×
Late Night Tackles the Trump Administration
2:46 a.m.

"Everyone can breathe easy," Stephen Colbert joked on Wednesday's Late Show. Because President Trump has finally replaced John Bolton in the critical role of "future former national security adviser."

Trump announced that he has selected State Department hostage negotiator Robert O'Brien in Los Angeles, "which explains why the guy looks like the second male lead on Suits," Colbert said. "So that's interesting — he hired a hostage negotiator, someone who is known to talk madmen down from the brink. That will come in handy."

Still, "hostage negotiator doesn't seem like a natural résumé for national security adviser, so what possibly brought him to Trump's attention at this critical juncture?" Colbert asked. First, "Trump sent him as a special envoy to A$AP Rocky's Swedish assault trial. I did not realize that A$AP Rocky was being held hostage! What was Sweden asking for in return? Mamma Mia 3?" And also, as Trump himself noted yesterday, O'Brien once called him "the greatest hostage negotiator in history," Colbert noted. "Oh, I would love to see Hostage Negotiator Trump."

But Colbert was essentially right about O'Brien's selling points. Trump had "narrowed his shortlist for the post to Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg and O'Brien, but the envoy's high-profile work to help free A$AP Rocky ... was a key factor in Trump's decision to name him to the post," Yahoo News reports — though "family members of American hostages," The Washington Post adds, "were furious when O'Brien spent a week in Sweden monitoring the trial" when he could have been working to free actual hostages.

O'Brien also published a book in 2016 criticizing former President Barack Obama's foreign policy as weak, and he has heaped praise on Trump during televised hostage-release ceremonies. "His physical appearance did not hurt, either," The New York Times reports. "Whereas Mr. Trump was known to grouse about Mr. Bolton's famous bushy mustache, the president has been taken with Mr. O'Brien's well-tailored looks and easy demeanor, and thinks he 'looks the part,' as one person close to the president said." Peter Weber

September 12, 2019

The details of John Bolton's last days as President Trump's third national security adviser are fuzzy, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, "so this afternoon, Donald Trump called reporters into the Oval Office set the record straight."

"Right off the bat," Colbert said, "Trump made it clear that he was no fan of John Bolton," dismissing him as a "tough guy" who pushed American into Iraq and also revealing "that he was mad at Bolton for angering one of Trump's closest advisers, Kim Jong Un." Still, Trump "made one not-bad announcement," too, that the FDA is banning flavored e-cigarettes — though when crediting first lady Melania Trump for the policy, Trump had an odd slip about their son, Barron.

"She's got a son — ehm, together?" Jimmy Kimmel repeated on Kimmel Live, laughing. But Trump and his wife want to ban flavored e-cigarettes "to protect children from being harmed or killed — and I think that's good, I'm fine with that," he added. "Hey, you know what else harms and kills children? Assault rifles do. ... Maybe if the NRA starts flavoring those, you'll ban them, too."

Kimmel noted that Trump spent the morning of 9/11 rage-tweeting about the Fed and "fake" polls, before threatening the 9/11 perpetrators with a mysterious terrible weapon if they come back. "By the way, those terrorists he's warning not to come back, I wonder if they're the same ones he just invited over for s'mores at Camp David?" he asked. Kimmel played Trump slamming Bolton for being a warmonger, shrugging: "Sounds like a real dope. Who hired that guy? I mean, whoever did that must be an idiot."

"It was always terrifying knowing an extremist neocon like Bolton had the ear of an impressionable president who had no idea what he was doing and who took his advice from TV pundits," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. Along with "insisting that he was tougher than Bolton" on Wednesday, Trump "also specifically and repeatedly went out of his way to criticize Bolton for his role in the Iraq War," among other blunders. "If you knew all that then, why did you hire him in the first place?" Meyers asked. "This is like firing someone for embezzlement when they had 'Embezzlement' under Special Skills on their résumé." Watch below. Peter Weber

September 11, 2019

"I have never been more grateful for the president's pettiness and stupidity," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, "because today he was stupidly petty enough to save us from a very smart warmonger," ousted National Security Adviser John Bolton. President Trump "goes through staffers like a high 17-year-old goes through Little Debbie Swiss Rolls," he said.

