President Donald Trump wants armored military vehicles stationed on the National Mall during the annual Fourth of July event in Washington that ― in a break with tradition ― also will be marked by a speech by him.
Trump has injected himself into the planning process for the annual celebration at the National Mall, requesting not just the presence of giant military hardware, but also numerous military flyovers and a fireworks show expected to be twice as long, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The Post cited several anonymous sources with knowledge of the event preparations who said either Abrams tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles were under consideration to fulfill the president’s request.
The president later on Monday confirmed the report, telling reporters gathered in the Oval Office for a bill signing that the event would be “like no other.”
“We’re gonna have some tanks stationed outside,” Trump said, according to a pool report. “You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas.”
He said the vehicles would likely be Abrams or Sherman tanks.
The National Park Service organizes the Fourth of July gathering with additional oversight from the Interior Department, which oversees all federal land, including the mall.
The Interior Department declined to comment on Trump’s request for military vehicles, and the park service did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Newly appointed White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also did not respond to a request for comment.
The Washington City Council on Monday reiterated its opposition to the use of tanks on city streets, relying on a pun to tweet, “We have said it before, and we’ll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks.”
The council included a screenshot of a Pentagon memo from March 8, 2018, warning against the use tanks at a time Trump was pushing for a military parade in the city.
“Include wheeled vehicles only, no tanks,” the memo stated. “Consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.”
Past presidents have not intruded on the festivities at the mall, but Trump will give a speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He also has rebranded the event as a “Salute to America.”
Even before his inauguration, Trump has expressed his desire for semi-regular military parades and celebrations. As part of his idea for being a “cheerleader for the country,” the military “may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump told the Post a few days before taking office. “That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”
A member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in the planning for that event told HuffPost that same month. “They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,” the source said, referring to massive military parades in Moscow and Pyongyang, typically seen as an aggressive display of muscle-flexing by authoritarian regimes.
Trump doubled down on this vision after attending France’s Bastille Day celebration later in 2017, but a planned military parade was ultimately called off for last year after it was estimated it would go roughly $80 million over budget.
This story has been updated with comments by Trump.