Rachel Mitchell endorses Trump, blames Biden for fentanyl crisis | Phoenix New Times

Rachel Mitchell endorses Trump, blames Biden for fentanyl crisis

Which came first: Biden, Trump or fentanyl? The Maricopa County Attorney blames the president's "open border" and pins her hopes on Trump.
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell endorsed former President Donald Trump on Wednesday and criticized President Joe Biden as he spent two days in the Valley.
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell endorsed former President Donald Trump on Wednesday and criticized President Joe Biden as he spent two days in the Valley. Gage Skidmore via Flickr
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While President Joe Biden campaigned for reelection in the Valley on Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell endorsed Donald Trump for president, pointing to the fentanyl crisis.

"I have seen Biden's own DEA tell us that in 2022 and 2023, over half of the fentanyl seized in the United States was seized in Arizona," Mitchell said during her regular biweekly press conference.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's year in review partially supports Mitchell's claim. The Phoenix division of the federal agency seized more than 40 million fentanyl pills and more than 380 pounds of fentanyl powder in Arizona last year. Across the U.S. in 2023, the agency seized 77 million fentanyl pills and nearly 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder.

Mitchell claimed the fentanyl epidemic was one reason for her decision to back Trump.

"I don't agree with Donald Trump on everything," she said. "I'm guessing he doesn't agree with me on everything, but I do agree with the way he handled the border, and I do agree with the way he handled the economy, and therefore, yes, I will be supporting him for president."

Trump won the Arizona GOP's presidential preference primary on Tuesday with 78% of the vote, while Biden took the Democratic contest with almost 90%.

Biden arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday, where he spent time shoring up his Latino support, speaking at the South Phoenix Mexican eatery El Portal. The restaurant is owned by former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and her husband, Earl, both longtime Democrats.

On Wednesday, Biden spoke at Intel's semiconductor plant in Chandler, touting his administration's $8.5 billion grant to the tech company, part of what the White House calls its "Investing in America" initiative.

Mitchell, asked during her press conference if fentanyl crossed the border during Trump's tenure, agreed that fentanyl did indeed make its way into the U.S. under Trump. But she claimed she had "never seen such an open border as we have right now."

"We now have cartel members that are recruiting our young people to smuggle," she added.

Despite the Republican claim that Biden's policies have caused the cross-border fentanyl spike, several sources, including CBS News and FactCheck.org, have reported that the surge in fentanyl seizures and fentanyl-related overdoses began during Trump's tenure.

"Data show the Trump administration’s decision to close U.S. ports of entry to nonessential traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 had the consequence of accelerating drug traffickers’ shift to fentanyl, a more potent drug than heroin, which helped lead to an increase in drug overdose deaths," according to a Forbes analysis in March 2023.

Mitchell conceded that "a lot" of fentanyl is seized by federal agencies at U.S. ports of entry. "I am very happy that they're seizing any drugs that they can, and I hope they can seize a lot more because it's killing people," Mitchell said.

Will Mitchell, a Republican running for reelection this year, seek Trump's endorsement?

"I haven't," she said. "I don't know if he would do that or not."

Coincidence or political planning?

Much of the press event was taken up with the plight of U.S.-trained prosecutors left behind in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of American troops in 2021. Mitchell announced that her office was joining an effort by the nonprofit Association of Prosecuting Attorneys to raise funds to help rescue 1,500 former prosecutors she said were now in hiding and in fear for their lives under Taliban rule.

Mitchell said the APA's fundraising drive, dubbed "Prosecutors for Prosecutors," had a goal of raising $15 million to relocate these prosecutors and their families from Afghanistan. In the last quarter of 2023, Mitchell said her office contributed $3,255 for this cause.

As her guest, Mitchell presented Najia Mahmodi, the former chief of litigation for violence against women for the Attorney General’s Office of Afghanistan. Mahmodi told reporters that she and her family made it out of the country on one of the last U.S. Army flights as the Taliban re-asserted control.

Mahmodi said 35 of her former colleagues had been killed by the Taliban, and more are missing or in hiding, "living in constant fear of targeted killings." She thanked Mitchell for her commitment to the effort to save them.

Given that Republicans have been highly critical of the chaotic 2021 troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, New Times asked if Mahmodi's presence at Wednesday's press event had anything to do with Biden being in town?

"With respect to that question," Mahmodi said, "so, I would not answer that question because I'm a lawyer, and I'm not a politician to talk about those things."

Mitchell's spokeswoman, Jeanine L'Ecuyer, later told New Times that Mahmodi's appearance had been arranged with the APA "months ago," and that Mahmodi's visit occurring at the same time as Biden's was "just a coincidence."
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