Gillibrand Skips Hearings for Top Military Nominee Accused of Sexual Assault

2020 candidate has made women's issues a cornerstone of presidential campaign

• July 30, 2019 1:10 pm


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) was a no-show at closed-door and public Senate Armed Service Committee hearings delving into a sexual assault charge against the nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gillibrand has made women's rights and battling sexual harassment cornerstones of her presidential campaign. However, she wasn't on hand for the matter concerning Gen. John Hyten, who is testifying Tuesday in front of the SASC for his confirmation hearing.

Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser told the New York Times last week Hyten had made unwanted sexual contact with her several times in 2017. The Air Force investigated her claims—which she made anonymously in April before going public—and decided not to court-martial Hyten, who is the commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

As MSNBC discussed the confirmation hearing as it got underway on Tuesday, anchor Hallie Jackson noted Gillibrand would be absent. NBC News correspondent Courtney Kube pointed out Gillibrand was also gone last week when he and Spletstoser testified behind closed doors.

"I've spoken with people on the Senate Armed Services [Committee], and Senator Gillibrand was not at the closed session with General Hyten last week where he had the opportunity to talk to them prior to his open testimony," Kube said.

Gillibrand, who is in Michigan for the second round of Democratic presidential debates, released a statement affirming her opposition to Hyten's nomination.

"Senator Gillibrand opposes General Hyten's nomination and believes the Committee shouldn't be rushing this nomination through today given the disturbing allegations and the concerns about the process in this case," a Gillibrand spokesperson told Fox News.

Gillibrand dressed down Gen. James McConville at his confirmation hearing for Army Chief of Staff in May for increased sexual assault rates in the military and declining rates of prosecution.

"So you're going in the wrong direction," she said. "This is something that you must take responsibility for. Because it's an issue of climate."

Fellow Armed Services Committee member and 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) is also absent for Tuesday's hearing.