President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE on Friday said he would defer to Defense Secretary James Mattis's opposition to torture despite the president's own support for tactics like waterboarding.
At a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump said Mattis would get the last word on the issue.
"He will override," he said. "I'm going to rely on him. ... I am going with our leaders. We are going to win with or without [torture]."
May told reporters during her visit to Washington that she condemns torture and would make that clear to Trump.
Trump on the campaign trail said he would bring back waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques for suspected terrorists.
But Friday's comments suggest that despite his own opinions, he will follow Mattis's lead. After Trump first met with Mattis in December for the prospective Cabinet position, he said the retired general had told him torture methods were ineffective.
On Thursday, the Pentagon reiterated that Mattis had not changed his mind on opposing the torture techniques used on terrorist suspects during the George W. Bush administration.
"Secretary Mattis said in his confirmation process that he will abide by and is committed to upholding international law, the Law of Armed Conflict, Geneva Conventions and U.S. law, and that has not changed," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Thursday.
However, Trump has made clear that while Mattis will have the final say on the issue, he still believes that torture works. And he said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity this week that he doesn't consider waterboarding to be torture.
On Friday, Trump said Mattis was the expert but added, "I do disagree."
The issue of torture was rekindled earlier this week after what are reportedly draft executive orders were leaked, including one that would revive the use of CIA black site prisons in foreign countries to interrogate suspected terrorists and ordered a review of interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the document did not come from the White House.
GOP leaders at a Republican congressional retreat on Thursday indicated they opposed allowing the use of torture.
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.