In addition to the usual concert, fireworks and parade, last year's event also featured a military flyover, an array of military tanks, as well as a speech delivered by the president

By Maria Pasquini
June 26, 2020 04:45 PM
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President Donald Trump
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President Donald Trump’s controversial “Salute to America” celebration held for the 4th of July last year came with a big price tag attached.

In addition to the usual concert, fireworks and parade that have become customary of the Washington, D.C. festivities, last year’s event also featured a military flyover, an array of military tanks, as well as a nearly hour-long speech delivered by the president — who was accused by some of hijacking the nonpartisan holiday and treating it like a campaign rally.

A new report released on Thursday by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that the massive celebration cost an estimated $13.28 million. This was a considerable increase from the previous three years, which each cost between $6.4 — $6.7 million.

“This increase was attributable to the cost for [Department of Defense] to transport several vehicles to the National Mall, the production and execution of the Salute to America event, and the additional security involved because the President attended the event,” the GAO wrote in the report.

In light of the report’s release, a number of Senate Democrats are calling for a review to be made into the plans for this year’s celebration.

“The Government Accountability Office’s report confirms what we knew all along: the president was willing to spend millions of dollars of taxpayer funds—expenses that weren’t budgeted for and that roughly doubled what was spent in previous years—to meet his extravagant demands,” Tom Udall, Patrick Leahy and Chris Van Hollen, who are members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a joint statement.

“And now, the Trump administration is at it again—spending undisclosed amounts of taxpayer money to fund special events and encourage large crowds to gather while our nation is in the middle of a pandemic. We deserve to know what resources are being spent and what public health precautions are being taken for this year’s Fourth of July events, as well,” the statement continued.

This year’s celebration is set to include “music, military demonstrations, and flyovers to honor our Nation’s service members and veterans” as well as a “spectacular fireworks display,” according to a White House statement. President Trump, who will host the event alongside First Lady Melania Trump, will also “deliver remarks that celebrate our independence and salute our amazing heritage.”

Trump is also scheduled to visit Mt. Rushmore on July 3 for a fireworks display.

Speaking to coronavirus concerns, White House spokesperson Judd Deere told USA Today that the holiday events "will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending."

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Although the official celebrations are still on, Mayor Bowser has spoken out against the event — and encouraged people to stay home instead of attending. “We want to send a message to our residents to enjoy the Fourth of July, to celebrate, according to our guidance, and to do it at home,” Bowser said at a news conference on Thursday, according to WTOP. “The virus has not disappeared. It is still in our community.”

“We of course know that the White House has already announced its plans, and the National Park Service will conduct the fireworks to celebrate the nation’s birthday. We will continue to support those activities in the way that we have traditionally,” Bowser added. “But we hope that the crowds that come in non-pandemic years won’t materialize this year.”

Although D.C. is currently in phase 2 of its reopening process, gatherings of over 50 people remain prohibited.

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