By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Congress have asked President Donald Trump to reconsider plans for a speech at the Lincoln Memorial during annual Independence Day celebrations, saying it could turn a traditionally non-partisan event into a campaign rally.
In February, Trump, a Republican, announced on Twitter that he would host an event including fireworks on the Fourth of July holiday in Washington and include “an address by your favourite President, me!”
But the Democrats wrote to Trump on Thursday asking him to consider “an earlier time or alternative location for your remarks.” They said they wanted to preserve the tradition of a large, apolitical gathering on Washington’s National Mall, a landscaped park between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The day-long Independence Day celebration, which usually concludes with a concert of patriotic music at the foot of the U.S. Capitol and a fireworks display, commemorates the Declaration of Independence from Britain by thirteen American colonies in 1776.
The celebration “routinely brings tens of thousands of visitors to our nation’s capital to join in celebration of America’s founding,” said the letter to Republican Trump from House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and two other Democrats.
“It is therefore, unfortunate that you are considering a conflicting event, which could create the appearance of a televised, partisan campaign rally on the Mall at public expense,” the letter said.
It said that Trump’s plans to attend would add “substantial” costs, and the needed security could severely inhibit access to the celebration for visitors.
Hoyer, Representative Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House committee on natural resources and Representative Betty McCollum, chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee on the interior department, signed the letter.
Trump has staged rallies with his supporters throughout his presidency, even though he will not formally announce his bid for re-election in 2020 until June 18. The rallies often feature attacks on Democratic leaders in Congress, former President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, whom he defeated in the 2016 election.
Trump, who is at odds with Congress over various Democratic-led investigations of him and his turbulent presidency, also wanted to stage a military parade in Washington last November, but cancelled it because of high costs.
“We are respectfully asking the president to make himself part of this great celebration rather than attempting to make this great celebration about him,” Grijalva said.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Grant McCool)