Three days before a newly planned Independence Day celebration in Washington, D.C. pressed for by President Donald Trump, workers on Monday at the Lincoln Memorial were busily building the stage where the President will speak, setting down red carpet, building sound stages, and prepping the far end of the National Mall for a rival celebration to the annual one held at the U.S. Capitol.
With the President moving the fireworks from their normal spot over the Reflecting Pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, the area outside the Lincoln Memorial will now be a VIP gathering spot, where President Trump will speak on Thursday evening.
Named the “Salute to America,” the President's new Independence Day celebration is scheduled to run from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, as the Interior Department says it will honor “America's armed forces with music, military demonstrations, flyovers, and much more.”
As a Marine One helicopter flew by the Lincoln Memorial on Monday morning, the shape of the new July 4th offering was taking place, with viewing stands, stages, scaffolding for TV cameras, generators, and hospitality tents filling up the area in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
The time of the new celebration will not conflict with “A Capitol Fourth” concert, which has anchored festivities for Independence Day since 1981, and is broadcast live by PBS, beginning at 8 pm EDT.
The cost of the new festivities - including a “National Independence Day Parade” down Constitution Avenue is unclear, a point made by officials in the District of Columbia government, who argue the Trump Inaugural committee still owes the city $7 million for expenses from that event in January 2017.
“The American people deserve to know how much the president is spending to turn their July 4th celebration into a campaign rally,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who said he had asked the Interior Department for a cost estimate two weeks ago.
“We've heard nothing back,” Udall tweeted on Monday.
Mr. Trump had originally envisioned a military parade, but there were reportedly cost estimates for that as high as $92 million, with questions about road damage which might be caused by some heavier military vehicles.
The Washington, D.C. city council on Monday tweeted out its opposition to the idea of bringing tanks on city streets for the President's celebration.
Asked about the event on Monday by reporters at the White House, the President said he was excited about the new plans.
“We're going to have a great Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. It'll be like no other. It'll be special,” Mr. Trump said.
“I hope a lot of people come, and it's going to be about this country and it's a salute to America,” he added.
As of Monday, officials had still not detailed how tickets would be made available, or who would get seats in the VIP section near the Lincoln Memorial - but there were indications that Republican campaign donors and connected officials were going to be in some of those seats.
“I'm going to be here, and I'm going to say a few words. And we're going to have planes going overhead - the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too,” the President said. “And we're going to have some tanks stationed outside”
The additional events come at a time when the National Park Service is facing a $2.1 billion backlog of repairs.
The President's change of plans represent the biggest controversy involving Independence Day since the early 1980's, when President Reagan's Interior Secretary banned the Beach Boys from playing on July Fourth, because of excessive parties along the National Mall.
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