(CN) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in a visit to law enforcement officers in Kansas on Wednesday, praised their efforts in helping to lower the nation’s crime rates while also refusing to comment on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Barr was accompanied by Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, who invited the head of the U.S. Justice Department to speak with top law enforcement officials in Topeka and Wichita. Moran is the chair of a Senate subcommittee that oversees funding for the Justice Department.
“I wanted to come here to Kansas because this is one of the most successful federal, state and local law enforcement partnerships we have in the country,” Barr said in his opening remarks. “Senator Moran and I have been talking about how we can take things a step further to keep the pressure up against violent crime, gun violence, drugs, gangs.”
Barr said violent crime was at an all-time high when he served his first term as attorney general in 1992. He said he credits the approach of keeping violent offenders incarcerated for the reduction in crime rates since then.
“But there’s still places around the country where the crime rate is substantially above the national average and where we’re seeing some upticks in crime,” Barr said.
Sen. Moran said he has pressed Barr and the Justice Department for more resources to handle prisoners in need of drug counseling or mental health services.
“Our county jails have become, in a very expensive way, a place that we house people that we don’t have programs for,” the senator said.
Moran referenced a congressional bill he said he supports that would increase federal aid by 3% to the Bureau of Prisons, federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors. A partial amount of that increase would also go to local law enforcement.
Barr did not respond to a reporter who asked if Barr had spoken with the president about Ukraine. Earlier in the day at an event in Topeka, Sen. Moran addressed the subject of impeachment by saying it was “discouraging” and distracting Congress from passing bills and continuing the job of the government.
“I wish this wasn’t what we were facing. My view is that the American people chose a president,” Moran said. “What used to happen, and I wish would return, is we would spend the next four years working with that administration, working with that president. There’s an election that occurs and if you have a different opinion about who should be president, that’s resolved at the next election. That’s been intruded on by a continual effort by some Democrats in the House to keep impeachment at the top of the list.”
President Trump faces growing scrutiny after a whistleblower complaint alleged that he delayed military aid to Ukraine in exchange for their government’s help to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
More than 20 protesters gathered outside as Barr spoke in Wichita, with some carrying signs reading, “Stop the corruption” and “You both should be ashamed for putting politics above country.”
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.