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Trump news – live: President delivers July Fourth speech as protests and storms threaten to overshadow event

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Donald Trump promises tanks for Fourth of July parade

Donald Trump has delivered a speech at his “Salute to America” event in Washington DC, as the country celebrates Independence Day.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, he pleaded for people to attend his Fourth of July celebration amid fears of a low turnout and concerns that the heavy tanks on display could damage the Lincoln Memorial.

A new Morning Consult poll revealed the president to be losing support in key states he won in 2016, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Ohio and Florida, as his Republican opponent Justin Amash announces his resignation from the GOP in opposition to Mr Trump's "dehumanising rhetoric".

Undeterred, the president has been on angry form on Twitter, hitting out at migrants over reports of squalid conditions in US border detention centres and warning Iran against making threats by issuing one of his own: “They can come back to bite you.”

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 09:19

Donald Trump's aides fear an embarrassingly small crowd could turn out on Washington's National Mall for his tradition-shattering Fourth of July address in DC on Thursday, according to The Washington Post.

Crowd size has been a sore point for the president, who has repeatedly claimed that attendance at his inauguration in January 2017 was the highest ever seen in the US capital, despite extensive documentary evidence to the contrary.

The president is set to speak in front of the Lincoln Memorial from 6.30pm EST to a ticket-only crowd of Republican donors, administration and campaign officials, family members and those gathering either to support him or protest his policies. Storms have been forecast for the area on what promises to be a scorching and humid day, meaning Trump's parade could quite literally be rained on.

His "show of a lifetime" promises tanks on display, an Air Force flyover and a massive fireworks display but has been criticised by his opponents as authoritarian and narcissistic and for seeking to turn a non-partisan national holiday into a campaign rally.

It has been nearly seven decades since a president has spoken on the Mall on Independence Day. The US was at war in Korea when Harry Truman addressed a large gathering on the Washington Monument grounds, marking the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

There is no such historical marker on Thursday for President Trump, who for the past two years has sought a moment to orchestrate a display of America's military prowess in line with the customary spectacle France likes to lay on to mark Bastille Day.

Trump sounded a defensive note on Wednesday, tweeting that the event's cost "will be very little compared to what it is worth".

"We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door, all we need is the fuel," he said, referring to Maryland's Joint Base Andrews, home for some of the planes that are to fly over the Mall on Thursday.

"We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!"

Trump glossed over the expense of shipping M1 Abrams tanks and other fighting vehicles to Washington by rail from Fort Stewart, Georgia, and guarding them for several days, among other costs.

Under White House direction, the Pentagon is arranging for an Air Force B-2 stealth bomber and other warplanes to conduct a fly-past. There will be Navy F-35 and F-18 fighter jets, the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team, Army and Coast Guard helicopters and Marine V-22 Ospreys.

The US Air Force said it costs $122,311 (£96,500) an hour to fly a B-2 bomber, which is making the round trip from its home at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

Officials said the flight will be considered a training event, with the cost already budgeted. The per-hour flying cost of the F-22 fighter is $65,128 (£51,360).

Here's more from Jon Sharman.

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 09:30

Among those to have criticised the president's plans for America's birthday are 2020 candidate and war veteran Pete Buttigieg who expressed disapproval at the flouting of military might.

"We’ve always been bigger than that. We’ve also been the kind of country that respects our military enough not to use them as props," the Indiana mayor said on CNN. "Think about the strongest, toughest person you know. It’s probably not a person who goes around talking about how strong or tough they are."

"I think the president’s trying to honor himself, and, again, my worry is it ultimately makes us look smaller.

“The whole idea of civilian control of the military is that there’s going to be some kind of separation, and trying to enlist people in uniform to decorate his political agenda just diminishes the military that so many serve in without regard to politics or favor,” he added.

Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator from Oregon, went further: "This is the stuff of authoritarian regimes, exactly what patriotic Americans were fighting against in 1776. Congressional Republicans who shrug at this will be complicit when Trump takes his authoritarian ambitions to the next level."

Democratic congressman Don Beyer of Virginia called Trump "the most insecure man I've ever seen" over his need to make the occasion about him.

Representative Betty McCollum, Democratic chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee, meanwhile attacked Trump over his reallocation of $2.5m (£1.9m) from the National Parks Service to pay for the day's festivities: "These fees are not a slush fund for this administration to use at will. They are meant to improve our national parks, keep them safe and protected for Americans to enjoy, and are clearly not to be used for a political rally.” 

In addition to the significance and cost of the event, Parks Service officials have also expressed their fears that the event could do damage to the National Park Service officials remain concerned that the deployment of tanks on the Lincoln Memorial's grounds could damage its curbs and sidewalks, which are not designed to hold the weight of a vehicle weighing more than 60 tonnes.

The federal government spent $30.7m (£24.4m)  to refurbish the memorial under the Obama administration, including its sidewalks and the Trump inaugural committee still hasn't reimbursed the agency for damage it inflicted to the memorial during its setup in January 2017.

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 09:45

With all that going on, a new Morning Consult poll has meanwhile revealed the president to be losing support in key battleground states he won in 2016, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Ohio and Florida.

New Hampshire: 37 per cent approval, 60 per cent disapproval (-23 net approval)

Michigan: 40 per cent approval, 55 per cent disapproval (-15)

Wisconsin: 42 per cent approval, 56per cent disapproval (-14)

Iowa: 42 per cent approval, 55 per cent disapproval (-13)

Pennsylvania 44 per cent approval, 53 per cent disapproval (-9)

Arizona: 45 per cent approval, 52 per cent disapproval (-7)

Ohio: 45 per cent approval, 51 per cent disapproval (-6)

North Carolina: 47 per cent approval, 50 per cent disapproval (-3)

Florida: 47 per cent approval, 50 per cent disapproval (-3)

Indiana: 49 per cent approval, 48 per cent disapproval (+1)

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 10:00

Undeterred, Trump has been on angry form on Twitter, hitting out at migrants over reports of squalid conditions in US border detention centres, telling them, "Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses", and suggesting, "Many of these illegals aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions".

"If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!" he concluded.

Here's more from Andrew Buncombe.

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 10:15

Trump also warned Iran against making threats by issuing one of his own: "They can come back to bite you."

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 10:30

Here are the key timings for today's event.

11.45am EST - The National Independence Day Parade will progress down Constitution Avenue NW from 7th Street to 17th Street NW.

3.30pm EST - Gates open for spectators on the National Mall.

6.30pm EST - President Trump will address the nation from the Lincoln Memorial and is expected to speak for approximately one hour.

7.30pm EST - Having concluded his remarks, the president and first lady will return to the White House.

8pm EST - The Capitol Fourth Concert will take place on the West Lawn of the US Capitol.

9pm EST - A huge fireworks display will get underway on the National Mall, expected to last for approximately 35 minutes.

Here's Clark Mindock's guide to what you can expect from today's "Salute to America".

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 10:45

Let's get onto some other news concerning the Trump administration for the moment.

The president has congratulated US Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher after he was acquitted of murder in the killing of a wounded Isis captive in Iraq in 2017.

Gallagher was nevertheless convicted of unlawfully posing for pictures with the teenage detainee’s dead body and posting it on Facebook - a war crime - which didn't stop the president cheering the military jury's verdict, having previously intervened to have Gallagher moved from the brig to less restrictive confinement.

Here's Adam Forrest's report on a questionable tweet among thousands.

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 11:00

The Trump administration’s 2020 campaign has been caught out using video clips of stock models from France, Brazil and Turkey in a series of advertisements purporting to show various Americans supporting the president’s re-election.

Here's Chris Riotta's report.

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 11:15

Prominent Trump critic and congressman Justin Amash has announced he is quitting the Republic Party, writing in The Washington Post that American politics is "in a partisan death spiral".

Evidently seeking his own independence on Independence Day, Amash tweeted this in the early hours of the morning.

Here's Samuel Osborne's report on the departure of the first Republican to break ranks and call for Trump's impeachment.

Joe Sommerlad4 July 2019 11:25

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