President Donald Trump told Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday that illegal dealers of the opioid fentanyl should be sentenced to death when convicted, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Sessions met Trump at the White House to discuss overhauling prison sentences, hours after Trump again ripped into the attorney general in an interview with Fox News. The meeting was cordial and the two men agreed to delay a push for any criminal justice overhaul until after midterm congressional elections, one of the people said.
Several other administration officials were in the meeting, including Kellyanne Conway, who is overseeing the White House’s opioid response.
It’s not the first time Trump has mused about sentencing drug dealers to death. Politico reported in March that the proposal would be included in a plan expected from the White House to combat the opioids crisis.
Under a law signed by President Bill Clinton, people who deal large quantities of drugs or make large amounts of money from the trade can already be sentenced to death. But prosecutors have never sought the penalty out of concern it would be found to be unconstitutional, Politico reported.
Fentanyl is one of the world’s most dangerous and most profitable narcotics, so powerful that it’s been studied as a chemical weapon, Bloomberg Businessweek reported in May. It kills more people than any other opioid, including heroin, because it’s so easy to overdose.
The drug or its analogs killed an estimated 29,000 Americans in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.