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Donald Trump reverses position on torture, killing terrorists’ families

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<> on March 3, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Republican front-runner Donald Trump said Friday that he would not order the U.S. military to violate international laws to fight terrorism, a stark reversal from his statements at Thursday’s Republican debate.

Trump said in a statement that he understands “that the United States is bound by laws and treaties” and said he would “not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.”

He added, “I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”

The statement was first reported in The Wall Street Journal.

His position seems to have shifted dramatically in less than 24 hours.

During Thursday night’s debate on Fox News, Trump reaffirmed his willingness to target the families of terrorists and supported the use of waterboarding, implying a willingness to use torture. “We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding,” he said.

His previous endorsement of these tactics had drawn condemnation from former defense and intelligence officials.

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen told CNN Thursday that “the notion that we would attack and kill the families of terrorists is something that contravenes everything the United States stands for in this world.”

Cohen warned that if the military carried out these orders, they could face a Nuremberg-like trial, saying, “we have to be concerned about that you have an order given by the commander in chief which violates every sense of law and order, international law and order, that would make any of those who carried out that dictum such to be a violation of the international criminal code.”

And former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, speaking of Trump, told HBO this week that “if he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”

“You are required not to follow an unlawful order. That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict,” Hayden said.