UPDATED with video: Last Week Tonight host John Oliver dove directly into the headline-grabbing details of the long-awaited Mueller report in which the special counsel detailed Russian election meddling, and alleged Trump campaign Russia contacts, and Trump efforts to thwart special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigated.
To begin, Mueller’s statement “if we had confidence…that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state” is a “pretty conspicuous non-exoneration,” Oliver noted, adding “some of the details in this report were incredible.”
Like other late-night stars before him, Oliver also highlighted the passage where Mueller described Trump finding out Mueller had been appointed special counsel, slumping in his chair and saying, “Oh, my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f*cked.”
Oliver is the only late-night host, however, who painted an Oval Office tableau in which, as Trump was slumping and swearing, Ivanka was playing fetch with Don Jr., Eric somehow got his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole, Reince Priebus had his head stuck inside a honey pot, Jared Kushner was standing motionless in front of a blank wall, and Steve Bannon was stress-eating a bowl of used syringes while Stephen Miller gleefully pulled the legs off a spider.
“It is a masterpiece,” Oliver congratulated himself.
Trump may have been saved by the “cartoonish levels of disorganization and incompetence” of people around him when it came to cozying up to Russia during the election, and also by the disobedience of those around Trump when it came to obstruction of justice, Oliver observed.
About the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr. and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, Mueller concluded it would be hard to prove Junior had general knowledge that his conduct could be breaking the law, “or that he had general knowledge of anything at all, other than what it feels like to watch flags get more hugs from your dad than you’d get if you lived to be 1,000,” Oliver snarked.
Meanwhile, Mueller’s report cited 10 Trump administration officials or associated who did not carry out orders given to them by Trump which might constitute obstruction, which Oliver called “reassuring and terrifying.”
Most shocking example, Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn to remove Mueller as special counsel. McGahn instead called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed his office, wrote a resignation letter and told chief of staff Priebus that Trump had asked him to “do crazy sh*t” and informed Priebus and Bannon he was leaving.
“Preparing to quit because you are being asked to do crazy sh*t isn’t what you expect from the White House counsel. It’s what you expect from Nicholas Cage’s personal assistant,” Oliver assured.
You can’t really take assurance that so many of the people in Trump’s orbit did not do as he asked, because a lot of those people are now gone from that orbit, and the newer crop “seem very much on the same page as the president.”
Chief among them: new Attorney General Bill Barr.
Barr deliberately downplayed the contents of Mueller’s report in that four-page letter to Congress that set the storyline on the report for weeks before its release. Then he held a presser right before releasing the redacted report and spun it even more madly while repeating Trump’s fave phrase “no collusion.”
During that presser, Mueller excused Trump as having been “frustrated and angered by his sincere belief the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.”
“First of all, Donald Trump has never once in his life been motivated by a ‘sincere belief’,” Oliver countered.
“He is motivated by two things only: the icy howling wind swirling in the yawning chasm of pitch blackness where his soul should be and the hopeless pursuit of the only woman he truly loves [Ivanka].”
Added Oliver, addressing Barr: “If I may quote the advice Alec Baldwin’s attorney gives his client, ‘Being angry is not the same thing as being innocent’.”
Barr also insisted, at his presser, that Mueller’s report said Trump cooperated fully with the investigation and took no actions to step in its way.
“Gross mischaracterization,” Oliver said of Barr’s spin, being generous.
Trump would not sit down for an interview with Mueller’s team and, the report stated, “engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation and prevent the disclosure of evidence to it including through public and private contacts with potential witnesses.”
What we have learned from the Mueller report, Oliver summarized, is that:
- Russia interfered in the election
- Russia made efforts to help Trump win
- Trump’s campaign seemed eager to accept the help in a way no one should be comfortable with
- Trump may have obstructed justice and, if he didn’t, it might only because people who worked for him ignored his orders
- The Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement official, is a “dishonest hack.”