Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 7 Episode 29
Aired on November 8, 2020
Main segment: 2020 United States elections
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[John] Hi there, welcome to the show. Still taking place in this blank void. Which, fun fact, is actually just a zoomed-in picture of this “I voted” sticker. Which is great! Unfortunately, that sticker is attached to James Woods, which is very much not. And obviously, we’re going to start with our main story tonight, which is the 2020 election, or as it’s known for horses, “just another week.” Look at them. They’ve got no clue. Hot idiots. This was clearly a very long, very tense week, although thankfully, it all felt worth it due to how it ended.
CNN projects Joseph r. Biden Jr. Is elected the 46th president of the United States, winning the White House and denying President Trump a second term.
[John] Yeah! That definitely happened. Trump isn’t going to be president anymore — something I personally learned from no less than 20 text messages from my friends and family all saying “it’s over!” Which, in this situation, was welcome, but on any regular day would terrify the living shit out of me. As we are taping this on Saturday, people across America are still taking to the streets to celebrate not just that Biden and Harris were elected, but you sensed, mainly, that a certain someone was about to get evicted from the white house.
[Cheers and applause]
♪ Celebrate good times, come on ♪
[cheers and applause]
♪ Hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪ good-bye ♪
Fuck Donald Trump! [Horn honking]
[John] You know what? That person screaming “fuck Donald Trump” from the back of a moving scooter actually sums up pretty nicely how a lot of people feel right now. And I’ve got to tell you, it was like that all day here in New York. There was a mood here that can only be described as a “reverse 9/11.” Why? Because it combined complete euphoria, an abiding disgust for Rudy Giuliani, and this time, people were actually dancing on rooftops in New Jersey. It was a really good day. Never forget. It is genuinely hard to overstate the level of relief that has been flying around parts of this country, especially at the end of a truly draining week. And tonight we thought it might be worth mapping exactly how we got to this point over the last seven days, because at the start of this week, we all knew that, due to the pandemic, this election was going to be different. Crucially, that it was going to require more patience than usual. Yet for some reason, as soon as Tuesday came around, everyone seemed to immediately forget that, because starting that evening, almost every news channel was overtaken by some version of a guy playing with a big screen while someone comes in to interrupt and pester them with questions. It was basically the equivalent of watching the security footage at a best buy for four straight days. And while news outlets tried their best to be patient, as things dragged on, it was clear they just couldn’t do it — something perhaps best summed up by this exchange between Don Lemon and a Philadelphia city commissioner.
So how long do you think it’s going to take to count all the votes, commissioner?
You know, it’s interesting hearing reporters talk about, “listen, everybody, this is going to take some time,” and then the polls close and then it’s, “why don’t you have the results yet?” So everyone needs to recalibrate their expectations.
I resemble that remark. [Laughter]
It’s nothing personal.
So let me ask you this then, speaking of — that was a good answer. But are you talking hours, are you talking days?
[John] He doesn’t fucking know, Lemon! Leave the man alone! At that point, it would have been just as productive to ask him, “when will penguins learn how to fly?” Or “when is Michael Keaton going to win an Oscar?” Or, “what does the rest of the Pringles guy’s body look like? Is he tall or short? Does he have a lot of body hair or is he completely smooth? When will you be able to tell me what his nipples look like? Are you talking hours, or are you talking days?” What was also entirely predictable was how Trump was going to react as the count slowly unfolded, because long before results were in, he took advantage of the fact that he was ahead in some states to declare a premature, completely unfounded victory. At 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, he delivered this nightmarish speech from the white house.
[President Trump] This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4:00 in the morning and add them to the list. Okay?
[John] Uh, no. It’s not okay. It’s not okay at all. For a start, you can’t just threaten to go to the supreme court when things aren’t going your way. It’s the highest court in the land, not the middle school principal’s office. And second, they weren’t “finding” ballots, they were counting them. And counting and finding are not the same thing. That’s why the movie Finding Nemo wasn’t called “Counting Nemo.” ‘Cause that would have been a very different and much shorter movie. One Nemo. The end. Unfortunately, that press conference set the tone for the rest of the week, with the soon-to-be-former president and his camp doing absolutely everything they could think of to subvert this election. On Wednesday, after the count in Michigan began to favor Biden, Trump tweeted out “we hereby claim the state of Michigan.” Which is clearly not how it works. Calling dibs on states is not how we elect presidents. We use the electoral college, which is at least 3% less stupid than that. The very same day, the president’s personal lawyer and recent star of the “Borat” movie, Rudy Giuliani, arrived in Pennsylvania to try and stop them from counting the votes that were still remaining — which stood at nearly a million that morning, most from heavily democratic areas — and did so with this impassioned speech.
[Rudy Giuliani] How many votes do we have to be ahead? 400,000 Is not enough? With 80 plus percent counted? I think there’s only 14% of the vote to go. Do you think we’re stupid? You think we’re fools?
[John] Yeah. Yeah, we do. Yeah. And, uh, actually, this is a bit awkward now, because we had space for a joke here, but that took no time at all. So tell you what: instead, let’s look at this raccoon-shaped cookie jar with a raccoon in it. Did you eat all the cookies? I bet you did. Those cookies have gone from being inside one raccoon to being inside another. What an absolute delight. Anyway, Giuliani’s press conference was truly unhinged, with him throwing around wild accusations with absolutely no evidence. And perhaps the best response to it came from John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor:
To come in and stand on — on a street corner in Philadelphia to say, “we won Pennsylvania,” it’s like, you know, like, lol. I mean, like, it is just bizarre. It is like a bad, bad House of Cards episode.
[John] Yeah, he’s right. Lieutenant governor stone cold is absolutely right. Because this is like House of Cards in that it’s full of political intrigue, there’s a sexual predator pretending to be president at the very heart of it, and it’s gone on for at least four seasons too long. And for what it’s worth, the Trump camp’s protests were consistently inconsistent in their messaging, primarily because, early on, in some states, Trump looked like he was ahead, while in others, he looked like he was behind, which meant that in Michigan, where he led early on, his supporters showed up at a Detroit ballot-counting site to chant this:
Stop the count! Stop the count! Stop the count!
[John] “Stop the count.” Right. But in Arizona, where Trump seemed to be behind, his supporters chanted this:
Count the votes! Count the votes! Count the votes!
[John] Now, setting aside the absurdity of two groups on the same side shouting completely opposite instructions, it is worth taking a minute on just how weird it is that one of those instructions is “count the votes.” Because they were. That’s exactly what the ballot counters were doing. It’d be like a dad chanting at his teenage son’s bedroom door, “beat that meat! Beat that meat!” He is! He’s doing it! You really don’t need to cheer him on. In fact, all you’re doing is making it way harder for him to finish. And unfortunately, the information vacuum that formed in those three days provided ample space for Trump and his supporters to just throw complete bullshit around. At one point, Trump’s twitter timeline looked like this, with a whole run of tweets flagged as “disputed or misleading.” Meanwhile, Giuliani was tweeting out this article and implying 21,000 dead people had voted in Pennsylvania — which they hadn’t. Also rumors were flying around that Trump ballots were being disqualified in Arizona because sharpies had been used to fill them out, which was false. And Eric Trump tweeted out a fake video of ballots in Virginia beach being burned — a video that the city itself had debunked a day before he tweeted it. And that is really a shame, because normally the Trump sons are so good at getting to the truth — you know, like when they solved the mystery of “can a beard actually make someone look more like a child?” The answer turned out to be a resounding yes. Good work, gumshoes. But conspiracy theorizing ran so rampant this week that, during a press briefing from a Nevada voting registrar, this happened:
The Biden crime family is stealing the election! The media is covering it up! The Biden crime family is stealing this election! The media is covering it up! The Biden crime family is stealing this election! The media is covering it up! We want our freedom for the world! Give us our freedom, Joe Biden! Joe Biden is covering up this election! He’s stealing it!
[Sighs] Where were we? What was the last question?
[John] Okay, there is so much to deal with there. There’s the arctic cool displayed by that registrar while he was being interrupted by a walking internet comment. Then there was that man’s shirt, featuring what I assume were his three favorite things. Which I’m legitimately jealous of, because now I want a tank top with my three favorite things on it — specifically, oversight, foia requests, and hamsters in speedos. Now that is a shirt. But I think my favorite thing is just how painfully clear it is that that guy was expecting to get dragged away and was then completely stuck when it didn’t happen. “The Biden crime family is stealing our freedom! The Biden crime family is — really? Guys? Nothing? No one’s gonna escort me outta here? ‘Cause honestly, I was really counting on someone tossing me in a car and taking me away. I don’t actually have a ride home otherwise. All right, I guess I’ll walk. Have a good day, everyone. Pizzagate was a 9/11 or whatever.”
