Late Night Tackles Trump and Iran
January 14, 2020

President Trump's interview with Fox News last week didn't answer all of Stephen Colbert's questions about the Iran conflict, so he spliced himself into the interview on Monday's Late Show.

"The Trump administration still hasn't settled on one legal justification for bombing Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani," Colbert said in his monologue, and the administration's claim of an "imminent" attack is crumbling fast. "Even Republicans were concerned about the vagueness of these justifications, so on Friday, the president went on the Fox News" and "revealed" that he believes Soleimani was targeting four embassies, he said. "Do we really want to live in a country where we bomb people because of what Donald Trump believes? We're talking about a guy who believes that windmills cause cancer — so run for you lives, Holland, he's coming!"

"On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper did his best, and it wasn't good," Colbert said. He and Trump are "like a couple who doesn't coordinate their lie before leaving a party," but "this morning, Trump took to Twitter to say that he and Esper are on the same page" about Soleimani's "eminent" attack. "Now, you might have noticed that Trump used the wrong word there," he said, but it turns out the threat probably wasn't "imminent," either, because Trump reportedly approved it seven months ago.

Trump's "story about why he killed Soleimani isn't adding up," Trevor Noah agreed at The Daily Show, similarly vexed at Trump's evidence. "You can 'reveal' that you 'believe'? No one is asking for your personal belief. This is war, not what color you thought the dress was. And also, what does Trump mean, it could have been embassies or bases or a lot of other things, too? Because either Trump is making this up, or Soleimani was the most indecisive enemy America's ever had."

Still, "Iran's supreme leader and America's supreme tweeter are both coming under fire for lying to their people," Noah said. "The people of Iran are demanding accountability" after Tehran belatedly admitted to accidentally shooting down a passenger plane, "and last night, President Trump decided to fan those flames of protest" by sending tweets in Farsi. "It's ballsy for Trump to tweet in a second language when he hasn't even mastered his first," Noah laughed. Also, "can you imagine if Obama ever tweeted in Farsi? Can you imagine? Fox News would have exploded." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 10, 2020

"It's been a couple of days since the Iran almost-war," and "with the perspective of time, we can ask: Was any of this legal?" Stephen Colbert asked on Thursday's Late Show. "The administration says yes, the drone strike was completely justified because they were heading off an 'imminent' attack," but "so far, [President] Trump hasn't provided any evidence of that." Top-level Trump officials briefed Congress on Wednesday, but lots of lawmakers left decidedly unpersuaded.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called it "the worst briefing" he can recall and an insult to Congress and the Constitution. Colbert co-signed that sentiment, plus some: "This is insulting to the American people. Has everyone already forgotten what happens when we don't ask for concrete evidence justifying a military attack against a Middle Eastern country whose name begins with Ira?" Back in 2002, "George W. Bush respected us enough to put some effort into his lies," he said, and Bush had Colin Powell to spread them.

Instead of a trusted figure like Powell, Trump has Vice President Mike Pence, Colbert said. "Did you get that? Pence has seen all the evidence, but you won't ever see it because it goes to another school in Canada and it's super hot, and he totally got to third base with it — which, for Mike Pence, is sharing fro-yo. And I say, before giving the president the authority to attack another Middle Eastern country, we must demand better lies. We deserve better lies!" After all, he said, our tax dollars are paying for them.

To wit:

Trump insisted Thursday morning that "numerous" lawmakers told him it was "the best" briefing, noted Late Night's Seth Meyers. "Oh, numerous senators said that? Which ones? 'You wouldn't know them, they go to a different school in Canada.'"

"Trump and his team have tried to justify this strike by claiming [Gen. Qassem] Soleimani posed an 'imminent' threat," Meyers said, but "it is becoming increasingly clear that a lawless president violated the Constitution to order the assassination of a foreign official, and then lied about it. And the only people cheering him on are the reckless warmongers who've lied us into war before. But now, members of both parties want to rein Trump in," and the House has already taken the first step.

The Daily Show brought in the full team to explore why Trump ordered Soleimani's killing, with a lighter touch. Peter Weber

January 9, 2020

"Remember when [President] Trump killed the top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, and everybody was like, 'Is this World War III?'" Stephen Colbert asked on Wednesday's Late Show. "Well I'm happy to announce it's not World War III! ... That's wonderful, but it's not like nothing happened." In fact, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces, "and for hours we knew nothing," he said. "Then at 9:45 p.m. Eastern time, our commander-in-chief tweeted at a worried nation: 'All is well!'" Colbert and Jon Batiste had an elaborate bit about how that wasn't particularly reassuring.

Still, "as promised, this morning Trump emerged to address a worried world from what looked like a live nuclear reactor," Colbert said. And "the president started his statement with a weirdly abrupt greeting." Colbert tried it out in a different context: "As long as I'm your dentist, your fillings will never be composed of mashed-up other people's teeth! Hello, I'm Dr. Ditworth."

"Trump was quick to claim victory," but "it wouldn't be a Trump speech without some mis-speeching," Colbert said, rolling the tape. "Rest easy, America, that is the man deciding who liges and who dibes."

"'Toleraized?' 'Accomplishmentaized?' Trump's mouth was missing more targets than those Iranian missiles," Trevor Noah joked at The Daily Show. But "at least for the moment, the beef with Iran has been squashed." It's true that "Iran launched 15 missiles at American forces in Iraq, but in an interesting twist, they killed no one, hurt no one, and gave the Iraqi bases a six-hour heads-up — which is a lot of warning," he said. "It's almost like they were sitting there, like, 'Let's give them one hour notice.' 'But sir, what if they're watching The Irishman?' 'Okay, six hours.' ... In international diplomacy, this type of action is known as a 'Hold me back, bro!'"

Still, Trump's "All is Well!" tweet "is hilarious, because the tweet was composed like Trump was writing a letter from the front lines of the Civil War," Noah said, demonstrating Ken Burns–style. But "Trump got what he wanted: Killed the general and it didn't escalate into anything. This is a win for him, but I pray that Donald Trump doesn't start watching Fox News again anytime soon, because for them, all is not well." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 8, 2020

"Today, Iran launched a retaliatory missile attack against U.S. troops in Iraq, and our prayers are with the troops and our allies," Jimmy Kimmel said on Tuesday's Kimmel Live. "But this is when it becomes particularly preposterous that our president is Donald Trump. We might be at war, and this guy — you know what he's busy with? He's bragging" about clearly fictional praise from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

And Trump "isn't the only one spreading misinformation," Kimmel said. He used Rep. Paul Gosar's (R-Ariz.) new standard for truth-in-tweeting to show a compromising doctored image and a beat-the-deadline "deepfake" of Trump on Toddlers and Tiaras.

"We're not doing too well on the New Year's resolution of Don't Go to War With Iran," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. Even before Iran shot missiles toward U.S. troops, Trump was "very grumpy" about Iran being angry at him for killing Gen. Qassem Soleimani, telling reporters he had no regrets about ordering Soleimani's death but "kinda, sorta" backing off on his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sties, claiming, "I like to obey the law." This improbably led Colbert to a short Grease medley.

Jimmy Fallon had a Grease sing-and-dance, too. "Trump is busy, today he met with the leader of Greece," he began on The Tonight Show. "Trump was confused, because he thought the leader of Greece was John Travolta." But "when Trump was asked about Iran possibly attacking us, he said, 'If it happens, it happens,'" Fallon noted. "Just like when the Civil War started and Abraham Lincoln declared, 'Eh, it is what it is.'"

Honestly, "it's not that surprising that Trump's response is so muddled and confusing, because he's Trump," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "What is interesting is how the entire administration seems to be just as confused about every aspect of this situation ... starting with the rationale for why they killed Soleimani in the first place." It's almost like Trump and his advisers "have a group chat but Trump never gets the message because he's on Android," he joked, but Trump's retreat from bombing Iran's cultural sites wasn't so amusing: "'I like to obey the law'? No, you have to obey the law. Trump makes the law sound like it's an optional toping at Chipotle. ... It's the Geneva Conventions, not pico de gallo!" Watch below. Peter Weber

June 25, 2019

In Stephen Colbert's interview of NBC host Chuck Todd's interview of President Trump on Monday's Late Show, Trump decided not to strike Iran last week because of the counsel he received from a Magic 8 Ball.

On Thursday night, "we were poised to start a war with Iran, but Donald Trump did the right th— sorry, I'm just not used to saying that sort of thing," Colbert said. "Trump made the correct moral— The point is, this is the first thing that Trump has ever ordered that he did not finish." He deconstructed Trump's explanation, from his belated question about Iranian casualties to his hilarious "cocked & loaded" malapropism. Trump reportedly "likes the decisiveness of calling off the terrible command Donald Trump just gave," he said, but Trump also postponed his planned mass deportation of immigrant families this weekend, though even this "shred of human decency has an expiration date."

"Sweet lord, America was 10 minutes away from bombing Iran — and who stopped it? Donald Trump," Trevor Noah applauded at The Daily Show. "Who ordered the strike? Also Donald Trump. The point is, we're at peace, thanks to and in spite of President Trump." It's getting worrisomely common that "Trump takes us all to the brink of a crisis, and then he's the one that pulls us back at the last second," he added. "Sometimes it feels like there are two different Trumps making these decisions."

Trump's clearly getting conflicting advice, Noah said, and "I don't know what the doves told President Trump, but it looks like for now, it's worked," because "in 48 hours, Trump went from threatening Iran to pitching a MAGA franchise in Tehran."

Yes, "our split-personality president" has "spent the last week creating crises and then pretending he's solved those crises," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "It's almost like he saw the polls, and instead of running against the Democrats in 2020, decided to run against himself: 'Vote for me — I'm the only one who can stop Donald Trump.'" He posed some good questions about Trump's endgame, or worrisome lack thereof. Watch below. Peter Weber

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