In break with Trump, GOP leaders leaders say torture should remain illegal

In break with Trump, GOP leaders leaders say torture should remain illegal
© Greg Nash

PHILADELPHIA — Republican congressional leaders announced Thursday morning that most of their GOP colleagues agree that U.S. interrogators should not be allowed to torture suspected terrorists, breaking from President Trump, who has argued that “torture works.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban It's not 'woketivism,' it's good business MORE (R-Ky.) at the annual joint Senate–House Republican retreat here distanced himself and his GOP colleagues from Trump’s arguments in favor of harsh interrogation tactics.

McConnell emphasized that a reported draft directive to the CIA signaled the president will follow the law, which prohibits torture. He said almost all Republican lawmakers want to maintain that ban.


“I think the directive to the CIA has made it clear he’s going to follow the law and I believe that virtually all of my members are comfortable with the state of the law on that issue now,” McConnell told reporters at the retreat.

The reported executive order reviving the use of CIA black sites in foreign countries to interrogate suspected terrorists has revived the debate over extreme techniques such as waterboarding. The order would direct intelligence and law enforcement officials to review the revival of black sites in foreign countries, where the CIA under former President George W. Bush employed harsh tactics to extract information from suspected terrorists. Critics have argued those tactics amounted to torture.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that the reported order is "not a White House document." 

Trump during the campaign pledged to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” arguing that militants plotting attacks on civilians “deserve it anyway.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday echoed McConnell.

“Torture’s not legal and we agree with it not being legal,” he said.

The Detainee Treatment Act, passed by Congress in the wake of Abu Ghraib scandal, bars any individual in the custody of the U.S. government from being subjected to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

It also states that no person in custody of the Department of Defense should be subject to any interrogation technique not authorized by the Army Field Manual, which prohibits torture.