U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement from the Roosevelt Room next to the empty chairs of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (L), D-New York, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R), D-California, after they cancelled their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 28, 2017.

Are White House transcripts getting political touch-ups?


During yesterday’s White House discussion on immigration policy, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Donald Trump if he’d support a “clean” bill on DACA now, extending protections to Dreamers, with a commitment to then begin negotiations on comprehensive immigration reform. The president said he had “no problem” with that.

“We’re going to do DACA and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive,” Trump added. “Yeah, I would like to do that. I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.”

As we discussed earlier, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) quickly interjected, reminding the president of what the Republican position is supposed to be, but just as important, if you relied on the White House transcript to learn what was said, you missed a key detail. The Washington Post  reported:

McCarthy apparently was not the only one concerned by Trump’s seeming agreement with Feinstein. When the White House released its official transcript Tuesday afternoon, the president’s line – “Yeah, I would like to do it” – was missing.

A White House official said that any omission from the transcript was unintentional and that the context of the conversation was clear.

And that may be true. Perhaps this was nothing more than an innocent clerical error. Maybe the White House didn’t deliberately omit an inconvenient presidential slip from the official transcript.

But I’m not sure Trump World deserves the benefit of the doubt on this.

In July, during Anthony Scaramucci’s not-quite-two-week stint as White House communications director, he appeared in the press briefing room to gush about how impressed he was with Trump’s limitless abilities, and marveled at the president’s ability to sink “three-foot putts” while playing golf.

The official White House transcript was edited to say “30-foot putts.”

Now, it’s possible this too was a clerical error. But it’s also possible someone in Trump World believes touching up official transcripts is an acceptable practice.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum had a good piece on this several months ago: “Transcripts are not supposed to be ‘revised’ after the fact. Official White House transcripts record exactly what the person said, regardless of ‘what they meant to say.’”

The truth is, I don’t know if this is common or not. Maybe we’re talking about two isolated incidents, or maybe this happens regularly and no one notices. As a rule, political observers either listen to remarks or they read transcripts, but few take the time to do both – that’s awfully time consuming – in order to look for transcription edits.

Perhaps it’s time we start?