THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. I appreciate it very much.
I want to also thank Matt for the introduction. He's doing an excellent job -- really, a leader. Strong leader.
I was also thrilled to announce earlier today that I am nominating, as Matt said, William Barr to take the helm as our new Attorney General. He's an outstanding man.
Bill previously led the Justice Department with distinction as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush, following his unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate. During his tenure, he demonstrated an unwavering adherence to the rule of law, which the people in this room like to hear. There is no one more capable or more qualified for this role. He deserves overwhelming bipartisan support. I suspect he'll probably get it.
I'm honored to be in Kansas City with the incredible men and women of law enforcement -- I've been here a lot over the last couple of months -- the U.S. attorneys, state and local prosecutors, police officers, sheriffs, deputies, and federal agents who keep our country safe. You keep America safe.
And you maybe don't hear it enough, or sometimes don't feel it enough: You do an incredible job. The people in this country know it and they love you. Just remember that. (Applause.) So true.
On behalf of a grateful nation, I just want to say that we thank you, we salute you, and we stand with you 100 percent. All of us. Me and all of us.
We're here today to restore one of the most effective crime prevention strategies in America: Project Safe Neighborhoods. This initiative brings law enforcement, community groups, and local leaders together to get the most violent criminals in the most dangerous areas off the streets and behind bars. After many years of neglect, we are bringing back this lifesaving program stronger than ever before.
Today is the first nationwide meeting of Project Safe Neighborhoods in eight years. And here with us is the man who started this visionary project all the way back in 2001, former Attorney General John Ashcroft. (Applause.) Where is John? Where is John?
I've been here a lot lately, John. Huh?
MR. ASHCROFT: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I've been here a lot. That's good. Thank you. Thank you for a great job.
I also want to thank two members of my administration who are doing tremendous work: the head of ATF Thomas Brandon and the Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon. (Applause.) Please. Thank you, fellas.
We are also joined by a great representative of the state, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler -- helps me a lot. Thank you, Vicky. Thank you, Vicky. (Applause.)
And we are especially excited to have with us the man who is your state's current attorney general and newly-elected United States senator -- that's why I've been here so much lately -- Josh Hawley. Josh. Thank you, Josh. (Applause.)
And I will tell you, Josh really stepped up to the plate. You know, in life, you never know. You pick somebody -- looks good, sounds good, think he's smart -- and then they choke. (Laughter.) They choke like dogs. (Laughter.) And you say, "What did I do? I picked the wrong person."
Well, we saw a lot about Josh and we thought he'd be great. And I'll tell you, he had a tough race against a very tough competitor. You know that. And he was absolutely fantastic. So I just want to congratulate you.
And, you know, I keep listening to the fake news that, "They won the House -- House, House, House." Nobody ever talks about the Senate. We won the Senate easily. In fact, we picked up two. And that hasn't been done in a long time. For a person is President, you just -- for whatever reason that doesn't happen very often.
And we have the Senate, now, 53 to 47. And we're very proud of that. But you never hear that. You only hear, "The House, House, House " And the nice part about having the Senate is, when you have the Senate, your judges -- you know, we've appointed many, many judges. We're just about at a record clip -- ever.
And by the time I finish, we should have the all-time record, except, of course -- from the percentage basis, you know who the best of all was, right? George Washington. 100 percent. (Laughter.) He picked 100 percent of the judges. That's the only one that I won't be beating. (Laughter.) I can never beat George. He's tough. (Laughter.) 100 percent. I asked that question. I say, "Who had the greatest percentage of judge picks?" And so far, I haven't had too many people guess it. But as soon as soon as I say it, they say, "I can't believe I didn't think of that."
Finally we are grateful to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Timothy Garrison. Where is Timothy? (Applause.) Timothy. Thank you, Timothy. Great job, Tim. Along with a very well-known person, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith, for hosting today's event. Thank you very much, fellas. Thank you, Rick. Thank you. (Applause.)
Everyone here today is committed to the same vital goal: liberating our communities from crime and securing the right of all citizens to live in safety and to live in peace.
In the two years before I took office, the violent crime rate increased by 7 percent and murders were up by over 20 percent. But we're turning it around very quickly, much quicker than anyone thought possible.
