Last year’s July Fourth celebration on the National Mall with headliner Donald Trump cost American taxpayers twice as much as similar events did in previous years, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.
The event racked up $13 million in costs, compared to totals between $6 million and $7 million in the three previous years.
This year, Trump’s celebration will be held on the South Lawn of the White House with a speech and a fireworks display over the National Mall. Some 1,700 service members will also take part in his “2020 Salute to America.”
The Defense Department will provide “aerial, musical and ceremonial support to this year’s celebration in Washington, D.C. … Support will also include a flyover of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, as well as an aerial salute to several cities that played roles in the American Revolution,” it said in a statement Saturday that did not mention costs.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser asked residents not to attend the White House festivities and instead observe the holiday in place to help prevent any surge in new COVID-19 cases.
“Our strong recommendation is that D.C. residents celebrate at or near their home, in small gatherings,” she said Thursday.
The extra funds last year went to pay for heightened security, extra program production costs and the transportation of military tanks to the Mall, according to the GAO report.
Trump’s appearance at the celebration was highly controversial, because the event is supposed to be a nonpartisan celebration, not a promotional event for the president, who does not typically attend. Last year, Trump not only delivered a speech but included far more military might than is customary.
Despite record numbers of COVID-19 cases and health experts’ advice to avoid crowds, Trump decided to go ahead with this year’s event, reportedly against aides’ advice.
Trump also plans to attend a fireworks display July 3 at Mount Rushmore, where officials are concerned about the risk of wildfires sparked by the display. A 150-acre wildfire was burning Thursday roughly 6 miles south of Mount Rushmore in Custer State Park in South Dakota.
“Shooting fireworks over a ponderosa pine forest, or any flammable vegetation, is ill-advised and should not be done. Period,” a former National Park Service fire manager told the Argus Leader.
The event could draw as many as 7,500 people.