And in the midst of all of this, the Trump campaign was loudly announcing that it was filing multiple lawsuits in multiple states, trying to cast a cloud over the whole process. But it is important to know just how ridiculous those lawsuits were and still are. One case in Georgia centered on a poll watcher who “left the room” and thought that a stack of 53 ballots that may or may not have arrived late might or might not have been counted while they were away. Although the poll watcher couldn’t say for sure because, again, he had left the room. That particular case was dismissed by a judge because, and I quote, “the court finds that there is no evidence.” Meanwhile, in Michigan, the Trump campaign requested that absentee ballots stop being counted after — and this is key — the counting had essentially been finished in the state. That suit relied on one poll watcher having heard a rumor from someone else that some late ballots were being counted. And when the judge pointed out that that was total hearsay, the Trump campaign’s lawyer tried to wriggle out of it before being slapped down hard.
This is a first-hand, factual statement made by miss Coneran, and she has made that statement based on her own first-hand physical evidence and knowledge, which —
“I heard somebody else say something.” Tell me why that’s not hearsay? Come on now.
[John] Yeah. “Come on now.” And, look, I’m no legal expert, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a great sign for your case when a judge gives you the judicial equivalent of “fuck outta here.” Now, one big Trump complaint that he’s making a lot right now, so you’ll probably be hearing it for the rest of your life, is that the election is illegitimate because republican poll watchers weren’t given access to the ballot-counting in Pennsylvania. He actually tweeted on Saturday, “bad things happened which our observers were not allowed to see.” Which is a tough charge to make stick, because — by the nature of the accusation — you didn’t see them. But the claim was actually even more meritless than it appears, which, of all networks, fox news pointed out.
The Trump campaign has said that they wanted to have their poll watchers there, and I guess they were saying they were asked to provide evidence for something that they say they weren’t even able to participate in or to be able to see, and so that’s, I think, where they would say that needs to be rectified, if it could be.
That’s not true. It’s not true. It’s just not true. The claim from the Trump campaign and the president about that is not true, it is false. In fact, the lawyers for the Trump campaign last night in federal court admitted that.
[John] He’s right. They admitted it. Specifically, the judge asked, “are people representing Donald J. Trump in that room?” To which the campaign lawyer said “yes,” and the judge replied, “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?” Making this officially the single sassiest week in the history of the judiciary. They must have traded in their gavels for umbrellas, because these jurists are throwing some shade. And the embarrassing flimsiness of these fraud claims starts to make sense when you see just how desperately the Trump camp was trying to drum them up. Take Arizona. They announced at a press conference on Thursday that they had gathered “concerns by thousands of people” about voting irregularities. Which on its face sounds dramatic. But it’s also a little at odds with this moment, captured just minutes earlier:
Hi, everyone. If anyone has any personal example where they’ve witnessed election fraud here in Arizona, please come see me. I need a concrete example, I need someone to talk to. Right over there in the corner, thank you
[John] Okay, that is just pathetic. Although I do like the idea that someone who actually witnessed election fraud and had proof waiting until that glorified block party to tell anyone about it. “Yeah, I saw a guy in a ski mask pulling fake ballots out of his Kia Festiva, but it didn’t occur to me to tell anyone about it until a representative from the law firm hangover, hangover, divorce & meat sweats told me to meet him over there in the corner. I’m so glad I was wondering by.” But wait, that’s not all — the Trump campaign also set up this website and phone number where they invited people to submit evidence of voter fraud, meaning if you, say, wanted to supply them with an incident you found suspicious, you could do that. You still can. You can simply go to this address and send them whatever evidence you want. There’s even an option to add photographic proof. Quick fun fact, I don’t know why I’m even mentioning this: a political term of art for election shenanigans is ratfucking. So if you, say, happen to have any access to images of Pennsylvania-based ratfucking, it’s frankly your patriotic duty to send them to the Trump campaign straight away.
