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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana

Remarks as Delivered

Thanks, Jesse, for the overly generous introduction. I appreciate it.

Good afternoon. I want to thank you for that warm welcome — even though the weather is less than warm.

But I’m used to Montana weather. My first trial was in Helena, three months in the winter, minus 30 degrees for several days. So, this feels like summer.

It’s not my only experience in Montana. I investigated, worked on the takedown, and prosecuted the Unabomber, coming out of Lincoln, Montana. And I worked on the same with respect to the Montana Freeman in Jordan.

I’m happy to be back here. I don’t want you to think the only think I do here is work. I also hiked in Glacier. I downhill skied in Big Sky. I cross-country skied out of West Yellowstone. It is a pleasure to be back in Montana.

In just a few minutes, we’ll be meeting with a group of federal and local law enforcement partners to discuss our work together to keep communities in Montana safe.

I just returned, as Jesse said, from a visit to the Crow Indian Reservation, where I met with Tribal leadership, Tribal law enforcement, and victim services experts. I heard about the challenges that Tribal victims face in accessing the services they need to recover and feel safe in their communities.

So, before we get started, I just wanted to announce an important development in our efforts to combating the longstanding crises of missing or murdered Indigenous persons and human trafficking.

Today, the Departments of Justice and the Interior released our joint response to the Not Invisible Act Commission’s recommendations on responding to these crises.

We recognize that more must be done across the federal government to put an end to these tragedies. And to help Tribal communities heal. We remain steadfast in our commitment to this work.

I’m also extremely grateful to Interior Secretary Haaland for her unwavering commitment to this partnership.

I also want to be particularly cognizant of the work done by the members of the Not Invisible Act Commissioners. I am especially grateful to the survivors and family members of victims who testified before the commission about their heartbreaking experiences. Those testimonies and the Commission’s recommendations will guide us in all of our work going forward.

Last week, we brought on Bree Black Horse as an Assistant U.S. Attorney as part of the Department’s Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Regional Outreach Program. In this role, she will be dedicated to prosecuting these cases in Montana and the Northwest.

We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to help ensure that all people in Indian country are safe in their communities.

The Justice Department’s partnerships with federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement, and with the communities they serve, are at the center of all of our efforts to keep our communities safe.

Here in Montana, this U.S. Attorney’s Office has put our partnerships to work to seize illegal guns and deadly drugs and to prosecute those who commit acts of violence in our communities.

Just last Friday, this office secured the conviction of a defendant who trafficked fentanyl and methamphetamine in Hill County and on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation;

Last Wednesday, the office, together with its partners at ATF, the Park County Sheriff’s Office, and the Missouri River Drug Task Force announced that it had dismantled a meth trafficking ring that ran from Idaho to Montana.

Last Tuesday, together with the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, the office secured an 11-year prison sentence of a man in Missoula for trafficking meth.

And next month, a man in Bozeman is set to be sentenced after pleading guilty to trafficking guns from Montana to Mexico.

Our partnerships were also critical in last year’s investigation and takedown of another major meth and fentanyl trafficking operation on the Crow Indian Reservation.

In that case, traffickers based in Washington State were transporting drugs to the Crow Reservation, and in return, were transporting firearms and cash from the reservation to Washington State.

The traffickers also distributed meth throughout the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation, the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, and the surrounding region.

This takedown was made possible by close cooperation and coordination between the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Drug Enforcement [Administration], and the FBI. It has led to charges against more than two dozen individuals.

On Thursday, one of the top leaders of the operation will be sentenced after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

These examples are just a snapshot of the work that the U.S. Attorney’s Office here does every single day to fulfill our Department’s mission: to uphold the rule of law, to keep our country and our communities safe, and to protect civil rights.

I am very proud of the men and women of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana.

Before we get started, I want to highlight that in the coming year, the Justice Department plans to put more resources directly into the hands of our law enforcement and community partners, working to drive down violent crime and improve public safety.

We encourage police departments, community organizations, and other partners across Montana to apply for the Justice Department’s more than 200 grant programs. That includes programs that fund the hiring of more police officers, programs that invest in officer safety and wellness, and programs that support community violence intervention activities.

Last year, for example, the Department awarded more than $20 million in grants through the Office of Justice Programs and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to support efforts across Montana to reduce violent crime, support the victims of crime, hire officers, support officer safety and wellness, and build public trust.

We encourage our partners here today and across Montana to learn about these programs and to apply for the grants.

Thank you again for having me here today. I am looking forward to our conversation.

But before I start, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Tribal Justice, Tracy Toulou. Tracy, if you would you please stand.

So, Tracy is a 30-year-veteran of the Department of Justice. He is responsible for the excellence of our relationships, government-to-government relationships with Tribal communities all across the country.

He was supposed to retire last month, but he agreed to come with on this trip because of how important it is to the mission of the Department and to the mission of the institution that he stood under.

Tracy, we are going to miss you, but we know that your legacy will live on because you have built an institution. You have built relationships between federal government and the Tribal communities that will last long after you leave.

We are very grateful for everything did, and I’m personally very grateful for your organizing the trip this morning.

Thank you.

Alright, we’re ready to get started.

 

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