President Trump’s “Salute to America” Fourth of July event is drawing crowds — and criticism — as the president has turned Washington, D.C.’s biggest annual affair into a display of the nation’s military might. But heavy rain and scattered thunderstorms are jeopardizing the show.
The Independence Day celebration featuring tanks, military plane flyovers, and a speech from the president has been knocked for how much it will cost taxpayers and the unusual focus on the military and the president himself. Further fueling the controversy, only ticketed attendees — VIPs and others who received tickets through the Pentagon or the Republican National Committee — are able to sit in a large fenced-off area up front. The rest of the public has to arrive on a first-come, first-serve basis much farther from where Mr. Trump is speaking.
A senior White House official tells CBS News’ Fin Gomez the president’s remarks are expected to be patriotic, not political, in nature.
Mr. Trump is scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m., and his speech will be aired live on CBSN.
Trump: We will plant the American flag on Mars
Mr. Trump, during his rendition of history and mentioning of the landing on the Moon, said the U.S. is returning to outer-space. The U.S., Mr. Trump insisted, “will plant the American flag on Mars.”
The president has taken a special interest in space exploration, most markedly with adding the “Space Force” service to the Pentagon.
Trump kicks off his speech before an enthusiastic crowd
President Trump kicked off his speech after walking on stage with first lady Melania Trump.
“Hello America. Hello,” he started off. “The first lady and I wish each and every one of you a happy Independence Day on this truly historic Fourth of July.”
Mr. Trump said he and attendees are there to celebrate the nation’s history and their military, before introducing top military officials.
Vice President Mike Pence arrives
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, arrived on stage at roughly 6:17 p.m.
Also spotted near the vice president on stage were Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and GOP Rep. Mark Meadows.
Those VIPs are staged on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking out into the crowd.
Trump arrives at the Lincoln Memorial
President Trump’s motorcade has arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, and he’s expected to speak soon. The first lady is also with him.
Trump tweets he’ll see “Salute to America” guests soon
Trump might be slightly delayed, but not by much, according to him.
“Weather looking good, clearing rapidly and temperatures going down fast. See you in 45 minutes, 6:30 to 7:00 P.M. at Lincoln Memorial!” the president tweeted just before 6 p.m.
He has been scheduled to arrive at 6:20 p.m., along with the first lady, and speak at 6:30 p.m.
Three times as many D.C. National Guard troops dispatched for July 4th than usual
Roughly three times as many members of the D.C. National Guard have been dispatched for this Fourth of July in D.C. compared to previous years, Lt. Colonel Mike Odle, spokesman for the D.C. National Guard, confirmed to CBS News.
This year, there are roughly 800 soldiers and airmen keeping an eye on the city. Typically, that number is more like 215 to 300.
Excerpts of Trump’s prepared speech
The White House has released excerpts of the president’s speech, as prepared for delivery. That doesn’t mean he will stick to the remarks.
Here are some excerpts:
- “Today, we come together as ONE NATION with this very special Salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag–the brave men and women of the United States Military!
- As we gather this evening in the joy of freedom, we remember that we ALL share a truly extraordinary heritage. Together, we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told–the story of AMERICA.
- That same American Spirit that emboldened our founders has kept us strong throughout our history. To this day, that spirit runs through the veins of every American patriot. It lives on in each and every one of YOU.
- Today, just as it did 243 years ago, the future of American Freedom rests on the shoulders of men and women willing to defend it.
- As long as we stay true to our cause–as long as we remember our great history–and as long as we never stop fighting for a better future–then there will be NOTHING that America cannot do.”
Attendees caught in the rain
Attendees waiting for “Salute to America” to start got caught in the rain at 5 p.m., with some prepared and some less prepared. Some attendees covered themselves in ponchos, others had umbrellas, and still others just let the rain pour.
There were few places for people to catch a reprieve from the downpour with a long time to go before the program starts at 6:30 p.m. It’s unclear if the weather will be dry when the president takes the stage.
Schedule of events
Mr. Trump’s “Salute to America” is just one of a number of various festivities on the National Mall Thursday, since D.C. puts on its own massive Fourth of July celebration each year, and has since long before Mr. Trump took office.
6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. – Mr. Trump’s “Salute to America” takes place at the Lincoln Memorial. Mr. Trump is scheduled to speak, the armed forces will perform music, and military demonstrations and flyovers will take place. Gates for the event opened at 3 p.m.
8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. – Capital Fourth Concert, an annual affair on West Lawn of the Capitol, takes place.
9:07 p.m. to 9:42 p.m. – Fireworks – fireworks the president claims will be the biggest ever – light up D.C.
“Our July 4th Salute to America at the Lincoln Memorial is looking to be really big. It will be the show of a lifetime!” the president tweeted.
Protesters and Trump baby balloon expected on D.C. streets
In heavily Democratic Washington D.C., Mr. Trump’s plans to speak at the event have prompted protesters to try and distract from the president’s event.
The feminist group Code Pink is rallying on the grounds of the Washington Monument, and the now-famous baby Trump balloon is here, too. But don’t expect it to be flying high above the crowds. The National Park Service told Code Pink that, in accordance with NPS rules, the balloon must be filled with cold air, not helium, and unable to achieve flight.
Small Trump balloons are also present on the National Mall.
The Code Pink rally is scheduled to go until 6 p.m., meaning it would formally end before Mr. Trump begins speaking.
Ticketing controversy sparks criticism
The “Salute to America” event is open to the public. But, as CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett has reported, there is a specific, ticketed area for VIPs, friends and family and members of the military, although the White House has refused to clarify exactly who would get those tickets. Garrett reports many tickets will be going to GOP donors.
The Pentagon, as CBS News’ David Martin has reported, was given 5,000 tickets to hand out to military families.
That’s controversial because taxpayers, not the Trump campaign or the Republican party or anyone else, is funding the “Salute to America” event.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) confirmed they did receive some tickets for the event.
“It’s standard practice for the RNC to receive a small number of tickets to events just as the DNC did under Democrat presidents. This is routine for events like the White House Christmas open houses, garden tours in spring and fall, etc.,” a spokesperson for the RNC told CBS News’ Sara Cook.