President Donald Trump will roll out new plans to tackle the country’s opioid epidemic on Monday in New Hampshire, the White House said Sunday.
The plan will include stiffer penalties for high-intensity drug traffickers, including the death penalty for some, Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told reporters Sunday.
Trump’s long-awaited plan will focus on three areas: Law enforcement and interdiction, prevention and education through a sizable advertising campaign,, improving the ability to fund treatment through the federal government, and help those impacted by the epidemic find jobs while fighting addiction, Bremberg and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said.
Congress recently appropriated $6 billion to combat the opioid epidemic, and a senior administration official told CNN that Trump’s plan will lay out how the administration believes that money should be spent.
The concept of the death penalty for certain drug traffickers is something Trump has been outspoken about, but this will be the first time it will be part of an official administration plan.
“The Department of Justice will seek the death penalty against drug traffickers when it’s appropriate under current law,” Bremberg told reporters during a phone call Sunday evening.
Trump called for the death penalty to drug dealers earlier this month at a rally in Pennsylvania. His plan is expected to focus on sentencing reforms for drug dealers that would stiffen penalties for high-intensity drug dealers while “other people languishing in prison for these low-level drug crimes,” a senior administration official said.
“The President thinks that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” the official said, adding that these penalties would be for dealers who bring large quantities of opioids – particular fentanyl – into the United States, not the people that are “are growing pot in the backyard or a friend who has a low-level possession crime.
“His plan will address, and he will address, the stiffening of penalties for the people who are bringing the poison into our communities,” the official added.
The official stressed that the speech and plan are still being reviewed and subject to change, meaning how much Trump focuses on the death penalty and tougher punishment is still uncertain.
On Sunday’s call with reporters, administration officials would not get into specifics on Trump’s death penalty proposal and referred all questions to the Department of Justice. When asked if the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment for some traffickers, a senior administration official again referred the question to the department but said capital punishment would be fitting in some instances.
The official said the death penalty proposal would be something the Justice Department will be “examining to move ahead with to make sure that’s done appropriately” and not wait for Congress to propose possible legislation on the matter.
In support of the proposal, Trump told an audience in Pennsylvania this month that “a drug dealer will kill 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 people during the course of his or her life” and not be punished as much as a murderer.
“Thousands of people are killed or their lives are destroyed, their families are destroyed. So you can kill thousands of people and go to jail for 30 days,” Trump said. “They catch a drug dealer, they don’t even put them in jail.”
Trump then touted the way Singapore handled drug dealers with the death penalty.
“That means if we catch a drug dealer, death penalty,” Trump said.
Trump’s talk of stricter penalties for drug crimes has worried some treatment advocates, who have said there is no way the United States can punish its way out of the opioid epidemic.