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A new piece on the inner deliberations of Trumpworld from Rolling Stone reveals that Donald Trump is making the death penalty — specifically, expanding its use in America — a centre point of his flagging 2024 campaign. According to several sources close to the former president who spoke with the magazine, Mr Trump is putting energy behind the idea of widely expanding the death penalty to make drug offences eligible for capital punishment.
There’s little reason to think that such a plan would actually go anywhere. The Constitution prohibits the use of cruel and/or unusual punishments, and it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make a legal justification to expand use of the most severe punishment in the US justice system to nonviolent offences.
The former president is said by aides to also be discussing the possibility of launching a political effort to reintroduce firing squads to the US justice system, apparently due to their flashy nature.
And that’s not all — Mr Trump has even floated the prospect of group executions with his closest advisers, while he rants about how drug dealers supposedly be “eradicated”.
“In conversations I’d been in the room for, President Trump would explicitly say that he’d love a country that was totally an ‘eye for an eye’ — that’s a direct quote — criminal justice system, and he’d talk about how the ‘right’ way to do it is to line up criminals and drug dealers before a firing squad,” a former White House official told Rolling Stone.
It’s a notion that echoes public statements Mr Trump has made at recent campaign rallies. He made several comments about using the death penalty against convicted drug offenders at multiple appearances last year, despite his own history of granting clemency for several Americans convicted of similar charges while he was in office.
“It's an invasion of crime,” said Mr Trump at a rally in September. “And remember much of the crime that we talk about is caused by drugs. And I'm calling for the death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers.”
According to The Marshall Project, only one US state, Utah, has carried out an execution by firing squad in the last century. A handful of others technically allow the process.
Some death row inmates in recent years have even fought legal battles to choose a firing squad as the method of their execution, given new reporting about botched executions involving the most common method used in the US: lethal injection.
In recent years, trends have continued against the death penalty even as Mr Trump expanded its use at the federal level during his final days in office. 24 states allow the death penalty, and 23 have abolished it; three others have a moratorium in place sunsetting the practice. Attorney General Merrick Garland reinstated the federal moratorium in 2021.