John Oliver Breaks Down the Many Scandals Surrounding Clinton, Trump

John Oliver
The 2016 presidential race has been dominated by scandals, but as John Oliver says, "it is dangerous to think there is an equal number on both sides." YouTube

On Monday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will square off in their first of three head-to-head debates. It's expected to bring in around 100 million viewers for CNN. To put that in perspective, 111.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 in February. That was the third most-watched broadcast in United States television history.

Part of the reason for all the interest—in addition to this being the most important election anyone can remember—is that scandals have dominated the discourse surrounding both campaigns. Supporters of both candidates feel that the sketchy dealings of the opposing party's candidate are unequivocally disqualifying. The media has spent the recent months working these controversies into a lather, and on Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took some time to break down exactly what we've all been arguing about.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton has been involved in several scandals—but, as Oliver notes, many of them have already been heavily litigated. Despite all the furor surrounding Whitewater and Benghazi, investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing in either case. That leaves her emails and the Clinton Foundation, which Trump and his supporters have been hammering away at in recent weeks (and in the case of the emails, seemingly for all of eternity).

The emails

While Republicans have blown Clinton's email controversy out of proportion, she has also downplayed its significance. It doesn't look very good when a candidate cavalierly brushes off a matter of national security, but she has, repeatedly. So what actually happened? How bad is it, really?

While serving as secretary of state, Clinton wanted to keep her personal emails separate from her works emails. Otherwise, her personal information could have been subject to requests for governmental records. To do so would have required her to carry around two separate Blackberrys, so she just ran everything through a single, non-governmental email address. This isn't illegal, although it requires special permission, which Clinton did not get. It's also something that has been done by several other politicians, including Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Colin Powell and John Kerry.

What separates Clinton from others is that she also used a private server, which she said was already in her house from when it was used by her husband's office. This is a red flag, but federal investigators ultimately decided that while Clinton was careless, it was "not a case that would support criminal charges."

As Oliver says, "It's not good, but not as bad as it looks."

The Clinton Foundation

The scandal surrounding the Clinton Foundation—unlike the scandal surrounding the Trump Foundation—lies not in how its money is allocated, but in where it comes from. Critics have noted a conflict of interest in taking donations from entities with State Department dealings. To quell concerns, the foundation in 2008 wrote an agreement that it would get permission to accept donations from certain individuals and governments. And it did. Kind of.

Clinton was at the helm of the State Department when it approved the sale of one of the U.S.'s largest uranium mines to Russia. At the same time, a foundation controlled by the mine's chairman made $2.35 million worth of donations to the Clinton Foundation. Because the donation came in through a channel that was not disclosed in the 2008 agreement, the donation was legal, but, as Oliver points out, the spirit of the agreement was violated. So, yeah, this looks bad. Then again, Clinton was not directly involved in the sale of the mine, and eight other federal agencies had to sign off on it before it was finalized.

As Oliver says of Clinton's scandals, they're "irritating rather than grossly nefarious."

Donald Trump

Where to begin? So many Trump scandals have been unearthed in the past year that Oliver could barely scratch the surface. He chose to do so with the candidate's business dealings and tax returns, as well as the sketchiness of the Trump Foundation.

The tax returns

It's kind of unfathomable that Trump still hasn't released his tax returns, and that he's probably going to get away with it. He's said that he can't release them because he's currently being audited, but an audit does not prevent a tax return being made public. In fact, they have nothing to do with one another. As Oliver says, it's like using the excuse, "I'd love to pick you up from the airport, but I can't because a blue whale's tongue weighs as much as an elephant."

Also related to Trump's finances are his business ties, many of which were recently uncovered by Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald. These represent a huge conflict of interest, especially when it comes to foreign policy. The solution would be for Trump to put all of his business holdings into a blind trust, but not only does he seem unwilling to do this, he doesn't seem to know what a blind trust is. He has repeatedly said that his children would take over his business empire should he become president, but this is the opposite of impartial. When Donald Trump Jr. was pressed on this issue by George Stephanopoulos, he simply said, "Trust me." Like father, like son.

The Trump Foundation

Donald Trump not only has not personally given to his foundation since 2008, he's been taking from it. According to The Washington Post, he has used more than a quarter of a million dollars of its money to settle legal disputes brought against Trump's businesses. This is money that was supposed to be used for charitable purposes. Trump has also used his foundation's money on not one but two (at least) portraits of himself, as well as a football helmet signed by Tim Tebow, which somehow cost $12,000. He also used the foundation to give an illegal donation to Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, around the time she was investigating Trump University. All of this: Not good.

There are also scandals surrounding Trump's potential use of undocumented workers to construct Trump Tower; Trump University scamming its "students"; taking an illegal loan from his father; and more.

As Oliver wraps up, each campaign "has been dominated by scandals, but it is dangerous to think there is an equal number on both sides."

He adds: "You can be irritated by some of Hillary's, that is understandable. But you should then be fucking outraged by Trump's."

John Oliver Breaks Down the Many Scandals Surrounding Clinton, Trump | Culture