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May 23, 2017

Stephen Colbert welcomed MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday night's Late Show by noting that all of a sudden, she is the No. 1 star of cable news. She pointed to her unusual format. "I definitely feel like the most important thing that I can do right now is just try to explain stuff," she said. Colbert asked her what she thinks of Trump's trip abroad so far, and she started by laughing at this moment right after he arrived in Israel from Saudi Arabia:

"Presidential trips can go either way when there's a president in a time of crisis," Maddow said, noting that when Richard Nixon was fighting the release of his Watergate tapes, he took a trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, too. Colbert pointed out that Trump has been quiet on Twitter since he left the U.S. Maddow shrugged. Trump doesn't get to make his own news anymore, she said. Now, "the news of the Trump administration is the news of people investigating it and figuring out what's really going on."

Colbert asked Maddow if Trump could be right, that this really is a "witch hunt." She was skeptical. "It's possible it was totally anodyne, that it had nothing to do with the Russian attack on the election that was happening at that same time, it's possible there was nothing nefarious about it at all," she said, but at this point it's up to the Trump White House to explain all the mysterious contacts with Kremlin officials and why Trump's attempts to end the FBI investigation wasn't obstruction of justice.

Is there any chance Republicans would impeach Trump, or would he only face justice if Democrats win Congress in 2018? Colbert asked. "I try not to see it in partisan terms," Maddow said. If it is proved that Trump tried to quash an investigation into his campaign, "it is hard for me to believe that Republicans would not rise above their party in that instance." Colbert wasn't convinced. "My worry is that Donald Trump will just degrade everyone's standards and morals as we pick sides," he said, citing examples. "We're going to have to decide if we're that country or not," Maddow said. "And I think we're not." Watch below. Peter Weber

May 17, 2017

Elections have consequences, and right now, America is knee-deep in a "steaming pile of consequence," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Because right now, things that are self-evidently bad are being sold to us, by people who know better, as perfectly okay." The Late Show taped before the newest scandal surrounding President Trump hit the presses, so Colbert focused on Monday's bombshell about Trump sharing highly classified information with top Russian officials, with Tuesday's updates. Reportedly, "Israel was the source of the intelligence Trump gave the Russians, and oops-a-shalom, Trump is scheduled to visit Israel next week," he said. "That is really going to be one awkward state dinner."

To tamp down the story, Trump sent out National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with "a complete denial, by the most respected member of the Trump administration — smart strategy," Colbert said. "And following that, Donald Trump did the right thing by giving someone else the final word and not contradicting it on Twitter — I'm just kidding." In fact, Trump essentially "confessed" to spilling state secrets. "This explains why he doesn't write murder mysteries," Colbert said. "'Chapter 1: I did it.'"

"So to recap," he said, after laying out the details, "Donald Trump admitted to firing the man in charge of investigating his Russian ties, then he met with two Russian diplomats — a meeting that was arranged by Vladimir Putin, and which we only saw because Russian photographers were in there to take photos — and at that meeting, he admits he gave Russian diplomats classified information." Colbert noted some reactions from Republicans, including a pre-reaction from a certain presidential candidate who said we shouldn't allow presidents who mishandle classified and secret information in the Oval Office. "I gotta say," he said, "and I don't care if this is taken out of context, I completely agree with Donald Trump."

Colbert turned next to the other people affected by Trump's scandals. "I do not envy those people at the White House," he said. "I would not want to be working there right now, and apparently neither would the people who work at the White House." He interviewed one of them, and yes, there is a hedge joke in there. Peter Weber

May 16, 2017

Monday's bad news is that, according to The Washington Post and other newspapers, President Trump shared highly classified information with top Russian diplomats last week, Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "The good news? Trump found the leaker." The intelligence was reportedly so sensitive it was classified as "code word" information, which Colbert explained like this: "Code-word means the vital aspects of the story have to be replaced with other words. You have to say things like, 'The package has been delivered,' 'The squirrel is in the basket,' 'The idiot is in the Oval.'"

Colbert then turned back to Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, running through the purported "loyalty oath" Trump tried to get Comey to pledge to him, and Trump's tweeted threat to release "tapes" of their conversation to the press. "That would be huge," Colbert said. "I mean, it would be the first time a leaked tape ever made Donald Trump look good."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has refused to discuss the alleged "tapes," Colbert said. Generally, "the entire week has been a messaging disaster, and sources say Trump is 'frustrated and angry at everyone' and that he's considering a 'huge reboot.' Yes, it's yet another '70s reboot, Watergate 2: Resign Harder — this summer, he is a crook."

