One of Donald Trump’s first obsessions in office was the size of his inauguration crowd.
Trump famously sent then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer into the press briefing room to slam media reports that he had drawn fewer spectators than President Barack Obama during his first inauguration in 2009.
In an interview with George Stephanopolous on Sunday night, former FBI director James Comey said the topic even came up at a private dinner he had with Trump that the president said not even then-chief-of-staff Reince Priebus knew about.
“It was him talking almost the entire time, which I’ve discovered is something he frequently does. And so it would be monologue in this direction, monologue in that direction, monologue in a different direction. And a constant series of assertions that ― about the inauguration crowd, about how great my inauguration speech was, about all the free media,” Comey said. “…On and on and on and on. Everyone agrees, everyone agrees, I did this, the ― I never assaulted these women, I never made fun of a reporter. And ― I’m sure you’re wondering what question did I ask that would prompt those? None, zero. I didn’t ask any questions that I recall.”
The dinner was an uncomfortable affair, but Comey was particularly struck by Trump’s tendency to lie.
“And then later in the same meal, near the end, he says, ‘Reince knows we’re having dinner, so follow-up with Reince.’ Just ― so one of those things is not true. One of those things is a lie, but it reminded me of the inauguration crowd thing. Right, that it’s ― his inauguration crowd was bigger than that Barack Obama’s first inauguration. That’s just not true. That’s not a perspective, that’s not a view, that’s just a lie. And ― and yet he would say it.”
Trump even told falsehoods about his inauguration crowd size in public.
“It looked like a million, a million and a half people,” Trump said during a speech at CIA headquarters shortly after the inauguration. He claimed his crowd “went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”
Spicer later told The New York Times he “absolutely” regretted criticizing the media for accurate reporting on Trump’s inauguration crowd size.