During his hour-long immigration meeting with members of Congress on Tuesday, President Donald Trump contradicted his own previous positions and those of his party by suggesting that he "would like" to sign a "clean DACA bill." But you wouldn't know it if you relied on the White House's initial transcript of the meeting, which omitted—some would say "air-brushed"—the remark.
Perhaps, as former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub suggested, White House staff left out the comment that so enraged the far-right in the hopes that "no one would notice." The problem, of course, is that the meeting was televised—and soon everyone noticed.
Trump's comment came during an exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who asked the president if he would "be agreeable" to a "clean" bill to protect Dreamers that leaves out all of the conditions Trump and the Republican Party have previously demanded, like heightened "border security" and funding for a wall.
"Yeah, I would like—I would like to do that. Go ahead," Trump told Feinstein. "I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first." (As the Washington Post's Aaron Blake notes, it is clear that Trump did not understand what a "clean" bill would entail.)
The original transcript of the meeting released by the White House on Tuesday left out the first half of the comment above, leaving in place only the last sentence.
Following a flood of backlash, the White House on Wednesday released an amended transcript—with the previously excluded comment inserted with an asterisk—and insisted that any omission was accidental.
Below are the two transcripts, with the initial version first:
Critics found this slip-up a bit too convenient, given that the comment in question ran counter to Trump's demands over the past several months and threatened to upend the plans of Republican immigration hawks.
"They thought no one would notice a corrupted transcript, got caught, looked up the Presidential Records Act, and quietly fixed it," Shaub concluded. "Based on this, it's legitimate to question what other federal records they may have falsified when no one was looking."
Others similarly raised suspicion about the omitted line:
To review: 1.) POTUS misunderstood his own DACA position yesterday at a press availability intended to disprove allegations of mental decline. 2.) The WH covered it up by omitting it from the transcript; 3.) But it was televised. 4.) WH put it back in. https://t.co/sF1zaw9Urj
— Timothy Noah (@TimothyNoah1) January 10, 2018
Orwellian plus Stalinist Air-Brushing:
Not only did Trump not understand what Dianne Feinstein meant when she spoke of a "clean" DACA bill, but White House transcript omits Trump's saying, "Yeah, I would like to do it" (a clean bill). Conservatives hammered him for saying that. https://t.co/71NvtMWfgG
— Steven Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) January 10, 2018