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Trump brings campaign combativeness to White House

Donald Trump spoke about “a running war with the media” and accused it of wrongly reporting he had a feud with the CIA.

world Updated: Jan 26, 2017 08:44 IST
Yashwant Raj
US President Donald Trump with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus during a swearing-in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington on Sunday.
US President Donald Trump with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus during a swearing-in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington on Sunday.(REUTERS)

US presidents have often struggled to transition to their new role and Donald Trump is no exception, bringing to the White House the same combativeness regarding the media and obsession with turnouts that he displayed as a candidate during the election.

Standing at a wall honouring CIA men and women killed in line of duty, Trump spoke on Saturday about “a running war with the media” and accused it of wrongly reporting he had a feud with the intelligence community, when he was “1,000% with you”.

He then complained about media underreporting the turnout at his inauguration. Citing one network, he said: “it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that's not bad, but it's a lie.” More than a million people had showed up, he falsely claimed.

On Twitter later, he boasted about TV ratings for the inauguration. “Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!”

But the fact is that was President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. His first, in 2009, was watched by 38 million people. Trump doesn’t like inconvenient numbers. As a candidate he stopped touting his poll number whenever he was trailing.

But continuing his campaign trail behaviour is worrying aides and advisers who had urged him to move on, according to news reports, but he did not and directed his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to double down on it, which he did.

He complained angrily about an “irresponsible and reckless” tweet from a reporter, a photograph “intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimise” the turnout and tweets with “Inaccurate numbers involving crowd size”.

Spicer’s diatribe was widely seen as a sign of things to come, of an administration constantly at odds with the press, not only published or aired reports but also about tweets and social media postings, with the White House closely tuned in.

The press secretary had also sought to discredit reports about the massive turnout at the Women’s March on Saturday that, by all accounts, had surpassed the inauguration from the previous day, arguing authorities had not put out a count.

Trump invites Netanyahu

President Trump spoke on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and invited him to a meeting early February, according to a White House statement.

The two leaders discussed “ways to advance and strengthen the US-Israel special relationship, and security and stability in the Middle East”.

“The President emphasised that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal.”

Trump has begun engaging with world leaders and is scheduled to receive his first foreign head of government, US Prime Minister Teresa May, this Friday,