- The Washington Times
Thursday, June 6, 2019

Key House Democrats on Thursday demanded that President Trump rescind his plans to hold a Fourth of July rally on the National Mall, saying he risks poisoning what has always been a politics-free celebration of the country’s founding.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland; Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, chair of the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Interior Department; and Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, chairman of the National Resources Committee, sent a letter to the president complaining about the logistics, cost and message Mr. Trump would send by scheduling his own event.

In particular, they said, it would create a mess for the tens of thousands of people who just want to come watch the fireworks, but would now have to negotiate additional security if Mr. Trump did hold a rally.

“The Fourth of July celebration is not about any one person; it is not a time for campaigning — but a time to celebrate our unity as a free nation,” Ms. McCollum said in a statement accompanying the release of the letter.

The White House pushed back, saying the event would be for the entire country to celebrate.

“President Trump loves America and wants to help all Americans celebrate our Nation’s Independence on July 4. The White House, along with the National Park Service and the Department of Interior, continue to make preparations for the day’s activities,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, told The Washington Times.

Mr. Trump’s plans, as yet not fully developed, have left Washingtonians wondering about the annual celebration that dominates the city’s downtown on Independence Day.

The president hinted in February that he would have a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

“HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called “A Salute To America” and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!” Mr. Trump tweeted on Feb. 24.

An American extravaganza has been on the president’s mind for years. Last August, the administration had to cancel the military parade Mr. Trump had been building up to as a Bastille Day-type celebration.

The president blasted D.C. officials and blamed them for ruining his event with a hefty price tag, though days later Pentagon officials said he was never briefed on the estimated cost.

“The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I canceled it. Never let someone hold you up!” the president tweeted at the time.

Mr. Trump was thrilled, however, when South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, announced that there would be a fireworks display over Mount Rushmore for Independence Day 2020.

“I am pleased to inform you that THE BIG FIREWORKS, after many years of not having any, are coming back to beautiful Mount Rushmore in South Dakota,” the president tweeted.

In May, The Washington Post reported that the “Salute to America” event would move the fireworks celebration away from the National Mall and include a second stage of performers in addition to the one by the Capitol.

Details of this new event, including the time and associated costs, have not been made public.

According to WAMU Radio, neither D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser nor officials at the National Park Service are entirely sure what is supposed to happen with the president’s event, despite it being less than a month away.

“Nothing is set in stone, and we’re still waiting on details from what the White House wants to do,” park service spokesman Mike Litterst told the radio station. “For right now, people will see a very similar event to what they saw in years past: fireworks, the Capitol Fourth concert, a parade in the afternoon and an additional event added to the day’s schedule.”

The park service did not respond to requests for comment.

“We understand the federal government is moving forward with plans that include a Salute to America, but we do not have details beyond that and urge the federal government to make that information available to the public,” Bowser spokeswoman LaToya Foster told The Times. “Planning for the 4th of July has always been and continues to be within the jurisdiction of the federal government.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department told The Washington Times that Mr. Trump’s presence at this event would require the department to implement more security.

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