Friday, 20 July 2018

Trump-Putin Helsinki 16 July 2018 Press Conference: the matter of a curious admission and omission

The mainstream media carried transcripts of the 16 July 2018 US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin joint press conference held in Helsinki, Finland.

Video of this press conference is available online.

There is one specific exchange between President Putin and an American reporter.

It went thus:

REPORTER: 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.

The White House also posted a transcript of the joint press conference.

This is how that exchange between Putin and the American reporter is presented on the White House website:
Snapshot captured on 19 July 2018

The Kremlin English version transcript omits this question and answer in their entirety.

The Atlantic spoke with the reporter in question, Reuters' Jeff Mason:

But recordings of the exchange were muddled for two reasons. 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. (Mason told me that he had held on to the microphone even though an official had tried to pull it away so that he could ask Putin a follow-up question. “I don’t know if they turned the sound off during the time when each of the presidents were speaking, or if it got flipped on and off. I certainly didn’t touch anything.”)

That the question could be heard clearly at the press conference is demonstrated at 6:10 mins in on this MSNBS The Last Word video.

So why the differing editing of the press conference video and transcripts by the White House, the Kremlin and media outlets. 

It is possible that many news outlets took their video and transcripts directly from the White House press office and presumed that any discrepancy was an instance of lost in translation.

The possibility also exists that the 'reshaping' of this question and answer was deliberate on the part of both the Oval Office and the Kremlin because it was realised that, albeit unintentionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin has just publicly admitted that not only did he want Donald Trump to win the 2016 US presidential campaign, he had directed Russian officials to help Trump win.

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