WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump celebrated “the greatest political journey in human history” Thursday in a Fourth of July commemoration before a soggy, cheering crowd of spectators, many of them invited, on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. Supporters welcomed his tribute to the U.S. military while protesters assailed him for putting himself center stage on a holiday devoted to unity.

Trump called on Americans to “stay true to our cause” in a “Salute to America” program that adhered to patriotic themes and hailed an eclectic mix of history’s heroes, from the armed forces, space, civil rights and other endeavors of American life. He largely stuck to his script, avoiding diversions into his agenda or re-election campaign.

A late afternoon downpour drenched the capital’s Independence Day crowds and presaged an evening of possible on-and-off storms. But Trump’s speech unfolded in occasional rain and the warplanes he had summoned conducted flyovers as planned.

By adding his own, one-hour production to capital festivities that typically draw hundreds of thousands anyway, Trump became the first president in nearly seven decades to address a crowd at the National Mall on Independence Day.

Protesters objecting to what they saw as his co-opting of the holiday inflated a roly-poly balloon depicting Trump as an angry, diaper-clad baby.

Trump set aside a historic piece of real estate — a stretch of the Mall from the Lincoln Monument to the midpoint of the reflecting pool — for a mix of invited military members, Republican and Trump campaign donors and other bigwigs. It’s where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech, Barack Obama and Trump held inaugural concerts and protesters swarmed into the water when supporters of Richard Nixon put on a July 4, 1970, celebration, with the president sending taped remarks from California.

Aides to the crowd-obsessed Trump fretted about the prospect of empty seats at his event, said a person familiar with the planning who was not authorized to be identified. Aides scrambled in recent days to distribute tickets and mobilize the Trump and GOP social media accounts to encourage participation for an event hastily arranged and surrounded with confusion.

Many who filed into the sprawling VIP section said they got their free tickets from members of Congress or from friends or neighbors who couldn’t use theirs. Outside that zone, a diverse mix of visitors, locals, veterans, tour groups, immigrant families and more milled about, some drawn by Trump, some by curiosity, some by the holiday’s regular activities along the Mall.

Protesters earlier made their voices heard in sweltering heat by the Washington Monument, along the traditional parade route and elsewhere, while the VIP section at the reflecting pool served as something of a buffer for Trump’s event.

In the shadow of the Washington Monument hours before Trump’s speech, the anti-war organization Codepink erected a 20-foot tall “Trump baby” balloon to protest what it called the president’s co-opting of Independence Day.

“We think that he is making this about himself and it’s really a campaign rally,” said Medea Benjamin, the organization’s co-director. “We think that he’s a big baby. ... He’s erratic, he’s prone to tantrums, he doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. And so this is a great symbol of how we feel about our president.”

The balloon remained tied down at the Mall because park officials restricted the group’s permission to move it or fill it with helium, Benjamin said.

Protesters also handed out small Trump-baby balloons on sticks. Molly King of La Porte, Indiana, a 13-year-old Trump supporter in sunglasses and a “Make America Great Again” hat, happily came away with one.

“They’re making a big stink about it but it’s actually pretty cute,” she said. “I mean, why not love your president as you’d love a baby?”

A small crowd gathered to take pictures with the big balloon, which drew Trump supporters and detractors.

“Even though everybody has different opinions,” said Kevin Malton, a Trump supporter from Middlesboro, Kentucky, “everybody’s getting along.”

But Daniela Guray, a 19-year-old from Chicago who held a “Dump Trump” sign, said she was subjected to a racial epithet while walking along the Constitution Avenue parade route and told to go home.

She said she did not come to the Mall to protest but ended up doing so. “I started seeing all the tanks with all the protests and that’s when I said, ‘Wait, this is not an actual Fourth of July,’” she said. “Trump is making it his day rather than the Fourth of July.”

Weather permitting, Trump planned showcase flyovers by warplanes, aircraft in the presidential Air Force One and Marine One fleet and the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team, as well as his remarks. A larger than usual fireworks display was assembled.

Trump had sounded a defensive note Wednesday, tweeting that the cost “will be very little compared to what it is worth.”

“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel,” he said, referring to Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews, home for some of the planes expected for the holiday flyover. “We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.”

Trump glossed over the expense of shipping tanks and fighting vehicles to Washington by rail and guarding them for several days, and other costs.

Not since 1951, when President Harry Truman spoke before a large gathering on the Washington Monument grounds to mark the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, has a commander in chief made an Independence Day speech to a sizable crowd on the Mall.

