"Saturday Night Live's" season finale once again served up an opening political sketch that told the truth while making us laugh. This time, the iconic show ended its 43rd season with a parody of the famed last scene from "The Sopranos" series finale, where Tony Soprano sat at a diner surrounded by his family as a man glared at him from nearby.
This SNL sketch worked because its use of "The Sopranos" finale rings true. In many ways, the Trump world looks and feels like a crime family. Just consider how many people in Trump's orbit have pleaded guilty, are under indictment or are being actively investigated.
In the case of SNL's cold open, Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) was surrounded by Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Cohen. And while the song "Don't Stop Believin'" blared, just like in "The Sopranos" finale, Trump and his friends' conversation was eerily reminiscent of the dialogue we'd expect from a crime family. Of course, "SNL" isn't the first to make that comparison: Former FBI Director James Comey did as much in his book, "A Higher Loyalty."
Take Giuliani, played by SNL's Kate McKinnon, who boasted to Trump about his recent Fox News appearances, "I told them you were openly colluding with Russia, but then I ended with: So What!" Adding, "I even confessed to some crimes you didn't do, then I said, 'What are you gonna do, arrest the President? I dare ya!'"
Ben Stiller as Cohen then shared with Trump his concerns about going to prison: "They say I might do 20 years unless I give you up." To which Trump responded in a Tony Soprano-esque gruff way, "I've heard jail's fun. It's like camp -- plus there's a free gym; dude, you're gonna get so jacked!"
And then true to the original Sopranos scene, in walks a menacing figure who looks squarely at Trump. But this time, instead of an unknown man in a Members Only jacket, we see Robert Mueller in a dark gray suit, played by Robert De Niro. Just as Mueller is unnerving Trump in real life, as evidenced by his countless tweets about the Mueller "witch hunt," "SNL's" Trump is also clearly haunted by Mueller, asking his table mates: "Am I the only one who sees that guy?" The sketch ends with Mueller walking by Trump's table and motioning to him: "I've got my eyes on you."
But, in actuality, it looks like the real Mueller, so far, has his eyes focused on others in the Trump world. Just look at the "Trump family" and the long list of criminal charges and suspicious activities.
There's Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer, Cohen, whose offices, home and hotel were raided by the FBI in April and who is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his business dealings. Add to that, we recently learned that Cohen was paid millions by companies that wanted access to Trump, including those with business before the Trump administration.
Then there's Michael Flynn. Trump's one-time national security adviser and a visible Trump campaign surrogate, who ironically led the chant of "Lock her up" at the Republican National Convention in 2016, pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in January 2017 about his efforts to obtain information from Russian operatives to help the Trump campaign. Trump's former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to financial fraud and lying to federal investigators.
Paul Manafort, who joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and later became campaign manager, is under indictment on numerous counts of financial improprieties -- though none has, so far, been linked to the Trump campaign. (Manafort has denied the charges and entered a plea of not guilty.)
And let's not forget Donald Trump Jr., whose June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians -- which he says was prompted by a Russian lawyer who was said to be offering dirt on Hillary Clinton -- may constitute a violation of federal election laws, if there is any evidence he then accepted or conspired to accept a contribution or "thing of value" from a foreign national. (Trump Jr., although issuing contradictory statements about the true nature of this meeting when news of it first broke, has denied wrongdoing.)
Add to that, The New York Times reported on Saturday that Trump Jr. met three months before the November 2016 election in Trump Tower with an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes and an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation who offered to help the Trump campaign. While these meetings may not be a crime, I bet even Tony Soprano would say: "You gotta be f**king kidding me?!"
Since "The Sopranos" signed off 11 years ago with a sudden switch to a black screen, a debate has raged over whether Tony Soprano escaped harm or was killed by the unknown man in the jacket. In the case of the "Trump family," a similar question is being debated: Will Trump escape unscathed, or will he be brought to justice by the man in the dark gray suit?
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