Once again, Trump's Fourth of July plans are receiving Congressional scrutiny

Elizabeth Howe
May 29, 2020 - 1:14 pm
Salute to America 2019

DVIDS

Lawmakers are questioning President Donald Trump's Fourth of July plans, and if that sounds familiar it's because the same exact thing happened last year. 

Last year, Trump hosted the first-ever "Salute to America" -- a militarized celebration that lawmakers were concerned Trump would turn into a political rally. 

Trump says tanks will be part of his July Fourth celebration

Trump's militarized vision for last year's Fourth of July celebrations stemmed from a visit to Paris for Bastille Day in 2017 during which the president witnessed a military parade of tanks. That very next year, Trump wanted the same for America, and -- while his plans were vetoed for several years due to cost -- he got his way in 2019. 

The total cost to the Department of Defense of the militarized "Salute to America" was around $1.2 million. 

'Salute to America' came with a $1.2 million price tag

Undeterred, Trump said last year that, based on "its tremendous successes," he planned to host a second "Salute to America" the following year, for the Fourth of July 2020. 

Trump says he's planning repeat of July 4 event

But as the Fourth of July approaches and the pandemic prevails, lawmakers are once again voicing concern over the president's plans to mark the holiday. 

Ten Democrats wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt saying that hosting an event such as last year's "Salute to America" would have "detrimental impacts" on the progress that has been made against the coronavirus pandemic. 

Drawing tens of thousands of out-of-town spectators, the lawmakers wrote that hosting the event "safely" was "impossible."

Aside from the health concerns, the letter also explains that an event similar to last year -- which cost a total of more than $5 million -- would draw funds from already strained sources. 

The letter's signers included Reps. Don Beyer, Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly of Virginia; Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington; and Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Reps. David Trone, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin, and Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

The Pentagon declined to provide details regarding Fourth of July plans but did confirm that it was considering collaborating with the White House for the event in some form or another. 

White House spokesperson Judd Deere likewise confirmed that a Fourth of July event is in the works -- albeit perhaps a different one from last year's "Salute to America."

"It will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending," Deere said. "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."

As of Friday, more than 100,000 Americans had been killed by the virus. The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker reported 1.7 million positive COVID-19 cases -- but data on the infection rate within the U.S. has fluctuated significantly as antibody testing and its validity is researched. 

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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