Pete Buttigieg, one of the Democrats running for president, said: “this business of diverting money and military assets to use them as a kind of prop, to prop up a presidential ego, is not reflecting well on our country.” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is a Navy Reserve veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2014.

Two groups, the National Parks Conservation Foundation and Democracy Forward, want the Interior Department’s internal watchdog to investigate what they say may be a “potentially unlawful decision to divert” national parks money to Trump’s “spectacle.”

Trump and the event’s organizers could be on the hook to reimburse the government millions of dollars if he goes into campaign mode, in violation of federal appropriations law and the Hatch Act, which bars politicking on government time, said Walter Shaub, who left the Office of Government Ethics in 2017 after clashing with the White House over ethics and disclosure issues.

Washington has held an Independence Day celebration for decades, featuring a parade along Constitution Avenue, a concert on the Capitol lawn with music by the National Symphony Orchestra and fireworks beginning at dusk near the Washington Monument.

Trump altered the lineup by adding his speech, moving the fireworks closer to the Lincoln Memorial and summoning the tanks and warplanes.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(58) comments

FCPS-Principal

Perhaps its continual trotting out of military gear and heaping praise and salutations galore on military personnel (except Hero John McCain, Gen. McRaven, Sgt. David Johnson and various Gold Star Families) is an attempt to cover up for its own shortcomings in the military area. Moneyed people rarely stoop so low and will pay anything to avoid it for themselves and their offspring, both legitimate and illegitimate.

rbtdt5

I'm impressed with how many of you watched his speech. I didn't get to see it.

FCPS-Principal

Consider yourself blessed.

Obadiah Plainsmen

I feel the best part of the program was at the end when the Marine Corp band and choir sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Mine eyes hath seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on. I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps; His day is marching on. I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel; “As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”; Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel, Since God is marching on. He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat; Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet; Our God is marching on. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me: As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free; While God is marching on. He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave, He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave; So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave, Our God is marching on.

hayduke2

Posted to make what point?

DickD

That he can copy and post.

sevenstones1000

I feel he best part was when The Grabber-In-Chief went home. Some extravaganza! Then the Capital Fourth went on as in every other year, and showed the country what a good 4th of July program looks like .

sofanna

EXCELLENT POST! Thank you.

FCPS-Principal

After all these years, the Battle Hymn still stirs up the Klan.

KR999

Back to being the same old jerk, I see, huh FAUX?

DickD

Can you believe that idiot, Trump, stated the Revolutionary forces took over the airports during the Revolution? Then he made it a little worse, talking about Ft. McHenry (War of 1812) being part of the Revolution, Did this man get out of 3rd grade?

richardlyons

Good question, Dick.

sevenstones1000

I thought I had misheard. He really said that about airports?

FCPS-Principal

It might have said ramparts. I doubt if even its speechwriters are that dumb.

DickD

Yes, Trump really said that. You thought he was smarter than a 3rd grader? From USA Today:  https://news.yahoo.com/donald-trump-trips-history-july-020721355.html;_ylt=AwrE1xm1wSBdBF4Ag8dpCWVH;_ylu=X3oDMTBybGY3bmpvBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMyBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--" President Donald Trump read most of his Independence Day speech from a prepared text, but stumbled on his history at one point: He talked about airports during the American Revolution."Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports," Trump said of the fighting force created by the Continental Congress in 1775.There was no air travel in 18th Century America. "Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rocket’s red glare it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant."

thump1202

Why would you even watch it feeling the way you do about Trump? I was too busy grilling, drinking beer, joking with friends and keeping an eye on the kids to even think about him. Day was great after the weak storm passed. Saw the fireworks on TV they were quite good. Hope your 4th was happy as well.

DickD

Who said I watched it, I didn't.

KR999

Yeah, almost as stupid as Obama saying he had visited 57 states, huh Dick?

DickD

One slip of the tongue, KR, not continual low grade lies and just plain ignorance.

public-redux

Well, he did compete in 57 caucuses and primaries.

DickD

Funny, Gladys, funny.

public-redux

Why funny? There were 57 Democratic primaries and caucuses in 2008. 51 in the 50 states because 1 state Texas?) had both a primary and a caucus, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Democrats abroad. Everyone knows that is what Barack HUSSEIN Obama meant when he said 57 states. People like KR and I just like to pretend Obama didn’t know how many states there.

