While The Late Show was on break last week, President Trump ousted scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt. On Monday's show, Stephen Colbert noted that Pruitt is just the latest official to leave the Trump administration, by choice or, usually, otherwise. "For those of us in the media, this ongoing staff purge is amazing to watch," Colbert said. "It's like a form of blood sport. We're riveted. It's like something out of The Hunger Games — no, wait! It's 'The Hungry to Leave Power Games.'"
That was Colbert's cue to transform into his Caesar Flickerman character. "Tonight, citizens, we honor EPA head Scott Pruitt, a man whose only flaw was being terrible," he said, recapping some of Pruitt's scandals, even after his theatrical huffing of chlorpyrifos — a brain-damaging chemical Pruitt green-lighted after meeting with the head of its manufacturer, Dow Chemicals — fatally fogged up his glasses. Before playing the Hunger Games theme music, he placed a Pruitt action figure into a soundproof box with moisturizer lotion and a few sprays of chlorpyrifos, promising to put the box into a polluted river. Then it was farewell to the tribute from "District Fancy Pens." (Some of Flickerman's language is borderline NSFW.)
Colbert also gawked at Trump's campaign rally in Montana last week, starting with his threat to gently lob a DNA kit at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). "So, crazy stuff, but I know what you're saying," he said. "You're saying, Stephen, did he ramble for two straight minutes about Elton John, hockey, and brains? Let's find out." (Spoiler: He did.) "Now, we have to remember, this is the president of the United States talking, and I, frankly, do not feel qualified to respond to his Elton John-brain speech," Colbert said. "So I've decided to bring in someone who's more qualified." That teed up a new Late Show segment. Watch below. Peter Weber
Update 9:25 a.m. ET: After this article was published, several journalists confirmed that Butina is indeed not pictured in a widely circulated photo of President Trump meeting with Russians in the Oval Office. The woman in question is an NSC staffer. Our headline has been updated, and our original article appears below.
Just one day after U.S. prosecutors unsealed criminal charges against Mariia Butina, an alleged Russian agent, eagle-eyed readers noticed a 2017 Oval Office visitor who looks mysteriously like the Russian national.
In a photo published last year by The New York Times, Russian officials and Russian media are gathered in the Oval Office with President Trump. Skulking in the background of the photo is a woman who some people say is Butina, who was accused Monday of conspiracy against the United States. Back when Trump was a presidential nominee, the Justice Department said, Butina tried to broker secret meetings between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin, allegedly at the behest of Russian officials.
Not everyone is convinced that the photo constitutes smoking-gun evidence that Butina managed to infiltrate high-level meetings with Trump; some skeptics, like Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall, say the image isn't definitive. Others, like pollster Matt McDermott, noted that the only reason this photo is available to the public in the first place is because it was released by Russian state media.
Until the photo is confirmed one way or the other, take a look for yourself below. Summer Meza
Okay, to jump into the Twitter sleuthing here. I'm not certain this is Buttina in this photo. Very similar looking and may well be her. But looks distinct from other pics I've seen. pic.twitter.com/w3tSx2ZKCn
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 17, 2018
If President Trump was watching his favorite show Tuesday morning, he probably didn't like what he saw.
Even the normally Trump-friendly hosts of Fox & Friends had some harsh words for the president the day after his disastrous Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle have derided after Trump publicly sided with Putin, and against U.S. intelligence agencies, on the topic of Russia's 2016 election meddling.
Co-host Steve Doocy questioned why Trump refused to denounce Putin when "there have been a number of times where the president has said 'I think it was Russia,' ... 'I think there was meddling.'" Abby Huntsman elevated the critique, saying Putin's "ultimate goal in life is to undermine our democracy" and Trump blew the "one moment that you had to stand up for your own country, stand up for your intelligence community."
Brian Kilmeade brought up fellow conservatives who've spoken out against Trump, saying that "when Newt Gingrich, when General Jack Keane, when Matt Schlapp say the president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad, I think it's time to pay attention." But Kilmeade also made some excuses for Trump's performance. "Nobody's perfect, especially [after] 10 intensive days of summits, private meetings, and everything on his plate," he said. "But that moment is the one that's going to stand out unless he comes out and corrects it.”
Watch the whole clip below. Kathryn Krawczyk
President Trump fires back at critics over his meeting with Putin pic.twitter.com/Ycb1pkls9f
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) July 17, 2018
President Trump's Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was so bipartisanly bad, Stephen Colbert had to deliver a double dose of Trump bashing.
