Mar 19, 2018, 4:14 PM ET

Trump calls for death penalty for drug dealers but says country might not be ready

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President Donald Trump doubled down on his call for the death penalty for drug dealers in a speech in New Hampshire Monday, making the case that such a zero-tolerance policy would fix the nation’s drug problem.

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“We have to change the laws, and we're working on that right now. The Department of Justice is working very, very hard on that. But the ultimate penalty has to be the death penalty," Trump said. "Maybe our country's not ready for that. It's possible, it's possible that our country is not ready for that,” he said.

“Although personally, I can't understand that,” he continued.

“You take a look at some of these countries where they don’t play games,” he said, not mentioning any by name. “They don’t have a drug problem.”

"We can have all the blue ribbon committees we want," Trump said, "but if we don't get tough on drug dealers, we are wasting our time."

As he talked about punishing drug dealers, a woman yelled out from the audience: “What about compassion?” Trump seemed to not hear it or ignore it.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks to supporters and local politicians at an event at Manchester Community College on March 19, 2018 in Manchester, N.H.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters and local politicians at an event at Manchester Community College on March 19, 2018 in Manchester, N.H.

A White House release on Trump's initiative said the Justice Department would seek the death penalty, "where appropriate under current law," against those convicted of dealing and trafficking in fentanyl and other opioids. Some experts have questioned whether the move would have much impact.

Four months after declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, Trump said he came back to New Hampshire because he'd promised during the campaign to help the state deal with its opioid drug problem, noting the state's death rate from overdoses is double the national average.

Trump's wife Melania introduced him saying she'd seen the effect of the "crisis" first-hand when visiting hospitals and treatment centers.

"I'm proud of this administration's effort to end this epidemic," she said.

PHOTO: First lady Melania Trump walks onto the stage to introduce her husband and to speak about opioids at an event at Manchester Community College on March 19, 2018 in Manchester, N.H.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
First lady Melania Trump walks onto the stage to introduce her husband and to speak about opioids at an event at Manchester Community College on March 19, 2018 in Manchester, N.H.

Looking on in the audience were Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, who has taken the White House lead on the opioid issue.

While Trump's speech took place in 2018, it was in many ways a throwback to the 1980s when the “Just Say No” campaign was a leading effort to combat the nation’s drug problem. The president said it’s time again to scare kids away from drugs through a well-funded commercial campaign.

“It's the least expensive thing we can do, where you scare them from ending up like the people in the commercials. And will make them very, very bad commercials. Will make them pretty unsavory situations,” he said.

He also said he and first lady Melania Trump were introducing a new website, crisisnextdoor.gov, where people affected by the opioid crisis can share stories. Other new policy goals include cutting overall opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years and urging Congress to get rid of an old law prohibiting Medicaid from paying for care at some treatment facilities.

Trump also related the opioid crisis to immigration, saying he will work to end sanctuary city policies and accusing Democrats of stonewalling progress on DACA because they want to stop construction of the border wall. There was a short chant of “Build the wall!”

“They don't want to go with DACA because they don't care about DACA, but they're trying to tie the wall to DACA and DACA to the wall,” he said.

Trump claimed 90 percent of illegal drugs come through the southern border. "Eventually the Democrats will agree with us to build the wall to keep the damn drugs out!"

Trump said he would “probably” hold a “major news conference” at the White House in about a month to discuss dealing with how prescription drugs contribute to the overall drug addiction problem but did not give any further details.

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  • blues player

    Wow, a president has actually said to kill people who sell drugs. Unbelievable...
    People with mental health problems should be put on death row...??????
    How did this mental case politician criminal ever get elected???????

  • Impetus

    Sure, let's just start killing people. That won't have any unintended consequences at all.

  • tet1953

    We're not ready because it is an asinine idea.

  • Gonzo Destructo

    they said, "Plan" and "Trump" in the same sentence.........

  • Corvus

    Trump calls for the death penalty for drug dealers. We already have the death penalty in place if the drug dealer is a king pin pushing more than $20 million worth of drugs. Duarte's killed over 7000 people in 9 months - drug dealers, their entire families, and any drug users stupid enough to sign up for drug rehab programs. He claims crime has gone down, but drug-related killings by drug gangs have increased in the Philippines even as cops barge into people's homes and wipe out entire families. Cops who've protested, wanting to follow due process, have had to go into hiding or leave the country. It is probably this complete lack of respect for human rights, due process and the process of law that makes Trump admire Duarte and want to bring a similar war against the poor to the US.

  • MBG9

    The country's ready -- the Philippines.

