Late-Night Hosts Compare Trump to Tony Soprano After Release of Ukraine Phone Call Transcript

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS; Sean Gallagher; Lloyd Bishop/NBC
From left: Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers

"Trump is the only person who will do something so bad right out in the open that it makes you question whether it's actually bad," said Trevor Noah.

As the House's impeachment probe of President Donald Trump continues, late-night hosts continued to jokingly comment on the latest developments on the Wednesday episodes of their respective shows.

Earlier in the day, the White House released a rough transcript of President Trump's controversial phone call in July with newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump pressured him to investigate Joe Biden.

Also Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of betraying his oath of office, national security and the integrity of American elections. The president also argued that he did nothing wrong and referred to Pelosi's actions as a "witch hunt."

Stephen Colbert kicked off CBS' The Late Show by informing his audience that the Trump administration released the official notes from Trump and Zelensky's phone call. The host said that the notes make the president look "bad" and that the call begins with Trump congratulating Zelensky on his recent election victory, but "then he quickly reminds Zelensky about how much Ukraine owes the U.S."

"The United States has been very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't says that's reciprocal," Trump told Zelensky, according to the notes.

After Colbert mocked Trump for using the term "reciprocal," he continued to do an impression of the president and said, "'All I'm saying is, I'll scratch your back, you help me bury Joe Biden's political career in a shallow grave in the woods down by the dump.'"

The notes state that Zelensky agreed with Trump. The Ukrainian leader also said that he planned to buy Javelin missiles from the U.S. for defense purposes. Colbert explained that the U.S. stopped sending Ukraine the military aid right before the phone call and when Zelensky brought up buying more missiles, Trump used the opportunity to ask the Ukrainian leader for a favor. Trump asked if they could find Hillary Clinton's email server from 2016 and requested that Zelensky investigate Biden.

"There it is. Pressuring a foreign country to provide dirt to influence our election. They should hold the impeachment now. All in favor, say 'Yay,'" said Colbert as characters including Kermit the Frog, minions and Chewbacca appeared onscreen cheering.

The White House released a statement defending Trump's actions and said that the transcript showed that there was no quid pro quo. "All he did was suggest no military aide unless they investigated Biden. It's just quid pro Joe," quipped Colbert.

Following the inquiry for his impeachment, Trump told reporters at the United Nations that the call could have gone much worse. "Yes, it’s true. People did not know that Trump could be so nice. Specifically, Don Jr. and Eric," said Colbert. 

The host concluded the segment by sharing a clip of Trump during the press conference inaccurately announcing that Pelosi is no longer Speaker of the House. "It's that easy?" asked the host. "In that case, Donald Trump, as far as I'm concerned, unfortunately is no longer president of the United States."

Over on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, host Trevor Noah wondered "if Trump even read" the transcript.

Noah recapped: "Not only did Trump definitely ask the president of Ukraine to work with his personal lawyer/vampire henchman to investigate Joe Biden, he also tried to rope in the United States Attorney General and if that happened, that's a big deal because a president can't go around using the Justice Department as his personal Task Rabbit."

"You might be wondering, 'If this phone call is so damning, why did Trump even release the transcript? Only an idiot would do that.' Exactly," said Noah.  

"Trump is the only person who will do something so bad right out in the open that it makes you question whether it's actually bad," said the host. "It's the same way that Kanye [West] can walk around basically in rags, but because he does it so confidently, we're just like, 'I guess that's a style now.'"

Noah shared that a disclaimer appeared at the bottom of the transcript to note that it did not quote the conversation between Trump and Zelensky verbatim. "I feel so bad for whatever voice recognition software has to try and make sense of what Donald Trump is saying," said the host. "That computer's programmed to recognize normal human speech patterns, not the Donald."

Noah said that Democrats view the transcript as a "smoking gun that proves Donald Trump abuses power and deserves to lose his job," while Republicans "see a man who's innocent and just passionate about cracking down on corruption in Ukraine."

After a clip showed Trump announcing that there was no quid pro quo on the phone call, Noah mocked, "There's no quid pro quo, because I would never speak Latin on my calls."

Jimmy Kimmel also talked about the news on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! "When it Ukraines, it pours," he said. "I don't know about you, but I'm soaking wet right now."

Following news coverage of the phone call, a montage of clips showed Trump discussing the "great" phone call. "It was a perfect phone call," said Kimmel. "Pleasantries were exchanged. Friendships were built. Crimes were committed. I have no notes. I give it five stars."

Kimmel said that the president did not appear to understand how bad the phone call was. "Who would've guessed that Volodymyr Zelensky would be his Monica Lewinsky," he said.

"He's been doing business like this for forever. He's a sneaky ham-handed racketeer who cheats and cheats and cheats in every situation of his life," the host said of Trump. "He thinks he's Tony Soprano, and in a lot of ways he is Tony Soprano. They're both overweight mouth-breathers who are disappointed in their sons. At least Tony Soprano knew when his conversations were being recorded and he should avoid saying illegal things."

Kimmel also touched on Trump's press conference, in which Trump said that he used to be "the king of good press" before he ran for president. "Yeah, because instead of just being a ridiculous person we all laughed at, you became a ridiculous person who has the nuclear codes," he said.

Late Night's Seth Meyers shared that Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to write that there was "no president in the history of our country who have been treated so badly as I have." Added the host, "Even more amazing, he tweeted it from the Abraham Lincoln room in the John F. Kennedy library."

Meyers said that Trump releasing the transcript was "like when someone has a face tattoo that says 'Hail Satan.' If that's what you're showing people, what are you hiding?"

