Stephen Colbert began Thursday's Late Show with a Rosh Hashana joke. "I'm so glad its 5778," he said. "5777 sucked." Jewish new year out of the way, he jumped into the latest developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and President Trump's campaign. Colbert summarized some of the 13 events Mueller has asked the White House about as a K-Tel record, Now That's What I Call Collusion 45, "available wherever CDs are still sold — so I'm gonna say Starbucks."
But Paul Manafort, Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is now probably the central figure in Mueller's investigation, and despite his denials, it turns out he reportedly was in contact with Russians during the campaign, offering "private briefings" to an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Colbert had a joke or two about Manafort's "black caviar" code word, then got to the practical objection: "Come on, you can't use a term for something very expensive as a stand-in for money!"
On Thursday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah also caught up with "Hurricane Mueller," the storm that could leave Trump "without power." Like Colbert, he focused on the Manafort angle. "Surprise visits in the middle of the night, all up in his phone?" he asked. "Ladies, get you a man who wants you as bad as Mueller wants Manafort." He looked at how various members of the Trump circle are answering questions about Russia — Manafort's stutter, Vice President Mike Pence's "smoke screen" of words, and then there's Sean Spicer.
"I'm genuinely worried about how Spicer is going to come out of this whole thing, because he seems like he's ready to sign a confession when you ask him anything," Noah said. "It's like Sean Spicer has all of the tells at the same time." The Spicer news on Thursday was that Mueller is reportedly interested in the former press secretary's notebooks. Noah laughed. "Spicer was taking notes?" he asked. "With anyone else, they'd probably just destroy the evidence. With Sean Spicer, you know he'd start to try and burn the notebooks but then somehow end up setting himself on fire." Watch below. Peter Weber
Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.) believes the whole Russian election-meddling story is a farce, recently met with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange in London then reportedly tried to trade an Assange pardon for purported evidence exculpating Russia, and is so notably pro-Russia that his House GOP colleagues "joked" last year that he was probably on the take from Russian President Vladimir Putin. So, "who the hell is Dana Rohrabacher?" Seth Meyers asked on Wednesday's Late Night.
In his "check-in" on Rohrbacher, Meyers explained how "Putin's favorite congressman" came to admire the Russians, how he met and cavorted with Putin in the early '90s, and why Rohrbacher seems to turn up at meetings with many of the same Kremlin-linked figures tied to the Trump-Russia investigation. Oh, and he admitted to smoking marijuana. "So he's a weed-loving, pro-Russia guitar player," Meyers said. "He's basically the guy who ruined every party I went to in college." For the fuller picture, watch below. Peter Weber
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury to consider potential criminal wrongdoing by President Trump or his associates tied to the wide-ranging Russian election-meddling investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, and this bombshell was not missed on late night TV. "I'm going to say something right now nobody has ever said before: God, I wish I had jury duty!" Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "But really, how are they going to find unbiased people to serve on this jury? 'Ma'am, have you ever heard of a man by the name of Donald Trump?' 'No, father never mentioned him in our cave-dwelling cult.'"
This news "doesn't mean there's gonna be a trial, but it is a strong indication that something is going to happen," Colbert explained. "It's like picking up a blind date, and the first thing they say is, 'Hey, I need some condoms — can we swing by the store?'"
TONIGHT: Robert Mueller impanels a grand jury, and Stephen is here for it. pic.twitter.com/mbDgWeGFif
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) August 4, 2017
On Thursday's Daily Show, Trevor Noah had a little more context for Mueller's grand jury, and more jabs. "I just hope that if the police ever do arrest him, they protect his head when they put him into the car," he said. "You know what I just realized? If they find out that Trump did commit a crime, he's the one American who can't escape to Mexico."
But the Mueller grand jury news just capped off "a terrible day for Donald Trump," Noah said, starting with the leaked transcripts of his calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. He read some actual quotes, then spent the next seven minutes talking about police body cameras, and how they are uncovering evidence of evidence-planting and other police malfeasance.
