Trump reiterates call for death penalty for drug dealers

US President Donald Trump at a campaign event on Saturday in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, in support of Republican Rick Saccone, who is running for a US House seat. Mr Trump's call for executing drug dealers got some of the most enthusiastic cheers o
US President Donald Trump at a campaign event on Saturday in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, in support of Republican Rick Saccone, who is running for a US House seat. Mr Trump's call for executing drug dealers got some of the most enthusiastic cheers of the night in the conservative district.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MOON TOWNSHIP (Pennsylvania) • President Donald Trump has again called for enacting the death penalty for drug dealers during a rally meant to bolster a struggling GOP candidate for a US House seat.

At the campaign event in the conservative western Pennsylvania district on Saturday, the President also veered off into a list of other topics, including North Korea, his distaste for the news media and his own election victory 16 months ago.

Mr Trump said that allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers - an idea he said he got from Chinese President Xi Jinping - is "a discussion we have to start thinking about. I don't know if this country's ready for it".

Addressing the crowd at the campaign, Mr Trump said: "The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness. When you catch a drug dealer, you've got to put him away for a long time."

It was not the first time Mr Trump had suggested executing drug dealers. Earlier this month, he described it as a way to fight the opioid epidemic. And last Friday, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was considering policy changes to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

On Saturday, his call for executing drug dealers got some of the most enthusiastic cheers of the night. As Mr Trump spoke about policies on the issue in China and Singapore, dozens of people nodded their heads in agreement. "We love Trump," one man yelled. A woman shouted: "Pass it!"

GET TOUGHER

The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness. When you catch a drug dealer, you've got to put him away for a long time.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Mr Trump was at the campaign to inject some last-minute political capital behind Republican Rick Saccone, whose race against Democrat Conor Lamb could be a harbinger of the Republican Party's fate in the midterms.

But in classic Trump fashion, he quickly steered away from his main reason for being there. He touted his decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and boasted that it was something his predecessors could not do.

The rally at an airport hangar in the Pittsburgh suburbs took Mr Trump back to familiar political terrain and a base that carried him to a surprise victory in 2016.

Mr Trump talked up his decision this past week to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports - a move deeply opposed by congressional Republicans and the business wing of the GOP, yet popular in this Pittsburgh suburb, the heart of steel country.

Both candidates in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last fall while enmeshed in a sex scandal, back the President's decision on the import duties.

"A lot of steel mills are now opening up because of what I did," the President told the crowd in this conservative district. "Steel is back, and aluminium is back."

Mr Trump also urged a crackdown on sanctuary cities and vowed to toughen enforcement at US borders and to root out members of MS-13, a criminal gang .

"We have to build a wall," he said. "For people, for gangs, for drugs. The drugs have never been a problem like we have right now."

Mr Trump also hinted he may not run for re-election, yet he rolled out a new campaign slogan - "Keep America Great!" - and took repeated swings at potential 2020 Democratic challengers.

WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2018, with the headline 'Trump reiterates call for death penalty for drug dealers'. Print Edition | Subscribe