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Ex-Defense chief: Donald Trump's ideas could lead to Nuremberg-like trial

Sixty former national security officials signed a scathing open letter opposing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump
Sixty former national security officials sign... 06:05

If Donald Trump becomes president and the military followed his proposed order to kill terrorists' families, it could lead to a Nuremberg-like war crimes trial, former Defense Secretary William Cohen told CNN on Thursday.

"The notion that we would attack and kill the families of terrorists is something that contravenes everything the United States stands for in this world of now disorder," said Cohen, a former Republican U.S. senator from Maine who served as Defense chief under President Bill Clinton.

Cohen said "there's something called Nuremberg that we have to be concerned about" and warned it could lead the U.S. down a slippery slope.

If "you have an order given by the commander in chief which violates every sense of law and order, international law and order, that would make any of those who carried out that dictum as such to be a violation of the international criminal code," he added.

Sixty former national security officials sign... 06:05

In December, Trump told Fox News that he would take out terrorists' families in order to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families," Trump said.

Cohen said it's "astounding" that Trump has been praising the use of waterboarding and torture.

"This is something that's quite dangerous," he said. "And I think that Mr. Trump may change the message as he proceeds toward the convention. But if we were to stay with the message I think that many of the American people would find that unacceptable, and should."

His comments after a group of national security experts denounced Trump's proposed policies in an open letter.

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