Sen. Chuck Grassley, who frequently calls for more transparency and accountability from government, doesn’t support the White House removing an exchange between a reporter and Vladimir Putin from the official record of the Russian president’s news conference with President Donald Trump.
The exchange, which seemed to suggest Putin was confirming Russia’s preference to see Trump rather than Democrat Hillary Clinton elected in 2016, does not appear in the White House livestream or transcript of the Helsinki news conference.
During the news conference following Trump’s two-hour private meeting with Putin, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked Putin, “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”
According to the English translation of Putin’s answer, he said: “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”
During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Grassley said he was not familiar with questions about the exchange and the record of the conversation, “so I don’t know whether I should even comment.”
However, he went on to say he doesn’t understand why the White House would not include the exchange.
“I don’t know why something that’s out in public you would want to scrub in the first place,” he said. “Truth shouldn’t be hidden. After all, everybody heard it, so what good does it do scrub it?”
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There is some confusion about the exchange because Mason started talking while the translator was completing an answer to the previous question and the microphone didn’t pick up his complete question.
It’s also unclear whether Putin was answering “yes” to the first part of the question or both parts. Earlier in the news conference, Putin, like Trump, denied any collusion in the 2016 election.
Some media outlets, including the Washington Post and Bloomberg News, said their initial transcripts of the news conference were the same as the White House’s. The Post attributed the confusion to a “switch between the feed from the reporters and the feed from the translator.”
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