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Trump pressured parks chief for photos to prove 'media lied' about inauguration crowd – report

The Guardian logo The Guardian 27/01/2017 Sam Levin in San Francisco
Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd, left, and Barack Obama’s inauguration crowd. © Reuters Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd, left, and Barack Obama’s inauguration crowd.

Donald Trump ordered the National Park Service director to produce additional photographs of his inauguration crowds, believing the images “might prove that the media had lied” about the size of the audience, according to the Washington Post. 

In a Saturday phone call, the president told Michael Reynolds, acting NPS director, that he wanted to see more photos because he thought they could show that the attendance at his Friday swearing-in ceremonies at the National Mall was above average, three sources with knowledge of the conversation told the Post.

Parks spokesman Tom Crosson told the Guardian in an email on Thursday night, “I can confirm the call happened ... but I’m not discussing the content of the call.” 

The account from the Post comes as reports in the first week of Trump’s administration have repeatedly suggested that the president has been obsessed with the flurry of news stories that accurately pointed out that the inauguration had a noticeably smaller crowd than the equivalent event in 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn in.

In pictures: The inauguration of Donald Trump In his first conference as press secretary for the White House, Sean Spicer angrily accused journalists of misreporting the crowd size in an effort “to minimize the enormous support that gathered on the National Mall”. Aerial photos showed that Trump had a smaller crowd than Obama, and the Women’s March protests on Saturday also clearly attracted a larger group.

In the phone call with Reynolds, who did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment, Trump also expressed anger about the NPS Twitter account retweeting an image of side-by-side photographs comparing the 2009 and 2017 events, the Post reported.

In his first week, Trump also reportedly banned numerous federal agencies from “providing updates on social media or to reporters” with a de facto gag order that sparked widespread concern about censorship and government transparency.

The Department of the Interior’s social media privileges were also briefly suspended after the NPS retweet, which the agency later deleted before issuing a short apology.

On Tuesday, an official Twitter account for Badlands National Park in South Dakota tweeted in defiance of Trump, offering a series of facts on climate change. Those tweets were also later deleted. 

The climate change social media campaign appeared to spread on Wednesday when Death Valley, Golden Gate and Redwood national parks all published tweets that appeared to be defying Trump’s agenda.

The White House did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Thursday night.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Post that the call with Reynolds simply demonstrated that Trump’s management style is to be “so accessible, and constantly in touch”, adding: “He’s not somebody who sits around and waits. He takes action and gets things done.”

On Saturday, Trump also gave a controversial speech at a CIA memorial, in which he talked about the size of his inauguration crowd and slammed the “dishonest” media.

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