John McCain Rejected Trump Nominee Over Torture Backing, Promises To Do It Again

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) talks to reporters as he arrives for the weekly Republican party caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. October 31, 2017. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Republican Senator John McCain has said that he will refuse to vote for anyone nominated by President Donald Trump who supported torture during the administration of George W. Bush or since.

Early this week McCain refused to vote for lawyer Steven Engel, who the Trump administration has picked to lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. McCain was the only Republican to vote against Engel, who was confirmed with a vote of 51 to 47 in the Senate.

During his confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Engel said that he had "reviewed and commented" on a 2007 memo that that approved torture techniques, otherwise known as enhanced interrogation.

"Mr. Engel reviewed and commented on this memo, which attempted to justify interrogation techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions and stain our national honor," McCain told Politico in a statement Wednesday explaining his vote. "I cannot in good conscience vote for any nominee who in any way has supported the use of enhanced interrogation."

McCain, who was tortured when he was captured during the Vietnam War, pushed against the use of torture following 9/11 and the Iraq War and advocated for the humane treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act.

Read more: McCain goes after Trump's "half-baked, spurious nationalism" at Liberty Medal ceremony

McCain pushed for the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture in December 2014. "The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow," he said. "But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless."

During Trump's 2016 election campaign McCain spoke out against Trump's proposal to bring back waterboarding.

The Republican Senator from Arizona has been one of the few in his party to publicly speak out against the president and his leadership. During an awards ceremony last month where he accepted the Liberty Medal, McCain spoke out against the president's ideology as a brand of "half-baked, spurious nationalism."

The senior Republican Senator's opposition to Trump nominees that were involved in supporting torture means he will most likely vote against the confirmation of lawyer Steven Bradbury, who wrote the legal memos authorizing the use of torture by the CIA. Bradbury has been chosen by Trump to be the Department of Transportation's general counsel.

Brandbury's nomination has been put on hold in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee after Illinois Democrat Sen. Tammy Duckworth—a veteran who lost her legs in 2004 during the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down—questioned his ethics.

"The actions you helped justify put our troops in harm's way, put our diplomats deployed overseas in harm's way, and you compromised our nation's very values," Duckworth told Brandbury.