How did Russia influence the 2016 U.S. election? "Let me see if I can explain Russia's complex, high-tech cyber techniques in layman's terms," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal: "They put crazy sh-t on Facebook, polluting our brains with disinformation until we all felt like Winona Ryder at the SAG awards." If that sounds too simplistic, it is and isn't. The operation was sophisticated enough to target individual voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, Bee said, sighing. "The Russian trolls had a better Midwest strategy than Hillary Clinton did." But the idea behind it isn't all that complicated.
And they had help. "One brain in particular was gobbling up Russian propaganda like it was a well-done steak drenched in delicious ketchup," Bee said. "Basically, Trump was Russia's Trojan Horse's ass, filling himself with Russian propaganda and then disgorging it, I assume unwittingly." But don't fire off a smug tweet about gullible conservatives" just yet, she told her viewers, because "Russia fooled the far left, too," efficaciously flooding Bernie Sanders fan pages with fake news about Clinton. "The fake stories were pushed to people who wanted to believe the system is rigged and Hillary is a criminal more than they wanted to check Snopes.com," she said. "But we're all guilty of thinking with our emotions," meaning we're all vulnerable.
"That's why it matters that Congress is taking foreign propaganda seriously, if a little late," Bee said. She played a clip of a retired FBI agent and Senate Intelligence Committee witness saying nobody had figured out the vote-swaying power of Russian trolls before the election, then took an unhappy victory lap, showing a clip from her own Oct. 31 show, where she not only highlighted the influence of the paid trolls but traveled to Russia and interviewed two of them. Russia called that fake news, claiming she'd hired the trolls, Bee noted, laughing, but "paid trolls are real, and when they're done interfering in the French and German elections, they'll have time to tell us how many children Susan Rice murdered with Cory Booker so POTUS can retweet it." Watch below. Peter Weber
President Trump is still bragging about his Electoral College win, in great detail, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Earlier today, Donald Trump addressed a group of builders' unions, and to prove that he was a builder, he spent a lot of the speech building up his ego." After spending a few minutes on that, and saluting a lonely Trump fan in his audience, Colbert turned to the hot story about Susan Rice, the "former national security adviser and person who thought she was done with this crap," and "unmasking."
Colbert took a stab at explaining the story. "You know how all the U.S. intelligence sources are saying that they intercepted conversations between foreign officials — for example, like the Russians — and members of the Trump campaign?" he asked. Well, according to reports, "Rice asked for those people's names to be 'unmasked.' You know what that means, I hope? Because no one really knows what that means."
"Republicans say that this means Trump was right when he claimed that Obama wiretapped him," Colbert said. "But here's what it also means: It also means intelligence agencies were eavesdropping on shady foreign officials, and incidentally picked up conversations they had with Americans. Would you like to know which Americans? The national security adviser did. So she asked to have their names unmasked." That appears to be completely legal.
But there's more. The national security adviser can only request the unmasking of names if it's necessary to understand the intelligence or if there's probable cause of criminal wrongdoing, Colbert said. "So Trump is going after Susan Rice by saying: 'My team wasn't talking to Russia. If they were, how come Susan Rice caught my team talking to Russia? There's your scandal!'" If that seems murky, Colbert tried to explain why Trump would think this vindicates him using a cartoon. "I think Trump got the idea that unmaskers are the real criminals from this classic episode of Scooby-Doo," he said. Watch below. Peter Weber
Nobody seems sure what is going on with President Trump and Russia, and that's "partly because it's really complicated," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. It's also because Trump has "really boring spies," he said. "So I'm going to liven it up right now by explaining the situation with more exciting spies, the Tom Clancy novels." This works out better than you might think.
Colbert spent a few minutes on the new Trump-Russia revelations, including Jared Kushner's previously undisclosed meeting with a sanctioned Russian bank in December. "And it looks like the pressure of these Russian rumors are getting to the administration," he said, a point he illustrated with Sean Spicer's quip about Trump and Russian dressing. "Wait a second, the president put Russian dressing on a salad tonight?" Colbert said. "That's huge news! Trump ate a salad?" Still, based on his Twitter feed, "Russia rumors must be getting to Trump, too."
Rumors aside, "what's the truth?" Colbert asked. "Was there nefarious collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, or is this all just being blown out of proportion by the liberal media over at The New York Times and the FBI? Who knows?" Not, he suggested, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who "doesn't seem all that focused on Russia, because he's spent a lot of time trying to validate Trump accusing Obama of wiretapping him a couple of weeks ago."
