Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 4, Episode 23 - Presidential Pardons - full transcript

John Oliver talks about presidential pardons, and specifically President Trumps first pardon of Joe Arpaio. He discusses the crimes Arpaio is convicted for, and the message Trumps sends by pardoning him.

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Season IV
Episode 23

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

As we speak, Hurricane Irma
is battering Florida,

I cannot recommend strongly enough
that you watch something else now.

Because for us,
we have a lot to catch up on.

We have been off
and we've missed a lot of stories,

from tensions with North Korea,
to Equifax's massive data breach,

to me falling off
the Taylor Swift train...

Look what you made me do,

But we have to begin
tonight with President Trump.

The Eric Trump of old people.

The president had an erratic week,
characterized by two big decisions.

He met with congressional leaders
to hammer out a deal

to raise the debt ceiling
and fund the government.

Democrats wanted a three-month
extension, to give them leverage,

Republican leadership was fiercely
against that.

Republicans wanted a long-term solution
to avoid another fight in December.

But, sitting
down with leaders of both parties,

the president sided
with the Democrats.

That stunning image, the president
cutting a deal with Democrats

and blindsiding his own party.

That is a surprising move,
from Chuck Schumer's expression.

It is as if he's right
in the middle of saying:

"yooouuu... are not
very smart, are ya, buddy ?"

The details of the negotiation
are really striking,

three months was
the Democrats' first offer.

Trump just took it. Republicans
apparently froze in mid-smile.

Which must've been
an unsettling sight,

this is what it looks like when
Mitch McConnell smiles in real time.

It's creepy when his smile moves.
It's terrifying when it freezes.

Before Republicans could even try and
salvage the meeting, it was derailed.

At the height of a tense meeting,
sources say, first daughter Ivanka,

entered the Oval Office to pitch
her agenda on the child tax credit,

throwing the meeting off-topic.

Republican leaders
annoyed by her presence.

That's the name of Ivanka's
upcoming biography:

"Visibly Annoyed by Her Presence:
The Ivanka Trump Story."

That was far from the most
uncomfortable moment involving Ivanka

because at a North Dakota
event that same day,

he introduced
his daughter like this.

Come up, honey.
Should I bring Ivanka up ?

Come on up, honey. She's so good.
She wanted to make the trip.

She actually said:
"Daddy, can I go with you ?"

I like that. Right ?
I said: yes, you can.

His 35-year-old daughter calls
him "Daddy" and he likes it.

That is just one of those facts
that on some level,

I never
wanted to have confirmed.

When someone AirBnB's your place,
they ejaculate on literally everything,

or "if I was there for Manson murders,
I would have stabbed someone."

I'm not good with peer pressure !

It would have been so weird
if I was the only one not stabbing !

I'd have probably
had a quick stab.

It is good that the government
is getting funded.

But nobody seems exactly sure
why Trump made this decision.

One senior Republican aide
told Politico it was "mystifying",

adding, "maybe it's about the wall ?
None of it makes any sense."

Which should have been the slogan
of Trump's presidential campaign.

Maybe it's about the wall ?
None of it makes any sense.

This was not the only big decision
Trump made for less-than-clear reasons.

On Tuesday, he took
a far more consequential step.

Trump ends former President Obama's
signature immigration program.

The Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals known as DACA

protects 800 000
undocumented immigrants

who came to the US as kids
from deportation.

Donald Trump ended DACA,
which allowed him to both kill

an Obama-era program and pick
100 of thousands of immigrants.

Which, for Trump, is really
killing two birds with one stone,

incidentally, his favorite
childhood pastime.

"Mommy, I killed the fancy
pigeons again ! I need a new batch."

DACA not only protects its recipients,
or "Dreamers", from deportation,

it allows them to work through
renewable two-year permits.

A measure implemented by Obama,

because Congress failed to pass
immigration reform for a decade.

Whatever people's feelings on other
aspects of immigration,

they believe that Dreamers should
be allowed to stay in the country.

During the campaign,
Trump promised his base

not only that he would end DACA,
but he would deport its recipients.

He didn't seem to have much
in the way of a concrete plan.

- They have to go.
- What if they have no place to go ?

We will work with them. We either have
a country or we don't have a country.

We will do it and we will expedite it
so people can come back in.

- It's still not clear.
- It will work out so well.

In four years
you're going to say:

what a great job you've done,
President Trump.

