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Trump salutes 'American spirit' at July 4th bash after heavy rains

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump sang the praises of America's military, heritage, and spirit at his Fourth of July bash in Washington, after concerns of severe weather threatened to drown out the event.
  • Trump's speech at the "Salute to America" event at the Lincoln Memorial was delivered on time, albeit under low cloud cover following heavy rains earlier Thursday, to crowds that packed either side of the monument's reflecting pool.
  • "Weather looking good, clearing rapidly and temperatures going down fast," the president wrote shortly before traveling to the event.
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After heavy rains, Trump salutes 'American Spirit' on July 4th

President Donald Trump sang the praises of America's military, heritage, and spirit at his Fourth of July bash in Washington, after concerns of severe weather threatened to drown out the event.

"Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military," Trump said.

"As long as we stay true to our cause; as long as we remember our great history; and as long as we never stop fighting for a better future; then there will be nothing that America cannot do."

Trump's speech at the "Salute to America" event at the Lincoln Memorial was delivered on time, albeit under low cloud cover following heavy rains earlier Thursday, to crowds that packed either side of the monument's reflecting pool.

"Weather looking good, clearing rapidly and temperatures going down fast," the president wrote shortly before traveling to the event.

Trump had promoted the event heavily through his Twitter account, promising "the show of a lifetime" that would include huge fireworks displays, flyovers, and M1 Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles.

Members of the U.S. Army finish parking an Bradley fighting vehicle in front of the Lincoln Memorial ahead of the Fourth of July "Salute to America" celebration on July 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump will deliver a speech at the memorial with military hardware on display including tanks, and flyovers by military aircraft.
Mark Wilson | Getty Images

Trump, a Republican who was inspired to stage the flashy affair after seeing a similar display in France, dismissed concerns ahead of the ceremony about the expense and militaristic overtones of the event outside the 97-year-old Lincoln Memorial, a symbol of national unity.

"Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now," Trump said from a platform in front of the famous memorial, echoing a theme he uses at campaign rallies.

Trump spoke at length highlighting the accomplishments of each branch of the military, and added that "very soon" the U.S. will have a sixth branch – the "Space Force."

President Donald Trump stuck with a patriotic message during his Fourth of July "Salute to America" speech, steering clear of the political rhetoric many had expected.

Trump hailed an eclectic mix of history's heroes, from the armed forces, space, civil rights and other endeavors of American life. He largely adhered to his script, avoiding diversions into his agenda or re-election campaign.

Attendees were treated to flyovers by Coast Guard helicopters, Air Force F-22 fighters, Marine V-22 Osprey helicopters and other military aircraft.

Not all the choreography appeared to go off as planned.

A flyover by Air Force One, which Trump had teased earlier in the day on Twitter, occurred unannounced and without fanfare. But a low and spectacular flyover by six F-18s known as the "Blue Angels" at the conclusion of Trump's speech thrilled the crowd. Some people shouted "Four More Years!" in support of the president.

Trump paid tribute to the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two agencies that have played leading roles in carrying out his tough immigration policies.

He cited as great Americans both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, African-Americans who campaigned for the abolition of slavery more than 100 years ago. That praise could draw criticism as Trump's administration in May decided to keep Tubman's image off the $20 bill. He previously raised doubts about his knowledge of Douglass by speaking of the former slave in the present tense as "somebody who's done an amazing job."

Millions of dollars, worries about crowds

Earlier in the day thousands of supporters wearing Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" hats, along with opponents questioning the cost of the event, poured into the U.S. capital despite scorching temperatures and intermittent rain, while a diapered "Baby Trump" balloon sat next to a banner calling Trump a traitor.

People are seen in front of the Baby Trump balloon during the Fourth of July festivities on July 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is holding a "Salute to America" celebration on the National Mall on Independence Day this year with musical performances, a military flyover, and fireworks.
Stephanie Keith | Getty Images

Protesters burned a U.S. flag in front of the White House.

Ahead of the speech, Democrats accused the president of staging an out-of-place campaign rally, aware he has a history of veering off script with sharp partisan attacks even at events that are not meant to be overtly political.

Trump supporters and opponents carried American flags and wore red, white and blue outfits.

"I think what Trump's doing with the tanks, all the flyovers, I think it's great," said Brandon Lawrence, his face painted with the colors of the American flag.

Some at the White House had worried about the crowd size, according to an administration official.

In January 2017 Trump fumed about reports that the crowd at his inauguration ceremony in front of the Capitol was smaller than it was for President Barack Obama.

Perhaps with the crowd size in mind, Trump sent out tweets urging people to attend and saying the event would be "one of the biggest celebrations in the history of our Country." As it happened, the crowd lined both sides of the reflecting pool in front of the memorial, and Trump later called it a "great crowd."

Opponents were not impressed.

"This is costing us millions and millions of dollars. We the taxpayers are paying for it, for Donald Trump to use our military as a prop. And that's just not right," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group Code Pink, before the event.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive to "Salute to America" Fourth of July event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, July 4, 2019.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Republican political groups were given prime tickets for Trump's speech, and the Washington Post reported that the U.S. National Park Service diverted $2.5 million in park entrance fees to help pay for the event.

Perhaps with the crowd size in mind, Trump sent out tweets urging people to attend and saying the event would be "one of the biggest celebrations in the history of our Country." As it happened, the crowd lined both sides of the reflecting pool in front of the memorial, and Trump later called it a "great crowd."

Opponents were not impressed.

Members of the U.S. Secret Service detain a man after an attempted flag burning in front of the White House on Independence Day July 4th, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

"This is costing us millions and millions of dollars. We the taxpayers are paying for it, for Donald Trump to use our military as a prop. And that's just not right," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group Code Pink, before the event.

Republican political groups were given prime tickets for Trump's speech, and the Washington Post reported that the U.S. National Park Service diverted $2.5 million in park entrance fees to help pay for the event.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.