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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday night he would nominate retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, known as “Mad Dog” and renowned for his tough talk and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to lead the Pentagon.

“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense,” Trump told a rally in Cincinnati. He said the formal announcement would be made on Monday.

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

Mattis is a revered figure in the Marine Corps and known for his distrust of Iran.

The Washington Post and CNN reported earlier that Trump had chosen Mattis, but Trump spokesman Jason Miller said earlier on Twitter that “no decision has been made yet with regard to Secretary of Defense.”

While the nomination of the 66-year-old Mattis would likely be popular among U.S. forces, it would have to clear a bureaucratic hurdle.

Because he retired only in 2013, Mattis would need the U.S. Congress to waive a requirement that a defense secretary be a civilian for at least seven years before taking the top job at the Pentagon. His impressive combat record, however, may deter some Senate Democrats from trying to block his nomination.

Trump has described Mattis as “a true general’s general.”

The New York real estate magnate famously asserted last year: “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”

Mattis, whose past assignments include leading Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and South Asia, is known for his colorful expressions that unashamedly embrace the job of the U.S. armed forces: fighting wars.

In one famous line in 2003 attributed to Mattis, the general told Marines in Iraq: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

In a 2016 question-and-answer session, Mattis appeared to be moved by a Marine’s question about how far out he could inflict casualties with his knife hand, known as a “kill-casualty radius.”

“Once you get to be a high-ranking officer, the kill-casualty radius is whatever your Marines make it, and by the time I got up to the senior ranks it was hundreds of miles,” he said in a video for the Marine Corps.

Still, such tough talk has gotten him in hot water. He was once rebuked for saying in 2005 that “it’s fun to shoot some people.”

His talk, however, belies a more thoughtful side. Mattis once said the most important 6 inches in a combat zone was “between your ears.”

Now a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Mattis is also a scholar who was praised by then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2010 as one of the country’s great strategic thinkers.

Mattis reads avidly, frequently quotes history, and is proud that he grew up with a large library and no television.

After meeting Mattis on Nov. 19, Trump described him as a strong, dignified man who persuasively argued against waterboarding, an interrogation tactic that involves pouring water over someone’s face to simulate drowning.

Trump had promised during the campaign he would not only revive use of waterboarding, which is widely regarded as torture and was banned under President Barack Obama, but bring back “a hell of a lot worse” if elected.

“[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.’ And I was very impressed by that answer,” Trump told The New York Times.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider Mattis’ nomination. In a statement on Thursday night, its chairman, Republican John McCain, called him “one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader.”

Mattis would be the first former U.S. general to become defense secretary since George C. Marshall took the job in 1950.

The decision adds to Trump’s national security team another Pentagon veteran who served during the Obama administration but often had a testy relationship with it.

Officials who knew him before he retired in 2013 said Mattis clashed with top administration officials when he headed Central Command over his desire to better prepare for potential threats from Iran and to win more resources for Afghanistan.

Trump has given the job of national security adviser to Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general who was pushed out of the top job at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 by Obama’s administration.

Flynn was fiercely critical of Obama during the 2016 campaign, adopting much of Trump’s rhetoric.

Along with Flynn and Trump’s choice for CIA director, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, Mattis has been critical of the deal to curb Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, saying the threat from Tehran should outrank more immediate concerns about Islamic State or al Qaeda.

“The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” Mattis said.

Speaking about the Iranian nuclear deal, Mattis said: “Hoping that Iran is on the cusp of becoming a responsible, modern nation is a bridge too far.”

If Mattis wins Senate confirmation, he will work side by side with another Marine – General Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Having two Marine generals in those top jobs would be highly unusual for a service that prides itself on being the most elite U.S. fighting force. It would also raise questions about how Mattis and Dunford might divide up tasks.

Both Dunford and Mattis share battlefield experience, including in Iraq. In 2003, Mattis led the 1st Marine Division during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

He has said one of the toughest things he had to do was oversee the retreat of his forces from the city of Falluja in 2004, something he feared would hurt morale, but did not.

“We just don’t take refuge in self-pity or any of that kind of stuff. And so as a result, the Marine Corps remains a very feared organization in this world. As it should be,” he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson in Cincinnati and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: General James Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, July 27, 2010, REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Picture 

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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