FCPS-Principal

No but that doesn't matter to its supporters. They didn't either.

Obadiah Plainsmen

musta been a good speech! The naysayers and haters are out in force today. Just waiting for the editors of the FNP to chime in.

KR999

No way would I ever go to the Mall for July 4th festivities, no matter who was president. It was bad enough getting into and out of FedEx Field the night before for the Stones concert, let alone putting up with insufferable heat and humidity while at it. By the way, the day of that show was also the 50th anniversary of Brian Jones’ death, the founder of the band, and no acknowledgment it was made by Jagger during the show.

KR999

and no acknowledgment ‘of’ it was made....

DickD

I was staying in D.C., when I went and have been glad ever since that I went. But there is no way I am going to travel from here to there and spend two hours trying to get out and drive home.

thump1202

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] I avoid DC as much as I can getting in and out is a pain at all hours of day and night

MRS M

From what we saw, one of the commentators was right on target: A "speech" and a production, depicting American history, 8th grade level. Explains a lot about his success with his followers. And from my point of view, I realized yesterday why Trump's M.O. has always been one of the boisterous, loud, attention-grabbing, lying, and grand-standing bully.....also 8th grade style. Because he has little else to offer. He's a crashing bore, with not an original or inspirational thought in him I hate to say it.........I was truly hoping for his crowd to break into "Lock her Up" just to add some interest to "the show". Takes a lot to make even the Blue Angels boring.

thump1202

Why do you Trump haters tune in? Seriously it was a nice day plenty to enjoy and be thankful for as an American.

MRS M

Why tune in, thump??? Well, mostly to keep an eye on the fate of our democracy and it's current leadership. In the same way all interested and wakeful Americans should be tuning in to the democratic debates........

thump1202

Trump's always running his mouth about something that never happens, I've learned it's better not to pay much attention to him. Other presidents articulate their vision and follow through, Trump just postures. I did watch the Dem debates, it's not looking good so far. I'm hoping someone interesting jumps in, I like Tulsi but the party seems to be squelching her and still know nothing about Yang.

Thewheelone

You said it, Mrs M!

public-redux

Some people might consider listening to the president a civic duty.

thump1202

I'd normally agree but Trump never does what he says, so really I do not trust him and don't see why it's worth listening to his nonsense. I'd like to see a good alternative on the other side but more abortion, free stuff for illegals, and higher taxes don't do anything for me.

DickD

Some want a good laugh and listen to hear what his cult is following.

public-redux

That he lies and babbles wouldn’t diminish the civic duty, for people who feel that way. Indeed, it might be even more important from that aspect to listen to him.

DickD

Agreed and don't feel bad, most of us that don't support Trump can't understand the Trump cult that supports him. But you did the wise thing and didn't listen. I suppose being ignorant of what Trump does makes it easier to support him.

thump1202

I know enough people on both sides to have a good grasp on things. Being an independent forces you to become a good listener, express a lot of ignorance and let people explain their beliefs. Trump supporters feel under assault by a society they believe is encroaching on their freedoms. They're tired of being called names for not falling into systems like PC and social justice in subjects that don't matter to them, like trans bathrooms. Many of them are too busy trying to make ends meet to follow the news, so all they see are headlines here and there and they don't like the far left slant that's occurred, it's weird to them when people talk about things like gender fluidity. Following the news closely all I see is "Trump says something stupid" every day and nothing happens as a result of it. I want Trump to do well as much as I want any president to do well, but I didn't vote for him and I don't like him, put decent opposition up and I'll vote for them. The current democrat platform does not appeal to me though and that is the case with many in my situation. Biden is right about that, but the man is a gaffe machine and I don't trust his judgment, many people are chosen as VP as a life insurance policy for the president and to me Biden was one of those VPs, just like Pence is one of those VPs. The Democrats need to come up with something better or the party needs to stop promoting left wing extremism. Normal people don't want that.