Colbert played some of Trump's "hard-hitting interview" with Jeanine Pirro at Fox News, where Trump repeated his threat to cancel the press briefings and do them himself. "Oh, sir, please don't do your own press conferences," he said, rubbing his hands together. "They're always such fountains of eloquence and bastions of dignity — what would we make jokes about the next day?" Trump also assured Pirro that Spicer is a good guy who's just getting beat up in the press. "Okay, he's firing Sean Spicer," Colbert translated. "Luckily, that time Sean spent in the bushes will come in handy next week when he's working at the Home Depot."

"I have something to say here," Colbert said. "Donald Trump, if you're watching, first of all, you're a bad president, please resign. Second of all, please, please, please don't take Sean Spicer from us! Where else am I going to get my daily dose of veiled anger and condescension?"

If Spicer gets the boot, there's always Real News Tonight, Colbert's cheerfully pro-Trump fake-news team — though it sounds like, sadly, Jill Newslady's job isn't safe, either. Peter Weber

May 12, 2017

All the chaos in the White House and Congress this week — the hearings, the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the backlash — is "because of the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia," Trevor Noah noted on Thursday's Daily Show. "So, if you were Donald Trump right now, what's the one thing you would stay away from?" Russia, of course, but more specifically, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, "the specific guy who got Michael Flynn fired and made Jeff Sessions have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation," Noah said. "If there's one person you don't want any more ties to, it's this guy."

So of course on Wednesday, only a few hours after he fired Comey, Trump hosted Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House. "You brought Russians into the Oval Office?" Noah asked. "Although, Trump is so oblivious, who knows if he even realizes what a big deal this is?" The meeting was set up at the instance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he noted, sighing: "You know, it's starting to feel less like Putin's blackmailing Trump and more like he has Trump hypnotized."

On the other hand, "Donald Trump may be crazy, but it turns out he's not stupid," Noah said. "You see, he knew that this would look bad, so he didn't allow any American journalists into the room — no photos, no documentation, no pics, so it didn't happen." Except, well, he let Russian state media in, and they shared the photos, making the White House — as CNN reports — furious, because the Russians lied. "Aw, bless your soul, Trump. I can't believe how innocent Trump's people are," Noah concern-trolled. "How are you shocked that they lied. How?"

"Russia is owning Donald Trump so hard right now, it's embarrassing," he said. "It's like watching the Harlem Globetrotters — did you have to dunk on him and pull his pants down, man?" After this stunt, "I don't want to hear another word about how it was only the DNC that got hacked because Team Trump is so smart and secure," he added. "Because Russia just proved that if they want to hack and leak some dirt on Trump, they can do it face to face without him even noticing." He ended with a short X-Files parody. Watch below. Peter Weber

April 6, 2017

How did Russia influence the 2016 U.S. election? "Let me see if I can explain Russia's complex, high-tech cyber techniques in layman's terms," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal: "They put crazy sh-t on Facebook, polluting our brains with disinformation until we all felt like Winona Ryder at the SAG awards." If that sounds too simplistic, it is and isn't. The operation was sophisticated enough to target individual voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, Bee said, sighing. "The Russian trolls had a better Midwest strategy than Hillary Clinton did." But the idea behind it isn't all that complicated.

And they had help. "One brain in particular was gobbling up Russian propaganda like it was a well-done steak drenched in delicious ketchup," Bee said. "Basically, Trump was Russia's Trojan Horse's ass, filling himself with Russian propaganda and then disgorging it, I assume unwittingly." But don't fire off a smug tweet about gullible conservatives" just yet, she told her viewers, because "Russia fooled the far left, too," efficaciously flooding Bernie Sanders fan pages with fake news about Clinton. "The fake stories were pushed to people who wanted to believe the system is rigged and Hillary is a criminal more than they wanted to check Snopes.com," she said. "But we're all guilty of thinking with our emotions," meaning we're all vulnerable.

"That's why it matters that Congress is taking foreign propaganda seriously, if a little late," Bee said. She played a clip of a retired FBI agent and Senate Intelligence Committee witness saying nobody had figured out the vote-swaying power of Russian trolls before the election, then took an unhappy victory lap, showing a clip from her own Oct. 31 show, where she not only highlighted the influence of the paid trolls but traveled to Russia and interviewed two of them. Russia called that fake news, claiming she'd hired the trolls, Bee noted, laughing, but "paid trolls are real, and when they're done interfering in the French and German elections, they'll have time to tell us how many children Susan Rice murdered with Cory Booker so POTUS can retweet it." Watch below. Peter Weber

April 5, 2017

President Trump is still bragging about his Electoral College win, in great detail, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Earlier today, Donald Trump addressed a group of builders' unions, and to prove that he was a builder, he spent a lot of the speech building up his ego." After spending a few minutes on that, and saluting a lonely Trump fan in his audience, Colbert turned to the hot story about Susan Rice, the "former national security adviser and person who thought she was done with this crap," and "unmasking."

