President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “people at the highest level of intelligence” had told him within the past 24 hours that torture “absolutely” works.
In an interview with ABC’s David Muir, parts of which were published online Wednesday, Trump said he thought the use of waterboarding against ISIL would be justified, describing the practice as fighting “fire with fire.”
“Would I feel strongly about waterboarding? As far I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire,” he said. “Now, with that being said, I’m going with Gen. Mattis. I’m going with my secretary, because I think Pompeo is going to be phenomenal, I’m going to go with what they say,” he said.
“But I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question: ‘Does it work? Does torture work?’ And the answer is: ‘Yes, absolutely,'” he continued.
Trump noted again later in the exchange that he would follow the advice of Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo when deciding whether to use torture techniques.
“I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis, and my group,” he said. “And if they don’t want to do, that’s fine. 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.”
There is a wide consensus among diplomats and legal scholars, including in the United States, that waterboarding is torture. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said that waterboarding is “absolutely” torture during a confirmation hearing.
Mattis wrote in a questionnaire for the Senate Armed Services Committee that “I fully support using the Army Field Manual as the single standard for all U.S military interrogations.” The field manual prohibits waterboarding and other torture.
Pompeo wrote in his own questionnaire for the Senate Intelligence Committee that “[i]f experts believed current law was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country, I would want to understand such impediments and whether any recommendations were appropriate for changing current law.”
Watch below, via ABC:
This post has been updated.