Trump’s flip-flop on sentencing of drug traffickers

Conservatives applaud President Trump for keeping his promises. And we are justified in doing so. Trump has indeed kept many of his non-hyperbolic promises.

Unfortunately, Trump has violated one of his most important promises: getting tougher on drug dealers.

Here is what Trump said just eight months ago:

Every day, 116 Americans die from an opioid-related overdose. In New Hampshire, the overdose, really, death rate — I mean, can you believe this? The death rate is double the national average. . . .

Here in New Hampshire, I applaud all of the Drug Enforcement Agents and law enforcement officers who recently coordinated Operation Granite Shield, an 18-hour enforcement action targeting drug traffickers that resulted in the arrest of 151 people. These are terrible people, and we have to get tough on those people, because we can have all the Blue Ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time. Just remember that. We’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty. (Applause.)

You know, it’s an amazing thing. Some of these drug dealers will kill thousands of people during their lifetime — thousands of people — and destroy many more lives than that. But they will kill thousands of people during their lifetime, and they’ll get caught and they’ll get 30 days in jail. Or they’ll go away for a year, or they’ll be fined. And yet, if you kill one person, you get the death penalty or you go to jail for life.

So if we’re not going to get tough on the drug dealers who kills thousands of people and destroy so many people’s lives, we are just doing the wrong thing. We have got to get tough. This isn’t about nice anymore. This isn’t about committees. This isn’t about let’s get everybody and have dinners, and let’s have everybody go to a Blue Ribbon committee and everybody gets a medal for, frankly, talking and doing nothing. This is about winning a very, very tough problem. And if we don’t get very tough on these dealers, it’s not going to happen, folks. It’s not going to happen. And I want to win this battle.

(Emphasis added)

But now, instead of getting tougher with drug dealers, Trump wants to be more lenient towards these “terrible people.” The FIRST STEP legislation he supports would slash the time served in prison by federal drug felons — the worst of the drug dealers.

Sen. Tom Cotton has shown how a 20 year sentence for a fentanyl trafficker convicted of trafficking 1lb (“enough to kill more than 100K people”) who has a prior serious drug felony could become a sentence of about ten years under FIRST STEP. Combined with leniency provisions that already exist under law, the sentence would be even less than ten years.

Consistent with public pronouncements like the one in New Hampshire, Trump had promised privately that he would never back legislation that reduced sentences for fentanyl dealers. Why did he flip? Why does he now back legislation that will put these terrible people — these killers and destroyers of lives — back on the street much earlier than is allowed by current law?

I don’t know and I’m not sure it matters. The key point is that Trump has broken his promise by backing legislation that would make America less safe and, in Trump’s own words, make it less likely that we’ll win the battle against the deadly opioid epidemic.