And all these pointless lawsuits are clearly going to cost a lot of money, which is probably why the campaign has spent the last few days frantically trying to fundraise for them, emailing supporters in an increasingly aggressive manner, with one message reading, “this is your final notice. So far, you’ve ignored all our emails asking you to join us in defending the election. You’ve ignored team Trump, Eric, Lara, Don, the vice president, and you’ve even ignored the president of the United States.” And final notice for what? To not give them money? Maybe it’s the last chance to go to the official Donald J. Trump site and buy this dog leash featuring a dog who I can only assume was lobotomized and given rabies immediately before having this picture taken. Also, quick side note about those solicitations: in the fine print, it mentions that, rather than funding lawsuits, half of any contribution will be used to retire debt from Trump’s re-election campaign, which is completely unsurprising, and not even the worst thing he’s ever asked his supporters to do, because that would obviously be when he made them watch him do this dance, which looks like he’s milking two cows at once and enjoying it sexually very much indeed.
But perhaps the single most pathetic part of this entire week was that in the moments before this race was called on Saturday morning, Trump tweeted out “I won this election, by a lot!” — All caps, exclamation mark. And if that wasn’t a bad enough case of denial, this is how some of his supporters responded to news of his defeat.
♪ We are the champions ♪ ♪ We are the champions♪ ♪ No time for losers ♪ ♪ ‘Cause we are the champions ♪ ♪ Of the world ♪
[John] Look, I would love to make fun of that, but unfortunately, I have no time for losers. But here’s the really important thing: after this absolute year of a week — the days of counting, the misinformation, the desperate, pathetic attempts to paint this process as fraudulent — the fact is, Trump lost this election. He lost. All that bullshit which we’ve grown accustomed to seeing work did not work this time. And it’s not like Trump and his family are going to stop — they’re going to carry on grifting and lying like they’ve always done, but once he’s out of the White House, it’s just not going to have the same effect anymore. It’s not going to directly impact every American’s life. And that alone is fucking fantastic. And look, by temperament, I’m inclined to over-analyze everything. And I can already feel myself starting to do it, focus on the negatives here and be cynical about what a Biden presidency could — or is even going to try — to achieve. But before we get into anything negative at all, let me just give us all a quick moment, with no caveats, of celebration. In fact, let’s put 30 seconds on the clock right now, during which time everyone can just experience joy in whatever form you want — dancing, screaming, banging a frying pan — it’s up to you. Personally, I’m going to do one of my favorite activities, which is dispensing excellent facts about octopuses over footage of people celebrating this election. Ready: go. Octopuses are great. They have three hearts, blue blood, they can taste with their arms, their brains are spread throughout their body, they can change shape and color, they have beaks, they can open bottles, they remember faces, and they hold grudges. One time an octopus escaped a New Zealand aquarium by crawling down a drain pipe into the ocean. Also there was an experiment a few years back where scientists gave octopuses ecstasy, and they learned that if octopuses take ecstasy, they’ll hang out and party with other octopuses, but if you don’t do that, they prefer to keep to themselves. That’s from a real study. Isn’t that great? I’m not saying I want to fuck an octopus, but you know what? I kind of — oh, that’s it. That’s time. That was uncomplicated fun. So now, if you don’t mind, I am going to over-analyze this election just a little bit. Not much though, mainly because it’s still too early to draw any big conclusions. There are two key things we know though. The great news is that this election had record-breaking turnout, and over 74 million people chose to kick Donald Trump out of office. The less good news is that more than 70 million people voted for him and everything he’s said and stands for, and that’s something we’re going to have to reckon with for the foreseeable future. And I know that Biden has repeatedly said on the campaign trail that the ugliness Trump represents is simply “not who we are” — he did it constantly in moments like this:
[John Biden] The only thing that could tear America apart is America itself. And that’s exactly what Trump’s been trying to do from the very beginning, dividing America based on race, religion, gender, national origin. It’s wrong. It’s not who we are. This is not who we are. Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. Let’s keep showing them who we are.
[John] Look, that is a really nice sentiment, but dividing America based on race, religion, gender, and national origin has frequently been very much who we are. In fact, you could argue that, in the history of America, the one-sentence version of Trump’s presidency is “he kept showing them who we are.” So we cannot and should not ignore that millions voted for Trump, meaning they either actively supported his bigotry, or at the very least, were comfortable enough with it to vote for him anyway. Which isn’t great. It’s like if your grandma was dating two old guys, both of whom had fought in World War II, and in the end, she picks Pete, who seems decent and works at the library and you’re happy for her. But at the same time, you are wondering how the fuck she got so far with Klaus. Because that doesn’t really reflect that well on her. And even in the joy and relief at the end of this week, it does feel worth remembering how scary it felt as it happened, with Trump supporters swarming and following a Biden-Harris bus in Texas, and that moment in Detroit that we saw earlier, where a largely white crowd showed up in a city that’s 80% black to shout that they should stop counting their votes. And if you don’t understand how those images rhyme with history, it might be because you’re just not be used to seeing them in color. Because the last four years weren’t about just one man — and this isn’t just about the last four years. And even that one man is by no means going away.
