Still, U.S. officials acknowledge that they were outmaneuvered by their Russian counterparts, at least on the photographers, and “got rolled,” in the words of one.

The images selected by Tass showed Trump, Lavrov and Kislyak laughing, as if telling jokes or engaging in backslapping banter. The White House later released three pictures depicting a more serious exchange between Trump and Lavrov, but not until after the Russian photos circulated widely on social media.

“All of those photos that the Russians released of them all standing around laughing — this is the country that just violated our sovereignty, just interfered in our presidential election,” said Michael McFaul, a U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama. “It sends a signal, unfortunately, that Trump doesn’t care about that.”

Weiss said, “The photos of people yukking it up in the Oval Office gave a sense that there’s nothing wrong with U.S.-Russia relations, we’re all pals.”