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Donald Trump Proved He Really Loves the Death Penalty

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Image by Gage Skidmore.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Is Donald Trump the Doctor of Death? That’s what Rolling Stone thinks.

In an investigative article from two journalists at the music, culture, and movie magazine, former President Donald Trump oversaw the death penalty carried out against 13 people in six months.

The federal prisoners who died at government hands under Donald Trump were more than the previous ten administrations combined.

Trump Just Didn’t Care About People On Death Row, the Magazine Said

Rolling Stone’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Patrick Reis believe that Donald Trump was overzealous and callous when it came to administering the death penalty at the federal level.

Trump was asked to intervene in at least one case and failed to stop the proceedings after promising the death row inmate’s crime survivors that he would allow the death penalty to happen.

Rolling Stone believes that this was a part of Trump’s “killing spree.”

He Still Wanted to Be “Tough on Crime”

The authors do admit that Trump should be given credit for his bipartisan criminal justice reform law. But by his re-election campaign in 2020, Trump had changed his tune and wanted the public to know that he was still tough on crime, they wrote. This meant supporting the death penalty.

Attorney General William Barr was willing to help Trump make sure that people on death row would get the ultimate punishment.

Attorney General Is Willing

Barr, who had earlier served as attorney general under President George HW Bush, was a long-time death penalty advocate, a position which he clarified in his memoir. He said during the Bush administration’s reign that the death penalty was a deterrent and that it “permanently incapacitates extremely violent offenders and serves the important societal goal of just retribution.”

Trump Has Long Supported the Death Penalty

Rolling Stone pointed out that Trump started off his 2024 presidential campaign with a speech that claimed he would pursue the death penalty against drug dealers. Trump has been an advocate for the death penalty since 1989 when five teenagers were arrested for the rape and murder of a woman jogger in Central Park. Trump placed a full-page ad in the New York Daily News to “Bring Back the Death Penalty.” The five who were accused were later cleared by DNA findings after serving in prison.

AG Sessions Cleared the Way for More People Put to Death

The authors wrote that Barr was not the only advocate for putting criminals to death; his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was also instrumental in making the policy more prevalent.

Sessions believed that the death penalty could be used for drug dealers, and he wrote a memo to lift a moratorium that called for resuming the federal statutes regarding the death penalty for those offenders.

Did They Deserve Such a Fate?

Rolling Stone said that some inmates executed under Donald Trump were unfairly victimized. Lisa Montgomery was diagnosed with extreme mental illness and put to death – the first woman victim since 1953. And there was Wesley Ira Purkey, who had Alzheimer’s so bad he was unlikely to understand why he went to the death chamber.

Pardons for Lesser Crimes

The magazine journalists wrote that while Donald Trump was seemingly merciless against those on death row, he still gave out presidential pardons to some of his cronies.

Roger Stone had seven felonies for obstructing the Russian collusion investigation and a pardon for son-in-law Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who was serving time for tax evasion.

Your feelings on this matter likely are determined by how you feel about the death penalty and criminal justice in general. Are you “tough on crime?” Or do you think that the death penalty is wrong and inhumane?

Trump’s critics are right to point out the statistics – many more federal prisoners were put to death under Trump, and it shows how particular administrations can choose to carry out the death penalty more than others. This could become a difficult question for Trump in a presidential debate. Something like the following: “Do you still support the death penalty even though you are also being investigated for crimes and have passed criminal justice reform and since you are Pro-Life at the same time?” It would be interesting to see how Trump would answer a question of that magnitude.

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Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.