– The New York Times.
WASHINGTON — President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.
In a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency intended to showcase his support for the intelligence community, Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago.
He also called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.
Later, at the White House, he dispatched Sean Spicer, the press secretary, to the briefing room in the West Wing, where Mr. Spicer scolded reporters and made a series of false statements.
He said news organizations had deliberately misstated the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump’s inauguration on Friday in an attempt to sow divisions at a time when Mr. Trump was trying to unify the country, warning that the new administration would hold them to account.
Instead, the president and his team appeared embattled and defensive, signaling that the pugnacious style Mr. Trump employed as a candidate will persist now that he has ascended to the nation’s highest office.
Saturday was supposed to be a day for Mr. Trump to mend fences with the intelligence community, with an appearance at the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Langley, Va. While he was lavish in his praise, the president focused in his 15-minute speech on his complaints about news coverage of his criticism of the nation’s spy agencies, and meandered to other topics, including the crowd size at his inauguration, his level of political support, his mental age and his intellectual heft.
“I just want to let you know, I am so behind you,” Mr. Trump told more than 300 employees assembled in the lobby for his remarks.
In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has questioned the intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia meddled in the United States election on his behalf. After the disclosure of a dossier with unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Trump, he accused the intelligence community of allowing the leak and wrote on Twitter, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
On Saturday, he said journalists were responsible for any suggestion that he was not fully supportive of intelligence agencies’ work.
“I have a running war with the media,” Mr. Trump said. “They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, and they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.”
“The reason you’re the No. 1 stop is, it is exactly the opposite,” Mr. Trump added. “I love you, I respect you, there’s nobody I respect more.”
“We caught them in a beauty,” Mr. Trump said of the news media, “and I think they’re going to pay a big price.”
Mr. Spicer said that Mr. Trump had drawn “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” a statement that photographs clearly show to be false. Mr. Spicer said photographs of the inaugural ceremonies were deliberately framed “to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” although he provided no proof of either assertion.
Photographs of Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and of Mr. Trump’s plainly showed that the crowd on Friday was significantly smaller, but Mr. Spicer attributed that disparity to new white ground coverings he said had caused empty areas to stand out and to security measures that had blocked people from entering the Mall.
“These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,” Mr. Spicer said. He also admonished a journalist for erroneously reporting on Friday that Mr. Trump had removed a bust of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office, calling the mistake — which was corrected quickly — “egregious.”
And he incorrectly claimed that ridership on Washington’s subway system was higher than on Inauguration Day in 2013. In reality, there were 782,000 riders that year, compared with 571,000 riders this year, according to figures from the Washington-area transit authority.
Mr. Spicer also said that security measures had been extended farther down the National Mall this year, preventing “hundreds of thousands of people” from viewing the ceremony. But the Secret Service said the measures were largely unchanged this year, and there were few reports of long lines or delays.
Commentary about the size of his inauguration crowd made Mr. Trump increasingly angry on Friday, according to several people familiar with his thinking.