Trump Threatens to Imprison Photojournalist Who Took Photo of Letter From Kim Jong-un Despite Warnings Not To

Trump Threatens to Imprison Photojournalist Who Took Photo of Letter From Kim Jong-un Despite Warnings Not To

President Trump has scolded a photographer in the Oval Office, even threatening to send him to prison, after the photographer took a picture of a letter from Kim Jong-un.

The Time magazine photographer was allegedly told "you can go to prison instead," according to official sources, after he was first warned by an aide not to take a photo.

An interview was taking place at the White House on Monday, just days before Trump was due to launch his 2020 re-election campaign.

Mr. Trump rebuked the photographer in the Oval Office after he was warned by an aide not to take a photo, according to Time's transcript. It’s said that on several occasions, Trump asked to speak off the record, including during the instance in which he wanted to show reporters the letter from Jong-un. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders seemingly told the journalists: "You can't take a picture of that, sorry."

After the conversation then turned to former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, the man who testified under oath against Trump, and at the threat of prison time, Trump is said to have snapped back:

Well, you can go to prison instead, because, if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you confidentially […] I didn’t give it to you to take photographs of it. So, don’t play that game with me. Let me just tell you something. You take a look.

When the journalist cut in, asking if he was being threatened with jail time, Trump hit back:

Well, I told you the following. I told you you can look at this off the record. That doesn’t mean you take out your camera and start taking pictures of it. OK? So, I hope you don’t have a picture of it. I know you were very quick to pull it out — even you were surprised to see that. You can’t do that stuff.

Lead image credit: "Donald Trump Sr. at #FITN in Nashua, NH" by Michael Vadon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  

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Because the "letter" from Kim jong-Un was actually his to-do list.

Chris Collins's picture

We all heard of the idiots that ruin things for everyone? Think if that role was reversed and this was in North Korea. One less breathing body.

Reginald Walton's picture

Well this is NOT North Korea, that's why we have journalist, so they can report on crap like this. If he didn't want pics of it, don't show it in a room full of photographers.

Leon Kolenda's picture

WRONG! Just because they are Photographers, doesn't give them the right to photograph some thing that they have been instructed Not to do, plus President Trump was gracious in giving them a look at the letter. Considering the treatment of the Press and most Photojournalists of this POTUS, I can approve of President Trump's statement! Sounds like this Photojournalist was at a training class of Jim Acosta's!

Reginald Walton's picture

Don't show off your goodies in public if you don't want them to be seen. As the old theory goes, if you see a microphone if front of you, assume that it is live". Same goes for a camera, if you see one in your presence, assume you and your "goodies" will be photographed. In this instance, he should have just banned all cameras.

Alex Herbert's picture

Exactly, and why would you show a confidential letter (off record) to a room full of journalists and photographers anyway? It's their job to document and report things, it's not like they're his pals. I'm not saying the photographer should have taken the photo, but what was the actual point of circulating it?

He just wanted to show off in the typical, transparent, juvenile way that he always does.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Agreed. The photog may have been wrong if he ignored instructions, but the White House was idiotic to show the letter without first removing cameras from the room. Also, you cannot jail someone for making a photo if you've allowed them onto your property. You can only make them leave. Now, if publishing the photo reveals state secrets, that's a different charge, but Trump's already done that lots of times. Just ask the Brits whose intelligence he divulged to the Russians and whose assets and methods he put at risk.

Ted Mercede's picture

So the President had stated up-front that it was to be all off record, and obviously the reporter agreed to this or he wouldn't have been party to the conversation.
He was then told that he would not be able to take pictures of the letter, after obviously being a reporter for Time magazine and understanding what "Off the Record" means.
He then ignores both the meaning of it being off record, and being asked or told not to photograph, and yet does so.

If you were in a court of law and started to take photos with the judge telling you no and did so otherwise, you would go to jail.
The President of the United States told you "No Photographs" and you think you have the ultimate right to ignore these demands, demands that should be expected since you agreed to up-front that the whole meeting be off-record. And then the reporter is told that he could go to jail for this?

And what is the issue? Are people actually siding with the reporter? I feel he should have gone to jail and fined, and his press credentials revoked for un-thical behavior.

This article is a fine-line between photography and politics, and I can imagine where it was really leaning too.

dred lew's picture

What would be the reason to show this letter “off the record”, what purpose does that serve? These are journalists that need to report on this. Either show it to them or not. He could’ve just mentioned that he received a letter and what the contents of it were. But he had to show it to them anyway. They are going to report on it now. The only issue with the photograph is that the WH can’t spin this anymore when they see reporting they don’t like. Well, they probably would still claim that the photo is fake, so what’s the point of getting upset about it in the first place?

Ted Mercede's picture

The reasons why the President showed it to him has no bearing on this at all, only that the reporter agreed to the "off the record" status of what he was told and shown, and then disregards this even after being warned to not take the photo before he actually takes the shot.

Maybe I'm naive' in thinking that if I would have given my word to agree to being off the record, that it would mean something and others would follow the same.

Also I was under the impression that agreeing to "off the record" meetings was a common courtesy that reporters granted or have agreed with to gain knowledge without being given the right to report it or the source, and honored this.
Guess how long this will continue to happen if there is no honor in this anymore....

Bottom line, there is no argument that I can think of that makes this whole fiasco correct. An emabarrasment to a profession that is having a hard enough time as it is.

