After more than a week of questions, the White House has corrected a key omission in its official transcript of President Donald Trump’s news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House’s official transcript of the news conference initially omitted the first part of a reporter’s question to Putin: “President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election?” Instead, the official transcript only included the second part of the question: “And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”
The omission appeared to have been due to an issue with an overlap between simultaneous translation of Putin’s remarks and the first part of the reporter’s question to Putin in the audio feed the stenographers rely on. Private transcription services also made the same error.
White House transcripts, which are considered the official record of the President’s comments, are compiled by White House stenographers who are career officials, not political appointees.
But while the White House has previously corrected errors in the transcripts that historians and reporters rely on, it has yet to do so this time even though officials are aware of the omission.
“This was by no means malicious,” a White House official said of the omission, explaining that the audio mixer at the site did not bring up the audio levels of the reporter’s microphone up in time to catch the beginning of the question because the translator was still speaking.
The audio mixing issue also led to the first part of the question being omitted in the White House’s video feed of the event.
The omission muddles the meaning of Putin’s response to the question, in which he confirmed for the first time that he wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential election.
“Yes, I did. Yes, I did,” Putin said. “Because he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal.”
The omissions and the delay in correcting the transcript prompted questions and criticism for more than a week. The White House denied any nefarious motivations, even as some critics suggested that they were slow to correct the transcript because it contained a key admission from Putin that Trump has long denied: that Russia preferred him over his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.
The White House last faced scrutiny over an omission in an official transcript last January when the transcript omitted a key portion of the back and forth between Trump and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. In that case, the White House released a corrected transcript the next day.
The White House’s failure to correct the official record of the news conference comes as it is also facing criticism for suspending the longtime practice of releasing official White House readouts of the President’s calls with foreign leaders – another key official US government accounting.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that after more than a week, the White House corrected their official transcript of the Trump-Putin press briefing.