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February 12, 2019

John Oliver told Stephen Colbert on Monday's Late Show that "you have never truly heard disappointment" until you step out of a limo in front of a group of expectant BLACKPINK fans. "Success in a K-pop band is 90 percent confidence," he suggested. "And the rest is knowing how to sing in Korean," Colbert replied.

Season 6 of Last Week Tonight starts Sunday, Colbert noted. "What do you make of the new political reality that you've returned to, because your last show was right after the midterms, right?" Oliver said yes, and both he and Colbert agreed that President Trump may well hold office until 2025. But thanks to a two-term limit, "we all have something to aim at," Oliver said. "We all have a finish line, like in a marathon, that we can all try and stumble over, be covered in a silver cape, and have someone say, 'You really shouldn't have done that.'" He suggested trying to keep Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg alive, Tinkerbell style, by clapping until Trump leaves.

"Help us make us feel better about ourselves as Americans," Colbert said, turning to the Brexit mess in Oliver's native Britain. "The thing with the current president is that, again, there is that end point in sight," Oliver said. "With Brexit, we're talking about generational damage that could end up being done here. So it's very, very bad." He compared a no-deal Brexit to jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, and they talked a lot about sheep.

Oliver talked about the English accents his two American sons don't have and showed off his royal wave when Colbert crowned him most frequent Late Show guest, beating Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Oliver sat down, Colbert suggested they should have remained standing to end the interview, and Oliver shrugged: "I think both you and I are happy in this kind of disappointed awkwardness." And Oliver was. Watch below. Peter Weber

8:27 a.m.

Texas executed Larry Ray Swearingen on Wednesday night for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter. The Supreme Court had denied his request for a stay just before 6 p.m. Central Time, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had declined to commute his sentence, and state and federal courts had upheld his conviction. The prosecutor who got Swearingen's conviction, Kelly Blackburn, said he was sure Texas executed the right man, as did Trotter's mother. But Swearingen has maintained his innocence from the beginning, and his defense team has steadily poked holes in the forensic evidence, calling it "junk science."

"Today the state of Texas murdered an innocent man," Swearingen said in a statement released to The Washington Post on Wednesday, before his death. His last words were: "Lord forgive 'em. They don't know what they're doing."

Swearingen was convicted on strong circumstantial evidence, but earlier this month his lawyers presented new evidence suggesting that the key piece of physical evidence — half a pair of pantyhose that prosecutors said matched hose used to strangle Trotter — didn't match. The blood under Trotter's fingernails was from a man but not Swearingen — a state lab technician attested that the blood flakes were probably evidence contamination, though the state lab said earlier this month that the technician had no grounds for that testimony. And experts said Trotter was probably dead no longer than two weeks when hunters found her in the woods, though Swearingen had been in jail for three weeks for unpaid parking tickets.

"Larry Swearingen needs to be removed from the annals of history as far as I'm concerned," Blackburn said. "A bad man got what he deserved tonight." Swearingen's attorney, James Rytting, disagreed. "They may put Larry Swearingen under," he said. "But his case is not going to die."



Peter Weber

7:44 a.m.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has some thoughts on the backlash to his Dancing with the Stars casting, arguing that having contestants like himself on the show will actually help "bring the country together."

Spicer spoke in an interview with Mediaite after on Wednesday being announced as one of the cast members of the ABC competition series' latest season, drawing criticism including from host Tom Bergeron. Hours after Spicer's casting was unveiled, Bergeron released a statement slamming the choice and saying he asked the executive producer to avoid "inevitably divisive bookings from any party affiliations" this season.

Spicer now says he hopes that Bergeron changes his mind about this.

"My overall hope is that at the end of this season that Tom looks at this and says, bringing people together of very diverse backgrounds, whether it's in politics or other areas, and allowing them to show America how we can engage in a really respectful and civil way, is actually a way to help bring the country together as opposed to bring it apart," Spicer said.

He also responded to criticism of his hiring from others, such as The New York Times' James Poniewozik, who wrote that booking Spicer would allow him to "tap-dance out of infamy." Spicer said this isn't "what I want" and that he's just going on the show "to enjoy myself and if more people like me, then that's great."

Spicer is the only contestant from the world of politics joining Dancing with the Stars this season, although in the past, some of the eponymous dancing stars have included former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). The new season, likely to be filled with plenty of awkwardness should Bergeron not have a change of heart about Spicer's ability to "bring the country together" with his tap dancing, will kick off on Sept. 16. Brendan Morrow

7:00 a.m.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced Thursday morning that he will run for Senate, exactly a week after he dropped out of the crowded Democratic presidential race. "I've always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done — but this is no time to walk away from the table," he said in a video message. "I'm not done fighting for the people of Colorado." Hickenlooper will be the 12th Democrat lining up to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner (R), considered one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents, and he is expected to enter the race in the top tier. A poll this week found him 13 points ahead of Gardner in a hypothetical matchup. Peter Weber

6:24 a.m.

President Trump said a lot of things in his digressive 35-minute back-and-forth with reporters Wednesday afternoon, from the quixotically amusing — Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell raised interest rates "too fast, too furious" — to the messianic, mendacious, and undiplomatic.

Trump also elaborated on his statement Tuesday that "Jewish people that vote for a Democrat" show "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Some of his Republican Jewish supporters had defended the comment, widely criticized by Jewish groups and Israeli politicians, saying Trump meant Jewish Democrats are disloyal to themselves, not Israel. On Wednesday, Trump clarified: "I think if you vote for a Democrat, you are very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people."

