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Press Secretary turns amiable after angry start

It was an extraordinary turnaround. After a combative first meeting with the press on Saturday, Donald Trump’s Press Secretary seemed to be offering an olive branch.

The briefing room was filling up three hours before Sean Spicer even took to the floor – and journalists from around the world jockeyed for a seat or some floor space.

After he gave the press a dressing down over the weekend, accusing them of deliberately misleading people over the numbers at the inauguration, some wondered if they would even get access to the briefing.

But many did. The Press Secretary took questions and answered them efficiently – taking more than one question from some reporters, and acknowledging when he did not know the answers.

“I’ll stay as long as you like,” he said at one point, which was met with laughter from the audience.


Sean Spicer gives a daily press briefing on 23 January, 2017
Video:
White House: We can always be closer with UK

Mr Spicer appeared more at ease with the assembled press than he did at the weekend.

He started with a quip – telling reporters he had contacted Barack Obama’s former spokesman Josh Earnest, who was recently voted the most popular press secretary by the press corps.

“I shot Josh an email last night letting him know that he can rest easy that his title is secure for at least the next few days,” Mr Spicer told the media.

I asked him why British Prime Minister Theresa May is the first foreign leader that President Trump agreed to meet, and whether it was a sign of the President’s intention to have a closer relationship.

He replied: “We’ve always been close, but we can always be closer.”

Mr Spicer did not offer any detail on what a US/UK trade deal might look like, or how long it might take, but it was a nod to a continued closeness for now.


President Trump attacks the media while speaking at the headquarters of the CIA.
Video:
When Trump got it wrong… and right

When questioned about claims the inauguration audience was larger than any in history, he doubled down – citing the online audience.

But he openly conceded that the Trump administration may issue incorrect information.

Like journalists, he said: “We should have the right to correct the record.”

Many viewers may have some sympathy for that line of thought – but when it comes to foreign policy or security, the stakes are high.

He fielded questions on Islamic State, immigration and the right of protesters to demonstrate.


Pictures of crowds from another angle were shown as Sean Spicer criticised the media
Video:
Saturday: Spicer’s fury at inauguration claims

It was a lengthy, wide-ranging exchange, but one ultimately short on detail.

As he said frequently: “It is only Day One.”

It’s unclear if he has hit the reset button on Mr Trump’s relationship with the press, but it was at least a cessation of hostilities.

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