Steven Bradbury Helped Torture Happen and Now Trump Is Rewarding Him. You Can Stop It.

Torture is a crime. It also betrays our values as Americans. Nonetheless, the Bush administration carried out torture with impunity in the years after 9/11. Now, Trump wants to give a cushy federal job to one of the lawyers responsible for that torture. This really isn’t surprising from the president who claims “torture works” (it doesn’t) and said he wants to do things that are “unthinkable almost” to people detained by the United States in the name of national security. (Also a crime.)

But, on a broad bipartisan basis, Congress has shown time and again that it doesn’t agree. Most recently by a vote of 78-21 in 2015, the Senate voted to make the ban on torture even stronger.

Now they have an opportunity to reject Trump’s torture fantasies. Trump has nominated Steven Bradbury—a key player in the U.S. torture regime—to serve as General Counsel in the Department of Transportation. Bradbury should be facing accountability for what he did, not rewarded with a high-ranking federal job.

Call your Senators and tell them: oppose Steven Bradbury’s nomination.


From 2005 to 2009, Bradbury was the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel within the Justice Department. This office is extremely powerful, as it issues legal opinions to guide the executive branch of the U.S. government.

Mr. Bradbury is most infamous for writing memos that amounted to permission slips for the U.S. government to use torture. Based largely on the authorizations that he and his legal team wrote, the U.S. government committed horrific torture and cruel treatment against people detained in the name of national security.

The specifics are disgusting. You’ve probably heard about the use of waterboarding—a terrifying technique that simulated the excruciating experience of drowning. But there was more—the CIA forced people into extreme sleep deprivation (some for up to 180 hours) and painful stress positions like shackling them to the ceiling (even if they had broken feet). They carried out mock executions, sexual assault, threatened their families, and locked them in small boxes that resembled dog crates or coffins. One man died after the CIA tortured him to death.

Steven Bradbury helped this happen. By providing legal cover through his “torture memos,” he authorized cruel techniques that destroyed people’s lives. His legal analysis was problematic at best, and criminal at worst. He circumvented well-settled domestic and international law, misrepresented the findings of Congress, ignored key evidence, and basically found a way to justify what the Bush administration wanted to do—even though it was illegal.

This is the last person that we need serving as a high-ranking federal attorney while Trump is president. The Senate already rejected his appointment to a different post back in 2008, based on his responsibility for the torture program. He has never expressed any remorse or regret, and in fact continues to justify torture and his role in it. Why should the Senate confirm him now?


There is no nuance in the law - torture is always illegal. Even in a national security emergency, even if the detainee is suspected of heinous crimes, even during a time of war, and even when we’re afraid—domestic and international laws completely forbid the use of torture. Experts also tell us that torture is counterproductive—it can’t be relied upon to produce actionable intelligence.

Senators McCain and Feinstein introduced legislation in 2015 to strengthen the ban on torture, and 78 senators from both parties voted it through. It would be a massive hypocrisy for the Senate to now confirm the lawyer who helped create the torture program in the first place, and would embolden Trump’s reckless statements praising torture.


Call Your Senators Now!


Steven Bradbury has demonstrated a willingness to embrace criminal policies in order to please the President. In order to do that, he has ignored the facts, misrepresented the law, and refused to acknowledge his mistakes.

He is not fit to serve in the administration, especially under a President that has openly endorsed torture.

Your Senators can block his nomination—call today. Here’s are some talking points:

Sample Call Dialogue

Caller: Hi, my name is [name] and I’m a constituent calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to ask about the nomination of Steven Bradbury as General Counsel of the Department of Transportation. Has [senator] determined whether [he/she] will support or oppose the Bradbury nomination?

Option 1: If the senator is undecided or is planning to confirm Bradbury

Staffer: Senator [name] has not fully decided, but most likely will vote to confirm Bradbury.

Caller: That is very disappointing. I urge the senator to oppose Bradbury’s nomination. Mr. Bradbury was a key author of the torture memos while he served at the Office of Legal Counsel, and has already been blocked by the Senate in a previous appointment for that reason. Torture is illegal in all circumstances, but Mr. Bradbury has shown no remorse or regret. We can’t have him serving as a top lawyer for Trump, who has also expressed support for torture.

Staffer: I’ll relay your concerns to the senator.

Caller: Yes, please do—I’ll be watching the senator’s vote very closely.

Option 2: If the senator will be opposing Bradbury’s nomination

Staffer: Senator [name] is currently planning to oppose Mr. Bradbury’s nomination

Caller: I am very glad to hear that—torture is always wrong and always illegal and it is important that Bradbury not be confirmed. Especially under Trump, who has displayed torture fantasies on numerous occasions. Will the Senator be making clear on the record that [his/her] opposition to Bradbury’s nomination is a rebuke of Trump’s stance on torture?