We wrote on May 10 about President Trump's unannounced inclusion of Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak in an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The White House did not mention Kislyak in an official readout of the meeting, and American journalists only found out about his participation through photos released by Russian state media.
Now, the Israeli press is reporting that Trump spoke by phone on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a conversation the White House did not disclose. The call is significant because multiple U.S. news outlets reported earlier Tuesday that Israel was the source of classified information that Trump shared with Lavrov and Kislyak last week. And it's just the latest example of the Trump administration leaving the dissemination of important information to foreign sources.
The original post follows.
President Trump's meeting Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was always going to be a bit awkward, image-wise.
With tensions high after the United States launched a missile strike in Syria, a Russian ally, last month, Trump knew he would have to appear friendly — but not too friendly, since the FBI is investigating whether Trump's campaign might have colluded with Russia to meddle in last year's election.
When Trump abruptly fired James B. Comey as FBI director on Tuesday, he made the optics of his meeting with Lavrov even more delicate. But he didn't stop there.
Ever a glutton for controversy, Trump also met unannounced with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, who accompanied Lavrov to the Oval Office. The White House failed in its official readout of the session to mention Kislyak's inclusion, and American journalists were not permitted to observe the meeting or even photograph the attendees before private talks, which is common.
Reporters learned of Kislyak's participation through photographs distributed by the Russian foreign ministry.
The official WH readout does NOT include the fact that the Russian ambassador was also there (per Russia gov't-released pics) pic.twitter.com/rzAHuUROKy
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) May 10, 2017
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
Apparently the White House has not yet learned that sneaking around with Kislyak is a bad look. In February, Trump asked his national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, to resign after The Washington Post reported that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak during the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, contrary to public assertions by White House officials.
In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from election-related investigations after The Post reported that he had failed during confirmation hearings to disclose election-year meetings with Kislyak.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Trump's inclusion of Kislyak in Wednesday's meeting, but to be weirdly secretive about it is to invite additional scrutiny that the White House does not need right now.
Then again, perhaps Trump was deliberately trolling the news media — keeping Kislyak under wraps and granting access to a Russian photographer on a day when he knew such moves would drive journalists crazy.