Last week, after being bested in a prank war by the actor Russell Crowe, who donated money to an Australian zoo hospital to create the “John Oliver Koala Chlamydia Ward,” host John Oliver suggested that his Emmy-winning HBO program, Last Week Tonight, would be ending because “we have accomplished everything we set out to do on this show.”
While that was clearly intended as a joke, many impressionable internet folks fell for it. “Unfortunately for everybody, this show must continue,” offered Oliver at the top of his show Sunday night.
The comedian then dove into the controversy—or rather, series of controversies—surrounding Michael Cohen: “Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and a lawyer so shitty, he made Trump say, ‘I need someone good—get me Rudy Giuliani on the phone,’” cracked Oliver.
In addition to paying the adult actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the final weeks of the presidential election to prevent her from coming forward about an alleged past affair with Trump, a potential violation of campaign-finance laws, Cohen now stands accused of selling access to the president—to the tune of millions of dollars.
“Millions of dollars for access to Trump—which is just bizarre, because I naturally assumed that you gained access to the president by finding a golden ticket in your MAGA hat,” joked Oliver. “Now selling access is a serious allegation, and there’s a lot that we don’t know here. What we can say is, shortly after Trump was elected, Michael Cohen started making a lot of money.”
Indeed, according to financial statements, Cohen’s shell company Essential Consultants, LLC—which also paid Daniels her hush money—raked in $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm tied to sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg; $1.2 million from the pharmaceutical giant Novartis; and $600,000 courtesy of AT&T on the very first business day of the Trump presidency.
According to a GOP strategist, Cohen’s sales pitch to potential clients following Trump’s election went: “I don’t know who’s been representing you, but you should fire them all. I’m the guy you should hire. I’m closest to the president. I’m his personal lawyer.”
And AT&T, which has since pushed out its top lobbyist over the Cohen hire reveal, said it hired Cohen to gain “insights” into the president’s thinking.
“If you want to understand this president’s thinking, simply have a donkey kick you in the head five times and then watch Fox News for 72 hours straight. That would give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on his mind,” said Oliver.
He continued: “Now, we probably don’t know the full significance of these payments but I would argue that, at heart, these companies got exactly what they paid for, because they wanted to understand how the Trump administration worked, and think about it: They put their trust in a political novice who turned out to be a total moron and was actually just bilking them for personal gain. So, you wanna know how the Trump administration works? Congratulations, you just got a fucking master class.”