Does Trump Want To Give Drug Dealers The Death Penalty?

By Kelly Burch 02/28/18

Multiple sources claim the president often talks at length about how drug dealers should face the same punishment as serial killers.

Donald Trump

President Trump has made headlines for his lack of condemnation of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has waged a bloody war on drugs that is reportedly driven by executing people who use, possess, and deal drugs. 

Now, an alarming new report indicates that Trump may actually admire the approach of Duterte and other leaders whose governments give the death penalty for drug infractions.

“He often jokes about killing drug dealers... He’ll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them,’” a senior White House official told Axios.

Another source said that Trump points to Singapore as a success story for taking a tough approach to drug dealers. 

"He says that a lot," the source said. "He says, 'When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] 'No. Death penalty.'" 

Five sources told Axios that the president often talks at length about the fact that drug dealers are just as bad as serial killers and should face the same penalty. However, he has acknowledged that the death penalty would be hard to pass in the United States. 

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway explained that the president’s approach would only focus on people who deal large amounts of drugs. “The president makes a distinction between those that are languishing in prison for low-level drug offenses and the kingpins hauling thousands of lethal doses of fentanyl into communities, that are responsible for many casualties in a single weekend,” she said.

Trump has previously said that President Duterte deserved praise for his violent crusade against drug dealers in the Philippines. 

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said in a phone call, according to a transcript obtained by the Intercept and the Washington Post

Duterte replied, "Thank you, Mr. President. This is the scourge of my nation and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation." 

“I understand that and fully understand that and I think we have had a previous president who did not understand that, but I understand that and we have spoken about this before,” Trump said. 

Although the Trump administration is unlikely to pass a policy that promotes the death penalty for drug dealers, Axios noted that the administration is likely to focus on triggering mandatory minimum sentencing for people who have as little as two grams of fentanyl, an amount that can be lethal. Right now, a person must have 40 grams to be sentenced to a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. 

“There is an appetite among many law enforcement, health professionals and grieving families that we must toughen up our criminal and sentencing statutes to match the new reality of drugs like fentanyl, which are so lethal in such small doses,” Conway said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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