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On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver asks, “Is Donald Trump smart enough to be evil?”

Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver gave us the latest update on the rapidly unraveling Trump-Russia collusion scandal he’s previously dubbed “Stupid Watergate.” You know, the voluminously alleged plot by Donald Trump, his campaign, and seemingly any stray family members hanging around the place to conspire with Vladimir Putin’s Russian government ino order to undermine American democracy? Yeah, that one. Well, in the wake of last Monday’s indictments of Trump cronies Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos by investigator Robert Mueller, Oliver ran down the shady trio’s various (again seriously alleged) crimes against the U.S. while speculating about how Trump could potentially walk away from this accelerating treasonous death car, if not unimpeachable, then at least unimpeached.

The inescapable strategy for Trump’s escape from Mueller’s net, according to Oliver, is what he calls “The Trump Card.” By which Oliver means, “This guy is too dumb to really understand what he’s doing, so I guess we have no choice but to let him keep being president.” And while that sounds both hyperbolic and chilling, Oliver lays out neatly how there’s no other explanation for how Manafort and Gates—both of whom have a long, long paper trail of unethical/illegal dealings in the “propping up dictators” and “laundering millions of dollars” arenas—wound up being chosen for key positions in Trump’s campaign. To be fair, it’s not like Trump laid the groundwork for the “incompetent dingbat” defense already. Oh, wait, yes he did, as he responded to Manafort and Gates’ arrests by claiming, essentially, that they did all that illegal stuff before they worked for him, so he’s only guilty of doing literally no due diligence whatsoever and hiring a couple of international career criminals. Sounds legit.

Oliver also showed how Trump’s itchy internet finger has submarined his own pretension to competence in Papadopoulos’ case as well, citing how Trump posted an incriminating picture of the supposed insignificant campaign figure at a meeting of Trump and his campaign staff on his fucking Instagram. Oliver also played a montage of the ever-boastful Trump repeatedly bragging about his supposed steel trap of a mind to rebut Trump’s own defense that he doesn’t “remember much about” said meeting. That despite a clip of Trump bragging of his mental acumen, “It’s called up here, and it’s called memory, and it’s called other things.” Well said. As Oliver put it, coming from that guy, a defense amounting to, “I don’t know anything about those people I should know everything about,” seems almost plausible. Almost. Still, Oliver concluded about Trump remaining in office on a too-stupid-to-be-a-traitor plea, “Please, let’s not do that.” (Although apparently another Mueller indictment Monday might test even Trump’s seemingly ironclad stupidity shield. Stay tuned.)


(For full episodes of Last Week Tonight, check out the show’s website. To see Sunday’s main story about the corporate fuckery of “economic development incentives,” check out the show’s YouTube page.)

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Dennis Perkins

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