Congressional GOP conference to Trump: Torture ban is law

Describing the “War on Terror” as a tilted playing field favoring radical Islamist militants, President Trump told ABC’s David Muir torture “absolutely” works during a full-length interview at the White House Wednesday.

Asked by Muir if  he would approve of the practice of waterboarding returning under his presidency, Trump stressed he found it an invaluable tool, but responded:

“I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don’t want to do it, that’s fine. If they do want to do it do, then I will work for 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.”

Pressing the president for clarity on the application of waterboarding, which provoked strong reactions during the Bush presidency and was discontinued by former President Barack Obama, Muir inquired if Trump would be “okay” with waterboarding’s use, to which Trump replied:

“No, I want to — I will rely on General Mattis. And I’m going to rely on those two people and others. And if they don’t wanna do it, it’s 100 percent okay with me. Do I think it works? Absolutely.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump was often confronted with questions regarding his plan to combat “radical Islamic terror” and global tyranny and repeatedly and unflinchingly pledged a faith in torture, often saying he favored its return.

While Mr. Trump did not call for a revival of torture or waterboarding specifically when speaking with Muir, his position the custom is useful is in stark contrast to his Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, and CIA Director, Mike Pompeo.

Mattis rejects torture outright; Pompeo is on record in confirmation hearings he will obey the law and does not anticipate orders from Trump to order the CIA to reintroduce its usage.

Following Mr. Trump’s comments on ABC, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) emerged from the joint Senate-House Republican retreat in Philadelphia with House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) overwhelmed with queries connected to Trump’s remarks earlier in the day.

“Those issues are settled law,” Thune told reporters, “Congress has spoken.  With respect to torture, that’s banned. The Army Field Manual makes that very clear and the law now is tied to the Army Field Manual. We view that to be a matter of settled law.”

Thune continued to impress upon reporters his belief the Trump administration would face opposition from Congress should the issue of torture re-emerge.

“This is a debate that we’ve had. We believe it’s settled law. The Army Field Manual speaks to this issue. I don’t anticipate that will change,” Thune averred. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan also said Thursday that torture was illegal and should remain so, while former CIA Director Leon Panetta told BBC that re-instituting the practice would be a “serious mistake”.


[AP via CNBC] [The Hill] [BBC] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via The Express]