In an interview airing Wednesday night on ABC News, President Trump discussed the controversial idea of torture and signaled his approval of the practice, saying the U.S. has “fight fire with fire.” Trump also noted that he would huddle up with Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo, who were both recently confirmed, and leave the ultimate decision to them.
Trump’s newest perspective on the issue is an about face, and it’s not the first time he’s wavered on this subject. Earlier in the campaign season he said we would consider bringing it back. Then in November, he seemed to rethink the issue while relating that Mattis had told him, “I’ve never found it to be useful.” Trump’s retread revolves around his thoughts on radical groups using extreme practices, and he thinks the U.S. shouldn’t hold back:
“[Radicals] chop off the citizens’ or anybody’s heads in the Middle East, because they’re Christian or Muslim or anything else … We have that and we’re not allowed to do anything. We’re not playing on an even field … absolutely I feel it works … we have to fight fire with fire.”
It’s a bold explanation that won’t sit well with everyone, including Senator John McCain. The Arizona senator, who was a POW and tortured during his five years of imprisonment, warned Trump earlier this week that even if he signs an executive order to bring back torture as an interrogation method, he will stand against it, reminding him it was ruled unlawful:
“The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”
Politico is quick to point out that if Trump signs such an executive order, this would contradict assurances from Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions and Pompeo. During their Senate confirmation hearings, both said torture would not be used as an interrogation method. It remains to be seen whether Trump will move forward with this action or if he is just blowing smoke.