During Trump’s first official interview as President, ABC News’ David Muir asked him whether the U.S. will use CIA black sites around the world and whether torture will be an approved tactic on suspected terrorists.
President Trump responded that he’s all in favor of torture – specifically waterboarding – because of what Muslims are doing to Christians in the Middle East, namely beheading them. “We’re not playing on an even field,” the President said.
The thing is, torture isn’t reliable when it comes to extracting valuable information. What it is good at is getting people to sign confessions – whether the confessions are true or not. Everybody has a breaking point. They could force you to confess to something that isn’t true by waterboarding you over and over. At some point, you’d do anything just to get them to quit.
DAVID MUIR: The last president, President Obama, said the U.S. does not torture. Will you say that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I have a general who I have great respect for, General Mattis, who said — I was a little surprised — who said he’s not a believer in torture. As you know, Mr. Pompeo was just approved, affirmed by the Senate. He’s a fantastic guy, he’s gonna be the head of the CIA.
And you have somebody fabulous as opposed to the character that just got out who didn’t — was not fabulous at all. And he will I think do a great job. And he is — you know, I haven’t gone into great detail. But I will tell you I have spoken to others in intelligence. And they are big believers in, as an example, waterboarding. Because they say it does work. It does work.
DAVID MUIR: Mr. President, you told me during one of the debates that you would bring back waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would do — I wanna keep our country safe. I wanna keep our country safe.
DAVID MUIR: What does that mean?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: When they’re shooting — when they’re chopping off the heads of our people and other people, when they’re chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since Medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?
As far as I’m concerned we have to fight fire with fire. Now, with that being said I’m going with General Mattis. I’m going with my secretary because I think Pompeo’s gonna be phenomenal. I’m gonna go with what they say. 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 was, “Yes, absolutely.”
DAVID MUIR: You’re now the president. Do you want waterboarding?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don’t want people to chop off the citizens or anybody’s heads in the Middle East. Okay? Because they’re Christian or Muslim or anything else. I don’t want — look, you are old enough to have seen a time that was much different. You never saw heads chopped off until a few years ago.
Now they chop ’em off and they put ’em on camera and they send ’em all over the world. So we have that and we’re not allowed to do anything. We’re not playing on an even field. I will say this, I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don’t wanna do, that’s fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work for that end.
I wanna do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works. Have I spoken to people at the top levels and people that have seen it work? I haven’t seen it work. But I think it works. Have I spoken to people that feel strongly about it? Absolutely.
DAVID MUIR: So, you’d be okay with it as president?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I will rely on General Mattis. And I’m gonna rely on those two people and others. And if they don’t wanna do it, it’s 100 percent okay with me. Do I think it works? Absolutely.
What many Muslims are doing to Christians and other non-Muslims in the Middle East is truly horrific. But I think there is a solution that would obviate the need for torture and the use of CIA black sites. It’s something that the Trump administration is probably not likely to carry out. And that is that the U.S. should pull out from the Middle East completely and stop covertly funding and supporting terrorist groups who behead men, women, and children. As long as we’re there and/or providing clandestine support to terrorists, we’re only asking for more trouble.