Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stephen Colbert gets the harrowing details on Trump's failed coup from two lawmakers under siege

Stephen Colbert, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Stephen Colbert, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Screenshot: The Late Show

Taping as he does in the mid-afternoon, Stephen Colbert was ideally suited to get a couple of United States lawmakers on the horn right in the aftermath of Wednesday’s coup attempt by right-wing terrorists. Yes, that is a sentence we have to write, now and forever, as Donald Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress (Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, others who are about to find out what “ignominy” means for their political careers) actively fomented an attack on the Capitol building that saw MAGA-hatted goons ranting in the people’s chamber, carving Trump slogans into the walls, and looting congressional offices, when not being filmed taking selfies with some of the suspiciously permeable Capitol Police. (Oh, and one woman—shot by police while attempting to breach security while draped in a Trump flag—is dead, while at least three of the less physically formidable terrorists succumbed to medical emergencies during the attack.)

So, yeah, plenty to talk about, with the visibly furious and shaken Colbert turning to a pair of lawmakers willing to share just what the fuck happened. First up was Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who laid out not just Trump and his anti-democratic white supremacist goon squad, but her own (all Republican, all white) colleagues in the Senate who have pursued the farcical claim that the presidential election was “stolen” from their Glorious Leader, despite some 80 judges’ rulings to the contrary, and, you know, the fact that it’s complete bullshit. Colbert was adamant that, while the terrorist mob literally set upon the halls of Congress might be “ignorant,” Klobuchar’s colleagues (who also spent their afternoon in lockdown, watching “the chickens [come] home to roost,” according to Colbert), “actually know better.” Klobuchar agreed, telling the Late Show host that it was she that asked for the TVs to be turned on in the chamber where every senator and their staff were in hiding to bring home to Cruz and his seditious gang just what they’d wrought. (And presumably, Kobuchar could stare death-daggers at Ted Cruz.)

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As for consequences, Klobuchar wasn’t as forthcoming about, say, another impeachment vote or invoking the 25th Amendment on a president actively attempting to whip up an insurrection to keep his one-term ass in power as Colbert would have obviously liked. She did say that everyone involved (and filmed, at length) in the terrorist attack should be prosecuted and sent to jail. (Oh, the FBI is asking for tips on identifying the camera-hogging terrorists, so if you spot your racist uncle in some B-roll, here’s the link.) And she was fully aware that those GOP seditionists who sheepishly changed their minds about the whole “object to certifying Joe Biden’s landslide win” likely only did so only because they saw the real, deadly consequences of their cowardly bootlicking in action. “I don’t want anyone to mistake this that I forgive them,” said an incensed Klobuchar, while reassuring Colbert that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in on schedule on January 20, and that all investigations and prosecutions of every single person involved—directly or by proxy—in this ongoing Republican coup will continue well into Biden’s presidency.

After Klobuchar, Colbert spent a few segments talking to Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) one of the pitifully few Republicans who’s been vocal about what a sham Trump and his cronies’ attempt to undermine democracy has been. And here we will simply amplify those who ask why Colbert or anyone should give a platform to one of the white Republicans who actually faced up to the reality the rest of us have been living in as if that takes some extraordinary degree of courage. (Everyone in your family who told you you were being hysterical for talking about Donald Trump and the GOP’s dictatorial ambitions can now shut the hell up for all of eternity.) Keep in mind during Kinzinger’s otherwise on-point dissection of the anti-American rot festering in the Republican Party that he voted along with Trump’s agenda fully 92 percent of the time, and voted against impeaching Trump for that last time he attempted to destroy American democracy. (Kinzinger’s response that “I would certainly, probably consider that” to Colbert asking if he’d like another crack at impeachment shows that Republican moral courage only goes so far.)

Still, an on-the-ground report on the failed, Republican-plotted coup is pretty riveting television, as Kinzinger explained how, having anticipated some sort of Trump-incited fuckery, he’d told his staff not to come in that day. (He was a little smug about it, honestly.) But his first-hand account of being informed that Trump’s conspiracy-addled thugs were actually inside the Capitol was as shocking to hear about as it was for all of us to watch all day Wednesday. “We’re kind of under siege here,” Kinzinger told Colbert of the then still high-alert state of things that afternoon, telling the host about the “escape hoods” the lawmakers were instructed to don in case of gas attack, and comparing the whole scene as being from “an end of times kind of movie.”

And, to be fair, Kinzinger was pretty unsparing when it came to excoriating his fellow Republicans (a majority of which, as Colbert pointed out, were in on the fraudulent election steal plot), saying this “was absolutely a coup attempt,” aided and abetted by his own party members. Kinzinger refused to take up Colbert’s challenge to “get into naming names” when it comes to just who he was talking about (again, see “Republican courage: limits of”), but the congressperson did sound genuinely aghast at the fact that there are now scars in the Capitol that people will have to point to “in 50 years” as evidence of a time when the Republican Party engaged in a thoroughly un-American power-grab at the behest of Donald fucking Trump.

And while here’s to Klobuchar and Kinzinger for at least coming on The Late Show during an actual violent coup attempt where their lives were no-joke in danger, here’s also to Colbert and his late-night colleagues inviting those lawmakers like Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Mondaire Jones (D-NY) who have been vocal from the jump about impeaching and removing both Trump and GOP seditionists like Cruz, Hawley, Blackburn, Tommy Tuberville, and the rest from office. Like, now.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.