(NBC/AP) – President Donald Trump promoted his upcoming military-style Fourth of July event Thursday, urging people to arrive early for “one of the biggest celebrations” in U.S. history as meteorologists warned of possible downpours.
In early morning tweets, Trump previewed “large scale flyovers of the most modern and advanced aircraft anywhere in the World” over the Lincoln Memorial 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.
Later, as he returned from his Virginia golf club, he tweeted that it looked as if “a lot of people already heading to SALUTE TO AMERICA at Lincoln Memorial.”
“It will be well worth the trip and wait,” he added, touting “amazing music and bands”
Trump is scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m. 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 near the Lincoln Memorial.
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, an all day event at the Lincoln Memorial, culminating with large scale flyovers of the most modern…..93.7K7:41 AM – Jul 4, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy32.4K people are talking about this
House ahead of the event’s start, revelers and protesters were out and about amid foul weather concerns.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch active until 8 p.m. for parts of the nation’s capital and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, The Associated Press reported. According to the Weather Service, storms are expected in the early afternoon and there could be torrential rain with a chance of flash flooding.
Code Pink, an anti-war organization, put up a 20-foot-tall diaper-clad balloon of an infant Donald Trump in the shadow of the Washington Monument, the AP reported. The group was not allowed to inflate the “Baby Trump” balloon with helium, according The Washington Post, nor was it permitted to station the balloon in view of the Lincoln Memorial.
Trump supporter Kevin Malton, of Middlesboro, Kentucky, took pictures with the balloon. He said he’s glad to see the mix of political beliefs at the event.
Code Pink co-director Medea Benjamin said the organization and its members “oppose the politicization of July Fourth by President Trump.”
Democrats and other critics of the planned military demonstration have voiced similar concerns, saying that the president could turn the celebration of a national holiday 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.”
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.
A White House aide who has seen drafts of Trump’s remarks said the speech will be “about the greatness of America” and argued that the message will not be political.
There have also been concerns about the cost of the event. 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.”