Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are torn over the recent sexual assault allegations that were lobbied against President Trump’s nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten.
One senator told reporters on Thursday that Congress should be allowed to hear from Hyten’s accuser directly, as others were pushing for a delay in the nomination process.
Some have been blasting the Air Force — which investigated the allegations and reported no wrongdoing — for being biased and giving Hyten special treatment.
Several SASC members shot down these claims Thursday, insisting that the probe was “thorough” and professional.
“I specifically asked the question ‘Was there preferential treatment given to General Hyten at any time during this investigation?’” said SASC chairwoman Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), “and there was not.”
Hyten’s alleged victim, who is also in the military, told The Associated Press that he subjected her to unwanted sexual advances in 2017 — which included kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her. The woman was one of his aides at the time and claimed that he threatened to have her career ruined if she denied him.
Pentagon officials claimed in a statement that there was “insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of Gen. Hyten.”
“Hyten cooperated with the investigation,” an agency spokesperson said. “With more than 38 years of service to our Nation, Gen. Hyten has proven himself to be a principled and dedicated patriot.”
One military official, who spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity, said investigators talked to “53 witnesses across three countries and 13 states, reviewed tens of thousands of emails” and “interviewed folks that were closest to the alleged incidents.”
“We’re just out of rocks to turn over,” the official said.
Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — both SASC members — have led the charge in questioning the Air Force’s treatment of Hyten.
“I do think that he’s been treated differently than other officers who have had similar allegations,” Duckworth told the Omaha World-Herald.
“There are a couple of things where Gen. Hyten has received treatment that is not in keeping with how DoD has handled this for other officers,” she added, speaking to the Military Times.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he, too, had a problem with the way the case was handled.
“There were a couple of loose issues that I didn’t have comfort with that I’m going to meet with them privately to find out their intent,” Manchin reportedly said of investigators. “For me personally, I have to get a couple of clarifications before I feel comfortable voting [on Hyten’s confirmation].”
SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) told reporters on Thursday that he was satisfied with the Air Force’s findings.
“Let’s keep in mind that people — for clearly partisan reasons — people want to inflict damage on Donald Trump as well as anybody else on the Republican side,” said Inhofe, a known supporter of the president. “There’s nothing new to that, and motivation is there. … It’s driving a lot of it.”
Inhofe told the Military Times that SASC members “collectively felt” that they needed to investigate “to evaluate the accusations.”
“We did that,” he said. “I am satisfied with how thorough they were during this process, and we haven’t had our follow-up meeting to see if anyone’s going to request further activity.”
When asked whether Hyten’s confirmation would be delayed, Inhofe said: “I hope not…We need to get things done.”
With Post wires