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John McCain to Donald Trump: U.S. won't reinstate waterboarding

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- A leading Republican voice on national security matters says he doesn’t care what President-elect Donald Trump says, the United States will not reinstate waterboarding.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum that any attempt to bring back harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning, would quickly be challenged in court. 

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, says extreme interrogation techniques are banned under U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he would push to change laws that prohibit waterboarding used against suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush administration.

Donald Trump said he wants to expand the law ... 11:06

“We have an enemy in the Middle East that’s chopping off heads and drowning people in massive steel cages,” Mr. Trump said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” in March, speaking of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “You know, it’s very tough to beat enemies that don’t have any, that don’t have any restrictions, all right? We have these massive restrictions. Now, I will always abide by the law, but I would like to have the law expanded.”

“I happen to think that when you’re fighting an enemy that chops off heads, I happen to think that we should use something that’s stronger than we have right now,” he added. “Right now, basically, waterboarding is essentially not allowed, as I understand it. ... I would certainly like it to be, at a minimum, at a minimum to allow that.”

In another interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” in July, Mr. Trump and then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence doubled down on enhanced interrogation techniques, saying that they have “saved lives.” 

“Those techniques get information,” Mr. Trump told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl. “I don’t care what anyone says.” 

“What I can tell you is enhanced information gleaned information that saved American lives and, I was informed, prevented incoming terrorist attacks on this country from being successful,” Pence added at the time. “The American people expect the president of the United States to be prepared to support action to protect the people of this nation, and I know Donald Trump will.”

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, says waterboarding doesn’t work and makes it hard for the U.S. to claim moral superiority.

The president-elect has publicly derided McCain for his capture during the Vietnam War. 

During the Republican primary campaign last July, Mr. Trump said the Arizona senator was only considered “a war hero ‘cause he was captured.” 

At the time, Mr. Trump said: “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

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