Mattis was overheard making the remark in jest upon meeting Bolton for the first time just outside the Pentagon.
“I heard that you’re actually the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you,” Mattis said, with Bolton responding with a laugh.
Mattis has made a concerted effort to dismiss speculation that he didn’t take kindly to Bolton’s appointment, and that the two men were bound to butt heads on a variety of issues.
Bolton, who will take over as national security adviser April 9 after H.R. McMaster’s ouster, is known to hold hawkish views on a host of foreign policy matters. A divisive foreign policy figure and strong proponent of American power, he was a supporter of the Iraq war and a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear agreement.
But Mattis said Tuesday that he had “no concerns” about working with Bolton.
“We’re going to sit down together… and I look forward to working with him. No reservations. No concerns at all,” Mattis said. “Last time I checked, he’s an American and I can work with an American, OK? I’m not the least bit concerned with that sort of thing.”
— With files from The Associated Press