MANCHESTER, N.H. -Unveiling a long-awaited plan to combat the national scourge of opioid drug addiction, President Donald Trump called Monday for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including embracing a tactic employed by some of the global strongmen he admires: the death penalty.
"Failure is not an option, addiction is not our future", Trump said. He explained that, under the current law, a dealer could sell a drug that could kill hundreds but only receive a short prison sentence.
Monday was Trump's first visit as president to New Hampshire, which has long occupied a special place in his political rise. The New England state's voters supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, but narrowly.
Trump was joined at the afternoon event by First Lady Melania Trump, who spoke before him about the effects of the opioid crisis on children.
He announced a new website, www.crisisnextdoor.gov, where members of the public can share stories about the dangers of opioid addiction.
He wants federal resources to assist states in expanding the use of overdose-reversing naloxone and medication-assisted treatment, which has a proven track record of success.
Outside a local firehouse that Trump visited before Monday's speech, someone compared the two leaders with a sign that said: "Donald J. Duterte".
Eight firefighters stood in front of a truck emblazoned with "Rescue 1".
Republican hailed Mr. Trump's speech as a step forward, while Democrats reacted with guarded optimism, saying the president seems to be getting serious about the epidemic but should put treatment ahead of extra-punitive measures. "And that toughness includes the death penalty", he said.
During his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, Trump was boosted by his victory in New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary.
It's a fate for drug dealers that Trump has been highlighting publicly in recent weeks.
The White House is also calling for Congress to reduce the threshold needed to impose mandatory minimum sentences on people who are convicted of dealing fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can kill people in small quantities and caused the overdose death rate in New Hampshire to skyrocket. New Hampshire has been hit particularly hard by opioid and drug abuse. The Washington Post published the transcripts.
Nicole Austin-Hillery, executive director at Human Rights Watch, told reporters there is "not a shred of evidence" that increasing sentences for drug pushers - including invoking the death penalty - would effectively fight the opioid crisis.
"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".
The administration is taking a multi-pronged approach to the problem by targeting dealers through law enforcement, stopping drugs from coming into the country, going after drug companies, preventing initial drug use and working with states on treatment for addicts. However, in November, the White House opioid commission also released a strong plan, most of which hasn't been acted on yet, and it is critical that we see actual follow-through on this proposal. "And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do", Trump said. "This is about winning a very, very tough problem, and if we don't get tough on these dealers, it's not going to happen".
The White House did not offer examples of when it would be appropriate to seek the death penalty for drug dealers and referred further questions to the Justice Department.
"Every day, sanctuary cities release risky individuals, drug dealers, traffickers, gang members back into our communities". Berman said the issue would be litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.