At the core of our strategy is restoring respect for law enforcement. And there is nobody that deserves respect more than you people, that I can tell you. For too long, many politicians and radical activists have been smearing and slandering our police, making life easier for criminals and harder for law-abiding Americans. We will not tolerate attacks on the heroes who protect our streets and defend our communities. We will not allow it to happen. (Applause.)
My administration has also made officer safety a top priority. We will protect those who protect us. And we will believe the right punishment -- and we all do -- for cop-killers is called the death penalty. (Applause.)
And you know, in some circles, that's very controversial to say that. You have all of the television cameras rolling back there. For me, it's not even a little bit controversial. You kill a cop and it's called the death penalty, okay?
At the same time, we are ensuring you have the resources you need to do your jobs properly. We have added nearly 200 new violent crime prosecutors across the country.
We have made more than 600 million dollars' worth of surplus military equipment available to law enforcement that, as you know, the previous administration would not allow you to have. It was sitting in storage houses and warehouses all over the country getting old and gaining dust -- beautiful stuff. And they didn't like it because it made you look too strong. And I liked it because it made you safe. And now it's been distributed all over the country to the police and you're using it very well and very judiciously and we appreciate it.
We increased funding for Project Safe Neighborhoods to $50 million dollars this year and we're asking Congress to add an additional increase for next year. That will happen.
We secured $6 billion in new funding to combat opioids -- the most in history. And speaking of that, Kellyanne Conway is here. A very special person. Where is Kellyanne? Is she around here someplace? Stand up, Kellyanne. (Applause.) She's worked so hard with Melania, the First Lady, and they're working very hard. And thank you, Kellyanne. Great job.
We've increased the average sentence for drug trafficking to its highest level since 2013.
I signed landmark anti-drug legislation that included the STOP Act to help prevent fentanyl from entering our country through the mail service.
And at my recent meeting that you all read about three days ago with President Xi of China -- this took place in Argentina at the G20 -- President Xi agreed to criminalize and make all fentanyl in China controlled, meaning it's a controlled substance. Such a big event. (Applause.)
And it was really considered an industrial agent; it was not criminal at all. He's agreed to make it a controlled substance and the highest criminality. And that would bring into play, again, the words "death penalty." Death penalty. From no penalty to death penalty. And that's the way our meeting went.
And I appreciate President Xi doing that very much because we lose about 80,000 people a year to fentanyl. So now they can send it but, if they get caught, they're going to get the death penalty. I have a feeling you're going to see it go down very rapidly. Very, very rapidly. It's a terrible thing
This year, thanks to the efforts of everyone in this room, I am proud to report a new all-time record for the prosecution of violent crime. You also prosecuted 15,300 defendants for federal gun crimes, almost 20 percent more than the previous record.
In partnership with the federal government, local law enforcement is also making tremendous, historic strides. Here today is Wilmington Police Chief Bob Tracy. Where's Bob? Hi, Bob. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Bob.
When a vicious gang member shot and killed two people in Wilmington last February, investigators used the ATF's ballistic database to match the shell casings to another shooting and bring the killer to justice. Amazing job. Thank you. Thank you, Bob.
Over the past year, shootings in Wilmington are down nearly 60 percent and firearm murders are down over 35 percent. Thank you, Chief Tracy, for your unbelievable work. We're reading about it, we're seeing it, and it really is exceptional. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
An important milestone in our campaign to make America safe again is the reduction in the murder rate. Murders in America's largest cities are projected to drop by more than 8 percent compared to 2016 -- a remarkable turnaround in just two short years. And you are the ones who have really made it possible. We've given you certain advantages that you didn't have before this administration, but you have made it possible.
With us today is U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. Maria? Where is Maria? Thank you, Maria. (Applause.) Great. Maria assembled a team from the IRS, the FBI, and Tampa Police to take down a violent street gang in Tampa, Florida. Thanks to this collaborative effort, 11 gang members are now facing hard time in prison. Maria, great job. We've all been reading about it. Very, very exceptional. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
James Clark with the Better Family Life initiative is here as well. James? Thank you very much, James. (Applause.) James works with schools, churches, family members, and friends to deescalate conflicts and stop violence before it happens. A very dangerous thing he does, but he's not afraid. You're not afraid, are you, James? It's just a day in the office, right? Stand up again, James. That's pretty -- that's not easy. (Applause.) That's not easy.
