President Trump's First Stops: National Cathedral And CIA
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to hear more about the marches and reaction to the inauguration of President Donald Trump later in the program. Now to Donald Trump's first full day as president. He attended an interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral. That's something of a tradition for newly sworn in presidents. What Donald Trump did next is not so traditional. He visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. That's being seen as an olive branch to the U.S. intelligence community because in the past, President Trump has criticized them.
But Trump's message was eclipsed by his campaign-style rhetoric and exaggerations about the crowd at yesterday's inauguration. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now to tell us more. Scott, thank you for joining us. Scott, are you with us? Scott Horsley?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Yes. Hi, Michel. Good to be with you.
MARTIN: Hi, so - good to be with you, too. So let's start with the tension between Donald Trump and the intelligence community. The president insists he is not feuding with the intelligence community, but is he?
HORSLEY: Well, he certainly was, and this dates back to at least October when the director of national intelligence along with the secretary of Homeland Security went public with their findings that the highest levels of the Russian government were trying to interfere with the U.S. election. Trump disputed that argument and his protest got even louder after the election when the CIA and others said publicly Russia wasn't just trying to muddy the waters. It was actively trying to help Trump.
Now, the new president and his team repeatedly challenged that finding as an attempt to de-legitimize his election. There was also fallout with the dossier of unsubstantiated claims about Trump, which both he and former President Obama were briefed on and which Trump then suggested had been leaked to the media by the intelligence community. So there is some real friction for the new president to smooth over here. Although, Trump said today this is all just a media creation.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am with you 1,000 percent, and the reason you're my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.
MARTIN: OK. So the president - and I should also mention the vice president - made this trip out to Langley. They met with hundreds of CIA employees, sounds like they were warmly greeted. But could you tell us a little bit more about the setting?
HORSLEY: Yeah. Vice President Pence and the president spoke to CIA employees while they were standing in front of a memorial wall that honors CIA agents who've given their lives in the line of duty. And Pence took the opportunity to stress that he and Trump really recognize the sacrifices that the men and women of the intelligence community make for their country. Now, Trump gave a nod to that, and he spoke briefly about his nominee to head the CIA, Congressman Mike Pompeo, who could be confirmed on Monday.
But then, as he so often does, Trump turned the conversation around to his own successful presidential campaign. He said probably everybody in this room voted for me, and then he took another dig at the news media saying reporters had been understating the size of the crowd that watched his inauguration yesterday.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TRUMP: But we had a massive field of people. You saw that - packed. I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I said, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was - it looked like a million, a million and a half people.
MARTIN: Now, Scott, it is always difficult and politically fraught to estimate crowd sizes for large, public events. That's why government agencies don't do it anymore. But it does sound as though Donald Trump is inflating the size of the crowd by a considerable margin.
HORSLEY: Well, that's right, and his secretary doubled down on that this evening. Just a short time ago, Sean Spicer came into the briefing room at the White House and insisted to reporters this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period - both in person and around the globe. Now, let's face it. Trump drew a very respectable crowd for his swearing in yesterday, but it was smaller than the crowd that former President Obama drew in 2009. And it appears to be well below the million to million and a half people that Donald Trump himself was citing here.
And I point this out because this is something Trump did throughout the campaign - exaggerating the size of his rally crowds which were large crowds anyway. It's also something he's done throughout his business career - exaggerating the height of his buildings and the size of his profits.
Trump has explained this as harmless puffery, an innocent form of exaggeration. And it may be, but it is striking to hear him inventing facts in the headquarters of the CIA, an agency he will be depending on as commander in chief to get its facts straight.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks so much.
HORSLEY: My pleasure.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.