UPDATED with video: John Oliver added an image of Anthony Bourdain to the opening of Last Week Tonight, by way of tribute to the CNN series host/foodie who died Friday.
But he devoted most of the episode to Donald Trump.
Oliver started by noting Trump’s assertion that he hasn’t done much prep for Tuesday’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un because it’s mostly about “attitude” is “not even a viable strategy on RuPaul’s Drag Race.“
He then spent a full 17 minutes deconstructing how Trump’s team, and his Fox News acolytes, have gone about re-defining the Mueller investigation, to sway public opinion. Polls show the strategy is working and, when the number of people who want the probe to continue drops below 50%, Oliver predicted Trump will kill it.
No one is working harder than Fox News’ Sean Hannity, he noted.
“Night after night, Hannity paints a picture that the investigation is itself one gigantic scandal” trying to take down Trump, Oliver said, though Hannity’s narratives tend to fall apart quickly.
When even Trey Gowdy called Trump’s “Spygate” conspiracy theory a lot of hooey, Trump’s defense team makes Gowdy part of the conspiracy itself, Oliver explained.
“The machine is now running so aggressively, even evidence can’t slow it down,” he warned, playing a clip in which Hannity insists to his viewers there is no evidence of Trump collusion with Russia, and if you produce evidence, he does not believe it.
“He’s basically bragging he’s proof proof,” Oliver marveled.
Sowing doubt in the mind of the public matters, as Trump’s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani recently explained on-air, because when called upon to decide if Trump should be impeached, politicians will look to their constituents to tell them how to vote.
And those jurors are listening, Oliver proceeded to illustrate.
“In this piece we’ve argued that the tactics you have seen tonight are transparent, illogical and dumb,” Oliver said of his video show-and-tell. “But, the other thing they definitely are is depressingly effective.”
Trump’s tactics have worked in the past, Oliver said, describing POTUS as “a sociopathic, misogynist millionaire, evolved from celeb to undeserving folk hero, who suddenly has evidence piling up he may have done something terrible, and puts the whole system on trial.”
“It’s basically the story of O.J. [Simpson] all over again,” the HBO host explained. “Trump is going full O.J. and it’s working.”
“The reason Hannity throws out so many theories may well be that he knows if he can discredit any part of Mueller’s investigation, he can convince people the whole thing is a sham. And that is the same angle O.J.’s lawyers took,” the HBO host said.
Oliver noted that we don’t know yet if Mueller has compelling evidence Trump colluded with Russians during the election. But even if not, the process of finding out is important and should be seen through to its conclusion, he argued, nothing the probe’s rapid pace, large number of indictments, and guilty pleas by members of Trump’s campaign and transition teams.
“My fear right now is that we are headed in a direction where, even if Mueller comes back with irrefutable evidence, Trump could just pardon himself, and come out with a book called If I Did It and a very large portion of the country would f*cking buy it,” Oliver despaired.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.