According to the New York Times, Donald Trump confessed he was "surprised" when he discovered that one of his top choices for Defense Secretary, Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, does not actually "favor" the torture tactic known as "waterboarding."
Amid an extensive interview with the Times editorial board and staff on Tuesday, reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted:
Trump says he is "seriously considering" Mattis for DoD, says he asked Mattis about waterboarding, was surprised he didn't favor it.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016
Mattis, who travelled to Trump's New Jersey golf club over the weekend to meet with the president-elect, is seen as one of the top contenders to lead the Pentagon under Trump and, as Common Dreams reported earlier this week, has a reputation for backing an aggressive foreign policy. As journalist Jeremy Scahill noted, Mattis is known to believe "in the iron fist of U.S. militarism."
Still, Mattis apparently told Trump that waterboarding, and perhaps other torture practices, are not as effective as Trump had thought:
Donald Trump was convinced to not support waterboarding by one conversation with General Mattis pic.twitter.com/XRRTS0Cgnl
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) November 22, 2016
During the campaign, Trump made headlines by saying he liked "waterboarding a lot" but that he actually thought it didn't go far enough. "I don't think it's tough enough," Trump said at one rally, indicating he would go further. As recently as this weekend, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence wouldn't rule out waterboarding in a Trump administration.
Though waterboarding was sanctioned by former President George W. Bush following the attacks of September 11, 2001, legal and human rights experts have categorically called the practice torture. Though President Obama ended the authorization for the CIA to conduct such torture, he chose not to prosecute those who ordered or carried out the abuse.