The HBO host broke down his show into two main stories involving the chaotic and deadly Trump administration: the coronavirus and Attorney General William Barr. Oliver began with the coronavirus, a disease that has claimed over 230,000 American lives thus far with little to no sign of slowing down.
While President Donald Trump has claimed time and again that he’s done a “tremendous” job handling the ongoing pandemic, the facts tell a far different story.
“In the years before this outbreak, Trump’s administration not only disbanded Obama’s pandemic team, they also cut CDC operating within China by more than two-thirds and ended a pandemic early-warning program,” said Oliver, citing Trump’s astonishing lack of preparedness. “And even once the pandemic had begun, Trump took an appallingly long time to take it seriously.”
Indeed, the first public reports of what was happening in Wuhan, China, with the novel coronavirus came on Dec. 31, 2019, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar couldn’t manage to secure an interview with Trump about it until Jan. 18—during which he was regularly interrupted by Trump pestering him about when flavored vaping products would be back on the market (really). Then Trump claimed that COVID-19 would just go away naturally (he said this 39 times) even though, on Feb. 26, he was aware that community spread was under way in the U.S. Plus, it took forever to implement proper testing for the disease.
And while Trump has bragged about banning all travel from China, he only did so after 45 other countries had already placed travel restrictions on China, and his so-called ban contained a number of loopholes that’s allowed at least 430,000 people to travel from China to the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. We also now know that COVID-19 traveled to New York City from Europe, yet Trump took six more weeks to restrict travel from Europe to the U.S.
If that weren’t enough, there were extreme PPE shortages across the country, despite the administration being warned about the need early and often from various health officials. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was placed in charge of a Supply Chain Task Force to procure more PPE—but he ultimately appointed a handful of twenty-somethings with no experience to the team who accomplished next to nothing.
On Feb. 7, 2020, Trump privately admitted to journalist Bob Woodward that COVID-19 was “more deadly than your, you know, even your strenuous flus” (this was caught on tape), and then weeks later he said it was “like a flu.”
“Trump just lied,” explained Oliver, adding that the president also “constantly undermined his own administration’s advice” on COVID-19, including when he advised against mask-wearing (“This is voluntary… I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,” he said).
“If Biden is elected, he’s not going to magically end this pandemic, but he’ll at least take it seriously,” argued Oliver.
“For what it’s worth, multiple members of our staff were sick earlier this year, and it was heart-wrenching being constantly concerned about their health,” he continued. “People who are sick and dying can’t see their families, and cases are now spiking to record highs all over the country. This virus has taken so much from us: our peace of mind, our routines, and nearly a quarter of a million Americans. And it’s frankly pathetic that, in response, the only things Trump has offered people in this country over the past eight months are damaging lies.”
There’s also the issue of Barr, whom Oliver called “dangerous,” “authoritarian,” and an “asshole” who was once alleged to have covered up a scandal involving George H.W. Bush supplying military technology to Saddam Hussein. Barr also called the COVID-19 lockdowns “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since slavery (yikes) and argued that the only checks on the president should be the election or impeachment, which has afforded Trump an extraordinary amount of corruptive power. Barr has served as Trump’s personal lawyer/consigliere during his tenure—clearing out protesters in front of the White House for Trump’s Bible photo-op; suggesting charging protesters with “sedition,” which can carry a 20-year prison sentence; designating New York City, Portland, and Seattle as “anarchist” jurisdictions; and defending Trump in a defamation case involving one of Trump’s many rape accusers, E. Jean Carroll.
At the end of the show, Oliver issued a personal plea.
“Look, I don’t need to tell you just how important Tuesday is. If you haven’t voted already, please do so. I did. I voted in my first presidential election just this morning,” he confessed. “For what it’s worth, it was inspiring, unexpectedly moving, and I did get this free sticker, so that’s just not nothing. Thank you so much for watching this show, and we will see you next week, at which point I truly hope that we’ll all be feeling slightly better.”