WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump offered a scattershot response to the sweeping protests against his new administration that followed his inauguration, both sarcastically undermining the events and defending the rights of the demonstrators over the course of about 90 minutes on Sunday morning.
“Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly,” tweeted Trump, at 7:51 am.
Ninety-five minutes later, he struck a far more conciliatory tone.
“Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views,” the president tweeted at 9:26 am.
While Trump has said that he considers Monday his first real day in office, his discordant reaction underscored that the new president has little intention of changing the defiant approach that defined his campaign – particularly when it comes to the media and those who oppose him.
The dueling tweets marked his administration’s first response to the more than one million people who rallied at women’s marches in Washington and cities across the world. Hundreds of protesters lined the street as Trump’s motorcade drove past on Saturday afternoon, many screaming and chanting at the president.
The rally in Washington appeared to attract more people than attended Trump’s inauguration on Friday, but there were no comparable numbers.
Even suggestions of weak enthusiasm for his inauguration clearly irked the new president.
Trump spent his first full day in office berating the media over their coverage of his inauguration, using a bridge-building visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday to air grievances about “dishonest” journalists and wildly overstating the size of the crowd that gathered on the National Mall as he took the oath of office.
Trump said throngs “went all the way back to the Washington monument,” despite photos and live video showing the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.
In Sunday morning interviews, top advisers defended Trump’s anger at journalists for correctly reporting that his inauguration drew a smaller crowd President Barack Obama did eight years ago.
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump was trying to keep the media “honest” when they levied charges of false reporting the day before.
“There is an obsession by the media to delegitimize this president and we are not going to sit around and let it happen,” Priebus said.
Aides also made clear that Trump will not release his tax returns now that he’s taken office, breaking with a decades-long tradition of transparency. Every president since 1976 has released their returns.
Throughout the campaign, Trump refused to make his filings public, saying they’re under audit by the Internal Revenue Service and he’d release them only once that review is complete. Tax experts and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said such audits don’t bar taxpayers from releasing their returns.
“He’s not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
The president plans to spend Sunday engaged in more routine matters, like overseeing the swearing in of high-level staffers.
On the second full day of his administration, Trump will see the “assistants to the president” sworn in, according to his press secretary, Sean Spicer. He’ll also hold a reception for law enforcement officers and first responders who helped with his inauguration as he celebrates his 12th wedding anniversary.
White House staffers are scheduled to have a briefing on ethics and another on the proper use and handling of classified information as they begin to make themselves comfortable in their new White House offices.
Priebus said Trump would spend his first full week in office undoing some of his predecessor’s agenda and planned to sign executive orders on immigration and trade. Priebus did not provide specifics but during the campaign, Trump vowed to scuttle trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and Obama’s executive order deferring deportations for 700,000 people who were brought into the country illegally as minors.
Later this week, he’ll address congressional Republicans at their retreat in Philadelphia and meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May.