McCain Has One Way to Prevent Torture under Trump — Oppose Pompeo and Sessions

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, John McCain made some strong statements about whether President Trump will be able to resume torture.

Republican Sen. John McCain issued a fiery warning to President-elect Donald Trump on the subject of torture Saturday.

“I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard,” McCain told an audience at the annual Halifax International Security Forum. “We will not torture people … It doesn’t work.”

McCain’s comments have gotten quite a lot of approving press since.

But that approving press is misplaced.

After all, tough words will not prevent Trump from resuming torture — no matter what NYT’s rather bizarre story claiming there are obstacles to doing so claims. As I laid out weeks ago, the bureaucratic work-arounds are already in place.

No. The single most effective way for Senator McCain to prevent Trump from resuming torture is to ensure the people he appoints are actually opposed to it.

Already, Trump has named two pro-torture Republicans to top positions: Trump’s Attorney General pick, Jeff Sessions, voted against the anti-torture amendment McCain wrote to try to codify the law. In response to the release of the Torture Report, Trump’s CIA Director pick, Mike Pompeo, declared the torturers “are not torturers, they are patriots.”

McCain — whose comment on torture came the day after Trump named these appointees — has not committed to opposing their nomination. Instead, he just wants to make strong statements that will do little to prevent Trump from ordering Pompeo to resuming the torture.

Maybe that’s why McCain is getting so touchy about the President-elect.

Today, he told two different reporters he didn’t want to answer questions about Trump. Here’s what he said to HuffPo’s Laura Barron-Lopez:

I will not discuss President-elect Donald Trump, ok? And that is my right as a Senator. I do not have an obligation ma’am to answer any question I don’t feel like answering. I’m responsible for the people of Arizona and they just [re-elected] me overwhelmingly.

He said something similar to CNN’s Manu Raju.

Cranky-as-fuck John McCain is ratcheting it up!

But he’s going to need to crank it up even more. McCain, with just two of his colleagues, has the power and moral authority to oppose pro-torture appointees. That would require confronting the leader of his party. But it is also one of the only real ways to prevent the US from resuming torture.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. GKJames says:

    It’s mind-boggling that the discussion is even taking place. A president-elect and his cronies, without the least embarrassment, publicly discuss a joint intent to engage in unlawful conduct. Then again, it’s hardly a surprise, given that we crossed that bridge 15 years ago when substantially all of the political, judicial, and media establishment, and a good portion of the public were just fine with torture. Is it safe to assume that we won’t be hearing from the multitudes who habitually condemned Clinton and undocumented immigrants on the basis that “the law’s the law; nobody’s above the law”? Can’t make this shit up.

  2. Peterr says:

    I wonder what McCain’s staff in Arizona have to say when local upstanding constituents call or drop by and ask if McCain will work to stop pro-torture appointments in the new GOP administration?

    If only I knew someone in Arizona who could ask them . . .

  3. Peterr says:

    From Tiger Beat on the Potomac comes this bit of . . . something:

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein is making a determined but last-ditch attempt to get President Barack Obama to declassify a nearly-7,000-page Senate report about the use of harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA under President George W. Bush.

    Feinstein sent Obama a letter last week urging him to make the unabridged version of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s so-called “torture report” public in a declassified form before he leaves office Jan. 20. She said Tuesday that she also buttonholed Vice President Joe Biden this week to make sure Obama got the message.

    Is this kabuki on DiFi’s part, or is there a chance this might actually happen?

  4. martin says:

    quote”But he’s going to need to crank it up even more. McCain, with just two of his colleagues, has the power and moral authority to oppose pro-torture appointees. That would require confronting the leader of his party”unquote

    Watch the Pacific coast for an incoming swarm of Flying Pigs. That is the signal McCain will object to Trump.
    Peterr said:
    quote:”Is this kabuki on DiFi’s part, or is there a chance this might actually happen?”unquote

    Watch for second wave of said Flying Pigs.

  5. martin says:

    On a side note… Barrett Brown just got released.  Now if only his prosecution team becomes ill with long term suffering and unrelenting pain and misery.  That would truly make my day.

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