The journalist who was dragged out of the press conference Monday featuring President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin recounted the episode in an interview with TPM on Tuesday.
“They really roughed me up on the way out of the presidential palace,” journalist Sam Husseini, who was ejected shortly before the Helsinki press conference began, told TPM over the phone.
“I shouted, ‘This is freedom of the press in Finland!’ and then they threw me to the ground, handcuffed me on my arms, behind my back, and on my legs, threw me in the back of a police vehicle, and took me to the detention center where I was for six hours.”
Husseini said Tuesday that he was dragged out because of a sign he had with him that read “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.”
Husseini, communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, was credentialed by The Nation for the press conference. He recently started attending State Department press conferences for the magazine and was an early contributor to the left-leaning media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
“I was trying to find a creative way” to raise the issue, he said, given Trump’s previous comments that he’d be interested in working with Putin address nuclear weapons, despite both countries’ historic hoarding of nuclear arms and America’s trillion-dollar “modernization” of its arsenal.
Trump said Thursday that the “ultimate deal” with Putin would include “no more nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, no more wars, no more problems, no more conflict.”
“It was a long shot,” Husseini granted.
Finnish security approached him in the press conference venue before it started.
“The sign was the only thing that they mentioned,” Husseini recalled.
He said security took him through a room filled with both Russian and American officials and then out to an isolated hallway.
“There was Melania Trump, and there was the whole delegation,” Husseini said, noting security’s route through the room of Russian and American bigwigs seemed “at odds” with any assumption that he was a protester.
“I told them I had no intention of doing any sort of protest and offered to show them the small sign in my bag,” Husseini wrote in The Nation.
It was then that the journalist led security back to his seat. The ensuing struggle — which occurred when Husseini held up his sign and tried to explain that he wanted to ask Trump and Putin about nuclear policy — was captured by the media-packed crowd:
— TruNews™ (@TruNews) July 16, 2018
“It started when he was heckling those of us who were in the middle of reporting and two members of the security detail confronted him about it,” CBS News’ Weijia Jiang said of the scuffle. “He came out and showed a sign that he apparently made that said ‘nuclear weapon [ban] treaty’ and that’s when this all unfolded and intensified.”
After his arrest — and after security threw him to the ground — Husseini said he was transferred to a Finnish jail, where he would wait for six hours before his release at midnight. By then, the press centers for the press conference had just closed, he noted.
“They told me that they would contact my loved ones to tell them I was safe, and they didn’t,” he said, recalling his detention. “The American consulate was doing the exact same thing to my partner.”
Referencing the billboards from Finland’s largest newspaper addressed to both Trump and Putin that read “welcome to the land of the free press,” Husseini said his experience hadn’t lived up to the ads.
“There’s a real level of hypocrisy,” he said.