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President Trump Showers Law Enforcement Officials With Support At Stop In Kansas City

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Trump flew to Kansas City, Missouri, Friday to give a speech at the Project Safe Neighborhoods national conference.

President Donald Trump visited Kansas City, Missouri, Friday to speak at a national conference for Project Safe Neighborhoods, a Justice Department initiative that aims to partner local and federal officials in order to reduce violent crime.

At the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center, a crowd of hundreds of law enforcement officials and prosecutors from around the country greeted the president with warm applause, dozens of cell phones popping up in the air to capture his entrance.

"You keep America safe, and you maybe don't hear it enough or sometimes don't feel it enough," Trump said to the crowd. "You do an incredible job. The people in this country know it and they love you. Just remember that, 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."

Trump said it is through Project Safe Neighborhoods that his administration has shown its dedication to supporting and protecting law enforcement officials. He said his administration has provided access to more than $600 million dollars worth of surplus military equipment and that there are more than 200 new violent crime prosecutors nationwide. 

Western Missouri and Kansas have each received around a quarter million dollars in the past fiscal year from the federal program. 

Trump said the core of the Project Safe Neighborhoods strategy "is restoring respect for law enforcement."

"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," he said as the room broke into a long stretch of applause. 

Unlike most of his appearances, this one was missing that notorious campaign rally spirit, which could be attributed to the fact that it was a closed event. 

But he did touch on many of his typical hot-button issues, like illegal immigration, the border wall and fake news, which he dropped in just three minutes into his speech, while congratulating Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley for his election to the U.S. Senate. 

"So I just want to congratulate you, and you know, I keep listening to the fake news that they won the House, House, House. Nobody ever talks about the Senate," Trump said.

Trump campaigned heavily for Hawley during the midterm race. He failed to mention that, as of Thursday, Hawley is under investigation for possibly using "public funds" in his bid for U.S. Senate

On the whole, Trump did not have much to say about Kansas City — in fact, at one point, he mistakenly referred to it as St. Louis.

He was thanking officers, attorneys and advocates by name for their work, when he came to James Clark, vice president of community outreach for Better Family Life in St. Louis. He praised Clark for ending "more than 50 escalating gun battles between rival gangs right here in St. Louis."

Though the fact that this conference was held here, in Kansas City, does hold significance. The city has seen rising levels of violence in recent years, and with just a few weeks left of 2018, homicides are only slightly off pace from 2017, which saw the highest number at in 25 years, with 150 people killed. 

In his roughly 30 minute speech Friday, Trump spent a significant portion of the time talking about illegal immigration and his border wall. But U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Missouri Tim Garrison said that's relevant for Kansas and Missouri.

"He understands that a lot of the problems that we face here in this district may not be obvious as border protection issues, most of the controlled substances that we find here in the heartland make their way to us over the border. So that's important," Garrison said.

In closing Friday, Trump told everyone in the room they were the "reason Americans sleep soundly in their beds at night." As he did after his victory speech in 2016, Trump exited the stage Friday to the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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