Donald Trump acknowledged Friday that he would have to adhere to international laws on torture if he became the next U.S. president.
In a statement sent to the Wall Street Journal, Trump said he understands that “the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters. I will not order a military officer to disobey the law.”
The GOP frontrunner previously had a much more enthusiastic attitude towards the extrajudicial treatment of terrorism suspects.
As recently as Thursday night’s Republican debate in Detroit, Trump said, “Can you imagine these people, these animals over in the Middle East that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and tougher than waterboarding.”
He also said he would “take out” the families of terrorists in a December interview with Fox News.
Torture techniques like waterboarding, which is a form of simulated drowning, are explicitly prohibited in the Geneva Conventions. As the Post reported, “collective punishment” like murdering a terrorists’ relatives is also forbidden under the law of war.
Trump said during Thursday’s debate that military leaders would not “refuse” him if he ordered them to commit war crimes, although high-profile military leaders, including ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden, said last week that soldiers may not follow such illegal orders.
Trump addressed these concerns in his statement to the Post, writing, “As president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”