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Photo: Mandel Ngan / Getty

As a response to the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions "strongly encouraged" U.S. attorneys to pursue the death penalty in applicable drug-related cases in a memo sent on Wednesday morning, saying "we cannot continue with business as usual."

Why it matters: President Trump has repeatedly suggested that drug dealers receive the death penalty, as a way to confront the U.S. opioid epidemic and "general drug crisis."

Thanks mostly to a 1994 law signed by then-President Bill Clinton during the crack cocaine epidemic, prosecutors can legally pursue the death penalty for:

  • Leaders of illegal drug enterprises that either make $20 million a year or involved a large quantity of illegal drugs.
  • Certain racketeering cases that involve murder.
  • When someone was murdered as part of a drug trafficking enterprise.
  • When a firearm was used and killed someone during drug trafficking.
  • Attempting, assisting with, or allowing the murder of a law enforcement official, juror or witness in a case involving a large drug trafficking conspiracies, even if such killing is not seen through.

Go deeper

Progressives pressure Schumer to end filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

A progressive coalition is pressuring Chuck Schumer on his home turf by running a digital billboard in Times Square urging the new majority leader to end the Senate filibuster.

Why it matters: Schumer is up for re-election in 2o22 and could face a challenger, and he's also spearheading his party's broader effort to hold onto its narrow congressional majorities.

4 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.