The 2020 Election Is Here — and Trump Is Trying to Steal It: A Closer Look [Transcript]

Seth Meyers takes a closer look at Trump threatening to prematurely declare victory and steal the election through the courts.
The 2020 Election Is Here -- and Trump Is Trying to Steal It - A Closer Look

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Air date: November 2, 2020


Well, here we are, everybody. Election day is tomorrow, and the president has settled on his closing message — promising to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci and threatening to prematurely declare victory and steal the election through the courts. For more on this, it’s time for “A Closer Look.”


We’re in the midst of the worst stretch of the coronavirus outbreak since it began, And the bleak reality will only get bleaker. With as many as a thousand Americans dying a day, and nearly 100,000 new cases recorded on Friday alone, the nation is crying out for leadership. And with just one day left in the most consequential election Of our lifetimes, the president has finally settled on his closing message.

Like the great Pavarotti, the singer, when — you know, he was a very — he was diva. He was the greatest of all divas. He was an incredible talent with the most unbelievable voice. And I’ve gone to concerts where he would say, “No, no, no, no, I do not feel good. I will not sing tonight,” and he’d leave. See? And then I’ve gone to somewhere, it was the most unbelievable voice that ever lived. I mean, the greatest, right? Pavarotti. But he was a — he liked me, for whatever reason. He was very terrible to other people. To me, he was nice. He liked me. But he goes, “Donald, Donald, I will not sing tonight.” He’d have a thousand people. “I will not sing tonight because I not feel — I will leave tonight.” And he’d leave. “Ladies and gentlemen, he’s just canceled.” But when he was great, he was great.

Ah, yes, just what your rally crowds are interested in — the entertainment enjoyed by wealthy New Yorkers.

[As Trump] And how about David Sedaris, folks? Oh, we love to read his dry, whimsical essays on our decks in Bridgehampton. You know it?

[Normal voice] What was the thinking behind telling that story? “Mr. President, polling has you behind in the rust belt.”

[As Trump] Don’t worry. I’ll do my Pavarotti chunk.

[Normal voice] Talking about Pavarotti at a Trump rally is like holding a Yo-Yo Ma night at a monster truck rally.

[Gruff voice] Tonight at Watkins Glen, say goodbye to Bulldozer and “cello” to Yo-Yo Monster!

[Normal voice] There’s so much to unpack from that clip. First, I love how Trump says, “But he liked me for whatever reason,” basically admitting that even Trump doesn’t know why anyone would like him. Second, no one swings more wildly between praise and criticism faster than Trump, who says Pavarotti is the greatest in one breath, and then he was very terrible to other people in the next.

[As Trump] Pavarotti, voice of an angel, heart of a calcified turd. Just a bad guy. Bad, bad guy.

[Normal voice] And third, Trump supporters will follow Trump anywhere, but even they had nothing but blank stares for that one. “I know Giuliani and Scaramucci. Which one is Pavarotti?” And finally, was that long-ass story Trump telling us if he loses, he’ll just walk away like Pavarotti? Eh. Probably wishful thinking. He told it because right before he went on stage, he saw a pizza box.

[As Trump] Oh, looks like Pavarotti.

[Normal voice] This is where Trump is at. His record is so horrendous, he has nothing to talk about other than rambling incoherently about long-dead celebrities who were nice to him 20 years ago. In fact, with basically one day left, Trump decided that regaling his crowds with bizarre backstage encounters with opera singers wasn’t enough, so he decided to close out the campaign by threatening to fire the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a man whose popularity in polls far exceeds Trump’s.

Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait till a little bit after the election.

You’re going fire one of the country’s most trusted scientists in the middle of a pandemic? Who are you going to replace him with, zombie Pavarotti?

[As Trump] Only the fake news says he’s dead, folks. We gave him a shot of Regeneron right in the ass, and now he is good as new. Luciano, sing a few bars for us.

