before the 2016 Republican National Convention, not up to January 2016, as he had told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Why would Cohen lie about that?" Colbert asked. "Well, he didn't want people to think Trump was in bed with the Russians, because nobody wants to be in that Russian bed." ("It's got pee-pee in it," he added.) Trump tried to explain at great lengths why there was nothing wrong with negotiating to build a lucrative tower in the capital of America's nuclear-armed adversary while clinching his party's nomination for president, and Colbert mostly just let him talk. And talk.

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah compared Trump's rambling explanation to a choose-your-own-adventure book, and Trump eventually landed on the real question: "Why deal with Russia at all while you're running for president of the United States? Why not just avoid the conflict all together?" And Trump's answer — "he also thought that he would lose" — was actually very persuasive, Noah said. "I would have told him to do the same thing," to expand his business because there's no way he was going to win. "But still, man, you have to see how shady this is," he added. "No president in modern history has run for office while also working a side hustle." Watch below. Peter Weber

November 29, 2018

"I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving while we were off," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Of course, now we kick off a very special season — we're all waiting for that magical man to check his naughty-and-nice list, because Mueller Claus is coming to town!" He sang that last part, and continued in song for a bit. "It appears the Russia investigation is heading into high gear," he said, starting his recap with Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman whose plea deal with Special Counsel Mueller was axed Monday because Manafort allegedly kept lying to investigators.

So Manfort is now in much deeper trouble. "This can mean only one of two things: One, he's afraid to rat on the Russians 'cause he has a lifelong dream of continuing to live — yes, he's got this bucket list of not ending up in a series of buckets," Colbert joked, darkly. Or "he's expecting Trump to pardon him." Trump hasn't already pardoned him because "while Manafort was pretending to cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation, this whole time he was also feeding information" to Trump's lawyers, he suggested. "So the fix was in, baby. It was the long con; you do this, you get a pardon; one tiny hand washes another."

"And Manafort really needs that pardon now more than ever," Colbert said, pointing to a report in The Guardian that Manafort secretly met with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange several times, including in March 2016, right before he joined the Trump campaign. "If this is true, that means the world's palest man met the world's shadiest man," he joked. It would also mean there's a direct link between Trump's campaign and the disseminator of Russian-pilfered Democratic emails. "Okay, that looks bad, but only because it is very bad," Colbert said, ending with equally damning emails about WikiLeaks between Trump adviser Roger Stone and birther Jerome Corsi. Watch below. Peter Weber

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