President Donald Trump has asked the Pentagon to marshal a broadening array of military hardware, including tanks and fighter jets, to showcase his planned Fourth of July address to the nation – dramatically escalating the gathering’s cost and sparking concerns about the potentially damaging impact on the Mall and other infrastructure.
Trump, who had already ordered up a flyover by military aircraft including Air Force One and the Navy’s Blue Angels, has pressed to expand his “Salute to America” event further with an F-35 stealth fighter and the involvement of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which flies the presidential helicopter, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. He also pushed to bring military tanks to the site of his planned speech at the Lincoln Memorial, prompting National Park Service officials to warn that such a deployment could damage the site, these individuals said.
Engineers were examining the site this week to determine whether the weight of stationing armored vehicles there would affect the Lincoln Memorial’s underground rooms, according to one individual briefed on the efforts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Trump told reporters late Monday that “we’re going to have some tanks stationed outside,” following a report about the emerging plans by The Washington Post. He cast the spectacle as part of a Fourth of July “like no other. It’ll be special.”