Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 19 - Episode #5.19 - full transcript

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

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

Another development in the scandal
we've been calling "Stupid Watergate".

of inspiring Oscar-winning movies,

it'll be the basis of direct-to-cable
comedies featuring fart jokes

and Larry the Cable Guy.

With investigators
seemingly closing in,

the president
was apparently worried.

"The Washington Post" says
things are unraveling behind the scenes

for President Trump who fears for
his son, Donald Trump Jr.

A source tells the president
does not believe

his son purposely broke the law,
but is fearful nonetheless,

that Trump Jr. may have
wandered into legal jeopardy.

Yeah. That seems
pretty plausible to be honest.

On the long list of "things Don Jr.
is likely to wander into",

"legal jeopardy"
is right up there

with "the women's dressing room"
and "a screen door".

Trump was firing back
on Twitter saying:

"fake news reporting, a fabrication,
I am concerned about the meeting"

"my wonderful son, Donald,
had in Trump Tower."

"This was a meeting to
get information on an opponent,"

"and it went nowhere,
I did not know about it !"

There is so much wrong there, from
the fact it undermines the excuse

he supposedly dictated that this
meeting was about Russian adoptions

to claiming he didn't know
about it and if he did,

nothing happened and if it
wasn't, he didn't know about it.

The most galling lie in there

is describing Donald Jr.
as a "wonderful son".

That is flagrantly false.

He is barely even
the most wonderful Donald Trump.

That is not the only legal case
the president was following closely.

Also the trial of Paul Manafort,
Trump's former campaign manager

and a man who could be convicted
of every single crime on earth

and still not be
as guilty as he looks.

This week,
Manafort was in court,

where he's been charged with
money laundering, tax evasion,

obstruction of justice,
bank fraud.

He's charged with 32 counts or as
they call it "a mobster's dozen"

and it's something that
Trump sees as an outrage.

Trump tweeting: "looking back
on history, who was treated worse:"

"Alphonse Capone, mob boss,
killer and 'public enemy number one"

"or Paul Manafort, political operative
and Reagan/Dole darling,"

"now serving confinement,
although convicted of nothing ?"

What ?

So, broadly, I think
the argument there is:

Paul Manafort is less of a criminal
than America's most famous criminal.

Which is surely the most
daring legal strategy

since Johnnie Cochran's
quickly abandoned:

"Relax, it's not
like he's Hitler !" defense.

"If he's not Hitler, you must
acquitler." Brilliantly legal mind !

The prosecution presented evidence
of Manafort's lavish lifestyle,

with tantalizing details,
from a $10 000 karaoke system

to spending $450 000 on
landscaping his Hamptons house,

including both a man-made
waterfall and I quote:

"one red flower bed
in the shape of an 'M.'"

Maybe it wasn't actually
an "M" for "Manafort".

Maybe he was still saving up
for the "Night Shyamalan".

That would be
a bold piece of botany.

Most of the attention focused
on the $1.3 million he supposedly spent

on clothes between
2010 and 2014.

His taste was truly spectacular.

In April 2012, Manafort paid
$18 500 dollars for a python jacket.

A few months earlier,
it was $9 500 on an ostrich vest

to complement the ostrich jacket
he later paid $15 000 for.

$24 000 on an ostrich outfit ?
That is ridiculous !

When you can find
one online for $55 !

If you are thinking at all:

"hold on, maybe when you see
the jacket, it'll be worth it",

I'll show you,
it fucking isn't.

I never thought I'd say this, but
that looked better on the ostrich.

It's a jacket for people who also have
a subscription to "Reader's Digest".

It's what the Fonz would wear on
the days he didn't feel like fucking.

This thing actually has a hood.
A hood !

For when you want to wear your
$15 000 jacket out in the rain.

Like a fucking idiot.

The judge won't allow pictures of
Manafort's clothes to be shown.

Which is probably good idea,
because if they saw this,

a jacket that screams
"I framed Roger Rabbit",

he wouldn't stand a chance.

Manafort bought many of these items
at a store called "House of Bijan",

which sounds like a place where
you would buy knock-off mustard.

C'mon, mom, you bought Bijan again ?
Pay the extra 50 cents ! I hate this !

House of Bijan is
something far worse.

Watch the store's 26-year-old
co-owner, show you another piece.

This beautiful silk blazer in white.
There's only one piece made.

You have all of these buttons
and our silver crest.

Inside in pure silk with
all it's detailing by hand.

