Former CIA director Michael Hayden believes there is a legitimate possibility that the US military would refuse to follow orders given by Donald Trump if the Republican front-runner becomes president and decides to make good on certain campaign pledges.
Hayden, who also headed the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005, made the provocative statement on Friday during an appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." Trump, fresh off a string of primary victories, has yet to secure his party's nomination, but Hayden said the candidate's rhetoric already raises troubling questions.
"I would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the language that candidate Trump expressed during the campaign," Hayden said during the interview with Maher.
Earlier this month, Trump told a South Carolina retirement community that he supports waterboarding and similar interrogation techniques because "torture works" when it comes to extracting vital information from terrorists.
Deeming waterboarding "torture," President Barack Obama's administration discontinued its use during his first term in office. Proponents of the controversial practice, as The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson noted, avoid labelling it as torture, which would violate various international laws and treaties. Trump, meanwhile, has not only pledged to reinstate waterboarding, but also introduce other methods of interrogation that are "so much worse" and "much stronger."
"Don't tell me it doesn't work - torture works," Trump told the Sun City retirement community. "Okay, folks? Torture - you know, half these guys (say): 'Torture doesn't work.' Believe me, it works. Okay?"
Trump has also said on multiple occasions that the United States should kill the family members of terrorists.
"That will make people think. Because they do not care very much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their family's lives," Trump said during a debate of Republican presidential candidates in December.
Politifact has pointed out that targeting terrorists' family members is barred by the Geneva Conventions.
During his appearance on "Real Time," Hayden cited Trump's pledge to kill family members as being among his most troubling campaign statements.
"That never even occurred to you, right?" Maher asked.
"God, no!" Hayden replied. "Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act."
"That's quite a statement, sir," Maher said.
"You are required not to follow an unlawful order," Hayden added. "That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict."
"You've given us a great reason not to support Trump. There would be a coup in this country," Maher joked.
Hayden said he didn't mean to imply that the military would provoke "a coup."