Senate confirms general accused of sexual assault

Senate confirms general accused of sexual assault
© Aaron Schwartz

The Senate has confirmed Gen. John Hyten to be the No. 2 general in the country, capping off months of controversy over sexual assault allegations against him.

The Senate voted 75-22 to confirm Hyten as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstJuan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate Drug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP MORE (Iowa) was the lone Republican to vote against Hyten, while 23 Democrats voted in favor of Hyten.

“To me, there’s no doubt that Gen. Hyten is the right man for the second highest ranking military officer,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Senators take oath for impeachment trial Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers MORE (R-Okla.) said Thursday.

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While the committee “takes allegations of sexual assault very seriously and has for many years,” Inhofe added, “we can’t stop a nomination from going forward on unproven allegations, especially ones we examined with the utmost of care and close scrutiny and determined not to have merit.”

The nomination of Hyten, who has served as U.S. Strategic Command chief since 2016, was held up for months as the Senate Armed Services Committee examined sexual assault allegations against him.

Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser accused Hyten of making several unwanted sexual advances, including by kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her, in 2017 when she was one of his aides. The most serious incident, she alleges, involved him ejaculating on her.

Hyten denies the allegations, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee in July that “these allegations are false” and “nothing happened, ever.”

An Air Force investigation, a summary of which was released in August, did not find corroborating evidence to charge Hyten.

But Spletstoser has maintained her accusations against Hyten.

“I came forward with my story because I felt a moral obligation to share the truth about what happened to me,” she said in a statement this week. “Unfortunately, my experience has only served to demonstrate how unequipped the military still is to deal with sexual assault. The process for seeking justice has been a sham.”

Hyten’s defenders point to a 2018 investigation into Spletstoser that found she created a “toxic” environment for those working under her at Strategic Command.

Ernst has said she objects to Hyten because he failed to recognize Spletstoser’s toxic leadership, rather than the sexual assault allegations.

Democrats who oppose Hyten have said they have outstanding questions about Hyten’s ability to lead and combat sexual assault in the military as vice chairman.