The only naive thing is to think that it is okay for your President to sensor the media.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"If you were in a court of law and started to take photos with the judge telling you no and did so otherwise, you would go to jail."
That would be "contempt of court", which is an actual legal charge. "Contempt of the President" is not a legal thing, though it's abundant in the real world.

Gil Aegerter's picture

The photographer took the picture, then the president said he couldn't take the picture. If you're media-savvy, you ask to go off the record first.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Maybe you missed this part, "It’s said that on several occasions, Trump asked to speak off the record, including during the instance in which he wanted to show reporters the letter from Jong-un."

Gil Aegerter's picture

Better read the transcript.

William Howell's picture

I know if I write my opinion on this, I’m gonna tons of 1 star reviews, but here goes: if a photojournalist or any journalist, if you agree to go off the record, but continue to surreptitiously to photograph, then that person isn’t a journalist any longer. He or she is a ratfink.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Why would you get 1 star reviews and why would you even care? You are right. The Dipshit was asked not to do something, he did it anyway. Just because it's Mr Orange going off at him it makes this 'news'?

If he was asked after the event not to make a photo, it's even less newsworthy. Just delete the photo, get a bollocking from all concerned, end of story.

Non news event anyway.

William Howell's picture

Oh hell no, I don’t give a sh!t about the one star reviews, I actually take pride in them!
I agree with you, maybe the photojournalist made a boo-boo, like you said, delete the picture, you aint got no problem.

It is a news event because it is the President of the USA disclosing information to the press and then censoring their ability to report on it.

Not showing sensitive information to the press is one thing, but showing it to them and threatening them with jail time if they report on it is another thing.

Kawika Lopez's picture

Aaaaaaaand queue the completely unrelated political debate...

Logan Cressler's picture

Nothing new here. Governments keep secrets. Governments are well within the legal right to keep some information that is pertinent to national security secret from the public. Anyone who questions this has no idea how the military works. The saying "loose lips sink ships" is there for a reason. Secrets must be kept for national security. If the Government says you cannot take pictures of something, you can try to be brave, but they will win most all the time.

The main mistake here is letting a photographer have access to something that was supposed to be secret. So everyone can whine and complain, but the executive branches only poor decision from what I see (from a clearly terrible article with no actual information in it), was letting someone even near the document without security clearance and a camera.

Fact is, go try to walk into area 51 and try to take pictures. That is the last time anyone will hear from you. Tout the constitution all you want, but they will most certainly imprison you, take your equipment, and if you are lucky, you will never get it back, and it is all perfectly legal.

How about everyone put aside their opinions for a second and actually look at the law, regardless of what you think should be. Most of these comments are the absolute definition of stupidity and ignorance.

Dave Dundas's picture

Fact is that's a terrible analogy. I'm guessing you've never been to Area 51. There are things there they don't want you to see. So you don't get in, and you have no opportunity to take pictures of things you shouldn't, because, unlike the President, they don't wave those things in front of your camera in the first place. There was no reason for him to produce any actual piece of paper at all. But then again, we already know he doesn't know how to keep State secrets either, so... *shrug* (image is mine, of the back gate at Area 51)

Logan Cressler's picture

"The main mistake here is letting a photographer have access to something that was supposed to be secret. So everyone can whine and complain, but the executive branches only poor decision from what I see (from a clearly terrible article with no actual information in it), was letting someone even near the document without security clearance and a camera."

You must have missed that bit so I copied and pasted it again.

bluerhino's picture

I don't think they missed the point, I believe they willfully ignored it to be confrontational. Seems like a common theme on articles like this.

I support the president and even I think that showing the paper to the reporter was dumb. He literally talks about how the media cant be trusted and he goes and shows them this stuff anyway.

Dave Dundas's picture

I didn't ignore or miss that part of your post. I didn't even address it. I merely pointed out that your analogy with Area-51 doesn't work on any level because they would never be foolish enough to wave something in front of you that they didn't want you to see in the first place. That would be stupid.

Ergo, proximate cause here, was Trump waving that piece of paper completely unnecessarily in front of a bunch of professional photographers, as if that conveys some sort of added authority or credibility to his words. It doesn't, and no one would argue otherwise. I do agree though, that if the photographer was told beforehand that this was off the record, he shouldn't have tried to take that picture, however, there seems to be conflicting news reports as to whether he was told before, or after, he attempted to take that picture. Yes, the White House is saying he was told before, but, after so many lies coming from there in the last couple of years, I don't consider that to be the last word on the issue. Any more than I expected them to be telling the truth when they said some reporter from CNN hit a staffer who was trying to get the mic at a press conference, and continued to claim that, even after there was video of the incident showing their claims were not true.

michaeljin's picture

Despite my rather negative view of Trump, "off the record" means "off the record" and if you have agreed to it, then be a man and abide by your word.

Ryan Ringstad's picture

He has waged war on the press, and routinely refers to it as the "enemy of the people" and then he gets upset when a member of the press isn't courteous of his "off the record" request?!?
Give me a fucking break.
He has manipulated the formalities of the press such as off-the-record to his advantage for years... if you're going to declare war on a group of people don't act outraged when they fight back.

This is exactly what members of the press SHOULD be doing. Their jobs aren't a courtesy to the president, he has his own PR wing & campaign staff for that. Trump is not a normal politican, or president the same rules that applied before should no longer apply when he is openly attacking the press' ability to perform it's core function - telling the truth to the public.

Studio 403's picture

Good deal Mr President, I would not put him in Jail, but send him to ethics school for his conduct

Rob Mitchell's picture

The school that Trump failed to graduate from? ;)

Studio 403's picture

Notable, thanks

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