WASHINGTON (CN) – Testifying Tuesday before a Senate committee, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the number two military officer in the country denied sexual misconduct allegations levied against him by a former aide.
“Nothing happened, ever,” Air Force General John Hyten, who is nominated to take over as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Hyten called sexual assault “one of the most serious problems we have in the military,” but said the investigation into the allegations against him have borne out his innocence.
Hyten’s nomination has been stalled after his former aide, Army Colonel Kathryn Spletstoser, accused him of kissing, hugging and rubbing against her on multiple occasions when she worked for him in 2017. Speaking to The Associated Press, Spletstoser said Hyten tried to harm her career after she told him to stop.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations looked into Spletstoser’s allegations but reportedly did not find enough evidence to warrant any punishment for Hyten.
Investigators went over 10,000 pages of documents and interviewed 50 people over the course of the inquiry, according to the AP, but did not uncover evidence that either backed up or refuted the allegations.
Senator Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican who earlier this year revealed she had been raped while serving in the Air Force, said at Tuesday’s hearing that she believes Hyten is innocent.
“To be clear, this wasn’t just a jump ball,” McSally said. “Not a he-said-she-said, not a situation where we just couldn’t prove what allegedly happened. I too believe that truth still matters in this country and the full truth was revealed in this process. The truth is that General Hyten is innocent of these charges. Sexual assault happens in the military, it just didn’t happen in this case.”
McSally said she is confident in the integrity of the investigation into the allegations against Hyten and told sexual assault survivors not to be discouraged by the result without having seen all of the information to which senators had access.
“All sexual assault investigations should be treated seriously and investigated fully, all alleged victims should be treated respectfully, all accused should be assumed innocent and afforded due process,” McSally said. “All of that occurred in this case.”
Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who also earlier this year spoke out about being a survivor of sexual assault, was not as confident, saying she has concerns about Hyten’s “judgment, leadership and fitness to serve” in the position.
In an exchange during his nomination hearing Tuesday, Ernst specifically raised concerns about Hyten’s response to people who complained of “toxic” leadership by one officer in his command.