On Late Night, Seth Meyers began his look at Trump's terrible day with a gawk at his terrible new poll numbers. Then he jokingly suggested that maybe Trump won't take the Mueller news all that hard, at least at first. "Trump's probably excited, because he thinks a grand jury is just a fancier jury. 'So beautiful, not like one of those dump juries.'" Meyers also pored through the leaked transcripts of Trump's calls, providing commentary and making special note about a comment Trump made about Meyers' home state: "New Hampshire has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, but still, don't call it a 'drug-infested den'! It's New England — it's a drug-infested inn." Watch below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert isn't buying the White House story about Trump, dictator of his son's misleading Russia statement
When Donald Trump Jr. was discovered to have met with a bunch of Russians who turned out to have ties to Russian intelligence, he "released a statement saying he didn't know who he was meeting with and they mostly talked about adoption," not Hillary Clinton, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Those were lies, including the lie that he said it," because according to The Washington Post, President Trump dictated the statement. "He dictated it," Colbert said. "It's official — Donald Trump is a dictator, technically."
"Don Jr. gets in trouble, he literally got his daddy to write a note for him," Colbert recapped. According to his advisers, Trump "believes he is innocent" and "therefore does not think he is at any legal risk," he added, rolling his eyes. "And everyone knows you can't be convicted if you're not guilty in your mind." But "as bad as this looks for Trump — and it looks bad — it looks even worse for his lawyer," Jay Sekulow, he said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the Trumps on Tuesday, playing a little fast and loose with the word "truth" and trying hard to make what Trump apparently did seem normal and wholesome, something any father would do for his 39-year-old son. "Yes, like any father would," Colbert said. "It's one of those father-and-son things, it's tradition, like playing catch or going fishing or preventing your son from implicating you in treason." He sang a short, modified version of the Harry Chapin song "Cat in the Cradle."
That was all before Trump appointed John Kelly as chief of staff, apparently because he was willing to stand up to the president, Colbert said. "No surprise, Trump respects people who don't suck up to him, starting yesterday." Kelly has his work cut out for him. "We just learned a prankster tricked White House officials into replying to his emails," Colbert noted. "He must have used some sort of tricky subject line, like: 'Confidential and Criminal: Dirt on Hillary. Russia Collude-A-Palooza!'" The most embarrassing victims of the prank may be White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, who is in charge of the cybersecurity portfolio, but lots of high-profile aides were tricked. In fact, the one person who caught on was Eric Trump, Colbert said. "Yes, Eric was immediately suspicious when some one in the administration tried to talk to him." Watch below. Peter Weber
Thursday night was the penultimate night of The Late Show's Russia week, and "my favorite night," Stephen Colbert said. He has been showing reports from his Russia trip all week, but "the piece we're showing tonight is really the whole damn reason why we went," he said. Colbert explained that when his executive producer pitched the idea of a trip to Russia back in December, Colbert thought nobody would still be talking about Russia six months into Trump's presidency. "I was a dummy," he said. What changed everything was the leaked dossier on Trump by a former British spy alleging that Trump has deep financial ties to Russia, that the Kremlin was supporting Trump's campaign, and that other part.
In his New York Times interview on Wednesday, Trump claimed that the dossier was "made-up junk" and "a phony deal," and said he had a witness, Phil Ruffin, to disprove the most salacious detail, involving urination and the presidential suite at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. He showed a photo of Phil Ruffin. "Now, the wildest accusations in that dossier have never been confirmed," Colbert said. "But as far as I know, nobody has tried to confirm them. And here's the reason why: The real news, while reporting on the dossier — your CNNs, your MSNBCs, your Fox's — they said, 'Oh, that's too salacious for us to even look into.' But it's the only part we care about!"
In his sometimes giddy report, Colbert asked Andrei Soldatov, a journalist and surveillance expert who has been critical of the Kremlin, what Russians had been told about the alleged "pee-pee tape" (a lot), and whether he thought it plausible that the Kremlin had such compromising evidence on Trump. Colbert then gave a tour of the Ritz-Carlton presidential suite, which is pretty impressive, and tried his best to find evidence to support the dossier's claim. He didn't exactly leave empty-handed. Watch below. Peter Weber
Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah gawk their way through Trump's incriminating interview with The New York Times
With his dreams of repealing ObamaCare on the rocks and his firstborn son keeping Russia in the headlines, President Trump on Wednesday "decided that it was time to do some damage control, by talking to Public Enemy No. 1," The New York Times, Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show. He played, then made jokes about, the parts of the madcap interview where Trump talked about his second meeting with Vladimir Putin, shared his warm feelings about French President Emmanuel Macron, and gave an odd revisionist history on Napoleon and Russia.
