Thursday, July 28, 2022

Pardon The Execution

In 2016, it was immigration powering Donald J. Trump to the presidency. Now it appears that Donald Trump has seized upon a slightly different issue, one he mentioned but did not emphasize in 2022, as his path back to power. On Tuesday, he

voiced support for imposing the death penalty as punishment for convicted drug dealers as part of a speech in which he laid out a series of drastic measures to curb crime.

“The penalties should be very, very severe. If you look at countries throughout the world, the ones that don’t have a drug problem are ones that institute a very quick trial death penalty sentence for drug dealers,” Trump said at the America First Policy Institute.

“It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But you know what? That’s the ones that don’t have any problem. It doesn’t take 15 years in court. It goes quickly, and you absolutely — you execute a drug dealer, and you’ll save 500 lives,” Trump continued.

“It’s terrible to say, but you take a look at every country in this world that doesn’t have a problem with drugs, they have a very strong death penalty for people that sell drugs,” he said.

Trump’s comments calling for a crackdown on drug dealers, which included praise for quick trials in other countries, came as part of a broader vision for harshly cracking down on crime.

The former president painted a picture of a bleak and dystopian country, highlighting instances of civilians being attacked in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

On July 8, he had similarly maintained

the U.S. should model its response to the illegal narcotics trade on China, where he said accused drug dealers are executed after swift trials.

Trump made the remarks in a speech he delivered in Las Vegas, Nevada, Friday during a rally for his endorsed candidates in the state's gubernatorial and Senate races. The speech was marked by two recurring themes for Trump: a demand for law and order, as well as an admiration for heavy-handed governance.

Addressing what he's characterized as an alarming wave of violent crime, Trump prefaced his praise for China by saying he would either "get a standing ovation" or "people are going to walk out of the room."

"If you look at countries all throughout the world ... the only ones that don't have a drug problem are those that institute the death penalty for drug dealers. They're the only ones, you understand that? China has no drug problem," Trump said to applause.

As with Trump's pleas for patriotism, the ex-president's heated rhetoric slamming drug dealers is a matter of convenience.  On his way out of office

President Donald J. Trump’s late-night commutation of a 10-year prison sentence being served by a drug smuggler named Jonathan Braun made the action sound almost routine. The White House said only that upon his release, Mr. Braun would “seek employment to support his wife and children.”

What the White House did not mention is that Mr. Braun, a New Yorker from Staten Island who had pleaded guilty in 2011 to leading a large-scale marijuana smuggling ring, still faces both criminal and civil investigations in an entirely separate matter, and has a history of violence and threatening people.

According to lawsuits filed in June against Mr. Braun and two associates by the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, and the Federal Trade Commission, Mr. Braun helped start and worked as a de facto enforcer for an operation that made predatory loans to small-business owners, threatening them with violence if they refused to pay up.

Federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan also have a continuing investigation into that operation, a person with knowledge of the investigation said Friday.

As recently as two and a half years ago, Mr. Braun was accused of throwing a man off a deck at an engagement party. Federal prosecutors said in a court proceeding that he threatened to beat a rabbi who borrowed money to renovate a preschool at his synagogue. “I am going to make you bleed,” he told the rabbi, according to court documents, adding, “I will make you suffer for every penny.”

How much Mr. Trump and his aides knew about Mr. Braun’s past and his current legal troubles is not clear. In its announcement of the pardon this week, the White House appears to have substantially overstated how much of his 10-year sentence Mr. Braun had completed, saying he had served five years when he had only reported to prison a year ago. (The White House announcement also misspelled his first name, calling him Jonathon.)

Braun wasn't the first drug salesman to whom President Trump lavished some love.  There would have been more but the vast majority of drug crimes are state, rather than federal, offenses.

Perhaps Donald Trump actually would like to see drug pushers executed, along with the political opponents he'd target in a second term. Either way, he may have found his issue this time around.

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