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 meet House Dems before Europe trip: report 21 House Democrats call for removing IRS bank reporting proposal from spending bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Vulnerable House Dems push drug pricing plan 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 WarrenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Manchin dampens progressive hopes for billionaires tax Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory BookerAfter 35 years, Congress should finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach Black Caucus pushes for priorities in final deal MORE (D-N.J.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinPatience wears thin as Democrats miss deadlines 535 'presidents' with veto power: Why budget deal remains elusive After 35 years, Congress should finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine MORE (D-Ill.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenLobbying world Dozens of Democrats call for spending bill to pass 'climate test' GOP tries to take filibuster pressure off Manchin, Sinema MORE (D-Md.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Dems see path to deal on climate provisions MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats hope to hold Big Oil 'accountable' On The Money — Will the billionaire tax survive Joe Manchin? Democrats cutting paid leave from spending deal amid Manchin opposition MORE (I-Vt.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFacebook tells employees to preserve records amid global inquiries Paid family leave proposal at risk Top Arizona elections official says violent threats fueling worker turnover MORE (D-Minn.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownCrucial talks on Biden agenda enter homestretch Senate Democrats propose penalties for Federal Reserve officials who don't follow ethics code When the Fed plays follow the leader, it steers us all toward inflation MORE (D-Ohio.). 

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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 TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly 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 PressleyPaid family leave proposal at risk The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Democrats inch closer to legislative deal Six big off-year elections you might be missing 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."