Unintentional Humor: Codeword Trump

From an article on Raw Story, we get this information about the phone call from Trump to Zelenskyy:

A former Trump administration official has confirmed to Politico that White House did place transcripts into the codeword system.

After Trump made false claims about his conversations with Mexican and Australian leaders in 2017, someone from the White House leaked the official transcripts. After that was when the White House took the unusual step to block anyone from having access to the call transcripts, according to the former Trump official.

“I don’t think the person who leaked those was ever really discovered,” the former official told Politico. “So there was a decision to tighten the restrictions for those who had access to those transcripts.”

According to another former Trump National Security Official cited by Politico, “it would be unusual to put transcripts in the code word system.”

But according to the whistleblower, senior White House officials intervened to “‘lockdown’ all records” to try and get them out of the general access to anyone in the White House. They did so because “of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain,” the whistleblower claimed.

… wait for it …

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He learns nothing.

Much has been made of the fact that one of Trump’s defenses (there were many, and not all of them can be advanced simultaneously without obvious and major contradiction, but even so) against Trump’s obvious efforts to get Russia to help his election campaign is that he was simply naive about the law when making pronouncements like, “Russia, if you’re listening…”.

Now, obviously he’s not learned that lesson and his claims of naivety ring hollow given that in the early summer he said that if offered dirt by a foreign nation in the 2020 election, he would still accept it, knowing as he does the illegality and the political consequences of doing so.

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The Transcript Isn’t A Transcript

The White House said it was going to release a transcript of the phone call between Trump and President Zelenskyy of the Ukraine. They’ve now released a document, but the document itself gives us a pretty strong warning that should give us all pause about how this disclosure is being reported:

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty “Officers and-NSC policy staff assigned t_o listen.and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A numper of factors can affect ‘the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation.

The word “inaudible” is used to indifate portions of a conversation that the notetaker was unable to hear.

Nonetheless, USA Today gives us this:

Trump administration releases transcript of call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky amid impeachment inquiry

CBS News gives us this:

Trump call transcript shows he pressed Ukrainian president to probe Biden — live updates

CNBC’s article is headlined:

Trump authorizes release of transcript of controversial Ukraine call that mentioned Joe Biden

And no less than that vaunted bastion of journalism, the NY Times writes their headline without any ambiguity:

Transcript: Trump’s Call With the Ukrainian President

Forbes, of all sycophantic outlets, is actually the voice of reason and caution here, despite calling the document a “transcript” in the headline:

Trump’s Ukraine Transcript Reportedly Won’t Contain Entire Conversation

What Forbes says is actually a fair summary of the problem

President Trump said he would release the “complete” and “unredacted transcript” of his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Wednesday, but multiple reports state that what gets released is unlikely to be word-for-word, per longstanding White House rules.

  • According to Reuters, White House rules on phone calls between the president and a foreign leader would likely mean a transcript would be put together from notes taken by several U.S. officials who listened in.
  • The note-takers are typically National Security Council or Central Intelligence Agency officials.
  • The final official document of a phone call can range from what looks like a word-for-word transcript, a memo or a short summary.
  • And the Washington Post reported that Trump is unlikely to have tape recordings of the phone call. Recordings have not been made since the 70s.

So when you hear that a “transcript” has been released, don’t believe it. Maintain your skepticism. There may very well be no recording back to which we can compare Trump’s document and every single person involved in the preparation of the document we do have answers solely and ultimately to Trump. If in conversations with others who refer to it as a transcript, it might be useful and appropriate, depending on context, to correct the “transcript” language of the person or persons with whom you’re speaking.

And if they doubt you, refer them right back to the official warning on the actual document released:

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.