The Defense Department is the subject of a congressional probe after it took the unprecedented step of denying permits for a Memorial Day charity event that has been held annually in Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years.
The Rolling to Remember motorcycle ride, formerly known as Rolling Thunder, brings scores of veterans and others to the area to commemorate war veterans, including prisoners of war and those missing in action. The event was jeopardized earlier this month after the Pentagon canceled permits allowing the group to gather in its parking lot, citing restrictions associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Pentagon initially approved the permit in March and then rescinded the decision in April without any explanation. Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) is now investigating the Biden administration’s decision and instructed the Pentagon to provide him with all emails, records, communications, and documents surrounding its approval and subsequent rescindment of the veteran group’s permits, according to a copy of Issa’s letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, maintains the Pentagon’s decision is politically motivated and that a group more closely aligned with the Biden administration’s politics would have no problem obtaining approval for their event. After the Pentagon denied the charity group's permits, it refused to provide Rolling to Remember organizers with an explanation. Administration officials also ignored congressional inquiries into the matter. Issa, who has oversight authority as a member of Congress, instructed the Pentagon to provide him with these documents no later than May 19.
"No one believes that a group politically aligned with this Administration would be getting denied like this," Issa told the Free Beacon. "The plain fact is this is one of the most anti-veteran acts by a White House in recent memory, and we intend to get to the bottom of it."
It remains unclear why the Pentagon rejected the group’s permits due to concerns about the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control says it is safe for people to gather outdoors and even indoors if they are vaccinated. It also recommends that large gatherings be vehicle-based. Rolling to Remember is primarily an outdoor event, in which participants ride their motorcycles to various landmarks across the city.
In addition to requesting all internal Pentagon documents about the event and decision-making process, Issa is seeking any communications between the Defense Department and White House about the event, including specific names of any person involved in the decision. Issa suspects the permit was revoked after White House officials intervened.
"This rescindment suggests interference in the standard consideration process," Issa states in his letter, which notes that the administration’s expressed "concern regarding COVID … is belied by [its] very actions."
Pentagon parking lots are being used daily by hundreds of department employees and contractors, according to the letter. Additionally, President Joe Biden held an April drive-in rally in Duluth, Ga., where the rates of coronavirus infection are "significantly higher than" Arlington, Va., where the Pentagon is located.
On Tuesday, Issa also introduced the Let Veterans Remember the Fallen Act, a piece of legislation that would require the Pentagon to host the Rolling to Remember event.