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Hyten accuser testifies in private before Senate panel

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WASHINGTON — As lawmakers decide the fate of Gen. John Hyten’s nomination for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they met privately Tuesday to interview the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her, according to a key senator.

Confirmation for Hyten, the chief of U.S. Strategic Command, met with a dramatic development as members of the Senate Armed Services Committee convened in the Senate’s secure facility to ask the questions of the accuser.

The woman is reportedly an Army colonel with 28 years of service and former subordinate of Hyten. After she came forward in April, Air Force investigators found insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Hyten or to recommend administrative actions.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said that she found the woman to be credible and that the testimony raised new questions about the military investigation that cleared Hyten. Lawmakers interviewed the woman from roughly 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, according to Duckworth.

“I’m pleased she was allowed to speak,” Duckworth said. “I thought she conducted herself very professionally, and she was very believable.”

Hyten, whose nomination was announced in April, is expected to give his testimony next, Duckworth said as she exited the Senate facility.

SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., was among lawmakers who declined to comment on the proceedings. He has said previously that he was satisfied with the thoroughness of the military’s probe, did not think it was necessary that he hear directly from Hyten’s accuser and said the allegations may be meant to damage the president for partisan reasons.

“I really can’t talk about that,” Inhofe said as he re-entered into the secure facility Tuesday afternoon.

According to Duckworth, lawmakers did not ask questions directly but provided them to staff to ask of the woman.

A week after the panel was briefed in private by military investigators, Duckworth said the live testimony delivered more of an impact than the previous briefing’s video evidence.

The officer told The Associated Press that 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 woman served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was subsequently relieved of her duties while serving on Hyten’s staff, according to The Post.

Aside from the allegations themselves, Duckworth questioned whether the Department of Defense provided Hyten with preferential treatment, as he wasn’t suspended during the investigation and the probe was conducted by Gen. Mike Holmes, the four-star chief of Air Combat Command, who is technically junior to Hyten.

“I still think he was treated differently than some folks in similar circumstances,” she said, “and there was some new information that I didn’t know, that was new to me, that was concerning.”

Gen. Paul Selva, who has served as vice chairman since 2015, is scheduled to retire on July 30. Should Hyten’s nomination be held up, it would create yet one more empty spot in Pentagon leadership. Among the other jobs that are currently being filled in an acting capacity: deputy secretary of defense, chief management officer, and secretary of the Air Force.

Leo Shane III contributed to this report.

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