The Slatest

Trump Softens Stance on Torture, Vows to Follow Law if Elected President

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks to the media at the Mar-A-Lago Club on March 1, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida.  

John Moore/Getty Images

Presidential candidates don’t usually have to clarify they won’t break the law if elected. Then again, Donald Trump has ushered in a lot of firsts this campaign season, so it shouldn’t seem that strange that the real estate mogul has assured he wouldn’t order soldiers to do anything that could get them in legal hot water. The move amounts to a softening on Trump’s stance on torture after he said he would kill the families of terrorists and do things that were a “hell of a lot worse” than waterboarding to terror suspects.

Although Trump says he would “use every legal power that I have to stop these terrorist enemies.” He also said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal that “I do, however, understand 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.” In case that wasn’t clear enough Trump added that he would “not order a military officer to disobey the law.” And he added that even a President Trump “will be bound by laws just like all Americans.”

At Thursday night’s debate, Trump dismissed suggestions military officers would not follow his orders. “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.” He also once again characterized as ridiculous all the talk about how pouring water over someone’s face to mimic drowning is torture. “Can you imagine? 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 we should go tougher than waterboarding,” Trump said.

A Trump spokeswoman said on CNN that Trump realized he needed to put out a statement when people took the candidate at his word. “He realized they took him literally, that’s why he put out the statement,” the spokeswoman said. “What he’s saying is that he wants to go after them with the full force of everything we have.”

Read more Slate coverage of the GOP primary.