Ah, the week before Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. The chocolate is hot. The stockings are stuffed. The news days are slow.
That’s the way it used to be, anyway. On Thursday, the stock market plunged, a government shutdown appeared imminent and, in an evening surprise, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced he was retiring as a result of President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
“The holidays can be stressful, especially with Trump as president,” comedian and talk-show host Stephen Colbert pointed out on “The Late Show” that night. “And many of our go-to holiday traditions don’t accurately reflect our national mood.”
With that, Colbert said he was debuting “A Very Special Counsel Christmas,” a special “tailor-made for these trying times.”
The animated parody film opens at the North Pole, where elves are rushing to finish toy-building in the final sprint before Christmas Eve, and Santa Claus is answering letters from children. Most of them contain the usual softball questions: Why do you have a beard? Why do you wear red? (“Because red is the jolliest color!” Santa replies. “And in the event of an avalanche, rescuers can find my body in the snow.”)
Then he receives a letter from Trump.
“Dear Lyin' Santa, Your [sic] FIRED. Sincerely, Donald J. Trump,” reads the missive. “P.S. Why didn’t I get my border wall last year?”
The letter sets in motion a frantic chain of events that is even more frantically covered by a parody CNN (complete with a pitch-perfect animated Wolf Blitzer): Trump really means it. He’s fired Santa at will, as is his presidential right per text in a fictional U.S. Constitution.
To serve as an “acting Santa Claus,” Trump appoints “the bearded guy I see at all my rallies,” a MAGA hat-wearing commando who promptly rounds up the North Pole elves in cages and “reassigns” them to the U.S.-Mexico border.
It’s Christmas Eve. Bereft of duties, the real Santa Claus sinks into a deep depression, chugging 2-percent milk and slurring Christmas carols by a roaring fire. Then a knock comes at the door.
It’s none other than special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who in real life has been investigating whether Trump colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. In this cartoon world, however, Mueller is better known to Santa as an old combat buddy from the Vietnam War.
“I came as soon as I heard,” the fictional Mueller tells Santa. “You’re not back on the milk, are you?”
The two sit by the fire, reminiscing about their days as soldiers and trying to figure out how to get Santa’s job back and save Christmas. To take down Trump, Mueller suggests throwing “the book” at him — specifically, the leather-bound “Naughty & Nice List” on Santa’s table.
They flip through its pages, marveling at how Trump has always ended up on Santa’s “Naughty” lists, even from childhood. But it won’t be enough.
“I’m sorry, Kringle, but we need hard evidence of collusion,” Mueller tells him.
Enter a stubbled elf, Gumdrop, who bursts into the room and declares: “Yo ho! I got your evidence of collusion right here!”
He’s clutching a videotape with a title that references allegations of a much-sensationalized but uncorroborated (even in real life) lewd tape of Trump that Russia supposedly possesses.
Mueller and Santa gasp: “But how?”
“Santa, remember when I was stationed as an Elf on the Shelf in Moscow?” the elf says, trailing off.
A plan is hatched. We won’t spoil the end of the cartoon here, except to note that the resolution comes at a news conference for Trump’s “Operation Feliz Navidon’t,” a newly completed border wall the kidnapped elves constructed with Christmas presents.
“We built the wall, and we made the North Pole pay for it, folks,” Trump gleefully announces. He then looks up to spot Santa’s sleigh flying overhead.
“Santa! And . . . Robert Mueller? He is real,” Trump says, a nod to the notion that the elusive, spotlight-shunning man is “the most unknowable man in Washington” — both in Colbert’s fictional world and in real life.