Live

Watch CBSN Live

Donald Trump shifts gears on torture: "I will be bound by laws"

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who has previously promised to perform "a lot worse" than waterboarding on terrorists, is taking a significantly softened stance on torture policies, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.

In a statement to the Journal, Trump said he would "use every legal power that I have to stop these terrorist enemies." But he continued, "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. I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities."

The position seems to be a reversal of Trump's previous promises to torture terrorists, mentioned just a day ago at Thursday's Republican debate in Detroit.

On the debate stage, Trump was asked by debate moderator and Fox News host Brett Baier, "Experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists' families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they've been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders. So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?"

Trump shot back: "They're not going to refuse. Believe me."

When Baier pointed out that such policies are "illegal," Trump responded: "Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They're chopping off heads. They're chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They're drowning people in steel cages. And he -- now we're talking about waterboarding."

"What do you think of waterboarding? I said it's fine. And if we want to go stronger, I'd go stronger, too," he continued. "Because, frankly that's the way I feel. 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. That's my opinion."

Trump also doubled back on another policy issue Thursday night, changing his tone on immigration and skilled worker visas.

While the billionaire had previously stated that increasing the number of skilled immigrant worker visas would destroy American workers, Trump said on the debate stage that he was "changing it and softening the position" because "we need talented people in this country."

View CBS News In