- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Defense Department under the incoming Trump administration will work closely with the nation’s intelligence agencies, despite growing animosity between the President-elect and the intelligence community.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon, on Thursday touted his vast experience engaging with the intelligence community during his 40-year career in uniform.

“I have had a close relationship with the intelligence community,” Gen. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services panel during his confirmation hearing Thursday. “I have a very, very high degree of confidence in the intelligence community.”

As Trump’s Pentagon chief, Gen. Mattis said he would ensure that the department would not do anything to undermine work of the U.S. intelligence agencies, adding that “I wouldn’t have taken this job” unless Mr. Trump and his national security team held the same view.

Those comments fell in line with Gen. Mattis‘ prepared statements, in which he pledged to “foster an atmosphere of harmony and trust at the Department of Defense and with our inter​agency counterparts.”

But instead of harmony, the president-elect and his transition team seem to be sowing seeds of discord as Mr. Trump continues to wage his war of words against U.S. intelligence officials.

During his first press conference since winning the presidency in November, Mr. Trump suggested U.S. intelligence officials leaked a reported intelligence dossier outlining his deep ties to Moscow.

President Obama and Mr. Trump were both briefed on the 35-page document that contained details on how Russian intelligence gathered compromising, and occasionally tawdry, information that could be used to blackmail the incoming president.

The briefing was part of the intelligence community’s final assessment on Russian cyber activities to sway the presidential election toward the Trump campaign.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, alongside Pentagon intel chief Marcel Lettre and Adm. Mike Rogers, head of U.S. Cyber Command, all testified before Congress that Russian did interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

“This was a multifaceted campaign. The hacking was only one part of it. It also included classic propaganda, disinformation and fake news,” Mr. Clapper told defense lawmakers last Thursday.

For his part, Gen. Mattis characterized Russia as “strategic competitor” in which Washington is quickly running out of diplomatic options to engage with Moscow on security issues.

“I’m all for engagement, but we have to [recognize] reality,” he told the Senate defense panel.

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