On Monday, Donald Trump called for the execution of drug dealers in a speech about the opioid crisis. This followed earlier reports of his administration being set to recommend the death penalty as an option in “certain cases where opioid, including Fentanyl-related, drug dealing and trafficking are directly responsible for death.” The news also follows weeks of public and private musing by the president about the merits of executing drug traffickers.
It’s becoming clear that Trump has a certain “urban” kind of individual in mind when he pictures drug dealers; it also seems like his views about drug-trafficking punishments are different when the individuals connected to said trafficking are helpful to him personally. For one, numerous individuals believed to have been laundering money for organized-crime groups involved in drug trafficking have purchased apartments in Trump Tower and other Trump properties. In those cases Trump may simply not have been aware—and may not have been legally obligated to be aware—of the backgrounds of those he was doing business with. The same can’t be said about Joseph Weichselbaum, who operated a helicopter company that took high-end clients to and from Trump’s Atlantic City casinos in the mid-’80s. Weichselbaum, who had already been convicted of grand theft auto and embezzlement when he began working for Trump, was arrested in 1985 on charges of running a multi-state cocaine trafficking scheme. After Weichselbaum was arrested and charged, Trump:
• Set him up in an apartment in the Trump Plaza building.
• Wrote a letter to a judge on his behalf.
• Continued to pay his company while he was in prison.
Curiously, at one point, Weichselbaum’s case was transferred from Ohio to the New Jersey courtroom of Maryanne Trump Barry—Trump’s sister. (It was then transferred to the judge that Trump wrote asking for lenience; Weichselbaum ended up serving a mere 18 months after pleading guilty to what the Smoking Gun has described as “federal cocaine distribution and income tax charges.”)
Why was Trump so fond of Weichselbaum? He’s never explained, but a 1991 Spy magazine story quoted two individuals who said they’d seen Trump casino high-rollers offered or provided cocaine by casino representatives. Weichselbaum operated a helicopter service for Trump casino high-rollers and later admitted in court that he was involved in cocaine distribution. Coincidence? Maybe! Perhaps it’s a question that the White House, which has proposed the death penalty for drug dealers, should address.