September 11, 2019

"I have never been more grateful for the president's pettiness and stupidity," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, "because today he was stupidly petty enough to save us from a very smart warmonger," ousted National Security Adviser John Bolton. President Trump "goes through staffers like a high 17-year-old goes through Little Debbie Swiss Rolls," he said.

Even Bolton's departure was a mess, with Trump saying he'd fired him and Bolton insisting he'd resigned. Trump reportedly almost didn't hire Bolton because he didn't like his walrus-style mustache, Colbert said, but "ironically, while Bolton is leaving, his mustache is staying on as Stephen Miller's new hairpiece." Yes, there is a visual.

"No other president has lost as many Cabinet officials or senior advisers in their entire first term as Trump has in his first 30 months," Trevor Noah pointed out at The Daily Show. "It's a record, and now he's just running up the score." Bolton, whose bomb-everything foreign policy was too hawkish for Trump, is the third national security adviser Trump's ousted, another record. "Now, with Bolton gone, the question is who will be the next to leave? Nobody knows, but it was super weird today that when Trump fired Bolton, Melania tried to sneak out with him," Noah joked, showing the first lady with a walrus mustache. "She was like, 'Oh, no, so sad to be fired, I'm also going.'"

"Trump's approval rating has taken a tumble" to 38 percent, "and that was before we found out he invited the Taliban for dinner," Jimmy Kimmel said at Kimmel Live. "Trump, of course, lashed out at the polls, calling them 'fake' — everything he doesn't like is 'fake'; the only thing that's real to him is Twitter and Arby's. And as Trump's ratings keep dropping, so does the number of people who work for him." Kimmel ran through Bolton's sloppy ouster, Trump's North Carolina rally, and Donald Trump Jr.'s, stained, made-outside-American merch. Watch below. Peter Weber

9:36 a.m.

President Trump just made a big announcement — but not for the reasons he thinks.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump spun on every topic that could pertain to money, not exactly dropping a bombshell when he said he'd release a financial statement before next year's election. But if he's actually telling the truth in saying former Special Counsel Robert Mueller got to look at the tax returns, well, that's a bigger deal.

During Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, he "went over all of my financials, and my taxes, and found nothing," Trump said Thursday. That's news, seeing as Trump has never been willing to release his past tax returns and only provided written testimony to Mueller during the investigation. Trump then pivoted to decry a New York state law that would release his taxes to certain congressional committees if requested and is making its way through the courts, and threw in a "jobs, jobs, jobs!" for good measure.

Trump's promise to release a financial statement is less consequential, seeing as he's released financial disclosure forms in the past — something that's required of certain federal officials and not, as Trump said, "my decision." Kathryn Krawczyk

8:53 a.m.

After five Democratic debates, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough wonders if former Vice President Joe Biden is being graded on a curve.

Scarborough on Thursday morning panned Biden's performance at the latest Democratic debate, saying he was once again "having trouble findings words" and his "sentences are jumbled." While Scarborough noted he still believes Biden is the Democratic candidate with the best chance of beating President Trump "if he's on his game," he wondered if the media is grading the former vice president on a "low curve" amid these subpar showings.

"Are we afraid to say that a lot of his sentences don't make sense?" Scarborough asked. "That he's having trouble completing thoughts?"

Willie Geist responded to Scarborough's question with a flat "yes," noting the Democrat's "performances publicly are shaky." Still, co-host Mika Brzezinski came to Biden's defense, arguing voters care about more than just these debate soundbites.

"You've got to be able to complete a sentence if you're running for president," Scarborough shot back. During much of this segment, the chyron on the screen was just as brutal as Scarborough himself, reading, "Joe Biden struggles through another debate." Brendan Morrow

8:24 a.m.

The last day of this hectic week's public impeachment hearings is about to get underway.

Former White House official Fiona Hill and David Holmes, the diplomat who overheard President Trump asking U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland if Ukraine was "going to do the investigation" on a July phone call, are set to testify Thursday in the fifth day of public impeachment hearings.

Hill, according to her prepared opening statement, is set to call out the "fictional narrative" that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 presidential election, an idea Trump had in mind when he pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to conduct investigations into 2016 on his infamous July phone call.

"Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did," she will say, calling out congressional Republicans. "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

Hill will also tell Congress that "I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016."

Given this prepared pushback, and given the fact that she previously revealed that former National Security Adviser John Bolton called Rudy Giuliani "a hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up," Politico notes Hill may "prove to be a colorful witness." Brendan Morrow

8:01 a.m.

The House overwhelmingly approved two measures Wednesday aimed at supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, sending them to President Trump's desk. The Senate had unanimously passed both bills, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and another bill to ban the sale of non-lethal munitions to Hong Kong police forces, on Tuesday.

The White House has signaled that Trump will sign the bills, even though they come at an awkward time in ongoing U.S.-China trade talks. But the House passed the human rights bill 417-1 and the munitions ban 417-0, so even if Trump vetoed the bills, there would appear to be ample votes to override his veto.

