Trump cancels military parade and announces he will go to Paris instead

Chris Riotta
Donald Trump previously said the parade would be 'great for the spirit of the country': AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump has said he cancelled a military parade he planned after seeing one in France, calling the reported cost for the event "so ridiculously high".

The president announced that he would instead attend a military event in Paris on 11 November to commemorate the end of the First World War, as well as another parade at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. His comments arrived on Twitter a day after the US Defense Department announced it was postponing the Veterans Day parade and would "explore opportunities" with the White House to reschedule the celebration next year.

"The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it," Mr Trump tweeted on Friday morning. "When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up!"

Officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the spectacle would cost the Pentagon at least $50m (£39m), with some reports indicating the event’s total price tag could top $92m (£72m) – three times more the initial estimates.

However, those reports were disputed by Defence Secretary James Mattis, who said the person leaking the figures to the press was "probably smoking something.”

"I'm not dignifying that number with a reply," he told reporters. "I would discount that, and anybody who said it, I'll almost guarantee you one thing: They probably said, 'I need to stay anonymous.' No kidding, because you look like an idiot."

"And number two, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources," the Pentagon chief continued. "I'll just leave it at that.”

The parade's cost has become a politically charged issue, particularly after the Pentagon cancelled a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, in the wake of Mr Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The president said the drills were provocative and that dumping them would save the US “a tremendous amount of money.” The Pentagon later said the Korea drills would have cost $14 million.

Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said earlier Thursday that Defence Department planning for the parade “continues and final details are still being developed. Any cost estimates are pre-decisional.”

Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayor of Washington, replied to Mr Trump's tweet which criticised "local politicians," suggesting she had expressed concerns about the soaring prices for the parade to the White House. "Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad)," she wrote.

The $21.6m cost Ms Bowser stated in her tweet would have only covered certain aspects of the parade, including organising the nation's capital ahead of the event, and would likely need to be reimbursed to Washington by federal agencies.

The parade was expected to include troops from all five armed services – the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation's history. It was also expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers.

A Pentagon planning memo released in March said the parade would feature a "heavy air component," likely including older, vintage aircraft. It also said there would be "wheeled vehicles only, no tanks – consideration must be given to minimise damage to local infrastructure." Big, heavy tanks could tear up streets in Washington.

Mr Trump originally came up with the idea of hosting an American military parade after attending one with French President Emmanuel Macron. He watched enthusiastically from a reviewing stand as the French military showcased its tanks and fighter jets, including many US-made planes, along the famed Champs-Elysees.

Several months later Mr Trump praised the French parade, saying, "We're going to have to try and top it.”

Additional reporting by AP