“WHAT DO YOU think of firing squads?”
That’s the question Donald Trump repeatedly asked some close associates in the run-up to the 2024 presidential campaign, three people familiar with the situation tell Rolling Stone.
It’s not an idle inquiry: The former president, if re-elected, is still committed to expanding the use of the federal death penalty and bringing back banned methods of execution, the sources say. He has even, one of the sources recounts, mused about televising footage of executions, including showing condemned prisoners in the final moments of their lives.
Specifically, Trump has talked about bringing back death by firing squad, by hanging, and, according to two of the sources, possibly even by guillotine. He has also, sources say, discussed group executions. Trump has floated these ideas while discussing planned campaign rhetoric and policy desires, as well as his disdain for President Biden’s approach to crime.
In at least one instance late last year, according to the third source, who has direct knowledge of the matter, Trump privately mused about the possibility of creating a flashy, government-backed video-ad campaign that would accompany a federal revival of these execution methods. In Trump’s vision, these videos would include footage from these new executions, if not from the exact moments of death. “The [former] president believes this would help put the fear of God into violent criminals,” this source says. “He wanted to do some of these [things] when he was in office, but for whatever reasons didn’t have the chance.”
A Trump spokesman denies Trump had mused about a video-ad campaign. “More ridiculous and fake news from idiots who have no idea what they’re talking about,” the spokesman writes in an email. “Either these people are fabricating lies out of thin air, or Rolling Stone is allowing themselves to be duped by these morons.”
Trump’s enthusiasm for grisly video campaigns has been documented before, including in an anecdote from a former aide that had the then-president demanding footage of “people dying in a ditch” and “bodies stacked on top of bodies” so that his administration could “scare kids so much that they will never touch a single drug in their entire life.”