NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND - An apparent anti-Trump prankster handed out Russian flags with the word "Trump" emblazoned on them prior to President Donald Trump's speech Friday to a meeting of political conservatives near Washington.
Organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference confiscated the red-white-and-blue flags once they realized what they signified, but not before several reporters posted notes on social media about the incident.
Crowd at CPAC waving these little pro-Trump flags that look exactly like the Russian flag. Staffers quickly come around to confiscate them. pic.twitter.com/YhPpkwFCNc— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) February 24, 2017
Trump and several of his top aides have addressed the CPAC group's annual meeting. Organizers of the event sent people through the large hall to collect the Trump-branded Russian flags, and accounts from the scene said anyone who refused to hand over the tokens was threatened with expulsion.
A comment on Trump's relationship with Putin
The fake flags apparently were intended to satirize Trump's friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president spoke out in favor of Putin's leadership of his country many times during the U.S. election campaign, and since last month has said he hopes that relations between Moscow and Washington can improve.
U.S. intelligence officials have reported that Russia interfered in America's presidential election campaign, by computer hacking attacks and other means, in an attempt to disrupt American democratic processes. That effort eventually morphed into a campaign to help Trump become president, the intelligence community concluded.
'Man in a suit' handed out flags
The website Mediaite described the person who distributed the Russian flags at the CPAC meeting as “a young man in a suit,” and no further details of his identity have emerged.
At the conservative political conference, Tyler Dever, a member of the audience, told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times that the man handed him flags and asked Dever to start passing them down to others in his row of seats.
“Someone tried to victimize me,” Dever said. Referring to the security agents present at any presidential appearance, he added: “You have Secret Service out here, and I'd expect [the meeting hall] to be fully screened. ... Thank God someone noticed.”
A VOA reporter covering the CPAC meeting at a convention center just outside the nation's capital managed to obtain and keep one of the flags, which were embossed with "TRUMP" in large gold letters.