It's Friday, March 22, 2019. It's been nearly two years since Robert Mueller was first appointed Special Counsel. Now, he's ready to submit a final report to the Attorney General. He has uncovered a sprawling and systematic effort by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. And he's developed a mountain of evidence about the president's efforts to obstruct his investigation, things like witness tampering, ordering the creation of false records, and trying to fire Mueller himself. But Mueller's got a problem: a Department of Justice memo says he can't indict a sitting president. So what is he supposed to do with all this evidence? Mueller decides to just lay it all in the report, all 448 pages of it. It'll be someone else's problem to decide what to do about it: maybe a future prosecutor, maybe Congress, maybe the America electorate. That isn't really Mueller's concern. He's done what he was asked to do. Now his report can speak for itself. [more inside]
We're almost at the end of our story. This episode will cover the final set of activity that the Special Counsel examines for possible obstruction of justice: the president's behavior towards his long time attorney Michael Cohen. Unlike the other possible acts of obstruction in Volume II, which mostly occur after Trump takes office, the relevant conduct towards Cohen spans the entire time period at issue in the Mueller investigation. It starts all the way back before the campaign. To Trump Tower Moscow. [more inside]
It's January 2018. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are in a whole lot of trouble. The past is catching up to them. Three months earlier, they'd both been indicted on multiple felony counts and now it looks like there might be even more charges coming. Gates is getting nervous--they're facing many years in prison. Manafort tells Gates to relax. He's talked to the president's personal counsel. He says they're going to "take care of us." Manafort tells Gates he'd be stupid to plead guilty now, "just sit tight, we'll be taken care of." Gates wants to be crystal clear on what exactly Manafort's getting at. So he asks: Is the president going to pardon them? [more inside]
It's February 6, 2018. Don McGahn is back in the Oval Office with President Trump and the new White House chief of staff John Kelly. The New York Times has just published a story reporting that, back in June of 2017, Trump had directed McGahn to have Mueller fired and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The story doesn't look good. Trump says: "You need to correct this. You're the White House counsel." Trump wants McGahn to say it never happened. But McGahn knows that it did happen. The White House Counsel is sticking to his guns. He's not going to lie. The president asks again. Is McGahn going to do a correction? McGahn feels Trump is testing his mettle, seeing how far he can be pushed. And so he answers: No. He's not. [more inside]
It's May 17, 2017. White House Counsel Don McGahn is in the Oval Office with the president. McGahn's job is to represent the office of the presidency, which isn't quite the same as representing the president personally. It's a delicate line to walk, and Trump hasn't made the job any easier. McGahn is supposed to act as the point of contact between the White House and the Department of Justice, to ensure all the rules are being followed. But the president has made clear, he's not interested in following the rules. Trump has already fired his FBI director. That's why McGahn is in the Oval that morning, they need to interview a new nominee for the position. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is there too.Sessions interrupts the meeting. He has an urgent phone call from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, so he steps outside to take it. Sessions returns a moment later and relays the message: Rosenstein has appointed a Special Counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. It's the former FBI director, Robert Mueller. Trump slumps back in his chair. He says, "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked." [more inside]
It's March 7, 2017. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the nomination of Rod Rosenstein to be the Deputy Attorney General. Rosenstein's whole career has been leading up to this moment. He's a non-partisan sort of guy. He's served under both President Bush and Obama. Now he's being elevated to the role of running the day to day at DOJ.But this hearing is about more than just confirming a new deputy attorney general. On March 2, five days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced his recusal from all investigations involving the 2016 election, a recusal which included the Russia investigation. And so, the moment he becomes deputy, Rosenstein will also become the acting attorney general for the purposes of the Russia investigation.Rosenstein is confirmed and he's sworn in on April 26, 2017. But his oath is about to be tested, like never before. Less than two weeks later, President Trump says he wants to fire the FBI Director and Rosenstein decides to help. [more inside]
