Trump's Pentagon Pick Cruises Toward Likely Confirmation | NBC 10 Philadelphia
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's first year as president

Trump's Pentagon Pick Cruises Toward Likely Confirmation

Retired Gen. James Mattis, 66, spent four decades in uniform, retiring in 2013

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Trump's Pentagon Pick Cruises Toward Likely Confirmation
    AP
    Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    Retired Gen. James Mattis on Thursday cruised toward likely confirmation as Donald Trump's defense secretary, overwhelmingly prevailing in a Senate vote granting him an exemption to run the Pentagon as a recently retired officer. At his confirmation hearing, he called Russia the nation's No. 1 security threat, accusing its leader of trying to "break" NATO.

    The Senate voted 81-17 to approve legislation overriding a prohibition against former U.S. service members who have been out of uniform less than seven years from holding the Defense Department's top job. The restriction is meant to preserve civilian control of the military. The House Armed Services Committee backed the waiver in a 34-28 vote; the full House will take up the matter Friday.

    Mattis, 66, spent four decades in uniform, retiring in 2013 with a reputation as an effective combat leader and an astute strategist. Separate from the override legislation, the Senate will vote later on Mattis' nomination, which is seen as all but certain to be confirmed.

    The only other exception to the rule was made for the legendary George Marshall in 1950, the year Mattis was born. Even some of Trump's strongest critics have supported the waiver for Mattis, arguing that his experience and temperament can serve as a steadying influence on a new president with no experience in national security.

    Trump Thanks Supporters, Names Mattis in Ohio

    [NATL] Trump Thanks Supporters, Announces Mattis Appointment in Ohio
    President-elect Donald Trump traveled to Ohio, the first stop in a post-election battleground states “Thank You Tour.” Sounding a lot like a candidate, he promised to grow the economy, shrink taxes and rebuild an energy independent America. And he announced he’s naming retired Gen. James Mattis as his defense secretary.
    (Published Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016)

    At an uncontentious confirmation hearing, Mattis sketched an international security scene dominated by dark images of an aggressive Russia, resurgent China and violent Mideast. He described Iran as a major destabilizing force, called North Korea a potential nuclear threat and said the U.S. military needs to grow larger and readier for combat.

    "We see each day a world awash in change," Mattis said. "Our country is still at war in Afghanistan and our troops are fighting against ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. Russia is raising grave concerns on several fronts, and China is shredding trust along its periphery."

    Mattis portrayed Russia as an adversary and said the history of U.S.-Russian relations is not encouraging.

    "I have very modest expectations for areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin," he said, delivering an assessment strikingly dissonant with that of his potential commander in chief. Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, even as U.S. intelligence agencies have accused the Russian leader of orchestrating a campaign of interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

    Of Putin, said Mattis, a former NATO military leader: "He is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance."

    He said he has explained to Trump his views on Russia, which include a deep worry that Moscow is determined to use intimidation and nuclear threats to create a sphere of unstable states on its periphery.

    From the Archives: Gen. James Mattis' 'Fun to Shoot Some People' Remarks

    [NATL-DGO] Feb. 1: 2005: Marine General's Comments Draw Fire
    U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who was selected as President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Secretary of Defense, drew fire for controversial remarks years ago. This clip is an Anne State report from the NBC 7 archives produced Feb. 1, 2005.
    (Published Friday, Dec. 2, 2016)

    Mattis, who has served in numerous senior military positions, including commander of U.S. Central Command in charge of all American forces in the Middle East, said he supports the Obama administration's moves to reassure European allies after Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and military activity in eastern Ukraine.

    While the U.S. should remain open to working with Russia, Mattis said, the prospects for cooperation were narrowing even as areas of disagreement grow larger.

    As he spoke, Trump's choice to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, sided with intelligence officials who claim the Kremlin was behind the election cyberattacks, adopting a similarly tough stand against Russia in his confirmation hearing. Ties between the former Cold War foes also have been strained by Syria's civil war.

    Mattis faced no hostile questions from Republicans or Democrats, receiving bipartisan praise for his reputation as a straight-talking, well-read man of integrity and intelligence.

    William Cohen, a defense secretary for Democratic President Bill Clinton, introduced Mattis as a "humble man with very little to be humble about."

    "He's a man of thought as well as action," Cohen said.

    Capitol Police Agent Injured in Shooting Throws First Pitch

    [NATL] Capitol Police Agent Injured in Shooting Throws First Pitch

    Crystal Griner, the Capitol Police agent who was wounded during the shooting at a Congressional Republicans softball practice earlier this month, threw out the first pitch at a Congressional Women's Softball benefit game.

    (Published Thursday, June 22, 2017)

    Mattis said the world order is under "the biggest attack since World War II," blaming Russia, China and international terrorist organizations for its destabilization.

    On cyberattacks, Mattis noted that wars often are started by miscalculation. He said the U.S. needs to set clear boundaries so that adversaries know what the U.S. will not tolerate.

    In prepared testimony, Mattis said he understands his role as the Defense Department's civilian leader would be different "in essence and in substance" from his four decades in uniform. He called civilian control "a fundamental tenet of the American military tradition."