Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Memorandum


We ought to give credit where credit is due. Not to me, given that I thought that whatever the White House released of the call between President Trump and Ukrainian president Zelensky would be heavy with redactions and/or altered, such that little untoward would be revealed. That was not the case because the release is fairly damning toward Trump, for any other president clearly cause for impeachment, conviction, and prosecution by the courts.

Nor is credit due Nate Silver, who tweeted "Everybody's guessing, but my guess is that the public is going to see what's in the transcript as being very inappropriate conduct..." Nor to David Axelrod with "the transcript released today is devastating...." 

Lawyers also erred. House Intelligence committee chairperson Adam Schiff tweeted "the transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown" and former US Attorney Mimi Rocah, "any privilege is now waived. Selectively releasing a transcript that he thinks he can spin without the complaint which tells the full story." (At another point, she accurately referred to it as a "summary.")

And correspondent Pamela Brown on CNN:





Rocah and Schiff (possibly also Axelrod and Silver) probably are right on the contents and consequences. But these four- and others- are wrong on the nature of the document, and this is no technicality. The first clue was "Memorandum Of Telephone Conversation." The Standards and Practices Editor of National Public Radio has sent to employees a memorandum warning

Because the document released by the White House is not a word-for-word record of the conversation President Trump had with the president of Ukraine, please do not simply refer to it as a "transcript." If you use that word, it must be followed by a phrase such as "based on notes taken by staff assigned to listen." Better ways to first reference it include: "an account of the call" or a "memorandum." It is also important to note that it was released by the White House. And we should, when we can, point out that the document itself notes that it is not a "verbatim transcript." Ryan Lucas did just that in a Q&A he recorded for Newscast this morning. He talked about it not being a verbatim transcript and how it is based on the notes and recollections of those assigned to listen.

Integrity and accuracy are not dead in American media.  That will not persist in the crackdown on the First Amendment which would follow a Trump victory, but as of now, there are pockets of resistance to propaganda, disinformation, and spin.



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