RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump says this year's Fourth of July celebration in the nation's capital will be different.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It'll be like no other. It'll be special. And I hope a lot of people come. And it's going to be about this country, and it's a salute to America.
MARTIN: The president will give an address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. There will be a parade. And Air Force One may do a flyover, although the president himself won't be in the plane. All this pageantry is going to be expensive, and taxpayers are picking up the tab. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been following developments and joins us now in the studio.
Thanks for being here.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So there are some changes happening to the Fourth of July celebrations that aren't controversial. Let's start with those - longer fireworks, for example. But the military show is something that's definitely out of the norm. Can you explain what we're going to see on that front?
GRISALES: Yeah, so we're going to see a series of military aircraft flyovers as President Trump is slated to address guests at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And we'll also see military bands playing, as well as other military equipment on display. And it's going to have some of the traditional elements but a lot of new features thanks to these new plans as well.
MARTIN: And on Monday, President Trump said that part of the celebrations will include this.
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TRUMP: And we're going to have some tanks stationed outside - 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.
MARTIN: There had been some controversy about whether or not the president could actually make this happen, that tanks were going to do some damage to the roads, right?
GRISALES: Correct, so they're being trained in. They're being shipped in, basically. And we're being told there won't be damage to the roads as a result.
MARTIN: OK. So another thing that's going to be different - we don't usually see protests at the Fourth of July celebrations, do we?
GRISALES: No. This is attracting a slew of protesters. I've been told that the baby Trump blimp will be on display. Also, veterans will be on hand, passing out T-shirts featuring the late U.S. Senator John McCain, who died last year but remains a target of Trump's ire.
MARTIN: How much is all this going to cost? - because that's been something a lot of critics have been pointing to.
GRISALES: We don't have the total cost yet. However, the White House has shared some details, and lawmakers are expressing concerns about some estimates. For example, overnight, The Washington Post reported that $2.5 million in fees from the National Park Service could be shifted to pay for all this extra pageantry.
MARTIN: I mean, a lot of what the opposition to these changes has been about is a new kind of partisan bent to the Fourth of July celebrations. This is supposed to be something that's divorced from politics. What have you been hearing about that?
GRISALES: Yeah. There are concerns because taxpayers do pay for the spill. And so if there are partisan overtones to the effort, that's something taxpayers shouldn't be paying for. So those are some of the concerns we're hearing about.
MARTIN: I think we've got a clip from Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
TOM UDALL: There are very specific regulations that talk about turning something into a partisan event, a campaign rally. Those are prohibited. Also, propaganda is prohibited. And so this is - gets into a very tricky area.
MARTIN: Tricky because there are reports - you've been reporting that the RNC is actually distributing tickets. What can you say about that?
GRISALES: Yes. It's been hard to come by details initially as I was reporting on this on how these tickets were being shared. But it - the White House is sharing these tickets. And the RNC has been given a share of them as well. And they're giving them to friends, family and VIPs.
MARTIN: NPR's Claudia Grisales, thank you so much.
GRISALES: Thank you for having me.
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