Oval Office meeting with Russian officials raises eyebrows

"They tricked us", one unnamed official was quoted as saying by CNN. Officials said they were unaware that photographer Alexandr Scherbak would be shooting for both Tass and the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Scherbak said his post - addressed to USA media - was prompted by "this hysteria around my photo shoot at the White House".

Trump said he wasn't concerned about potential bad optics of meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak a day after firing Comey.

On Thursday, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stressed that Russia had told the U.S. side in advance that there would be a TASS photographer present at the meeting.

A White House official said the administration did not anticipate that the Russian government would allow its state news agency to post photographs of the meeting.

On January 26, deputy AG Sally Yates informed the White House that Mike Flynn had been compromised by the Russians.

The White House defended the decision not to allow any independent press into the meeting. At the same time, Donald Trump confirmed the United States' support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as the need to implement the Minsk agreements, primarily on part of Russian Federation.

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.

It hasn't yet been two full days since the president fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing a counter-espionage investigation into the Russian Federation scandal.

Lavrov notes that Trump dismisses the matter as "false news". "We took the information we had as best we have it and got it out to the American people as quickly as we could". He also said the subject never came up during his Oval Office meeting. The ambassador was also not mentioned in the official White House readout of the meeting.

At first, the administration said that Rosenstein "made the recommendation, the president made a swift and decisive action and let Comey go".

"Sean is actually on Navy Reserve duty, so you guys are stuck with me - today and tomorrow", Huckabee Sanders said as she opened Thursday's less formal, off-camera briefing, which is known as a "gaggle".

Before a separate, early-morning meeting with Tillerson at the State Department, Lavrov professed mock surprise when asked whether Comey's dismissal had cast a shadow over his visit.

The president tweeted, "Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election".

"I believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don't even know and immediately run out and fire a general", he said.

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