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'Preposterous': Justice Department, FBI Make U-Turn on Transcript After Backlash

Federal authorities called complaints that they edited gunman Omar Mateen's 911 calls "a distraction," and decided to release a full transcript.
Image: Paul Ryan Holds Weekly Press Briefing At The Capitol
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.Evy Mages / Getty Images - file

It took only a few hours Monday for sustained pressure from Republicans to force federal authorities to reverse course and release what they said was the full transcript of Omar Mateen's calls to 911 from the Orlando, Florida, nightclub where he killed 49 people.

Earlier Monday, the Justice Department released what it called "redacted" excerpts of Mateen's discussions with police June 12, editing out his references to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to whom he swore allegiance during one of the calls.

The Justice Department and the FBI said they edited the transcript out of sensitivity for the victims and their families and to avoid "providing the killer or terrorist organizations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda."

But Republican political leaders and commentators immediately accused the Obama administration of censoring the facts.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, lampooned the partial transcript by releasing a "redacted" statement of his own:

Statement from Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, parodying the Justice Department's edited transcript of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen's 911 calls.

And former New York Gov. Rudy Giuliani said the original decision showed "a degree of denial here that is dangerous for the country."

"That would mean during the Second World War if I called up and said 'I am part of the Nazi movement, I've joined here in the United States, and I'm going kill 49 Americans and we left out 'Nazi movement,'" Giuliani said Monday morning in an interview on Fox News.

"Why didn't they do this with the Mafia to spare Italian-Americans?" Giuliani asked. "Why? Because if you did, you would never make the connection [that] brought them down."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, meanwhile, called the editing "preposterous," saying the public needs all the facts to be "clear-eyed about who did this, and why."

Ryan directly blamed President Barack Obama for the editing, but press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that the White House had nothing to do with the transcript.

"This [decision] was made solely by FBI and Justice Department officials," Earnest said. "Talk to them. I'll let them explain their positions."

The FBI and the Justice Department soon said in a statement that the issue had become a "distraction" and that they were releasing the full transcript "to provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances."

Afterward, Ryan said in a second statement, "This should have never been an issue in the first place."

It remains unclear whether authorities have released transcripts of all of the discussions they had with Mateen during the massacre.

Multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News last week that in addition to swearing allegiance to ISIS and al-Baghdadi, Mateen also mentioned Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013.

The transcript released Monday makes no mention of the Tsarnaevs.