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Trump to nominate retired Gen. James Mattis to lead Pentagon

Trump to nominate retired Gen. James Mattis to lead Pentagon

As he kicked off his post-election thank-you tour in Cincinnati, President-elect Donald Trump announced - sort of - that he was naming U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis as defense secretary. But he told the crowd and the TV cameras not to let it out of the room.

The Washington Post said Trump had chosen Mattis and that an announcement was likely to be made early next week.

In 2012, before the flaws in its technology were uncovered, Elizabeth Holmes, the company's founder and chief executive officer, asked Mattis, who was still in the military, to squelch a Pentagon reviewer's "blatantly false information" about the company, the Washington Post reported previous year.

For the general to assume the post, he would need Congress to waive a federal law that bars anyone who has been on active duty in the last seven years from becoming defense secretary. "My people over there are probably saying, "You weren't supposed to do that, Mr Trump", the president-elect quipped.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, who chairs the Armed Services committee that would hold confirmation hearings for the next defense secretary, has said Mattis is "one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader".

The choice of a seasoned military strategist would be another indication that Trump, a Republican, intends to steer United States foreign policy away from Democratic President Barack Obama's increased reliance on USA allies to fight Islamist militants and to help deter Russian and Chinese aggression in Europe and Asia.

Mr. Trump's transition team did not confirm the reports, and said Mr. Trump was still considering his options.

Mattis declined to comment.

Mattis led the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's transformation office and rewrote - along with Army General Petraeus - the military's counterinsurgency field manual.

"There is no God-given right to victory on the battlefield", he said.

Mattis' selection could put him in position to temper both Flynn and Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an appointee of President Barack Obama - whose generals Trump has said he distrusts. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950.

Mattis has already proven to have the President-elect's ear.

A glimpse of how Mattis, whose nickname is "Mad Dog", sees the current global strategic picture emerged in August, when he warned against U.S. isolationism in a speech to a U.S. Naval War College audience. He added that he read the Atlantic story after printing it out, and briefly thought he had accidentally mixed it with a news clip that highlighted Trump's views. "I'm not sure that's bad, but it's possible". Mattis retired from the corps in May 2013, leaving him more than three years short of meeting that requirement, which was instituted to ensure civilian control of the military.

But given Gen. Mattis' strong reputation on Capitol Hill, along with the fact that the GOP holds majorities in both the House and Senate, securing a waiver will not be hard, Mr. O'Hanlon said.

Although his record in combat and his credentials as a senior commander are widely admired, Mattis has little experience in the diplomatic aspects of the job of a secretary of defense.