But that is not a plan.
Saying "they have to go",

but then they can
maybe come back in,

and ending sounding like
he's trying to hypnotize Chuck Todd.

It will work out so well.
You'll be so happy.

In four years you're going to say:
what a great job, President Trump.

I snap my fingers, you wake up
and wet your pants.

You would hope
that now he's in office,

Trump would've formulated a plan
outlining what he would like to see.

As late as one hour before the decision
was to be announced,

administration officials
privately expressed concern

that Mr. Trump might not know
the steps he was about to take.

Which is awful, but it is something
we all probably presumed.

Like Tom Hanks's character
in "Cast Away" fucked Wilson.

There is no doubt
that that happened.

Later that day, Trump seemed
to be walking back his decision,

saying Congress had six months
to legalize DACA, and if they didn't

he would "revisit this issue".

Dreamers have to go. But maybe
they can come back.

Or maybe
they don't have to go at all.

800 000 people's lives
are in the balance.

And when asked on Air Force One
about these mixed signals,

he was maddeningly vague about
anything even resembling a plan.

Chuck and Nancy would like
to see something happen, so do I.

If we can get something to
happen, we're going to sign it,

and we're gonna make
a lot of happy people.

Okay. Anytime Trump says he's
going to make people happy

or that you're going
to be happy in the future,

that means he has got nothing,
he's trying to end the conversation.

That's how he shut down
Chuck Todd on the plane.

And he does it
with everything.

Here's how he talk to businesses
about his plans to change trade policy.

Wait 'til you see what's up for you.
You are going to be so happy.

That is the tone of somebody who
forgot to buy an anniversary gift

and is stalling for time.

Wait until you see
what's up for you.

I'm going to be back in 45 minutes.
You're gonna be so happy.

He does this for everything. Here
are his promises for border safety,

the Middle East, steel tariffs,
replacing Obamacare and infrastructure.

We are going to make it
so that everybody is happy.

The steel folks
are going to be very happy.

Millions of people will be happy.

You have millions of people
that are unhappy.

You'll be so happy with Trump.
I think you already are.

In each case, it's the way you get
to that feeling that is important.

Laying out a policy
that's just "you'll be so happy"

is like naming a restaurant
"you're gonna be so full".

Okay, that's the goal, but how ?
What am I filling myself with ?

Is it Asian fusion or wet cement ?
I promise this happens all the time.

In case you're wondering what he does
when people aren't happy,

he even has a solution for that.

Remember that debt ceiling meeting and
how furious McConnell and Ryan were ?

This was Trump that same day.

We walked out of there,
Mitch and Paul and Kevin,

and we walked out
and everybody was happy.

They weren't ! Not Mitch, not Paul,
not Kevin ! None of them !

Trump may be able to fool people
saying they'll be happy in the future

but we cannot let him trick people
they were happy in the past.

It is weirdly ironic he is taking
such a hard line against "Dreamers"

because this guy is clearly
out of his fucking mind.

And now, this.

A look at what the NFL will
and will not tolerate.

Colin Kaepernick is a free agent,
talented, but no team has signed him.

Many believe that's because he's
controversial for NFL fan bases.

A lot of baggage comes
with Kaepernick.

They don't wanna deal
with that in their stadiums.


Jones was suspended for one game
following an arrest for an incident

involving him spitting at a nurse.

Violated the NFL policy on
performance-enhancing substances.

- A DUI earlier in the off-season.
- Domestic violence.

- DWI in May.
- Arrested for extreme DUI.

He violated the league
substance abuse policy.

Bryant was also suspended
for the first four games last season

while he was a member of
the Cleveland Browns for P.E.D. use.

He was suspended for 3 games after
the Lions claimed him off waivers.

That suspension was due
to an arrest back in 2015.

And yet...

They would have a tough time
signing somebody

who protested the American flag
and the national anthem.

Moving on. Our main story
concerns presidential pardons.

The only genuine
get-out-of-jail free card.

Pardons are one
of the most powerful tools,

and they have been used
controversially in the past.

Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich.
Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.

Abraham Lincoln once pardoned
a man for attempted bestiality.

That is true ! And in fairness:
this was the horse !

That's a pretty fuckable horse.
I am not saying you should fuck it.

I wouldn't kick it out of bed
for eating apples.

