Seth Meyers on Trump’s justification for Iran hit: ‘We’ve been through this before’ | Culture

Seth Meyers

After a weekend in which the Trump administration pushed vague and contradictory justifications for drone strike which killed Gen Qassem Suleimani earlier this month, Seth Meyers was feeling deja vu. On Late Night, he compared the administration’s spin attempts to the Bush administration’s playbook in the run-up to the Iraq invasion 17 years ago.

“Trump circumvented Congress to launch a strike on an official of a foreign government – a decision that has been deeply unpopular with the American people,” Meyers said, citing a recent ABC News poll in which a majority of Americans disapproved of the strike. The administration has claimed that Suleimani posed an “imminent threat”.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has been “cagey” about the alleged “imminent threat”, Meyers continued, which has angered lawmakers. After a briefing by administration officials, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut concluded to reporters that the threat “doesn’t exist”.

“Of course it doesn’t exist,” Meyers said. “If Donald Trump says, ‘Trust me, the thing exists,’ it definitely does not exist. He’s like a magician who says he’s going to pull a rabbit out of his hat, looks down, realizes the rabbit has chewed through the hat and escaped and says, ‘Trust me, the rabbit’s there.’”

Meyers compared Trump’s actions to the Bush administration’s vague fearmongering and deceptions in 2003 – he played a clip, for example, of the then national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, calling Saddam Hussein’s (non-existent) pursuit of nuclear weapons a “smoking gun” that could turn into a “mushroom cloud”.

“Of course it turned out there was neither a mushroom cloud nor a smoking gun, or as Trump has repeatedly called it, a ‘smocking gun’,” Meyers said. “That’s probably why Trump’s speechwriters have never even bothered to write a line like that for him, because they know he’d never be able to pronounce the words – ‘We don’t want the smocking gun to be a mosh-room pizza.’”

Meyers concluded with his signature exhortation to his viewers: “We’ve been through this before: a lawless administration, lying to justify a potentially disastrous and illegal act of war. Trump pulled back from the brink last week but it’s very possible he could do this all over again, which means Congress must use its power to stop him.”

Stephen Colbert

On the Late Show, Stephen Colbert also dissected the administration’s muddled attempts to justify the Suleimani strike; the official explanation remains that the strike was ordered to thwart an “imminent attack”. But, Colbert noted, Pompeo has had trouble narrowing that down. “We don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real,” he told Fox News last week.

Colbert parodied that logic: “Hello, 911? Hello, I’m being robbed,” he said. “I don’t know precisely when and I don’t know precisely where but I do have the address of a guy I want you to kill. This is real.”

Trump, meanwhile, has peddled a line that he believed Suleimani posed an imminent threat to four unnamed embassies. “He believes it would’ve been four embassies,” said a skeptical Colbert. “Do we really want to live in a country where we bomb people because of what Donald Trump believes? We’re talking about a guy who believes windmills cause cancer.”

On Sunday, the defense secretary, Mark Esper, admitted that he had not seen any evidence for Trump’s claim of a credible threat to four embassies, which demonstrated to Colbert how the Trump administration is “like a couple who doesn’t coordinate their lie before leaving a party”.

Jimmy Kimmel

In Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel recapped a day of Oscar nominations and presidential lies. For the Oscars, “it was a big day for 1917 – the year, not the movie”, joked Kimmel. “Nineteen of the 20 acting nominees are white people, no women were nominated for best director – that’s less minorities than in Donald Trump’s cabinet.”

The big winner, with 11 nominations, was the movie Joker. “It’s been a big year for mentally ill clowns already,” he said, shifting tack to the White House. On Sunday, the official White House Twitter posted a “first snow of the year” picture, “which is fine”, Kimmel said, “except there was no snow in Washington last night or yesterday, and in fact, it was 70 degrees according to the National Weather Service. Even their weather is a lie!”

Meanwhile, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, prepared to deliver articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial this month, though Kimmel wasn’t particularly confident the serious moment would transcend partisan politics. “Even with damning new evidence coming in all the time on this, Republicans continue to claim they don’t see anything wrong with the way Trump handled Ukraine,” he said, “the same way R Kelly didn’t see anything wrong with a little bump and grind.”

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