For example,
this jacket is $12 000.

Okay, just so I have this straight:
the jacket costs $12 000

because it has buttons
and a silk lining ?

At least the shit Manafort was buying
was made out of murdered snakes.

That jacket is $12 000 worth
of worm vomit,

organized into the shape
of a naval uniform

worn by the lowest-ranking officer
on the S.S. Nouveau Riche.

This case is more than Manafort's
shitty fashion sense.

Although one thing it isn't about
is the 2016 Trump campaign,

something that Fox News
has been emphasizing.

The charges he's been brought against
have nothing to do with the election.

No talk
though about Russian collusion.

The charges that Manafort is now
facing have nothing to do with Trump.

Nothing to do with the campaign, zero.
Nothing to do with Russia, zero.

Nothing about collusion.

That's true on its surface.
But this case is also not exactly

not about
the 2016 campaign, either.

The president's campaign manager
allegedly received millions of dollars

from thuggish Kremlin puppets
and, despite all the money he saved,

had gone broke supporting his
addiction to bad jackets,

yet for some reason he agreed
to work for Trump for free.

Who knows
why he did that ?

You probably do.
And I probably do.

Anyone briefed on the broad
strokes of this situation,

even in the vaguest possible
terms, probably does.

But no one besides basically
anyone can say for sure.

It's basically right. I can
think of only one creature on earth

that that argument might actually
work on and unfortunately,

it's been skinned to make a jacket
for Paul fucking Manafort.

And now, this.

Even more of Paul Manafort's jackets
and what they say about their owner.

I briefly dated your nana
after her third divorce.

I'm the best Cher impersonator
in Rapid City, South Dakota.

I missed out on inheriting a candy
factory because I ate weird gum.

I'll be skipping the second day
of this safari to masturbate.

Excuse me, miss, but have you
ever fucked in a Toyota Tundra ?

I was outbid by Bradley Whitford
in "Get Out".

I am three children stacked
on top of each other

and still wouldn't be
caught dead in this.

Maria from "Sound of Music"
made this out of a throw rug

before she killed herself.

I was kicked out of Big Bad
Voodoo Daddy in 1997

for trying to fuck the saxophone.

So, moving on. Our main story
concerns criminal justice.

The process by which
you are arrested, charged,

go before
a jury who render their verdict:

We find the defendant
Robert Brooks... not guilty.

We find Randall Bailey... guilty.

We find the defendant...
not guilty.

Have you reached a verdict ?

Guilty or not guilty ?

That is just charming, although
all these years later,

I still can't believe those penguins
convicted the Central Park Five.

Whenever we talk about
criminal justice reform,

we tend to just talk about policing,
public defenders, judges, and prisons

and skip over a crucial element
there: prosecutors,

the attorneys who work for federal,
state, and local government

and bring cases to trial.

There are 2 500 D.A.'s offices
all around the country

and they have influence at every stage
of the criminal justice system.

Prosecutors decide whether
and what you get charged with

and influence what kind
of sentence you could face.

You know deep down
how important they are,

because of a phrase that crops up
in local news crime stories.

It'll be prosecutors who decide
whether charges will be filed.

Prosecutors will decide whether
to file charges.

Prosecutors will decide what happens.

Prosecutors will decide.

Prosecutors will decide.

Exactly, prosecutors will decide.
It's one of those three-word phrases

that you hear so often, you don't even
think about what it means,

like "user agreement update"
or "some restrictions apply"

or "Tyler Perry presents".

I'm just going to assume
that he presents everything.

I think he presents this show.
I wouldn't be surprised about that.

We tend not to think
about that power very much,

except when there is controversy
concerning failure to exercise it,

as has happened in police shootings
of unarmed black men,

or when Manhattan D.A. declined
to prosecute Harvey Weinstein in 2015

citing insufficient evidence,
despite police officials insisting

they had plenty of evidence,
including exhibit A: "his face".

It is worth talking about what
happens when prosecutors

do decide to exercise that power,
because while many try to do

their jobs honorably, that power
can be misused or amplify

the inequities
inherent in the system.

The vast majority of the time,

your fate is not decided
by a judge or a jury of your peers.

95 percent of the cases
prosecutors decide to bring,

end up with the defendant
pleading guilty.

That means no trial,
no "innocent until proven guilty",

just a prosecutor striking a deal
behind closed doors.

Many judges are resigned to that fact,
plea bargains keep the system moving.

The system would collapse
if every case that was filed

in the criminal justice system
were to be set for trial.

