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On Nov. 29, 2020, The Washington Post’s editorial board published a piece containing a morbid statistic: In less than five months, the Trump administration had killed more death row inmates than the federal government had done in the previous five decades combined.
Even as U.S. President Donald Trump used his office to pardon his supporter and former national security adviser Michael Flynn in late November 2020 for twice lying to the FBI, his administration moved ahead with scheduling an unprecedented number of executions before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20, 2021.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the summer of 2020 ended a 17-year hiatus on federal executions. According to statistics gathered by the nonpartisan research nonprofit organization Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), the DOJ had put to death eight people starting in July 2020. Until then, only three people had been executed by the federal government from 1970 to 2020.
The actions of Trump’s DOJ “have no parallel in modern American history and are out of step with both with the historical practices of past presidents, both Republican and Democratic, and the current practices of U.S. states,” said Robert Dunham, DPIC’s executive director.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has scheduled five more people to die during the during the lame duck session, or the months between the election and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Until now there hadn’t been any federal executions carried out during the transition period between presidential administrations for a century.