On Monday night, Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah had messages for President Trump — the late-show hosts and vocal Trump critics were sorry.
Over the weekend, after almost two years, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III finally concluded his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But much to the disappointment of Colbert, Noah and their fellow late-night comics, who have gleefully skewered Trump over allegations of collusion, a summary of the report’s findings cleared the president of coordinating with Russia. The conclusions, summarized into a four-page document by Attorney General William P. Barr and released Sunday, have since prompted Trump and his supporters to mount vigorous attacks against his critics, demanding they apologize.
During his CBS show, Colbert appeared to bend to the pressure. Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, became the latest to join the chorus of GOP voices calling for amends to be made. Sanders also tweeted a “Mueller Madness” bracket Monday night, that included Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, writing “Which of the angry and hysterical @realDonaldTrump haters got it most embarrassingly wrong?”
“I have said one or two things about Donald Trump, like how he’s a terrible president, so I’m just going to bite the bullet and say it,” Colbert told his audience. A camera zoomed in dramatically on the host’s face, ready to capture the monumental moment.
“Mr. President, if you’re watching, and I know you are,” he said, pausing to take a deep breath, “I’m sorry that you’re a terrible president.”
Over on Comedy Central, Noah begrudgingly admitted that “The Daily Show” also needed to apologize to Trump.
“Mr. President, we’re sorry we called you a Russian-pee-loving-pumpkin-headed-colludasaurus,” Noah said. “Portions of that name were not accurate.”
But after they got their not-so-genuine apologies out of the way, Colbert and Noah returned to the task at hand: Mocking the Mueller report.
Neither host bothered to hide his disappointment with the investigation.
“It’s a little bit like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning,” Noah said. “You were hoping for a brand-new BMX, but instead you find Santa’s dead body, burnt because your parents forgot to turn off the fire.”
Noah was particularly incensed by Mueller’s decision not to offer a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.
“Are you sh------ me right now?” the incredulous host yelled. “Robert Mueller spends two years investigating obstruction of justice and his conclusion is ‘I don’t know, what do you guys think?’ ”
He continued, growing more irate: “That’s not an answer, Robert Mueller. That is the question we gave you. If I wanted my questions answered with other questions, I wouldn’t get a special counsel, I would get a therapist.”
Colbert, clearly frustrated by the Mueller developments, kicked off his show with a Mueller-themed cold-open set in the Old West before launching into a roughly 16-minute monologue devoted entirely to the report.
“This weekend we received some troubling news,” a grave Colbert said. “Our president is not a Russian asset.”
The news, he added, was “troubling” for a number of reasons.
“If Trump is not working with the Russians, then what the hell is wrong with him?” he asked. “If they don’t have anything on him, why does he keep saying nice things about [Russian President] Vladimir Putin?”
For Colbert, the conclusions of the long-awaited report were “anticlimactic.”
“This is worse than the finale of ‘Lost,’” Colbert said, referencing the popular drama series that ended in 2010. “What about the smoke monster, was it real or not? And if not, why have so many members of Trump’s campaign pled guilty to lying about meeting with the smoke monster?”
Colbert’s face contorted with confusion. Why, he asked, couldn’t the investigation’s ending be more like the finale of the hit sitcom “Seinfeld?”
“Still disappointing, but at least they’re all in jail,” he quipped.
On ABC, Jimmy Kimmel suggested that the Mueller report didn’t bode well for the future of the United States.
“Now, the process of tearing our country even further apart can finally begin,” he said.
Though Kimmel was equally as confused as Colbert and also likened the investigation’s ending to the finale of “Lost,” he placed the blame squarely on Putin
“Putin wanted him in there and did what he had to do,” Kimmel said. “Basically Trump got into the White House the same way Lori Loughlin got her kid into USC.”
With the Mueller report and Monday’s arrest of Michael Avenatti, the former attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and vocal Trump adversary, Kimmel surmised that the president was having the best week of his life.
“All they have to do now is replace the bald eagle with a fried chicken,” he cracked.
Meanwhile, despite apologizing, Colbert couldn’t resist letting loose on Trump, first taking aim at his claim that Mueller’s report “was a complete and total exoneration.” (Barr’s summary explicitly stated that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”)
“Trump does not understand the simplest of concepts,” Colbert remarked before slipping into his impersonation of the president. “You know I just tried some I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. It’s total and complete butter. I can’t believe how much it is butter.”
He went on to roast Trump for often deriding the investigation as a “witch hunt” and claiming the “deep state” was at fault.
“Here’s the thing, if the deep state is a government-wide conspiracy doing everything in its power to take down Donald Trump, then the deep state sucks at their job,” Colbert said. “What kind of incompetent Illuminati do they have working over at the deep state?”
Colbert then adopted a thick Southern accent to illustrate the kind of person he had in mind.
“Golly, I told the Free Masons we’d bring down Trump with a shadowy bureaucratic coup, but then I got my head stuck in a mop bucket,” Colbert drawled. “I dropped my instructions from George Soros in the toilet. If you’ll excuse me I have to get the Holy Grail out of the secret government storage and fill it with Mr. Pibb. We can’t afford Dr Pepper. We’re kind of shoestring cabal.”
Later in the show, Colbert took on a more serious tone as he informed his viewers that “even if Trump was falsely accused, he only has himself to blame," citing the president’s tendency to lie.
“The rest of Trump’s presidency is going to be like a big bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough,” Colbert said. “He’s going to promise you that it’s the finest chocolate chips in the world, but I promise you, if you swallow that, you’re going to be eating some rat poop, which technically may not be a crime. But it’s going to leave a bad taste in your mouth.”
More from Morning Mix: