Latest cost to feed Trump’s ego: $5.4 million

President Donald Trump speaks during an Independence Day celebration in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump’s July Fourth extravaganza — featuring tanks, a military flyover, and a Trump speech at the Lincoln Memorial — cost an estimated $5.4 million, according to rough figures Thursday.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt provided the latest share of costs, $2.45 million for his agency, in a letter to lawmakers, saying his agency pulled money from operating funds for national parks, recreation fees, and another source to help fund Trump’s Salute to America.

The event included donated fireworks, a military flyover, and Trump’s speech to a rained-on crowd at the Lincoln Memorial.

Trump announced Monday he would do it all again next year , calling the event “remarkable.”

Democratic lawmakers have condemned the extra expenditures for the Independence Day celebration, which came in addition to the traditional concert, fireworks and events held at near the U.S. Capitol.

Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and one of several Democrats who had demanded a full cost accounting, said in response to Interior’s funding estimates that the public funds were spent to “celebrate President Trump.”

Bernhardt called the use of public funds justified, and cited past administrations’ spending for concerts, parades and other celebrations in and around the National Mall. Interior’s costs included crowd accommodations such as temporary fencing and portable toilets.

In addition, the Department of Defense says its costs came to $1.2 million. Despite repeated requests, the Pentagon as of Thursday refused to provide a precise breakdown.

The military’s efforts included positioning tanks on flat-bed trailers around the capital, meeting Trump’s desire for tanks while minimizing damage to district roads from the heavy armor.

Separately, Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser wrote Trump to say the district’s costs for Trump’s July Fourth event have drained a special fund used to provide security and protect the nation’s capital from terrorist threats.

The District of Columbia estimates it spent about $1.7 million — not including police expenses for related demonstrations.

Bowser wrote Trump that the fund will have a $6 million deficit by September, reminding the president that the account was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration.

White House spokesman Judd Deere says officials will respond “in a timely manner.”

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Lolita Baldor contributed.

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump’s $92 million on-again, off-again military parade delayed

Military units participate in the inaugural parade in Washington in 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The Defense Department says the Veterans Day military parade ordered up by President Donald Trump won’t happen in 2018.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that the military and the White House “have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”

The announcement came several hours after The Associated Press reported that the parade would cost about $92 million, according to U.S. officials citing preliminary estimates more than three times the price first suggested by the White House.

According to the officials, roughly $50 million would cover Pentagon costs for aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support for the November parade in Washington. The remainder would be borne by other agencies and largely involve security costs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss early planning estimates that have not yet been finalized or released publicly.

Officials said the parade plans had not yet been approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Mattis himself said late Thursday that he had seen no such estimate and questioned the media reports.

The Pentagon chief told reporters traveling with him to Bogota, Colombia, that whoever leaked the number to the press was “probably smoking something that is legal in my state but not in most” — a reference to his home state of Washington, where marijuana use is legal.

He added: “I’m not dignifying that number ($92 million) with a reply. I would discount that, and anybody who said (that number), I’ll almost guarantee you one thing: They probably said, ‘I need to stay anonymous.’ No kidding, because you look like an idiot. And No. 2, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources. I’ll just leave it at that.”

The parade’s cost has become a politically charged issue, particularly after the Pentagon canceled a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, in the wake of Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said the drills were provocative and that dumping them would save the U.S. “a tremendous amount of money.” The Pentagon later said the Korea drills would have cost $14 million.

Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said earlier Thursday that Defense Department planning for the parade “continues and final details are still being developed. Any cost estimates are pre-decisional.”

The parade was expected to include troops from all five armed services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation’s history. It also was expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers.

A Pentagon planning memo released in March said the parade would feature a “heavy air component,” likely including older, vintage aircraft. It also said there would be “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks — consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.” Big, heavy tanks could tear up streets in the District of Columbia.

The memo from Mattis’ office provided initial planning guidance to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His staff is planning the parade along a route from the White House to the Capitol and would integrate it with the city’s annual veterans’ parade. U.S. Northern Command, which oversees U.S. troops in North America, is responsible for the actual execution of the parade.

Earlier this year, the White House budget director told Congress that the cost to taxpayers could be $10 million to $30 million. Those estimates were likely based on the cost of previous military parades, such as the one in the nation’s capital in 1991 celebrating the end of the first Gulf War, and factored in some additional increase for inflation.

One veterans group weighed in Thursday against the parade. “The American Legion appreciates that our President wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” National Commander Denise Rohan said. “However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”

Trump decided he wanted a military parade in Washington after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in the center of Paris last year. As the invited guest of French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump watched enthusiastically from a reviewing stand as the French military showcased its tanks and fighter jets, including many U.S.-made planes, along the famed Champs-Elysees.

Several months later Trump praised the French parade, saying, “We’re going to have to try and top it.”

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved