In his first round of Sunday show interviews since the election, Vice President-elect Mike Pence did not rule out the possibility that President-elect Donald Trump would reinstate waterboarding as an interrogation technique during his administration.
On CBS Sunday, host John Dickerson brought up Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his comments Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum. At a panel discussion there, McCain vehemently insisted that any attempt to bring back waterboarding, which simulates drowning, would be quickly challenged in court, the AP reported.
Dickerson pointed out to Pence that Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., whom Trump plans to nominate as director of the CIA, supports Trump’s position that perhaps waterboarding should be reinstated.
Dickerson then played a clip of McCain’s remarks at the Halifax summit from Saturday.
“I don’t [care] what the president of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do. We will not waterboard. We will not torture,” McCain said, emphasizing certain words with a point of his finger, to applause. “My G-d, what does it say about America if we’re going to inflict torture on people?”
Pence seemed unfazed after he watched the video.
“Well, I have great respect for Sen. McCain,” he told Dickerson. “What I can tell you is that going forward, as he outlined in that famous speech in Ohio, is that a President Donald Trump is going to focus on confronting and defeating radical Islamic terrorism as a threat to this country.”
“We’re going to have a president again who will never say what we’ll never do,” Pence added.
Trump said during the campaign that he would reinstate the use of waterboarding against terrorism suspects – a practice that Congress made illegal after its use during the George W. Bush administration.
At a rally last November in Columbus, Ohio, Trump promised to reinstate waterboarding and perhaps methods beyond it.
“Would I approve waterboarding? You bet … I would – in a heartbeat,” Trump said as the crowd cheered. “And I would approve more than that. Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”
Trump repeated “It works” multiple times.
“Believe me, it works,” he told the Columbus crowd. “And you know what? If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing. It works.”
Trump doubled down on his pledge to bring back waterboarding at another rally a few months later in South Carolina, as well as in several interviews throughout the campaign.
However, former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said after the election that Trump’s waterboarding remarks were just “campaign talk,” according to CNN.
McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, has long spoken out against extreme interrogation techniques, which are banned under U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions.
In a 2011 guest column for The Washington Post, McCain wrote that information gathered from those tortured is not always reliable:
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear – true or false – if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading.
“Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops, who might someday be held captive. While some enemies, and al-Qaida surely, will never be bound by the principle of reciprocity, we should have concern for those Americans captured by more conventional enemies, if not in this war then in the next.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., one of Trump’s many opponents during the Republican presidential primary race, followed Pence on “Face the Nation” and said he agreed with McCain.
“We should telegraph to the world that we’re better than this,” Paul told Dickerson.
Pence also appeared on Fox News on Sunday, where the issue of waterboarding did not come up. Host Chris Wallace raised increasing criticism “from all sides” about Trump and his potential conflicts of interest.
Already there have been numerous reports of such potential conflicts. Some have expressed concern that Trump’s many hotels, condos and golf courses could be venues through which people could curry favor with the incoming president. Last week, dozens of foreign diplomats gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, and at least one said not staying at the hotel might be considered “rude,” The Post reported.
Pictures showing that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, was present at a meeting last week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also raised questions about the separation between the Trump administration and his business dealings. Trump has said three of his adult children, including Ivanka, will take over his businesses after he takes office, and they have not requested high-level governmental security clearances.
The New York Times also reported that Trump met last week with Indian business partners who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex near Mumbai.
Wallace asked Pence whether anyone seeking to curry favor with Trump could do so through a deal with the Trump organization.
Pence brushed aside the possibility.
“I’m very confident working with the best legal minds in the country, the president-elect and his family will create the proper separation,” he told Wallace.