Congress

The biggest question marks ahead of July Fourth ‘Salute to America’

Protests, transit closures, reimbursements, red meat and the weather loom over festivities

President Donald Trump has touted his “Salute to America” as one of the biggest gatherings in Washington, D.C. history. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As the nation prepares for the July Fourth “Salute to America” on the National Mall, with a contentious appearance scheduled by President Donald Trump, there are several unanswered questions that will go a long way to determining how the whole thing unfolds.

From how extensive protests will be, to the tenor of Trump’s remarks, to how much of a damper the weather might put on things, here is a short list of what to keep an eye on. 

Make America Cranky Again?

There will be no shortage of protests surrounding the Mall, from a tethered “Baby Trump” balloon near the Washington Monument, and to supporters of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to investigators about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador.

[Flyovers, military bands … and tanks? Here’s what we know about the July Fourth celebrations in D.C.]

There is no way to tell whether all these different interests will get along, and whether the Make America Great Again crowd will clash with the Code Pink folks. Protests are nothing new to the capital, but this will be happening amid a parade, a concert that includes the National Symphony Orchestra at the Capitol and, of course, a fireworks display.

The Payback

Events like July Fourth always require security involving multiple federal and local law enforcement organizations. But Trump’s appearance is expected to send costs soaring. No one is saying what it will all cost, though Washington D.C., officials are still seething the city has not been reimbursed for costs related to Trump’s 2017 inauguration and are worried about tanks digging up city streets.

[Democrat wants Trump to pay if ‘authoritarian-style’ July 4 event damages infrastructure]

“Any time a president visits a public place like a national park to address the American public there are necessary additional costs associated with public safety and security,” Interior Department spokeswoman Molly Block said in an email. “In this case those costs will be shared by the White House, the National Park Service, U.S. Park Police, Secret Service and other law enforcement partners based on areas of responsibility. Each of those organizations has a variety of funding sources, from annual operating budgets to special law enforcement funding accounts.”

Charles Allen, the Ward 6 D.C. council member who represents Capitol Hill, said that D.C. is used to hosting major events and noted that he and the chief of police are confident the event will be safe.

But Allen, the chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, was very critical of Trump for the unpaid inauguration funds, to the tune of $7.3 million. 

“President Trump needs to figure out where his checkbook is and they need to write the check,” Allen said, adding it was “embarrassing” that the bill hasn’t been paid. Allen mentioned that when the federal government was shut down earlier this year, the D.C. government stepped in to pick up the trash.

“When we have major events, it’s all hands on deck and we’re the ones that pick up the tab for that, but we also need to be reimbursed,” Allen said.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., have written their colleagues on the Appropriations committees to inject the District’s Emergency Planning and Security Fund — which covers the impact of the federal government’s presence on public safety needs in D.C.— with the funds necessary to provide sufficient support without having to dip into local funds. The House passed the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would give D.C.’s emergency planning fund $16 million, an increase of $4 million over the previous fiscal year. Norton and Van Hollen asked for $6 million in supplemental fiscal year 2019 funds.

Planes, Boats, and Automobiles

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The day’s celebrations will start with the National Independence Day Parade just before noon on Constitution Avenue NW. Later on, Trump’s “Salute to America” will run from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to. The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday it will suspend operations at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. for military flyovers. 

A Capitol Fourth Concert will follow at 8 p.m. on the west lawn of the Capitol. The night will conclude with fireworks from 9:07 p.m. until 9:42 p.m. launched from West Potomac Park and behind the Lincoln Memorial. FAA operations will also be impacted from 9:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. for the fireworks, the agency announced. 

The biggest change for boaters from years past is that the area between the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the Arlington Memorial Bridge will be a no anchor zone, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said Friday. He added that there will be a clearly marked anchor zone for boaters that will allow them to see the fireworks. The department’s harbor patrol and Coast Guard resources will be on the water to direct traffic.

And then there are all the road closures for motorists surrounding the Mall. Overall, not a good day to try to use a vehicle to get around. 

Grilled Meat or Red?

Trump’s remarks to the nation amid the “Salute to America” could be a moment of nonpartisan celebration for the country — or a campaign style red-meat speech. Whatever he does, the event will likely be remembered for what he says.

Weather or Not

And finally, what if it rains? That is always a risk on July Fourth in Washington, and it could put a wet blanket on the celebration overall.

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