Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Russian foreign minister: Trump doesn't think we meddled in election

Russian foreign minister: Trump doesn't think we meddled in election

Official White House photos posted Thursday of President Trump's Oval Office meetings the previous day leave out Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The photographer - who on Wednesday stood feet from Trump as he talked with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak - had told the White House that he was Lavrov's official photographer, the administration official said.

"I never thought I'd have to answer such questions, particularly in the United States given your highly developed democratic system", Lavrov said at a news conference at the Russian embassy, according to a simultaneous translation of his remarks.

"Deadly serious Q: Was it a good idea to let a Russian gov photographer & all their equipment into the Oval Office?"

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.

The Russians, whose media is largely run by the government, brought their own photographer and tweeted photos of their diplomats meeting with the President.

"I believe politicians are damaging the US political system by trying to pretend someone is controlling America from outside", he said.

The White House blocked United States reporters from photographing the meeting, opting to allow only White House and Russian photographers to capture images of Trump's interactions with Lavrov.

But when the images were published across the world via state media, the White House raged that Moscow had misled them. The meeting had been scheduled - at Vladimir Putin's request - before the decision to can Comey was made, but instead of canceling it or at least asking the ambassador to stay home to avoid horrendous optics, the White House goes ahead with it.

Detailing his talks with the USA officials Lvvrov said, "Today, Rex and I discussed the ways to advance the agenda, which includes the Syrian issue, so that we could come up with some tangible decisions before the presidents meet".

In response to the White House official's complaint that the White House was "tricked", former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice said on Twitter: "No kidding!" Meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov trolled the press corps by sarcastically asking if Comey was sacked while exclaiming "you're kidding". "But any breach at all would be catastrophic".

Contact with Mr Kislyak led Michael Flynn to be dismissed from his post as national security adviser and attorney general Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the probe.

With all the communication between Russian government officials and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, you'd think someone at the White House would know that the Kremlin is home to professional trolls.

The president also said the issue had not affected his meeting with Lavrov.

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