Reporter Flabbergasted by State Department Admission That Deleting Briefing Video Wasn't Illegal

June 2, 2016

State Department spokesman Mark Toner acknowledged Thursday that there was no prior agency regulation against manipulating briefing videos, leaving Associated Press reporter Matt Lee wondering how such a common-sense rule wasn't already in place.

Toner fielded multiple questions surrounding John Kirby's admission on Wednesday that a staffer had purposefully excised video from a December 2013 briefing regarding administrative deceit on negotiations with Iran. The department had initially claimed that the deletion from the public record was a "glitch."

"Am I understanding correctly that until yesterday, or until whenever it was that Kirby came down with these new rules, that it was not specifically a violation of any rule or State Department regulation to manipulate a video of a briefing?" Lee asked. "Is that correct?"

"That's correct," Toner said. "As far as we have checked, in terms of our foreign affairs manual but also in other rules and regulations, it was not a clear policy or regulation prohibiting editing of transcripts before they were publicly posted."

Toner corrected himself to say "video" rather than transcript.

"Obviously, there can be clean-up editing of things, but this would seem to be—this stuff was deleted for content reasons, not for a technical hitch," Lee said. "That was not a violation of the rules until yesterday?"

"Again, there was no rule in place, and we only discovered this when we actually had the occasion to investigate it," Toner said.

"I know, but why not? I guess I understand why people have to put warning labels on mattresses and stuff like that," Lee said. "I mean, this would seem to be just pure common sense that you don't mess around with what has been said from the podium."

Toner suggested perhaps that common sense was why no rule initially existed.

"That's why we're correcting it going forward," Toner said.

Lee later said this admission was "mind-boggling."

Fox News personality and former Bush administration spokeswoman Dana Perino said Wednesday that the video deletion was a clear violation of the Federal Records Act.