"As strange as that all was, that was the amusing part of the interview," Noah said. "It's how Trump puts the 'fun' in 'fundamentally unfit to be president.' Then there's the other parts of the interview, the parts that remind us that, if he could, Donald Trump would dismantle the rule of law like it was one of his marriages." He played Trump's comments about regretting hiring Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"I am still stunned at how Donald Trump can make the most damning admissions as a 'By the way...'," Noah said. "Because you realize, Trump just admitted he only picked Sessions because he thought he would quash investigations into Trump. And he just says it." What Trump's saying is he believes the presidency is meant to serve him, regardless of law or ethics, Noah argued. "The only thing more shocking than his autocratic view of power is his willingness to talk so openly about it. In a strange way, Donald Trump is both the most honest and dishonest president of all time." He suggested a new nickname, Abraham Nixon.
On Thursday's Late Night, Seth Meyers gave a little more background on the Trump-Sessions bromance and how it unraveled. Then Meyers, too, played Trump's comments to the Times about Sessions, and like Noah, he was confused. "How would he recuse himself before he got the job?" he asked. "That would be like someone trying to get a construction job and saying their best skill is workers' comp." Meyers also looked at how Trump and his allies on Fox are laying the groundwork to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump's continued trash-talking of former FBI Director James Comey, and how Trump will throw any ally — ahem, Chris Christie — under the bus to save his own skin. Watch below. Peter Weber
The Trump White House has branded the next few days Made in America Week, but on Stephen Colbert's Late Show it is officially Russia Week.
The first of his five field pieces from his trip to Russia were coming later in the show, Colbert said in his monologue, but "meanwhile, back in the United States, Russia. Folks, things are not looking good for the president's son and store-brand Billy Baldwin, Donald Trump Jr.," thanks to the meeting he took a year ago with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer and a former Soviet counterintelligence agent. "Of course, when it comes to Don Jr., there's not much intelligence to counter," Colbert added, unkindly.
Trump Jr. originally said he met with just the lawyer, then the spy-turned-lobbyist said he was at the meeting, and it next emerged two more people whose identities are unknown were also present, for a total of six people at the meeting, Colbert said. "Six! That's more people than are currently working at Trump's EPA." And then it turned out there were eight participants, five of them Russians. "This is the first time a Trump has lied about having a smaller crowd size," he said.
"Keep in mind, Don Jr.'s defense this entire time has been that he wanted to collude with Russia but got nothing, therefore innocent?" Colbert said, recapping the shifting stories Trump Jr. has told about the meeting. Colbert ended with a series of zingers about President Trump's new lawyer, Ty Cobb, plus the president's short turn in a shiny fire truck. Watch below. Peter Weber
On Monday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert reiterated that he was extremely happy to be back in America after his visit to Russia last week. "The whole trip was supposed to be top secret," he explained. "I'm serious. I wanted to get over there and get back before anybody knew. And some traitor leaked that I was over there. Luckily, after an exhaustive search, we have found the leaker — it was me." He showed the tweet he sent to President Trump showing himself in Russia, apologized to himself, then gave some context: "That's me in front of St. Petersburg's Winter Palace — or as they call it, Czar-a-Lago."
While in St. Petersburg, he was the guest on the late-night talk show Evening Urgant — "It's hosted by the very talented Ivan Urgant," he said. "Ivan, I presume, is Russian for 'Jimmy'" — "and while talking to Ivan, I accidentally made some news on purpose," Colbert said. He showed a bit of his interview, and it included some jokes about Russian election meddling that demonstrated some intestinal fortitude, or perhaps comedic foolhardiness. "Now, to be clear, all I said in that little clip there was that I was considering a run" for president in 2020, Colbert explained. "If I decide to run, obviously I'm not going to ask the Russians to help my campaign, okay? I'd have my son-in-law ask them." He ended with some descriptions of his trip that made his late-night jokes in St. Petersburg seem all the pluckier. Watch below. Peter Weber