And James and his team have successfully ended more than 50 ongoing, escalating gun battles between rival gangs right here in the St. Louis. James, great job. It's really incredible, what you do, and everybody in this room appreciates it. Thank you very much. And all over the country, they appreciate it, James.
As part of our comprehensive crime reduction strategy, we are reforming the prison system to help more former inmates get on the right track. We all benefit when those who have served their time can find a job, support their families, and stay the hell out of jail. Right? That's what we want. Stay out of jail. That's why I have called on Congress to pass the First Step Act, so that more inmates gain the skills they need to become productive, law-abiding citizens.
And we've helped them a lot by creating one of the greatest economies -- maybe the best economy this country has ever had. Our jobless rate is now down to 3.7 percent. And, by the way, in Missouri, I was just told by Josh, it's at 3.2 percent, which is the lowest in the history of the state.
So now, when people get out of prison, rather than not being able to find a job, some employers, frankly, are forced to hire people that maybe they wouldn't normally do. And the reports coming back are incredible. I have one particular person that says it's hired seven people, and he just is thrilled. He can't even believe it. We're giving them a chance. And the economy is maybe -- it's a beneficiary, but it's also one of the reasons that it's working so well.
So we're very proud. It's -- a lot of good reasons to have an economy that's so good, but that's maybe toward the top of the list, as far as I'm concerned.
We know it's possible for former prisoners to turn their lives around because their Safe Neighborhood partners really make it happen every single day. Deborah Daniels is the co-founder of Offender Alumni Association in the great state of Georgia. Hi, Deborah. (Applause.) Through peer-to-peer networking, coaching, and support, Deborah and her team have helped more than 650 former offenders start new lives as law-abiding members of society. It's an incredible story. I've read the story. I've seen it. Many of you have seen it. Thank you, Deborah, for giving these Americans a true second chance -- and, in some cases, you could say a third chance -- at a good life. Thank you, Deborah, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
The amazing results of Project Safe Neighborhoods prove just how critical it is to foster cooperation among law enforcement at every single level of government.
Nowhere is this cooperation more important than when it comes to enforcing our nation's immigration laws. You've been reading a lot about immigration, haven't you, folks? But we're getting it. We're really getting it. We're being strong on the border. We could use a little help, but we're being strong on the border. A lot of brave people are working with us on the border.
Every day, our brave ICE officers are working with the state and local partners to get some of the world's most violent criminals off our streets, and we get them the hell out of our country. We get them out.
Since I took office, ICE agents have arrested over 235,000 aliens with criminal records. Think of that: Two hundred and thirty-five thousand. And then you have a lot on the Democrat side -- they're saying, "We don't want to respect ICE. We want to get rid of ICE." We're not getting rid of ICE. They're going to be with us. They're heroes. They're heroes. (Applause.)
Think of that, though: Two hundred and thirty-five thousand. And that includes those charged and convicted of more than 100,000 assaults and over 4,000 murders.
Last year alone, ICE and Border Patrol seized more than 2.8 million pounds of illicit narcotics, and we have quadrupled the seizures of fentanyl. And now, with our new deal with President Xi of China, maybe we won't even have to worry about that so much. I think you're going to see that coming down at numbers that are pretty unbelievable.
Removing these deadly poisons and vicious predators from our neighborhoods depends upon partnerships with local communities and their elected leaders and officials.
Unfortunately, there are extreme politicians in cities and states around America -- I'm sure you haven't heard about this -- who have issued policies to forbid their police departments from working with federal immigration authorities. Hard to believe, isn't it? These outrageous sanctuary cities are grave threats to public safety and national security. Each year, sanctuary cities release thousands of known criminal aliens from their custody and right back into the community. So they put them in, and they have them, and they let them go, and it drives you people a little bit crazy, doesn't it, huh? But it's changing. It's all changing.
You look at what's going on in California; many people are demanding that they not be part of a sanctuary city. They don't want sanctuary cities. It's happening by its own.
