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Trump inauguration crowd photos were edited at his request

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A combination of photos shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies of Donald Trump, left, and Barack Obama. These pictures were taken by Reuters, and were not the edited NPS images. (Photo by Reuters)

The official pictures of Donald Trump’s inauguration were edited to make the crowd size appear larger than its actual size after the president was unhappy with how the event looked in photos, newly released documents show.

The edition was done by a government photographer following the direct request by Trump on the first morning of his presidency, according to investigative reports released to The Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act by the inspector general of the US interior department.

Trump made the request after he saw comparisons of his own inauguration crowd with that of former President Barack Obama.

According to The Guardian, Trump contacted then-acting National Park Service Director Michael Reynolds, with White House press secretary Sean Spicer dispatching repeated calls to NPS in order to get a different set of photos.

The photographer cropped the areas where there were almost nobody to make it look like that the crowd filled the frame.

It was unclear from the records, however, which photographs were edited and whether they were released publicly.

Also, it is not clear who did the edition because no one said they were ordered to crop photos, however, accounts from multiple people involved in the day appeared to say that they presumed the new photographs had to be edited.

One park service communications official told investigators that Reynolds had called her after speaking with the president and ordered up more photographs.

She said “she got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd” because the images already released showed “a lot of empty areas.”

A second official, from the NPS public affairs department, told investigators that Spicer contacted her office and demanded pictures that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size.”

In this official’s view, Spicer’s request amounted to “a request for NPS to provide photographs in which it appeared the inauguration crowd filled the majority of the space in the photograph.”

The original photos were symptomatic of the first self-inflicted crisis of Trump’s presidency, when his White House claimed he had attracted the largest ever inauguration audience.

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