President Trump met with Russian foreign officials in the Oval Office on Wednesday. The event was listed on the official schedule as “closed press,” meaning no journalists would be allowed in the room.
Soon after the meeting began, several photographs of the president, Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, emerged via TASS, Russia’s official news agency. The Russian foreign ministry also posted photos of the meeting on Twitter.
“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,” a White House official told the Washington Post.
U.S. media struggled with how to use the Russian-sponsored photographs and coverage of the event. Fox News chose not to air them, with anchor Jenna Lee stating on-air that “we are choosing not to show them because as part of the press here in the United States, we think it’s important that the press have access to official photos from the White House.”
The meeting itself was held at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “[Trump] chose to receive him because Putin asked him to,” an anonymous White House source told POLITICO. “Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association criticized President Obama in 2013 for holding closed press meetings only covered by official government photographers, stating the practice amounted to creating “the White House’s own Soviet-style news service.”