In a speech to local law enforcement officers graduating Friday from the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, President Donald Trump railed against the violent El Salvadoran gang MS-13.
“To any member of MS-13 listening, I have a message for you,” the president told the officers and their families. “We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you, we will throw you the hell out of the country.”
“Somehow I like it better than jail,” he said to applause. “Jail, we have to take care of ’em. Who the hell wants to take care of ’em? You know the jail stuff is wonderful, but we have to pay for it, right?”
He went on to call members of MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, “killers” and “sadists.”
“We don’t want ’em,” he said. “We don’t want ’em. They’re getting out of here. Our cities should not be sanctuaries for criminals. They should be sanctuaries for Americans.”
Trump said he has instructed federal law enforcement to work with local police to “destroy” MS-13.
“It is our duty to serve the hardworking citizens of our country, who raise our families, cherish our values, salute our flag, and make this land our home,” he said. “These are the citizens you represent, and these are the citizens your courageously protect.”
The president said in the speech that the Department of Justice has worked with countries in Central America to arrest and charge about 4,000 MS-13 members, and that the Department of Homeland Security has arrested close to 800 MS-13 gang members and associates — an 83 percent increase over the prior year.
He went on to say the U.S. will “get rid of” MS-13 completely “very soon.”
Last May, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it had conducted the largest crackdown on criminal gangs in the nation’s history, arresting 1,378 people in the operation that it called Project New Dawn. MS-13 was one of four gangs targeted in the sweep, which also included the Bloods, Sureños, and the Crips.
More than 200 illegal guns and nearly 600 pounds of narcotics were seized in the six-week nationwide operation.
Trump was enthusiastically received at Quantico on Friday morning. In his remarks before the president spoke, an FBI spokesman said, turning to Trump, who was seated on the stage:
“I must tell you, sir, a few days ago we were assembled here in this auditorium and the announcement was made that you would be attending, and this room erupted with energy.”
At these words, the graduates rose to their feet, clapping, and giving the president a standing ovation.
In his speech, the president praised law enforcement effusively, saying: “…I want you to know, with me as your president, America’s police will have a true friend and loyal champion in the White House, more loyal than anyone else can be.”
“We as a country must do a better job showing our police officers the respect and gratitude that you have earned,” he said, “so when you return home to your local precincts, I want you to deliver a message to your fellow officers: The president of the United States has your back, 100 percent. I will fight for you, and I will never ever let you down, ever. Now, more than ever, we must support the men and women in blue.”
The president pointed to Chicago, which has seen a rapid escalation in violent crime.
“What the hell is going on in Chicago?” he asked. “What the hell is happening there? For the second year in a row, a person was shot in Chicago every three hours. You don’t think the people in this room could stop that? They’d stop that. They’d stop it.”
President Trump went on to say the U.S. will “get rid of” MS-13 completely “very soon.”
He also spoke about the rapid rise of anti-police sentiment in the country.
“Instead of holding up our police as the role models and mentors they are, they have been subjected to malicious attacks on their character and their integrity,” he said. “This anti-police sentiment is wrong and it’s dangerous, and we will not stand for it.”
“Most concerning of all,” he continued, “we have seen an alarming increase in violent assaults carried out against our police officers. Last year a police officer was assaulted in America on average every 10 minutes … In 2016, more than 140 officers lost their lives serving in the line of duty. These deaths fill our hearts with pain and with grief. Every drop of blood spilled from our men and women in blue is a wound inflicted on our nation. And when a brother or sister in uniform is hurt, on that day, all of America bleeds blue.”
He said that on this day, he wanted to send a message to those who threaten police officers with violence.
“We will protect those who protect us. And we believe criminals who kill police officers should get the death penalty.”
The rock-ribbed support the president expressed for police officers stood in contrast to comments he made about the FBI that morning to reporters, following the publication of private messages this week that seem to show investigators working for FBI special counsel Robert Mueller are virulently opposed to the president and intent on bringing him down.
“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” Trump said. “But we’re going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever. But it is very sad when you look at those documents. And how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it. It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that.”