Pentagon officials tell senators Trump nominee cleared on sexual assault allegation

Senators on Wednesday were briefed on an Air Force investigation that cleared that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE's nominee to be U.S. military’s No. 2 officer of sexual assault allegations, though the newly reported investigation could still muddle his Senate confirmation.

Defense officials briefed members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the investigation into the allegations against U.S. Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten, who has been nominated to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Defense and congressional aides told Defense One, which first reported on the closed-door meeting, that the sit-down was aimed at addressing an alleged incident involving Hyten that took place sometime between the end of 2017 and start of 2018.

Defense officials met with members of the Senate after Hyten’s accuser sent letters to lawmakers directly.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Air Force in early April received the allegations, which accused Hyten of “abusive sexual contact” and creating “an unprofessional relationship,” a senior military official told Defense One.

Air Force officials then opened a "comprehensive investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations” on Hyten, who was cleared after “there was insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct,” Pentagon spokesperson Col. DeDe Halfhill said in a statement to The Hill.  

“Gen. Hyten cooperated with the investigation," the statement added.

The “exhaustive” investigation included interviewing more than 50 witnesses and reviewing emails, but the investigation turned up no evidence to support the allegations, the senior official told Defense One.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations then referred the review to a court-martial convening authority who also found no evidence to take any action. 

Trump on April 9 nominated Hyten to become the next vice chairman, a role that oversees the Pentagon’s weapons development, acquisition and budget.

If confirmed, Hyten would replace Gen. Paul Selva, who will leave his four-year appointment on July 31.

But the allegations could convolute Hyten’s confirmation.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeIs the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall Gun debate to shape 2020 races MORE (R-Okla.) told Defense One that he believed that the Air Force investigation was “all factual,” but was waiting for feedback from committee members before deciding whether the panel will look into the allegations on its own. 

--This report was updated on July 11 at 10:12 a.m.