It's January 26, 2017. Sally Yates is the acting Attorney General; she's leading the Justice Department until Jeff Sessions is confirmed by the Senate. Yates has just learned some alarming news. The new National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has lied to FBI agents. He's told them that he hadn't discussed sanctions in a call with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. But he had. And it looks like Flynn has lied to the vice president about it as well. Yates calls White House Counsel Don McGahn. She says they have to meet right away. Yates knows that the FBI has the tape to prove Flynn lied, which is a crime, but right now there's an even bigger problem: the Russians probably have the tape too. [more inside]
It's May 12, 2017. The FBI is still reeling from the sudden firing of Director James Comey. Andrew McCabe has only been the acting Director for 3 days. He's trying to talk to Rod Rosenstein about the issue weighing on his mind: how are they going to protect the Russia investigation? The FBI is already investigating whether the president has tried to interfere with that inquiry. But the Deputy Attorney General is distracted and upset; he can't believe the White House is making it look as if firing Comey were his idea. He says "There's no one I can talk to. There's no one here I can trust." McCabe urges Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel. The credibility of the FBI and DOJ are on the line; without a special counsel a firestorm threatens to destroy the nation's storied law enforcement institutions. It's five days later—Wednesday, May 17—when McCabe sits beside Rosenstein in the basement of the United States Capitol where they've assembled the Gang of Eight. Then Rosenstein announces that he's made a decision. He's appointed a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation and the new inquiry into the president: Robert S. Mueller III. [more inside]
It's April 18, 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr summons reporters to the Department of Justice in Washington DC. Robert Mueller's report is about to be released. Before the press and the public finally see the document for themselves, Barr wants a chance to tell his own version of the story it contains. But is the bottom line according to Barr the same as the bottom line according to Robert Mueller? We'll let you decide. [more inside]
"If you listen closely to the trash-talking, you start to get the message." Follow up on the cases of Jesse Nickerson, who feels he's continually harassed by police after winning a lawsuit against them, and Erimius Spencer, beaten by a cop subsequently fired for excessive force. [more inside]
This episode deals with two separate murders of young children in Cleveland. It’s not an easy listen. [more inside]
The smell of raw marijuana + acting nervous + hands in pockets = ? [more inside]
Legal drama adapted by Ian McEwan from his 2014 novel, starring Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci and Ffion Whitehead. Has this had a wide enough distribution to make it worth discussion here? It's just got a limited release in the UK, and I understand it's gone straight to streaming in the USA. (IMDB, BBC)
Suits: Pilot Season 1, Ep 1
A "closer" for one of New York City's most successful law firms decides to hire an aloof genius who has passed the bar but never went to law school as his associate. [IMDB]
In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity after his wife was assaulted. What is the truth, and will he win his case? [content warning]. [more inside]
In 1983 a guy named Stuart Anders invented a toy that would become a huge hit -- one of the biggest fad toys of a generation. But the toy world can be treacherous, and Stuart's big idea left him broke. Now he's back with a new toy and a surprising ally.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Dialysis Clinics Season 4, Ep 12
New events worthy of mention:
- Trump again. The fallout from his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and the many problematic things about it.
- Congressfolk's continued denial over the situation mentioned above as every functioning adult in the nation gets steadily angrier about their refusal to do anything about it. "When you've got the Presidential equivalent of a five-year-old shitting on the salad bar at Ruby Tuesdays, at some point you stop blaming the five-year-old and you start blaming the people who are not stopping him."
- Back to New Zealand's ruling National Party's appropriation of Eminem music. New Zealand PM Bill English heard about Last Week's Last Week Tonight mention of the court case and said, "some of the stuff I've seen he does isn't very funny." LWT, in retaliation, found an actual Facebook post Bill English made, with pictures: "Cooked dinner for the family last night - like if you agree with tinned spaghetti on pizza!"
- And Now: A Series of Terrible Pizzas That New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English Would Probably Enjoy
- Main Story: Kidney dialysis clinics, particularly those operated by DaVita, and the dangerous extents many go through to save costs, like rushing patients through dialysis, and the deeply terrible methods some employ to keep customers using their services and not seek out life-saving transplants. DaVita has had to settle nearly a billion dollars to settle lawsuits over the past five years, while their CEO compares his business (willingly!) to Taco Bell. LWT offers a commercial for Taco Bell stating how it's not a proper business model for dialysis clinics. YouTube (24m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Net Neutrality II Season 4, Ep 11
Recently in the news....
