President Donald Trump’s nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was cleared by an investigation this month of allegations of sexual assault against an Army colonel — but her decision to identify herself in a recent New York Times piece has renewed a media spotlight on her claims, just as the general faces a confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Last week, Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, 51, spoke to the New York Times, repeating her most salacious claim against Air Force Gen. John Hyten — that during a work trip to California for a defense conference in December 2017, he entered her hotel room wearing exercise clothes, asked her to sit next to him on a bed, reached for her hand, kissed her, rubbed himself against her, and ejaculated on her yoga pants.
However, the official investigation report — a part of which was viewed by Breitbart News — showed that an Army crime lab did not identify Hyten’s semen or DNA on the pants she was wearing at the time. It did, however, identify a “mixture” of her DNA and another individual’s DNA who was not Hyten on the pants’ outer left leg.
The report states the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL)’s report to investigators: “disclosed no semen was identified on VICTIM’s sweatpants.”
“However, a DNA mixture was detected from the outside left leg of the sweatpants. SUBJECT’s DNA was excluded as a contributor to the DNA mixture found on VICTIM’s pants,” it added.
“Agent note: the DNA mixture identified on the outside left leg of VICTIM’s sweatpants included VICTIM’s DNA as a contributor to the DNA mixture detected,” it added.
Breitbart News spoke to noted DNA forensics expert Dr. Karl Reich, who said that it would be possible to find semen or DNA on the pants, even if washed several times, if those testing for semen or DNA tested the exact spot where the semen or DNA would have ended up and depending on the sensitivity of the tests. He cautioned, however, against making any assumptions without seeing the underlying material in the report.
Breitbart News has reached out to Spletstoser on Monday afternoon but did not receive a response by late Monday evening.
Spletstoser’s claims — which first emerged in the media this month — have cast a cloud over Hyten’s nomination, which was expected to be non-controversial.
Spletstoser began working at StratCom in May 2016 under then-Commander Navy Adm. Cecil B. Haney, as director of the Commander’s Action Group, which functions as the commander’s personal staff, handling meetings, speeches, travel arrangements and logistics. She stayed on when Hyten, 60, took command in November 2016.
Spletstoser has claimed the sexual assaults by Hyten began in early 2017 and lasted at least through that alleged incident in the California hotel room in December 2017.
During the time the alleged sexual assault was occurring, she came under investigation for allegations that she was a toxic leader.
Spletstoser has claimed to media outlets that she learned of the investigation into her after the hotel incident, suggesting it was retaliation.
However, a retired military officer who worked at StratCom from 2017 to 2019 said an informal inquiry into allegations of toxic leadership actually began in November 2017, before the alleged hotel incident.
The informal inquiry then directly prompted a formal investigation into Spletstoser that began on January 10, 2018, the retired officer said.
Spletstoser was interviewed as part of that investigation for about an hour on January 30, 2018 — about two months after the alleged hotel incident, but she did not mention any sexual abuse allegations at that time, even when discussing the December trip to California, according to the retired officer.
The retired military officer said the investigation did find, however, that Spletstoser had angry outbursts on at least “a couple of occasions” after learning she was not booked in the same hotel as Hyten.
“She traveled with him frequently, and I’m wondering, OK, if she’s being mistreated by him, why is she fighting to stay in the same hotel as him? So in my brain, she’s got a credibility problem,” the retired officer told Breitbart News in an interview last week.
Spletstoser was fired as CAG director in March 2018 after the formal investigation wrapped up in February 2018 and substantiated allegations she was a toxic leader.
Spletstoser allegedly tried to talk to Hyten to explain, but his staff would not let her, according to another source familiar with the investigation into her toxic leadership. Spletstoser then complained she was wrongfully terminated but that was not substantiated, according to the source.
Spletstoser allegedly first decided to retire but then changed her mind and moved to another defense agency in August 2018, where she currently works.
She did not come forward with any allegations of sexual abuse until April 2019 — after Trump nominated him to become the military’s No. 2 officer.
Spletstoser told media outlets that the reason she did not come forward before was that she assumed Hyten would retire, but after Trump’s nomination, she felt she had to come forward.
Her claims then sparked an Air Force Office of Special Investigations probe. The Senate Armed Services Committee, which is in charge of forwarding nominations to the Senate floor, agreed to hold his nomination until the investigation was complete.
The investigation into Hyten was completed in late June, and investigators and officials briefed members of the committee on July 10 that the allegations could not be substantiated.
Shortly after that briefing, letters written by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that expressed concern over how the investigation was conducted were leaked to the media.
The senators reportedly expressed concern in their letters that an Air Force general who was junior to Hyten had conducted the investigation and that Hyten was not suspended from his current position of StratCom commander during the investigation, which could have derailed his nomination.
After the allegations became public, the Pentagon and StratCom released statements in support of Hyten’s nomination, pointing out that the investigation had come back unsubstantiated. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) expressed optimism that the nomination would go forward.
Inhofe told Breitbart News on July 11: “They had a thorough hearing on that and they came to the conclusion that there’s no wrongdoing, there’s no verification on the accusations against him.”
A week later, the Army colonel spoke to senators behind closed doors for several hours. Days later, Hyten also spoke to senators behind closed doors for several hours.
After Hyten’s appearance, Inhofe announced the nomination would go forward and Hyten would have a confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
On July 19, Air Force Space Command Director of Operations and Communications Brig. Gen. DeAnna Burt, who worked for Hyten in 2016 and 2017, told reporters she had “no higher regard for anyone” than Hyten.
“I can tell you I have no higher regard for anyone I work with or for than Gen. Hyten,” Burt said, according to Inside Defense. “He is a consummate professional, he is an inspiring leader, and the man is so incredibly smart. Our nation would have a huge loss if he is not pushed forward for his nomination and confirmation hearing.”
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has also come out in defense of Hyten. She told the Washington Post that the investigation into Hyten “left no stone unturned in its investigation and the Senate has been thorough as well.”
“Based on what I know of the complete investigation,” she said, “I believe General Hyten was falsely accused.”
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