Nunes held a surprise press conference last week saying he'd seen evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies inadvertently picked up Trump team communications with foreign powers, but hasn't shared it with his committee members and says he'll never reveal his source. In fact, Colbert said, "the only person he has briefed on the subject is Donald Trump. Oh, that is brilliant detective work. You gather all the evidence you can on the prime suspect, and then you share it with him." The big questions are "what Nunes found out, and who leaked it to him," Colbert said. "And to get to the bottom of that, we're going to need The Late Show's Figure-It-Out-a-Tron." Think Glenn Beck's chalkboard, but naughtier. "He's really in Trump's inner circle," Colbert said, drawing complete. "And no matter where this investigation leads, no matter what we find out, one thing is true: Nunes is not coming out of this smelling like a rose." Watch below. Peter Weber
"Washington is a mess right now, but that's going to end soon," Stephen Colbert joked on Monday's Late Show. "Because the White House just announced that Trump's son-in-law and leader of the preppie camp across the lake, Jared Kushner, will oversee a broad effort to overhaul the federal government. And the government desperately needs overhaul; I mean, somebody keeps putting totally unqualified people in charge of really important stuff." He didn't name any names, exactly. "Kushner will become the head of something called the Office of American Innovation," Colbert said. "Vague, but still better than the original title, the Bureau of Obvious Nepotism."
Kushner's new office will aim to remake the government drawing from business ideas. "And you know he's got great business ideas, like being born into a wealthy real estate family, or marrying into a wealthy real estate family — why hasn't the government tried that?" Colbert asked. He was especially put off by Kushner's "bold vision for the office," that the government should be run as a "great American business," with the citizenry its customers: "Hold it a second. We're not customers, we're citizens, which means we own the store. You work for us, buddy."
Kushner already had a pretty full docket of responsibilities, "like managing the dispute with Mexico over Trump's border wall and brokering Middle East peace," Colbert said, but "Jared will still have time for his hobbies, like testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Well, not if he overhauls the government first — Business idea No. 1: No Senate." That brought Colbert to the other big story from last week: the FBI confirming that it's investigating the Trump campaign for possibly colluding with Russia during the election. "And you know it was a busy news week when I'm only getting to the treason at 11:58," he said.
Colbert played the footage of FBI Director James Comey publicly announcing that the Trump campaign is under active investigation, one that has been ongoing since at least last July, and he unloaded. "Wow, the FBI is investigating the president of the United States for colluding with a foreign power — that is historic," he said. "The only way it could possibly be more historic is if you told us before the f—ing election!" Watch below. Peter Weber
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers testified in public before the House Intelligence Committee on President Trump's possible ties to Russia, and it didn't go well for Trump. Comey publicly acknowledged, for example, that the FBI is investigating Trump's team and whether it colluded with Russia to sway the election. "That is a huge, huge deal, and yet only 60 days into this administration, you hear that and you're, like, meh," Meyers said. "At this point Melania would have to take Trump on a high-speed chase in a Ford Bronco for us to say, 'This is unexpected! This is a twist I didn't see coming!'"
The Republicans on the committee appeared underwhelmed, too, "eager to focus on literally anything else," Meyers noted. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), for example, asked Rogers if Russia had tampered with the vote tally in certain states, "an allegation no serious person has made or is concerned about at all," and Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) tried to use a "very confusing college football analogy" to question the FBI's belief that Russia wanted Trump to win, and failed. "There's nothing better than watching someone dumb it down with a sports analogy and then lose the thread of that dumb sports analogy," Meyers said.
The other big news from the hearing is that Comey swatted down the idea that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump, and Rogers said Britain's GCHQ didn't, either. "There you have it America," Meyers said, "you can either trust the head of the National Security Agency or the guy who thinks 'tap' is spelled with two Ps."
Meyers also rolled his eyes at Trump's ice-cold meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, and Trump's new suggestion that he will hold meetings at Mar-a-Lago because it's more convenient for everyone. "It's not convenient," Meyers said. "Everyone else works in Washington, D.C. You're the only one with a private club in Florida that you can get to via Air Force One." Trump has also adopted a new, worrisome nickname for that club, he added: "So why has he started calling it the Southern White House and stopped calling it the Winter White House? Because he's going to be there year-round, motherf—ers! Sorry, I'm sorry, I feel bad now. I shouldn't say that. I should say: He's gonna be there year-round, taxpayers!" Watch below. Peter Weber
"You know how there's all this smoke about the idea that Trump and his folks colluded with the Russians to influence the election, and the Trump people are, like, 'There's nothing to see here'?" Stephen Colbert asked on Thursday's Late Show. "Well, I spy with my little eye the attorney general of the United States." He walked through the problems Jeff Sessions now faces, from charges that he lied under oath to Congress to the substance of his misleading comments: meetings with the Russian ambassador.