The system would
entirely collapse.

It's an inadequate system that
only functions if people give up.

It's built on the exact same model
as AT&T's customer-service hotline.

AT&T, new owners of HBO,
longtime owners

of an unforgivably dogshit
customer service hotline.

If you are thinking:

"If somebody pleads guilty,
they must've done it."

That's not the case. In Houston,
testing of samples in drug cases

have exonerated 133 people
since 2014

and those people had pled
guilty in every single case.

The only people who should
be claiming to have used drugs

when they haven't are awkward
teenagers at high school parties.

I'm totally a weeder.
I'm into all the weeds.

I'm stoning right now,
that's how potted I am.

Why do innocent people plead guilty ?
Prosecutors will offer a deal,

while threatening that,
if you go to trial,

they will stack charges against you
and pursue a harsher sentence.

Something commonly
referred to as a "trial penalty".

Listen to Rodney Roberts.
He was accused of a sexual assault

that DNA evidence later
proved he did not commit.

I'll let him
explain why he took a deal.

When I got to the court,
this attorney he came in and told me

that the prosecutor's office
had a plea agreement for me.

I'm like "plea agreement ?
I didn't even do it ! I'm innocent."

He was like: "this is urgent",
it was this pressure.

He was like: "if you don't take this
deal, they only offer you two years,"

"if not, the judge is ready to give you
life sentence if you get found guilty"

"and I think you're gonna get
found guilty."

This is my attorney. The one person
that was there to help me.

To get home to my son, to my family,
and to salvage my life,

the best thing I could do was to plead
guilty and fight it once I got home.

As crazy as it sounds,
it kind of makes sense.

Two years in prison is terrible,
but a life sentence is terrifying.

The only way it make sense
for a defendant to risk that

is if they're a gerbil,
because two years and life

are the same thing
to those little shits.

Let's say you are one of the five
percent who risk going to trial.

Prosecutors still have lots of ways
to try and gain an advantage.

Prosecutors are not allowed

to discriminate by race
during jury selection.

If it's suspected they are,
the Supreme Court has said

that they could be required to provide
explanations for striking jurors.

Sounds like a good rule. But it has
been laughably easy for them

to get around, because judges
will accept just about any reason.

In Texas, a training document
for prosecutors listed examples

of "race neutral reasons"
that judges had accepted,

"having a 1970s hairdo",

"being a girl, who might be attracted
to the defendant or the counsel",

"wearing a Malcolm X hat", "agreeing
with the O.J. Simpson verdict",

"being a male wearing earrings
in both ears"

and for "wearing a 'Bad Boys Club'
jacket, pink hat and snakeskin belt."

Which is insulting, that look does
not make you untrustworthy.

It makes you awesome.
I like the way I look, I guarantee it.

The area where prosecutors can exert
the most influence concerns evidence.

They control the case files,

police reports, witness information
and physical evidence.

While they are required to hand
over anything that is exculpatory,

in some states, including New York,
they can do that at the last minute.

Something incredible
happens on the day of trial,

a case file that for a year
was this thick,

suddenly now becomes
this thick.

In the cases where we have clients
who are looking at

incredible amounts of jail time,
even life in jail,

this is what we are given
when D.A.s answer ready for trial.

The reality is that in Manhattan
too often it is trial by ambush.

And they have to argue a case without
having read all the important material.

It's a much higher stakes version
of a kid giving a presentation

in English class
without having read the book.

In conclusion,
throughout "Wuthering Heights",

the heights are wuthering,
but by the end,

the heights wuther much more than
they wuthered at the beginning.

Thank you for your time.

A quick but important
message for English teachers:

no one has ever read a single
book you have ever assigned.

It has never happened.
Not once. Ever.

Defense attorneys may not be given
exculpatory evidence at all.

Among exoneration cases,
around a quarter of them

involved prosecutors
concealing exculpatory evidence.

Prosecutors get to decide whether
something is relevant to the defense.

Inherently flawed.
You can't count on an adversary

to voluntarily
expose all of their weaknesses.

In Star Wars, the rebels had
to steal the Death Star plans.

The Empire didn't just email
it to them with a subject line:

"Fwd: Gigantic stupid weak spot,
parentheses very dumb, go to town."

When prosecutors withhold evidence,
there's little accountability for them.

Michael Morton... In 1987, he was
convicted of his wife's murder,

after the prosecutor withheld crucial
pieces of exculpatory evidence.

That prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was
held to account for that misconduct.

There was a slight discrepancy
between the two men's sentences.

Morton served nearly 25 years
in prison, 8 995 days.

The sentence for the prosecutor:
ten days in jail for contempt of court.

Ten days !
And he served less than half that.

Although before you get too mad,
he did also have to pay a $500 fine.

Which isn't the penalty
you'd expect

for wiping out 25 years
of someone's life.

It's close to what you'd expect for
fucking a cantaloupe at Whole Foods.

Ten days for the public indecency,
$500 for the cantaloupe.

To make it even worse,
Anderson is the only prosecutor

to ever serve any time for misconduct
resulting in a wrongful conviction.

Prosecutors rarely face any sort
of consequences for misconduct.

State bars are supposed
to hold them accountable,

but a study of
five states found that, in 660 cases,

the number of prosecutors
disciplined in those cases was one.

And that lack of accountability
can fuel a dangerous culture

where wins are already
prioritized to a disturbing degree.

In Colorado,

prosecutors were paid bonuses
for achieving a high conviction rate.

And in Texas, a D.A. rewarded
convictions in misdemeanor cases

with a prize they called
"The 'Trial Dawg Award".

As the proud owner
of nine trial dogs,

my award goes to this one.

Please, don't die.

I cannot stress enough how important
it is for you to hang in there.

There was the notoriously aggressive
office also of New Orleans D.A.,

Harry Connick Sr.,
who is, yes, Harry Connick Jr.'s dad.

Here they are,
on Harry Jr.'s short-lived talk show,

singing a weirdly duet.

I'm just wild about Harry,

Harry's wild about me;

The heavenly blisses of his kisses

Fill them with ecstasy.

If you didn't see any problem, here's
a fun experiment for you at home.

Call your own father,
tell him that

"the heavenly blisses of his
kisses fill you with ecstasy"

and just see how that goes.

My prediction is, your next fishing
trip is going to be extra quiet.

During his time as D.A., people
were wild about Harry Connick Sr.,

because his office was ruthless.

Harry Connick was tough on crime.
He wanted to lock them up all forever.

Connick's lead prosecutor
was Jim Williams.

Jim took great pride in his numerous
death penalty convictions.

He even kept a miniature
electric chair on his desk.

Jim was regarded as one
of the most aggressive prosecutors.

He described sliding up behind
defendants in the courtroom

and buzzing in their ears
to mimic the buzz of electricity.

Holy shit.
That is just not okay.

There is literally no scenario
in which sliding up behind someone

and saying "buzz" in their ear
is acceptable.

Not even if you are Neil Armstrong,
on the moon,

and you need to get
Buzz Aldrin's attention.

Hey, Buzz. Buzz.

We're on the moon, Buzz.

Are you mad I was first ?

That office's win-at-all-costs culture
resulted in serious mistakes.

A quarter of the men sentenced
to death during Connick's tenure

had their convictions overturned
because of withheld evidence.

Remember that electric chair one
of the prosecutors had on his desk ?

Here's a fun fact.

In the photo of Jim Williams
with the electric chair,

of the five faces visible, all of them
were released from death row.

The thing he kept as a token
of his success

is now a monument
to poor decision-making.

It is the prosecutorial equivalent
of Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Oscar.

Why did that joke upset you
more than anything else tonight ?

You have got to be consistent !
You've got to be !

You might care about Cuba, you care
about him too much in this context.

If you want to see all the problems
I've described, in action,

look at the case of Glenn Ford,
on death row for thirty years,

after being wrongfully convicted.

The prosecutor, Marty Stroud,
says that he got caught up

in a hard-charging culture,
and admits to, among others,

deliberately excluding African-American
jurors and overlooking evidence

that would have cleared Ford.

What happened
still haunts him.

I ended up, without
anybody else's help,

putting a man on death row
who didn't belong there.

At the end of the day,
whatever you want to call it,

I did something
that was very, very bad.

Yeah, it was. It was very,
very, very bad in fact.

While he is clearly remorseful,
in terms of accountability,

there were no professional
sanctions for his actions.

The acting D.A. after Ford
was released, Dale Cox,

doesn't believe that Stroud
should have apologized.

Did Mr. Ford get justice
in this case ?

I think he has
gotten delayed justice.

- The system did not fail Mr. Ford.
- It did not ?

- It did not. The system...
- How can you say that ?

Because he's not on death row.

Getting out of prison
after 30 years is justice ?

