Wednesday, July 25, 2018

White House intentionally doctors video of Trump-Putin press conference

Yesterday evening, the Scribers watched the Rachel Maddow show. (Hey! What else would we do?)

Of all the disturbing news these days, her feature on the purposeful doctoring of official records by the White House is pretty near the top. That’s right. The WH is guilty of scrubbing the video tape of the Trump-Putin press conference.

This ain’t Rosemary Woods, folks. Remember the missing 18 minutes from the Nixon tapes? Nixon’s secretary Woods took the fall showing how she stretched out in order to “accidentally” erase that portion of the tape. The business with the Trump WH doctoring of the video record is something else. In order to get that video changed, you’d have to (1) run your video editor until you (2) find the target segment and then (3) mark start point and then (4) mark stop point and then (5) execute a “cut” and then (6) save the edited video. There are just too many discrete operations to be an accident. The WH, BTW, also scrubbed the official transcript.

I’m no lawyer but it seems to me that the WH has violated the law dealing with preserving official presidential records. Scriber thinks that by editing the video recording, the WH brought that record under the Presidential Records Act. Here are relevant citations from the National Archives Presidential Records (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22).

The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records; and such records shall be administered in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

Through the implementation of records management controls and other necessary actions, the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are preserved and maintained as Presidential records pursuant to the requirements of this section and other provisions of law.

For more on Trump’s destruction of other records, see Retaining Presidential Records under the Law, specifically:

The Trump administration’s apparent disregard for statutory recordkeeping responsibilities is depriving the American public of the historical records to which it is entitled. The ethical lapses and missteps the administration already has made underline the need to preserve a full record of its activities.

Now add to those earlier “lapses” the purposeful tampering with and destroying an official record.

Here are the details of Rachel’s report as summarized by the Huffington Post: White House Omits Critical Question From Trump-Putin Press Conference Video. An incredulous Rachel Maddow pointed out the omission during her MSNBC show Tuesday.

The White House appears to have deleted a critical question from a video of President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s July 16 press conference in Helsinki.

“The U.S. government is essentially following the Kremlin’s playbook,” said MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow as she pointed out the “misleading” omission during her show on Tuesday night.

White House edits video to remove question about whether Putin wanted Trump to win. pic.twitter.com/ExlsHNlgF8
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) July 25, 2018

During the press conference, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason had asked President Putin the question: “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

The Russian leader responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

As Maddow revealed during her show, the White House’s video of the event omitted the first part of Mason’s question. Only the second part — about directing officials to help Trump — was included.

“What the White House has disappeared from the official U.S. government record of that meeting … is President Putin answering in the affirmative when asked if he wanted Trump to win the election,” Maddow said.

The Atlantic had been the first outlet to point out this discrepancy, noting last week that neither the White House transcript of the exchange nor its live-stream of the press conference had included Mason’s full question to Putin. The White House didn’t immediately provide an explanation for this, The Atlantic said.

As the outlet noted at the time, Putin’s response to Mason’s query had already been ambiguous, as it was unclear whether he was answering the first or second part of the question when he said, “Yes, I did.”

The Reuters reporter told The Atlantic, however, that he believed Putin had likely been responding to the first part of the question — the very part the White House has omitted.

“You could interpret [Putin’s response] to mean he’s answering ‘yes’ to both,” Mason said. ”[But] looking at it critically, he spent a good chunk of that press conference, just like President Trump did, denying any collusion. So I think it’s likely that when he said ‘Yes, I did,’ that he was just responding to the first part of my question and perhaps didn’t hear the second part.”

While the White House record of the press conference provided an incomplete picture of Putin’s response, the Kremlin nixed the exchange between Mason and the Russian president entirely from its transcript of the event.

“At least the White House had the courtesy to leave in half of his question so you can get a misleading answer,” Maddow quipped. “The Russians just disappeared [Mason] altogether … They skip over that entire exchange.”

The Atlantic said last week that it was possible the White House’s omission was accidental but Maddow challenged that suggestion on Tuesday, saying the administration has since had plenty of time to correct the error.

“The U.S. government is essentially following the Kremlin’s playbook and maintaining that something we all saw happen with our own eyes, we all heard happen with our own ears, has nevertheless disappeared ― like old political opponents being airbrushed out of photos,” she said. “It’s weird, right? It’s creepy.”

“It turns out it wasn’t a mistake. It was on purpose,” Maddow added.

That’s how you do things in Trump’s Russiamerica. Both Trump and Putin evidently do not want us to know that Putin wanted Trump to be president. That we saw it, and heard it, is irrelevant in dictatorships.

Last night Tim O’Brien (Bloomberg View) was a panelist on Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word. Based on his research, O’Brien concluded that Trump is not very bright. He also concluded that not very bright people surround themselves with other not very bright people. The short of it is that the video editing was a dumb thing to do imagined and executed by not very bright people. However, stupidity does not excuse criminal behavior.

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