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Trump: I was 'a little surprised' Defense Secretary Mattis is against torture

Olivier Doulier - Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump, who famously pledged to "fight fire with fire" because he believed torture "absolutely" works, said Wednesday that he was "a little surprised" when he found out his pick to run the Defense Department, retired Gen. James Mattis, was against using such tactics.

In an interview with ABC News' David Muir, Trump was asked, "The last president — President Obama — said the U.S. does not torture. Will you say that?"

Trump replied, "Well, I have a general who I have great respect for, Gen. Mattis, who said — I was a little surprised — who said he's not a believer in torture."

In February, during one of the 2016 Republican presidential debates, then-candidate Trump told Muir that he supports waterboarding and "would bring back a hell of a lot worse" if he became president.

In his sit-down Wednesday with the ABC host, Trump said he would consult with Mattis on the matter, but noted he had discussed torture with several top intelligence officials in the past day who told him the practice "absolutely" works.

However, Mattis has a markedly different view from Trump.

In November, Trump said Mattis had told him that he "never found [torture] to be useful," adding, "Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better."

The president said at the time he was "very impressed" with Mattis' answer.

In 2009, just after taking the oath of office, then-President Barack Obama banned enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, arguing at the time that such tactics  constituted torture and are not effective against terrorists.

Enhanced techniques include waterboarding, sleep deprivation and physical beatings.

2014 Senate report on torture concluded that the CIA's "use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has challenged Trump in the past, is standing by the Senate's findings on torture and against the president's position.

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