In February 2023, we received reader mail that asked if former U.S. President Donald Trump was planning on bringing back firing squads and group executions if he wins reelection in 2024.
This news was first reported on Feb. 14 by Rolling Stone journalists Asawin Suebsaeng and Patrick Reis. The article's headline read, "Trump Plans to Bring Back Firing Squads, Group Executions if He Retakes White House."
The sources cited for Rolling Stone's reporting were referred to anonymously as "three people familiar with the situation." One of the sources was named as being "a former Trump White House official."
According to the story, Trump had repeatedly asked some close associates, "What do you think of firing squads?"
The article's anonymous sources mentioned several supposed ideas that had been floated by Trump, including "expanding the use of the federal death penalty and bringing back banned methods of execution," possibly televising videos of executions, bringing back hangings and guillotines, and even "creating a flashy, government-backed video-ad campaign" to promote the plans. It also mentioned the former president's record of federal executions during his term in the White House.
In correspondence to Rolling Stone, a spokesperson for Trump denied the claim about creating a video-ad campaign, saying of the claims, "Either these people are fabricating lies out of thin air, or Rolling Stone is allowing themselves to be duped by these morons."
Snopes is unable to independently verify the article's claims. We reached out to the Trump campaign with several questions and will update this story if we receive a response. At the time that we published this story, the former president had not yet made any mention of the Rolling Stone article on his Truth Social page.
On Trump's official campaign website for 2024, the death penalty is mentioned on his "Agenda" page alongside his plans to take down drug cartels:
President Donald J. Trump marshalled the full power of government to stop deadly drugs, opioids, and fentanyl from coming into our country. As a result, drug overdose deaths declined nationwide for the first time in nearly 30 years. Joe Biden has allowed drug cartels to wage war on America, steal innocent lives, and ravage our communities. President Trump will take down the drug cartels just as he took down ISIS. He will impose a total naval embargo on cartels, order the Department of Defense to inflict maximum damage on cartel leadership and operations, designate cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and choke off their access to the global financial system. President Trump will get the full cooperation of neighboring governments to dismantle the cartels, or else expose every bribe and kickback that allows these criminal networks to preserve their brutal reign. He will ask Congress to ensure that drug smugglers and traffickers can receive the Death Penalty. When President Trump is back in the White House, the drug kingpins and vicious traffickers will never sleep soundly again.
The reporting from Rolling Stone noted that Trump previously mentioned the death penalty and cartels in his 2024 campaign announcement speech, which occurred on Nov. 15, 2022.
Weeks earlier on Oct. 22, during a rally in Robstown, Texas, Trump recounted a supposed discussion he had with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. According to Trump, Jinping said, "When we catch a drug dealer, we give them a trial, quickly, and if they're guilty they get executed. Then they send the bullet to the family, and they want the family to pay for the cost of the bullet." Trump's rally crowd applauded this idea of how to handle such criminals. These remarks can be seen at the 16:07 mark in this C-SPAN video.