President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, a source familiar with the transition has told CNN.
“Mad Dog” Mattis is revered in military circles as an unflinching leader, at once profane and wise. He made headlines in 2005, toward the end of his career, when he spoke at a Naval Institute gathering in San Diego and said, “It’s fun to shoot some people.”
During his first meeting with Trump a few weeks ago, the general seemed to sway the president-elect’s opinion about whether waterboarding was an effective technique.
Trump told the New York Times that when asked about waterboarding, Mattis said, “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.”
“I’m not saying it changed my mind,” Trump said. “Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages, and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer.”
Mattis’ nomination faces a challenge around the fact that the law requires a “cooling off” period for retired military officers before assuming positions of power in government.
“It will certainly be an issue,”Rep. Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the House Intelligence Commmittee, told CNN. “I don’t ultimately think it will be a bar because I think he is so well thought of that he can overcome peoples’ reservations of that.
“My guess is because his reputation is so strong and, frankly, because there’s enough concern among Democrats about some of the President-elect’s other choices, they’ll be a desire to amend the statute if that’s what’ necessary and I believe it would be necessary,” Schiff said.