John Oliver has a new shorthand for President Donald Trump’s ongoing, multilayered Russia scandal: “Stupid Watergate.”
“It is not clear what is really going on here yet, although one possibility is that this all amounts to what I’m going to call ‘Stupid Watergate,’” Oliver said on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight. “A potential scandal with all the intrigue of Watergate, except everyone involved is really bad at everything. And the relevant question isn’t so much, ‘What did the president know and when did he know it?’ as it is, ‘Is the president physically capable of knowing things at all?’”
By Oliver’s telling, every single phase of the Trump-Russia scandal has been brought on by a dumb mistake. He walked through some of the key players of the scandal, all of whom have been the target of questions about whether Trump’s team worked with — — and covered up working with — Russian officials to support Russian interests and manipulate the 2016 election with hacked Democratic emails.
Take Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Most recently, he was brought into the Russia scandal when it was revealed that he misled Congress under oath, telling senators he had no communications with Russian officials when he had in fact talked with Russia’s ambassador twice last year.
But here’s the thing: Sessions wasn’t even asked during the confirmation hearing if he had spoken with Russians. During his hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asked, “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” Sessions replied, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
“That was an unforced error,” Oliver said. “He wasn’t even asked whether he’d met with the Russians. He just implicated himself out of the blue, which should have been immediately suspicious. If you ask someone how their weekend was, and they say, ‘Well, I definitely wasn’t masturbating into the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven,’ you check the fucking security cameras at the 7-Eleven, and you don’t act surprised.”
Other Trump surrogates have also come under fire, including former Trump campaign operative Carter Page. When asked whether he had met with the Russian ambassador in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, Page responded, “I’m not going to deny that I talked with him. I will say that I never met him anywhere outside of Cleveland. … I may have met him. Possibly. And it might have been in Cleveland.”
Or consider former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. When asked if Trump had financial relationships with Russian oligarchs, Manafort said, “That’s … that’s what he said. I … that’s … what I said. That’s … obviously what our position is.”
“Holy shit,” Oliver said. “That was so unconvincing it probably set off an unplugged polygraph machine just hidden in a closet somewhere.”
To top it all off, Trump’s apparent tactic to distract everyone over the weekend was to claim with absolutely zero evidence that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign — an idea that may have come from an article published by the conspiracy-laden website Breitbart News.
“I think we can now officially declare that Trump has a worse media diet than the Son of Sam killer,” Oliver said. “And he got all his news from a talking dog who told him to murder.”
What all of this amounts to, Oliver argued, is one of the most incompetent cover-ups — if there is really a cover-up — in the history of presidential scandals. It is, in other words, “Stupid Watergate.”