President Trump speaks at VFW convention
President Donald Trump will address hundreds of police officers and prosecutors in Kansas City on Friday as he makes his eighth trip to Missouri as president for a conference hosted by the Department of Justice.
The Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference comes as Trump faces scrutiny for his decision to fire former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and hire Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2018 presidential election.
Whitaker will be among the federal officials addressing the conference that will focus on the Justice Department’s strategies for reducing violent crime, according to the White House.
It’s a topic of significance to Kansas City, which has seen its homicide rate rise in recent years, from 79 in 2014 to 150 in 2017. There have been 119 homicides since the start of the year.
The conference, which takes place at Westin Kansas City at Crown Center from Dec. 5 through 7, is intended to foster cooperation between U.S. attorneys and state and local law enforcement agencies.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, who served as Polk County sheriff for 12 years, said in a statement that he understands “the challenges of fighting crime” and looks forward “to hearing the President’s ideas on how local, state, and federal partners, through initiatives like Project Safe Neighborhoods, can learn from each other to reduce violent crime.”
Trump visited Kansas City in July to raise money for Missouri Attorney Josh Hawley’s Senate campaign and deliver a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.
Trump was a fixture on the campaign trail in Missouri this year, holding multiple fundraisers and rallies in the state on behalf of Hawley’s successful Republican campaign to oust Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. He even chose Missouri as the state to hold his final rally before the mid-term election.
Both campaigns have pointed to Trump as playing a decisive role in the Senate race.
During his time as president, Trump has often criticized the Justice Department. On Monday he tore into Mueller on Twitter and attacked his former attorney Michael Cohen, who is cooperating with the investigation in an effort to avoid jail time.
“Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people think) and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don’t want the truth, they only want lies. The truth is very bad for their mission!” Trump said on Twitter.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel, will also be attending the conference.
The president’s rhetoric around local law enforcement has been markedly different than his comments about the Justice Department.
The president excoriated critics of police tactics in October, telling a gathering of police chiefs that politicians “who spread this dangerous anti-police sentiment make life easier for criminals and more dangerous for law-abiding citizens, and they also make it more dangerous for police, and it must stop, and it must stop now.”