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Mattis: I have a 'very, very high degree of confidence' in the intelligence community

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense, testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 12, 2017. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis took the stand on Capitol Hill as his confirmation hearings for the Secretary of Defense-designate began Thursday morning.

After Trump's repeated dismissal over the last few weeks of the intelligence community's findings that Russia was behind the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta email hacks, Sen. Jack Reed questioned Mattis about his own trust in the U.S. intelligence agencies. Trump himself belatedly stated Wednesday during a press conference that he believes Russia was probably behind the hacks.

"As secretary of defense, you will be a critical component of the intelligence community," Reed stated.

"We are in a very unique situation where we have the president-elect disparaging the intelligence community — questioning its conclusions and questioning its motivations," he continued, describing Trump's dissent with the intelligence agencies as "disrupting" and "undermining" the intelligence community.

Reed asked Mattis: "Do you feel you have an obligation to the country and the Constitution to inform the committee of those actions?"

"I have a very, very high degree of confidence in our intelligence community," Mattis answered.

After Reed pushed Mattis to be more specific, Mattis elaborated: "I'll be completely transparent with this committee sir, but I would not have taken this job if I did not believe the president-elect would also be open to my input on this or any other matter."

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