WASHINGTON — A senior military officer has accused the Air Force general tapped to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of sexual misconduct, potentially jeopardizing his nomination. Members of Congress have raised questions about the allegations and the military investigation that found insufficient evidence to charge him.
The officer told The Associated Press that Gen. John Hyten subjected her to a series of unwanted sexual advances by kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her in 2017 while she was one of his aides. She said that he tried to derail her military career after she rebuffed him.
The Air Force investigated the woman’s allegations, which she reported days after Hyten’s nomination was announced in April, and found there was insufficient evidence to charge the general or recommend any administrative punishment. The alleged victim remains in the military but has moved to a different job.
“My life was ruined by this,” she told the AP.
The woman asked to not be identified by name. The AP routinely does not name victims of sexual assault.
The accusations against Hyten come at a time when the Pentagon has had an unusual amount of turmoil in its senior ranks, with only an acting defense secretary for the past six months. One of President Donald Trump’s nominees for that position recently withdrew after details of his contentious divorce surfaced. On Sunday, an admiral selected to be the top Navy officer withdrew due to what officials said was an inappropriate professional relationship.
It’s unclear when, or if, Hyten’s confirmation hearing will move forward. It has not been scheduled, despite the fact that the current vice chairman, Gen. Paul Selva, is scheduled to retire at the end of the month.
Air Force Col. DeDe Halfhill, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Wednesday that Hyten’s nomination remains on course.
“With more than 38 years of service to our nation, Gen. Hyten has proven himself to be a principled and dedicated patriot,” she said.
A senior Air Force official said investigators went through emails, conducted interviews and pursued every lead, but did not uncover evidence to support the allegations. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters, added that they also found no evidence that the woman was lying.
Last month, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper asking why Hyten was not removed from his post amid the investigation. The letter, obtained by the AP, raised questions about whether he received special treatment.
The woman making the allegations said she, too, wonders if Hyten received special treatment because of his rank, and she fears her honesty and motives will be questioned because of the circumstances and timing of her allegations.
The woman began working for Hyten in November 2016. Though he is an Air Force general, she is in another military branch, which she asked the AP not to disclose.
The officer said the unwanted sexual contact, kissing and hugging began in early 2017 and recurred several times throughout that year when she was working closely with Hyten. She said she repeatedly pushed him away and told him to stop.
The woman said she didn’t report the incidents at the time in order to avoid embarrassment, and out of fear of retaliation.