Lawmakers due to vote on Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s confirmation as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were briefed on a sexual assault allegation against him on Wednesday, as his accuser spoke out for the first time.
While the Air Force has cleared Hyten of any wrongdoing and said an investigation found no evidence to support his accuser’s claim, lawmakers are said to be reviewing a report on the matter and some fear the allegation could throw a wrench into his confirmation process. The unnamed accuser is said to have contacted some members of the Senate Armed Services Committee with the allegations. The committee was briefed on the matter behind closed doors Wednesday, and several members told Defense One they intend to review the Air Force investigator’s report on the matter.
The accuser, a senior military officer who started working in 2016 as an aide to Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Associated Press he subjected her to unwanted kissing, hugging and sexual contact beginning in early 2017. She claimed the inappropriate conduct continued throughout the year, despite her repeatedly telling him to stop.
According to the unnamed accuser, while she and Hyten were at the Reagan National Defense Forum in December 2017, Hyten allegedly came up to her room dressed in workout clothes and tightly hugged and rubbed up against her. After she told him to leave her room, she said Hyten asked if she planned to report him. She said she wouldn’t, and told the AP she didn’t report the alleged misconduct at the time out of fear of retaliation.
However, she said she soon found out she was under investigation for “toxic” leadership behavior—even though she said Hyten had repeatedly given her great performance reviews. Hyten reportedly wrote in one review that she had “unlimited potential to lead and serve with distinction as a multi-star.”
She was subsequently removed from her position at Strategic Command and moved to a different job, where Hyten gave her a negative evaluation, she said. She reported her allegations against Hyten to the Defense Department inspector general after Trump nominated him to serve as vice chairman and the case was referred to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. A Pentagon spokesperson told Defense One an investigation was conducted, and there was “insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of Gen. Hyten.”
A senior military officer involved in the investigation was quoted by the Wall Street Journal saying echoed that statement. “Every single rock that we thought to look under, we looked under,” the officer said.
A Pentagon spokeswoman also said Wednesday that the allegations against Hyten have not affected his nomination.
Hyten’s accuser told the AP he had committed “the perfect crime where no one will ever believe” her.
“My life was ruined by this,” she told the AP. “I’ve already completed a successful career… I had nothing to gain from doing this.”