Whatever happens, Donald Trump is the current and future leader of the republican party. Certainly at least until someone else comes along with his stamina, charisma, and drive.
[John] Putting aside the wildly divergent definitions we have of “stamina, charisma, and drive,” that “get out” garden party guest is right when she says Donald Trump is here to stay — although not in office, however hard he resists going. As a Biden campaign spokesperson told the press this week, “the united states government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the white house.” Which is just a nice sentence to hear. And there is going to be time to talk about what Trumpism is going to mean going forward, just as there’s going to be time to talk about what this week means for the democratic party, which didn’t get everything they hoped for. They lost seats in the house, and the question of whether or not they’ll have a senate majority is down to two runoff elections in Georgia in January. But the real takeaway of this election is that there’s no easy answer to the question of who we are. A perfect example is this: Kamala Harris is now going to be vice president. The first woman vice president, the first south Asian American vice president, the first black vice president, and the second black person we’ve sent to the white house in the last 12 years. That’s incredible. Unfortunately, we did elect a white supremacist in between them. And the fact is that all of that together is kind of who we are. We’re the country that did all those things. And it’s important not to deny that reality. And just a final quick point here: defeating Trump took a lot of work, much of it by activist groups led by those with the most to lose from a second Trump term. A big factor in the vote in Arizona was indigenous and Latino people coming out for Biden. And in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, black voters were absolutely key, with the groups organizing that vote, particularly black women, working relentlessly for years. And in the days and weeks ahead, there’s likely to be a lot of talk from white people about how black and brown voters “saved us,” which kind of misses the point a little bit, because they weren’t so much voting as a favor for white people so much as voting to protect themselves and their communities from someone trying to do them active harm. Although there are some lessons in some of that organizing. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams, along with many others, helped to register hundreds of thousands of new voters over the past two years — half of them people of color — and turn them out to the polls. In fact, just before the presidential race was called, she was already tweeting out details about the January 5 runoff for senate and making sure people request their ballots. Why? Because she knows what she’s fucking doing. And if the democrats are smart — which they aren’t always — they should listen to her and activists like her going forward. Look, it’s going to be a long road to dig us out of the place that the last four years have put us in, but that’s why it’s so important to remember the moments of triumph this week has provided. Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones became the first gay black men elected to congress. Cori bush, a black lives matter activist, is Missouri’s first black congresswoman. In delaware, sarah mcbride became the country’s first openly transgender state senator. Multiple counties elected reform-minded prosecutors and sheriffs. Florida voted to increase the minimum wage, and every state that had a marijuana initiative on the ballot approved it. And most importantly, despite his lies, his obstructions, and his depressingly popular racism, this guy fucking lost. Do you realize what that means? One, he’s sad right now — which is great. But also, no more Stephen Miller at the white house. No more Steve Mnuchin — hate to see him go, love to watch him walk away. No more helicopter shouting time. I’m not going to miss that. No more Mike Pence or Betsy Devos or Jared. No more fucking Jared. And there’ll be big systemic, institutional problems we need to talk about in the months and the years to come — and we will, because for some reason, this is the life I’ve chosen. But for now, after what’s just happened, I frankly think we’ve all earned the right to put on our masks, go outside, and party like octopuses on fucking ecstasy. And now, this.
Announcer: and now, at the end of a long, exhausting week, it dumps.
There have been no hiccups, so to speak about just waiting for that big dump.
On cue to getting what should be a pretty big dump.
We’ve got a dump, laura, it 0 east coast time.
Be expecting of the deposit dump.
So far the first dump your look pretty good.
Two dumps today.
I think you will see a big dump today.
See a big dump early in the evening.
And slower we anticipated, we expected a big dumb.
We should point out it’s not going to be one dumb.
He is waiting for a big dumb.
About 9:30, we are going to get a big dump.
I was told we were going to get this one giant dump in the walk you. That’s going to be a huge dump.
They did the big dumb.
I told you, that’s what they do.
Donald Trump got a little bit of benefit of that last dump.
[John] That’s our show, thank you so much for watching. See you next week. Good night.