Colbert on Portland: ‘Just when you thought the Trump presidency couldn’t get any darker’

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Stephen Colbert
On the Late Show, Stephen Colbert recapped one of the more bizarre and rambling interviews from a president known for bizarre ramblings, when Donald Trump sat down with the Fox News host Chris Wallace last weekend. “They talked about – and I’m rounding down here – everything,” Colbert said.

At one point, when Wallace asked about America’s coronavirus mortality rate, which is higher than similarly large countries such as Brazil and Russia, Trump demanded an assistant deliver a chart, looked at it for half a second and declared: “No 1 low mortality rate.” “Wow, that’s an impressive stat. It’s also completely wrong,” Colbert said. “Can we see Trump’s source for that? Kayleigh? Where did Trump get that? He got that stat … out of his ass.”

The interview got “really sad”, said Colbert, when Trump continued to brag about passing a cognitive test, which “is not impressive” because “it checks for things like brain damage”.

“It’s chilling to see the most powerful man in the world bragging that he passed a test they give to people to find out whether they should be allowed to take the bus by themselves,” Colbert said.

And “just when you thought the Trump presidency couldn’t get any darker”, Colbert added, “horrifying” footage from Portland, Oregon, showed masked, unidentified federal troops snatching protesters off the street without a warrant and throwing them into unmarked vehicles. As confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security, the agents are officers from the US Marshals special operations group and US Customs and Border Protection’s border patrol tactical unit, who are “tasked with patrolling Mexico’s long and trouble border …with Oregon”, Colbert deadpanned.

The acting director of CBP, Mark Morgan, tweeted that “you will not see names on their uniforms [because] these same violent criminals use this information to target them & their families, putting both at risk.”

“OK, it goes without saying doxxing is bad,” Colbert responded. “I wish it went without saying that having a secret police is way worse. And no, the Trump-stapo is not saying they’re just following orders, they’re saying they’re just following executive orders.” Or, as the Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, phrased it: “He’s actually using the federal police function in support of his candidacy.”

“Well, that explains the new campaign slogan: Trump 2020, get in the van,” joked Colbert.

Trevor Noah
On the Daily Show, Trevor Noah also replayed the most disturbing clips from Trump’s White House interview with Chris Wallace, “the only reporter at Fox News who isn’t trying to become the next press secretary”, said Noah, in what was “pretty much a masterclass in how not to let Trump get away with his usual bullshit”.

For example, at one point, Trump claimed the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wants to defund the police as a campaign platform, though there’s no evidence for that; when pressed by Wallace to show him the language in Biden’s platform, Trump sputters. “Oh man, I don’t care how many times I watch it: it is priceless seeing Trump flail around, trying to find a fact that he made up,” Noah said.

“It actually shows you how his brain just kind of mixes up everything he reads into one big information smoothie,” he added. “Because clearly, he read that Biden wants to abolish immigration detention, and he also read that Biden wants police reform, and his brain just mashed them up into ‘Biden wants to abolish the police.’”

Later, when asked about renaming military bases named after Confederate generals – a bipartisan effort in Congress – Trump attempted to deflect with the bases’ roles in America’s “two beautiful world wars”.

“OK, I’m sorry, what? Two ‘beautiful’ world wars? This dude really can objectify anything,” Noah said. “That is such a dumb thing to say that they didn’t even think to put it on the cognitive test.”

Seth Meyers
The Chris Wallace interview is further evidence that “we have a pudding-brained informercial salesman who’s more interested in what happens to a dead Confederate general than a living middle school teacher,” said Seth Meyers on Late Night. Trump is “trying to convince that statues and graffiti are more important than a pandemic that’s caused massive suffering”.

As for Trump’s boast about his cognitive test, “I don’t know what’s more alarming: that Trump even had to take this test in the first place, or how proud he is with how he did,” said Meyers. “It’s possible this is the first test he ever passed that he took himself. He probably paid an MIT student to come with him but then when he saw how easy it was, sent him home.

“I genuinely can’t believe this was a real exchange that happened at the White House,” he added. “If you read this transcript without any named attached, you’d think they were doctor’s notes from a psych ward.”