Trump thumbed his nose at the American people today by meeting with Russian officials as suspicions about his campaign ties to the country are at their peak. Adding insult to injury, the White House didn't allow any U.S. press to be present. But Russian press got a front row seat in the Oval Office and former intelligence officials worry that they may have smuggled in surveillance equipment.
The president's decision to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak came at an odd time. It was Trump's first meeting after firing the man who was leading an investigation into that country's meddling in the U.S. election. If that wasn't weird enough, the White House barred all U.S. media from being present and claimed that they were only allowing Lavrov's official photographer to be present.
According to a report from the Washington Post, the administration was surprised to learn that the photographer wasn't just Lavrov's personal photographer but is also a journalist for Russian state media outlet Tass. "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," an administration official said.
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
So, the White House let the Russian media into the Oval Office when they thought they were just letting in a couple of diplomats, one of which has reportedly been characterised by U.S. intelligence as "Russia's top spy recruiter."
Someone on Twitter decided to ask former deputy CIA director David S. Cohen if it was "a good idea to let a Russian gov photographer & all their equipment into the Oval Office." Cohen's response was simply, "No, it was not." The Washington Post attempted to follow up with Cohen but he declined. Several former intelligence operatives did talk to the Post anonymously and they all agreed this situation was a potential security lapse.
Officials from the White House insisted that there was no way a Russian photographer could smuggle any devices inside his equipment. Their reasoning was that he "had to go through the same screening as a member of the U.S. press going through the main gate to the [White House] briefing room." But the Post's intelligence sources say that the "standard screening for White House visitors would not necessarily detect a sophisticated espionage device."
Russian listening devices have previously been found in the U.S. embassy and the State Department. They have also managed to install keyloggers on U.S. diplomats' typewriters and in one of the most hilariously devious incidents, schoolchildren presented the U.S. ambassador with a bugged wooden plaque. The device went undetected for seven years.
But don't worry, Trump's a sharp guy that would notice anything weird. This is a man who has spent the last 24 hours being called "Nixonian" and proceeded to stage a photo-op with Henry Kissinger. Good judgment is his middle name.
Fuck it, the Russian's probably hacked his mobile phone ages ago.