Trump plans another ‘Salute to America’ July 4 event, despite pandemic

Military aircraft fly over the National Mall as President Donald J. Trump, addresses his remarks at the Salute to America event Thursday, July 4, 2019, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t upended President Donald Trump’s plans to hold another contentious Fourth of July celebration in the nation’s capital this summer.

The White House told the Associated Press this week that Trump intends to move ahead with a scaled-back version of last year’s massive “Salute to America” event on the National Mall. Those plans are taking place despite the pandemic and as lawmakers in the region have asked the administration to reconsider.

“As President Trump has said, there will be an Independence Day celebration this year and it will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Associated Press. “The American people have shown tremendous courage and spirit in the fight against this global pandemic just as our forefathers did in the fight to secure our independence, and both deserve celebration on America’s birthday this year.”

On Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., asked the administration to immediately suspend plans for such a celebration.

“The Administration, including your agencies, should be focusing on helping American families, not on a vanity project for the president,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

The letter was signed by Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, as well as Maryland Reps. David Trone, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin and Steny Hoyer. Virginia Reps. Don Beyer, Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly signed on, as did Washington, D.C., Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and Acting Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, watches an aircraft flyover during his remarks at the Salute to America event Thursday, July 4, 2019, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

They warned that such an event would unnecessarily jeopardize health and safety and would cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

“Should the president continue with his plan to hold another ‘Salute to America’ event, it would have detrimental impacts on not only those that live in the National Capital Region, but all those who travel in from other areas of the country to attend,” they wrote.

They called it financially “wasteful,” pointing to the $5.4 million price tag for last year’s event. That event included a Trump speech from the Lincoln Memorial, tanks on display, a military flyover and a VIP section for GOP donors and supporters. It was seen as a major break from how July 4 has been celebrated in Washington by presidents of either party, who generally steered away from politicizing the day.

Trump, reportedly originally inspired by a French Bastille Day parade in 2017,  ]told reporters in April that he planned to reprise the event this year, according to The New York Times.

“We’ll have to do that in a very interesting way. Maybe we’ll even do it greater. Leave a little extra distance,” Trump said.