Former White House staffer says Trump called for leaker to be executed

Former White House staffer says Trump called for leaker to be executed

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Former White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin has disclosed that Donald Trump repeatedly mused out loud about executing people at several meetings while she worked for him during his presidency.

Griffin’s claim, which she made in a podcast recording with Mediaite released on Friday, is likely to add to concerns that a return for Trump to the Oval Office could be characterized primarily by political retribution.

The former communications director for the Trump administration told the outlet she had been at a meeting at which he “straight up said a staffer who leaked … should be executed”, referring to an anonymously sourced report that the former president had gone into a secure bunker at the White House at the height of the racial justice protests prompted by a Minneapolis police officer’s murder of George Floyd.

“There were others where we talked about executing people,” Griffin said.

In response to Griffin’s comments, Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung told Newsweek: “As President Trump has said, the best revenge is the success and prosperity of all Americans.”

Under the constitution, a president has no direct power to enforce capital punishment. But the president does have the power to appoint attorneys general who oversee key decisions concerning federal capital punishment.

Rumors around Trump’s interest in summary executions have been making the rounds for years. As he geared up to run for a second presidency in November, Trump reportedly asked three people: “What do you think of firing squads?” And he has repeatedly backed expanding the use of the federal death penalty.

According to Rolling Stone, Trump has also mused about bringing back hanging and the guillotine – all while televising their use – because it “would help put the fear of God into violent criminals”.

A Trump spokesperson said at the time to Rolling Stone that “either these people are fabricating lies out of thin air” or the outlet is “allowing themselves to be duped by these morons”.

But the Trump 2024 campaign has also said that if the former president returned to office, he was “going to be asking everyone who sells drugs, gets caught selling drugs, to receive the death penalty for their pain”.

During the final three months of Trump’s first term, the US executed 13 federal prisoners by lethal injection – a significant acceleration in the use of the death penalty by the federal government.

Prior to that, only three people had been executed since 1963. But under the Trump administration, the federal government allowed any method of execution that was legal in the state where the death penalty was being carried out.

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Terre Haute federal prison in Indiana, where Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001, has used hanging, electrocution and lethal injection.

Trump attorney general Bill Barr has said that if Trump had won a second term in 2020, there had been an “expectation” that use of the federal death penalty would continue at an accelerated pace.

Griffin’s claim that Trump called for the execution of a White House staffer is loosely corroborated by Barr during an interview he gave to CNN in April in which he recalled that Trump had been “very mad” about the White House bunker leaker.

Barr said he couldn’t remember whether Trump specifically called for someone to be executed and doubted it would ever have actually been carried out. But he also said he “wouldn’t dispute” that Trump had called for someone to be executed over the bunker leak.

Griffin left the White House in December 2020, weeks after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden but refused to accept the legitimacy of the result. She is now a commentator for CNN and co-host of the NBC talkshow The View.


The Guardian