WASHINGTON — The blimp has been grounded. The VIP seats are not being filled. The tanks are in place. And they and all others are at the mercy of Mother Nature.
As the most partisan Independence Day celebration on the National Mall in recent times got underway this morning with the traditional parade, it remained unclear how much of the extravaganza ordered by President Trump will be able to fully envelop.
The good news for Trump: the National Park Service told anti-Trump protestors they could not fill the Baby Trump Blimp with helium. That means the balloon will be low to the ground — and out of Trump’s line of sight when he gives remarks later today from the Lincoln Memorial.
However, anti-Trump protestors still plan to distribute hats with the “USS John McCain” wording, a reference to the attempt by the White House to hide the name of that ship during a Trump visit to a U.S. Naval facility in Japan in the spring.
Trump may not be so lucky with the weather. Raging thunderstorms were already knocking on the door of Washington’s suburbs by noon and were forecast to hit the capital sometime after 4 p.m. and last until midnight.
The president’s July 4th extravaganza is to feature a fly-over of various aircraft, a static display of armored vehicles and his speech from the Lincoln Memorial. A VIP section in front of the president is by ticket admission; the late nature of the decision to hold the event meant many individuals had already made plans to be out of the city for the long holiday. Prime seats are still unfilled.
The National Park Service said in a statement that it will shift roughly $2.5 million to help cover costs related to the extravaganza, money that is usually used “primarily to improve parks across the country.”
The Pentagon received 5,000 tickets — as well as orders to send top brass to surround Trump during the speech.
“The president extended an invitation to Department of Defense leadership to celebrate alongside service members and their families this Fourth of July at the Salute to America event in Washington, D.C.,” Thomas Crosson, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement to the media.
Pentagon brass attending the event are Mark Esper, Acting Secretary of Defense; General Joseph Dunford, Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; James McPherson, Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of the Army; Lt. Gen. Joseph M. Martin, Incoming Vice Chief of the Staff of the Army; Richard V. Spencer, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Bob Burke, Vice Chief of Naval Operations; Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, Deputy Commandant, Marine Corps Development Command; Matthew Donovan, Acting Secretary of the Air Force; General Stephen Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force; Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Director, Army National Guard, and Admiral Karl Schultz, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant.
Among the aircraft scheduled to participate in the fly-over are Navy F-35Cs from Naval Air Station Lemoore in California; Apache helicopters from Fort Campbell in Kentucky; Blue Angels F/A-18s from the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida; a B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri; and F-22s, VC-25, Ospreys, and F/A-18s from Virginia and Maryland, Pentagon officials said.
The new Marine One helicopter and a plane sometimes used as Air Force One are also bing sought for the fly-over, the White House said.