Pro Publica

The final days of Donald Trump have been ghastly. He continues to voice no protest to Russian evil, including an attempted assassination by poisoning. He pays hypocritical tribute to fallen journalists in an empty proclamation after standing mute over the Saudi execution and dismemberment of a journalist, not to mention spending the last four years describing reporters as enemies of the people. And this week, there were pardons for war criminals who murdered a child and for assorted felonious abusers of the public trust. There is, of course, the rising toll of death due to Trump’s failure to respond to the pandemic except to encourage practices that put more lives at risk.


But then there is this, as detailed by Pro Publica: The blood-thirsty rush to execute as many federal prisoners as possible before the Trump term ends. And they say they are pro-life. The horror story begins:

In its hurry to use its final days in power to execute federal prisoners, the administration of President Donald Trump has trampled over an array of barriers, both legal and practical, according to court records that have not been previously reported.

Officials gave public explanations for their choice of which prisoners should die that misstated key facts from the cases. They moved ahead with executions in the middle of the night. They left one prisoner strapped to the gurney while lawyers worked to remove a court order. They executed a second prisoner while an appeal was still pending, leaving the court to then dismiss the appeal as “moot” because the man was already dead. They bought drugs from a secret pharmacy that failed a quality test. They hired private executioners and paid them in cash.

The unprecedented string of executions is often attributed to Attorney General William P. Barr, and his role was instrumental: It was Barr’s signature that authorized the use of a new lethal injection drug, his quotes that trumpeted the execution announcements and his position as attorney general that holds the ultimate authority in capital cases. (Barr is resigning effective Wednesday.)

But a ProPublica review of internal government records shows that Barr did not act alone. The push to resume federal executions for the first time since 2003 long predates Barr, with groundwork beginning as far back as 2011 and accelerating after Trump took office in 2017. It could not have happened without the help of Justice Department lawyers; officials at the Bureau of Prisons; two professors who endorsed the government’s injection method; conservative Supreme Court justices who dismissed final appeals; and Trump himself, who encouraged the executions and declined to commute them.