Flanked by Las Vegas Police Protective Association President Steve Grammas and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, GOP gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo gives a thumbs up to Donald Trump in Las Friday. (CSPAN screengrab)
Former President Donald Trump visited Las Vegas Friday to tout his chosen candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor in an often-meandering speech centered on crime in Nevada and nationally.
Trump dedicated a significant chunk of his 45 minute speech at the Treasure Island resort to condemning the Democratic party for being soft on crime, calling Nevada and the entire nation “a cesspool of crime.”
“If we are going to make America great again our first task is to make America safe again,” said Trump to hefty applause from the audience.
The former president did however dedicate a few moments of his speech to boost Republican nominees in Nevada, including Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the party candidate for governor, and Adam Laxalt, the candidate for U.S. Senate, both of whom he endorsed during their primaries.
Prior to Trump’s address, Laxalt and Lombardo participated in a panel discussion, which also focused on crime.
While neither Lombardo nor Laxalt praised Trump for his tenure in office, the candidates echoed the former president’s rhetoric on restoring a tough on crime approach to governance.
In 2021, Clark County saw a 49% increase in murders and an 11% increase in property crime, according to the most recent annual report.
Lombardo attributed the increase in crime to recent changes in Nevada criminal justice reform measures passed under a Democratic controlled Legislature, including provisions in AB236 that take aim at reducing Nevada’s growing prison population and recidivism rates by lowering penalties for some theft and drug crimes. Lombardo argued the provisions were emboldening criminals.
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The bill passed on a party-line vote with some Republican support in both the Assembly and state Senate. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, under the direction of Lombardo, originally opposed the bill but switched to neutral as it moved through the Legislature.
“We are currently in the throes of a single party rule in the state of Nevada,” Lombardo said. “The majority of the Legislature are majority Democratic. Do you think that has anything to do with the situation we are in?”
Lombardo justified a Clark County tax hike he spearheaded in 2016 known as the ‘More Cops Fund,’ which increased sales tax from from 8.1% to 8.15%, adding that he supports an increase in funding for police and will not “defund the police”
“Defund the police has been the scourge of what we’re dealing with in law enforcement,” Lombardo said.
Metro’s budget has increased anywhere between 0.96% to 5.56% annually since fiscal year 2014, according to past budget reports. In June, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was granted more than $715 million for its operating budget next year — an 8.17% increase over its previous budget.
Laxalt, the former state attorney general, likewise said Nevada has faced a wave of “anti-cop rhetoric” and the “demonization of police.” He called the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department “one of the finest police departments in America.”
The former attorney general referred to the series of protests and civil unrest that occurred after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, calling the resulting national conversation about systemic racism in policing “out of whack.”
“What it’s done is cause massive retirements,” Laxalt said. “Does anyone want their kids to be cops today? Let me tell you, cops don’t want their kids to be cops today.”
Laxalt said police departments across the country are dealing with recruitment and retention issues. In Clark County, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has fallen below the ratio of two officers per 1,000 citizens — a benchmark set with the ‘More Cops Fund’ sales tax.
Fentanyl overdoses were also a major topic discussed on the panel Friday. Laxalt blamed the national increase in fentanyl deaths on what he called an “open border,” which he characterized as a border where “anyone can come in with no limits and no restraints.”
Nevada is not a border state and lies outside the 100-mile jurisdiction of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, however, Laxalt devoted a large chunk of his time to criticizing what he says is a lack of funding for border patrol.
“We will force this president to come to terms and give law enforcement the resources they need to back border patrol,” Laxalt said.
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Trump used much of his time on stage to praise his accomplishments while in office and called for more law enforcement across the nation, saying that “civilization is under siege” by “organized mobs.”
Trump said one regret he had as president was allowing local city governments to “do their job on crime instead of saying I’m going to do your job for you.” Trump used his executive order directing federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute people who damage federal monuments— and withhold federal funding from cities— as an example of steps he could have taken to control local policing.
“We’re not going to let that happen to our cities. They are run by Democrats and you know we’re supposed to let them run it,” Trump said. “With Republican victories in 2022 and 2024 we can restore tough on crime policies and much, much more.”
Trump called for strengthening qualified immunity laws for police officers— a defense that shields officers from being sued – giving police more surplus military equipment, building a physical border, and increased funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“We must back them up so they can properly do their jobs. Police officers will never be able to enforce the law if simply doing their jobs can land them in jail, take away their retirement and basically ruin their lives,” Trump said.
The former president emphasized his overall nationalist “America First” ideology and called Lombardo and Laxalt “America First candidates.” He also lambasted current Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who Trump said was “letting your state go to hell.”
Trump called Lombardo “tough as hell” and a “steady hand” and urged Republicans to go out and vote in November.
The event at Treasure Island was not a typical Trump rally, and not open to the public. Nevada Current requested media credentials for the event but the Trump political action committee taking those credentials denied the request. This story was covered by watching the event on CSPAN.
This story was first published by Nevada Current, part of the States Newsroom network of news bureaus with Louisiana Illuminator.
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