On May 10, less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, the POTUS met with top Russian officials at the White House. The timing of the meeting was of interest to many, particularly since Comey was investigating Trump’s ties with Russia when he was fired.
In a slightly surprising turn of events, but not outside of standard government practice, Trump decided to keep American journalists out of the meeting. Instead, only an official White House photographer and a Russian state news photographer were allowed in the room. However, it seems the Trump administration did not expect that TASS, the Russian government's state news agency, would post photographs from the meeting.
"They tricked us," an angry White House Official said. "That's the problem with the Russians — they lie."
Susan Rice, national security advisor under President Barack Obama, had little sympathy for this.
No kidding! https://t.co/EmArIbMJiH— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) May 11, 2017
A picture of Trump with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, was posted on social media on Wednesday. The Russian foreign ministry also posted a video that caught the moment Lavrov discovered Trump had fired Comey. All in all, it looks suspiciously like Russia decided to stir up some additional controversy for an administration already under fire.
Trump’s meeting with Lavrov was listed on his schedule as “Closed Press,” which meant the media would not be allowed to document its proceedings.
“Our official photographer and their official photographer were present — that’s it,” a White House aide said.
However, White House photographers and independent media are very different, and one must not replace the other. Former White House officials were alarmed at Russian photographers having full access to the U.S. president’s office while the country’s own press was kept out. Furthermore, it seems the exact role of the Russian state photographer was not confirmed prior to the meeting, according to members of the White House themselves.
“We were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual-hatted and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency,” a Trump administration official told The Washington Post.
This is alarming incompetence at the highest level.
Deadly serious Q: Was it a good idea to let a Russian gov photographer & all their equipment into the Oval Office? https://t.co/6WA4NxHxID— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) May 10, 2017
Colin H. Kahl, the former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, posted the above tweet, to which David S. Cohen, the former deputy director of the C.I.A. during the Obama administration, responded: “No, it was not.”
Not only does this meeting appear poorly thought out, but it also looks downright dangerous. Trump promised the American people that he could handle Russia, but it seems like Russia is handling him instead.