President Donald Trump has selected former Marine Gen. James Mattis to replace Gen. John Kelly as secretary of defense, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
Trump will choose Mattis as the next secretary of Defense from among the top 20 candidates in the field, the sources said, and it is expected to be announced later Thursday.
Trump picked Mattis to succeed Kelly in a highly controversial Cabinet-level selection.
The retired four-star Marine general was widely seen as a potential Trump pick because he was a staunch Trump supporter and a former member of Trump’s National Security Council.
The retired four Star Marine had also advocated for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a Trump signature policy.
The two sources said Trump has spoken to several military and veterans groups about the job and the decision was influenced by Mattis’ military record.
He also had strong ties to the military community.
Trump has previously praised Mattis, who retired in 2013, for his leadership and experience as the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Mattis said he would consider taking the job if given the opportunity.
“I’m going to take the job.
I’ve got to see if I can find a way to help our military,” Mattis said.
“I know it’s a difficult time in our country and I have to think hard about what I do, what I’m going do, and I want to be a part of helping our military.”
The Associated Press reported that Mattis, 59, has been in private practice for more than 40 years.
Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in 2017, four years after his son died in Iraq.
Mattis also served as a Marine Corps general during the Iraq War.
He had a high profile as an Iraq War veteran and is a vocal advocate for the rights of veterans and their families.
Mattis was not part of Trump-led national security team that worked on the Iran nuclear deal.
He was appointed to the post by then-President Barack Obama in January 2017.