Bloomberg is reporting that in a Thursday meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the president insisted that “illegal dealers of the opioid fentanyl should be sentenced to death when convicted.”
This position is in keeping with Trump’s longstanding approach to these issues. In March, the White House circulated a plan to deal with the opioid crisis that included using the death penalty. “If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time,” Trump said at the time. “And that toughness includes the death penalty.” Earlier, in April of 2017, Trump effusively praised Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in a private phone conversation. Duterte’s government has overseen the extra-judicial murder of thousands of alleged drug dealers. Trump told Duterte that he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
More broadly, Trump has long been an advocate for an expansive use of the death penalty. “In order to bring law and order back into our cities, we need the death penalty and authority given back to the police,” he said in a 1990 Playboy interview. In 1989, Trump called for the execution of five black and Latino teens in the Central Park Five case. The teens were later exonerated, but Trump has said he still believes they’re guilty.
Under an existing law that was passed during Bill Clinton’s presidency, large-scale drug dealing can be a capital offense. But that law has never been applied and there are questions of whether it is even constitutional.