- More on the court case where Eminem is suing New Zealand's National Party for using, in an ad, a song that sounds just a little too close to "Lose Yourself."
- The U.S. House of Representatives rapidly moves to pass an updated (but still no better) version of the AHCA, before most people really knew what exactly was in it and before the Congressional Budget Office could score it, sending it to the Senate.
- And Now: To Celebrate Their Engagement This Week, A Look Back At The Romance Between Joe Scarborough And Mika Brzezinski. "Congratulations?"
- Main story: Net Neutrality is up in the air again due to Trump's newly-appointed head of the FCC Ajit Pai, a pseudo-hip former Verizon lawyer planning on changing the rules. LWT notes that his complaints about the restrictiveness of the current rules are a bit disinginuous, since it was a court case brought by Verizon that resulted in them. The FCC is once again soliciting public opinion, and like they did in the show's fifth episode, LWT encourages you to write in with your opinion, this time purchasing a domain name, www.gofccyourself.com, to take people to a search that makes the comment request easy to find, important since the FCC's comment form is less friendly to navigate than it was the first time. YouTube (20m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Marijuana Legalization Season 4, Ep 7
So what happened last week?
- The Trump/Putin scandal continues, which the show has dubbed Stupid Watergate, because "it has all the potential consequences of Watergate, but everyone involved is really stupid." This week time it was Devin Nunez, whose claims of wiretapping Trump officials unraveled. Nunez himself was one of those alleged to have been wiretapped, a conflict of interest for an investigator.
- British PM Theresa May invokes Article 50, beginning the process of leaving the European Union.
- And Now: Yet Another Look at the Awkward Sex Talk on CBS This Morning.
- Main Story: Marijuana legalization, or rather, how its differing legality at state and national levels causes grave problems for businesses and users alike. YouTube (17m)
- And Now: Twenty-Seven Seconds of the Breakfast Foreplay That Is CBS This Morning.
- Finally, more of the Bolivian Traffic Zebras, who responded graciously to John Oliver's gushing about them in the previous episode.
Can the courts overturn President Trump's executive order? This episode, Ahmed talks with law professor Muneer Ahmad, who filed a lawsuit over the weekend challenging the immigration and travel ban. They talk about the details of the lawsuit, why a federal judge issued a stay to halt deportations, and what the legal path forward is for overturning the ban.
The previous episode (our live show) was supposed to be the end of Season 1. Then, President Trump issued an executive order blocking refugees, immigrants and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries...we'll be posting a few short episodes to keep you up-to-date this week. First up, Ahmed talks with Zahra Billoo and Ramzi Kassem about what to do if you or someone you know is detained at an airport... [more inside]
The Young Pope: Third Episode Season 1, Ep 3
In the wake of the Pope's controversial homily, Sister Mary is thrust into the spotlight, and Voiello is determined to discover the Pope's weaknesses.
The Young Pope: Second Episode Season 1, Ep 2
Cardinal Voiello continues his investigations, while tensions arise between the Pope and Sister Mary.
Steven Universe: Last One Out of Beach City Season 4, Ep 6
Pearl shows a new side of herself as she goes to a house show with Amethyst and Steven.
Two New Yorkers are accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college, and one of their cousins--an inexperienced, loudmouth lawyer not accustomed to Southern rules and manners--comes in to defend them. [more inside]
Rectify: The Source Season 3, Ep 6
Janet and Daniel take a road trip. Tawney returns home. Jon regrets not helping Daniel more. Amantha has dinner with an unexpected companion.
Rectify: The Future Season 3, Ep 5
Daniel tries to repair the pool. Daggett reveals a surprising theory about George Melton’s death. Tawney visits her former foster mother.
