State Dining Room

4:30 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please.  Thank you very much.  I’m very honored to welcome our State Attorneys General back to the White House.  We were together last year, and I said, “I’m inviting you back.”  And a lot things have been done, a lot of progress has been made.  And, Vice President, thank you very much for being here.  You were here last year and we’re here again, Mike.

Let me begin by saying our hearts go out to everyone affected by the devastating storms in Alabama, Georgia, and the surrounding states, and especially to the families of those who have tragically lost their lives.

I’ve spoken with Governor Ivey, and we’re working closely with officials throughout the region to get our communities back on their feet.  Attorney General Marshall and Attorney General Carr, when you get home, please tell the people of the great states of Alabama and Georgia that America has their backs.  We have a call in to Brian Kemp, and we let them know and — the Governor and everybody — that we’re with you 100 percent.  Thank you very much.  One hundred percent, we’ll be there.  Thank you.

I want to thank your National Association President, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry — a friend of mine.  We’re also grateful to be joined by our fantastic new Attorney General, Bill Barr.  Bill, thank you.

Today, we join together to reaffirm and strengthen the vital partnership among state, local, and federal law enforcement.  Only by working together can we ensure security for every community and deliver justice for every citizen.

I want to take a moment to send a message this afternoon, on behalf of everyone in this room, to all law enforcement personnel across America: You are loved, you are cherished and respected by the American people more than you will ever know.  So true.  More than you will ever know.

When I took office two years ago, one of my highest priorities was to reduce violent crime.  In the two years before my inauguration, violent crime was up substantially — very substantially — and murders had increased by more than 20 percent.

For this reason, my administration resurrected Project Safe Neighborhoods — bringing together citizens groups, sheriffs, and police departments to put dangerous offenders behind bars, while supporting crime prevention and reentry programs.

Part of the reason we’re doing well is that people are getting jobs because the economy may be the strongest it’s ever been.  I mean, all of your states are doing very well.  I think we have the strongest economy, perhaps, ever.  The lowest unemployment rate we’ve ever had — you could say “51 years” or you could say “ever.”  But groups — if you look at African American, Asian American, Hispanic American — the lowest unemployment rate, historically, ever.  So that helps a lot with what you do.

We deployed 200 new violent crime prosecutors.  We charged a record number of firearms offenders.  And last year, we prosecuted the most violent criminals ever.  The most ever in our history, also.

With your help and leadership, violent crime is now going down for the first time in a long time.  Murders in America’s largest cities dropped by 7 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Last year, we passed historic legislation to combat the devastating opioid and drug crisis.  And I’m dealing with China right now on a very big trade deal, as you probably have read, heard.  Some of you are a little bit involved.

But I can tell you, I said to President Xi that we cannot let fentanyl into our country.  Almost 100 percent comes from China.  It’s devastating.  As you know, better than I do, it’s devastating.  And he has promised to — and they’re in the process of doing — so when I take him for his word — make it a criminal act at the highest level, which, in China, means the death penalty.  That should have a massive impact on fentanyl coming into our country from China.

This legislation expands lifesaving treatment and authorizes funding for local law enforcement to help those badly addicted get the treatment they need.

Our State Attorneys General are launching bold initiatives to fight this epidemic.  In Arkansas, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge — thank you.  Where is Leslie?  Thank you.  Thank you, Leslie, very much.  Great job you’re doing too.  Has taken on the drug companies, launched a groundbreaking education program and trained local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the opioid epidemic.  So, Leslie, I want to thank you very much.  Everyone is talking about it.  Great job.

But to defeat this deadly epidemic, America’s southern border must be urgently and very strongly secured.  We fight wars 6,000 miles away, we spend billions and billions of dollars, but we don’t control our own border.

Drug trafficking and human traffickers exploit our porous border to finance their ruthless operations across our hemisphere.  One in three migrant women is sexually assaulted on the very dangerous journey north.  Criminal cartels terrorize innocent people on both sides of the border.  Thousands of our citizens are killed by lethal narcotics — 88,000 people, just with certain types of drugs — most of which come through the southern border.  Eighty-eight thousand people die and that’s just a small portion of it.  Hardworking people of every background pay the price for a lack of border control and security.

In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of approximately 100,000 assaults — and these are new numbers, hard to believe — 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 murders.

Every day, our brave ICE officers are on the front lines protecting our communities.  We must always support the heroes of law enforcement, and we all support law enforcement in every way.

Sanctuary cities that release known criminal aliens put all Americans at risk.  I urge everyone here today to make sure that your states and cities are fully cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security in their lifesaving mission.

We all share the same righteous goal: to build a future where every American — both immigrant and U.S.-born — can thrive in safety, dignity, harmony, and peace.

Before Christmas, I was proud to sign historic, bipartisan criminal justice reform into law.  And I want to thank the National Association of Attorneys General for everything you did to help pass this FIRST STEP Act.  And a special thanks to Attorney General Karl Racine.  Where’s Karl?  Karl?  Karl?  Karl?  Hi, Karl.  Great job.  Thank you very much.  You were very helpful.  Everybody said “Karl.”  I feel like you’re — like I know you.  (Laughter.)  That’s pretty good.

STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL RACINE:  I feel like I know you as well, Mr. President.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Karl is — really was fantastic, from the District of Columbia.

Attorney General Josh Stein.  Josh, thank you very much.  Thank you, Josh.  Josh, Josh.  Stand up, Josh.  Go ahead.  Come on.  That’s great.  From a great place — from North Carolina.

And Attorney General, my friend Ken Paxton, from Texas.  Thanks, Ken.  Thanks.  Great.  Great job.

Together, we’re making our communities safer, our future brighter, and our people more prosperous than ever before.  This is what our state and federal partnership is all about: putting the American Dream within reach of all of our citizens.  And that’s happening more and more, and we’re very proud of it.

Thank you all for your friendship and your partnership and leadership.  Extraordinary leadership, really.  Thank you all for the incredible service to your states, your citizens, and your nation.  You are very special people and doing a very special and important job.  And everybody very much appreciates it, and I want to lead that list.  Great job.  Thank you very much.

Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END

4:39 P.M. EST