Trump comments flirted "with a notion that has fueled anti-Semitism for generations and has been at the root of some of the most brutal violence inflicted upon Jews in their history," Julie Hirschfeld Davis explains at The New York Times. "The accusation that Jews have a 'dual loyalty' ... dates back thousands of years. It animated the Nazis in 1930s Germany," and today "it is a common refrain of white supremacists who claim there is a secret plot orchestrated by Jews to replace white people through mass migration and racial integration."

Trump insisted his comments weren't anti-Semitic.

In fact, "when it comes to Jews, President Trump presents a puzzle," writes Yair Rosenberg at The Washington Post. "His daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism. ... He loudly proclaims his support for Israel and has long employed Jews in prominent positions in his businesses. But Trump also seems to say a lot of anti-Semitic things," including his frequent suggestion that "American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States."

"So is Trump a philo-Semite or an anti-Semite? The answer is both," Rosenberg writes. "Trump believes all the anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. But he sees those traits as admirable. To Trump, the belief that Jews are foreign interlopers who use their wealth to serve their own clannish interests is not a negative — as it is for traditional anti-Semites — but rather a positive." Yes, "this form of 'positive' anti-Semitism is better than the negative kind," he adds, but "it is still deeply dangerous."

Read Rosenberg's essay on Trump's philo-Semitism at The Washington Post and a brief history of the "dual loyalty" slur at The New York Times. Peter Weber

4:16 a.m.

It turns out that President Trump was actually very serious about buying Greenland from Denmark, and he was so offended when Denmark's prime minister called the idea "absurd," he called off a forthcoming visit, angering Denmark, which saw it as a slight to their queen, and that reaction made Trump even madder, so he called the prime minister "nasty," Conan O'Brien recapped on Wednesday night's Conan. "So now the whole thing is a big f---ing mess."

"Everyone's mad at everybody over this initial idea," O'Brien said, but "President Trump knows real estate, if he knows anything," and "all this angry back-and-forth is just classic haggling over a real estate purchase — this is what people do. Every side plays hard to get, right?" To help ease the deal through, O'Brien reiterated, he is traveling to Greenland to "kick the tires on this deal, and I'm gonna get this deal done."

Still, "buying a property the size of Greenland is a huge, huge undertaking, there's a lot of money involved, and I wanted to make sure I'm getting the U.S. a good deal," O'Brien said. "That's why tonight I'm going to get advice on buying Greenland from a top real estate team," HGTV "Property Brothers" Drew and Jonathan Scott. And they had some... ideas. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:31 a.m.

Three Democrats have dropped out of the 2020 presidential race but none of them seems ready to retire from politics. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) is running for another term in Congress, and according to multiple people familiar with their thinking, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is going to run for Senate in 2020 and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will seek a third term as governor.

Inslee, who ended his presidential run on Wednesday night, plans to announce his plans to seek re-election in an email to supporters on Thursday, two people close to the governor tell The Associated Press. Washington doesn't have gubernatorial term limits, though the last governor to serve more than two terms was Dan Evans (R), who led Washington from 1965 to 1977. Several Washington state Democrats have announced they might run for governor, but only if Inslee doesn't. He already has some Republican challengers, but no Republican has won the governorship in more than 30 years, AP reports.

People familiar with Hickenlooper's plans told The Denver Post and The Colorado Independent on Wednesday that the former governor will challenge vulnerable incumbent Sen. Cory Garner (R-Colo.), despite earlier saying he wasn't interested in becoming a U.S. senator. "Hick has been making calls to various elected officials telling them he's running, and asking for their support," one Democratic insider told the Independent.

The Democrats already running for Colorado's Senate seat have indicated they won't exit the race if Hickenlooper enters it. But prominent Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), urged Hickenlooper to jump into the race, seeing him as their best shot at toppling the first-term incumbent. An Aug. 16-19 poll from Emerson University bolsters that assumption, showing Hickenlooper beating Garner 53 percent to 40 percent, well outside of the poll's ±3 percentage point margin of error. Peter Weber

2:28 a.m.

President Trump may not have given himself the Medal of Honor, but he has awarded himself several fictitious prizes, like "Michigan Man of the Year."

"Donald Trump is lots of things, but Michigan Man of the Year is not one of them," Chris Hayes noted Wednesday night on MSNBC. "It's not even an award that exists in real life, just in Trump's brain. And in Trump's brain, he's won lots of awards."

Citing an essay by Deadspin's David Roth, Hayes provided video evidence of "the strange reality in which Donald Trump seems to live, an alternate universe in which he's the star and big winner in a never-ending, televised award show." It's all fake, he said, "but the real question is does Donald Trump believe it's true or does he just thing we're all stupid?" Trump provided one plausible answer back in 2011.

At Deadspin, Roth provided another explanation:

Trump is a being of pure reaction and grievance and avarice, and as such is never really very difficult to parse. When he lies about money it's because he wants people to think he has more of it than he does; when he lies about golf it's because he wants people to think he's a better golfer than he is. Those lies tell you something about how Trump wants to be seen, but they're incidental to the bigger questions of who and what he is. Stranger lies like the Michigan Man one reveal more about how he sees the world and understands his relationship to the other people in it, which is fundamentally as someone cleaning up at an endless televised awards show. [David Roth, Deadspin]

In the case of his fake awards, Roth adds, "some dumb speech, long forgotten, grows into a great honor bestowed by strangers who admired him ... something he can bring up, whenever he is feeling under-appreciated or anxious or when nothing else will come." Read the full essay at Deadspin. Peter Weber

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