President Trump said Wednesday he believes that torture “works” and would consider reinstating banned interrogation methods depending on the advice of members of his national security team.
In an interview with ABC News, Trump indicated he wants to resume the use of torture in order to fight back against groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that have committed atrocities against U.S. citizens.
“We have to fight fire with fire,” he said.
But when pressed on whether he would resume the use of tactics such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning, Trump said he would defer to CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“If they don’t want to do, that’s fine,” he said. “If they do want to do, then I will work toward that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”
He said top intelligence officials have told him they agree with his view. “The answer was, yes, absolutely,” the president said.
Trump would spark a major legal and political battle if he decides to resume the use of torture.
Pompeo told lawmakers at a confirmation hearing last week that he would “absolutely not” comply with an order from Trump to reinstate practices considered to be torture.
Similarly, a national security expert told the Senate Armed Services panel this month he believes Mattis "would refuse to comply" with a Trump order to reinstate waterboarding.
Following a meeting with Mattis last November, Trump he was “impressed” with the retired Marine Corps general's opposition to torture, but it was not enough to fully persuade him to change his mind.
The comments came as a draft memo leaked to the Associated Press shows the Trump administration is seeking to review interrogation techniques and the use of CIA “black site” prisons overseas. The White House distanced itself from the memo on Wednesday.
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainProgressives say go big and make life hard for GOP The Biden-Harris train wreck may have its savior: 2024 GOP nominee Donald Trump Kelly raises million in third quarter MORE (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also pushed back against any attempt by Trump to begin torturing terror suspects.
“The law is the law,” he said in a statement. “We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America."