Ever since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, Bill Maher has welcomed all matter of right-wing trolls to his HBO show Real Time. There was Tomi Lahren, who was out of her depth; Piers Morgan, who got his ass handed to him by a C-list comedian; and Milo Yiannopoulos, who managed to manipulate his host—that is, before resigning from his Breitbart post in disgrace.
This week brought Jeffrey Lord, CNN’s most embarrassing Trump fanatic.
Lord, a former Reagan administration staffer, has made a career out of cognitive dissonance and logical fallacies. His most famously absurd argument, and one that he repeats ad nauseum, is that the Democrats should apologize for their part in slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK, while conveniently overlooking the fact that the Republican Party absorbed the majority of these racist Southern Democrats via Nixon and Goldwater’s “southern strategy.” Since 2013, Lord has been one of Trump’s biggest media cheerleaders, obfuscating and qualifying every outrageous thing his dearest leader does. More of a serf, really.
On Friday night’s Real Time, it was more of the same. And Maher wasn’t having it.
He started off with the upper hand, though. Lord, using his trademark loose logic, sought to explain Trump’s support by homing in on Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment, claiming that “people in the media look down on them and basically have contempt for them, and they look at Donald Trump as somebody that can go out there, and stand up, and dish it right back.” Clinton, for the uninitiated, said that half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables,” painting them as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.” It was a boneheaded statement and one that Trump seized on, saying it showed “her true contempt for everyday Americans” by writing off “nearly half the country.” Of course, half of Trump’s supporters constitute around 31.5 million people—or 9.6 percent of the country—but the damage was done.
The real fireworks concerned Russia, and this week’s revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not only conducted two undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador during the election—while the Russians were reportedly hacking the DNC—but also appeared to have lied about it to Congress under oath during his nomination process.
“I don’t think you did catch Jeff Sessions in a lie,” Lord told Maher. “I read today, again, the specific questions asked to him by Senator Al Franken and Senator Patrick Leahy, and it was in reference to a CNN story, as a matter of fact. That was the reference. He was talking about the CNN story. He was not talking about had he ever met Russians period.”
That is half-correct. While Franken’s initial query began with the CNN report, it concluded with: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” Sessions replied, “Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have—did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
Sessions, oddly enough, offered up that he “did not have communications with the Russians” even though it wasn’t asked of him—which Maher hastened to point out. “He wasn’t even asked that question! He just volunteered I never met with the Russians. And then he met with the Russians twice. Why do you think he recused himself? He got caught,” said Maher.
Lord then claimed he would “absolutely” be in favor of an investigation into Trump-Russia ties “if anybody could show me if the Russians got into any voting machine anywhere in America,” adding patronizingly, “That’s how you hack an election, Bill.”
“No, no. That’s one way you can hack an election. You can manipulate the votes in other ways,” replied Maher, before getting serious. “Let’s not play games here, Mr. Lord. I like you and I heard you’re a very nice guy, but don’t bullshit me. There are other ways you can affect an election, and one of them is to hack the emails of one side—one side—and release those as a slow drip-drip-drip-drip.
“You know what could clear so much up?” added Maher. “If Donald Trump would release his tax returns. Why doesn’t he release his tax returns, as every other president has done in my lifetime? It seems like a slap in the face of the American people, and also it seems like he’s hiding something.”
Indeed, every elected president since Richard Nixon (who wasn’t exactly aboveboard) has released their tax returns in an effort to be transparent to the public. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, released hers during the campaign, but Trump has broken with tradition in refusing to release his. Jeffrey Lord is, of course, totally fine with this—as he is with all things Trump.
“I don’t think he should ever release his tax returns. We’ve had presidents in the United States from George Washington to Lyndon Johnson who’ve never released a single tax return. Was Franklin Roosevelt a bad president because he didn’t release his tax returns? I don’t think so. I just think it’s at this stage irrelevant,” said Lord, who really just referenced George Washington never releasing his tax returns when the first personal income tax was introduced by Abraham Lincoln.
“It is so not irrelevant and you know it’s not irrelevant! Be honest with me, sir. Just be honest with me, sir, and I’ll be your best friend,” pleaded Maher.
“This becomes a political gotcha game. I mean, if he releases, they’ll say, oh, he did this, he did this. We need to get the country moving again, right?” asked Lord.
“Not if the country is being led by someone who was put there by a foreign power,” fired back Maher, alluding to Russian hacking.
“I certainly would deny that,” Lord responded.
Maher then cited the Oct. 7 joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which concluded, “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations… These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”
Lord denied that the intelligence community made the aforementioned conclusion—one that was backed up by a 13-page Joint Analysis Report (PDF) from the DHS and FBI, as well as a Jan. 6 intelligence report claiming that Vladimir Putin and Russia tried to help Trump by “discrediting” Hillary Clinton—and even referred to WikiLeaks as “Wikipedia,” before claiming that he’s for an investigation.
If that weren’t enough, Maher grilled Lord about Trump’s admiration for Putin, referencing how Putin’s approval rating stood at a lowly 12 percent pre-Trump, and is now hovering around 32 percent. The satirist brought up a recent Newsweek story asserting that Putin has poisoned at least 30 people, to which Lord reacted, “Not like Stalin or Franklin Roosevelt, though, who murdered millions.” Yes, rather than agree that it’s bad for Putin to allegedly poison multiple people, Lord chose to redirect blame onto FDR.
“We’re not doing that now,” shot back Maher. “Are we fighting Hitler?!”