Sunday 28 May 2017

Donald Trump attacks media reports of small inauguration crowds

Donald Trump was annoyed by media claims about the size of the National Mall crowds for his inauguration (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Donald Trump was annoyed by media claims about the size of the National Mall crowds for his inauguration (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Donald Trump marked his first full day in office by attacking the media over its coverage of his inauguration and of his comments about the US intelligence agencies.

He was defensive about the size of the crowds for his swearing-in ceremony on Friday, even as an apparently larger number of people took part in a protest against him.

And on a visit to the CIA headquarters he blamed any suggestion of a "feud" on the media.

Mr Trump wrongly claimed that the inaugural throngs on the National Mall stretched "all the way back to the Washington Monument".

Photos and video clearly showed the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.

Mr Trump's visit to Langley, Virginia, t ook place as women, many of them wearing bright pink, pointy-eared hats, descended on the nation's capital and other cities around the world for marches organised against the new president.

Hundreds of protesters lined the motorcade route as Mr Trump sped back to the White House, many screaming and chanting at the president.

The Washington rally alone attracted more than 500,000 people by the unofficial estimate of city officials. It appeared to be more people than attended Mr Trump's inauguration on Friday, but there were no comparable numbers.

The city did not release an estimate for the inauguration and the National Park Service does not provide crowd counts.

During his remarks at the CIA, the president claimed the inaugural crowds topped 1 million people, offering no evidence.

Suggestions that weak enthusiasm accompanied his inauguration clearly angered the new president.

Shortly after his remarks, he sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to the White House briefing room to aggressively reinforce the message.

"There's been a lot of talk in the media about holding Donald Trump accountable. And I'm here to tell you that it goes two ways. We're going to hold the press accountable as well," Mr Spicer said in his first on-camera appearance at the White House.

At Langley, s tanding in front of a memorial for fallen CIA agents, Mr Trump assured intelligence officials: "I am so behind you."

He made no mention of his repeated criticism of the intelligence agencies following the election, including his public challenges to their high-confidence assessment that Russia meddled in the White House race to help him win.

"There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and CIA than Donald Trump," he said.

The decision to travel to CIA headquarters so quickly after taking office was seen as an attempt at a fresh start with the intelligence agencies he will now rely on for guidance as he makes tough national security decisions.

High-level CIA brass stood largely silent during Mr Trump's remarks, though some of the roughly 400 other officers in attendance cheered on the president as he spoke.

The inaugural celebrations have been marred by reports that the CIA and other agencies are investigating Russian interference in the presidential election on behalf of Mr Trump.

Mr Trump and Mr Spicer both also criticised a Time magazine reporter for incorrectly reporting on Friday that Mr Trump had moved a bust of Martin Luther King Jr out of the Oval Office.

But Mr Trump followed with a misstatement of his own, saying the reporter had not corrected the mistake. In fact, the item was quickly retracted.

Saturday marked the end of three days of inaugural celebrations, with Mr Trump and his family attending a national prayer service traditionally held for the new president.

The president and his wife, Melania, and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, sat in a front pew at Washington National Cathedral for the morning service.

AP

Press Association

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