×
July 20, 2018

President Trump surprised everyone — his own director of national intelligence included — on Thursday by seemingly inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington. This sent Stephen Colbert into a conniption fit on Thursday's Late Show.

"It is hard to imagine you could be this shocked every day by the Trump administration," Colbert said. "I mean, freshly shocked!" Americans were horrified by Trump's Monday meeting in Helsinki with Putin, Colbert said, and since then, people within the administration have been "trying to put distance between Trump and Putin." But then the president had to sabotage those efforts with a tweet (what else?), suggesting he and Putin were arranging a second meeting. That made Colbert spit out his coffee.

"Second meeting. Second meeting?!" Colbert gasped. "Because the first one went so well! ... Nothing could have gone worse than your meeting in Helsinki!" So what's Trump thinking? Colbert says one thing's for sure: Trump is in Putin's pocket. "The reason remains, why? There's only two possible answers: Either Putin has something on him, or he's an idiot." Either way, somebody has to break it to Trump that Putin doesn't have his interests at heart, so Colbert staged a tearful intervention. Watch below — but beware, there's some NSFW language. Jessica Hullinger

5:52a.m.

The presumed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudis is probably the big story of the week, Stephen Colbert told MSNBC Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Thursday's Late Show. "What do you make of the president's response so far?" "Pathetic," said Brzezinski. "A complete embarrassment," Scarborough concurred. "We now are basically selling out our interests nationwide, our values, and who we are as a nation, for money."

"Listen, we need nothing from Saudi Arabia," Scarborough said, not their money, not their oil. "These people took a Washington Post columnist, a Virginia resident who has two American children, and sawed him up while he was alive for criticizing a Saudi leader in The Washington Post." The U.S. has aligned itself with some problematic regimes, and "we had to turn a blind eye to some things that we shouldn't have turned a blind eye to. It always catches up to us in the end," Scarborough said. "We can do better," and that requires voting. Regardless of your party affiliation, he argued, "you have to agree that Donald Trump needs to be checked."

Colbert switched to a different election. Scarborough and Brzezinski listed Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as "reasonable" Democratic hopefuls for 2020, and when Colbert asked if any Republican will primary Trump, Scarborough said yes they would, but the won't have to. "I don't think Donald Trump's going to run for re-election," he predicted. "He's gonna cash out."

"I think that would be a smart thing for him to do," Colbert said, seriously, but "I don't want it to happen" because "it's important that the voters of America have an opportunity to say, 'Oops, my bad, we made a mistake there,' and correct themselves, and if Donald Trump doesn't run, he takes away that corrective action of history and therefore his presidency is whole and unjudged." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:22a.m.

Stephen Colbert spent a good two minutes discussing the new self-lubricating condoms on Thursday's Late Show before gracefully pivoting to the latest development with white supremacy. "White supremacists are chugging milk because they want to draw attention to a genetic trait known to be more common in white people than others — the ability to digest lactose as adults," he explained. "Because for white supremacists, lactose is their only form of tolerance."

"Now, I know what you're saying — you're saying, 'Stephen, no one is stupid enough to be proud of drinking milk,'" Colbert said, but the pictures don't lie. And yes, he had pictures. "Pretty exciting stuff, but please move over milk, because toxic masculinity has a new favorite drink, and it's grape juice," he said, drawing attention to Welch's new ad campaign. "That's right: Men! Grape juice is no longer just a reward for kids sitting through a religious ceremony," Colbert joked. "Well, Welch's isn't the only company looking to seem more macho. We also got a sneak peek at an ad campaign for another childhood favorite that just got manned up." The fake ad features a very manly Scott Adsit (30 Rock).

The Late Show also circled back to Colbert's mincing of televangelst Pat Robertson for saying one grisly murder by the Saudi government isn't worth blowing up lucrative American arms sales. And you can watch that update of The Ten Commandments below. Peter Weber

3:40a.m.

President Trump has landed on a familiar theme to try to rev up Republican enthusiasm heading into the final stretch of the 2018 campaign: Immigration. And specifically, Latin Americans crossing illegally into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigration was in many ways the animating force of Trump's 2016 campaign, and while Republicans point to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation battle as a boost to GOP energy, "the president realizes he needs to keep that momentum going," GOP strategist Matt Moore tells The Wall Street Journal. "Illegal immigration animates the Republican Party base like few other issues."

But, the Journal notes, "Democrats say the focus on immigration is backfiring by motivating progressives and independent voters," and the poll numbers, so far, are on their side. Trump's hardline immigration policies, including the separation of migrant families, are broadly unpopular, but they poll well among Republicans. "Despite Mr. Trump's focus on the issue, it is barely registering in political advertising by GOP candidates," the Journal reports. "Less than 11 percent of all ads in Senate, House, and governor races through Tuesday had an anti-immigration message, according to Kantar Media/CMAG."

