"One day after his disastrous summit with Vladimir Putin, it's starting to dawn on people: Trump may be a bad president," Stephen Colbert declared at the top of Tuesday's late show. "Even Trump officials are embarrassed by his Putin show. "
Colbert remarked, "Oh, now they're embarrassed?" before imagining their reactions to the president taking the Russian president's word that he didn't tamper with the 2016 election over that of the entire U.S. intelligence committee: "I was with him on the Nazis and the imprisoning of children but siding with the Russkies? They killed Apollo Creed! Wolverines! (Different movie but similar idea.)"
Colbert quoted the New York Times' account of the trip home from Helsinki: "Trump thought he did great. Until he got on Air Force One and his mood grew foul as the breadth of the critical reactions became clear."
He imagined Trump's reaction to learning the blowback extended to his favorite network. "That's fake news. Turn on Fox. Gah!" and quoted a line from the story that said aides steered clear of the front of the plane lest they end up on the business end of a Trump venting session.
Colbert added that once Trump realized the magnitude of his mistake, he summoned Republican leaders to the White House ... to watch his induction into the Lying Hall of Fame."
He played a clip of Trump saying that his meeting with the queen coincided with the first time she reviewed her honor guard in 70 years.
"Then they lied to you because she hasn't even been queen for 70 years and here she is doing it just a few years ago," the comedian pointed out. "But that's just a warm-up lie. Everyone knows you have to limber up before you start yanking the big ones out of your keister."
Colbert did say he believed one detail of Trump's NATO summit recap: "When I left, everybody was thrilled."
That brought the comedian to the Putin part of Trump's Europe trip: "Look what happened the moment he addressed his public betrayal of the intelligence community," he said leading into a clip which coincided with a brief blackout caused by a thunderstorm in Washington.
"That was strange," he said in his breathiest Trump voice. "Putin told me the attack on the power grid wasn't supposed to be until next Tuesday. Well, I guess I'll start strangling my cabinet now. Mnuchin, get over here."
When the lights came back on, Trump said he accepted the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election but then walked back his walk-back, restating the possibility that it "could have been other people, also."
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Colbert expressed incredulity that the president tried to have it both ways: "No! You shanked even that. You either accept it was Russia or say it could be other people. You can't do both!"
Switching back into his Trump voice, he said, "I Donald, take you, Melania, to be my lawfully-wedded wife. Though I could take other people, too. There's a lot of people out there."
And then there was Trump's now-infamous double negative: At the summit, he said he "didn't see any reason why it would be" Russia; the next day, he claimed he meant to say he didn't see any reason why it wouldn't be them.
"The sentence should have been that," Colbert conceded. "It wasn't. But who among us hasn't said the exact opposite of what he just said in front of cameras on multiple occasions? If you can just add a new word in, what's next? 'After Charlottesville, I meant to say there were bad people on both sides. Also, on that bus, I meant to say, 'Respect her by the (expletive).'"