In the wake of a series of fatal terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said he would go beyond waterboarding when interrogating suspected terrorist leaders and repeated that the U.S. should "close up our borders until we figure out what's going on."
"Waterboarding would be fine and if they could expand the laws, I would do a lot more than waterboarding," Trump said Tuesday morning on NBC's Today, adding authorities should "should be able to do whatever they have to do." Asked if he believed people, when tortured, yield useful rather than false information, he said he was "in that camp."
"You have to get the information and you have to get it rapidly,” he said.
On March 18, Belgian authorities captured Salah Abdeslam, whom they suspect of participating in the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.
Trump's statements on the attacks, which have killed more than 30, were quickly followed by comments from the other candidates. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, slammed Trump's call to close the border as unrealistic" and said torture was ineffective. On the Republican side, Texas Senator Ted Cruz called on President Obama to call the attacks an outgrowth of "radical Islam" while Ohio Gov. John Kasich urged a redoubling of efforts to root out the perpetrators of such acts.
Kasich, who criticized President Obama for not cutting the Cuba trip short in light of the attacks, offered more muted rhetoric on his opponents, saying he doesn’t believe all Muslims are “somehow intent on trying to destroy our families.”
Meanwhile, Trump said "liberal" laws in Europe have hampered terror investigations.
Trump also repeated his earlier call to slash immigration in the U.S., including almost all immigration by Muslims and refugees from Syria.
"What we're doing is we're allowing thousands and thousands of these people into our country," he said on NBC. "And we're going to have nothing but problems, as sure as you're sitting there."
Trump said that Brussels, which is both the capital of Belgium and the European Union, "is an armed camp." He said he would not build ties between Muslim communities and the U.S. but rather said it was Muslims' responsibility to bring concerns about possible terrorist activities to the attention of authorities.
"They’re very untrusting of people other than Muslims," he said. "Somehow that community doesn’t believe in reporting."
Trump, who will compete in the Republican presidential primary in Arizona and caucus in Utah on Tuesday evening, said hawkish rhetoric at a time of high-profile terrorism appears to have helped his poll numbers.
"It’s why I’m probably number-one in the polls because I say we have to have strong borders," he said on NBC.
Trump spent much of a Monday trip to Washington trying to convince Republicans, some of whom have repeatedly suggested he tone down his rhetoric, that he can act presidential, including rolling out part of his foreign policy team in a meeting with the Washington Post. His comments on Tuesday, however, seemed to return him to proposals that House Speaker Paul Ryan described as "not what this country stands for."
The president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where Trump received applause for a Monday speech, apologized on Tuesday for "ad hominem attacks" from Trump, who called Obama "the worst thing to ever happen to Israel" during the address.
"While we may have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the United States and our president, Barack Obama,” said Lillian Pinkus, according to The Hill news site. “We are disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with or condone.”
"Our country's most experienced and bravest military leaders will tell you that torture is not effective," Clinton, who served as Obama's secretary of state from 2009 until 2013, said Tuesday, also on Today. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies "don’t need to resort to torture but they are going to need more help."
She called it "unrealistic to say we're going to completely shut down our borders to everyone. That would stop commerce for example and that’s not in anybody’s interest."
Clinton said the U.S. and Europe need to tighten security, particularly on visa checks and tracking of international travelers' names, while saying that Europe should commit to the Eurozone, which has relatively free borders.
In a press conference in Washington, D.C., Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is Trump's chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, said the "attack in Brussels is in many ways the fruit of a failed immigration policy in Europe" and said the U.S. should "absolutely" re-examine "immigration policies across the board."
He added the U.S. should not "withdraw from the world," noting Trump's previous criticism of NATO.
"We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized," Cruz also said in a statement.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is also seeking the GOP nomination, said in an e-mailed statement that the U.S. must redouble efforts with "allies to identify, root out and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil."
President Obama, speaking before his departure from Cuba, said the U.S. "will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally Belgium in bringing to justice those who are responsible."
"We must be together regardless of nationality race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism," he said.