Notably, the focus on Trump's immigration policies may hurt Republicans in the suburban House districts they need to win to keep control of Congress. Trump "clearly views it as one of the reasons for his political success," says GOP pollster David Winston. "But it's still all about the economy and jobs." You can read more immigration politics and the midterms at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

2:52a.m.

In a particularly pungent case of victim-blaming, "hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist's alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia — and support Trump's continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom," The Washington Post reports, citing four GOP officials involved in the discussions.

The campaign includes "a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump" who in recent days have been "privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi," a Post columnist and Saudi government critic, the Post says. Still, the murmurs have begun to "flare into public view" as conservative media organizations and personalities — Rush Limbaugh, Front Page, Donald Trump Jr., and a sanitized version on Fox News, to name a few — "have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part at protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights."

The main lines of attack — pushed by pro-Saudi accounts on Twitter — focus on and distort Khashoggi's association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his young and interactions as a journalist with late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and '90s. "The GOP officials declined to share the names of the lawmakers and others who are circulating information critical of Khashoggi," the Post explains, "because they said doing so would risk exposing them as sources." It's a good bet Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is not among them.

According to Turkey, Khashoggi was tortured, murdered, and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "Trump wants to take a soft line, so Trump supporters are finding excuses for him to take it," Weekly Standard editor William Kristol tells the Post. "One of those excuses is attacking the person who was murdered." Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

1:58a.m.

Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths, and Rishab Jain, 13, has invented a treatment that could change that.

The Oregon resident won the Young Scientist Challenge with his invention, an algorithm that uses artificial intelligence to locate and track the pancreas in real time, Inside Edition reports. It can be difficult to spot the pancreas during radiation treatment, as it can be hidden behind the stomach or other organs, and that often leads to healthy cells accidentally being hit by radiation.

Jain's algorithm not only improves the accuracy but also increases the impact of the radiation treatment, Young Scientist Challenger organizers said. He only started working on the project last year, when he discovered how lethal pancreatic cancer can be. "At the same time, I was also doing artificial intelligence programming, so I wondered if I could combine my knowledge in both areas," he told Inside Edition. In addition to being named the winner of the contest, Jain received a check for $25,000. Catherine Garcia

1:32a.m.

On the East Coast this weekend, witches will gather to put a hex on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, while on the West Coast, a Catholic exorcist will hold a Mass for him as a way of blocking this "conjuring of evil."

The hexing will take place Saturday at Catland Books in Brooklyn, and while the online invitation states that Kavanaugh will be "the focal point," he is not "the only target, so bring your rage and all of the axes you've got to grind." Kavanaugh has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault, allegations he has denied. Event organizer Dakota Bracciale told Time that the hexing is being held as a way of "raising visibility and letting people know they're not alone with the monsters. Even the witches are coming out of the woodwork to stop this." This isn't the first hexing to take place at Catland, either — over the summer, three events were held to hex President Trump.

Fr. Gary Thomas, exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose in California, told The National Catholic Register that he is "appalled," arguing that "conjuring up personified evil does not fall under free speech." He will offer Mass for Kavanaugh, who is Catholic, and is urging others to pray and fast. "The decision to do this against a Supreme Court justice is a heinous act and says a lot about the character of these people that should not be underestimated or dismissed," he said. Catherine Garcia

1:27a.m.

Stephen Colbert kicked off Thursday's Late Show with a family-friendly joke about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's reported post-election report on President Trump and Russia, and Sting's tantric ... prowess — followed by a Gen-X-friendly joke about Ferris Bueller's Day Off. "Of course the big story continues to be Donald Trump reacting to the likely murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with a firm ¯\_(ツ)_/¯," Colbert said. Trump has been exercising "an uncharacteristic amount of caution" in rendering a verdict on what happened to Khashoggi and whether the Saudi government is culpable, but on Thursday, the president "gave his hot take on the journalist's fate": "It certainly looks" like Khasoggi is dead, and "it's very said."

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo want everyone to cool their heels until the Saudis finish their investigation, "and Saudi Arabia is really making headway with their 'investigation,' because today, one of the 15 alleged Saudi killers died in a car accident in Riyadh," Colbert said. "One down. Right now in Riyadh there are 14 other guys saying, 'It's a nice day, I think I'm gonna walk.''

"Trump's getting some criticism for his bold soft-on-murder stance, but some people still have his back," Colbert said, showing a clip of televangelist Pat Robertson "downplaying Khashoggi's murder and prioritizing the financial benefit of siding with Saudi Arabia," notably when it comes to arms sales. "Thank you, reverend, thank you for capturing the core message of Christianity: How important can one man's death be?" Colbert deadpanned.

He ended with the profanity-filled shouting match outside the Oval Office between "the White House's own Statler and Waldorf," Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton. (The similarity really is striking.) Colbert counseled a truce: "Fellas, fellas, don't fight, you're both terrible." Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads