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Late Night Tackles Trump and Russia
January 15, 2019

"It's not every day that you can say: 'Hey, did you see the big story about Trump being an agent of the Russian government over the weekend? No, not that story, the other one,'" Stephen Colbert noted on Monday's Late Show. He began with the New York Times bombshell about the FBI opening a counterintelligence investigation of recently inaugurated President Trump to see if he was secretly working for Russia. "I think that's ridiculous," Colbert said. "There is nothing secret about it, he's just putting it out there."

"I've been talking about Trump laying footsie with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin since July of 2016, back at the Republican Convention, but when you look at the details, it's still shocking," Colbert said. He created a new game show, "Evil or Stupid?" to game out whether Trump was a Russian spy or "unwitting stooge" of the Kremlin. (America loses either way.)

The idea that Trump is "a secret Russian spy" is "just crazy — and not because he wouldn't do it," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Donald Trump would be the world's worst spy." First, "he doesn't even have an inside voice," and he can't "blend in. Red tie, orange skin, blond hair — the only place he'd blend in is a jar of Starbursts." Still, "it doesn't help his case" when he does "shady" stuff like hide his chats with Putin.

Telling your interpreter to not discuss what you told Putin is "not normal," Jimmy Kimmel agreed on Kimmel Live. "Usually when Trump wants to keep someone quiet he pays them $130,000." Still, "of course he's not working for Russia — he's being blackmailed by Russia, there's a difference," Kimmel said. This really has "turned into a witch hunt," he added, "as in, 'Which hunt are you talking about? The collusion, the obstruction, the treason, the corruption, or the tax evasion?"

Late Night's Seth Meyers listed some likely reasons why the FBI was suspicious Trump might be a Russian puppet, ending with "Vladimir Putin's smile every time he sees Trump. I mean, look at that: That's the smile Putin gives when someone says, 'We have captured James Bond.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

January 10, 2019

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort inadvertently revealed in a court filing unsealed Tuesday that in 2016, he'd sent internal polling data to a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, "providing the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign tried to coordinate with Russians," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Prior to this, the clearest evidence was ... everything else." Manafort's legal team revealed this by accident, he added. "His lawyers are terrible! How did Trump not hire them?"

Colbert took some liberties with how Manafort's team messed up redacting the PDF: "They thought they blacked out all the text — turns out they just did it directly onto the screen," with a Sharpie. And he was less-than-sympathetic to Manafort's excuse.

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah was at least sympathetic to the technical difficulties that befell the Manafort legal team — up to a point. "Two things: In his defense, I don't know if you guys have ever tried to edit a PDF, that sh-t is hard," he said on Tuesday's show. "And then the other thing, I was like: But Paul Manafort, you should know how to edit or redact a PDF. Like, you were colluding with Russia, surely you could figure out how to collude with Kinkos." He went on to muse about how "the greatest criminals who pulled of the greatest 'crime,' in a way, are also the dumbest criminals of all time," and Donald Trump Jr. made a cameo. Watch below. Peter Weber

March 29, 2018

On Tuesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team filed a court document suggesting President Trump's former campaign vice chairman Rick Gates was "directly communicating in September and October 2016" with an unidentified person who he knew "has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. That person matches the description of Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked with Gates when he was lobbying for Ukrainian politicians in Kiev. "Really? Kilimnik?" Colbert said. "If you're a Russian operative, you might want to go by something less suspicious. Maybe try Sergei Murderov."

"So my question is: Is it collusion yet?" Colbert asked. "Gates was Trump's deputy campaign chairman who stayed on through the inauguration, knowingly met with a Russian spy in the months leading up to the election. What more evidence do we need? Donald Trump in a T-shirt saying 'I Colluded With the Russians and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt — and the Presidency'?"

"So the president almost definitely colluded with Russia," Colbert said. "But there's equally important news out there — Tiffany Haddish says somebody bit Beyoncé." You can watch him unpack that mystery below. Peter Weber

March 26, 2018

In a strange confluence of shared interest, Fox News and late-night TV have both glommed on to the most salacious and least likely to be corroborated part of the dossier former British spy Christopher Steele compiled on President Trump and Russia. So of course Stephen Colbert's Late Show noticed when the hosts of Fox & Friends started calling the Steele dossier the "dirty dossier," presumably a reference to the unsubstantiated allegation involving prostitutes and urine. A blander and more corporate dossier might be offended at being labeled "dirty," but Colbert's anthropomorphized dossier — which speaks using only words and phrases found in the dossier — took the slight and ran with it, stand-up comedy style. Watch below. Peter Weber

March 21, 2018

Last week, lawyers for President Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller sat down to discuss which topics investigators could ask Trump about, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, showing an artist's rendition of what Trump's lawyers asked for: "They will allow questions on the 2016 electoral map and noises trucks make, but nothing about Stormy's bathing suit area or 'Vlad stuff.'" Trump is also shaking up his legal team, Colbert added, introducing viewers to former U.S. attorney, Fox News regular, and new Trump lawyer Joe diGenova.

Another Trump lawyer, John Dowd, might be leaving because, according to The New York Times, he has concluded he has "no control over the behavior of the president." "You just figured that out?" Colbert asked. "Come on, man, Trump doesn't even have control over Trump's behavior." He mourned the thought of Trump sacking his other lawyer, Ty Cobb, and had a wry laugh at Ivanka Trump's turn as a vape-lab analyst in Iowa.

Meanwhile, "on Sunday, Vladimir Putin won an election rigged to prop up a dangerous strongman who is threatening Western democracy," Colbert said. "That requires a strong response — so Donald Trump called him up to say, 'Atta boy!'" Among those unhappy "that Trump was giving the thumbs-up to a murderous dictator for winning a sham election" were his national security team and a bipartisan group of senators — including Sen. John McCain (R), who slammed Trump for insulting "every Russian citizen denied the right to vote in a free and fair election." Colbert had some words of consolation — "Don't worry, Sen. McCain, the Russians still have a chance to vote in our midterm!" — and a creative way to paper over the fact that former President Barack Obama also congratulated Putin on his similarly shady 2012 win. Watch below. Peter Weber

March 20, 2018

The big news on Facebook is that "free will is an illusion," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show, pointing to the weekend's news about Trump campaign "behavioral microtargeting" contractor Cambridge Analytica. "That's a classy name, Cambridge Analytica — not to be confused with their competitor, Oxford Thinkemups," he joked. It just came out that when the data firm was run by Stephen Bannon, it built detailed psychographic profiles of U.S. voters by harvesting the personal information of 50 million Facebook users without authorization. "Now, I consider myself both a 'neurotic introvert' and a 'fan of the occult,'" Colbert joked, "which is why I often summon Satan, but then I'm too shy to talk to him."

Facebook discovered this breach in 2015 but didn't warn users. "Really?" Colbert asked. "The one time I actually would have wanted a Facebook alert? Perhaps that could have replaced one of the four messages I get a day about my ex-roommate's college girlfriend's one-woman show."

Cambridge Analytica is defending itself on Twitter by "saying advertising can't change your behavior — literally on the same page that says 'Data-driven behavior change,'" Colbert noted skepically. But things got arguably worse when Britain's Channel 4 recorded secret footage of Cambridge Analytica executives bragging about tipping elections through stoking fear, plus a little bribery and entrapment, specifically mentioning Ukrainian women. "Well, we don't have to worry about them blackmailing our leaders," Colbert said, "as long as no one in Washington is attracted to Eastern European women — oh my God."

Colbert also congratulated "friend of the show" Vladimir Putin for "making up a realistic sounding number," 76 percent, in his re-election victory. "This is Putin's highest margin of victory yet — it's really impressive, though I'm starting to think he might have had help from the Russians," Colbert joked. "As much as I'm happy for him, my condolences to Putin's opponents, Viktor Strawmanski and Nerve Gas Patient No. 5421. Too soon?" Watch below. Peter Weber

March 6, 2018

Last week, Stephen Colbert flew down to Washington with his own "memo" on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and he had some fun at Nunes' expense with the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, and even Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). "As much fun as we had down there, ultimately what we wanted was for Devin Nunes to respond to us, a comedy show," Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "But say what you want about the guy, he's not that dumb — is what I thought." He played a clip of Nunes complaining about Colbert on Fox News. "He took the bait!" Colbert said.

Nunes told Fox News that Colbert is part of the "danger" the left poses to America, and when asked if Colbert even tried to contact him for the show, he replied, "Not that I know of." Colbert had the footage. "Either your staff didn't tell you that I charged into your office, or you're not telling the truth," he said. "So is Devin Nunes a liar? Not that I know of." Colbert played some outtakes from his interview with Schiff, then summarized Nunes' view of the situation: President Trump, who openly asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails, is good for America; Stephen Colbert, a comedian, is "a danger."

In the full video from Friday, Colbert failed to get much information about the Russia investigation from Schiff or the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), but he at least made Schiff laugh. Warner? "I mean this as a compliment — you look dead inside," Colbert told the senator. "I appreciate that," Warner said. Watch below. Peter Weber

March 6, 2018

"Now, I know you all came here tonight to hear me talk about trade tariffs," Stephen Colbert deadpanned on Monday's Late Show, after recapping the Oscars. "But we're not talking about trade tariffs tonight" he added, "because right before we taped this show, the entire news cycle jumped on the bus to crazy town. At the wheel?" Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed Nunberg in the Russia investigation, and Nunberg spent much of Monday on TV insisting he won't cooperate.

"Nunberg took over cable TV like a car chase," Colbert said, playing some choice CNN and MSNBC clips. He found Nunberg's defiance a little puzzling: "You know Mueller can arrest you, right? That's like saying 'Eat me' to Hannibal Lecter." And yet Nunberg talked and talked and talked, dropping tantalizing clues and unsubstantiated bombshells. "This guy is like a Snickers bar — the peanuts just keep coming," Colbert marveled. "I think all of our feelings about Nunberg's call-ins this afternoon were best summed up by this face," he added, showing a frowning Jake Tapper. "Are you happy Nunberg? You broke Jake Tapper! I keep telling Jake, if you keep reporting on the Trump campaign, your face is gonna stick that way." Watch below. Peter Weber

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