American politicians should protect American citizens, not criminal aliens. Not one more American life should be stolen because of radical politicians pursuing their open borders agenda.
Nearly 100 percent of the heroin in our country comes across the southern border, killing 300 Americans, at least, a week. A week. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, this illegal heroin cost our country $238 billion dollars in 2016 alone. Think of that.
And we're talking about a wall for $20 billion, $15 billion. I could even do it cheaper if I have to, and it'll be better than anybody has ever seen a wall. (Laughter.) Think of that. You're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars and you're talking about a fraction. You would make it up in a month -- a month -- by having a proper wall.
You see what's happening. You see where they're surging and our great people are able to easily handle it. Without the wall, it gets tougher. But you know what? They still handle it.
Illegal immigration is a threat to the well-being of every American community, threatening innocent families, overwhelming public resources, and draining the federal treasury.
Congress must fully fund border security in the year-ending funding bill. We have to -- we have to get this done. They're playing games. They're playing political games. I actually think the politics of what they're doing is very bad for them, but we're going to very soon find out. Maybe I'm not right, but usually I'm right. Like I said, "I'm going to win for President." (Laughter.) And some people said, "That won't happen." And guess what? Look who's up here now, folks. (Laughter and applause.)
But this includes fully funding our great ICE officers, ICE attorneys, border agents, detention beds, equipment, technology, and lifesaving border wall, which we need more than ever. We need it more than ever.
When you see these caravans of thousands and thousands of people -- they like to minimize it on the fake news, but, you know, you have tremendous amounts of people coming up and it's incredible.
And oftentimes, they'll keep the cameras low. I know every trick. They've taught me. I know every trick. (Laughter.) They'll put women and children in the front row and they'll have those cameras nice and low. So number one, it doesn't look like a big crowd. Number two, all you see is women and children. And they say, "You're such bad people." I'm "such a bad person." But behind that front couple of rows, you got some tough, tough people.
You saw the mayor or Tijuana. He said, "These are tough people. You talk to them and we end up in fights. These are tough people." We don't want them coming into our country. We want great people coming in. Some of them would be great people. We need people because we have too many companies coming into our country. Car companies are pouring in. They're all coming in.
A big announcement by Fiat Chrysler the other day: They're going to move into Michigan with a massive new plant. A lot of things are happening. We need people at 3.7 percent unemployment, but they have to be brought in the legal way. And they have to be -- we talk merit. We want to bring them in through merit. We want people that can love our country and people that can help our country. It's all very simple. To me, it's very simple.
Every American citizen is entitled to a safe community and a secure border. Here in the audience today are three trailblazing leaders -- they truly are -- who are working to dismantle MS-13 over the past two years. They've helped so much. They've done such an incredible job. Twenty-nine MS-13 members have been charged and convicted just recently, despite being targeted for retaliation.
These three patriots are U.S. Attorney Zach Terwilliger -- where is Zach? Hello, Zach. (Applause.) Heard great things about you. Herndon Police Sergeant Claudio Saa. (Applause.) Thank you, Claudio. Thank you very much. And Fairfax County Police Detective Ray Betts. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. All three, thank you very much.
As President, nothing is more important than protecting the security of our nation and its citizens. So to every federal law enforcement officer who is on the frontlines of that mission; to the U.S. Marshals; ATF agents; immigration officers; FBI; DEA; and all state and local authorities who proudly wear this incredible uniform -- it's really the uniform of our country -- I say, "Keep up the great work." You know that my administration will always have your back. We will never ever let you down.
In the most hazardous moments, in the high-speed chases and the high-stakes courtrooms, in darkened alleys and late-night stakeouts, you are always there and always keeping watch over us. Our people love you. They love you. You don't hear it, but they love you. (Applause.)
You never let us down and we will never let you down. You bring criminals to justice and peace to our streets. You are the reason Americans sleep soundly in their beds at night. And you are the ones making America stronger and prouder and safer and greater than ever before. We are making America greater than ever before. We are respected again as a nation. We love our law enforcement.
I just want to thank you all for being here. It's my great honor to be before you. And God bless the United States of America. God bless you all. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)