Photos of Wednesday’s meeting, taken by a Russian state news media photographer one day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey amid questions about possible Trump campaign collusion with Moscow, were ultimately posted by Russia’s news agency, TASS.
The White House did not post photos of the meeting although an official White House photographer was also in the room, the White House said. The State Department did post photos of Lavrov’s meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but that was open to the press.
“They tricked us,” an angry White House official said.
“That’s the problem with the Russians — they lie,” the official added.
The Russians used the photos to troll the White House in its social media posts Wednesday. The Russian Foreign Ministry posted a photo of a smiling US President shaking hands with Lavrov on Twitter, adding strange and ironic optics to the questions already swirling around the White House over Comey’s firing.
In addition to posting the Lavrov-Trump picture, the foreign ministry also posted video of Lavrov joking about Comey’s firing.
The White House blocked US reporters from photographing the meeting, opting to allow only White House and Russian photographers to capture images of Trump’s interactions with Lavrov. The White House official insisted it is standard practice to keep more of a lid on presidential meetings with lower-level foreign officials, as opposed to visits from heads of state, which typically come with greater press coverage.