Millions of dollars allocated for upgrades and improvements for parks across the U.S. have been redirected to help cover the cost of President Donald Trump's 'Salute to America' event.
The Fourth of July celebration, set to be held at the National Mall in Washington D.C., has been in the planning stages for months and will feature a speech from Trump, as well as fireworks, flyovers and a display of various military equipment — including tanks.
According to the Washington Post, the $2.5 million allocated from the Park Service is more than Washington D.C.'s annual Independence Day celebration typically costs. Park Service deputy director Denis P. Galvin told the Post that the usual event costs around $2 million.
The money taken from the Park Service typically goes toward repairs at parks across the country, including construction projects, road and bridge repair and rebuilding habitats, the Post said.
Additionally, an unpaid $7 million bill from Trump's 2017 inauguration, means that the District of Columbia will be using money from a fund that typically covers costs for protecting Washington D.C. from terrorist threats, providing security for state funerals and visits by foreign dignitaries, in order to pay for police officers and other personnel, as well as other costs associated with security for the event.
According to the Post, local officials in D.C. are frustrated that federal officials are not cooperating to pay their portion of the costs. However, the White House told the newspaper that the Trump administration has worked closely with D.C. city government in relation to the event, a statement that city officials disputed.
Other controversies surrounding the event include the news that the White House has given VIP tickets to Republican donors and other allies of the Trump administration.
Democrats and ethics groups have slammed the move, saying that a political event that involves tickets should not be paid for with taxpayer money.
"This partisan appropriation of a public event is consistent with the record of an administration that has no regard for lines between personal or partisan interests and its public obligations," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, told the Huffington Post, who first reported the news on the tickets.
However, while some have slammed the White House move, a member of the Republican National Committee told the Post that giving tickets to supports is commonplace and also occurred when Democrats were in the White House.
"It's standard practice for the RNC to receive a small number of tickets to events just as the DNC did under Democrat Presidents.This is routine for events like the White House Christmas Open Houses, Garden Tours in spring and fall, etc," the official, who spoke to the newspaper under the condition of anonymity, said.
Though an exact schedule and list of events have not been announced for Thursday's celebration, several protests are being planned to coincide with the 'Salute to America.' Among them will be the Trump Baby Balloon, which was granted a permit by the National Park Service on Tuesday.
The balloon has been a fixture at several protests across the country and has appeared twice in London when Trump has visited, including during his trip to the United Kingdom last month.