Posted On 04 Jul 2019
President Donald Trump touted his upcoming military-style Fourth of July event Thursday, which he claimed will be “one of the biggest celebrations” in U.S. history.
“Be there early,” the president said in a tweet Thursday morning.
His “Salute to America” event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington is set for Thursday evening, with Trump scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m.
He tweeted that the event will include “large scale flyovers of the most modern and advanced aircraft anywhere in the World,” and teased that “perhaps even Air Force One will do a low & loud sprint over the crowd” ahead his speech.
“People are coming from far and wide to join us today and tonight for what is turning out to be one of the biggest celebrations in the history of our Country, SALUTE TO AMERICA,” he said.
The president’s military display will also include performances by The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Band, the Armed Forces Chorus, the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Tanks are already in place on the National Mall.
The event has drawn concerns from Democrats and critics who say the president is inserting himself into a national holiday and could turn the celebration into a campaign rally. Others, like retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, have said they are worried about the appearance of politicizing the military.
“Whenever you kind of array the U.S. military as a backdrop, and then you make a speech in front of them, what everybody, every military person is hoping, is that that speech will not be political, will not be partisan, that it really will be a speech of unity and talk about patriotic values,” Stavridis said on MSNBC Thursday morning.
Campaigning in Nevada Wednesday, 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said, “Donald Trump is handing out tickets to his big donors, that’s a campaign event.”
“And if he is going to do a campaign event, then it should be paid for by his campaign contributions. It should not be paid for by the American taxpayer,” she added.
Two Trump campaign officials told NBC News Thursday that the “Salute to America” would not be documented for future campaign ads or video, calling it “entirely an official White House event.”
However, those officials acknowledged some campaign staff could be in attendance — off the clock.
“Some campaign staff may be attending as spectators because we received tickets as a courtesy, much like for the Easter Egg Roll or White House garden tours,” one campaign official said, referring to annual traditions that take place at the White House.
Meanwhile, Trump’s 2020 campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh dismissed complaints that the president is co-opting the Independence Day event for political purposes.
“President Trump loves this country. He’s not going to apologize for that,” Murtaugh said.
There have also been concerns about the cost. According to The Washington Post, the National Park Service is diverting roughly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees from parks around the county to cover the tab for Trump’s event.
The diverted fees, however, represent just a fraction of the total cost, which remains unclear. In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump downplayed the cost, writing: “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth.
“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., another White House hopeful, contended Thursday that the money would be better spent elsewhere.
“I think we need money to go into affordable housing, I think we need money to go into rebuilding our infrastructure,” Sanders said after he finished walking a parade route in Slater, Iowa. “I’m not quite sure we need money to go into put tanks in downtown Washington, D.C.”