After a day in which the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, Late Show host Stephen Colbert had two words for the audience: “Buckle up.”
For two and a half years, the president has rocked the US government with numerous self-induced scandals, among them: “Russian collusion, obstruction of justice, saying Nazis are fine people, being an unnamed co-conspirator to campaign finance violations, lying about the Moscow Trump Tower, stealing money to pay for the border wall, faking the weather with a Sharpie,” Colbert recapped.
With each of these scandals, “every time, people have asked: is this the thing? Surely, this must be the thing. And it wasn’t the thing,” Colbert said. “But here’s the thing: there’s a new thing, and it might be the thing.”
That thing – the one pre-empting the formal impeachment inquiry – is a snowballing scandal involving phone calls Trump made to the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Last week, it was reported that worrying “promises” Trump made in one phone call prompted an intelligence official to file a whistleblower complaint. Since then, numerous outlets have revealed that Trump allegedly pressured the Zelenskiy to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden – the frontrunner to take on Trump in the 2020 election – and used American military aid to the country as leverage.
“No wonder Pelosi is launching an impeachment investigation – this makes Watergate look like Nixon tried to pass an expired coupon at the Kroger,” Colbert said.
A fun fact about this scandal, “if the end of democracy sounds like fun to you”, said Colbert, is that the phone call in question occurred on 25 July – one day after the special counsel Robert Mueller testified to Congress about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“So the idea that a foreign power like Russia shouldn’t interfere in our elections is the only thing everyone agreed on,” Colbert explained. “Everyone but Trump, because he just moved one country over.”
“Hello, Ukraine?” Colbert said, mimicking Trump’s voice. “You up? For interfering in our elections?”
“If you thought Trump was unhinged before, I can’t even imagine what he’s going to be like now,” said The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah on the impeachment inquiry. “You better keep your kids away from Twitter people, because this thing is gonna be a category 5 tweetstorm – and this one will hit Alabama.”
Noah recapped the bizarre story of the Ukrainian phone call, the whistleblower and perhaps most damningly, the $250m of military aid to Ukraine that Trump inexplicably delayed.
If true, the withheld aid “would be devastating”, said Noah. “It’s an abuse of power, it’s extortion and, maybe worst of all, it’s asking a foreign country to meddle in America’s election. Which is the one thing that if you’re Donald Trump, you should stay away from.”
The Trump administration, Noah remembered, had just gotten over the Mueller investigation into Russia election interference. Immediately seeking help from Ukraine “would be like if the day after Michael Jackson got acquitted for touching kids, he was like: ‘Let’s celebrate! Slumber party at my house!’”
Trump, of course, has either denied or deflected the accusations with a line of defense Noah characterized as “he ain’t done shit”, along with unsubstantiated allegations against Biden and corrupt ties to Ukraine.
There’s no evidence to support Trump’s accusation against Biden, Noah said, “but even if it did, Trump abused the power of his office to try to dig up dirt on a political opponent”.
Tuesday was “a major news day in the history of the United States”, said Jimmy Kimmel from Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Pelosi’s announcement on the impeachment inquiry was especially notable because she had been resisting the calls to impeach for so long, but “once again, Donald Trump is doing what he does best: forcing a woman to do something she didn’t want to do”, said Kimmel.
“I guess he feels like nothing can stop him now,” Kimmel said after recapping the week of revelations that rolled into impending impeachment. “He got away with Russia and the election, and it makes perfect sense he would ask Ukraine to help him with the next one.”
It’s a lot of drama, Kimmel said, all because Trump is “dumb … he gets on the phone and he can’t resist saying stupid stuff”.
Kimmel then reminisced on when Trump once tweeted, in 2014: “Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?”
“Well, we’re about to find out,” Kimmel replied.