One of Donald Trump administration’s most disgraceful acts was its July 2018 attempted cover-up of Putin’s admission at the Helsinki press conference that Russia favored Trump over Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election.
From the official transcript of the Helsinki Conference (Note 1):
Reporter (Jeff Mason from Reuters): President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the U.S. 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 US/Russia relationship back to normal.
One can also observe this exchange in the RealClearPolitics video of the press conference (@ minute 32:35). (Note 2)
Well, Putin’s statement directly contradicts Trump’s ongoing position that Russia did not support Trump. It is unclear if Putin also indicated that Russia tried to influence the U.S. election (if Putin’s 2nd “Yes, I did” answered the reporter’s second question, indicating Putin did direct his officials to help Trump win). We note that in virtually all chain of command organizations, those officials reporting to a powerful top executive (like Putin) would ‘get the message’ of what is expected. If the top executive (Putin) said he wanted Donald Trump to win the U.S. election, his officials would then do everything they could to try to influence the U.S. election (which the FBI etc found they did), without any need for further direction from the top executive.
Back to the transcript. An Atlantic article discusses the original mis-quoting White House transcript (Note 3):
“And here’s the key section from the first White House transcript, which makes it seem as though Putin is still talking about the Mueller probe, the previous topic:
PRESIDENT PUTIN: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.
(Jeff Mason) Q: And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
PRESIDENT PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.
Well, anyone can see the first part of Jeff Mason’s question (highlighted above) disappeared from this initial White House transcript! A second article in The Atlantic (Note 4) in a timeline fashion outlines the Trump administration’s unresponsive buffoonery that followed. It took more than a week for the White House to correct the mis-quote. The White House blamed the issue on a technical glitch. How likely is that, when there is a video of the press conference available the day after the press conference?
The Russian transcript, (Note 5), went one step further and simply removed the entire exchange between Mason and Putin!
Then more buffoonery: Donald Trump tweeted on July 24 2018, 9 days later (Note 6) , that Russia did not want him to be president because he had been tougher on Russia than any other president, which directly contradicts Putin’s press conference statement, as well as the many other published statements Putin did not want Hillary Clinton to be president. And of course this is an after-the-fact statement—we are addressing Putin’s POV before Trump was even president, so how could he be tougher then, than any other president!
Notes and Links
The Notes 1 to 6 have links to the documentation supporting the above statements.
Note 1: White house final official transcript. Putin exchange about 75% into the transcript. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-president-putin-russian-federation-joint-press-conference/
Note 2: RealClearPolitics Video https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/07/15/watch_live_coverage_of_helsinki_summit_as_vladimir_putin_and_trump_meet.html
Note 3: Atlantic article shows what the original White House transcript was, before it was changed: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/trump-putin-press-conference-transcript/565385/
Note 4: Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/white-house-transcript-correction/566183/
Note 5: Official Russian Transcript (excludes the entire exchange!)