As the Biden team prepares to take over control of the federal government early next year, the Trump administration is rushing to reintroduce executions via firing squad to the U.S. justice system — yes, really. The reintroduction of firing squads is one of a slew of proposed policy updates that the Trump administration has recently rushed to introduce. In this particular case, ProPublica reports that the Justice Department (as led by Bill Barr) publicly revealed the proposed policy update in August and accepted public comments for 30 (instead of the ordinary 60) days. On November 6 — days after Election Day — the proposed policy update “cleared White House review” and could now “be finalized any day,” ProPublica explains.
The proposed policy update also includes the reintroduction of electrocutions into the federal government’s repertoire. ProPublica notes that — assuming that the White House ends up finalizing the rule in the weeks ahead — firing squad executions might never be reintroduced into actual practice. The Trump administration has a series of executions planned for the time before Biden’s inauguration — five, to be exact — but they’re all slated for lethal injections. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he opposes capital punishment. Prior to the Trump administration’s restart of federal executions this year, the federal government had not executed anyone since all the way back in 2003.
According to Daniel Perez, who works as a policy analyst at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, the Trump administration “is on pace to finalize 36 major rules in its final three months, similar to the 35 to 40 notched by the previous four presidents,” as ProPublica’s summary explains. These last-minute policy changes could be difficult for the incoming Biden administration to swiftly undo. As Matthew Kent of the government watchdog group Public Citizen put it, “There are some real roadblocks to Biden being able to wave a magic wand on these,” undoing the changes.
Immigration policy updates figure prominently in the Trump administration’s proposed last-minute rule changes. For instance, ProPublica explains, “pending rules would make it more difficult to claim asylum by excluding people with criminal convictions (even those that have been expunged), drastically shortening the application time and giving immigration judges more latitude to pick and choose what evidence to consider.” The net result of these policy changes would no doubt be a reduction in people successfully making it through the asylum system due to the punitive red tape.
The rush to finalize so many potentially wide-reaching policy updates in the final weeks of the administration mirrors something that a top Trump official recently told CNN. As the outlet summarized, that official said that “their goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.” In other words, the Trump administration sounds ready and willing to majorly erode basic governmental stability in the name of sticking it to their political opponents.
President-elect Biden hasn’t yet publicly confirmed who he’ll nominate to replace Bill Barr as Attorney General. He has confirmed some other picks — Antony Blinken for Secretary of State and Alejandro Mayorkas for Secretary of Homeland Security, for instance.