President Donald Trump’s meeting Wednesday morning with two top Russian officials was closed to all press — except, apparently, state-owned news outlets.
Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, along with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.
“The Lavrov meeting was closed to the press and the only visual account we have of it thus far is via handout photos from the Russian government,” The Hill’s Jordan Fabian wrote in a pool report Wednesday morning. “Those images show Trump also met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.”
Gizmodo’s Matt Novak noted on Twitter that Getty wire images of the meeting were credited to TASS, which is commonly described as state-run or state-owned.
Fabian later reported that an unnamed White House official told him: “On background, our official photographer and their official photographer were present, that’s it.”
Photos of Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak just hit the Getty wire and they're all credited to Russian news agency TASS pic.twitter.com/qE9lWB6KuS
— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) May 10, 2017
The Associated Press noted that photos it distributed from the meeting were government hand-outs and credited the Russian Foreign Ministry, though it did not list the photographer Alexander Shcherbak, as Getty did.
White House spokespeople did not respond to TPM’s questions about the press arrangement Wednesday. TASS’ Washington bureau chief, Andrei Sitov, told TPM that no one from his bureau was present at the meeting.
“Apparently the TASS person was admitted at the request of the Russian Foreign Ministry as the official photographer for the Russian side,” Sitov added in a later email. “He is permanently assigned to cover FM Lavrov. His pictures from the meeting are available at the Russian FM’s Flickr. I was not even aware of this.” The Foreign Ministry’s Flickr page can be found here.
An unnamed White House official later told the Washington Post: “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 White House published it’s own official readout of the meeting:
President Donald J. Trump met today with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia, following on the visit of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow last month. President Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies. The President raised Ukraine, and expressed his Administration’s commitment to remain engaged in resolving the conflict and stressed Russia’s responsibility to fully implement the Minsk agreements. He also raised the possibility of broader cooperation on resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. The President further emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia.
This post has been updated with additional information.