Many daily late-night TV talk shows that rely on riffing off the biggest news stories tape at the end of the workday. And for the second time in a week, a massive political bombshell dropped minutes before cameras started rolling.
This time it was the Washington Post story, published online at 5 p.m. EDT, that President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a White House meeting last week. Administration officials have said no intelligence sources or methods were discussed.
A number of late-night hosts managed to work jokes off the late-breaking story into their shows, trotting out their Trump voices and Russian accents.
Stephen Colbert, who has emerged as one of the late-night hosts most critical of Trump, opened his monologue by saying, “The bad news: The Washington Post reports that Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. The good news? Trump found the leaker. It was fast!”
Colbert explained that during the Oval Office meeting with the Russian officials, “Trump apparently went off script and began describing details about an Islamic State terrorist threat. That is unbelievable,” Colbert said. “Trump has a script?”
“The information is so sensitive, that the article can’t describe in detail what was shared, but one official said, ‘This is code-word information,’ ” Colbert continued. “So, ‘code word’ means the vital aspects of the story have to be replaced with other words. You have to say things like ‘the package has been delivered.’ ‘The squirrel is in the basket.’ ‘The idiot is in the oval.’ It could mean anything! We don’t know what that means!”
Colbert’s approach to tackling the president — which included an oral-sex joke about Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — has drawn some calls for Colbert to be fired and a reaction from Trump himself. Last week, the president called the CBS host “a no-talent guy” who isn’t funny and tells “filthy” jokes. “It only builds up my base. It only helps me, people like him,” Trump told Time magazine.
Last week, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey — news that broke just 10 minutes before Colbert began taping. When Colbert announced Comey’s firing, his audience cheered and Colbert then tried to explain why they should be upset, capturing the nation’s political whiplash.
The writers for “Late Night with Seth Meyers” bookended Monday’s “A Closer Look” segment with the Post story about disclosures of classified information to Russians, and promoted it on Twitter hours before the show aired.
Meyers said the news came out “just before we started taping.” He then spent 10 minutes talking about Trump’s firing of Comey, the White House communications team doing damage control and even Trump’s views on exercise. The NBC host then turned back to the Oval Office meeting with the Russian officials, which took place one day after Trump fired Comey.
“A U.S. official said Trump ‘revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies,’ ” Meyers said, as a photo of Trump and the Russians officials flashed on the screen. “Now I know why the Russians are smiling in that picture. Look at them! They must have been like, ‘Can you believe how easy this is? I can’t believe this. We don’t even ask for it, he just gives.’ ”
The social media team for “The Daily Show” sent out series of tweets in a viral Twitter thread:
On air, Trevor Noah had his own version of good news-bad news: “The good news is Trump listens during intel briefings, and the bad news is Trump listens during intel briefings.”
“What’s really sad about this is that Donald Trump is trying to impress the Russians with the fact that he’s president,” Noah said. “They know! The guy’s there, like, ‘Yeah, do you guys know that I’m president?’ And they’re like, ‘Yes, that is how we planned it, yes, of course.’ ”
He added: “Right now, if I were Putin back in Moscow, I’d be like, ‘This is trap, no? No, it has to be, no it can’t be this easy.’ “