Angus Roxburgh: “The real facts about the Putin-Trump press conference”

Subject: The real facts about the Putin-Trump press conference
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2018
From: Angus Roxburgh <angus.roxburgh@gmail.com>

There has been much discussion, rightly, of Rachel Maddow’s sensational allegation that the White House intentionally doctored both the transcript and the video of the Putin-Trump press conference. Philip Bump in the Washington Post washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/25/no-the-white-house-didnt-intentionally-edit-a-question-to-putin-out-of-a-video/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2e9618f92cac tries to dissect what happened.

But neither he – nor the White House or Kremlin websites – have got it quite right.

The White House transcript has a Reuters reporter asking Putin : “Did you direct any of your officials to help him [Trump] to do that?” (i.e. win the election.) Putin answers: “Yes I did.” Rachel Maddow claims the White House edited the transcript to omit the first part of the reporter’s question, “Did you want Putin to win?”

I listened to the press conference live, in both Russian and English, and I have checked the tapes again. This is what actually happened.

Putin didn’t even hear the second part of the Reuters question, because the Russian translation of the first part, naturally, lagged a bit (and the translator faltered), and he started answering as soon as he heard the Russian for “Did you want Trump to win the election?”

The translation of Putin’s answer also lagged behind, and was misleading. The translator said “Yes, I did” – but that sounded as if it was an answer to the second part of the question (Did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?) which, as I say, Putin didn’t even hear because he had pulled the earpiece out in order to answer the first bit.

Putin’s actual words were “Da, ya khotel, chtoby on vyigral” – “Yes, I wanted him to win”, not “Yes I did.” And he then went on: “Because he wanted a normalisation of US-Russian relations”.

Putin didn’t actually answer the second part of the question at all. As far as he was concerned, he was asked only whether he had wanted Trump to win, and he answered that he did.

The White House transcript is misleading in every respect, suggesting that Putin said “yes I did” to the question “Did you direct your officials to help him?” – which would actually be far more incriminating than him merely admitting he wanted Putin to win!

I often despair that newspapers don’t employ enough Russian speakers, but it seems the White House doesn’t either.