Overnight Defense: Woman accusing No. 2 general of sexual assault goes public | Accuser is Army colonel with 28-year career | Comes forward in NY Times interview | General faces confirmation hearing on Tuesday

Overnight Defense: Woman accusing No. 2 general of sexual assault goes public | Accuser is Army colonel with 28-year career | Comes forward in NY Times interview | General faces confirmation hearing on Tuesday
© Getty

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. We're Rebecca Kheel and Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: The woman accusing Gen. John Hyten, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE's nominee to be the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of sexual assault publicly identified herself as Army Col. Kathryn A. Spletstoser.

In an on-the-record interview with the New York Times published Friday, Spletstoser, who served two combat tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan as part of her 28-year career, said it was her duty to come forward after Hyten was nominated to be the second highest-ranking general in the country.

"I realized I have a moral responsibility to come forward," Spletstoser said. "I could not live with myself if this happens to someone else, and I didn't do anything to stop it."

ADVERTISEMENT

The Pentagon's side: A spokesperson for the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on Friday.

Pentagon officials have previously said an Air Force investigation cleared Hyten of the allegations.

"After a comprehensive investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, there was insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of Gen. Hyten," Pentagon spokeswoman Col. DeDe Halfhill told The Hill on July 10. "Gen. Hyten cooperated with the investigation. With more than 38 years of service to our nation, Gen. Hyten has proven himself to be a principled and dedicated patriot."

A spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, which Hyten currently leads, said Friday the command "fully cooperated" with the Air Force investigation.

"According to Air Force officials, there was insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of Gen Hyten," Cmdr. Bill Clinton said in a statement to The Hill.

Spletstoser's story: Spletstoser alleges that Hyten subjected her to unwanted sexual advances by kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her in 2017 when she was one of his aides.

The advances escalated, she alleges, culminating in an incident in her hotel room in Simi Valley, Calif., while they were at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

In her description of the incident to the New York Times, Spletstoser said Hyten sat down on her bed and asked her to sit down next to him. When he reached for her hand, she said, she was alarmed and stood back up. He then stood up, too, pulled her in and kissed her on the lip while pressing up against her, she said. He then ejaculated, getting semen on his sweatpants and her yoga pants, she said.

Afterward, she said, she got a towel from the bathroom, threw it at him and told him to clean himself up. After a few minutes in the bathroom, he came out apologetic and asked if she would report him.

Timing: Spletstoser's on-the-record interview comes days before the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Hyten. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

The open hearing comes after four closed-door committee business meetings on the issue.

The committee interviewed Spletstoser behind closed doors this past Tuesday. It did the same for Hyten on Thursday.

 

IN LIGHTER FRIDAY NEWS ... EARTH'S CLOSE CALL: It may not be directly defense related, but with a plot similar to that of the beginning of the 1998 action hit Armageddon, the story is certainly newsworthy.

This week, Earth had a close call with what some scientists call a "city-killer" asteroid, which, if it had made impact, would have hit the planet with 30 times the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

Asteroid 2019 OK sped by Earth on Wednesday, flying some 45,000 miles away, inside the orbit of the moon.

'Out of nowhere': Scientists were shocked to discover the asteroid only within days of its passing, and only announced its presence hours before it became visible. According to The Washington Post, Asteroid 2019 OK was discovered by two astronomy teams in Brazil and the United States. 

Michael Brown, a Melbourne, Australia-based observational astronomer, told The Washington Post that scientists had not been tracking the asteroid, and described it as appearing from "out of nowhere."

Details still hazy: Experts are still unsure of all of the details about the newly uncovered asteroid, with few specifics on its exact orbit known. The asteroid is estimated to measure between 187 and 426 feet, or 57 to 130 meters, across. 

"It would have gone off like a very large nuclear weapon" with enough force to destroy a city, Alan Duffy, a lead scientist for the Royal Institution of Australia, told the Post. "Many megatons, perhaps in the ballpark of 10 megatons of TNT, so something not to be messed with."

While the impact would have been large, it would not have been a global event. The asteroid theorized to have killed the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago was, in comparison, 10 miles across or possibly larger.  

New technologies: NASA regularly monitors asteroids and other so-called near-Earth objects, but because this asteroid approached from the direction of the sun it was hard to spot. NASA is working on new technologies to possibly divert asteroids from colliding with Earth in the future.

 

AND ICYMI... POMPEO WILLING TO GO TO IRAN FOR TALKS: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Graham: Erdoğan pledged to Trump to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria Trump honors Stanley Cup champions, talks impeachment, Turkey MORE said Thursday he would "happily" go to Tehran to initiate talks with Iran's leaders.

"If that's the call, I'd happily go there," Pompeo said in a Bloomberg TV interview. "I would welcome the chance to speak directly to the Iranian people."

Pompeo also called on U.S. allies to participate in a naval effort to defend the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping lane frequently used by oil tankers in the region

Tensions with Iran: Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been heightened for weeks, with Iranian forces downing a U.S. drone and President Trump reportedly ordering and then calling off a retaliatory strike on Iran. On Monday, Iranian officials announced the imprisonment of more than a dozen citizens it claimed were CIA spies, sentencing some to death.

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will speak to The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., at 9 a.m. Livestream at state.gov.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, will speak at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/2K41Flf

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: N. Korea: Missile test a warning to South Korea 'warmongers'

-- The Hill: New York man arrested at JFK for allegedly trying to join Taliban

-- The Hill: Taliban says it hopes for peace deal 'soon' with US: report

-- The Hill: Iran, others likely to accelerate disinformation efforts in US: report