Vice President-elect Mike Pence Sunday declined to rule out reinstating waterboarding as an interrogation technique in his first round of Sunday talk show appearances since the Nov. 8 election.
Pence, in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said though he has respect for those who oppose the practice, the new administration “is going to focus on confronting and defeating radical Islamic terrorism as a threat to this country.” He said Donald Trump will be a president “who will never say what we’ll never do.”
During the campaign Trump promised to reinstate waterboarding, which has been declared a form of torture and was outlawed by Congress in 2005. The technique simulates the experience of drowning by strapping a subject to a board that slopes downward, covering the face with a cloth and pouring water over the face and into the nostrils and mouth.
"Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat," Trump told a rally in Columbus, Ohio, last November. "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."
"Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing. It works."
Trump’s pick to head the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., has defended waterboarding, calling those who conducted so-called enhanced interrogations “heroes.”
But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada Saturday waterboarding is off the table. McCain, who was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, said he doesn’t “give a damn what the President of the United States wants to do. … We will not waterboard.”
He added if waterboarding was reinstituted, the perpetrators would be in court “in a New York minute.”
A 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee investigation found waterboarding did not work, failing to elicit any actionable intelligence or foil any plots.
"The committee finds, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation," the report concludes, adding beatings and solitary confinement also were ineffective.
On other matters, Pence said 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is under active consideration for secretary of state. Romney, who called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud” during the primary campaign, was among those who met with Trump Saturday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.
He also said concerns Trump won’t be able to separate himself sufficiently from his businesses are overblown.
“I’m very confident that the president-elect and his extraordinary talented family are going to work with the best legal minds in this country and create the proper separation from their business enterprise during his duties as President of the United States,” Pence said.
On whether he was upset by “Hamilton” cast member Brandon Dixon’s statement during a curtain call, urging the new administration to respect America’s diversity, Pence said he was not offended.
“That’s what democracy sounds like,” he said of the boos that greeted him when he entered the Broadway theater for Friday’s performance.