the long and winding (velvet) rope
President Trump is throwing a big military-themed Fourth of July party at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday, you're paying for it, and tickets to the VIP section are being handed out to the Republican National Committee, Trump's re-election campaign, and GOP donors, The Washington Post confirmed Tuesday. RNC and Trump campaign officials said that's no big deal because both parties engage in partisan ticketing for events at the White House.
"This is routine for events like the White House Christmas Open Houses, Garden Tours in spring and fall, etc.," an RNC official told the Post. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said "as a courtesy, the campaign was provided tickets for staff and their families and friends, much like for the Easter Egg Roll or White House garden tours."
The National Mall is not the White House, of course. And presidents don't typically participate in the capital's historically nonpartisan Independence Day celebration.
"Limiting public access to a public monument on Independence Day in favor of wealthy donors just sends a signal that our political system favors the wealthy and well-connected," the Campaign Legal Center's Brendan Fischer tells the Post. "It certainly looks bad," but it's probably legal — unless Trump injects partisan politics into his speech, in which case his campaign could have to reimburse taxpayers.
Don't bet on it, said Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall. He pointed to a June 28 Secret Service press release stating that "the 'Salute to America' event will be hosted by the president" and is "separate from the rest of the July 4th activities within the District of Columbia." In other words, Marshall translates, the White House appears to be creating "sort of like a Trump bubble amidst the larger festivities where a totally different set of rules apply," and Trump has "carte blanche to run it as he would for a private party at the White House," politics, "de facto fundraising," and all.