Colbert took a stab at explaining the story. "You know how all the U.S. intelligence sources are saying that they intercepted conversations between foreign officials — for example, like the Russians — and members of the Trump campaign?" he asked. Well, according to reports, "Rice asked for those people's names to be 'unmasked.' You know what that means, I hope? Because no one really knows what that means."

"Republicans say that this means Trump was right when he claimed that Obama wiretapped him," Colbert said. "But here's what it also means: It also means intelligence agencies were eavesdropping on shady foreign officials, and incidentally picked up conversations they had with Americans. Would you like to know which Americans? The national security adviser did. So she asked to have their names unmasked." That appears to be completely legal.

But there's more. The national security adviser can only request the unmasking of names if it's necessary to understand the intelligence or if there's probable cause of criminal wrongdoing, Colbert said. "So Trump is going after Susan Rice by saying: 'My team wasn't talking to Russia. If they were, how come Susan Rice caught my team talking to Russia? There's your scandal!'" If that seems murky, Colbert tried to explain why Trump would think this vindicates him using a cartoon. "I think Trump got the idea that unmaskers are the real criminals from this classic episode of Scooby-Doo," he said. Watch below. Peter Weber

March 29, 2017

Nobody seems sure what is going on with President Trump and Russia, and that's "partly because it's really complicated," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. It's also because Trump has "really boring spies," he said. "So I'm going to liven it up right now by explaining the situation with more exciting spies, the Tom Clancy novels." This works out better than you might think.

Colbert spent a few minutes on the new Trump-Russia revelations, including Jared Kushner's previously undisclosed meeting with a sanctioned Russian bank in December. "And it looks like the pressure of these Russian rumors are getting to the administration," he said, a point he illustrated with Sean Spicer's quip about Trump and Russian dressing. "Wait a second, the president put Russian dressing on a salad tonight?" Colbert said. "That's huge news! Trump ate a salad?" Still, based on his Twitter feed, "Russia rumors must be getting to Trump, too."

Rumors aside, "what's the truth?" Colbert asked. "Was there nefarious collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, or is this all just being blown out of proportion by the liberal media over at The New York Times and the FBI? Who knows?" Not, he suggested, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who "doesn't seem all that focused on Russia, because he's spent a lot of time trying to validate Trump accusing Obama of wiretapping him a couple of weeks ago."

Nunes held a surprise press conference last week saying he'd seen evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies inadvertently picked up Trump team communications with foreign powers, but hasn't shared it with his committee members and says he'll never reveal his source. In fact, Colbert said, "the only person he has briefed on the subject is Donald Trump. Oh, that is brilliant detective work. You gather all the evidence you can on the prime suspect, and then you share it with him." The big questions are "what Nunes found out, and who leaked it to him," Colbert said. "And to get to the bottom of that, we're going to need The Late Show's Figure-It-Out-a-Tron." Think Glenn Beck's chalkboard, but naughtier. "He's really in Trump's inner circle," Colbert said, drawing complete. "And no matter where this investigation leads, no matter what we find out, one thing is true: Nunes is not coming out of this smelling like a rose." Watch below. Peter Weber

March 28, 2017

"Washington is a mess right now, but that's going to end soon," Stephen Colbert joked on Monday's Late Show. "Because the White House just announced that Trump's son-in-law and leader of the preppie camp across the lake, Jared Kushner, will oversee a broad effort to overhaul the federal government. And the government desperately needs overhaul; I mean, somebody keeps putting totally unqualified people in charge of really important stuff." He didn't name any names, exactly. "Kushner will become the head of something called the Office of American Innovation," Colbert said. "Vague, but still better than the original title, the Bureau of Obvious Nepotism."

Kushner's new office will aim to remake the government drawing from business ideas. "And you know he's got great business ideas, like being born into a wealthy real estate family, or marrying into a wealthy real estate family — why hasn't the government tried that?" Colbert asked. He was especially put off by Kushner's "bold vision for the office," that the government should be run as a "great American business," with the citizenry its customers: "Hold it a second. We're not customers, we're citizens, which means we own the store. You work for us, buddy."

Kushner already had a pretty full docket of responsibilities, "like managing the dispute with Mexico over Trump's border wall and brokering Middle East peace," Colbert said, but "Jared will still have time for his hobbies, like testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Well, not if he overhauls the government first — Business idea No. 1: No Senate." That brought Colbert to the other big story from last week: the FBI confirming that it's investigating the Trump campaign for possibly colluding with Russia during the election. "And you know it was a busy news week when I'm only getting to the treason at 11:58," he said.

Colbert played the footage of FBI Director James Comey publicly announcing that the Trump campaign is under active investigation, one that has been ongoing since at least last July, and he unloaded. "Wow, the FBI is investigating the president of the United States for colluding with a foreign power — that is historic," he said. "The only way it could possibly be more historic is if you told us before the f—ing election!" Watch below. Peter Weber

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