DA NANG, Vietnam — Nearly all U.S. journalists covering U.S. President Donald Trump’s appearance at a major economic summit in Vietnam were barred from attending key events Friday and Saturday, including photo-ops featuring interactions between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The small group of U.S.-based reporters who track Trump’s movements abroad, known as the travel pool, was largely relegated to a holding room on Saturday while nearly two dozen world leaders posed for photographs and mingled at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Danang.
A Fox News video crew and an official White House photographer were granted access to the meetings. Fox was the news organization that was tasked with providing pool video to other news outlets. But the rest of the pool reporters, including independent photographers from U.S. news organizations, were blocked from covering the event.
A similar situation unfolded Friday night, when planned coverage of an APEC dinner with Trump and other leaders was scrapped, leaving print reporters, photographers and other members of the pool without the ability to cover the event.
New York Times Photographer Doug Mills, who is traveling with the president as part of the pool, tweeted his frustration at the lack of access, with an image of a black square attached. “This what our APEC Summit photo coverage looks today (sic) in Da Nang Vietnam. Blank. No coverage by the White House Travel Pool photographers traveling with @realDonaldTrump.”
The White House said it asked for more access for pool reporters, but was denied.
“We have been negotiating since the pre-advance and have made progress on almost every event for this swing,” Michelle Meadows, a White House official helping to organize the trip, told reporters in an email Friday when asked why they were not given access to the event. “We ALWAYS ask for the full Pool to have access but we do not always get what we want.”
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request from POLITICO on Saturday seeking additional explanation. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later told pool reporters that she would address the issue during a briefing on Air Force One later Saturday.
Friday and Saturday’s APEC events attracted worldwide attention, in part because Trump and Putin briefly interacted. The two men shook hands on Friday night and they were later seen chatting during Saturday’s events. The White House said earlier Friday that the two men would not have a bilateral meeting, but might talk on the sidelines of the summit.
Putin and Trump’s interactions appeared to be more substantial than what was captured by the few journalists permitted to witness them. The Kremlin on Saturday released a joint Russia-U.S. statement on Syria that a Russian government spokesman said was finalized during the two leaders’ discussions here.
The travel pool is comprised of a rotating group of print reporters, wire service reporters, photographers, videographers and radio reporters. The journalists document the president’s activities and distribute reports to thousands of journalists around the country. News outlets who can’t afford the high cost of traveling with the president rely on the reports to inform the public about Trump’s activities.
Despite the limited access at APEC, Trump administration officials sought to expand pool coverage during previous legs of the trip. In China, for example, White House aides successfully rebuffed efforts by Chinese handlers to limit the number of U.S. reporters who could cover certain events.
But the White House also acquiesced to a Chinese demand that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping take no questions during a joint appearance earlier this week, breaking with past precedent.