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Flynn will play to 'darker angels' of Trump administration, former NATO commander says

While President-elect Donald Trump's national security advisor pick, Ret. Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, is smart and quick on his feet, he is also a very "hard-line actor" when it comes to reacting to Islam, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis told CNBC on Friday.

And that, he believes, is counterproductive.

"I think he will play to the darker angels of this administration in terms of adopting very, very aggressive stance, very hard power, very anti-Islam," he said in an interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch."

Stavridis, who said Flynn used to work for him in Afghanistan, believes the United States has to find ways to make connections with the Islamic World.

"We're not going to be able to kill our way to victory here. You need hard power, certainly, to deal with the Islamic State, for example, but the long game is that mix of hard and smart power that allows you to make connections."

Retired United States Army lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn
Getty Images
Retired United States Army lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn

In addition to Flynn, Trump's transition team has also announced that Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, is Trump's choice for CIA director and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, is his choice for attorney general.

For Stavridis, the next two to watch are Trump's choices for secretary of state and secretary of defense. He believes it's important that the secretary of state has some level of international experience, connections around the world and a vision for the country.

Names like former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have surfaced as possible contenders for that role.

"Mitt Romney would be a move toward a more centrist foreign policy that I think would be helpful for the Trump administration in terms of reassuring global allies, partners and friends," Stavridis said.

He also thinks a "moderate centrist" like Stephen Hadley, a former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, could send a positive signal globally and to the military if he were named secretary of defense.

Meanwhile, Trump still has to get his names through the Senate, although Flynn's appointment doesn't require Senate confirmation.

Democrats could try to hold up the more controversial nominations, but Trump does have a Republican majority in both houses of Congress.

On Friday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Republican Conference chair, told CNBC she's "excited" to be part of a unified Republican government.

"This is a tremendous opportunity that we've been given. And it's our time to think big, to reimagine this government and really to put people at the center of it," she told "Power Lunch."

When asked if the party would try to work with Democrats on the issues or forge ahead without them, McMorris Rodgers said she is always looking for opportunities to work across the aisle.


Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, also struck an amicable tone.

While there are disagreements, he said there are areas where he believes the two parties can work together.

That includes infrastructure and trade, Sherman told "Power Lunch."

"We are running the largest trade deficit every year, year after year, that any country has ever run in the history of the world," he said.

He said he hopes Trump's new trade policy is more than just eliminating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he thinks would have happened no matter who had been elected to the White House.