An important reason executions have been on decline is because there’s been a difficulty in obtaining lethal injection drugs. For years, states have struggled to find a consistent supply of them after manufacturers began enacting stringent guidelines to keep their products away from lethal injections.
Trump’s largest impact on executions in the United States could be getting involved in an ongoing, but little noticed, feud between death penalty states and the federal government over importing illegal execution drugs.
The states’ reliable lethal injection drug for decades, sodium thiopental, has been impossible for states to get. The sole Food and Drug Administration-approved manufacturer stopped making the drug to keep it out of the hands of executioners.
States have turned to illegal suppliers of the drug. Last year, BuzzFeed News reported that Texas, Arizona, and Nebraska all purchased illegal sodium thiopental from a supplier in India. Nebraska’s shipment never left India. The Texas and Arizona shipments were detained by the FDA once they entered the US.