During his Late Show monologue Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert joked that a more accurate title for Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book Peril might have been “AAAAGGH!” When the authors joined him later in the show, they confirmed his worst fears about just how dangerous the Trump administration really was.
“It was a discovery for us that this was a national security crisis,” Woodward explained. “We kind of thought that all of Trump was a domestic problem politically.” But especially when the revelations about what Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley reportedly did to prevent war with China in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol came to light, they realized how close we came to a true global crisis.
The topic that seemed to animate Colbert most was the concept of “accountability” when it comes to the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election and the violence that it provoked. “Did the people in Washington believe that there was fraud, even the ones who were being sort of tacitly approving of the tactic?” the host asked of Republicans who helped perpetuate those conspiracies.
“No,” Woodward replied, plainly, revealing that some of Trump’s closest allies in Congress privately admitted to him that there was “no evidence” of a rigged election but would not say so publicly, presumably out of fear from Trump and his base.
“Our reporting shows that the Big Lie, this idea of election fraud, was not some passing storm for American democracy,” Costa added. “It’s the climate right now inside of the Republican Party.” Even if those Republicans “don’t believe in President Trump’s claims,” he said, “they’re not willing to go out there and counter him. That's the dynamic right now ahead of 2022 and ahead of 2024.”
From there, Colbert pushed Woodward to say whether he’s “ever seen a more cynical or destructive use of political gamesmanship” over his many years as a reporter in Washington, D.C. When Woodward equivocated, saying, “There have been lots of efforts going back to Nixon,” Colbert pressed him further, asking again, “Anything close to this?”
“This was a subversion, or an attempted subversion, of democracy,” Woodward said. “And it never stopped. And here’s the problem: It continues.” He warned that Trump is “going to run again and he’s got a lot of support.”
The final line of their book is “Peril remains.” And Colbert, who said those words gave him “a little chill” down his spine, added, “I think the peril will remain, unless there actually are consequences.” He likened the Jan. 6 rioters to drug addicts who are now being prosecuted. “But the drug dealers are not being pursued,” he said. “So the addiction will continue.”
As for any accountability for the Republican Party, Costa said, “The people who voted to impeach President Trump in the Republican Party, those are the ones who are getting out of the GOP because of the primary races.”
“So the only consequences are for the people who did the right thing,” Colbert replied.