IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Does Trump want to execute nonviolent grandmothers convicted of drug charges?

The leading 2024 GOP presidential candidate’s bloodthirsty musings conflict with one of the good things he did in office.


Donald Trump isn’t a big policy guy. So it’s understandable that he got a little tripped up during his interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier when the host pressed the former president on his deranged death penalty desires as he runs for office again while under multiple criminal indictments.

That is, Baier asked about Trump’s stated goal of executing drug dealers — something that, by the way, would be illegal under Supreme Court precedent barring capital punishment for non-homicide crimes.

Confusion arose when Trump properly touted his grant of clemency to Alice Johnson, who was serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense.

That led Baier to bluntly observe: “But she’d be killed under your plan.”

President Donald Turmp with Alice Marie Johnson during a celebration of the First Step Act in the White House on April 1, 2019.
In 2019, President Donald Trump and Alice Johnson attended a White House celebration of the First Step Act.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

That prompted an incredible moment, where we can see the wheels in Trump’s beautiful mind” turning.

You have to see it for yourself, but Trump initially seemed bewildered by the interviewer’s point; then realized Baier was correct; and then, after his brain freeze thawed (“Uhhhhhhhh”) pivoted to the more moderate view that “it would depend on the severity.” What Trump meant by that exactly is unclear; he might not know himself.

The former president then assured that he isn’t seeking to retroactively execute drug dealers, as he proceeded to make an up-and-down chopping motion to indicate that there wouldn’t be executions of people who already have drug convictions (on one side of the Trump chop) but only going forward (on the other side of the Trump chop).

Then, echoing misleading claims about the death penalty’s deterrent effect, Trump argued that Johnson wouldn’t have been involved in a drug conspiracy in the first place if his capital punishment policy had already been established.

Thankfully, as I wrote earlier this year, after he reportedly wondered about bringing back execution methods such as hangings and the guillotine, a President Trump “would encounter an obstacle to carrying out every bloodthirsty fantasy he comes up with: the law.”

Subscribe to the Deadline: Legal Blog newsletter for weekly updates on the top legal stories, including news from the Supreme Court, the Donald Trump investigations and more.