Donald Trump praises use of death penalty for drug traffickers

February 15, 2019 GMT

President Trump revived his praise of foreign nations that use the death penalty to crack down on drug trafficking Friday, suggesting in a speech on border security it’s a better way to deal with addiction than study groups who “eat lunch” and “waste a lot of time.”

Mr. Trump, who recently signed a criminal justice reform bill to help nonviolent offenders, struck a get-tough pose in the White House Rose Garden, saying Chinese President Xi Jinping told him they don’t have a drug problem because they threaten dealers with the ultimate penalty.

“What do we do? We set up blue-ribbon committees,” said Mr. Trump, whose own administration established a commission on opioid addiction during the first year of his presidency.

Mr. Trump is treating opioid addiction, which killed 47,600 people in 2017, as a public health emergency. Most of his efforts have focused on expanding treatment and overdose-reversing drugs, though he’s flirted with the idea of imposing the death penalty on certain dealers.

Last year, he directed the Justice Department to consider it when prosecuting major traffickers under “kingpin” statutes.

“We want to get smart,” he said.

Some experts say threatening dealers with the death penalty won’t work, since traffickers are making an economic decision to sell drugs and that no penalty will deter them.

Mr. Trump raised the issue during a tangent in his speech declaring a national emergency at the southern border.

He said using a collection of appropriated and reprogrammed funds to build his promised border wall will keep out deadly drugs.

He praised Chinese officials for deciding to schedule all forms of fentanyl as illegal in their country a gesture they made amid trade talks with the U.S.

The potent synthetic opioid is often made in clandestine labs in Asia and cut with other drugs by Mexican cartels, ultimately crossing the U.S. border through trafficking routes.