Late night political comedians like Stephen Colbert need vacations, even when viewers need them not to take vacations. After all, who is going to process the mounting daily affronts to democracy—not to mention decency—being inflicted on us by Donald Trump and his administration into queasily cathartic laughter when the Colberts, Bees, Noahs, Olivers, and the rest are assiduously avoiding their TVs so that they don’t go full Network on their various networks’ airwaves? Still, perhaps against his will, Colbert returned from a week off last night fully loaded, both with dogged enthusiasm for his comedic duty, and with more than a week’s worth of targets from the house of Trump. That despite Colbert’s assertion that he had, indeed, avoided the news as much as humanly possible over the July 4th holiday to, as he put it, “celebrate my love of this country by not watching what is happening to it.” Still, the gamy bait of some freshly dumped Trump family possible treason was waiting for him when he returned.
Wait, possible treason? As Colbert expressed in discussing the revelation that this week’s winner of the “Dumbest Trump” award, Donald Jr., admitted on Sunday that he colluded with Russia during the campaign, “You could knock me over with something you use to knock over someone who is not the least bit surprised.” Almost like a trust fund baby who imagines his dad’s power and money will shield him from even his worst and most inescapable transgressions, Li’l Donnie sent out a series of statements (via, among other places, Trump family megaphone Twitter) attempting to debunk a New York Times story about his June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer specifically on the promise of damaging info on Hillary Clinton. (The junior Don lawyered up on Monday, but not before implicating fellow Trump campaign conspirators Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner as well.) Problem is, as Colbert summed up this latest highlight in the Trump family sport of own-foot-shooting, Junior’s increasingly nonsensical and sweaty excuses just kept blasting off additional toes, as more and more details keep emerging that would sound like the rantings of an Alex Jones-level conspiracy kook, if, as they say, the legitimate press didn’t keep producing receipts. (An even more damning corroborating email surfaced on Monday evening, presumably after Monday’s Late Show taped, leaving plenty of ammo for tomorrow.) As Stefon might have said, this one’s got everything: contradictory, incriminating statements from the son of the president, a Miss Universe pageant middle man, a shadily connected Russian pop star, Donald Trump himself appearing in said pop star’s music video. If, as Colbert put it, this meeting isn’t necessarily the smoking gun on Trump-Russia collusion, “It is a gun meeting. With a Russian bullet. About their mutual desire to smoke.” Colbert tried to cover as much of the Trump news dump he’d missed as he could (boy, Trump really didn’t do well at that G-20 summit), but it’s clear that the idea of the president’s eldest son providing the most solid proof yet of collusion during the election is going to be the host’s primary focus for a while. Back to work, Colbert.