In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Donald Trump said he "absolutely" thinks waterboarding works and would consider reinstating it as an interrogation technique, depending on the advice of Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
"I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don't want to do, that's fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work toward that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally," Trump exclusively told "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir during an interview at the White House. "But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works."
Trump explained it's important to reconsider the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique because, he said, "we're not playing on an even field."
"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," he said.
"I'm going to go with what they say," Trump said of Mattis and Pompeo. "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.'"
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed to bring back the use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques.
"Not since medieval times have people seen what's going on. I would bring back waterboarding, and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," Trump told Muir during the New Hampshire Republican primary debate, co-sponsored by ABC News, in February 2016.
But Trump's position on the use of waterboarding seems to differ from some of his Cabinet picks'. In an interview with The New York Times last year, Trump said he was "impressed" by a recommendation from Mattis, who at the time was under consideration for defense secretary.
"I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, 'I've never found it to be useful.' He said, 'I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I do better with that than I do with torture.' And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he's known as being, like, the toughest guy," Trump told the Times.
During his confirmation hearing to become CIA director, Pompeo was asked whether he would comply if Trump issued a presidential order calling for the reinstatement of enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside the Army Field Manual.
"Absolutely not. Moreover, I can't imagine I would be asked that by the president-elect," Pompeo said. "There is no doubt in my mind about the limitations placed not only on the DOD but on the intelligence agency, and I'll always comply with the law."
Trump's comments today come amid reports of an administration draft order indicating that he is considering a review of terrorism interrogations and the potential reopening of CIA black site prisons outside the U.S.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday that the draft order was "not a White House document" but would not provide further comment.