Fourth of July Fireworks Donor Doesn't Want Donald Trump to Turn 'Salute to America' Into a Political Rally

A donor of fireworks to the Fourth of July "Salute to America" celebrations said he would be disappointed if U.S. President Donald Trump broke his trust and turned the nonpartisan event into a political rally, as critics fear he will.

Bruce Zoldan, CEO of Phantom Fireworks, also denied any quid pro quo with Trump on China trade tariffs in exchange for his $750,000 donation of pyrotechnics and related support to the Independence Day event in Washington, D.C.

Trump has said he will deliver an address at the event, a moment that will prove a test of his ability to overcome political instincts and make a speech that does not attack his opponents but transcends the partisanship and score-settling for which he is notorious.

"I can't tell you whether the president should or shouldn't speak. If he's the president of the United States, he's elected," Zoldan told Newsweek in an interview over the phone.

"If it turns into a political rally, then I guess it's probably not the best thing. But if he's talking about America and celebrating its birthday, I see nothing wrong with it. I think trust is important to have and if it's something that turns out not to be what we hoped for—a uniting of America on the Fourth of July—then obviously we might be disappointed. But we have hopes that it will be a speech about July Fourth, the birthday of America, the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of America."

Trump announced on Twitter the "A Salute to America" event at the end of February, adding that he would address the crowds in Washington, D.C. There are Fourth of July celebrations every year in Washington, but Trump wants a unique spectacle this time around.

The president tweeted: "HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called 'A Salute To America' and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!"

Zoldan said he and Grucci Fireworks, the other donor for the event, made their offer to the event's organizers quickly after Trump's announcement because they knew it would be good public relations for the pyrotechnics industry.

He subsequently met with Trump in May as part of a general meeting with business leaders from a wide range of industries to discuss the impact of the president's trade tariffs, particularly those imposed on China.

The American Pyrotechnics Association of which Zoldan is a member and former director, is lobbying Trump on his tariffs, urging him to do a deal with the Chinese before further escalation in the trade war, which is set to hit the fireworks industry hard.

Almost all of the fireworks imported to America come from China. Those fireworks will soon be the subject of a 25 percent tariff if the Trump administration fails to reach a new trade deal with China in its ongoing discussions.

"We offered this particular show for the Fourth of July in early March. The tariffs weren't even proposed on our fireworks until some time in May," Zoldan told Newsweek, adding that it is "100 percent" the case that there is no deal with Trump in exchange for the fireworks.

"This is controversial. There are people saying we're doing this so that Trump will take the tariff off," Zoldan said. "It's not going to be that he takes the tariff off one company or one industry, it's either going to work for hundreds of companies and industries, or the tariffs will have to go on everything if there's no deal with China. I have the hope and faith that there'll be a deal made with China and that my industry will continue to move forward."

Zoldan said he had anticipated the controversy around the possibility of Trump using the display as a political rally, but said it is "definitely not our intent and never will be" to support the politicization of the Fourth of July.

"If it was a Democrat president who was doing this, we'd be offering it. And if it's a different president next year, we probably will be offering it," Zoldan said. "It's just the way our industry works. We're proud to be in the fireworks industry, we're proud that we're helping Americans celebrate the Fourth of July."

Washington Fourth of July Fireworks Trump
Fireworks explode over the National Mall as the US Capitol (R) and National Monument are seen on July 4, 2017, in Washington, DC. PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Fourth of July Fireworks Donor Doesn't Want Donald Trump to Turn 'Salute to America' Into a Political Rally | Politics