Report: Jim Mattis, Donald Trump clashing over picks for top Pentagon jobs

Donald Trump's choice for defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, is already clashing with the president-elect and his transition team over choices for senior positions in the Pentagon, according to The Washington Post.

Citing unnamed officials familiar with staffing decisions leading up to the inauguration, the Post reports Mattis has been rejecting "large numbers of candidates" Trump and his advisers have put forth for top civilian jobs in the defense department. Mattis was "furious," one source told the newspaper, that Trump chose Vincent Viola, an Army veteran turned businessman and Trump ally, to serve as secretary of the Army.

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"It made him suspicious of the transition team, and things devolved from there," the source said of the Viola pick.

Trump announced Dec. 1 he intended to nominate Mattis, who served in the Marines for more than 40 years including combat command tours in the Persian Gulf War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and multiple senior positions at the Pentagon and elsewhere. The president-elect frequently refers to the retired general by one of his military sobriquets, "Mad Dog."

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Trump's official picks for Cabinet and administration positions
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Trump's official picks for Cabinet and administration positions

Counselor to the President: Kellyanne Conway

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Veterans Affairs Secretary: David Shulkin

(Photo credit DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Transportation secretary: Elaine Chao

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Energy secretary: Rick Perry

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Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson

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Secretary of Defense: Retired Marine General James Mattis

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Chief of staff: Reince Priebus

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Chief strategist: Steve Bannon

(EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney General: Senator Jeff Sessions

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Director of the CIA: Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo

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Deputy national security adviser: K.T. McFarland

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White House counsel: Donald McGahn

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Ambassador to the United Nations: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

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Education secretary: Betsy DeVos

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Commerce secretary: Wilbur Ross

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Homeland security secretary: General John Kelly

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Housing and urban development secretary: Ben Carson

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Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Health and human services secretary: Tom Price

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Department of Homeland Security: Retired General John Kelly

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Secretary of agriculture: Sonny Perdue

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The subsequent disputes represent a deepening turf war between Mattis' desire to find loyal allies he sees as most qualified to serve in these positions, and a hardline rule by the president-elect's inner circle that disqualifies for service anyone who criticized Trump during the campaign, the Post reports.

The Post reports disagreements have centered on picks for under secretary for intelligence and under secretary for policy, both hugely influential positions.

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Multiple defense sources tell U.S. News the Trump transition team so far has appeared less organized than previous incoming presidents'. Most of the team's efforts inside the Pentagon so far have centered on meetings in which they listen to different departments' prepared briefings and ask questions, but have had little to say back about the incoming administration's priorities for national security or defense policies.

Trump's preference for sharing his intentions and potential policies by Twitter has also irked many defense officials who, barring much other information from the transition team, are left to question whether these 140-character posts will become set policy or are simply what Trump is thinking at the time.

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