Even Bolton's departure was a mess, with Trump saying he'd fired him and Bolton insisting he'd resigned. Trump reportedly almost didn't hire Bolton because he didn't like his walrus-style mustache, Colbert said, but "ironically, while Bolton is leaving, his mustache is staying on as Stephen Miller's new hairpiece." Yes, there is a visual.

"No other president has lost as many Cabinet officials or senior advisers in their entire first term as Trump has in his first 30 months," Trevor Noah pointed out at The Daily Show. "It's a record, and now he's just running up the score." Bolton, whose bomb-everything foreign policy was too hawkish for Trump, is the third national security adviser Trump's ousted, another record. "Now, with Bolton gone, the question is who will be the next to leave? Nobody knows, but it was super weird today that when Trump fired Bolton, Melania tried to sneak out with him," Noah joked, showing the first lady with a walrus mustache. "She was like, 'Oh, no, so sad to be fired, I'm also going.'"

"Trump's approval rating has taken a tumble" to 38 percent, "and that was before we found out he invited the Taliban for dinner," Jimmy Kimmel said at Kimmel Live. "Trump, of course, lashed out at the polls, calling them 'fake' — everything he doesn't like is 'fake'; the only thing that's real to him is Twitter and Arby's. And as Trump's ratings keep dropping, so does the number of people who work for him." Kimmel ran through Bolton's sloppy ouster, Trump's North Carolina rally, and Donald Trump Jr.'s, stained, made-outside-American merch. Watch below. Peter Weber

June 14, 2019

President Trump just spent 30 hours with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, and "you're not going to believe this, he said some crazy stuff," Jimmy Kimmel said on Thursday's Kimmel Live. Notably, after two years of yelling "no collusion," Trump said he'd happily collude with a foreign government. "He's incredible, he honestly doesn't seem to know what collusion is," Kimmel said. "All he knows is he didn't do it, but he would do it! Because why not? Who cares what the guy he hired to be the head of the FBI thinks about it?"

"Today was one of the worst days, P.R.-wise, in quite some time for Team Trump, which makes me wonder about the timing of this announcement," Kimmel said, reading Trump's tweet about White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepping down at the end of June. "She's going home to be a professional skateboarder. That's true — or at least it's as true as everything she said while she was working at the White House." Not that she seems sad to leave, he said. When Trump gave her a public sendoff, she never looked "so happy before. She is literally Hucka-beaming with joy at the thought of leaving." Kimmel showed a short retrospective "to reflect and pay tribute to all the Hucka-B.S. she gave us" over her "two wonderful years" as press secretary.

Yes, "White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is quitting," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "And we know that this is true because she's denied it. But this news isn't that surprising because you realize she stopped giving press conferences months ago. So it's just quitting what she already wasn't doing. She's essentially quit being press secretary the same way Trump quit CrossFit."

"In a statement, Sanders said nothing, as usual," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "When reporters asked the president who his next press secretary would be, he was like, 'Twitter.'" Peter Weber

April 9, 2019

Before President Trump fired the head of the Secret Service on Monday, he reportedly mocked his appearance, calling him "Dumbo" behind his back. That's "super gangster," because "this is the person protecting your life," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. But the big news is Trump pushing out his Homeland Security secretary.

Yes, "Kirstjen Nielsen, the woman responsible for Trump's border enforcement, has been deported out of the White House," Noah said. And she's leaving the Trump administration "with her reputation in tatters. Remember, she was the face of the Trump administration's family separation policy, where kids were split from their parents and kept in cages. So basically, the only job she can get now is working for R. Kelly."

The crazy part is that "the 'kids in cages' woman" was apparently ousted "for being 'too nice,'" Noah said. "That's like firing a cat for not displaying its anus enough." He wasn't totally unsympathetic, though: "Trump would call her early in the morning just to yell about the border? Do you know how horrible that must have been? Think about it: We're all traumatized by Trump's tweets at 5 a.m. Now imagine if the tweets came into your bedroom every morning."

The Late Show had no sympathy for Nielsen, and showed it with a display of Nielsen-centric sympathy cards.

Stephen Colbert joked that Nielsen was probably "leaving to spend more time separating her family," adding that her exit is "not a total shock," because "reportedly, for weeks Nielsen has felt 'in limbo' — limbo is the right word here, because we've all been watching just how low she can go." Colbert may not have been sympathetic but he was a little surprised that Trump thought her a softie: "Sure, she puts kids in cages, but Trump was upset because Nielsen hasn't enacted stricter immigration rules. So, he just needs someone who can be crueler to children than Kirstjen Nielsen. Get ready for Secretary of Homeland Security Pennywise." Watch below. Peter Weber

April 3, 2019

Before the House Oversight Committee voted Tuesday to subpoena the White House for interviews and records pertaining to its security clearance practices, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) explained the importance of getting answers.

