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April 22, 2019

John Oliver's main story on Sunday's Last Week Tonight focused on — what else? — Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which he framed as the latest and maybe last chapter of his "Stupid Watergate" series — "basically Watergate, but if Nixon had been kicked in the head by a billy goat, and also if that billy goat had been the White House chief of staff."

Once people actually read the 448-page redacted report released Thursday, "it became clear that there was a lot in it," Oliver said. "And some of the details in this report were incredible." The one he lingered on, with artistic license, was Trump reportedly saying Mueller's appointment marked "the end of my presidency, I'm f---ed" — except Oliver, of course, did not censor the F-word. Since "we clearly can't cover everything in the report tonight," he said, "I'd like to concentrate on two key factors that may have saved the president here": Incompetence and disobedience.

"When it comes to conspiracy, Trump's saving grace may have been that despite Russians wanting to help," his campaign and family displayed "often cartoonish levels of disorganization and incompetence," plus "ignorance of basic legal concepts," Oliver said. He said the report's findings that so many of the people in Trump's orbit just ignored his orders to potentially obstruct justice is "both reassuring and also terrifying," though worryingly, "lots of those people are gone now, and the newer figures seem very much on the same page as the president," notably Attorney General William Barr.

Barr's preemptive spin now "seems laughably and willfully misleading," Oliver said. "It's like Barr summarized the Twilight novels as: 'A girl in Florida goes to third base with a wookie.'" The parts of Mueller's report we can read may feel like a letdown, he said, but its imparted knowledge "can inform Congress going forward and, crucially, voters a year and a half from now." The clip is full of NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

August 24, 2019

The Group of Seven Summit in Biarritz, France, hasn't officially started yet, but French President Emmanuel Macron got the ball rolling when he "ambushed" President Trump on Saturday.

Macron reportedly surprised Trump at his hotel, and the two had lunch, where they reportedly discussed several crises around the world, including in Libya, Iran, and Russia, as well as climate change and trade policy — Trump had earlier repeated threats to place tariffs on French wine imports to the U.S. in retaliation for France's digital services tax.

Trump seemed pleased with the meeting, though. In brief remarks, he said that he and Macron "actually have a lot in common" and "have been friends a long time." He added that "everybody's getting along" and that he expects to "accomplish a lot this weekend."

His administration, on the other hand, doesn't have such a rosy outlook. A senior administration official told Politico that by trying to bring issues such as climate change and gender equality to the forefront of the meetings that are meant to focus on global economics, security, and trade, Macron and France are "trying to fracture the G-7."

It looks like the summit might be as difficult as predicted. Tim O'Donnell

August 24, 2019

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed rumors that she was being considered as a replacement for Vice President Mike Pence on President Trump's 2020 ticket, calling Pence a "dear friend" who has her "complete support." It's reportedly true that Pence and Haley are friends — multiple sources told Politico that the two have long had a "warm" relationship — but the rumored rivalry between their two camps is real, Politico reports.

The recent divisions between the two prominent Republicans, both of whom are being touted as potential future GOP presidential candidates, were seemingly fueled in part by rumors that Haley would be a possible replacement, only to be exacerbated by the fact that she took so long to address them. Some of Pence's top aides reportedly think that Haley or an ally were actually behind a June Wall Street Journal op-ed urging Trump to make the change.

The White House brushed off those suggestions publicly, and Pence has received support from the administration and Trump himself, who apparently privately told Pence that he was irritated by the article.

While it's unlikely there's any weight behind the vice presidential rumors, Pence's team is still convinced that Haley is already laying the groundwork for a future presidential bid, in which the vice president could become a direct competitor. Perhaps a showdown awaits. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

August 24, 2019

Sometimes you just need to talk things out. Especially when it comes to Greenland.

President Trump on Friday evening said that he had a "great conversation" with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whom he described as a "wonderful woman" before leaving the White House to head to the Group of Seven summit in France.

"We have a great relationship with Denmark, and we agreed to speak later," Trump said. "But she was very nice. She put a call in, and I appreciated it very much."

Trump's laudatory remarks come after he scrapped plans on Monday to visit Denmark in September because Frederiksen nixed the idea that Denmark would sell Greenland to the United States, a deal in which Trump has expressed interest. Trump called Frederiksen's response "nasty" — which seems to be one of his favorite pejoratives. Trump said he would not have reacted so strongly if she declined politely, but it appears he was rankled by the fact that Frederiksen said the idea that Greenland is for sale is "absurd."

