‘Stupid Watergate’: John Oliver Breaks Down Trump’s Russia Scandal
The ‘Last Week Tonight’ host had plenty to say about the latest developments in President Trump’s ongoing Russian saga.
“We begin this evening with President Trump: Two words that still simply do not belong together, like ‘baby pubes’ or ‘haunted horse,’” joked John Oliver.
On Sunday evening, the Last Week Tonight host kicked off his HBO show by breaking down the Trump-Russia saga. Though the week began with Trump ensuring Congress that “the time for trivial fights is behind us,” that pipe dream by the Prince of Petty ended when reports surfaced that his Attorney General Jeff Sessions not only held two previously undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the campaign, but also appeared to lie to Congress under oath about them during his confirmation hearing.
During that hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asked, “If there was any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what would you do?” to which Sessions replied, “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 did not have communications with the Russians.”
“That was an unforced error!” exclaimed Oliver. “He wasn’t even asked whether he’d met with the Russians. He just implicated himself out of the blue, which should have been immediately suspicious. If you ask someone how their weekend was, and they say, ‘Well, I definitely wasn’t masturbating into the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven,’ you check the fucking security cameras at the 7-Eleven and you don’t act surprised.”
Sessions wasn’t the only one who took clandestine meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. Trump campaign operatives J.D. Gordon and Carter Page met with Kislyak, as did Trump’s son-in-law/consigliere Jared Kushner and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. “And again, there is nothing inherently wrong there, but it doesn’t look great that every time Trump associates are asked about Russia, they respond like they’re trying to hide something,” Oliver remarked.
The comedian then threw to an incredibly awkward interview with Page on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes where, when asked if he met with the Russian ambassador, the former Trump foreign-policy adviser said, “I may have met him… possibly… and it might have been in Cleveland.”
Hmm. And Page’s curious response was, in the words of Oliver, “part of a pattern of suspicious responses you can trace back to last summer when Paul Manafort, Trump’s then-campaign manager, did this.” Oliver then cut to a weird exchange between Manafort—who was forced to resign as Trump’s campaign manager over the summer when The New York Times revealed his deep political and financial ties to pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politicians—and CBS This Morning where, when asked if “Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs,” Manafort replied, “That’s… That’s what he said. I… That’s… what I said. That’s… obviously what our position is.”
“Holy shit!” exclaimed Oliver. “That was so unconvincing it probably set off an unplugged polygraph machine just hidden in a closet somewhere.
“Look, it is not clear what is really going on here yet,” he continued. “Although one possibility is that this all amounts to what I’m going to call ‘Stupid Watergate’: a potential scandal with all the intrigue of Watergate, except everyone involved is really bad at everything, and the relevant question isn’t so much of ‘What did the president know and when did he know it’ as it is ‘Is the president physically capable of knowing things at all?’”
Oliver then focused on Trump’s apparent attempt at deflecting from the Russia controversy: a tweetstorm accusing former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower… based on zero evidence whatsoever. The president also doesn’t know how to spell the word “tap”—or “hereby,” for the matter.
“OK, let me give you some context for where we are,” said Oliver. “In 1992, Dan Quayle misspelled ‘potato’ and it became one of the most famous dumb moments in political history. But we are now at a point where the president is so busy hurling destabilizing conspiracy theories around we can’t even pause to enjoy the fact that he misspelled the word ‘tap.’ And his evidence for suggesting President Obama committed a crime seems pretty thin.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper spoke to White House officials who claimed that Trump got the wiretapping idea from a Breitbart story that aggregated baseless claims made by conservative radio host Mark Levin, who has a history of making dubious claims.
“OK, I think we can now officially declare that Trump has a worse media diet than the Son of Sam killer—and he got all his news from a talking dog who told him to murder,” joked Oliver. “And rather than providing evidence to support the accusation, this morning the White House urged Congress to look into the allegations, and it seems odd that a president would issue a firm statement of fact and then launch an investigation to try and support that claim.”
If you thought Carter Page’s media tour went bad, Oliver offered up a clip of Trump deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders getting grilled by ABC News’s Martha Raddatz on the wiretapping allegations. “If this happened, Martha… Look, I think [Trump] is going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.”
“Let’s break that down: she thinks the president saw information that led him to believe that this is a real potential,” said Oliver, flabbergasted. “So I guess this is just how things are going to work now. The president once saw a banana with a bruise that looked like a picture in an article he read in a dream, and that is why we’re at fucking war!”