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Date TimeJuly 04, 2019
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Trump puts himself centre stage as tanks feature in Independence Day show of a lifetime
Donald Trump will put himself at the heart of America’s Independence Day celebrations today as he oversees a self-declared “show of a lifetime” in the nation’s capital.  Tanks are already positioned in central locations in Washington DC at the request of the US president while fighter jets will be among those aircraft flying overhead.  Mr Trump himself will take to the stage to deliver a speech by the memorial to former US president Abraham Lincoln in an event dubbed a “Salute to America”. The military overtones and Mr Trump’s decision to address the crowds have drawn criticism given the July 4 celebrations in the recent past have been nonpartisan affairs.  The White House has dismissed the criticism, insisting Mr Trump’s speech will not be political and but instead celebrate America's place as the “greatest” country in history.  “Our July 4th Salute to America at the Lincoln Memorial is looking to be really big. It will be the show of a lifetime!” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday. An M1 Abrams tank is seen in front of the Lincoln Memorial (back R) ahead of the "Salute to America" Fourth of July event Credit:  Alastair Pike / AFP The president, ever the salesman, has promised “incredible flyovers and biggest ever fireworks!” for those who decide to risk the forecast of thunderstorms to attend. Mr Trump has been closely involved with planning for the annual event and made changes that have triggered a backlash from some corners in Washington.  The US president was impressed by the Bastille Day military parade he witnessed during a visit to Paris in July 2017 and has been attempting to create something similar.  His hopes of a standalone military parade in America have faded, but many of Mr Trump’s changes to the July 4 event involved increasing the presence of the US armed forces.  Mr Trump’s speech will feature military bands and flyovers from the US Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force One, the modified Boeing 747 that transports US presidents. The Pentagon said M1 Abrams battle tanks, a B-2 bomber, F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, and the Marine One helicopter that transports the president could also feature. Mr Trump said on Monday that “brand-new Sherman tanks” would appear, but that proved incorrect - the Sherman went out of service in 1957. U.S. activist Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink holds a sign that reads "Tanks But No Tanks DC Residents," Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives, was among those who criticsed the changes, saying the celebration now amounts to a “political rally” for Mr Trump.  He said: “Frankly, that’s not what July 4th is about. It’s not about politics in the partisan sense - it’s about democracy, it’s about freedom, it’s about individual liberties, it’s about pursuit of happiness.” Hogan Gidley, the White House deputy press secretary, has dismissed claims the event is becoming a personal rally as “absolutely ridiculous”.  “This is all about a salute to America," he said. "The president is not going to get political. He’s going to celebrate the greatest country,the greatest idea in the history of the world - the United States of America.” The cost of the event has also come in for criticism, with The Washington Post reporting that the National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees to help fund the event. Mr Trump responded:  The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow 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. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019 The antiwar group Code Pink said it had secured a permit to bring a “Baby Trump” blimp, depicting the president in diapers, to a protest in the Mall during his speech. The permit does not allow the balloon to be filled with helium so it can float.




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