Rex Tillerson ditches U.S. press pool for surprise visit with Putin


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson refused to allow his U.S. press pool full access to cover his last-minute meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin. What does he have to hide?

Donald Trump's secretary of state arrived in Moscow for high-level meetings with Russian officials — and promptly ditched his press pool of American journalists before an announced meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin:

Just two days after the Kremlin announced that Rex Tillerson would not in fact meet with the Russian president during his visit to Moscow, news of the meeting was first reported by Russian state propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today), before being confirmed to U.S. journalists:

Playing power games with U.S. secretaries of state about whether he will or will not meet with them is familiar behavior from Putin and not news in and of itself. However, Tillerson's decision to refuse access for the U.S. State Department traveling press corps to take photographs is new. Under the Obama administration, both Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry made themselves available for photographs with Putin during their various meetings with him. By denying his own press pool access, Tillerson is giving Russian state propaganda outlets near-total control of the narrative.

In another unusual turn of events, and to the apparent amusement of seemingly hostile Russian state media journalists, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov castigated U.S. journalist Andrea Mitchell before his meeting with Tillerson when she attempted to pose a question to the secretary:

MITCHELL: Secretary, the Russians don't believe the intelligence [about use of sarin gas by Syrian regime]. How confident are you Mr. Secretary...[interrupted]

LAVROV: Who was bringing you up? Who gave you your manners?

After the surprise meeting, Tillerson and Lavrov turned to their joint press conference — with Putin nowhere to be seen.

CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto asks an important question:

The lack of transparency by the Trump administration should concern all Americans, especially with regard to their relationships and interactions with Russian officials. Tillerson's decision to hide from the American press only raises more questions about the Trump team's ties to Russia.