Sessions partially bowed to pressure Thursday afternoon and announced he'd recuse himself from any Justice Department or FBI investigation of Trump's campaign and Russia, but Colbert wasn't overly impressed. "You called yourself a campaign surrogate, then you lied under oath that you never met with the Russians, so you don't have to recuse yourself," he said, "because you've already [censored] yourself."
The Sessions-Russia imbroglio wasn't the only thing going on in the Trump White House on Thursday, Colbert noted, shifting gears. "While his attorney general was going up in flames, Trump was down in Virginia addressing the military in Newport News — or as he calls it, 'Newport Fake News.'" He wasn't entirely sold on Trump's new military dress-up look, or his knowledge of the modern U.S. Navy, playing a clip of Trump talking about what it was like to be on the USS Gerald Ford. "Congratulations," Colbert said, "you've just described a boat."
Colbert kicked off Thursday's Late Show with a quick, more lighthearted jab at Sessions, set to nice Russian-sounding music. Watch below. Peter Weber
The revelations keep on rolling in about President Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, the latest being the kerfuffle about Attorney General Jeff Sessions meeting with Russia's ambassador at least twice, and being less than truthful with the Senate about it. Sessions volunteered under oath that he was a Trump surrogate and had not met with any Russians, Seth Meyers said on Thursday's Late Night. "That's like your wife asking, 'Do you think our son has a drug problem?' and you say, 'No! And I don't either!' It's suspicious."
"Obviously the timing of this latest bombshell was not good for the White House, as they were trying to enjoy the success of Trump's speech on Tuesday," Meyers said. But Trump's Russia problem keeps getting bigger. "Now look, there could certainly be legitimate reasons for Sessions to meet with the Russian ambassador," he said, "it's that he withheld that information from Congress that's a problem," exacerbated by the "cagey" responses from several other Trump campaign and administration officials about meetings with Russian officials. Trump himself has been cagey too, Meyers said, playing clips of his contradictory remarks about his relationship (or not) with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Look, we need a full and independent investigation to get to the bottom of this," Meyers said, wrapping up, "and it's clear that Jeff Sessions cannot provide that." Watch him lay out his case below. Peter Weber
On Thursday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert started off his monologue with President Obama's surprise farewell gift to Vice President Joe Biden, made a Franklin Pierce joke, then returned to the big story about the unsubstantiated dossier on President-elect Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia. He noted that since his riff on the dossier Wednesday, media reports have identified the British former MI6 agent who put it together, reportedly for Jeb Bush's presidential campaign.
"So a Brit spy named Steele — is he Remington Steele's cousin?" Colbert asked. He called Christopher Steele a "kind of on-the-nose name for a British agent," then disclosed that it's also the name of a gay porn star. "And now Christopher Steele is on the run," Colbert noted; reportedly "he was seen fleeing his home yesterday and asked a neighbor to take care of his cat. Oh, you gotta protect the cat, because Trump is known for grabbing the—" (You can probably provide the punch line.)
Colbert then turned to Trump's press conference on Wednesday, pointing to the pile of apparently blank sheets of paper Trump passed off as documents relinquishing control of his business. "Wow, that is a really big pile of... something," he said. "So it's all just political theater. The press conference even had a best supporting actress, Trump's lawyer, Sheri Dillon. And we know she's extremely qualified because — and this is true — her firm was the 2016 winner of the 'Russia Law Firm of the Year' award."
He ended on the Senate confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick for secretary of state. Tillerson, former ExxonMobil CEO, told the senators he did not recall doing business in Iran and Syria through a European subsidiary, and "reassured the committee that Exxon never lobbied against Iran sanctions," Colbert noted. When a senator held up copies of lobbying reports showing Exxon lobbying four different pieces of legislation on the Iran sanctions — "Oh, that lobbying, yeah, yeah — I thought you meant I was against buildings in Iran having lobbies!" Colbert joked — Tillerson asked if Exxon was lobbying for or against the sanctions. "Well, that's just what you want in a secretary of state," Colbert said: "A guy who's not sure which side he's on." Watch below. Peter Weber