On Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver used his own small platform (big enough, apparently, to crash the FCC website) to utterly humiliate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Oliver started out by noting that Assad, "half a mass murderer and half your creepy sophomore year roommate," had a trove of his emails leak last year, including insights into his musical taste. One of the songs Assad downloaded was from the 1990s one-hit wonder Right Said Fred.
Oliver didn't say which song Assad downloaded from iTunes, but it's a safe bet it was that one hit, "I'm Too Sexy." "It's so frustrating that we're powerless to do anything to hurt him," Oliver said of Assad. Then he hit on an idea. "I guess we could take something he loves and turn it against him...." If you don't see where this is heading, or if you do, watch below to see how a professional comedian with an expense account burns a brutal dictator. There is, as always, mildly profane language. --Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert, just back from a trip to Moscow, apologizes to Trump over Russia's election hacking
Stephen Colbert was in Russia last week, he revealed on Monday's Late Show.
His audience may not have been aware of his travels, but "you know who did know I was in Russia?" Colbert asked. "Russian intelligence — hard-core fans, evidently, followed me everywhere." He explained that he and his crew returned from Moscow Sunday night, that he was still on Russian time, and that he would show some of the several segments he shot there in coming weeks.
"But while Russia was fascinating, it is sincerely wonderful to be back in America," Colbert said. "Let's see what everybody's talking about here. Oh that's right, Russia." He walked through the big Washington Post report that former President Barack Obama knew about Russia's specific plot to tip the election to Trump back in August, but eventually did little to stop it. "President Trump is a well-known Russia-hacked-the-election denier," Colbert said, showing video evidence. So he appeared surprised that Trump went all-in on the idea that Obama did nothing to prevent Russia hacking the election in his favor.
Colbert adopted his Trump-tweet voice and paraphrased: "That's right, there was no Russian hacking, period. #FakeNews. Wait, it was Obama's fault? Russia stole our election and Obama let it happen! Thanks, Obama. No, seriously, thanks, Obama. I'm president now. Thanks!" He read the rest of Trump's tweetstorm, stopping to marvel at Trump's new self-adopted nickname, and his chutzpah. "Hold on, nobody is accusing Obama of 'colluding or obstructing,'" Colbert noted. "That's your deal." Trump also demanded an apology over the Russian hacking, and Colbert agreed: "Look, I'm a big enough man to apologize. And I think I speak for the majority of Americans when I say, 'I'm sorry you're president.'"
Colbert ended his monlogue by noting that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is no longer letting his press briefings be recorded. "Evidently, while I was in Russia, we turned into Russia," he said. Watch below. Peter Weber
Late Monday, Brazil's chief prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, filed charges accusing embattled President Michel Temer of corruption for allegedly taking a $152,000 bribe, with the promise of $11 million more, from meatpacking magnate Joesley Batista. The charges will likely be weighed by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, where a two-thirds majority would be needed to suspend Temer for up to 180 days while he was put on trial. Temer, who replaced President Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached, is expected to get enough support in the lower house to avoid suspension, though Janot is believed to be preparing further charges, to be filed one at a time, requiring votes on each charge. Brazil has no vice president right now, and if Temer is suspended, House Speaker Rodrigo Maia would take over.
Temer is unpopular — a poll last week found his approval number at a historically low 7 percent, with 76 percent saying he should resign — and members of Congress face elections next year. Temer denies the bribery and other charges — including a taped conversation with Batista that reportedly captures him approving payments for the now-jailed former speaker of the lower house — and often notes that Batista got a generous plea bargain to cooperate with prosecutors. This is the first time a sitting Brazilian president has been charged with a crime. Peter Weber
On Monday, the Pew Research Center released a survey on how 37 countries view the United States under President Trump, and overall, the numbers are pretty eye-opening. In the six months since former President Barack Obama left office and Trump was sworn in, favorable views of the U.S. have dropped from 64 percent to 49 percent, while unfavorable views rose from 26 percent to 39 percent. It look former President George W. Bush eight years to get numbers that bad, especially in Western Europe, Pew said, but under Trump, the change has been almost immediate.
But the drop in American esteem wasn't universal. In two of the 37 countries, people have more confidence in Trump to do the right thing than they did Obama, Pew found, and the shift is way more dramatic in Russia than Israel.
The other bright spot for Trump in the poll is that a 55 percent majority of people in the 37 countries view him as a "strong leader" — below the number who view him as "arrogant" (75 percent), "intolerant" (65 percent), and "dangerous" (62 percent), and above the percentage who see him as "charismatic" (39 percent), "well-qualified to be president" (26 percent), and "caring about ordinary people" (23 percent). Broad majorities disagree with all his main policies except withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal (which Trump has not done yet), where 49 percent disapprove of that idea and 34 percent support it.
