“It is yet another bewildering day in America,” said Stephen Colbert on Wednesday’s Late Show. “Up is down, right is wrong, Trump is president.”
Credit where credit is due, Colbert continued – Trump’s remarkable in that he is “willing to call his most disastrous blunders his greatest victories”.
Case in point: “Trump’s complete betrayal of our Kurdish allies.” Weeks ago, after a phone call with the Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump surprisingly removed US troops from northern Syria, allowing Turkey to invade.
“It can be argued that getting out of the endless wars in the Middle East is not a bad thing. I understand that part,” Colbert said. “But the way Trump did this, make no mistake who wins here: his buddy Vladimir Putin, who yesterday met with Erdoğan to carve up Syria like a Christmas shawarma.”
Naturally, Trump gave a self-congratulatory victory speech from the White House on Wednesday, where he said the ceasefire in Syria would be permanent, “however you define the word permanent in that part of the world”.
Colbert translated in the president’s voice: “We have achieved permanent peace, by which I mean a very temporary peace. That is my promise, by which I mean my suggestion, really just spitballing here. Point is, war’s over, let’s go forcibly kiss a nurse in Times Square.”
“Just remember, when you write it down in the history books,” Colbert continued as Trump, “it was my idea and mine alone to give Turkey and Russia everything they want.”
On Full Frontal, Samantha Bee dove headfirst into the impeachment inquiry engulfing Trump’s presidency, starting with the testimony on Tuesday of America’s top diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Taylor offered “the strongest evidence we’ve seen that Trump really did pressure Ukraine to investigate his rivals since Mick Mulvaney went on TV and admitted it”, said a frustrated Bee.
To recap, Taylor provided detailed notes on Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Bee offered a “comprehensive explainer” of the Biden-Ukraine scandal: “It’s bullshit.
“I mean, don’t get me wrong,” she continued. “There are plenty of reasons to criticize Joe Biden, from his treatment of Anita Hill to his vote for the Iraq war to allegations that he inappropriately touched a train. But the Ukraine story is not one of them because there is no evidence that either Biden did anything illegal in Ukraine.”
So where did Trump get his crazy idea? According to Bee, from rightwing author Peter Schweizer, whose recent book introduced the Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theory.
“In his recent books, Schweizer comes off as relatively sane by rightwing crackpot standards,” explained Bee. “That is not a coincidence.” A friend of the former White House adviser Steve Bannon, Schweizer has “devised a clever way to use the mainstream media against liberal politicians: just gather a bunch of provocative but unrelated facts about a Democrat, and pretend they point to a nefarious plot that’s completely unsupported by those facts,” Bee said.
“Then, instead of feeding them into the rightwing media fever swamp, feed them into respectable mainstream outlets that in their desperate quest for balance, will investigate, promote and legitimize the story, allowing it to spew all over the news ecosystem.”
Bannon called this system of information “anchor left, pivot right – which is also his system for putting on his human suit in the morning”, Bee joked.
This system worked, Bee said, in the case of Schweizer’s 2016 book Clinton Cash, which made baseless claims about the Clinton Foundation’s finances and spawned mainstream media coverage.
Schweizer probably has plans for 2020, said Bee, and she had a message for the media: “Stop letting this guy jerk you around with empty innuendo.
“You don’t need to cover stories that aren’t true. It’s a reckless, unprofessional, offensive choice you’re making.”
“There’s long been a belief in the political world that somehow Donald Trump is untouchable, that somehow he never pays a political price for anything and that nothing can ever hurt him,” said Seth Meyers on Late Night.
Still, “it really feels like we’re seeing a potentially major political shift,” said Meyers, who referenced a CNN poll unveiled on Wednesday that found a full 50% of Americans supported Trump’s removal from office, the highest number yet.
And there have been cracks in his support among congressional Republicans. On Sunday, the Utah senator Mitt Romney said in an interview: “We certainly can’t have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value. That is, after all, against the law.”
“Yeah, it is, and I can’t believe that even has to be said,” Meyers responded. “It’s like if you were doing 120 on the highway while snorting cocaine, drinking tequila and mooning other drivers and a cop pulled you over and said, ‘public nudity is, after all, against the law.’”
Some Republicans are still backing the president, though. On Wednesday, two dozen House conservatives stormed a secure deposition room to protest against the impeachment inquiry, a scene Meyers likened to “a protest outside a pharmacy that ran out of Viagra”.
“They shouldn’t be at the Capitol – they should be standing at a McDonald’s demanding to see the manager.”