"Trump is the worst criminal. He's like a character from The Sopranos who everyone knows is only gonna last one episode," said Meyers after he recapped Trump's proposition to Zelensky.

Later in the episode, Meyers took on the memo in the "Closer Look" segment.

The host shared news clips of commentators stating that Trump would not have released the phone call transcripts if the information wasn't exculpatory. "Yes, he would. Donald Trump is literally incapable of doing anything exculpatory," said Meyers. "First of all, he would have to know what the word 'exculpatory' means."

Meyers noted that transcript probably wasn't accurate because "even the world's best stenographers have no idea what he's saying."

While Trump has repeatedly said that there was nothing inappropriate about the phone conversation, Meyers argued differently. "In an official call with a president from another country, he literally brought up Joe Biden, Rudy Giuliani and said the words, 'I would like you to do us a favor.' It doesn't get more obvious than that," he said.

Meyers also pointed out that the president spoke highly about Giuliani many times throughout the phone call and called him "a very capable guy." The host responded, "But he's not. He does not know what's happening and he is definitely not a capable guy." Meyers continued, "Anytime he does an interview, he looks like a guy in a haunted house after a zombie just popped out of the bushes."

The host later spoke about how the impeachment threats will affect Trump's chances of being re-elected. "Some Democrats have been scared that impeachment will be good for him or play into hands," said Meyers. "We have to drop this idea that Trump is playing three-dimensional chess. He's more like a guy who ate a chess piece, is now choking on it and, instead of gesturing for the Heimlich maneuver, eats another chess piece to dislodge the first one."

Trump also spoke about how the impeachment could benefit him going into the upcoming election during the press conference. "Of course his first priority is 'It's good for me' and then he throws in as an afterthought, 'Also, it's bad for the country,'" said the host.

"The reality is that if we finally have a real formal impeachment process with hearings and votes, we'll all get to see actual evidence of Trump's serial corruption and law breaking live on national television every single day, and that's a huge deal," said Meyers.

Over on NBC's The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon also spoke about the transcript.

After the host noted that the transcript included evidence of Biden's son being discussed in the conversation, Fallon joked, "When Trump saw that part, he said, 'That can't be my transcript. That looks nothing like my handwriting.'"

He continued, "You can tell Trump is running out of explanations. Today he was like, 'It's not me on the transcript. It's Alec Baldwin.'"

Fallon also joked that many Democrats are onboard with Trump's impeachment because "Nancy Pelosi crowd-surfed her way into the office today."

Added Fallon, "A lot of people are calling the transcript a smoking gun, which explains why today Trump said, 'Okay, now I'm ready for gun control.'"

 James Corden kicked off CBS' The Late Late Show by discussing the transcript.

"Some of the transcript is a little hard to follow because Zelensky's English isn't very good and, well, Trump's is even worse," he said.

Corden noted that Trump may not know what a favor is and said, "A favor is when you ask your neighbor to watch your cat for the weekend. Not interfere with an election."

During his press conference on Wednesday, Trump said that the whistleblower didn’t have any "first-class or first-rate or second-tier information." Commented Corden, "This is a huge blow for Democrats. Everybody knows if you want to impeach, you're information has to be at least economy plus."

The host also joked that the show managed to secure audio from the conversation between Trump and Zelensky. In the fake conversation, the president said that there was a "witch hunt" after him, but that the witches "were 4's and 5's at best." Another portion of the mock phone call featured Trump asking Zelensky to investigate if Vice President Mike Pence was stealing his Hostess cakes.

Over on TBS' Full Frontal, Samantha Bee noted that the phone call took place one day after Robert Mueller's testimony in front of Congress. "It's like if O.J. Simpson stepped out of court the moment after his acquittal and immediately murdered two people," she said.

Bee called Trump's conversation with Zelensky "especially crazy" because "before Zelensky was sworn into office in May, he was actually an actor who literally starred in a sitcom about a random dude becoming president of Ukraine." She continued, "So it was basically a conversation between someone who started his political career by pretending to be president and another guy who started his career by pretending to be successful."

The host later commented on Trump's claim that Pelosi is no longer Speaker of the House. "Trump has lost his grip, but at least he has good people around him like Rudy Giuliani, who's in charge of denying it, then confessing, then getting very confused on TV," she said before clips followed of Giuliani yelling on CNN.

"I know it's easy to dismiss the call to Ukraine as just another Trump scandal," said Bee. "Yet no matter how burnt out we feel, we should be as disgusted by Trump pressuring foreign powers to investigate his rivals as we are disgusted that Stephen Miller has a girlfriend."

She continued: "Make no mistake, it is bad that the president is offering to be friends with benefits with any country that investigates his rivals. The fact that he's done it more than once means that it's just not horrifying. It's a pattern and it will happen again, sort of like his affairs."

Bee later informed her viewers that impeaching Trump won't remove him from office because only the Senate can remove an impeached president. "The Constitution says the Senate should have the sole power to try all impeachments and unfortunately the Senate is run by these guys," she said as clips showed senators including Utah's Mike Lee and Texas' Ted Cruz.

"The Senate will never expose Trump to real consequences. He owns them," she continued. "They're more subservient than his own hair."

Bee added that the impeachment will lead to "a big honkin' investigation." She explained, "The House gets way more leverage to subpoena the hell out of the White House. What they find along the way won't convince the Senate that Trump needs to be out of office, but it might convince the American people."

The host said that the most important reason to impeach Trump is because "it's the right thing to do." Explained Bee, "Trump thinks he's above the law and there's only one institution that can make sure he isn't. Unfortunately, it's Congress."