Donald Trump issued his very
first pardon, and it was a doozy.

A legal lightning bolt
from President Trump late Friday.

A pardon for Arizona's controversial
anti-illegal immigration hard-liner,

Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio,
a man who answers the question:

"what if a decaying russet potato
somehow hated Mexicans ?"

Let's look at that decision.
If the President of the US

is going to use his first pardon
on someone, this early in his term,

it is worth knowing who Arpaio is,
and what the implications may be.

You probably may have heard
of Joe Arpaio before.

He has cultivated an image over
25 years as a hard-nosed sheriff

with unconventional methods,
that the media has lapped up.

Joe Arpaio is known
as America's toughest sheriff.

Arpaio, who has been dubbed
America's toughest sheriff.

America's toughest sheriff,
Joe Arpaio.

He's known for his crackdowns on
illegal immigration and petty crime.

He brags about making prisoners
eat bologna sandwiches rotten.

Makes his inmates wear pink,
uses chain gangs.

Inmates are forced to wear
striped prison garb and pink underwear.

That is just awful.
The pink underwear is fine,

but no one should be forced
to wear horizontal stripes.

They widen the silhouette !
That's a fashion fact.

Arpaio didn't mind that coverage,
he actually welcomed it !

He loves being on camera
so much that he spent years

treating prisoners as props for
a reality show, sometimes literally.

He actually had a short-lived show
called "Smile... You're Under Arrest",

where people with warrants
would be tricked

into appearing on a set,
only to be pranked.

I got one more surprise.

These two people are deputies
of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office.

Take 'em down.

So dude, you gotta smile,
'cause you're under arrest !

For real !

There it is !

Wait. "There it is."
Now for the record,

even then, that reference
was 15 years old.

Which is a real wiggity-wack
thing to do, dawg.

Tricking people into arrest
for your own amusement

is a terrible idea
for a reality show.

The only worse idea is
"not making Peter the bachelor".

Look at that face.
Are you idiots, ABC ?

Peter, if you are out there,
you are, and shall ever remain

"my" bachelor.

Hashtag "Peter is my bachelor."
Hashtag: "he's-a-catch-elor."

Arpaio will do anything
for a camera.

Watch him sing his favorite song
of course, is Frank Sinatra's "My Way",

the universal anthem
of assholes everywhere.

Watch him sing it
for a documentary film crew.

The record shows
I took the blows,

And did it my way !

Something interesting there:
when Frank Sinatra heard that,

he climbed out of his grave,
walked 400 miles to Arpaio's house,

rang the doorbell
and simply said: "no".

But what does "doing it Arpaio's way"
actually mean ?

Trump didn't just pardon him,
he touted Arpaio's support on campaign,

even having him speak
at the Republican convention.

Trump doesn't seem to have any
problem with "Arpaio's way".

It is more than just the eye-catching
circus that you've seen so far.

Maricopa County, where he was
the sheriff until just last year,

contains over
four million people.

That's a higher population
than that of 24 states.

And conditions in his
Tent City were appalling.

Temperatures there could rise
as high as 145 degrees,

food was limited to two meals a day
and then there was this.

Chinese law enforcement officials
drop in for some tips from Joe,

who brushed up on his Mandarin.

I hear China very tough
on criminal, correct ?

I'm asking them, in China do they
put women on a chain gang ?


Thank you. I am still
the first in the world.

Yes, Arpaio actually put women
on chain gangs. So, I guess...

Hashtag Feminism ?
It's a gray area.

Arpaio operates jails, not prisons,
and jails are typically for people

serving sentences of less than
a year, or even awaiting trial.

Which is not to say anyone should be
subjected to Arpaio's treatment.

He installed webcams in the jail,
which showed inmates using the toilet,

which wound up being linked
to by pornographic sites.

While the cameras were pulled, the
sheriff's office defended themselves,

with their lawyer saying they did
not show the private parts of inmates

and "no juveniles would
have been displayed"

"unless they
look older and lie to us."

Spare a thought for the attorney
who went through years of law school

only to have to tell a reporter:

"the women we broadcast taking
a shit were probably all adults."

Arpaio seemed impervious
to criticism of any of his tactics.

I have not received
many negative comments,

other than the Justice Department
or Amnesty International

or the Civil Liberties Union.

The 3 key groups who might criticize
you over mistreating prisoners.

So you just went three for three
on that one.

