President Donald Trump requested photos of his inauguration crowd to make the attendance look bigger, suggested an Inspector General of the U.S. Interior report released to The Guardian newspaper this week.
The report, released to the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, detailed acting National Parks Service Michael Reynolds responding to a call from Trump and then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to another parks official on Jan. 21, 2017, in search of more flattering photos of the inauguration crowd.
The incident marked the first of numerous controversies the Trump administration would have with the press after Spicer proclaimed that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest ever.
Experts told the Washington Post that they estimated the 2017 inauguration crowd to about one-third of President Barack Obama’s 2009 crowd, but the National Parks Service did not give a crowds estimate.
Spicer told National Public Radio in July that he regretted the combative tone that time set with the press and he responded to Trump’s frustration over coverage of photo comparisons of the crowd with Obama’s.
The inspector general’s report, which was released last June, wrote that Trump spoke to Reynolds the day after the inauguration, when comparison photos were floating on the internet, according to The Guardian.
A parks service communication official, whose name was redacted from the report, received a call from Reynolds and stated that Trump wanted inauguration photos, the newspaper stated.
“She got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd,” the report stated, according to The Guardian. She said in the report that the pictures released showed “a lot of empty areas.”
Another official said in the inspector general’s report that Spicer called Jan. 21 requesting photos that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size,” which the official took to mean pictures where vacant areas were filled in, the newspaper noted.
The inauguration photographer, whose name was also redacted in the report, edited out sky and cropped the bottom of photos, doing “so to show that there had been more of a crowd,” according to the report.
The photographer told investigators he believed that was what an NPS official had “wanted him to do” but that the official “had not specifically asked him to crop the photographs to show more of a crowd,” the report noted, per The Guardian.
The inspector general’s report grew from a 2017 complaint that park officials attempted to damage the Trump administration by leaking photos of Trump’s inauguration compared with Obama’s, the newspaper stated.