First off, John Oliver would like you to know that he can’t remember what “normal weeks” used to feel like.
With that exasperated declaration, the comedian set about unpacking the week’s news on his Sunday show, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” — starting with, no surprise, President Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James B. Comey.
Comey’s dismissal on Tuesday set off a firestorm of speculation about how and why Trump decided to fire him, with some making comparisons to President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal and wondering what would become of the FBI investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the presidential election.
Oliver focused first on one aspect of the “genuinely weird” termination letter Trump sent Comey (“and not just because it featured Trump’s signature, which looks like a heart-rate monitor of a hamster on meth,” the host said).
Trump wrote in his letter to Comey, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
Referring to Trump’s recollection that Comey had reassured him that he was not under investigation, Oliver said that trying to put words in Comey’s mouth as he was being fired was “just inherently suspicious.”
“That is the equivalent of a breakup text reading: ‘While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I was the most enthusiastic, dexterous and intuitive lover you ever had, I nevertheless must terminate your position as my girlfriend. Eggplant emoji,’” he joked.
For two days last week, the White House offered an array of conflicting explanations for the firing, originally saying that Trump had acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, before eventually releasing an “official timeline” stating that the president had lost confidence in Comey over the course of several months.
However, Trump “undid two days of damage control in just a few sentences,” Oliver said, after he sat down for an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt and explained that he had planned to fire Comey all along.
“Now, think about what just happened there,” Oliver said. “Trump is so desperate to appear dominant, he will rush to take the credit for anything, no matter how bad it is. If you wanted him to confess to murder, all a lawyer would have to say is: ‘Your honor, the killer could not have possibly been Donald Trump. It must have been someone much stronger and smarter, with a much hotter daughter.’ And before they finished that sentence, Trump would be yelling: ‘I did it! It was me! Lock me up!’”
The comedian was also aghast that Trump told Holt that he was thinking of the Russia investigation when he fired Comey.
“It is the kind of response that makes you ask three questions: One, can he really be this stupid?” Oliver said. “Two, does he really think we as a country are this stupid? And three, are we, as a country, this stupid? And it’s entirely possible the answers to all three questions are yes.”
(Over the weekend, “Saturday Night Live” found the exchange so satire-rich that it lampooned the interview in its cold open, featuring Holt (played by Michael Che) wide-eyed as Alec Baldwin-as-Trump confesses on camera that he had Russia in mind when he fired Comey. “Wait — so did I get him? Is it this all over?” Che-as-Holt asks. “Wait, no, I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore? All right.”)
Oliver also called out Trump’s claim that Comey had told him multiple times on the phone that he was not under investigation.
“I call bulls‑‑‑. I call turbo bulls‑‑‑ on that,” Oliver said. “There is no way those conversations went down in that manner. Trump has somehow managed to be both a terrible and an amazing liar, and I don’t know how that’s physically possible.”
Indeed, on Friday, associates of Comey gave differing accounts of the alleged conversations between Trump and the former FBI director — prompting the president to hint on Twitter that he may have secretly recorded their exchanges.
Oliver ended the Comey segment by targeting a Republican-controlled Congress for not standing up to Trump, with a special tirade reserved for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) for giving “nonanswers” when it comes to the president.
“It’s honestly incredible to watch a man who spends 90 minutes every morning working out refuse to show any strength whatsoever,” Oliver said. “Apparently, no part of P90X targets the backbone.”
Addressing the lawmakers who he said were supposed to be keeping Trump in check, Oliver concluded:
“And if you don’t, it’s no longer on Trump. It’s on you. Because when you’ve got the presidential equivalent of a 5-year-old s‑‑‑ting on the salad bar of a Ruby Tuesday’s, at some point, you stop blaming the 5-year-old and you start blaming the people who are not stopping him. Stop that boy, that’s what I’m saying. Stop that boy, now.”