In Depth

Trump inauguration photos edited to make crowd look larger

Newly-released documents reveal White House staffers intervened to obtain new photos of the event

Following a personal request from President Trump a US government photographer edited official pictures of his inauguration to make the crowd appear larger, according to newly released files.

US Department of the Interior records show President Trump requested a new set of pictures from the inauguration the next day in a phone call with the director of the National Park Service (NPS), Michael Reynolds.

The documents, obtained by The Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that an NPS official was then contacted by Reynolds. The official got the impression that “President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd”, she told investigators.

Trump’s then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer also called the NPS looking for pictures from the inauguration that were “more flattering to the president”, reports Newsweek.

One official told investigators Spicer’s comments 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”.

Later that day Spicer gave a now-notorious press briefing at the White House in which he falsely stated: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period.”

More recently, Spicer suggested that he had made a miscalculation. In an interview with The Washington Post, he said: “I think that what I was trying to do, and clearly not well, was change the focus from the number of people attending it to focus on the total audience that had watched it, and I thought we were on much safer ground there than trying to focus on the number of people on different areas of the National Mall here in Washington. I did not clearly do a very good job of that.”

Though the new documents released do not explicitly state that the president personally requested the photographs be edited , they say that the official “assumed that the new pictures requested by the president needed to be cropped and got in touch with the photographer”.

Following these requests, the photographer said he “edited the inauguration photographs to make them look more symmetrical by cropping out the sky and cropping out the bottom where the crowd ended. He said he did so to show that there had been more of a crowd,” the documents state.

The documents said the photographer believed the cropping was what the official “had wanted him to do”, but that the official “had not specifically asked him to crop the photographs to show more of a crowd”.

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