While more than 2.5 million people around the world demonstrated in opposition to his inauguration on Saturday, President Donald Trump traveled to Langley, Virginia, to deliver an address to the CIA.
The speech represented an important opportunity for Trump to try and build a positive relationship with an intelligence community he’s feuded with throughout the presidential transition. In response to a trickle of leaks and public reports about the intelligence community’s findings regarding Russian interference in the presidential election on his behalf, Trump has repeatedly maligned their work. After the Washington Post reported last month that the CIA had told U.S. senators it is “quite clear” Russia used cyberattacks to help Trump, the then-president-elect released a statement describing the CIA as “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
Trump later compared leaks from intelligence officials about Russian meddling to the behavior of officials in Nazi Germany.
But instead of outlining a vision for the CIA on Saturday, Trump briefly praised his nomination for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), hinted that he wants to bring back torture — “We haven’t used the abilities we’ve got. We’ve been restrained,” Trump said—vowed to rid the world of ISIS, and then pivoted to bashing the media for reporting on how small his inauguration crowd was.
“I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest humans being on earth,” Trump said, dismissing reports about his feud with the intelligence community. He then turned to reports about inauguration attendance.
“We had a massive field of people — you saw that, packed,” Trump said. “I get up this morning, and I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field.”
“I made a speech, I looked out, the field — it looked like a million, a million and a half people,” Trump continued. “They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there… and it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that’s not bad, but it’s a lie.”
Trump went on to claim that the National Mall was packed all the way back to the Washington Monument. But photos indicate that was nowhere near the case.
And even if Trump thinks it’s a “lie,” the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies says that about 250,000 tickets were distributed for his inauguration.
In all, Trump devoted nearly one-third of his roughly 16 minute speech to bashing the media. He declined to mention that, as he was speaking, about 500,000 people were marching in the streets of D.C. in opposition to him — about twice as many as turned out for his inauguration.
Trump treated the speech like a campaign rally. While some of his lines generated applause, journalists who attended the event at Langley reported that “when Trump began drifting into the more political sections of his speech… the [CIA] senior leadership remained stoic, and did not applaud.”