“It built a secret supply chain for the lethal drugs so that participating companies wouldn’t face public pressure to have nothing to do with this barbarity.”
An explosive Reuters investigation revealed Friday that a series of executions the Trump administration has planned for next week “will mark the culmination of a three-year campaign to line up a secret supply chain to make and test lethal injection drugs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 29 cleared the way for federal executions to resume when it denied to hear an appeal from death row prisoners challenging the Trump administration’s lethal injection protocol. Inmates Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Ira Purkey, and Dustin Lee Honken are set to be killed at a federal facility in Indiana just days apart beginning on July 13, followed by Keith Dwayne Nelson on August 28.
Although it wasn’t until July 2019 when U.S. Attorney General William Barr publicly directed the Bureau of Prisons to resume capital punishment using only the drug pentobarbital—in lieu of a three-drug protocol that had been hampered by supply issues—Reuters reported that “President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice had started building the network of contractors it would need by May 2017.”
A look at how the Trump administration secured a secret supply of execution drugs, despite FDA-approved pharmaceutical companies refusing to sell them to the Department of Justice https://t.co/Xb0JJ4J2e5 pic.twitter.com/QGbHNRnmmP
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 10, 2020
Based on government records and court filings, Reuters detailed steps the administration took before Barr’s announcement to resume federal executions.
In May 2017, the Justice Department reportedly hired the Arizona consulting firm Elite Medical Experts LLC to find “physicians and scientists who could assess whether pentobarbital was a humane method of execution that could replace the three-drug lethal injection protocol used in the last federal execution in 2003.”
According to the news agency:
Since then, [the administration] has pursued a new drug protocol that could survive legal challenges through firms whose identities it has fought to keep hidden. Without the secrecy, the government has argued in court filings, its ability to procure the drugs would be “severely impaired” because the companies are not willing to supply or test execution drugs if they are publicly identified.
Tweeting about the report Friday, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth noted that companies which choose to assist with the “barbarity” of executions often face public pressure:
The Trump administration has been so determined to resume federal executions that it built a secret supply chain for the lethal drugs so that participating companies wouldn’t face public pressure to have nothing to do with this barbarity. https://t.co/yUOIoWqhjR pic.twitter.com/tgzvi0QM0l
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) July 10, 2020
The government documents showed that by March 2018, the Justice Department found a compounding pharmacy to make an injectable pentobarbital. By October 2018, the department found a manufacturer of pentobarbital powder, and by February 2019, the manufacturer was producing powder that “passed purity tests,” after initially failing such assessments.
Representatives for all three laboratories that Reuters identified as involved in pentobarbital testing said they were hired by a compounding pharmacy rather than the Justice Department. DynaLabs in St. Louis and ARL Bio Pharma Inc in Oklahoma City also told the news agency they did not know the intended use of the drugs while Eagle Analytical Services Inc. in Houston declined to comment.
A department spokesperson declined to disclose to Reuters any details related to the administration’s efforts to secure drugs for lethal injections.
The death penalty has no place in the United States.
Our federal and state justice systems should not kill anyone for any reason. https://t.co/J0PKY0DWHb
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) July 10, 2020
Although the last execution of a federal inmate was in 2003, states that still allow capital punishment have continued to kill inmates the past 17 years, despite also facing barriers to accessing the necessary drugs. Texas, which leads all states in executions, has used pentobarbital alone to kill prisoners in recent years.
As the Associated Press reported in November 2018:
Some past executions have raised questions about the use of pentobarbital. In Texas, an inmate put to death in July cursed twice and said the drug burned his throat. An inmate executed in June started taking quick breaths as the sedative started to take effect, muttering at one point that it was “burning” and that it “hurt.” Before that, a Texas inmate said the drug burned. “Oooh-ee! I can feel that,” he said before slipping into unconsciousness.
Since Barr’s July 2019 announcement, critics have raised concerns about the Trump administration using the drug. As Sam Spital, director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told TIME a few days after the attorney general’s order: “Nobody knows if the pentobarbital that the government has obtained will address the serious risks that individuals across the country are facing of being tortured to death through lethal injection.”
‘They’ll get away with it’: Strategist explains how GOP federal judges will help Trump steal election
President Donald Trump will remain in power if he narrowly loses the 2020 presidential election, with conservative judges poised to help him "steal" the election, a longtime Democratic Party strategist warned on Tuesday.
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed James Carville about the Supreme Court vacancy and how it could impact any legal wrangling about counting the votes.
"James, that's a pretty neat trick, the president is gaslighting out in advance voter fraud that he is promoting, ergo the need for nine justices on the court, which doesn't exist in law. The court has functioned just fine with eight during times of a death or a recusal," Williams noted. "Be that as it may, if Trump fills this seat before the election, in your view, how does that change the dynamic of the election?"
Chaotic White House made worse by ‘incompetent’ Trump who rarely shows up for work: report
According to Playboy magazine senior White House correspondent Brian Karem -- who has seen it first hand -- Donald Trump is an absentee president who puts in little time at his job and, when he does, has no idea what he is supposed to be doing.
Writing for the conservative Bulwark, Karem said Trump is more than just "Putin's puppet," he is "incompetent" and therefore dangerous.
As Karem see it, the public is inundated with reports about the president's "bombast, wild claims, misogyny, racism, lies, greed and avarice" but what should be more concerning is his inability to fulfill the basic responsibilities of his office.
Here’s how the fight over the Supreme Court could make the presidential election even nastier
As the two sides in US politics begin jockeying for position following the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the similarities to the 2016 presidential election are striking.
That year, the fierce battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was made all the more contentious because the Republican-controlled Senate refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in February.