Trump defends cost of having tanks and military planes at his July 4 celebration

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer

On the eve of his planned July 4 celebration in Washington, D.C., President Trump pushed back against criticism over the amount of money it is costing American taxpayers.

According to the Washington Post, the National Park Service is “diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs.” The White House has refused to disclose the actual cost of the event.

“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “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!”

On Tuesday, the president announced that Phantom Fireworks and Fireworks by Grucci were donating their services for the “biggest fireworks show Washington D.C. has ever seen.”

(Yahoo News photo Illustration; photos: AP, Getty Images)

“Our July 4th Salute to America at the Lincoln Memorial is looking to be really big,” Trump added in a tweet Wednesday. “It will be the show of a lifetime!”

Trump’s insistence on putting on such a show — replete with tanks, military bands, fireworks and flyovers — has drawn sharp criticism from Democrats, city officials and reportedly some U.S. military chiefs.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser told NPR that she has “some concerns about a president not celebrating the military but glorifying military might.”

“That scares me the most.”

[Related: Trump’s July 4 celebration: Patriotic or self-promoting?]

The White House is distributing VIP tickets to Republican donors and political appointees for the event, prompting objections from Democratic lawmakers who say that the Trump campaign should foot the bill.

The Trump administration also distributed 5,000 tickets to the Department of Defense.

“This is beyond the pale,” tweeted Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who sits on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. “The American people pay these entrance fees to make improvements at our national parks — not to boost President Trump’s campaign. The National Mall is not the place to hold a de facto political rally.”

One of two Bradley Fighting Vehicles is parked next to the Lincoln Memorial ahead of President Trump's Salute to America event. (AP photo/Andrew Harnik)

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is reportedly grappling with how to move a pair of 70-ton M1A2 Abrams tanks to the National Mall.

“Part of the concern is that the vehicles will pulverize pavement in Washington, as they did during a parade in June 1991 after the Gulf War, and that the city will be left with the bill,” the Post reported.

According to the newspaper, the tanks will be stationary and moved into place on flatbeds pulled by heavy-hauler trucks.

CNN reported Wednesday that military chiefs raised concerns about the politicization of Trump’s event during its planning, expressing reservations about having tanks or other armored vehicles on display.

The president, who attended the Bastille Day parade in France in 2017, has long hoped to replicate a similar display in the United States. Last year, Trump’s efforts to stage a Veterans Day military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue were scrapped over cost concerns.

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