John Oliver Exposes Trump’s ‘Incompetence’ Defense in Russia Probe
‘We cannot accept “The Trump Card” as his defense here, because if we do, just think about what we would actually be saying,’ said the ‘Last Week Tonight’ host.
On Sunday’s edition of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver began by briefly acknowledging the horrific mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a heavily armed gunman massacred 26 people.
“Obviously our thoughts are with the people of Texas after today’s horrific incident, details of which are still unfolding as I speak,” said Oliver, whose HBO program began taping around the time the news broke. “I am sure that there will be more to say about this in the hours and the days ahead, but for now, we are just going to dive straight in tonight with President Trump, statues of whom will inevitably one day be erected and then taken down amid a storm of controversy.”
With that, Oliver shifted his focus to the scandal he’s branded “Stupid Watergate,” and the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Trump-Russia probe.
“Yes, it’s finally happening!” exclaimed a giddy Oliver.
This past week, Mueller brought charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate (and Trump adviser) Rick Gates. On Sunday, NBC News also reported that Mueller has enough evidence to bring charges against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, as well as his son.
Manafort and Gates, according to the indictment, allegedly funneled over $75 million through foreign bank accounts, laundered tens of millions of dollars, lied to the IRS and Justice Department, and Manafort—believe it or not—even spent close to $1 million on antique rugs and over $1.3 million on clothes in an effort to launder money.
“Over $2 million on rugs and clothes!” exclaimed Oliver. “Now, I can’t speak to the quality of rugs, but how the fuck is this guy spending that much on clothing? He looks like he bought all the suits he was going to wear for the rest of his life on one day in 1982 with a cashier’s check for $900.”
President Trump, for his part, responded to the Manafort charges with two emotional tweets:
“If you think about Trump’s defense here—which he definitely hasn’t—it’s actually pretty straight, because he’s essentially saying Manafort had already done all this stuff at the time that I, Donald Trump, decided to hire him as my campaign manager, which means one of two things: Either Trump did a background check, discovered his suspicious activity, and didn’t care, or he didn’t so much as Google Manafort before hiring him,” argued Oliver.
Mueller’s probe also found that Manafort had three passports, burner phones, and an alias. The Trump administration has attempted to minimize Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign, even though, according to Oliver, “he held top positions within it for five months—during which time he not only organized the [Republican National Convention] but spoke on the campaign’s behalf.”
Oliver then aimed his ire at George Papadopoulos, a former member of the Trump campaign’s foreign advisory panel who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over his contacts with the Russians. Papadopoulos reportedly told a Trump campaign supervisor of his Russian contacts, with the supervisor telling him to explore Russian intel opportunities. Furthermore, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week suddenly recalled a conversation he had with Papadopoulos where Sessions allegedly rejected a proposed meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin, reported NBC News.
But Trump and his administration have claimed that Papadopoulos was nothing more than a “low-level volunteer,” though he was on the Trump campaign’s foreign advisory panel, Trump complimented him in rallies and newspaper interviews, and Trump posted a photo to Instagram of Papadopoulos in a foreign policy meeting with Trump last March.
“I don’t remember much about that meeting,” Trump said this week.
“In all three cases, Trump’s pushback has basically been: I don’t know anything about the people I should have known those things about. And that is his signature move—he’s playing ‘The Trump Card.’ What I mean by that is, he’s using his own incompetence as a defense,” said Oliver.
He continued: “The worrying thing here is, it may work for Trump. Because think of what the counterargument may have to be: This is a meticulous man who made strategic decisions fully aware of the consequences of his actions. That can be a tough case to make, but we cannot accept ‘The Trump Card’ as his defense here, because if we do, just think about what we would actually be saying there. We would be saying: Look, this guy is too dumb to really understand what he’s doing, so I guess we have no choice but to let him keep being president. Please, let’s not do that.”