It's better than dying there
and it's better than being executed.

I guess that's true but listen
to how low he's setting the bar:

better than being executed
or dying in prison.

By that measure,
anything succeeds !

Taco Bell: better than being
executed or dying in prison.

Although, when you think
about it... Is it ? Is it definitely ?

Between 2010 and 2014, that man's
office was responsible for sending

more prisoners to death row
than anywhere else.

If you think the Glenn Ford debacle
made him more cautious,

you would be wrong.

Society should be employing the
death penalty more rather than less.

But there have been ten other
inmates on death row in Louisiana

who have been exonerated.

the system is not flawless.

Are you sure
you've gotten it right all the time ?

I'm reasonably confident
that I've gotten it right.

You're reasonably confident ?
That does not seem like it should be

the standard to send
someone to death row.

I was reasonably confident I could
pull off bangs. I was wrong.

If someone's life depended on it,
I might've given it more thought.

You may well be wondering how
can we fix some of what you've seen.

Permanent legislative fixes
are badly needed,

from requiring greater
transparency from prosecutors,

through so-called "open file laws"

to establishing independent
commissions to investigate misconduct.

Depending on where you live,
there may be a more direct way.

D.A.s are usually elected.
Something you might forget,

until you see campaign attack ads,
which ends in a bizarre turn of phrase.

This is how many child molesters

the Calcasieu Parish D.A.
has prosecuted as lead counsel.

How many murders ?
How many rapes ? Robberies ?

Meanwhile, our sheriff reports crime
is on the rise in Calcasieu Parish.

Steve Streete for district attorney,
Calcasieu Parish.

He'll try harder
and a lot more often.

He'll try harder
and a lot more often ?

A pretty weak promise, Steve.
What was your opponent's slogan ?

Nathan Hamilton:
Justice on Mondays and Wednesdays

unless something comes up or it seems
it's gonna be a whole thing.

That fact prosecutors are elected
means that you can change them.

Around 85 percent of prosecutors
run unopposed.

In one county in Washington state,
their prosecutor run for ten terms

without any opposition,
so four years ago, in frustration,

someone ran
their dog against him.

I know what you're thinking:
"Great, another white dog prosecutor".

I'm not saying you're wrong,
but let's go one step at a time.

We need more
reform-minded D.A.s to run,

because thanks to the extreme
breadth of power they have,

that could be a back-door way to effect
change on a whole host of issues,

from bail, to the enforcement
of marijuana laws.

Maybe you're one of the lucky ones,
maybe your local D.A. is great.

Or maybe they're a winobsessed
asshole whose heavenly blisses

of their kisses
fill their adult sons with ecstasy.

Or maybe you live in Washington
and for the past four years

your district attorney
has been this fucking dog

and you didn't even realize it.

Can you honestly say
with 100 percent certainty

that your district attorney
is not a dog ?

You probably can't.
That's kind of the problem here.

Most people know as much
about their local D.A.

as they know about their
local Cheesecake Factory manager.

Chances are
you don't know who they are

and if you do, it's probably because
something terrible has happened.

Like The Cheesecake Factory,

prosecutors have the ability
to ruin lives in a second.

We need to find out
who our D.A.s are

and get a sense of the policies and
priorities that they're carrying out.

If we do not decide what we want the
criminal justice system to look like,

deep down,
you know who will.

Prosecutors will decide.

Exactly. They fucking will.
And now this.

Fox and Friends' Brian Kilmeade
is definitely afraid of sharks.

It's Shark Week and we have
real sharks. Need proof ?

A great white shark could be
coming to your beach.

Where that sharks heading and does
he have your name on his mind ?

Surfers getting eaten by sharks.
Blue whales are attacking kayakers.

Almost got eaten by sharks.

At SeaWorld,
how many sharks do you have ?

Why are you not
intimidated by sharks ?

Why are all the big creatures
so close to shore ?

Don't you feel there's too many
sharks ? Why are the sharks so angry ?

I was in Palm Beach,
I saw them.

I was always told that sharks
don't like the taste of humans.

If you're ever attacked,
punch them in the nose.

We should stay out of the water
until the ocean starts calming down.

One word: pool. Go in a pool
and stay away from the beach.

A spinner shark jumped out,
just kind of at me.

There's a such thing
as a spinner shark ?

It jumps out of the water
and kind of does a spin.

It came right at me. That was
the last time I've been in the water.

That's our show, thanks for watching,
see you next week. Goodnight !