With “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” taking last week off — perhaps the busiest week of the year so far in terms of wild Donald Trump-related news — Stephen Colbert no doubt had a list the length of his torso to rip Trump for on his first show back Monday night. But instead of trying to cover everything, Colbert went in on the item that sums up so many other things: the prospect that Trump might try to pardon himself if he gets in too much legal trouble.
“Today is Donald Trump’s 500th day in office. Which means congratulations, we made it through the first trimester of his presidency,” Colbert began his monologue on Monday. “But for some reason, my nausea hasn’t gone away. You know what else isn’t going away: the Mueller investigation. No matter how hard Trump tries.
“And this morning he added a new wrinkle, tweeting, ‘As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?’ I love riddles. Oh, I know this one. It’s because if you bring the grain over the river first, the fox will collude with the Russians to get the chicken.”
This bit, in case you’re curious, is a reference to an actual old riddle, which you can read here. Colbert continued:
“But why are you bringing it up if you are not going to do it? That’s like a surgeon saying, ‘It’s just a routine appendectomy, also I could kill you at any time. but why would I do that? Okay, now count backwards from ten.’ And evidently Trump’s lawyers agree with him,” Colbert said. “The New York Times obtained a confidential 20-page letter from Trump’s attorneys to Robert Mueller claiming he can’t be prosecuted for obstruction of justice because the constitution powers him to, ‘if he wished, terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon.’ Okay. so it’s probably not going to happen because if there’s one thing Donald Trump won’t do, it’s exercise.”
This joke was greeted by extended applause and cheers from the audience, which forced Colbert to pause his monologue for about 15 seconds.
“In the memo, Trump’s lawyers also argue the president shouldn’t have to sit down for an interview with Mueller because having him testify ‘demeans the office of the president before the world,’ ” Colbert said, which also prompted an uproarious response from the crowd. Colbert then continued by adding a fake quote of his own to the New York Times story.
“Adding, ‘Now if you will excuse us, the president has to go get spanked by a porn star while watching his shark stories.’ That’s a true quote. That was in The New York Times. It looked like that was The New York Times. Trump’s ability to pardon himself was defended yesterday by current Trump lawyer and man who is just as shocked as are you that he is allowed on TV, Rudy Giuliani. Yesterday Rudy was on with Chuck Todd to defend the president but things started out a little awkward.”
“The Late Show” then played a clip from the “Meet the Press” episode to which Colbert referred, which went like so:
Chuck Todd: “Mr. Giuliani, welcome back to ‘Meet the Press.’ “
Rudy Giuliani: “It’s nice to be with you, Todd, how are you?”
Chuck Todd: “I’m okay, let me start — “
Rudy Giuliani: “Chris.”
Chuck Todd: “It’s okay.”
“Yes. he called Chuck Todd ‘Todd,’ ” Colbert said after the clip ended. “Then corrected himself to ‘Chris.’ That’s the sort of attention to detail I look for in a lawyer. ‘Your honor, my client pleads Todd — I mean Chris — I mean guilty, he’s so guilty. I’m sorry, your honor, go on.’ “
“The Late Show” then played another clip from that same interview, in which Todd asked if Trump could theoretically pardon himself if it came down to it. To which Giuliani replied: “Well, it’s not gonna happen. So it’s a hypothetical point. I think the presidential power, there is nothing that limits the presidential power of pardon from a federal crime.”
“He has a point,” Colbert chimed in. “There is nothing in the Constitution that stops him. After all, it says in article 2 section 2: ‘The president shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons, which I guess hypothetically includes himself? Huh. Is it too late to get that king back?’
“And according to Giuliani, it goes further than just ending the investigation. He told the HuffPo, ‘I don’t know how you can indict the president while he is in office no matter what it is,’ even ‘if he shot James Comey.’ So there it is. The president can commit any crime he wants. He’s a one-man Purge. Which will make a great new campaign slogan: ‘Trump 2020, I could kill you in your sleep.’ “
You can watch Colbert’s monologue from Monday’s episode of “The Late Show” in the video embedded at the top of this post.