Trump hosted Russia's U.S. ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House on Wednesday. Members of the U.S. press weren't allowed in, and photos from the official White House photographer didn't appear anywhere until the following day.
But a photographer with Russian state-controlled media outlet TASS was allowed to both photograph the occasion and distribute the pictures online.
After pictures of a smiling Trump, Kislyak, and Lavrov hit the internet, a White House official said, "they tricked us."
The White House was evidently duped into believing that the Russian with the camera was the state photographer assigned to Lavrov, not also a member of TASS.
"That's the problem with the Russians," the official went on, according to CNN. "They lie."
It felt a bit like the Kremlin was winking at the citizens of the United States. Trump, after all, had fired FBI Director James Comey the day before, as the agency's investigation into Trump campaign ties with the Russian government was reportedly beginning to intensify. The meeting with Lavrov was on the schedule long before that, but many watching the events unfold got the sense that Russian officials were enjoying the obvious awkwardness.
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