Late-night hosts returned to the air on Monday evening for the new year, although 2021 was already looking a lot like the 2020 mess just left behind. “We’re off to a fresh start,” joked Stephen Colbert on the Late Show, “with a raging pandemic and a president who’s trying to steal the election”.
“Turns out 2020 is dropping some bonus tracks,” he added, as on Sunday the Washington Post released a recording of a phone call between the president and Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who oversaw the state’s election, recount and recount of the recount. During the hour-long call, which took place on Saturday, Trump explicitly demanded Raffensperger “find” 11,000 votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state, invoked numerous conspiracy theories, and threatened criminal charges against Raffensperger if he did not assist the president in his attempt to nullify the election.
“Buckle up everybody, because this call is like if Watergate and the Ukraine scandal had a baby that they made on the Access Hollywood bus,” Colbert joked. “When you’re a star, they let you do it!”
While the call was ominous – the president pleaded with a state official and his lawyers “fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break” – the contents were often nonsensical and rambling. “If he wants to steal an election he really needs to sound less like your grandpa complaining about his phone,” Colbert joked.
New year, same old conflicts in Washington, reported Seth Meyers on Monday night, as House Republicans and a dozen GOP senators prepared to vote symbolically to refuse to certify the election results. “Virtually the entirety of the Republican party has started off the year by making it clear, in case it wasn’t clear before, that they’re actively trying to destroy democracy,” the Late Night host explained. “Also this story is yet another reminder that while we do a big countdown and watch a ball drop, the beginning of new years tend to be a lot like the year that just ended.”
“Predictably, 2021 is picking up right where 2020 left off, with the Republican party callously refusing to do anything about the raging pandemic that’s killed 350,000 Americans or the botched vaccine rollout, choosing instead to focus on their unhinged attempts to light our democracy on fire,” Meyers added, before diving into the Trump-Raffensperger call.
Though congressional Republicans such as senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have claimed election integrity as the reason for sustaining Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, “with this call to Raffensperger, Trump ripped off the mask and revealed what’s really going on,” Meyers said. “He made it crystal clear exactly what those 140 GOP House members and a dozen senators will be supporting on Wednesday. They’re not standing up for election integrity or trying to restore faith in our democracy, they’re petty henchmen in a harebrained scheme to steal an election hatched by a deranged wannabe tyrant who talks like a mafia boss with a head injury.”
During the hour-long call, Trump threatened Raffensperger with criminal charges and invoked numerous debunked election conspiracy theories. “I just like to imagine what everyone else was doing on the other end of the phone call while Trump was rambling like a lunatic for an hour,” Meyers said. “It’s like when you put your grandpa on speaker phone while you do household chores and then he just casually confesses to a crime in the middle.”
“While most of us are back to reality today, Donald Trump is further from it than he’s ever been,” Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday night, referencing the Raffensperger call. “I listened it to it twice,” he said, “I listened to the whole thing like it was a surprise Taylor Swift album.”
During the call, the president “tried everything”, Kimmel said. “He bragged, he challenged, he threatened, he told the secretary of state he’d come to Georgia and eat all their peaches, nothing.
“He really is the weakest, whiniest little dictator imaginable,” he added. “If you haven’t listened to it, listen to it, it’s pathetic.”
And yet, numerous congressional Republicans intend to vote in favor of Trump’s attempt to overturn democracy this week, citing baseless election fraud claims. “During his last ‘perfect call’ – the one he got impeached for – Republicans lined up and said ‘we can’t impeach, Congress shouldn’t decide who’s president, the people should decide!’” Kimmel said. “And now these same Congress people are like, ‘what, the people decided on Biden? In that case, let’s let Congress decide who’s the president.’”