Donald Trump’s presidency has been one long nightmare come to life, in part because the administration he built has appeared hellbent on showing they are villains. From kidnapping immigrant children from their parents, to going to court over and over again to make it harder for people to access affordable healthcare in America, their operating credo has been less “Make America Great Again” and more “let’s see just how horribly we can treat people.”
Now, in the waning days of Trump’s presidency, his administration is continuing to exhibit its dedication to cruelty by honing in on the federal government’s power to execute people.
According to a report from ProPublica, the Justice Department is moving quickly to finalize a rule that would make it possible for executions to be carried out via electrocution and firing squads:
One proposal has raced through the process with little notice but unusual speed — and deadly consequences. This rule could reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions for federal executions, giving the government more options for administering capital punishment as drugs used in lethal injections become unavailable. The Justice Department surfaced the proposal in August and accepted public comments for only 30 days, instead of the usual 60. The rule cleared White House review on Nov. 6, meaning it could be finalized any day. The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.
CNN reports that the rule is being pushed forward by Attorney General William Barr and could go into effect in a little over 30 days despite the fact that a new President will be inaugurated in less than 60 days. President-elect Joe Biden has campaigned on ending the death penalty at the federal level, meaning his entry into the White House would likely cancel out this newly proposed rule to allow more gruesome state-administered killings of people convicted of crimes.
The impending ouster of Trump from the White House and his henchmen from the federal government may also explain why Barr’s Justice Department has scheduled a slew of executions ahead of inauguration day on January 20.
Barr announced on November 20 the schedule for the last three death row inmates before Biden is sworn in, and two are expected next month. If all the executions scheduled since July are completed, the Trump administration will have put the most federal inmates to death during a presidential transition since 1884.
Four of the inmates, including Brandon Bernard — the youngest in the United States to be sentenced to death for a crime he committed as a teenager — and Lisa Montgomery — the only woman on federal death row, who would be the first to be executed in nearly 70 years — are expected to receive the lethal injection.
Brandon Bernard, a forty-year-old African American man, was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the gang killing of a young couple in Killeen, Texas when he was 18 years old. Five of the jury members who voted for Bernard to get the death penalty have since come forward to plead for his life, according to the New Yorker.
Bernard has filed multiple appeals arguing his legal defense during the trial was inadequate and unsuccessfully sought a pardon under the Obama administration. The Trump administration has scheduled his execution for December 10.