You're not going to get complaints
from Carl's Jr., the Girl Scouts

and Hootie and the Blowfish,
that's not what those groups do.

So, is it any wonder that,
when a reporter asked inmates

whether Arpaio had nicknames,
one responded: "Hitler",

while another responded:

That is a charge that he's defended
himself against by saying:

"my daughter has adopted
children of various ethnicities..."

"I got a black, a Mexican
with Down Syndrome even."

"And yet I'm the racist, I'm
the fascist, I'm the Hitler !"

I'm not going to argue
with him on that one.

That is sound logic. That is why when
you play "Guess Who's The Hitler ?"

the first things you ask
to narrow it down are:

"do their daughter got a black ?"

and "do their daughter got a Mexican
with Down Syndrome even ?"

Because if their daughter got those,
they can't be the Hitler !

It's right there in the rules !

Arpaio's jails weren't just tough,
they were sometimes deadly.

The county paid
multiple large settlements to families

of inmates who've died following
incidents in his facilities,

including over $8 million
to the family of Scott Norberg,

who died in custody after being
restrained, shocked, and beaten.

When one officer tried to warn
two other guards

the inmate was in dire trouble,
their response was chilling.

I told him he was turning blue or
purple I don't think he was breathing.

And he said:
"who gives a fuck ?"

After Spidell responded to you
"who gives a fuck ?"

and you warned Officer Gurney,
what did Mr. Gurney say ?

They said,
just "who gives a shit ?"

You can't see someone dying
and say who gives a shit.

You can't even see some thing
dying and say that.

With the sole exception of orchids.
Because, really, who gives a shit ?

They're high maintenance little
flower cucks and they deserve to die.

Justice Department declined
to prosecute that case,

and both Arpaio and the officers
insisted they did nothing wrong.

Arpaio was so unapologetic
that both officer "who gives a fuck"

and officer "who gives a shit"
were later promoted.

To Lieutenant "whatever, asshole"
and Sergeant "zero fucks given."

That promotion sends a pretty
clear message to Arpaio's staff.

Almost as clear a message
as a president pardoning

the man who oversaw all of this.

Arpaio wasn't just in charge of jails.
He was also a law enforcement officer,

though his respect for the law
seemed awfully selective.

Over the years, his office
repeatedly launched criminal cases

against his perceived enemies,
county officials or even judges,

some of which were so flimsy,
they were dismissed or thrown out.

One civil suit that he brought
turned out to be so baseless,

it was cited in the disbarment
of the attorney who brought it,

with a member of the disbarment
panel saying it was:

"nothing short
of fumbling with the law,"

"like children wielding
a buzzing chainsaw."

Not only an amazing statement, it's
my favorite Precious Moments figurine.

For "America's Toughest Sheriff",

Arpaio seemed to let certain crimes
fall through the cracks.

In 2011, his department
failed to properly investigate

more than 400 sex crimes,
some of which involved children.

While Arpaio admitted to that,
his apology left a lot to be desired.

If there were any victims out there,

I apologize to those victims,
if there were any.

"If there were any" ?
There were, we know that.

That is a casual indifference to
overlooking sex crimes so egregious,

I am surprised that Penn State
hasn't erected a statue of him.

None of what you have just seen,
not the conditions, not the deaths,

not the baseless charges
against his critic, has anything to do

with why he was convicted
and needed a pardon.

That stems from racial profiling

and one huge investigation made
some really troubling allegations.

A three-year investigation
by the Justice Department found

what it called
"unconstitutional policing"

and a "pervasive culture of
discriminatory bias against Latinos",

who are up to nine times more likely
than whites to be stopped by a deputy.

A Hispanic driver was incarcerated
for 13 days

before his citation was dismissed
for not using his turn signal.

13 days for a turn signal infraction !
And that is in Arizona,

where an old person driving
with their turn signal on

is literally their state seal.

In 2011, a lawsuit alleging

his department had a pattern of
racial profiling resulted in this.

A federal court decided Arizona
authorities cannot arrest people

suspected of being illegal immigrants
solely on their appearance.

If Arpaio does not comply
with the court ruling

Arpaio could be held in contempt
of court and face jail time.

You'll never guess what happened.
Arpaio did not comply.

Over the next 18 months, his office
detained 171 people without charge

and turned them over
to immigration enforcement.

Last July, a federal judge found
Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.

