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FACT CHECK: Doesn’t Appear White House Intentionally Omitted Key Quote From Trump-Putin Transcript

The Washington Post released a bit of a mixed-bag on Wednesday as they fact-checked the accusations — made first by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night and becoming big news Wednesday morning — that the White House deliberately edited out a major moment of President Trump‘s joint press conference with Vladimir Putin.

Media observers and Trump critics have alleged that the White House’s official transcript from Helsinki leaves out the moment when Putin answered a reporter’s question and said he wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s the real transcript, based on video of the press conference (emphasis on the omitted line):

PUTIN: Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

REPORTER: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.

Here’s how that moment reads in the White House transcript:

PUTIN: Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

REPORTER: And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PUTIN: (As interpreted.) Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.

After reviewing news footage and the Trump Administration’s video from the summit, WaPo found that there was “a switch between the feed from the reporters and the feed from the translator.” Because of this, the White House version of the video highlights the translator’s remarks, cutting off the first part of the question from Jeff Mason of Reuters. On other feeds, the opposite is true so that Mason’s remarks come in clear while the translator is muted.

From the report:

If you’re wearing headphones, you can notice how the latter part of the question is suddenly audible in the right earpiece. At first, the right channel is only the translator. Mid-question, the reporter is suddenly heard in both left and right as the translator feed drops out. Notice, too, that Putin then picks up his earpiece — through which he can hear the translations — and puts it in his right ear.

Our transcript and the White House’s were apparently based on the feed that runs only in the right channel. A White House official told CNN’s Abby Phillip that its transcript “did not have Mason’s audio turned up in time,” referring to Reuters reporter Jeff Mason, who asked the question.

So, it seems this wasn’t so much an effort by the White House to misrepresent the question, but more of an inconsistency in the sound capture between video feeds. Still, we’ll let you be the judge by allowing you to compare and contrast.

Watch here for the White House’s video from the summit. Start at 32:00 for the relevant part.

Here’s Fox News’ coverage of the remarks, which can be found at 37:40.

To round it out, here is a clip Mediaite pulled at the time. On the day of the conference, we compared several versions of the audio to make sure the translation was matching the timing of the questions. This one aired on CNBC, and you can hear both voices, though the one in the room is, at first, much quieter.

Still, it’s not a lay-up for the WaPo fact check, as some noted on Twitter.

[Image via screengrab]

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