White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday insisted that President Biden is “securing the border” against fentanyl, despite the potent opioid driving a surge in US drug overdose deaths.
Jean-Pierre made the assertion during a testy exchange with Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy on Overdose Awareness Day — after Doocy asked “when is the president going to do something?” about the more than 300 daily US overdose deaths.
“We see those same numbers as well. But the fact [is] that we’re, you know, we are securing the border,” Jean-Pierre said, citing data that showed a 200% increase of fentanyl seizures at the southern border in July.
“The fact that we are securing record levels of funding from DHS so they can stop illicit drugs from entering into the country, the fact that it’s not just drug traffickers that we’re dealing with as well, we’re stopping financiers. This is what’s happening with this — under this administration,” Jean-Pierre said.
The exchange grew heated as Doocy continued to press on the topic and Jean-Pierre snapped, “If Republicans want to help us stop overdose[s] and stop our kids getting overdosed because of these dangerous drugs, because of these fentanyl that we’re seeing in the streets, we’re happy to work with them. But they’re not.”
“I’m moving on,” she declared, ending the line of questioning.
Jean-Pierre on Monday defended Biden’s broader management of the US-Mexico border crisis, saying in a different exchange with Doocy that although record numbers of migrants are illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, “It’s not just that people are walking across the border.”
The number of migrants arrested at the border this year already surpassed last year’s record and is expected to exceed 2 million for the first time by the end of fiscal 2022 in September.
Although fentanyl seizures are on the upswing, there’s also a dramatic upsurge in fentanyl-related deaths during Biden’s presidency.
More than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021 — at least 71,000 of them from fentanyl and related compounds.
Biden didn’t personally comment on Overdose Awareness Day, but he released an Overdose Awareness Week proclamation on Saturday. That proclamation didn’t mention that the drug is largely manufactured in China and smuggled through Mexico.
Although Biden rarely publicly mentions the origins of illicit fentanyl, former President Donald Trump routinely boasted that he pressured Chinese President Xi Jinping to launch a crackdown, including adopting a possible death penalty for manufacturers.
Trump said in 2019, “I said to President Xi that we cannot let fentanyl into our country. Almost 100 percent comes from China. It’s devastating. As you know, better than I do, it’s devastating. And he has promised to… make it a criminal act at the highest level, which in China means the death penalty.”
Jean-Pierre said last month that Biden raised the issue of fentanyl exports during a phone call with Xi, but the Chinese government reportedly broke off cooperation this month with the US on anti-drug efforts following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
The number of overdose deaths grew steadily over the past decade due to the opioid addiction crisis as Americans hooked on prescription pain medications made by US pharmaceutical companies transitioned to using heroin often cut with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is increasingly pressed into counterfeit prescriptions and mixed into non-opioid drugs such as cocaine, killing unwitting users.
There were nearly 94,000 US drug overdose deaths in 2020, of which about 58,000 were linked to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — a jump from nearly 71,000 overdose deaths in 2019, of which about 36,000 were linked to fentanyl.
Although fentanyl often is smuggled across the US-Mexico border, it also can be shipped directly into the US, including by darknet drug market vendors.
Fentanyl is used by prescription to treat severe pain, but according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a dose the size of roughly 10 grains of table salt can be lethal.