The Slatest

Trump Still Thinks Torture Works

U.S. President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis watch the inaugural parade from the main reviewing stand in front of the White House on Friday.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Back in November, Donald Trump told the New York Times that his nominee for secretary of defense, James Mattis, had changed his thinking on the efficacy of torture. He was particularly impressed that the general known as “Mad Dog” had told him, “give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.”

This was reported by some at the time as Trump backing away from his promise to resume methods including waterboarding and rethinking his confidence on the campaign trail that torture works. But it seems it wasn’t such an about-face after all:


“When ISIS is doing things that no one has ever heard of, since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?” Trump said. “As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.”


Trump’s argument was that ISIS is beheading people and posting the videos online, but that the United States is “not allowed to do anything.”

“We’re not playing on an even field,” Trump said. “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.”

Trump did say that he would consult with his Cabinet secretaries, all of whom said during their confirmation hearings that the administration should not resume waterboarding.

The comments, made in an interview with ABC News that will air Wednesday night, come the same day that the New York Times published a draft executive order that suggests Trump would bring back the CIA “black site” prisons where illegal interrogation methods were practiced during the Bush administration. Trump’s spokesman distanced the president from the document, but it certainly seems closer to his thinking on the issue than the assurances of his Cabinet secretaries.