White House Video Doesn't Contain Putin's Admitted Support of Trump in 2016 Election From Helsinki News Conference

A White House video and transcript of President Donald Trump's Helsinki summit doesn't include Russian President Vladimir Putin stating his preference for Trump during the 2016 election. But an analysis by The Washington Post suggests the reason may be technical rather than political. 

The exchange between the two world leaders during a joint news conference after their one-on-one meeting last week incited the most controversy. It came when Reuters journalist Jeff Mason asked the Russian leader: "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's response, according to the English translation of his comments, was: "Yes I did. Yes I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal." 

The response was immediately met with outrage, coming off the heels of special counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers charged with hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. 

GettyImages-1000192826 President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands before their joint news conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16. The White House has removed Putin's stating his preference for Donald Trump during the 2016 election from its Helsinki news conference transcript and live stream.  YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

The discrepancy in the transcript on the White House website, and from the event's live stream, was first reported by The Atlantic. Visitors to the administration's website will see only the second half of the reporter's question: "And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?"

Rachel Maddow even commented on the White House's video on her Tuesday night MSNBC show, saying that the federal government was "essentially following the Kremlin's playbook."



The omission changes how readers can interpret Putin's answer and deletes the question of whether the Russian leader wanted Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

But according to the Post, the culprit may be a switch in the feed between reporters and the translator.

"This is not a conspiracy from the White House," wrote the Post's Philip Bump, who added that many news outlets initially also had an incomplete transcript.

"While the White House certainly has a track record of misrepresenting facts, this would have been a remarkably futile revision of reality to attempt," he added. "As it turns out, they didn’t."

News organizations, including NPR, PBS  and even Russian government media, have videos or transcripts that include Mason's original question.

A week after Putin stated that he preferred Trump during the campaign, the president raised the possiblity in a tweet that Russia would interfere in the upcoming miderms because it wanted Democrats to win. "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!"



 

Updated | This story has been updated to explain the discrepancy in the White House's video and transcript. It now includes the Washington Post's analysis.