Overnight Defense: Army launches command probe after slaying at Fort Hood | 'MAGA' listed as 'covert white supremacy' in military handout

Overnight Defense: Army launches command probe after slaying at Fort Hood | 'MAGA' listed as 'covert white supremacy' in military handout
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm 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: Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyMaryland GOP governor: Fauci has 'never let me' down Trump mocks push to rename Fort Bragg: 'We're going to name it after the Rev. Al Sharpton?' Pentagon mulling plan to ban Confederate flag without mentioning it by name: report MORE on Friday said he has directed an independent review of the command climate at Texas’s Fort Hood following the months-long disappearance and slaying of Army Spec. Vanessa Guillén at the base.

Guillén, who went missing April 22 and whose remains were found and positively identified by the Army in late June, had told family members that she had been sexually harassed.

The main suspect in Guillén’s killing, Spc. Aaron Robinson, fled Fort Hood and fatally shot himself on June 30 before police could arrest him.

Lawmakers and advocacy groups have criticized the Army over its handling of the incident, raising questions about the military’s treatment of women and Hispanic service members.

'Accountability at any echelon': If the investigation finds actions should have been handled differently “then we will take the appropriate accountability at any echelon,” McCarthy told reporters on a conference call.

“We have to ensure that Hispanic service members are able to serve without hurdles of discrimination, they have the opportunity to progress through the ranks at every level and are able to do so without the fear from criminal acts such as sexual assault and harassment. Our soldiers and their families deserve to work and live in a safe and healthy environment,” he said.

Details on the review: McCarthy said Army Undersecretary James McPherson will oversee the review, and that he is in the midst of assembling the panel that will include attorneys as well as a representative from the League of United Latin American Citizen.

“The purpose of this independent review is to determine whether the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and the military communities surrounding Fort Hood reflect Army values, including respect, inclusiveness, workplaces free from sexual harassment and a commitment to diversity,” McPherson said.

The panel to be assembled by next week will gather and review historical data on Fort Hood, and will also travel to the installation to conduct interviews with leadership, soldiers and civic community leaders.

An outcry: Guillén's disappearance and death has gained nationwide attention with lawmakers joining her family in criticizing the military’s handling of the case and calls for a federal investigation.

More details of the case: Army investigators told reporters earlier on Friday that within five days of Guillén's disappearance, they zeroed in on Robinson as a suspect as he was one of the last people to have seen her alive.

There was no evidence, however, that the two had developed a social or personal relationship or had any conflict with each other, an Army official said.

Guillén never filed a formal complaint, according to evidence, but faced “potentially some harassment,” though it was “not of a sexual nature” and did not come from people of interest in the investigation, they said.

 

ARMY PROBING HOW ‘MAGA’ WAS LISTED AS ‘COVERT WHITE SUPREMACY’ IN HANDOUT: The Army is looking into how a handout distributed at a base in Alabama this week initially described the phrase “Make America Great Again” as a form of “covert white supremacy.”

The document, given out at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville on Monday, included a pyramid graphic that identified President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE’s 2016 campaign slogan as a form of covert or socially acceptable white supremacy, along with the phrase “All Lives Matter” and the "celebration of Columbus Day."

The Army’s response: The handout was part of the Pentagon’s Project Inclusion, a listening tour designed to identify and quell racial disparity within the military. The two pages with the graphic had not been approved by service leadership and “were sent out in error and immediately recalled,” Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in a statement.

“The slides – copied from a non-government website – included a word cloud with phrases that were intended to spark conversation; however, the document was predecisional and inappropriate for the discussion. The unapproved pages were in no way used as part of  the ‘Your Voice Matters’ listening tour sessions,” Smith said.

Smith added that the Army “does not condone the use of phrases that indicate political support,” though the statement does not mention the MAGA phrase.

“The Army is and will continue to remain an apolitical organization,” Smith said.

A lawmaker wants answers: The document has since caught the attention of Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksGOP congressman says person responsible for deleted Perdue campaign ad should be 'outed', 'fired' House passes bill establishing commission to study racial disparities affecting Black men, boys Overnight Defense: Army launches command probe after slaying at Fort Hood | 'MAGA' listed as 'covert white supremacy' in military handout MORE (R-Ala.), who sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Wednesday arguing the included slides violated the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that restricts political activity by federal employees.

“Including overtly political materials in the invitation for such an event is completely inappropriate and, in this instance and in my view, illegal,” Brooks wrote. “Further, the inclusion of such materials serves only to ostracize segments of the workforce and create racial division, rather than minimize it.”

Brooks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, called for an investigation into whether the document violated the Hatch Act, while requesting that all Army personnel who “drafted, approved or sent this racist and politically partisan email, using government resources” be prosecuted and fired for “blatantly and illegally injecting themselves into partisan political activities on government time using federal taxpayer money.”

Context: The debacle around the document comes as top Pentagon leaders are mulling the removal of Confederate symbols and names on military installations following nationwide protests over racial injustice.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday that the U.S. military must take a “hard look” at the use of Confederate statues, names and other symbols at bases and Defense Department facilities.

 

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