John Oliver Warns Against Trump Using "Incompetence" as Defense in Russia Probe

Last Week Tongiht with John Oliver - HBO-Publicity 1-H 2017
Courtesy of HBO

The HBO late-night host also took jabs at the 'Entourage' movie and Amazon’s 'Goliath.'

During Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver addressed the past week's worth of developments in the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller and mocked President Trump’s tendency to play the “Trump card.”

In a 31-page indictment, initial charges in Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling during the presidential election were made against Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort and Manafort’s business partner, Rick Gates. Manafort and Gates were charged with receiving tens of millions of dollars from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party and hiding that from the Justice Department and IRS. They were also charged with converting more than $75 million to foreign bank accounts.

“Yes, it’s finally happening!” the late-night host said of the indictment during his opening monologue,  adding, “Trump must be furious with them, not so much for the part where they allegedly lied to the government, but where they pretended to have less money than they did.”

And Oliver questioned Trump’s involvement: “Did Trump know all of this and not care? Or did he know none of it because he’s incompetent. In other words: Is Trump smart enough to be evil?”

The issue of his involvement took center stage after Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and admitted that he informed Trump’s campaign team that he had Russian contacts who claimed to have salacious information about Hillary Clinton. He claimed that a member of Trump’s team encouraged the information and praised Papadopoulos for doing “great work.”

Oliver mocked the team’s acceptance of the questionable information, comparing it to that of the infamous Watergate scandal. “It’s like if, during Watergate, we had an email chain of Howard Hunt saying, ‘About to break in!’ and Nixon replying, ‘Nice!’,” Oliver joked.

Oliver also addressed the contradictory photo posted on Trump’s Instagram page, showing Trump and Papadopoulos sitting next to each other during a security meeting. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued the photo was irrelevant, since the president has photos with “millions of people.” Trump has also since claimed he doesn’t remember the meeting during which the photo was taken.  

“Oh, you don’t remember? That is convenient,” Oliver was quick to argue. The Last Week host then showed soundbites of the president stating he had “one of the great memories of all time.” Jokes aside, Oliver argued that the president has a tendency to play the “Trump card” to maneuver out of any controversy.

“In all three cases, Trump’s pushback has basically been, ‘I don’t know anything about the people I should have known those things about,'” Oliver argued. “That is his signature move. He is playing the Trump card. What I mean by that: He’s using his own incompetence as a defense. It’s the same way you might excuse the behavior of a dog or a small child.”

Oliver then encouraged his audience to not blur the line between Trump’s actions and words, “We cannot accept the Trump card as his defense here,” Oliver said. “We’d be saying, ‘This guy is too dumb to really understand what he’s doing so I guess we have no choice but to let him keep being president.’ Please, let’s not do that.”

The conversation then switched gears to economic development incentives, and Oliver told the audience he was aware it might seem like a lackluster topic.

He pretended the viewer was putting his show in picture-in-picture with the Entourage movie, but predicted the person watching the film based on the HBO series, which was released by sister company Warner Bros., would be back.

“Oh, how about that? All of a sudden a show about economic development doesn’t seem like the worst thing you can be watching,” Oliver said.

Oliver also criticized Amazon for its unappealing use of its incentive income, in particular on its series, Goliath.

“Amazon already has more money than it knows what to do with. How else can you explain the existence of Goliath? A show that literally nobody has ever seen. Nobody. No human. No animal. Nobody,” Oliver joked.