Foreign views of America matter because they determine how foreign leaders engage with U.S. interests, former diplomat Frank Wisner tells The Washington Post, and Trump's dismissal of traditional U.S. principles has already left a mark. "America's image has taken hits in recent years, from the decision to invade Iraq to the events of 2007 and 2008, when the American financial model took a huge hit," he said. "But the most consequential is the ascent of Mr. Trump to the Oval Office."
Pew conducted its surveys from February to May, and the margin of sampling error varies between countries from ±3.2 percentage points to ±5.7 points. You can read more about the world's views of Trump's America at Pew. Peter Weber
The Senate Republicans' health-care plan is "almost comically villainous," Seth Meyers said Monday night, with its tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by gutting Medicaid.
"The only way this bill could be more cartoonishly evil is if it mandated tying damsels in distress to railroad tracks," he said on Late Night. On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office release its report projecting that the GOP plan would leave 22 million more people uninsured over the next 10 years, and that's "savage," Meyers said, and precisely why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) kept the bill under wraps until last Thursday, pushing for a vote sometime this week. "This bill is like a Slipknot tramp stamp," Meyers said. "You definitely want to hide it, and the people who've seen it are terrible people." Watch the video below for more on the CBO score, and how former President Barack Obama sneakily trolled President Trump. Catherine Garcia
The White House appeared to draw a new red line on Syria Monday night, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer warning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been caught making "potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack" that "would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children," and if he "conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price." The rest of the government, including the military, appears to have been caught off guard by the announcement.
Five U.S. defense officials "said they did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from, and were unaware the White House was planning to release its statement," BuzzFeed News reports. "Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn't appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon, and U.S. intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals."
Various agencies and departments referred reporters to the White House for comment. It's "unclear how closely held the intelligence regarding a potential chemical attack was," The New York Times notes, after similarly reporting that "several military officials were caught off guard by the statement" from Spicer. "While the White House's motivation in releasing the highly unusual statement is uncertain, it is possible that Mr. Trump or his advisers decided a public warning to Mr. Assad might deter another chemical strike," the Times suggests, adding that the president has "absolute power to declassify anything he chooses to release," including intelligence on chemical weapons.
At least one Trump administration official appeared unfazed by the statement:
Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) June 27, 2017
After U.S. intelligence pointed the finger at Assad for an April 4 chemical weapon attack on Syrian civilian, Trump ordered 59 missiles fired at an Assad air base; Russian blamed the anti-Assad opposition, claiming Syrian warplanes had hit rebel stockpiles. Last week, the U.S. shot down a Syrian government warplane after it targeted U.S. allies fighting the Islamic State. Peter Weber
On July 7, the state of California will add glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup weed killer, to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer, but the maker of the product, Monsanto, is vowing to fight it out in court.
When a chemical is listed as being a known carcinogen, companies selling the product in California must add warning labels to their packaging. Monsanto has filed an appeal, saying the chemical doesn't cause cancer and labels would harm business, The Associated Press reports. "This is not the final step in the process," Monsanto Vice President of Global Strategy Scott Partridge said. "We will continue to aggressively challenge this improper decision."
The chemical is sprayed on 250 types of crops in California, and has no color or smell. Catherine Garcia
David Jolly won a special House election in Florida in 2014 as a staunch critic of the Affordable Care Act, but then lost his seat to Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) in November. On Monday night, he told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell that when he was unexpectedly unemployed in January, with a pre-existing condition, he realized that he was glad ObamaCare was the law of the land.
"While I ultimately chose a private-sector plan, I also knew in 2017, ObamaCare provided an exchange that was a safety net that wasn't there before," he said. "And that's why the politics of ObamaCare in 2017 are different than in 2013. I lost my doctor and I lost my plan in 2013, and I was angry about ObamaCare, and I ran for Congress. But in 2017, as an unemployed person with a pre-existing condition, I knew ObamaCare was there as a safety net if me and my wife needed it."
— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) June 27, 2017
Jolly apparently isn't alone in his newfound appreciation, if not love, for the 2010 law. In its latest ObamaCare tracking poll, released Friday, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 51 percent of U.S. adults had a favorable opinion of the law, "the first month that favorability has tipped over the 50 percent mark since Kaiser Family Foundation began tracking attitudes on the law in 2010," while the GOP replacement plan has become increasingly unpopular, with 55 percent disapproving versus 30 percent who approve. Senate GOP leaders hope to pass their replacement plan as early as this week, after the House GOP passed its version in May.
Also on MSNBC Monday night, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt and host Chris Hayes puzzled over why Republicans are not making a public case for their ObamaCare replacement bill, with the Senate version written behind closed doors before its rush toward a floor vote. Watch below. Peter Weber