WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump reiterated Wednesday he would like to attend the Mount Rushmore fireworks display on Independence Day later this year.
In remarks made during the signing of Phase One of the U.S.-China trade deal in the East Room of the White House, the president made the fireworks comments after he noticed South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in attendance.
"We're going to do a big fireworks display, right, at Mount Rushmore," Trump said, encouraging Noem to stand up and be recognized during the signing ceremony. "I think I'm going to try to be there on July 4. So the governor called — she ran a great race, a tough race, that was a great competitor you had, right? A big star. But she was a bigger star, it turned out."
Trump was referring to Billie Sutton, of Burke, S.D., the then-Democratic governor nominee who ran against Noem.
"She said, 'Do you think we could get fireworks back at Mount Rushmore?' They haven't been there for like 20 years, and I said, 'Why?' Trump said, recalling his conversation with Noem. "Environmental reasons. 'You mean you can't have fireworks because of environmental reasons?' She said, 'Yeah.'
"What can burn, it's stone? Nobody knew why. I called up our people and in about 15 minutes, we got it approved and you're going to have your first big fireworks display at Mount Rushmore and I will try to get out there if I can," Trump said, motioning to Noem and drawing applause. "That will be great."
The fireworks topic has come up before between Noem and Trump, with each side praising the other. On Dec. 16, in a discussion on trade issues, Noem thanked the president for his work on trade deals when Trump pivoted to the fireworks topic, saying South Dakota would have a "very exciting Fourth of July." Trump again said Noem called him asking for a favor to make the fireworks possible.
Fireworks were shot off at Mount Rushmore as recently as 2009, but a federal investigation by the U.S. Geological Survey showed that exponentially high levels of perchlorate — a component found in explosives and some nitrogen fertilizers — was found in groundwater in 2011 near the memorial at rates 270 times higher than normal. The Centers for Disease Control has said perchlorate can cause thyroid gland issues when the chemical is present at high levels. The threat of the pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills National Forest has also been cited as a reason why the fireworks had stopped.
Trump said on Twitter in May 2019 that "THE BIG FIREWORKS" were returning to Mount Rushmore and thanked Noem and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. A memorandum signed between Noem and Bernhardt on May 6, 2019, made the agreement for the return of the fireworks official.
Noem's office said in May that the regained strength of the forest and advancements in pyrotechnics will allow for a safe fireworks display.
In a tweet on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., thanked Trump for bringing the fireworks show back to Mount Rushmore and said he looked forward to welcoming him to the site in the Black Hills. U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune, R-S.D., were also in attendance with Noem for the signing ceremony.