And at that point,
he was a criminal.

He had committed
and was convicted of a crime.

The thing that the people he put in
tents and pink underwear had done

and which he felt meant they had
forfeited any right to complain.

He hadn't even been sentenced before
Trump started hinting at a pardon

for a frankly incredible reason.

Was Sheriff Joe convicted
for doing his job ?

I'll make a prediction. I think
he's going to be just fine. Okay ?

He was not just doing his job.
He was also doing something illegal.

You wouldn't say John Wayne Gacy
was "just doing his job"

even though he was
a pretty good birthday clown.

It's the stuff he was doing on top
of that that needed addressing.

I do not doubt that Trump thinks
everything Joe Arpaio did was,

or should be, part of a law
enforcement officer's job.

That is why this pardon is a slap
in the face to Latinos

that Arpaio and his department
unconstitutionally targeted.

and to the very rule
of law itself.

Arpaio broke the rules
he was sworn to uphold,

rules put in place to protect citizens
from a government going out of control.

And Trump giving him a pass,
after everything that you have seen

and saying that he was
"just doing his job"

is a loud confirmation that, as far
as this White House is concerned,

for the next years, law enforcement
won't necessarily be expected

to do their jobs the way
the constitution or the courts say.

Instead, like Sheriff Joe Arpaio,
they should absolutely feel free

to do their job....
what's the term ?

My way. Yes.

And now, this.

Joe Arpaio sings another song with
no sense of irony whatsoever.

I'm gonna make it to heaven.
Light up the sky like a flame.

I'm gonna live forever.
Baby, remember my name.

Finally tonight, I'd like to give you
a quick word regarding trains.

Or, as I call them

One of our recent "And Now" segments
concerned Scranton's WNEP.

Their backyard train that runs
behind their weather forecasters.

It is a charming feature,

and the people of Scranton
have a lot of opinions about it,

regularly calling in during
their "Talkback" segment.

Talkback callers seem to be obsessed
with the train and trolley.

I would like to know whose idea
it was to put a train in the backyard.

I'm calling about your train.
Keep the train rolling, baby !

What is going on with the train ?
It hasn't been running in weeks.

I wish Snedeker would put

a quarter-stick
in the train and blow it up.

That level of emotional investment
in a toy train set is only experienced

by middle-aged dads divorced
or about to get divorced.

The people of Scranton
saw our segment on them.

The reason I know that is this.

Our train getting
national attention.

Some folks love it, some feel
it's at our area's expense.

I just watched this
John Oliver train controversy.

This guy... We're not clowns
for his entertainment.

I think this guy owes us
an apology here in NEPA.

First, look, let me be clear:

I do not think residents of Scranton
are "clowns for my entertainment".

I don't think clowns
are for entertainment at all.

They are for murder threats, attempted
murder and actual murder. That's it.

That's what clowns are for.
So, please, as well...

Don't think that I was making fun.
I fucking love that backyard train

and I also love how passionate
you all are about it.

Let me prove it to you. Because
my only criticism of your train set

is that I think you deserve
a better one, a bigger one.

An almost irresponsibly
large one.

And that is why,
and I hope you don't mind,

we have used HBO's resources
to make you something special.

Please, come with me,
because I have something to show you

that I'm pretty sure
you are going to like.

Scranton, look at this !

It's not the train set
that Scranton needs,

but it is the train set
that it deserves.

This thing spins around,

it has every Scranton landmark
that we could find on Google.

It's all there. The Scranton sign,
the Electric City building,

multiple other Scranton landmarks.

I know you have a waterfall, that's
why this thing has a fucking waterfall.

There's three levels of trains.
There's the Tunkannock Viaduct,

the Penn Paper building
from "The Office", right there.

The Times building
and radio tower is there,

and we wouldn't miss the Lackawanna
Station Hotel and Coal Mine Tour.

And this thing even
has a train tunnel

in the shape of Scranton's famous son,
basketball coach PJ Carlesimo.

Look at this beautiful thing !
We built it for you !

Seriously, this is yours now.
You need to come and get it.

It can't stay here.
So, please:

WNEP, call us to arrange pickup
or delivery

of the greatest backyard train
that local news has ever seen.

This thing also catches fire.
Something you should probably know.

That's our show,
thank you so much for watching.

We'll see you two week's time.
Good night !

It's yours, Scranton !