China again warned the U.S. not to enact the measures, especially the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which threatens Hong Kong's special trade status authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong authors who carry out human rights abuses. "We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it's too late," and "immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday. "If the U.S. continues to make the wrong moves, China will be taking strong countermeasures for sure." Peter Weber

7:01 a.m.

When reporters asked President Trump on Wednesday afternoon about U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland's House impeachment testimony earlier that day, he responded: "Well, I think it was fantastic. I think they have to end it now. He said there was no quid pro quo." That is not, in fact, what Sondland said, as a cursory glance at the front pages of major U.S. newspapers would show.

Trump is an avid, longtime, habitual consumer of media coverage of himself, though he may not see the print editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post, as he made a show of canceling the White House subscriptions to both newspapers. But the Times and the Post are hardly alone in their top headlines.

Not every news organization is on the same page, though. Peter Weber

6:04 a.m.

Ten Democrats gathered at Tyler Perry's studio in Atlanta on Wednesday for the fifth presidential debate, and Stephen Colbert took The Late Show live so he could cover it. Sen. "Amy Klobuchar had the first laugh of the night," recalling that in her first Senate race she "raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends," he said. "Now I'm sure you didn't mean it this way, senator, but technically, if they're giving you cash, they've not called boyfriends."

But Joe Biden had the toughest night, Colbert said. For example, he appeared to agree with Kim Jong Un that he's "a rabid dog who needs to be beaten with a stick," then he "emphasized the importance of ending violence against women, but with a really, really poor choice of words." Sen Cory Booker (D-N.J.) "had a little fun when he lit up Joe Biden," he added, "then Biden tried to brag about his appeal to African Americans," awkwardly. Colbert sighed: "You know somewhere out there Donald Trump is going: 'Oh my god, I can't believe I risked impeachment over Joe. Someone please tell me there's a Hunter Buttigieg!'"

"The major change from the last debate is the rise of Pete Buttigieg," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Between Buttigieg, Biden, [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren, and Bernie [Sanders], this has become a four-way race — and if you include Cory Booker, it's still a four-way race." A lot of the debate covered familiar ground, he said, "but one new thing we did see tonight was some brand new beefs, like Elizabeth Warren versus Cory Booker on the wealth tax," and "Kamala Harris versus Tulsi Gabbard."

"There were weird, odd bedfellows, like Tom Steyer and Joe Biden going after each other; Tulsi Gabbard was like Yosemite Sam in a white pantsuit," political analyst Alex Wagner told Colbert, but she saw little of the typical Democratic "outright cannibalization." John Heilemann said he thought Buttigieg had a good night, Harris and Booker had some cable-friendly moments, and Booker and Harris both openly mocking Biden made it a bad night for Biden.

The Daily Show's Roy Wood Jr. actually spoke with a panel of black voters in Atlanta, and nobody dug Biden. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:16 a.m.

"This was a huge day in the Ukraine scandal," thanks mostly to Gordon Sondland's "explosive testimony," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. The U.S. ambassador to the European Union's "biggest bombshell" was his admission that yes, there was a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine, President Trump was calling the shots, and a who's who of senior officials "were in the loop," too. Sondland also explained why he called Trump from that restaurant in Kyiv. "Yeah, A$AP Rocky was the primary purpose of the call," Colbert deadpanned, "as in, 'Zelensky better launch the Biden investigation ASAP, or his life's about to get pretty rocky. Put a beat behind that.'"

Colbert's wish was The Late Show's command.

"We have moved past Watergate into floodgate," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. Since the beginning, "Trump's been saying Ambassador Sondland will say there was no quid pro quo," but then Sondland testified, "and just like that, Donald Trump's defense disappears faster than he downs a bucket of KFC."

"Staffers in the White House were said to be shocked and blindsided by the testimony this morning, as it appears our president has been caught orange-handed," Kimmel said. "Sondland screwed the president so thoroughly today, Trump reflexively paid him $130,000 to be quiet," and "the vice president, secretary of state, chief of staff, Rick Perry, John Bolton ... they all went under the bus," too. Comedian Jeff Ross stepped in to play Sondland, colorfully.

"Sondland's testimony was explosive, shocking, and jaw-dropping" — just watch Rep. Devin Nunes' (R-Calif.) slack-jawed reaction, Seth Meyers said at Late Night. He provided "some context for why today was the most shocking day of testimony so far" and explained why it's bad news not just for Trump, but for "virtually everybody at the highest levels of the administration."

"I think we can all take our impeachment balls and go home now, because that is the whole ball game," said Full Frontal's Samantha Bee. "The Democrats have been going about this all wrong." Their previous passel of "cautious, sober" witnesses "laid out a damning case, but they didn't exactly give good soundbites," she said. It's now obvious that "in order to catch a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy you have to send a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy," and "if you're not Devin Nunes, it was honestly really fun to watch Gordon Sondland." Watch her NSFW case below. Peter Weber

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