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Eleanor Holmes Norton On Trump's Speech


The Fourth of July is always a big deal in Washington, D.C. It is the nation's capital, after all. But this year, President Trump says it will be an even bigger deal. He'll give a speech. There will be military flyovers. There will be tanks. Eleanor Holmes Norton represents D.C. in Congress as a delegate, and she is not happy about this. I asked her what she's worried about.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: July Fourth here in the nation's capital is a hometown affair. What he has done is to politicize the event. Remember, he's already announced that he's running for president and added to that now to militarizing the event. Nothing could be more incongruous than tanks on the National Mall. The mall is that strip of land that is regarded as the nation's playground. It's where we fly kites. This is very un-American, and it couldn't be in a worse place than on the green space where we gather to have fun.

KING: This symbolism of tanks on the mall or near the mall is obviously very troubling to you. Are there also logistical concerns from the city's point of view about what it might mean to have tanks rumbling through certain areas?

NORTON: First, we had to scare them off the streets. And we did that simply by pointing out what tanks would do to Pennsylvania Avenue and who would pay for it. I haven't figured out a way where the heavy military equipment can sit on the grass and not harm the grass. We spent a considerable amount of funds to make sure the mall was fit in a very particular way. So we don't even allow many events to be held on the mall any longer because of the grass. Imagine what military materiel will do.

KING: The Washington Post reported that the National Park Service is diverting about $2 1/2 million to cover some of the costs of this event. Do you think there will be questions in Congress raised about how that money is being spent, whether that money is being spent in the right way?

NORTON: I've already proffered a question to the appropriators about whether or not the president had the authority to divert funds from our national parks to this event. The District of Columbia is owed more than 7$ million for the inauguration. Remember, we provide - we in the city provide lots of what is necessary, including police and security, along with federal officials. We haven't been paid for that from the inauguration. Now here comes another event. And there has been no estimate of what the cost of that event will be or who will pay for it. I can tell you this much. I'm going to see to it that the District of Columbia does not pay for it and that we get paid for what we're already owed.

KING: Let's say Congress determines that national park money should not be spent on this Fourth of July event which is happening. It's going ahead. It is happening. Do you expect that you'd get paid back from someone?

NORTON: Who would pay for it at the moment are the American taxpayers. Who should pay for it is the Trump campaign because what it amounts to is a campaign event. There is no way to get around that. And that's why our president has to be very careful of not involving himself in the Fourth of July because everything he does is inherently political.

KING: What are you hearing from people who live in Washington, D.C., from your constituents? Are they happy about this, unhappy about this?

NORTON: Very concerned. I think the best thing residents can do is to do what I'm going to do. I'm going to march in the Palisades Parade, a neighborhood parade in D.C. But I'm afraid some will feel, since this is - has the appearance of a campaign event, that they can go and protest. So there is no question that if you make it look like a campaign event, it's going to be treated like a campaign event.

KING: Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, thank you so much for taking the time.

NORTON: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.