Sanders blasts Trump over support for torture
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE (I-Vt.) ripped President Trump on Wednesday for defending torture, asking if he wants to "lead this country into shame and barbarity." 

"Whatever Trump may or may not want, Congress and the American people must defend American values. No torture," Sanders said.

The Vermont senator, who is a member of Democratic leadership, questioned if Trump is willing to break international law and warned that restarting torture could have negative consequences for U.S. troops. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"Does Trump really want to lead this country into shame and barbarity, and undermine the values that have made us a great and respected nation?" Sanders asked. "Does Trump really want to tell our military adversaries that, if America does it, they also have the right to torture captured American soldiers?" 

Trump pledged during the presidential campaign to bring back waterboarding and a "hell of a lot worse" and defended torture on Wednesday, telling ABC that it "works."

Trump added that he would consider reinstating currently outlawed "enhanced interrogation" techniques depending on the advice of his national security team, but stressed that "we have to fight fire with fire."

Democrats have pounced on a draft executive order that would revoke a series of Obama administration rules that closed CIA "black sites," granted Red Cross access to all detainees and limited interrogators to techniques approved in the Army Field Manual.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill MORE (D-Vt.) said Trump should "put this draft executive order in the trash where it belongs."

The reported draft also earned pushback from GOP Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment MORE (Ariz.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (S.D.) who both predicted pushback if the administration tried to revert to the now-outlawed interrogation methods. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Senate voted in 2015 to formally ban torture, though 21 GOP senators voted against the amendment from McCain.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that the document wasn't from the White House, adding “I have no idea where it came from."

But he refused to answer questions about whether Trump was weighing the basic policy recommendations contained in the draft order.

Leahy argued Spicer's comments didn't go far enough and that "alternative facts" wouldn't change his and other lawmakers opinion on torture. 

“It is not enough for Trump administration aides to deny this draft came from the White House," he said. "The administration should denounce it.”