President Trump's public endorsement of torture, a crime under international and domestic law, is an extraordinary departure from American tradition that will have historic and far-reaching implications, experts told NBC News.
Trump told ABC's David Muir that he supports "waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse." Trump said, "I would do, I would do — I want to keep our country safe." He added that if his advisers want to reinstate the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, "then I will work for that end [because] I think it works."
John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who wrote some of the secret memos about the CIA program, told NBC News that Trump "is not being legally careful."
"The world has taken torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment off the table, through binding international prohibitions that we have signed and ratified," said David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The idea that the Trump administration is considering doubling down on these discredited policies is deeply disturbing."
"The broader political story is it's putting our opponents on notice that they are not going to keep punching at us and nothing is going to happen back," Yoo offered a different view.