The White House went forward with Saturday's Independence Day celebration despite local coronavirus concerns

By Sean Neumann
July 05, 2020 11:30 AM
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The Trump administration held its annual Fourth of July celebration on Saturday, capped off by a mile-long detonation of 10,000 fireworks that echoed across Washington D.C.

Just weeks ago, President Donald Trump looked on with a similar approval as the booming explosions of a U.S. military members fired tear gas and flash grenades at peaceful protesters outside the White House in a move that received widespread condemnation from lawmakers, religious leaders and U.S. military figures.

"American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the earth," Trump, 74, said during his speech. "We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing."

“We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms,” continued Trump, who went on to claim that protestors are lying “about the past in order to gain power in the present” — a claim his critics have lobbed against him on numerous occasions. 

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Trump delivered similar remarks in his dangerously divisive speech the night before in South Dakota at another Independence Day celebration in front of Mount Rushmore.

Trump has relished in protecting American symbolism in recent weeks, calling for "10 years in prison" for anyone who vandalizes federal monuments and his administration carried out Saturday's event despite local officials' concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

“We know this is a special event for the Department of Interior. We’ve communicated to them that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told the Associated Press. "But this event will take place entirely on federal property."

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Although Trump had strayed away from addressing the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, he made a number of claims in his Fourth of July speech that did not reflect the reality of the dramatic surge in cases around the country.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, our strategy is moving along well,” said the president, who did not wear a face mask. “It goes out in one area and rears back its ugly face in another area, but we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned how to put out the flame.”

Despite Trump’s claims, a number of states — including Florida, California, Arizona and Texas — have become hotspots for new coronavirus cases. Saturday also marked the third consecutive day of the country reporting new daily cases of over 50,000, hitting a new 24-hour high of 57,497 on Saturday, according to MarketWatch.

He also claimed that testing has shown that 99 percent of coronavirus cases “are totally harmless” — although Johns Hopkins University has estimated the fatality rate in the United States is 4.6 percent, according to CNN. All cases are harmful as those who are asymptomatic can also spread the virus.

Trump then claimed, without evidence, that there will likely be a therapeutic solution or vaccine ready “long before the end of the year.”

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Just last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed cautious optimism that one of the several ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trials will be a success and can be mass-produced for Americans to get next year.

The department's secretary, David Bernhardt, told the outlet that this year's celebration was military-focused and that the event — branded as the "Salute to America" — would be "a patriotic tribute to our men and women in uniform."

Last year's similarly themed White House event featured military tanks and flyovers, costing more than $13 million, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office recently reported.

This year's version featured flyovers from military planes but did not feature the tanks (officially dubbed "Bradley Fighting Vehicles") as it did in 2019.

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Sens. Tom Udall, Patrick Leahy and Chris Van Hollen released a joint statement ahead of Saturday's event, saying the recent GAO 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.”

“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," said the U.S. senators, who are Democrats. "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."

Trump was not seen wearing a protective face mask meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the event, and although officials handed out masks and encouraged visitors to practice social distancing, the majority did not appear to head the guidelines, USA Today reported.

At least 129,680 people across the U.S. have died from the novel coronavirus, according to a New York Times tracker.

There have been more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the virus in D.C., with at least 557 deaths in the city attributed to the COVID-19 respiratory illness as of Sunday.