In his first major interview as president with David Muir from ABC News, President Trump explained his position on torture. He said that he personally thinks it works as an interrogation tactic, but that he trusts his Defense Secretary and CIA director to advise against its use.
Watch more from Muir's report:
Transcript, via ABC News:
DAVID MUIR: The last president, President Obama, said the U.S. does not torture. Will you say that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I have a general who I have great respect for, General Mattis, who said -- I was a little surprised -- who said he's not a believer in torture. As you know, Mr. Pompeo was just approved, affirmed by the Senate. He's a fantastic guy, he's gonna be the head of the CIA.
And you have somebody fabulous as opposed to the character that just got out who didn't -- was not fabulous at all. And he will I think do a great job. And he is -- you know, I haven't gone into great detail. But I will tell you I have spoken to others in intelligence. And they are big believers in, as an example, waterboarding. Because they say it does work. It does work.
DAVID MUIR: Mr. President, you told me during one of the debates that you would bring back waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would do -- I wanna keep our country safe. I wanna keep our country safe.
DAVID MUIR: What does that mean?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: When they're shooting -- when they're chopping off the heads of our people and other people, when they're chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since Medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?
As far as I'm concerned we have to fight fire with fire. Now, with that being said I'm going with General Mattis. I'm going with my secretary because I think Pompeo's gonna be phenomenal. I'm gonna go with what they say. But I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest level of intelligence. And I asked them the question, "Does it work? Does torture work?" And the answer was, "Yes, absolutely."
DAVID MUIR: You're now the president. Do you want waterboarding?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't want people to chop off the citizens or anybody's heads in the Middle East. Okay? Because they're Christian or Muslim or anything else. I don't want -- look, you are old enough to have seen a time that was much different. You never saw heads chopped off until a few years ago.
Now they chop 'em off and they put 'em on camera and they send 'em all over the world. So we have that and we're not allowed to do anything. We're not playing on an even field. I will say this, I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don't wanna do, that's fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work for that end.
I wanna do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works. Have I spoken to people at the top levels and people that have seen it work? I haven't seen it work. But I think it works. Have I spoken to people that feel strongly about it? Absolutely.
DAVID MUIR: So, you'd be okay with it as president?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I will rely on General Mattis. And I'm gonna rely on those two people and others. And if they don't wanna do it, it's 100 percent okay with me. Do I think it works? Absolutely.