President Donald Trump's remarks in front of Mount Rushmore come midway through a turbulent year in his tumultuous presidency and the United States

By Sean Neumann
July 04, 2020 12:00 PM
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President Donald Trump
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Six months after he was impeached, President Donald Trump celebrated Independence Day in front of the backdrop of four former presidents and a growing belief among critics that he isn't fit to be one himself.

Trump, 74, delivered remarks on Friday in front of Mount Rushmore, near the Black Hills in South Dakota, and used his speech to attack. The "angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders," he said. 

"As we meet here tonight, there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for," the president said in his divisive and incendiary speech. Without referencing the novel coronavirus, which as of July 4 has killed over 129,000 people in the U.S. as cases continue to spike in the majority of states, he named the danger as being "a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children."

Trump, who has regularly spoken out about the removal and vandalization of monuments amid the widespread protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, went on to label the protestors as "angry mobs" and a "dangerous movement," painting them as being in opposition to American values.

Seemingly attempting to capitalize on the growing cultural divide in the United States, Trump continued to slam the "left-wing cultural revolution." 

"No movement that seeks to dismantle these treasured American legacies can possibly have a love of America at its heart. It can’t have it," he claimed. "The radial ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice, but in truth, it would demolish both justice and society.”

"Their goal is not a better America, their goal is to end America," he continued. “Here tonight before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did 244 years ago, we will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen."

In response to Trump's speech, Joe Biden's campaign said in a statement: "Our whole country is suffering through the excruciating costs of having a negligent, divisive president who doesn’t give a damn about anything but his own gain — not the sick, not the jobless, not our constitution, and not our troops in harm’s way."

On Friday, Trump also signed an executive order which calls for a “National Garden of American Heroes,” with the goal of completing the project by 2026.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
President Donald Trump
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Trump's speech came amid growing concerns about his leadership capabilities.

About 12-percent of Americans feel satisfied with how the country is going under Trump, according to a Pew Research Center survey published at the end of June, down from 31-percent in April.

At one point, the U.S. economy faced employment numbers in the tens of millions, causing markets to crash to near-Great Depression levels, as millions across the country contracted a virus that Trump claimed in late February was a political "hoax" designed to disrupt his re-election prospects.

After Trump appeared to concede belief in the novel coronavirus, he publicly proposed ideas for treating the virus that doctors afterward called "dangerous" and off-the-cuff. At the same time, Trump surmised that the summer heat would eliminate the pandemic and allow the U.S. to return to normalcy.

Once the summer arrived, Trump's tumultuous presidency — which was labeled with two congressional condemnations for abuse of power and willingness to obstruct justice — hit more turbulence when he appeared to stoke racial tensions in the U.S. by citing a racist quote calling on law enforcement to shoot protesters who took to the streets to decry police brutality, following the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed on video by a white police officer on Memorial Day. Protests calling for the end of racial injustice swept the globe and landed on Trump's doorstep, with thousands gathered outside the White House, forcing the president into a secure bunker underground before, days later, he used U.S. military to forcibly disperse peaceful crowds from a nearby park so he could have a photo op at the nearby St. John's Episcopal Church — drawing even more criticism, particularly from religious leaders and his own former military generals.

President Donald Trump standing in front of Mount Rushmore
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. National Parks Service expected nearly 7,500 attendees for the Mount Rushmore event, where Trump spoke on Friday.

Many at the event did not wear masks, which federal health experts have implored Americans to wear in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, whose 2018 campaign in part centered around a promise to protect the state's citizens, told Fox News earlier in the week that people at the event wouldn't "be social distancing."

"We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us: We'll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one," Noem said. "But we won't be social distancing."

Trump was not seen wearing a face mask on Friday.

Supporters in attendance at Mount Rushmore
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
President Donald Trump
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of the event, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told PEOPLE that Trump takes health concerns of "everyone traveling in support of himself and all White House operations very seriously" and that the administration would use the "best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible."

On Friday, it was also revealed that Kimberly Guilfoyle, an adviser to President Trump's re-election campaign and the girlfriend of his son Donald Trump Jr., has contracted the novel coronavirus.

Protestors at Mount Rushmore
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images
Protestors at Mount Rushmore
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Earlier in the day, a group of mostly Native American protestors had blocked a nearby highway, according to USA Today. Over a dozen protestors, who were demonstrating against the site of the speech, which was held on sacred land, were arrested.

The Trump administration is set to host another Independence Day celebration — this time on the actual July 4 holiday — in Washington D.C.

Saturday's follow-up Trump event will feature a “one-of-a-kind air show," and a roughly mile-long detonation of 10,000 fireworks, according to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who spoke to the Associated Press this week.

A reported 300,000 face masks will be handed out at that celebration in Washington D.C., although no one will be required to wear one, according to the Associated Press, despite local officials' concerns about the spread of the virus.

Trump's Fourth of July celebration in D.C. last year cost more than $13 million, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.