Smile — you’re on Russia’s candid camera.
The White House was apparently tricked into letting a Russian state photographer snap and release photos of President Trump meeting with Kremlin diplomats in the Oval Office the day after firing FBI Director James Comey, according to a report.
A White House official told The Washington Post the White House didn’t know the photographer documenting Trump’s Wednesday meeting also worked for Tass, a state-run news agency.
“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,” the official told the Post.
No other media were allowed to cover Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which came the day after Trump fired the man leading an investigation into his campaign’s alleged Russia connections.
Pictures of a smiling Trump with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak quickly appeared online through Tass — stunning White House officials and providing terrible optics during a chaotic day in Washington.
Optics aside, officials and commentators also wondered if it was a security risk to allow a Kremlin-tied cameraman into a private Oval Office meeting.
Georgetown University security studies professor Colin Kahl asked on Twitter, “Deadly serious Q: Was it a good idea to let a Russian gov photographer & all their equipment into the Oval Office?”
Davis S. Cohen, the former deputy director of the CIA, wrote back to him: “No, it was not.”
The White House said there no risk because the photographer went through a security screening, though it unclear if that examination would catch sophisticated spying devices.
During their White House visit, Lavrov and Kislyak denied questions from reporters about Russia’s suspected interference in the United States election. Lavrov also sarcastically dismissed a question about Comey’s firing, telling reporters, “Was he fired? You’re kidding, you’re kidding!”
Kislyak has been the central figure in some of the Trump administration’s biggest Russian dramas. His phone call with Michael Flynn led to the former national security adviser’s resignation, and his campaign talks with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions forced the nation’s top law man to recuse himself from the Russia probe.