The borscht has really hit the fan for Rudy Giuliani with the widening scrutiny of the Trump administration’s alleged political dirt-digging excavations in Ukraine. Trump critics have been trying to make a figurative federal case out of the whole affair but now (after the arrest and indictment of two Giuliani cronies) it appears the other kind of federal case (the literal/criminal variety) is ramping.
John Oliver of the HBO television series Last Week Tonight is in the business of making people laugh but he has also established himself as one of the best dot-connecting specialists in the wider media sector covering Washington politics and policy. And that’s no joke.
That distinction came to mind during the Sunday night edition of Last Week Tonight as the bombastic but brainy Oliver mapped out the Ukraine scandal and its eccentric terrain in succinct but vivid terms. He also dropped jokes along the way like breadcrumbs marking a twisty cognitive trail.
At one point the Brit aimed his sharp wit toward two Soviet-born Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested at Dulles International Airport just hours after dining with Giuliani.
“These two men are just cartoonishly suspicious. I mean, look at them! They look like they’re about to sell you a rocket launcher in a Grand Theft Auto game. And if that wasn’t suspicious enough they were arrested at the airport while trying to fly out of the country with one-way tickets. And the indictment against them has more amazing details because it alleges that they funneled foreign money to U.S. political campaigns and one of the brilliant ways that Fruman apparently tried to evade detection was by misspelling his own name. Making contributions in the name of Igor ‘Furman’ instead of ‘Fruman.'”
After showing a clip of the two men and Giuliani dining together in a back-slapping mood and enjoying cocktails with a celebratory air, Oliver framed the moment: “Look at those guys, laughing, drinking, ties undone, they’re like the Rat Pack if the Rat Pack was deeply uncool and had even more ties to organized crime.”
The dot-connecting continued with a batch of images, social media messages, interview excerpts, reports, etc., that linked together the publicly known facts of the case and absurdities of American politics in recent days, weeks, and months. “It’s frankly amazing they were taken seriously by anyone given the obvious red flags. The company [that] one of them paid Giuliani through was called – and this is true – ‘Fraud Guarantee,’ which is essentially the equivalent of owning an extermination business called ‘Mouse Promise.'”
The dots also lead back to five sources of money that supported a whisper campaign aimed at U.S. diplomat Marie Yovanovitch, who was indeed bounced from her post. Oliver noted that the diplomat was mentioned by Trump at one point and that the President said she “would be going through some things,” a phrase that Oliver said was heavy with a veiled menace.
“That sounds pretty ominous but it is possible that by ‘Go through some things,’ he just meant, ‘Continue to live in this Kafka-esque nightmare where Donald Trump is the President of the United States, in which case, yeah, ‘All of us are going through some things right now, buddy.'”
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