During confirmation hearings Thursday, Donald Trump’s nominees for the CIA director and Secretary of Defense broke ranks with the president-elect, acknowledging Russia’s likely interference in the U.S. presidential election and pledging to deal with Russian President Vladmir Putin.
“It’s pretty clear about what took place here about Russia involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Trump’s pick for CIA chief, told members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The business mogul who will soon take the Oval Office has repeatedly dismissed intelligence positing that Russia meddled to influence the election in Trump’s favor, though recently, he’s said he would accept the findings.
Gen. James Mattis, who is expected to be confirmed as Defense Secretary, promised a hard line on any type of Russian aggression and indicated that the incoming president should tread cautiously in forming a relationship with Putin.
Trump has frequently praised Putin, despite reports that the Russian operatives had hacked the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic Party concerns and more recent claims that the nation-state holds damning information on the president-elect.
Mattis also said he’d consider calls to turn U.S. Cyber Command into a combatant command. “I’ve got to look at the breakout,” Mattis told the senators, adding that he was “OK with it” philosophically.
The retired general also maintained that the Defense Department could become more nimble by embracing “any area where we have that opportunity” to coordinate and collaborate with Silicon Valley and the high-tech communities in other areas.”