On Monday's episode of The Late Show, Colbert started with a surprise: He suggested, per former President Abraham Lincoln's advice, that Americans just "shut up and take" Trump's "alarming behavior" until he's out of office. "Does anyone feel like just taking it?" The audience roared back with a resounding "No," and Colbert responded with "me neither."
So Colbert launched into an anti-Trump tirade, ripping the president's "spineless, toadying" deference to Putin and suggested the Russian leader definitely has incriminating information on Trump. After all, when Colbert — who says he's just a comedian — went to Russia, it was clear "my phone was bugged and my room had cameras in it."
After a break, Colbert returned to bring up examples of Republicans, Democrats, and Trump's own staff tearing up the meeting, concluding that it "upset people across the partisan divide in ways that I have not seen in years." So Colbert did a quick calculation using some of the insults Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had for Trump. He punched in "egotism, plus naivete, times false equivalence," on a calculator to find it added up to "treason."
Watch the whole second monologue below. Kathryn Krawczyk
Ahead of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump was urged by White House officials to be tough with Putin, but he chose to go a different route, several advisers and diplomats told The Washington Post.
Trump received more than 100 pages of briefing materials before the summit, going through a crash course on everything from the Russian annexation of Crimea to meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the Post reports. He was quick to let staffers know that he thought the U.S. "has been foolish" when it comes to Russia, and he spent his prep time "growling" over the indictment last week of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking into Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails.
Trump thought the announcement on Friday was intentionally done to hurt him going into the summit, several people told the Post, but one senior official said Trump was actually pleased, because this gave him an opportunity to privately discuss the matter with Putin. Trump had enjoyed his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because "he thinks he can sit down eye to eye with these guys, flatter them and make a deal," and he was enthusiastic about his meeting with Putin. Behind the scenes, diplomats were racing from one European ally to the next, letting them know they didn't need to worry about Trump making any secret deals with Putin. It wasn't enough to soothe any of them, with one European official telling the Post, "These people don't control the reality." Read more about the days before the summit at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
When President Trump sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies, "we hit bottom," CNN's Chris Cuomo said Monday night, but there's actually a "blessing in that, because there can be no more debate on which way is up."
Trump "delivered us here with a display of cowardly self-interest," Cuomo said, but this ended up bringing people together. There is a consensus that "Putin is not right, Trump is wrong, we believe our institutions, we trust in our democracy, Russia did interfere, we will not trade facts for feelings of legitimacy, we will not trade our conscious for conspiracy," Cuomo said, and with so many Americans of all political stripes getting outraged, "Trump's luck ran out."
"Russia attacked our democracy," Cuomo continued, and "we won't stand for it. We won't let the president say otherwise, but we're facing a question: Where do we go from here?" Cuomo said one thing he knows for sure is that "you've got Republicans, you've got Democrats, and right now, they're on the same page, and if they move together, they will wind up in a better place." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia
When his net worth hit $150 billion on Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos became the richest person in modern history.
The 54-year-old is already the richest person in the world, with his net worth increasing by $52 billion this year. Taking into account inflation, his $150 billion fortune is more than the $100 billion Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had in 1999, which would be worth $149 billion today, USA Today reports.
Bezos' staggering amount of wealth puts him well above his peers, including Gates ($93 billion), Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet ($83 billion), Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($83 billion), and Inditex founder Amancio Ortega ($75 billion). Amazon stock closed Monday at $1,822.49, after climbing to a record $1,841.95 earlier in the day. Catherine Garcia
If the New York Daily News doesn't mock one of President Trump's appearances, did it ever really happen?
On the Tuesday front page, Trump's hometown paper targets his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a throwback reference to his campaign comment about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still not lose any supporters, Trump is shown on the Manhattan street alongside a shirtless Putin, holding a gun up to Uncle Sam. "OPEN TREASON" the front page screams, with "Trump backs enemy Putin over U.S. intel" below.
The Daily News wasn't quite done poking at the president, tweeting that he "derides reports with which he disagrees as 'fake news,' then buys the Russian narrative hook, line, sinker, pole, and boat." Catherine Garcia
.@realdonaldtrump derides reports with which he disagrees as “fake news,” then buys the Russian narrative hook, line, sinker, pole and boat. https://t.co/TGHurpVDKy
An early look at Tuesday's front... pic.twitter.com/BXsoZsIT4B
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 16, 2018