[As Pavarotti] ♪ Brains-ah! Give me the brains! ♪


[Normal voice] I can’t believe this is Trump’s closing message for the last day of the campaign. Trump says stuff like this because he doesn’t think he’s accountable to public opinion. Remember, he lost the popular vote, escaped impeachment, and has never had a majority approval rating once in his presidency. He thinks our anti-Democratic institutions like the Senate and the electoral college and the Supreme Court will protect him, and he’s been broadcasting as much, announcing that he’ll use the courts to potentially steal the election by prematurely declaring victory and shutting down the count.

Axios reported that the president claims to declare victory Tuesday night if he appears to be “ahead.” Of course, some states like Pennsylvania may well show early leads for the president based on the same-day vote. That would be before mail-in ballots where Democrats are expected to have an advantage in Pennsylvania are counted.

I think it’s terrible when we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election in a modern day age of computers. I think it’s a terrible thing. We’re going to go in the night of. As soon as that election is over, we’re going in with our lawyers.

First of all, do you even have any lawyers left? Most of them have quit, gone to jail, or have been tricked by Borat. If you’re going to need Rudy on election night, give him a head’s up now so he can start tucking in his shirt.

[As Giuliani] Hold on. I gotta lay down on the bed, then roll onto the floor, then crawl to the phone to call someone to help me up. I usually call my cousin, AKA, my wife!


Secondly, you never know the official — What? Still works on Shoemaker, guys. I got a very small sample size to know these callbacks are working. Second, we never know the official final results on election night. Those are just projections based on partial vote counts. Election day itself is mostly an invention of TV and radio, like jingles. Before radio and TV, no one ever gave you their telephone number via song. “Can I call you some time?” “Sure. My number is ♪ K-A-R-S, Kars For Kids” ♪ “You know what? Just say no. If you don’t want me to call you, just say no.” The actual votes are tallied and then certified days or weeks after the election, and then the electoral college meets in December to make it official. That’s always how it’s worked. That’s why presidential inaugurations used to be in March. Back in the day, it took so long to find out who won, one guy became President and then immediately died. Somebody should do a musical about that guy.

♪ My name is William Henry Harrison ♪

Oh [bleep] it works. Oh, Broadway, here we come. What? Why not? Closed, why? Oh, right. The pandemic. [Laughs] -they’re making their strategy as clear as they can. Republicans have been in court desperately trying to throw out ballots in states like Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. They’re not just saying the quiet part loud. They’re screaming it. On Sunday, Trump campaign officials and overinflated football Jason Miller lied about the vote counting process and said that if Trump seems to be ahead on election night, he’ll prematurely declare victory and try to stop the remaining ballots from being counted.

If you speak with many smart Democrats, they believe that President Trump will be ahead on election night, probably getting 280 electorals, somewhere in that range, and then they’re going try to steal it back after the election.

By steal it back, you mean count all the votes, you Funko Pop!? There is no magic cutoff where you guys get to suddenly just decide the election is over. If you could just declare yourself the winner whenever you’re ahead, the jets wouldn’t be 0-8. They would be a still terrible 2-6. TV news networks have to be careful with this because it’s extremely dangerous. We have to be prepared as a nation for early returns in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to differ significantly from final vote tallies as mail ballots are counted. Even if Biden wins Pennsylvania by five points, as the polls currently suggest, a disproportionate number of Democratic mail-in votes means we could be in a situation where trump is ahead by as much as 16 points on election night. And if that happens, you know he is going to run out onstage and declare himself the winner and barricade himself in the White House with a year’s supply of Diet Coke and three to five Melanias.

[As Trump] My favorite is Morpheus Melania. And my least favorite is the one who won’t hold my hand!

[Normal voice] Which is why if Trump decides to just declare victory, TV networks should refuse to air it, or at the very least make clear that it’s meaningless. You can’t just declare yourself President any more than I can go to the mall and declare my dad New Hampshire’s sexiest man. Though, tell me I’m wrong. There is virtually no dispute about who is actually going to win more votes. So this is all Trump and his allies have left — cheating. The president and Republican party have left the nation in tatters after four years of crisis, incompetence, and greed, so they have nothing to run on, which is why they built their entire campaign strategy around whipping up fear and calling anyone who opposes them an angry mob.

It is clear the media mob is full of liars. The media mob, of course, aiding and abetting and protecting fragile Joe.

They have decided to be activists for the left-wing mob.

