President Trump on Wednesday boasted that his Independence Day celebration planned for Thursday will be “the show of a lifetime” and defended concerns about its cost, saying that it will be “very little compared to what it is worth.”
Trump administration officials have refused to say how much taxpayers will have to pay for the expanded celebration on the Mall this year, which the president has dubbed the “Salute to America.”
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with Trump’s event, according to two individuals familiar with the arrangement.
The diverted park fees represent just a fraction of the extra costs the government faces as a result of the event, which will include displays of military hardware, flyovers by an array of jets including Air Force One, the deployment of tanks on the Mall and an extended pyrotechnics show.
“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”
In an earlier tweet Wednesday, Trump said that the “July 4th Salute to America at the Lincoln Memorial is looking to be really big.”
“It will be the show of a lifetime!” he added.
The cost of event drew increasing scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers Wednesday, with several pointing to reports that the White House is distributing VIP tickets for Trump’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial to Republican donors and political appointees.
“President @realDonaldTrump’s ego is so large that he’s holding this Fourth of July campaign rally in a desperate cry for attention, and everyone knows it,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Twitter.
In a statement, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) objected to the diversion of money from parks fees.
“These fees are not a slush fund for this administration to use at will,” said McCollum, who chairs a House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Interior Department. “They are meant to improve our national parks, keep them safe and protected for Americans to enjoy, and are clearly not to be used for a political rally.”
Her criticism was echoed by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who wrote on Twitter that park fees “are for maintaining and upgrading our national parks, not a 4th of July military parade for wealthy donors and Republican party insiders.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), meanwhile, called the situation “shameful.”
“But sure, let’s throw a taxpayer-funded rally so Trump can brag about the President’s military power while @SenateGOP continues to block funds to pay medical costs for 9/11 first responders,” he said sarcastically on Twitter.
Menendez was referring to legislation to renew the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the Republican-led chamber is working to pass the bill by August.
Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.