Between multiple reports detailing the insane behind-the-scenes drama of James Comey’s firing by Donald Trump, Wednesday’s endless news dump included meetings between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, State Secretary Rex Tillerson, and the president himself. Which, as many observers point out, is rather strange considering the mounting evidence that suggests Comey wasn’t fired for his mishandling of the Hillary Clinton emails investigation, but rather for his continued pursuit of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. And then there’s the matter of the Russian news photographer in the Oval Office.
When Trump met with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the latter of whom figures prominently in the Michael Flynn saga, members of the American press were barred from attending or documenting the occasion. However, a camera-wielding member of the Russian delegation “described… as Lavrov’s official photographer” was granted access to the Oval Office. He took photos of Trump speaking and shaking hands with the foreign minister and the ambassador, and White House personnel assumed said photos would be used for non-public matters.
As a tweet posted by the Russian Foreign Ministry shortly thereafter proves, this was not the case:
American reporters quickly figured out the photographer was actually a member of the Russian News Agency, or TASS, and that his photos were available for use via Getty. Needless to say, as CNN’s Jim Acosta discovered, White House officials were furious they had been misled by Lavrov and his associates. “They tricked us,” the anonymous official said. “That’s the problem with the Russians — they lie.” When pressed on why members of the American press weren’t allowed to attend, however, Acosta’s source insisted it was standard practice for meetings with “lower-level foreign officials” who weren’t heads of state.