The Slatest

Report: Trump Has “Taken Charge” of Washington’s Fourth of July Celebration

Fireworks explode over the National Mall in Washington, DC, as the US Capitol (R) and National Monument (C) are seen in the foreground.
Fireworks explode over the National Mall in Washington, DC on July 4, 2017, in Washington, DC. AFP Contributor/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has begun making plans to redesign the traditional Fourth of July fireworks display in Washington, D.C., the Washington Post reported Friday. Some critics have already expressed concerns that Trump might turn this nonpartisan celebration into something akin to a Trump campaign rally.

The new plans are worrying local and federal officials who have run the carefully organized celebration, which has remained largely unchanged for more than two decades. The celebration, to be called “A Salute to America” instead of the traditional “Fireworks on the Mall,” would move the fireworks display from the National Mall and include an address from Trump at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Trump has been highly involved in the planning, the Post reports, receiving regular briefings on the topic—a remarkable display of interest from a president notorious for ignoring intelligence briefings.

The president has made noises about a large patriotic and military-focused celebration before. His fixation on the idea began when two years ago he attended a military parade for Bastille Day in Paris. According to the Post, even before Air Force One took off to depart from France, Trump walked back to the staff cabin and relayed his vision for a military parade in the nation’s capital. He even specified the kinds of tanks and aircraft he wanted to appear at the parade.

The projected costs for the celebration grew too high, and the plan was abandoned—Trump blamed local officials—in August. But in February, Trump tweeted that “[w]e will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th” and that it would include “entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!” According to the Post, he tasked Interior Secretary David Bernhardt with the task of organizing the event around that time. It has become a top priority for Bernhardt.

The celebration, which has been televised since 1947, traditionally also includes a concert with notable artists and the National Symphony Orchestra on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. No president in recent history has participated in the Fourth of July celebration on the Mall, according to the Post. Some have chosen instead to do any more personal or political addresses separately from the White House.