Stephen Colbert sorts out Trump officials’ contradicting statements on Iran

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert during Wednesday's March 13, 2019 show. Photo: Scott Kowalchyk/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert during Wednesday's March 13, 2019 show. Photo: Scott Kowalchyk/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert tried to understand the changing narrative behind the White House’s justification for killing an Iranian general.

Two weeks in to 2020 and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is doing the same thing it did for most of 2019: try to make sense of the Trump White House. Monday night was no different as Stephen Colbert sorted through the various explanations offered for the killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani.

For as much time as Colbert and his fellow late night hosts have spent trying to understand President Donald Trump and his administration, it feels like they haven’t gotten any closer to the truth. That is due mostly to the fact that stories and rational constantly change and there is no consistent message or strategy coming from the executive branch.

Fans saw this again and again as Colbert covered the Ukraine scandal. The argument changed from President Trump did nothing wrong to a quid pro quo isn’t illegal and then to something else. That controversy eventually led to President Trump being impeached. The situation in Iran could have devastating effects of its own.

White House officials and cabinet members have offered varying explanations for why President Trump ordered a drone strike in Iraq that killed Soleimani. Those explanations have even contradicted President Trump’s own words.

No matter if it is the government or a toddler trying to stay out of trouble, any time a story changes this many times you can be sure it is to hide the truth. That was the approach Stephen Colbert took in Monday night’s monologue.

Colbert starts off by breaking down an interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Secretary Pompeo was one of the first Trump officials to make television appearances after the airstrike and appeared adamant that it was necessary due to imminent threats against America. However, as Colbert shows, the specifics of those imminent threats are a little hazy. The “where” and “when” weren’t known, giving Colbert an easy punchline.

However, President Trump was willing to offer some specifics on what he “believed” was Soleimani’s plan. According to the Commander-in-Chief, the U.S. embassy in Iraq was targeted along with three other embassies. That sounds like some pretty specific information that Secretary Pompeo could have used.

Maybe the third time is the charm? That’s Colbert’s setup for a clip featuring Secretary of Defense Mark Esper being asked to clarify the threat against America. And it was strike three as Secretary Esper distanced himself from President Trump’s statement by revealing he saw no evidence that four embassies were in danger.

And to throw one more twist in the story, Colbert makes note a story indicating that President Trump authorized Soleimani’s killing seven months ago. The news makes it even harder for Colbert to make sense of the White House strategy. But if there is no plan, then there is no sense in trying to make heads or tails of it.

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The Late Show with Stephen Colbert may not have made in progress in understanding how the Trump White House works. But Monday’s monologue may have proven that the Trump administration itself hasn’t quite managed to do that either.