White House security clearance staffer Tricia Newbold told the committee that President Trump and his team approved security clearances for at least 25 officials deemed security risks, and Ocasio-Cortez also noted that Jared Kushner has reportedly communicated with world leaders via WhatsApp. "Every day that we go on without getting to the bottom of this matter is a day that we are putting hundreds if not potentially thousands of Americans at risk," AOC said. "I mean, really, what is next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs? This is ridiculous."

"Well, look at that, the Trump administration being careless with national secrets," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "When I heard this story first, I thought it's actually great that everyone in the White House is getting a security clearance," so they can know if Trump is just making stuff up, he said. "Because Trump might say he got his intel from the CIA, but it could also be from a random tweet. He'd just be like, 'I've got top secret information that AOC stands for America On Cocaine — that's her plan, folks.'" The details changed his mind.

If anybody gifted a security clearance has "a criminal or an embarrassing secret, you could be blackmailed by a foreign government, and then you have to do whatever they say," Noah noted. Of course, "Trump and his people haven't been serious about national security from the beginning, right? Trump makes phone calls on an unsecured line. He's the same guy who told the Russians Israeli secrets that compromised anti-terror efforts. ... But overriding security clearances might be the worst transgression yet — which is probably why Trump lied about doing it."

"Maybe the worst part of this whole thing," though, is that the White House is retaliating against Newbold "like a bunch of middle school bullies," Noah said. Watch his solution below. Peter Weber

April 2, 2019

If you don't have your security clearance yet, "you should apply, because evidently [President] Trump is handing those things out like very suspicious candy," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. A White House whistleblower has told Congress that Trump's White House has overridden the security clearance denials of at least 25 officials. "Look, there's a reason you don't just give America's secrets to someone who was denied security clearance," he said. "Same reason if you go to buy a car, you check the Carfax: 'Huh, 2007 Nissan Sentra, 100,000 miles, and owes $10 million to Russian oligarchs. I don't think so.'"

"Career White House employee Tricia Newbold testified in Congress that the original denials were for a range of disqualifying issues, including foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct — which, fun fact, is also the motto on the bottom of the Trump family crest," Colbert joked. "It sounds classier in Latin."

There are at least "two current senior White House officials on the list, though their names were not disclosed, Colbert said, making a guess. "And now the House Oversight Committee's requesting security clearance documents on nine individuals," including vanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser John Bolton, who got a security clearance despite "his years of using his upper lip to smuggle exotic pets," he joked. You can watch that fetching graphic and learn about the retaliation Newbold has faced at work below. Peter Weber

December 13, 2018

President Trump "is still searching for a new chief of staff," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Like any job working for Trump it comes with dental, paid sick leave, and free government housing for five to 10 years." The White House said Tuesday that current Chief of Staff John Kelly will stay on through "at least Jan. 2" to ensure "a very peaceful and pragmatic transition." Colbert translated: "So they fired Kelly, can't find anybody else, make him stay to train his successor. It's like saying to your girlfriend, 'Hey, I'm breaking up with you, but I'm going to need you to stay on until at least prom to ensure a peaceful and pragmatic transition to Becky over there.'"

The president keeps getting turned down, like "a reverse Apprentice," but "Trump says he's flooded with résumés for the chief of staff job" and is considering 10-12 contenders, Colbert noted. One reason filling the job is so hard is that the candidate apparently has to meet the approval of Jared and Ivanka, "so congratulations to new Chief of Staff Mohammed bin Salman," he deadpanned. Trump told Reuters his chief of staff criteria, and Colbert suggested "he's really looking for his soul mate, him." He tried to decipher a cryptic quote from Trump about Hillary Clinton and money.

Trump also told Reuters that he's not worried about impeachment because "I think the people would revolt if that happened." Colbert found that plausible. "Yes, it's true: The people would take to the streets, vandalizing champagne bottles, grinning with rage, blocking traffic with their protest dancing. It would be absolute pandemonium." He demonstrated. Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads