The controversy surrounding the size of the crowd at President Donald Trump’s inauguration has spilled into the confirmation hearing of one of his White House nominees.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley asked Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s pick to run the Office of Management and Budget, to weigh in on the debate over who had the bigger inauguration crowd — former President Barack Obama or Trump.
Merkley brought in a blown-up side-by-side shot of Obama’s 2009 inauguration and Trump’s inauguration last week.
Merkley noted that Sen. Tom Cotton said at the beginning of the Budget Committee hearing that Mulvaney is “a bold truth teller.”
“I have behind me two pictures that were taken at about the same time of day in 2009 and 2017,” Merkley said. “Which crowd is larger, the 2009 crowd or the 2017 crowd?”
Despite saying he wasn’t “really sure how this ties to OMB,” Mulvaney answered the question.
“From that picture, it does appear that the crowd on the left-hand side is bigger than the crowd on the right-hand side,” he said. The picture on the left of the side-by-side shot was of Obama’s inauguration.
Trump and his team have been arguing with the media over crowd size for days.
There are no official government estimates of the audience for Trump’s inauguration, but photographic evidence comparing his event to past inaugurations and DC metro ridership statistics suggested that the number was far lower than the White House claimed.
But White House officials have refused to acknowledge publicly that Trump made factual inaccuracies or exaggerations.
During a brief appearance Saturday evening, White House press secretary Sean Spicer criticised some media outlets’ coverage of the inauguration, making the false claim that Friday had the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” And during a visit to CIA headquarters in Virginia on Saturday, Trump asserted that more than a million people attended Friday’s inauguration, though independent estimates put the crowd at closer to 250,000 attendees.
Maxwell Tani contributed to this report.
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