White House hosts opioid summit as controversies loom

President Trump made an unexpected appearance at a White House summit on the opioid crisis Thursday afternoon, floating penalties for "opioid companies" and tougher punishments for drug dealers, noting that some countries have the "ultimate penalty".

First lady Melania Trump delivered opening remarks at the summit, remarking on her travels in recent months with the president across the country, in which she visited hospitals and treatment centers, where she's been briefed by those directly impacted by the crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016, the previous year with publicly available data.

Last October, Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, stopping short of the full state of emergency declaration sought by an advisory board he empaneled.

The president's comments came just after the West Virginia attorney general announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in an effort to decrease opioid prescriptions in the U.S. Besides administration officials, individuals affected by the crisis and nonprofit groups that focus on addiction and recovery also attended. He said that some countries levy extremely harsh penalties - including the death penalty - on "drug pushers and drug dealers" adding that "by the way, (those countries) have much less of a drug problem than we do".

In the letter, Henderson appealed to the first lady as a mother and asked for her help "in claiming these lost souls before drugs take them from this earth".

President Donald Trump wants to see drug dealers face the death penalty. "And we're going to continue pushing forward on that front as well".

In an announcement earlier this week about a new opioid task force, the Department of Justice said it will file a statement of interest backing states and local entities in hundreds of lawsuits against drugmakers.

"We have pushers and drug dealers that don't - I mean they kill hundreds and hundreds of people and majority don't even go to jail".

Later on Thursday, Trump did not answer shouted questions by ABC News as to whether he continued to have confidence in Sessions.

  • Jon Douglas