Right now the mob has a voice in the Democrat Party.

Joe Biden capitulated to the radical left-wing mob.

Biden’s strategy is to surrender to the left-wing mob. He wants to surrender your nation to the radical left-wing mob. There is only one thing standing between your family and the radical left-wing mob.

First of all, I’m not sure I would use the word “mob” when your guy dresses like he just got done strangling Luca Brasi. Looks like he’s about to pour kerosene on an informant tied up in the basement.

[As Trump] So hard to get the smell of gas out of fine Italian leather. And have I Pavarotti tickets tonight. He likes me, for whatever reason.

[Normal voice] But the reality of course is the Trump and his allies don’t hate mobs at all. In fact, they like them plenty when they’re the ones forming the mob, as we saw in Texas on Friday.

A campaign confrontation on a Texas highway. A caravan of President Trump supporters surrounded a Biden-Harris bus as it was traveling from San Antonio to Austin Friday. A Biden campaign official says the vehicles tried to slow the bus down and even push it off the road. -911 was called by people inside the bus, and tonight the FBI has confirmed to NBC News it is investigating that incident.

The President just moments ago tweeted this in reply.

There is a Biden bus, and it’s surrounded by pickup trucks on a highway, all with Trump signs. I mean, it is ordinary Americans just taking this election into their own hands.

Listen, I saw yesterday a video of these people in Texas. Did you see it? All the cars on the road. [Cheers and applause] We love what they did, but here is the thing they don’t know. We do that in Florida every day. -You see the way our people, they were protecting this bus yesterday, because they’re nice.

Yeah, sure, they were protecting the bus. The same way a loan shark helps you find your wallet. Cool shout out to his home state from Rubio there — Florida, we also terrorize our buses! I mean, my God, this guy. “How did I do, Mr. President? You like my speech?”

[As Trump] [Bleep] off, little Marco. Have some respect for yourself. [Laughter] The constant cheating, threats of physical violence, in addition to be terrifying, it’s also exhausting, which is why we’ve all been anxiously awaiting this moment for four years, and for that reason, it feels surreal to finally be here. I probably started thinking about the 2020 election the moment Trump was declared the winner in 2016. And judging from Trump’s face that night, I wasn’t alone. Wow, it’s like when the teacher says “Oral reports are today, and just for kicks, let’s go in reverse alphabetical order.” That’s him after he asked…

[As Trump] Oh, God. How long is this job anyway? A months? Six weeks? Four years?! Is that human years, or dog years? Before you answer, which one is longer?

[Normal voice] And now we’re finally here, and the final days of Trump’s campaign has predictably turned vicious and ugly with his supporters calling for virtually anyone who opposes Trump to be in prison from Joe Biden to Hillary Clinton to Gretchen Whitmer, to Ilhan Omar.

Joe Biden is a corrupt politician who bought and is paid for. Look, he is bought and paid for by China. How about his son? His son walks in. He is supposed to be fair. This place was a mess four years ago, and frankly, if your governor opened up your state —

[Crowd booing]

You think Ilhan Omar, that’s one of the reasons we’re going win Minnesota, because of Ilhan Omar. Didn’t she harvest? I heard she ballot harvested, didn’t she? So where is our justice department? In fact crazy Hillary, crooked Hillary came in.

[Crowd booing]

Here we go. Watch. There we go. They always blame me. Whenever that chant starts, all I do is I mention her name.

But, sure, the Democrats are an angry mob. There is only one side in this race that encourages their supporters to scream “Lock them up!” about anyone they don’t like. They sound like they should be holding torches and chasing Frankenstein. “Lock him up in the castle with Zombie Pavarotti!” At what point can we just call this fascism? And by the way, to the people who think calling Trump a fascist is left-wing hysteria, you can be a fascist without being Hitler or Mussolini the same way you can be a basketball player without being LeBron James or Michael Jordan or, hell, Barack Obama. [Laughter]

Come on.

