So Here’s How Trump’s Doing This

EL PASO, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 11: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the El Paso County Coliseum on February 11, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Trump continues his campaign for a wall to be built along the b... EL PASO, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 11: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the El Paso County Coliseum on February 11, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Trump continues his campaign for a wall to be built along the border as the Democrats in Congress are asking for other border security measures. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS
July 2, 2019 10:33 a.m.

Below I flagged this big fact about Thursday’s Trumpified 4th of July festivities in DC: the RNC has been put in charge of distributing at least some number of the tickets for the event. Consider the following tentative. But I think we’ve gotten at least a sense of how exactly they’re doing this. It’s fascinating and in some ways an entirely different kind of outrageousness.

Let’s start with the fact that it is customary and certainly a matter of longstanding practice that a different set of rules apply to events which this and any other President holds at the White House. The President holds political events there. They even get into de facto fundraising events, sometimes to some controversy. You’ll note that in the Huffington Post article I flagged earlier, an unnamed RNC official actually flagged this as a precedent. “For context, we receive an allotment for other events like White House Christmas Open Houses, Garden Tours in spring and fall, etc.”

This turns out to be a key tell.

Sure, the RNC might get tickets for a Holiday party the President puts on at the White House. But this is a national holiday event put on by the National Park Service. Well, not exactly.

David Kurtz flagged my attention to this June 28th press release from the Secret Service. All the words are key.

Independence Day activities and events are slated throughout Washington, D.C. on July 4th 2019, for the Independence Day celebration. National Mall information to include activities, public access points, road closures and prohibited items can be found on the National Park Service website here.

The ‘Salute to America’ event will be hosted by the President of the United States and will take place at the Lincoln Memorial. The Secret Service is working with its federal and local partners on a security plan for this event.

The Salute to America event specifically will be secured by the U.S. Secret Service, separate from the rest of the July 4th activities within the District of Columbia. Tickets are required for this event and individuals will be required to undergo an additional level of security screening to include magnetometers. Screening will begin at 3 p.m. and the event starts at 6:30 p.m. The U.S. Secret Service is not the issuing agency for tickets to the event.

The key phrase here is “The ‘Salute to America’ event will be hosted by the President of the United States …” Let me try to translate what that means. By a sort of pretorian sleight of hand the President is bringing the private White House-ness out of the White House into the Lincoln Memorial. So you have the norms and rules that apply to the White House and he has taken them and plopped them down in the middle of the national July 4th event. There’s sort of like a Trump bubble amidst the larger festivities where a totally different set of rules apply.

People have been saying this is just going to end up being a Trump political rally. That ends up being more true than I think a lot of people realized. They’re not defining it as a campaign rally per se, which would require the campaign to reimburse the government for a mammoth amount of expenses. But they are defining it as a personal event, which gives the President carte blanche to run it as he would for a private party at the White House, where he has more or less free rein to give the tickets to political supporters and use it for fundraising purposes.

What remains to be figured out is just how coordinated this is with the fireworks and other festivities. According to the National Park Service, Trump’s event is scheduled for 6:30 to 7:30 PM. So during daylight. But there are also two separate fireworks events. One is the traditional democracy era fireworks that we’re accustomed to. But there’s apparently a second display tied specifically to the Lincoln Memorial and to Trump. Actually, that will be the first display. But that must come significantly after Trump’s speech and it’s not clear whether that’s in the presidential privilege bubble or not. But it appears you have Trump, followed by Trump mini-fireworks, possibly with tanks nearby, followed some time later by the old style democracy era fireworks display we’re familiar with.

Everything about this, whatever the outrageousness, seems very last minute and jagged, essentially shoeshorned into something long planned.

This remains tentative. We’ll have more updates as we find out more.

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