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Trump to honor US military during Fourth of July address

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he formally announced his 2020 re-election bid Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux / AP)
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he formally announced his 2020 re-election bid Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux / AP)
By Darlene Superville Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s participation in the nation’s annual Fourth of July celebration will include a Trump speech honoring America’s armed forces, along with music, military demonstrations and flyovers, the administration announced Wednesday, about two weeks before the patriotic holiday.

Federal lawmakers, local officials and others have voiced concerns that Trump could alter the tone of what traditionally is a nonpartisan celebration of America’s founding by delivering an overtly political speech after he added himself to an event that typically has not included the president.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Wednesday that Trump will use the speech, which the president promised in a February tweet, to honor the military.

Trump teased his event, which he is calling “Salute to America,” during his reelection kick-off rally Tuesday night in Florida.

“And by the way on July 4 in Washington, D.C., come on down. We’re going to have a big day. Bring your flags, bring those flags, bring those American flags,” the president said. “We’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people. We’re going to celebrate America.”

Bernhardt, who supervises the National Mall, which is the backdrop for one of the nation’s largest July 4 celebrations, also said the World War II Memorial and areas around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool will be opened to the public for the first time in recent memory for viewing the annual fireworks display.

As part of Trump’s addition to the Washington schedule of July 4 events, the fireworks show is being moved west to West Potomac Park, closer to the Lincoln Memorial, from the area around the Washington Monument.

Independence Day usually draws tens of thousands of people to the National Mall for the celebration.

Regular events this year include the National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue, a concert featuring the National Symphony Orchestra on the West Lawn of the Capitol and the fireworks display.

After losing out on his wish for a military parade in Washington , Trump tweeted in February for people to “HOLD THE DATE!” for the “Salute to America” event, which he said would be held at the Lincoln Memorial and feature a major fireworks display, entertainment “and an address by your favorite President, me!”

Some groups are organizing anti-Trump protests.

Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Chris Van Hollen, all members of the Appropriations Committee, requested details about plans and funding for the event in a letter this week to Bernhardt. They asked Bernhardt to carefully manage taxpayer funds and ensure that Trump’s event “remains a nonpartisan event focused on national unity and pride.” The lawmakers set a June 28 deadline for Bernhardt to reply.

The White House said Trump’s event was not meant to detract from the other events on the schedule. White House officials also declined to discuss the specific military aircraft that are expected to execute the flyovers.

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