White House appears to have edited video to remove question about whether Putin wanted Trump to win election

The Kremlin also omitted the question from its transcript and video 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Wednesday 25 July 2018 18:54 BST
White House may have edited out question where Putin says he wanted Trump to win 2016 US election

The White House has been accused of omitting a key question from the 16 July joint press conference of Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During the exchange with journalists following the pair’s private, two-hour meeting in Helsinki, Finland, earlier this month, Reuters asked: “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

Mr Putin said he did want Mr Trump to win because "he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal”.

Rachel Maddow, a host on cable news channel MSNBC, brought up what she called the “misleading” omission, which was first reported by The Atlantic.

“The US government is essentially following the Kremlin’s playbook,” Ms Maddow said on one of her nightly broadcasts.

She showed what she said was the unedited footage of the press conference, which viewers saw live that day.

She then contrasted it with the video the White House posted, which did not include footage of that back-and-forth between Reuters' reporter Jeff Mason and Mr Putin.

Trump and Putin's Helsinki summit: What you need to know

Ms Maddow said the White House erased the portion of the video “from the official US government record of that meeting”.

The Atlantic reported the exchange is missing from the live-stream video posted by the White House as well as the typed transcript.

In the White House video the only part which can be heard and seen is Mr Mason asking if Mr Putin had directed Russian officials to help the US president to look into election interference.

Ms Maddow noted the Kremlin’s transcript of the press conference completely omitted the entirety of Mr Mason’s question.

The Atlantic report noted some “technical difficulties” with the original recording as well.

“First, the English translation of Putin’s previous response was concluding as Mason began to speak. Second, the microphone seemed to pick up Mason’s question halfway through—making the latter half of it easier to hear,” the magazine reported.

It is also slightly unclear whether Mr Putin was responding “yes, I did” to the question about whether he wanted Mr Trump to win the election or the second part of Mr Mason’s question.

The journalist told The Atlantic, however, he felt Mr Putin was saying “yes” to wanting Mr Trump to win.

The Washington Post argued, however, the White House did not deliberately omit the first part of Mr Mason’s question.

“If you watch the videos, it’s pretty clear. At some point in the middle of that question, there’s a switch between the feed from the reporters and the feed from the translator. In the White House version of the video, you can hear the question being asked very faintly under the woman who is translating saying “president,’” the newspaper reported.

The White House said the omission resulted from its stenographer using the audio from the official feed to produce the transcript. However, the audio mixer at the site did not bring up the question microphone level in time to catch the beginning of question from Reuters "because the translator was still speaking". It said the transcript was later updated.

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