Oval Office meeting with Russian officials raises eyebrows

The White House is left fuming after Russia publishes photos of Donald Trump meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R). The only photographers in the room were the official White House photographer and a photographer from Tass, a state-run news agency.

As part of the Russian press pool, he has covered many of Lavrov's official trips around the globe, including in the USA, the photographer said, explaining that a procedure for such events is routine: "The lists of journalists who cover trips are always submitted beforehand".

American press members were shut out of the meeting from which the only images released were by Russia's news agency, TASS.

The White House admitted Thursday that it was unaware Russian Federation would be releasing photos from the closed-door meeting, with one official telling CNN: "They tricked us".

"To me the big issue is how does the president put out coherent messages on his domestic and foreign policy when there is so much incoherence in his White House".

The Russian Foreign Ministry posted a photo of a smiling US President shaking hands with Lavrov on Twitter, adding unusual and ironic optics to the questions already swirling around the White House over Comey's firing. There had been no plans to immediately broadcast images from the meeting.

The chummy photos left some observers agog, particularly coming a day after the president fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been running the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian officials.

One White House source told Politico that there was "widespread recognition this was handled terribly but not a real sense that we can do much here". Zakharova referenced another recent photo-op at the White House which has not raised questions from the United States media.

The White House defended the decision not to allow any independent press into the meeting. It was also noted that Sarah Huckabee Sanders was forced to change much of her planned responses right before today's press conference due to Trump's interview answers. Ambassadors often accompany visiting dignitaries to the White House.

Officials dismissed any security concerns, saying Mr Lavrov's entourage went through the typical visitor screening process and that the White House is routinely swept for listening devices.

President Donald Trump Thursday poked at the continued fallout over his firing of FBI Director James Comey - saying on Twitter that "Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the USA tears itself apart over a Democrat excuse for losing the election".

Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador who was in the meeting, has been a large part of the current controversy.

  • Leroy Wright