Air Force probe finds no corroboration of sexual assault allegations against Trump pick

Air Force probe finds no corroboration of sexual assault allegations against Trump pick
© Aaron Schwartz

The Air Force said in a report Friday that it was unable to verify sexual assault allegations levied against a top Trump nominee by a former subordinate.

A redacted copy of an Office of Special Investigations (OSI) report, dated June 23 but made public on Friday, says the Air Force “was unable to find indications of an unprofessional relationship either electronically or through witness interviews” between U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) head Gen. John Hyten and Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hyten is President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE’s nominee to be vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the second-highest uniformed post in the military.

OSI, which said it interviewed 53 witnesses in 13 states and three countries, also included a polygraph test for Hyten, according to a summary of the investigation. The results were inconclusive.

Spletstoser, who was one of Hyten’s aides at Stratcom, earlier this year accused the Air Force four-star general of repeatedly making unwanted sexual advances toward her between February 2017 and February 2018.

The accusations, which Hyten has denied, came after he was nominated to be the Pentagon’s No. 2 military official.

The report’s summary states that Spletstoser, who was then the director of Hyten’s Commander’s Action Group (CAG), interacted with him daily and regularly traveled with him on official trips.

ADVERTISEMENT

She claimed that the first time Hyten touched her inappropriately was during a trip to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Spletstoser and other staffers were in Hyten’s hotel room at the end of the day when he dismissed everybody except her, she told OSI.

When she began to leave the room, Hyten allegedly grabbed her left hand and held it to his groin. Spletstoser pulled her hand away and the two did not talk about it, she told investigators.

Spletstoser also told OSI that between May 2017 and February 2018 Hyten would regularly tell her he had feelings for her and try to kiss or touch her when they were alone together in his offices at the Pentagon and Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., according to the report.

The unwanted advances escalated to an incident in her hotel room in December 2017 while the two were at the Reagan National Defense Forum, where she claimed he pressed up against her while trying to kiss her and then ejaculated on her.

The OSI report noted that none of the witnesses they interviewed said they saw Hyten and Spletstoser alone together when traveling, nor did they find anyone who said Hyten acted unprofessionally toward Spletstoser.

Spletstoser told OSI that interviews with staff members and an inspection of Hyten’s emails and text messages would corroborate her claims of an “inappropriate relationship,” but investigators said they were unable to find any such proof.

She told the Air Force Times on Friday that the report was a “highly redacted version, and it’s absolutely not complete.”

She said the Air Force should release the entire investigation, which includes the 1,350 pages of exhibits and Hyten’s interview. Those records, she argued, would support her allegations.

Spletstoser was relieved of her command after a separate Army investigation found that she was a “toxic” leader, “resulting in a hostile work environment within the CAG,” according to an investigation that Stratcom released also on Friday.

That report, dated Feb. 9, 2018, concluded that of 10 current and former action group employees, six “indicated a hostile work environment,” attributing it to "Spletstoser’s demeaning treatment of people, her outbursts of anger, vulgarity and bullying.”

The remaining four witnesses “had generally positive things to say about the work environment,” but conceded that “other services and civilians may not be accustomed to this very direct and sometimes abrasive style” and “tone and harshness of these public outbursts,” investigator Brig. Gen. Gregory Bowen wrote in the report’s summary.

While Spletstoser has denied the bullying allegations, “the preponderance of evidence does not support her conclusions. Her interview left the clear impression that she is not self-aware in terms of how her communication style and interpersonal skills are interpreted by others,” Bowen wrote.

Spletstoser went public with her accusations in July after the Air Force investigation ended without any charges against Hyten.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, which also looked into Spletstoser’s claims, voted last month to advance Hyten’s nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hyten was backed by Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths MORE (R-Ariz.), who revealed earlier this year she was raped by a superior officer.

“The truth is that Gen. Hyten is innocent of these charges,” McSally said. “Sexual assault happens in the military. It just didn’t happen here.”

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Senate talks on stalled Violence Against Women Act reauthorization unravel MORE (R-Iowa), meanwhile, voted against Hyten, expressing concerns about his judgment on his handling of the separate Army investigation into Spletstoser.

“You could not bring yourself to admit or recognize toxic leadership within your command,” Ernst told Hyten at his confirmation hearing. “You only did something about it when concerns were raised about your own leadership.”

Spletstoser maintained her allegations against Hyten at the same hearing, telling reporters: “You just had a four-star general get up in front of the American people and in open testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and make false official statements under oath. The bottom line is he lied about sexually assaulting me. He did it. He did it multiple times.”

The Senate is expected to vote on Hyten's nomination next month.