President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with business leaders in the State Department Library on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, April 11, 2017.
Evan Vucci

Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian officials grows more alarming

Updated
At face value, it looked ridiculous. The day after Donald Trump fired the FBI director overseeing the investigation into the Russia scandal, the president welcomed Russian officials into the Oval Office for a chat. Soon after, the world was treated to photographs from the Russian Foreign Ministry – not the White House or U.S. news organizations – of Trump shaking hands with Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

It wasn’t long before many started wondering why American journalists were barred from the event, but Russia’s official news agency was allowed in.

The Washington Post took this a step further, highlighting the possibility of a security breach.
A photographer for a Russian state-owned news agency was allowed into the Oval Office on Wednesday during President Trump’s meeting with Russian diplomats, a level of access that was criticized by former U.S. intelligence officials as a potential security breach.

The officials cited the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office while hidden in cameras or other electronics. Former U.S. intelligence officials raised questions after photos of Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were posted online by the Tass news agency…. Other former intelligence officials also described the access granted to the photographer as a potential security lapse, noting that standard screening for White House visitors would not necessarily detect a sophisticated espionage device.
Former deputy CIA director David S. Cohen was asked on Twitter yesterday whether it was wise to allow a Russian government photographer and his equipment into the Oval Office.

“No,” Cohen replied, “it was not.”

So why in the world did Team Trump let this happen?

Apparently, the White House was told that the photographer worked with Lavrov, not that he also worked for Russia’s state-owned news agency.

A White House official told CNN, in reference to the Russians, “They tricked us.”

If this explanation is intended to inspire confidence, it’s not working.

Postscript: Incidentally, why did the president agree to host this meeting? “He chose to receive him because Putin asked him to,” a White House spokesman said of Trump’s Lavrov meeting.

Russia and White House

Trump's Oval Office meeting with Russian officials grows more alarming

Updated