A man who had been credentialed to attend President Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday was forcibly taken from the crowd by Secret Service agents shortly before the leaders arrived. Video footage taken by other members of the audience in Helsinki showed the man was holding a small paper sign as he was dragged out.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, who was at the press conference, reported that the man had been credentialed to attend the event on behalf of the progressive magazine the Nation and that the paper in his hand said “Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.” According to CNN, the man was initially removed from the event, but was allowed back in to retrieve his belongings. It was unclear whether the sign was part of a protest or notes for a question he wanted to ask at the press conference.
Caitlin Graf, a spokesperson for the Nation, provided a statement to Yahoo News identifying the man as Sam Husseini. Graf said Husseini had been credentialed to cover the meeting for the Nation and the magazine was “troubled” by his removal.
“Sam Husseini, communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, received press accreditation from the Nation to cover the summit between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. At a time when this administration consistently denigrates the media, we’re troubled by reports that he was forcibly removed from the press conference before the two leaders began to take questions. This is a developing situation that we will be following closely,” Graf said.
PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who was also in the room, captured footage showing Husseini arguing with Secret Service as he was taken out.
“You’re grabbing me? For what? I’m telling you what I’m doing,” Husseini said. “I’m being totally open. What the hell.”
Husseini is a writer, artist and political activist who works as the communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, a progressive nonprofit group. He wrote an article for the Nation last year. The Institute for Public Accuracy referred questions about the incident to Husseini, who has not yet responded to requests for comment from Yahoo News.
Both Trump and Putin have been widely criticized for their attitudes toward the media. Trump regularly attacks reporters and critical coverage as “fake news.” While Trump has held press conferences abroad, he has avoided traditional engagement with the White House press corps in the United States. Russia consistently ranks near the bottom of major countries in analyses of press freedom. The country has taken steps to block independent media outlets and jailed reporters. Since Putin took power in 2000, more than 30 reporters in Russia have been killed. Some have implicated the Russian government in these assassinations, but Putin has denied playing a role in the murder of journalists.
The United States and Russia both signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996. It prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.” However, the U.S. is one of eight key states that have not ratified the treaty. Because of this, the future of the pact is unclear.
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