Rectify: Girl Jesus Season 3, Ep 4
Daniel struggles to follow the terms of his probation. Teddy pushes Tawney into making a painful confession. Janet loses her temper with Ted, Sr. [more inside]
This week.... The Obama administration reaches a historic deal with Iran, but has difficulty selling it to Congress. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is in Russia to kick off preparations for the 2018 World Cup. Ashley Madison, a website that encourages and helps set up affairs between married people, was hacked and the responsible parties threaten to release records on their userbase. LWT produced a short message exhorting married citizens of Ottawa not to have affairs. Main story: The absurdity of mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the US. YouTube (15m) And Now: Unnecessary Full Disclosure. Ukraine threatens to blacklist Gérard Depardieu as a threat to their national security (Guardian) for a statement made last year at a film festival. Over the closing credits, LWT provides a brief slideshow of photos of Depardieu set to "cartoonishly French music." [more inside]
Rectify: Sown with Salt Season 3, Ep 3
Daniel discovers some new, unpleasant restrictions on his life. Daggett investigates George’s death. Amantha endures Thrifty Town management training. [more inside]
Rectify: Thrill Ride Season 3, Ep 2
Daniel must adapt to his new circumstances. Amantha faces overwhelming personal and professional changes. Teddy tries to connect with Tawney. [more inside]
Rectify: Hoorah Season 3, Ep 1
Surprise and dismay spread in the aftermath of Daniel’s confession. DA Sondra Person has some questions. Sheriff Daggett finds George Melton. [more inside]
Conversations with a death row inmate and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people - and the state - kill. [more inside]
This week: Vladimir Putin holds his yearly four-hour marathon Q&A session with the Russian public. Oklahoma volunteer deputy Robert Bates shoots black suspect Eric Harris. In preparation for Earth Day (it's in a week), they took a quick look at the plight of the polar bear; not only is their habitat shrinking, but pollution is threatening the species by weakening male polar bears' pelvic and penile bones. In studio we meet Marshmallow, the Polar Bear With A Broken Penis. And Now: The Most Patient Man On Television Endures The American Public. (That would be Steve Scully of C-SPAN's Washington Journal call-in show.) Main story: Abuses of the US Patent system. (YouTube 11m) And Now: The Continuing Adventures Of The Most Patient Man On Television. And finally, we return to CNN's infamous "end of world" video, with Last Week Tonight's own proposed version (YouTube 7m), narrated by Martin Sheen and featuring footage of an old-time Western saloon peopled by cats.
This week: The US Government pulls diplomats out of Yemen as Houthis take control of the country. Theaters saw the worldwide release of the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey. Ecuador president Rafael Correa carps back at John Oliver on Twitter (Washington Post). How Is This Still A Thing: the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (YouTube, 3m). The main story (YouTube, 18m) is on the current boom times for the tobacco industry around the world, and the efforts they've gone through to ensure them, which include suing countries through international courts to repeal and prevent public health legislation. Oliver presents a new mascot for free use of the tobacco industry, Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat. Twitter uses can show their support for Jeff with the hashtag #jeffwecan. [more inside]
Almost everyone describes the 17-year-old Adnan the same way: good kid, helpful at the mosque, respectful to his elders. But a couple of months ago, Sarah started getting phone calls from people who knew Adnan back then, and told her stories of a different kind of boy. [more inside]
Adnan's trial lawyer was M. Cristina Gutierrez, a renowned defense attorney in Maryland – tough and savvy and smart. Other lawyers said she was exactly the kind of person you'd want defending you on a first-degree murder charge. But Adnan was convicted, and a year later, Gutierrez was disbarred. What happened?
Rectify: Charlie Darwin Season 2, Ep 3
Awoken from his coma, Daniel must decide how to deal with the assault. Thankfully, there are doughnuts.
Rectify: Running with the Bull Season 2, Ep 1
"Nineteen years ago, Daniel Holden was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, Hanna Dean. Thanks to newly discovered DNA evidence and the efforts of his sister Amantha and lawyer, Daniel’s conviction has been vacated. Season 2 of RECTIFY finds Daniel Holden committed to living in the present. Unfortunately, there are many places and faces in his hometown that remind Daniel of the past..."