DickD

Being independent tells me you have no conviction, one way or the other. Most people choose a party that most represents their beliefs, whatever they are. It gives you a right to help choose the leader of your party, a right that most of us are unwilling to give up. For others, that do not choose a party, they leave it up to those that do choose a party to make the choice for them.

thump1202

I have strong conviction in my own beliefs. As a party member, you sacrifice your free thought and convictions to a committee that supports things that are, in my opinion, evil. If you want to support evil, that's on you. And I'm not talking about the Democrats, Republicans are just as bad. Joining a gang is sacrificing your voice. I doubt you've ever been in that situation, so I understand that you don't understand it.

olefool

The question I kept asking myself during his speech was: .But who and where were you when your country called you to service in it's military during a conflict???? The answer is always the same; a sniveling coward hiding behind a phony medical report, produced by a phony physician, claiming a phony medical condition, go figure... While I appreciate his recognition of so many American heroes, one stands conspicuously absent; I'll give you a little hint: For his actions as a POW, McCain was awarded the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, another instance of the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Purple Heart Medal. A man who returned from war a hero and then spent the rest of his life as a stalwart statesman serving the country that HE loved without reservation. I knew John McCain Mr. Trump, and any way you try to fake it sir, you ain't no way in the same league as is or was John McCain...

MRS M

Exactly; absolutely agree, fool. And no amount of his trotting out our military will help him to negate his "hard-earned" reputation as the coward he has always been.

francesca_easa

I agree with you. McCain is a great patriot and hero. Trump should have served too. Outside of a few ballplayers and Elvis, how many pro athletes, actors, entertainers and other so called celebrities have served our country in the past two generations?

DickD

Past two generations? You only want to include the last 40 years? The draft came to an end, as far as filling vacancies in the U.S. military in 1973.  Those that have served since then have done so by choice.  So, do you think it is bad for someone does not choose to enter the military, when there is no requirement ?  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_States"From 1940 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the United States Armed Forces that could not be filled through voluntary means. The draft came to an end when the United States Armed Forces moved to an all-volunteer military force." In Trump's case, he was an active "draft dodger", refusing to do his duty and responsibility to his country.

DickD

The fire works on the Mall are the best you can see any place in the U.S. Trump'sspeech is just more ego. It's not surprising many of those tickets were given away.

armillary

"The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion." "You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on." Both quotes from the boring bloviator's blowhole.

francesca_easa

I love my country and honor our military. Every Independence Day celebration costs millions. Lots of money and volunteer help is spent to improve the human condition and yet does anything change? Why not spend money to celebrate something good. Really tired of all negativity in the news.

DickD

Sounds like you are a Trumpeteer.

thump1202

Impoverished and homeless Americans are a priority for no one unfortunately, at least the show gives these struggling people something to watch and feel pride

MRS M

I'm assuming this was a (sorry) attempt at humor. That, or further evidence of the cluelessness of the members of the Grand Old Party. (STILL tryin' to figure out why their membership continues to fall...........). Like I said, the eighth-grade view of life.....

thump1202

Where in the Dem debates did they address homelessness? I must have missed it.

thump1202

And I'm unaffiliated, I understand the left considers anyone who isn't a total virtue signaller offended by everything to be alt right, but kindly don't mislabel me.

MRS M

So, thump, now that's clarified, I guess it WAS NOT intended as a joke to state that watching Trump's show yesterday " gives struggling impoverished and homeless people something to watch and feel pride in". Proof positive that cluelessness really has NO party affiliation, which is particularly convenient when supporting the Trump "hop on-hop-off bandwagon' and reality show. Let's then hope all proud, clearly thinking "independents" of "the right" with strong convictions such as yours recognize that as 2020 approaches, the majority will look for your patriotic help in recognizing that we don't want the ideal of "perfection" in the next candidate you choose to support ............to be the enemy of the good. Unless you're supporting Trump, again, of course.

thump1202

Last time I took a political evaluation test it said I was a left leaning libertarian, I suppose that's far right to you. I'm confused though, DNC appears to be pushing Kamala and she is a sociopath, are you telling me to vote Trump? I'm stuck in eighth grade and am a minority, I'm easily confused and need white progressives in masks to show me the way

Obadiah Plainsmen

The white progressives have telling minority's what to do since FDR. Their greatest fear is an educated minority.

phydeaux994

And the White Supremacists greatest fear is ANY minority OP!!

thump1202

White supremacists are rarer in this country than Trans at this point. I ran into some in Thurmont years ago and they folded immediately and ran like scared children the moment I called out a bunch of them I overheard saying nasty things, even though they had numbers on me 10:1. I'm not afraid of them and to be frank nobody likes them and they know it. I agree that educated minorities scare white progressives, it destroys their savior complex and exposes that they have no clothes. That's why you see figures like Candace Owens, Dinesh D'Souza and recently Andy Ngo take so much pain. White progressives love to beat up on minorities who don't bow their heads.

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