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GOP Leaders Respond To Trump On Torture, Voter Fraud

Republican lawmakers have signaled that they are willing to break from President Donald Trump on his insistence that millions of illegal votes were cast during the election and his reported plans to lift restrictions on torturing terrorism suspects.

Over the past several days, Trump has repeatedly asserted without evidence that millions of illegal ballots were cast during the presidential election, costing him a win in the popular vote.

"Those were Hillary votes ... they didn't vote for me," Trump told ABC News on Jan. 25. "I don't believe I got one. Okay, these are people that voted for Hillary Clinton. And if they didn't vote, it would've been different in the popular."

The president has announced that his administration will launch an investigation into instances of voter fraud during the election. He is also reportedly preparing to sign an executive order that would restore off-grid CIA detention centers overseas and strip language that restricts interrogation techniques from the Army Field Manual.

"But I will tell you I have spoken to others in intelligence," Trump said. "And they are big believers in, as an example, waterboarding ... As far as I'm concerned we have to fight fire with fire."

The president concluded that he would defer to the judgment of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has stated that he is against using torture techniques.

Republican lawmakers have provided either lukewarm responses to Trump's assertions on voter fraud and torture or outright pushed back on them.

The House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has stated that he believes that Trump's call for an investigation into mass voter fraud is "fine ... the right thing to do is to get an investigation, to get the facts."

Ryan added that he had not "seen evidence of this kind of widespread numbers that we've been hearing about."

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the House Oversight Committee has stated that his committee will not involve itself in any investigation, NBC News reports.

"The president has a hundred thousand people at the Department of Justice and if he wants to have an investigation, have at it," Chaffetz said. "I just don't see any evidence of it."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was less receptive to the proposal, blasting Trump for making the accusations in the first place.

"I would urge the President to knock this off; this is the greatest democracy on Earth, we're the leader of the free world, and people are going to start doubting you as a person if you keep making accusations against our electoral system without justification," Graham told CNN. "This is going to erode his ability to govern this country if he does not stop it."

On the issue of torture, the emerging consensus among Republicans is that they will oppose any attempt to revive torture techniques such as waterboarding.

"The president can sign whatever executive order he likes," said Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, according to The New York Times. "But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America."

Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota noted that Congress had already voted to place restrictions on interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual.

"Those issued are settled law; Congress has spoken," Thune said, according to USA Today. "That's banned."

On Jan. 26, Ryan signaled during a GOP retreat in Philadelphia that the Republican leadership believes the matter is settled.

"Torture is illegal," Ryan said, according to The Daily Beast. "And we agree with it not being legal."

Sources: ABC News, CNN, The Daily BeastMSNBC, NBC News, The New York TimesUSA Today / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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