  • jlmaddog

    If ever the concept of "Dumb Ass" had a dumber, spoiled little brother with a crippling personality disorder..., that little brother might someday grow up to President of the United States. It's happened. I didn't like Hillary much..., but *this* ah,... "situation" is beyond absurd.

  • Top shelf

    Trump doesn't the first clue what he's doing; big talk, nothing more. And Kellyanne is in charge of this 'crisis'? Why, because she looks like a meth-head?

  • DavieFL

    He got the idea of dead penalty for drug dealers from one of his hero he admire so much Rodrigo Duterte..like Trump, another dictator wannabe.

  • victor vestal

    Any president that has an adult industry name definitely should be on the chopping block.

  • A Man Has No Name

    I say we need the death penalty for treasonous presidents.

  • John

    Being facetious, how about anybody convicted of dealing drugs be given the drugs seized. That would make them think twice on holding a deadly dose.

  • MAGreenA

    Wnen a pharmaceutical company floods an area like Williamson, West Virginia, population 3,200, with 21,000,000 oxycontin and hydrocodone pills, causing the addictions to sky rocket, are they drug dealers? They certainly are in my book. Trump may want to think about his blanket statement of executing drug dealers, especially when he likes CEOs like big pharma and NRA who fund his campaign coffers. Seems like the problem is much more complex then street dealers. This really happened and also happens on Native American reservations.

  • highway_99

    You don't need the death penalty. Stop using Narcan.

  • Jay

    Good, he should begin with the former CEO and board members of Valeant pharmaceuticals.

  • Chuck

    As if we're not turning into a third world country already!!

  • boyscout

    gee does that include pharmaceutical company ceo's or over prescribing doctors or politicians that vote for our military to help countries maintain their drug incomes? Just wondering......

  • David

    Trump draws on other countries use of the death penalty for drug dealers, he might consider some of those countries also have death penalties for stealing, adultery and treason also. Just a thought Donald.

  • Ray

    Just go out there and say some stuff, Mr. President. It doesn't have to be possible or make sense or anything.

  • Guest

    I wonder if the GOP has yet to earn the lesson, "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't." I never liked Hillary, but if she'd been elected president, we would not be here.

  • wm97

    He follows the School of Duterte. Any social problem can be solved if you just kill enough people.

  • Bill William

    Trump wants to copy the approach that Duterte uses in the Philippines.

  • Verity Pendelton

    Trump can probably be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome - he has no social skills. Ever notice that he has NO friends or peers - and that even his siblings haven't supported him vocally. Tells you a lot of him. He doesn't care that families are suffering.

  • blues player

    The Horse Stable Genius sounds like a complete moron w/borderline autism...no ethics, no values, no morals.
    How did this piece of crap become elected????

  • mikevietvet68/69

    all the talk about something thats been going on since the 30's is complete rhetoric,my experience with the so-called epidemic touched our family for approx 40 years,its a terrible situation but i'm still in the belief that as much drugs come thru diplomatic pouches as cargo containers,but i never hear any sort of talk like that....they have immunity from being searched so its the perfect scenario,ok censors take me down....

  • RalphSpyer

    Why is the biggest push back against the death penalty for drug dealers come from blacks and latinos ? Could it be just like the murder rate in the United States the disproportion number of murders come from the black and brown community so to a disproportion number of drug dealers are also black and brown ?

  • ruelph

    What we got from Trump (as always) is all talk. Rhetoric is a not a solution, action is a solution.

  • Nearl45 5

    So are we putting to death those happy pill pushers too?

    It does seem that Melania is drugged up. Jesus, she looks like Ace’s wife from Casino.

    Sessions has been for capital punishment for anything that smells of marijuana for decades, to this is no giant leap for him.

  • Nearl45 5

    It makes more sense from a demand side to execute addicts.

    You’ll have less of them and abundant supply that will crater the market for illegal and legal opioids.

    But the again, here I am just like Trump, trying to pound nails with a banana, so to speak.

    Not a very humane solution is it?

  • Nearl45 5

    So I guess I don’t quite get it.

    Is Trump saying we should put drug companies and Doctors who over-prescribe opioids to death? Or just the profiteers of the aftermath of addiction?

    Then when the suppliers are all executed, people will fill their addiction by violently breaking into homes for money or prescription drugs?

    I mean....where are we addressing the addiction here?

    Seems like another half baked, false “common sense”plan that feels good and violent, but doesn’t really solve anything but makes people more desperate.

  • GAKESKE

    We have very poor Government education in this country...Very poor..Just read the comments....Poor knowledge of how a bill is written...And they think you're suppose to get one bill for another...That's not how it's suppose to work people...Very very poor education today...You all believe the dogma...