Mike Pompeo confirmation hearing for CIA director
Donald Trump’s HUD Secretary Nominee Ben Carson Testifies at Confirmation Hearing (1/12/2017)
Mattis Our armed forces must remain the best in the world
Defense secretary nominee Mattis warns world order under historic threat
Jan 12, 2017
Defense secretary nominee Gen. James Mattis issued a grave warning Thursday at his Senate confirmation hearing, saying the established world order is under its “biggest attack” since World War II as he called for boosting military readiness and America’s alliances.
Under questioning from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., about Russia and other threats, Mattis said the U.S. should “recognize the reality” of dealing with Vladimir Putin’s government and that he’s trying to “break” the North Atlantic alliance.
Citing Russia’s aggressions and other concerns, he said: “I think [the world order is] under the biggest attack since World War II … from Russia, from terrorist groups and with what China is doing in the South China Sea.”
To address this, Mattis testified, “deterrence is critical.”
His assessment came as he called for strengthening “military readiness” while also pursuing “business reforms” at the Pentagon. He said U.S. forces must be the “best led, best equipped and most lethal in the world.”
“If you confirm me, my watchwords will be solvency and security in providing for the protection of our people and the survival of our freedoms,” he said.
Mattis, a tough Marine general who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” over the course of his career and most recently led U.S. Central Command before retiring in 2013, is poised to become the first career military officer in charge of the Pentagon since the 1950s,
He addressed any potential concerns about that break from tradition at his hearing Thursday, saying he recognizes civilian control of the military is a “fundamental tenet of the American military tradition.”
“Civilian leaders bear these responsibilities because the esprit-de-corps of our military, its can-do spirit, and its obedience to civilian leadership reduces the inclination and power of the military to oppose a policy … it is ultimately ordered to implement,” he said.
The question of budget restraints at the Pentagon is a critical one for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., warned at Thursday’s hearing that the military can’t proceed with “business as usual” as he ripped “arbitrary” congressional caps on spending.
Mattis agrees that those policies cause concerns. His assurances on dealing with Russia also follow concerns from McCain and other senior lawmakers that the incoming Donald Trump administration is wrongly warming to Moscow.
Mattis’ testimony falls amid a packed week of confirmation hearings for top Trump Cabinet nominees, including Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. Both nominees have faced pushback on Capitol Hill, but virtually all of Trump’s picks – Mattis included – are expected to win confirmation provided Republicans hold together on the final vote.
In prepared remarks for the hearing, Mattis expressed unqualified support for traditional U.S. international alliances. In contrast, during the White House campaign, Trump insisted that U.S. treaty allies and security partners pay more for their own defense and for hosting American forces on their soil.
Mattis is a former leader of NATO’s transformation command, in charge of efforts to adapt the alliance’s structure and capabilities to 21st century threats.
Before Mattis can join the Cabinet, Congress must approve a one-time exception to a law requiring a military officer to be out of uniform for at least seven years before leading the Pentagon. Even some of Trump’s strongest critics say Mattis merits the exception.
Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department counselor in President George W. Bush’s administration who has publicly criticized the incoming Trump team, said at a Senate hearing Tuesday that he feels a “sense of alarm” about the judgment of the incoming administration. But, he said, Mattis “would be a stabilizing and moderating force, preventing wildly stupid, dangerous or illegal things from happening.”
Mattis, 66, is one of three recently retired senior generals selected by Trump for top jobs in his administration.
After retiring, Mattis joined the Hoover Institution, a conservative-leaning think tank. He also is a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics, the big defense contractor.
He has remained outspoken in his concerns about Iran. In remarks last April at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mattis called Iran “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”
Mattis is best known as a battle-hardened combat officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he also has worked behind the scenes with senior civilian officials at the Pentagon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Joe Manchin Will Vote to Confirm Jeff Sessions for Attorney General: ‘I’m Voting for the Person I Know’
Behind the Scenes: Trump Transition Team ‘Murder Boards’ Test Cabinet Nominees
WASHINGTON D.C. — Two bright spotlights shine on former WWE executive Linda McMahon as she sits down at a desk with a bottle of water next to her.
As a group of eight serious-looking political figures peer back skeptically back at her. A man identifying himself as Senator Ed Murray asks a question about her support of President-elect Donald Trump during the campaign.
The man, although dressed in a suit, looks nothing like the real senator. But a paper with the official portrait of the Irish red headed senator is helpfully taped in front of the desk with an identifying name tag. He sips at a bottle of Diet Cherry Pepsi as McMahon replies to his line of questioning.
Welcome to the Trump transition team “murder boards,” where each nominee practices their confirmation hearing in a mock Senate confirmation hearing in a room designed to imitate a hearing room on Capitol Hill.
McMahon is Donald Trump’s cabinet nominee to serve as the head of the Small Business Administration, a position that requires Senate confirmation.
The mock sessions usually last two hours. Then the team takes 30 minutes to debrief the nominee about the performance. By the time McMahon’s session is over, she has answered some 100 separate questions.
Many of the characters playing Democrats are experienced Washington D.C. officials. On occasion, an actual member of Congress will step in to play the part of a Democratic colleague, according to a transition team source.
A man playing the part of Sen. Cory Booker shows up at the hearing late through a side door and whispers quietly to a few of his senate colleagues before sitting down.
“I’m sorry we weren’t able to meet before the hearing,” he tells McMahon, apologizing for his busy schedule, but he immediately challenges her experience as a small business owner.
A digital timer on the wall ticks down as each “Democrat Senator” uses the allotted time to question her suitability for the position.
While not part of the script, a swarm of police sirens blows by outside the nondescript government building where the transition team is holding practice sessions. McMahon continues speaking, undaunted by the interruption.
Behind her, the wood paneled room includes several rows of chairs as a half dozen staffers sit and take notes. One staffer drops his phone on the floor and McMahon resists the urge turn around and react to the noise behind her. Other staffers come in and out of the hearing doors, simulating the various distractions that will likely take place.
An iPad is stationed in front of McMahon, recording her performance.
“Sen. Booker’s” time is running out, but he quickly switches gears.
”When was the last time your drove your own car?” he asks. “What kind of car do you drive?”
After hesitating, McMahon replies “Mercedes.”
The mock chairman bangs the gavel, reminding Booker that his time has expired and moves on to another senator.
“I almost forgot who I am,” grins a female volunteer playing Sen. Maria Cantwell, as she starts her line of questioning. But the “Senator from Washington state” doesn’t hold back, with detailed questions about her plan to help small businesses.
All of Trump’s nominees, including the experienced members of Congress, complete a “murder board” session. Some fifteen of them took place in the first week of January. Since then, the group of Trump nominees have answered more than 2,000 questions from their colleagues and completed at least 70 hours of questions.
Although some of Trump’s cabinet selections are successful business owners, some of them have never testified in a congressional setting. Transition team leaders want to make sure that each nominee is prepared for the grueling experience.
When McMahon is finished, her team will review her performance, and if necessary run the mock session again.
After hours of practice, McMahon’s team turns off the spotlights and gathers up their folders of notes and heads to the elevators. As they wait for the doors to open, they glance at a countdown calendar on the wall.
Nine days left.