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Confirmation hearings run smoothly, but reveal policy divides

Retired General James Mattis appears set for congressional approval as defense secretary. However, Mattis disagreed with Trump's stances on Russia and China; other Trump picks have also expressed differing views.

USA James Mattis, Anhörung vor dem Senat (Reuters/J. Ernst)

James Mattis, retired US Army general and current candidate for US defense secretary

Retired General James Mattis' confirmation hearing was far from contentious on Thursday, receiving praise from Democrats and Republicans alike. Mattis appears ready to be confirmed to become US President-elect Donald Trump's defense secretary, provided that Friday's scheduled House of Representatives vote green-lights his nomination.

Standing in Mattis' path to the secretarial post was legislation that prevents former members of the military from holding the top position at the Pentagon if they served in the military within the last seven years. Mattis, however, retired only three years ago. The Senate took care of that hurdle Thursday, voting 81-17 to override the legislation. The only other time an exception was made was in 1950 for World War II General George Marshall in 1950 - the year Mattis was born.

Mattis served in the military for four decades, including a period of overseeing military operations in the Middle East and central Asia between 2011 and 2013. During confirmation hearings, Mattis disagreed with Trump's policies on Russia. While Trump wishes for stronger ties with Russia, Mattis warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin was "trying to break the North Atlantic alliance," going so far as to say Russia "poses a danger to US and European interests." This is in line with Trump's pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who went through confirmation hearings earlier this week. Tillerson also took several positions that contrasted with those stated by the future commander-in-chief.

Mattis also took a hard stance against China. Mattis said "China is shredding trust" with its neighbors, referencing China's recent actions involving the South China Sea. Trump has spoken out against China's economic policy and has ruffled the feathers of Chinese leaders after a phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

CIA pick agrees with US intel

USA Mike Pompeo (Getty Images/AFP/S. Loeb)

Representative from Kansas Mike Pompeo is Trump's pick as head of the CIA

Trump's pick to lead the CIA, Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo, agreed with US intelligence leaders during his confirmation hearings over the recent reveal of election meddling. US intelligence has said Russia was involved with cyber attacks during the US presidential election.

"This was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership in Russia," said Pompeo.

Ties between the US and Russia, former Cold War enemies, have weakened considerably in recent years due to the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, in which the two countries are on opposite sides.

Trump is slated to be inaugurated on January 20.

kbd/kl (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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