It looks like they've patched things up for now, although it was unclear if Trump will reconsider visiting Denmark this fall. Either way, it doesn't appear the Trump administration is backing down from its interest in Greenland, as The Associated Press reports there are plans to open a U.S. consulate in the island's capital, Nuuk. Tim O'Donnell

August 24, 2019

North Korea reportedly fired two more suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday, the country's seventh weapons launch in a month, following what had been a 17-month hiatus on testing.

North Korea has expressed anger at joint U.S.-South Korea military training exercises, describing them as a "rehearsal for war." The earlier weapons tests were considered retaliation for the training exercises, but the launches were expected to stop following the conclusion of the drills, which occurred earlier this week.

South Korea said the tests cause "grave concern," while Japan said they were a clear violation of United Nations resolutions. The missiles did not land in Japanese territorial waters and did not cause any damage, Japanese officials said. Meanwhile, President Trump took a more relaxed approach, keeping in line with his past reactions to North Korea's tests. He said on Friday evening that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been "pretty straight with me" and that "we never restricted short-range missiles."

The Associated Press reports that many analysts consider the tests to be an attempt by North Korea to apply more pressure on the United States ahead of a possible resuscitation of denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington. Tim O'Donnell

August 24, 2019

President Trump wants everyone to lighten up.

Trump's claim while looking at the sky that he was the "chosen one" when it comes to taking on China in the trade realm elicited groans on Wednesday. But the president insists the comment was just sarcasm. Before departing for the Group of Seven summit in France late on Friday, a reporter asked Trump about the remark, to which he scoffed in response.

"Let me tell you, you know exactly what I meant," Trump said, steadfastly maintaining that he was joking. "We were all smiling," he added before dismissing the question as fake news.

Trump may very well have been messing around, but the president did not appear to be smiling, as he claimed on Friday. Besides, as the old saying goes, there is a grain of truth in every joke. Tim O'Donnell

August 24, 2019

In a three page letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd to the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department acknowledged on Friday that a psychologist at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan had approved millionaire financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein's removal from suicide watch before he killed himself in his cell at the detention center in August.

Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell in July, though it's unclear if that was why Epstein was put on suicide watch in the first place, as Boyd's letter did not give a precise reason for the decision. Regardless, after being evaluated by a doctoral-level psychologist, it was determined those measures were no longer necessary. No reason was given for Epstein's removal, either, but Reuters reports that suicide watch is typically imposed as a short-term restriction. An inmate can only be removed, however, after a face-to-face meeting with a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychologist.

Attorney General William Barr has said there were "serious irregularities" at the MCC, which falls under his authority. He reassigned the facility's warden and placed two guards who were responsible for watching Epstein on leave. Tim O'Donnell

August 24, 2019

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro announced plans on Friday to send armed forces to fight forest fires in the Amazon, reversing course after days of dismissing concern about the ecological disaster.

"Whatever is within our power we will do," Bolsonaro told reporters. "The problem is resources." He added that the government will take a "zero tolerance" approach to environmental crimes. Researchers and environmental groups said the Amazon fires were started by humans.

This comes after Bolsonaro, who has made pledges to ease restrictions on protected areas and under whom deforestation has increased sharply across the country, said the fires were the result of warmer weather and criticized international concern as "sensationalist." But environmental groups blame Bolsonaro's policies, which have reportedly "emboldened" farmers and ranchers to clear land by setting fire to it.

However, Bolsonaro changed his stance as European leaders threatened a trade agreement, protesters took to the streets outside Brazilian embassies, and calls for a boycott of Brazilian products gained momentum. The New York Times notes that any punitive measures could "severely damage" Brazil's economy, which is already in trouble.

CNN reports that the Group of Seven leaders, who are convening in France on Saturday, are in accordance that stopping the fires is a priority. France's President Emmanuel Macron called it an "international crisis," and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said international action is necessary to protect the world's rainforests and that "we will use G-7 to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change together." President Trump, whose past praise of and cordial relationship with the right-wing Bolsonaro has drawn criticism, offered U.S. assistance. Tim O'Donnell

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