Warren and other senators seek investigation into Trump administration resuming federal executions

Warren and other senators seek investigation into Trump administration resuming federal executions
© Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators is pushing for an investigation into the Trump administration's decision to end a 17-year hiatus on federal executions this year.  

"This spree of executions marks a break with both modern history and decades-old practice," the eight senators wrote in a letter to Michael Horowitz, inspector general of the Department of Justice (DOJ), on Tuesday. "Prior to the Trump Administration's revival of federal executions, the federal government had not executed a federal prisoner since 2003 and has only executed three people in the previous 50 years. And the executions that have and are scheduled to occur after November 3, 2020 are 'the first executions under a "lame duck" president in over 100 years,' and come despite the fact that President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE has said he intends to end the use of capital punishment by the federal government while in office." 

Signees to the letter included Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Booker'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis It's in America's best interest to lead global COVID-19 vaccine distribution ABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent MORE (D-N.J.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session MORE (D-Ill.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenBiden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research Lobbying world Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill MORE (D-Md.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case Senators question Bezos, Amazon about cameras placed in delivery vans OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersSinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage, implying that it's sexist Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Schumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate MORE (I-Vt.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster MORE (D-Minn.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSchumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate Mandel gets Club for Growth nod in Ohio Senate primary Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks MORE (D-Ohio.). 


In July, the federal government executed Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist convicted of killing a family in the late 1990s. It was the first federal execution in more than a decade and a half.

Since then, 16 other federal prisoners have been executed. 

In Tuesday's letter, the Democratic senators accuse President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE's Justice Department of intentionally ramping up the number of executions carried out by the federal government during his final weeks in office. 

"The reversal of long-standing DOJ policies and protocols for federal executions raise numerous questions about the fairness and application of these policies and protocols by the Trump Administration," their letter stated. "What was the policy rationale for the 2019 reversal of long-standing policies and processes that prevented federal executions since 2003? Did DOJ officials conduct appropriate analyses and review when determining whether to reverse those policies and procedures?"

In a separate letter sent last week, dozens more incoming and current lawmakers urged Biden to make abolishing the death penalty a priority once he is sworn in.  


“The current administration has weaponized capital punishment with callous disregard for human life,” Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPressley says image of Black custodial staff cleaning up Capitol after Jan. 6 riot 'haunts' her DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes DeJoy set for grilling by House Oversight panel MORE (D-Mass.) wrote. 

“With a stroke of your pen, you can stop all federal executions, prohibit United States Attorneys from seeking the death penalty, dismantle death row at FCC Terre Haute, and call for the resentencing of people who are currently sentenced to death,” Pressley continued in the letter to Biden.

Biden has vowed to end the death penalty

"Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example," the incoming president's campaign website says under its criminal justice section. "These individuals should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole."