Speed Reads

Late Night Tackles President Trump

A Russian dissident tells Samantha Bee her concerns about Donald Trump, calmly advises panic

Before America elected Donald Trump, Samantha Bee interviewed Russian author and dissident Masha Gessen about a potential Trump presidency. She interviewed Gessen again for Wednesday's Full Frontal, and Gessen's thoughts on Trump's America were not reassuring. "What is the recipe for successfully resisting an autocracy?" Bee asked Gessen, in a subterranean bunker inside a SoulCycle gym. "I get asked that a lot," Gessen said. "You know, I had to flee my country. Most efforts to successfully resist I know of failed."

Things got darker when Bee asked for Gessen's biggest concerns about President Trump, based on her experience with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Oh, my biggest worry is a nuclear holocaust," she said. "If miraculously we avoid that, then, you know, he's certain to do irreparable damage to the environment that will make survival of the human species impossible." Bee took out pen and paper and tried to get Gessen to map out how things will go down, and she plotted out a downward course from Trump lifting Russian sanctions to getting Americans to inform on each other — and that wasn't the low point. "So there's a Russian joke," Gessen said. "We thought we had hit rock bottom, and then someone knocked from below." Bee said maybe some part of the humor was lost in translation.

Like Putin, Trump "uses language to assert his power over reality," Gessen said. "What he's saying is: 'I claim the right to say whatever the hell I please, and what are you gonna do about it?'" Bee said she couldn't believe Trump had that level of "cunning," and Gessen made a plausible analogy between Trump's instinctual verbiage and a playground bully. Bee asked for advice. "The thing, I think, to do — and this is my recipe," Gessen said calmly, "is to actually continue panicking." Watch below — it is mildly NSFW in some place, and funnier than it sounds. Peter Weber