Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s candidate for attorney general said on Tuesday that he opposed banning Muslims from entering the United States and, taking a tougher stance than the president-elect, said waterboarding is torture and illegal.
During the 2016 election campaign Trump said waterboarding was an effective interrogation technique and vowed to bring it back and “a hell of a lot worse.”
Similarly, President George W. Bush’s administration came under fire when intelligence agencies used the method of waterboarding. It is an interrogation technique that simulates the experience of drowning. Recently, Trump revealed that his nominee for secretary of defense, Ret. Marine Corps General James Mattis, had also argued against it.
When asked if waterboarding was a means of torture, Sessions said Congress has since passed legislation that makes it “absolutely improper and illegal to use waterboarding or any other form of torture.”
His stance, however, that the law clearly bans waterboarding, could be a problem for Trump if he attempts to reinstate it.
During his campaign, Trump at one point proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. Sessions said he does not support banning anyone from the United States on the basis of religion, and explained that Trump’s intentions were to block people coming from countries harboring terrorists, not all Muslims. Protesters charging Sessions has a poor record on human rights interrupted the proceedings several times, as senators pushed Sessions on his and Trump’s positions on issues such as immigration and civil rights.
He became the first sitting senator to endorse Trump for the presidency in early 2016 and has since been an adviser on issues such as immigration. He is being reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a panel on which he serves, and is expected to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
However, many questions aimed to establish how closely he hewed to some of the positions of the incoming President. Sessions said he agreed with Trump in opposing President Barack Obama’s executive action that granted temporary protection to immigrant children who have been illegally brought to the United States by their parents and would not oppose overturning it.
Sessions agrees with his many of his fellow Republicans that the military prison for foreign terrorism suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba should remain open. The Obama administration has sought to close Guantanamo Bay, which was initially opened by the Bush administration in 2002, and bring its prisoners to US civilian courts to be tried.