Nothing summarizes the Democrats right now more than that clip. “Yeah, that’s our guy!” “The one who made the shot?” “No, no, the “All net” guy. “Oh. That’s good, too.” Anyway, the point is the president is closing out an ugly and vicious four years of the series of ugly and vicious rallies. But when he is not revved up, calling for the imprisonment of his political opponents or for valid votes to be tossed out, he seems to lose a lot of steam. Pennsylvania on Saturday, he was so, dare I say, low energy, he almost seemed like a man who knew he was going to lose.

[Hoarse voice] They hate what they’re seeing because they’re not looking at fake suppression polls anymore. Now they’re looking at the numbers that are pouring in. And they don’t like the numbers that they’re seeing in Florida and in Ohio and in North Carolina. It could have been the greatest — You know, if you look, we look at the amount of money that he has raised. Hundreds of millions, $300 million one month. But I could have been the greatest of all time.

Yeesh! Did he eat an entire Thanksgiving turkey before the speech? Was it cooked? He sounds like your burnt out uncle falling asleep on the couch of the Lions-Bears game.

[As Trump, sleepy voice] You know I played football in high school. I was going to go pro until I broke my tailbone in a butt-chugging accident. Could have been the greatest of all ti… all time.

[Normal voice] Look, I get it. Trump is tired. We all are. One of the many things you can say about the Trump era and about this campaign is it’s been exhausting. Just four years of constant crises, late-breaking news, midnight votes, and 3:00 a.m. tweets. In fact, on Friday, Trump scream-tweeted yet another incoherent rant which implied that he wants the Supreme Court to stop the counting of mail ballots to help him win.

President Trump tweeted this morning that if Biden is elected, the four justices that voted in favor of the ballot extension would be relegated to sitting on not only a heavily packed court, but probably a revolving court. He said at least the many new justices will be radical left.

I don’t know what’s crazier, that the president tweeted that at 2:57 a.m., or the first time I read “plus1,” I assumed it was him trying to spell “Pelosi.” Trump can’t run on reality, so he has to run against it because the reality is that after four years of serial cruelties, absurdities, lies, and abusive power, he’s left the nation in ruins. Half a million new COVID cases in just one week, hospital ICUs filling up, 8 million new people in poverty, a quarter of all households struggling with food insecurity, tens of millions facing eviction and homelessness, wildfires supercharged by climate change, civil unrest over systemic racism, protesters brutalized by police, federal agents tear gassing protesters and snatching them in unmarked cars, armed right-wing gunmen patrolling the streets, migrant families ripped apart, children who are still missing their parents to this day, a postal service near collapse, weird handshakes and flag hugs, umbrella ditching and dance moves where he looks like a tortoise flipped on its back, and a president so soulless and corrupt he’s fought with Gold Star families, called war heroes “losers,” been impeached, had multiple lawyers, aides, and campaign chairmen indicted, faced at least 26 allegations of sexual assault, obstructed justice, broke election laws by paying hush money to a porn star, extorted a foreign country, had his charity dissolved, tax returns subpoenaed, had a secret Chinese bank account while he was president, paid $750 in taxes, and bilked taxpayers out of $8 million, including $3 for a glass of water. Maybe that is why he is always so careful with it.

[As Trump] Can’t spill any. Every drop cost 50 cents!

[Normal voice] And on top of everything else, he forgot the words to the national anthem and “God Bless America.”

-♪ What so proudly we hailed ♪
♪ At the twilight’s last gleaming ♪
♪ Land that I love ♪
♪ Stand beside her and guide her ♪

The president of the United States sings our most patriotic songs like a lapsed Catholic faking their way through the call and response at Easter mass. “In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit.

[As Trump] Boo-yah? [Whispering] It’s “boo-yah.” Is it not “boo-yah”?

[Normal voice] This is it. This is our chance to put an end to the cruelty, the abuses of power, and the criminal neglect. Trump incites violence and threatens to cheat because he wants us to feel like he is inevitable, that he is insulated from public opinion and Democratic accountability, that nothing and no one can stop him. Tomorrow is our chance to prove him wrong. It’s in our power to repudiate Trump and all he stands for in overwhelming numbers. It’s our chance to save our democracy. And if we succeed, this time tomorrow, Trump could very well be onstage saying…

-I will leave tonight.

-This has been “A Closer Look.”


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