Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser has accused President Trump’s nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, of multiple instances of sexual assault during her time working for him between 2016 and 2018 at U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) in a bid to prevent his confirmation next month.
Spletstoser, 51, has claimed that Hyten, who is the commander of Stratcom, had initiated unwanted touching or kissing beginning in early 2017, and that in one instance, he came to her hotel room during a work trip to Simi Valley, California, in December 2017, forcibly kissed her and pressed himself against her, and ejaculated on their clothes.
However, a recently released final report of an investigation into Spletstoser for toxic leadership during that time showed that she never once mentioned anything negative about Hyten — even in her lengthy rebuttal to the investigation’s findings in February 2018 that she was a toxic leader who should be fired.
Rather, during her interview with the investigating officer in January 2018, in which she accused colleagues of being immature, liars, and backstabbers, she called Hyten, 60, a “nice guy.”
“You know, General Hyten is such a nice guy, but he wasn’t really very clear and he sort of figured that adults could be adults and go figure it out,” she told the investigating officer after saying she told Hyten she was being bullied by other staff.
The investigation’s final report also showed that multiple witnesses claimed in sworn statements that Spletstoser, as director of Hyten’s Commander’s Action Group (CAG) — a general’s dedicated staff — micromanaged Hyten’s travel plans, demanded she accompany him on nearly every work trip, and got angry whenever she was not booked in the same hotel as him.
One witness said that during a work trip to the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia in November 2017, only a few members of Hyten’s nine-member staff could stay with him at The Westin Hotel, and the remaining staff would be at a nearby hotel. “Once Col SPLETSTOSER was notified she would not stay in The Westin, she became angry,” the witness said.
Another witness said that no one else on the CAG had an issue with that hotel arrangement, but when Spletstoser found out, “she went high and to the right; telling the Commander he was the only one in the Westin without his security and comms.” Another witness said, “I feel that she misrepresented the concerns about security in order to get to stay in the same hotel as the Gen Hyten and [redacted].”
“I and several other personnel including COL Spletstoser…stayed in a hotel right next to the hotel where Gen Hyten and his support personnel were lodged,” said another witness about a September 2017 trip to D.C. “During this trip, she expressed dissatisfaction about being lodged at a different hotel than Gen. Hyten. To me, separate lodging didn’t seem to have a negative impact on Gen Hyten or the mission.”
The witness added, “COL Spletstoser seems very concerned and passionate about her own personal proximity to Gen Hyten. I think there is a general fear of reprisal if COL Spletstoser is not satisfied with her proximity to the [commander] (meetings, emails, travel).”
The investigation substantiated allegations that Spletstoser was a toxic leader who created a hostile work climate, and it contained dozens of sworn statements from witnesses who claimed she frequently yelled at, belittled, and bullied others in the office, used foul language, and acted unprofessionally when speaking to others.
One witness said in a sworn statement that Spletstoser once yelled at subordinates, “What the f-ck do you f-cking do all day…it’s not like you are f-cking working? Don’t give me some hot-mess bullsh-t [redacted] agenda either, this is staff work 101. Jesus Christ none of you know what you are doing. You can’t accomplish basic sh*t, the most basic f-cking tasks.”
The witness claimed that after she caught him smiling, she yelled, “Do you think this is f-cking funny? I ASKED YOU IF YOU THINK THIS IS F-CKING FUNNY?” and demanded he follow her to the hallway, where she poked his chest with her finger and said calmly, “Sometimes you just need to light motherf-ckers up.”
Another witness said she was “toxic, arrogant, possessing an extremely low EQ [emotional quotient], friction-causing, and constantly carrying a chip on her shoulder about one thing or another.”
“I am not alone,” the witness said. “That is indeed her reputation among the people who served with her.”
Another said, “I witnessed Col Spletstoser demonstrate unprofessional behavior on numerous occasions that disparaged and belittled other personnel. She used profanity, derogatory language, and would interrupt other people repeatedly when we were in meetings together.”
Another said, “COL Spletstoser also threatens and bullies staff to get her way — there were numerous times I heard her state directly to front office staff that they can either do things her way or she “will ruin their career.”
The witness added, “COL Spletstoser has successfully misled the Commander into believing that she is ‘above board’ and operating in his best interests; I have observed that she does so at the expense of essentially everyone on his staff…She further garners his support by claiming that she is the ‘victim’ and is not respected — when in reality she shows respect to no one.”
In her interview with the investigating officer, Spletstoser denied being a toxic leader or ever swearing at anyone. “I do cuss, but I do not cuss excessively and I’ve never cussed at anybody,” she said.
Of the 33 witnesses interviewed, only four — who also worked for her at the time — provided sworn statements about her that were generally positive.
The investigation’s final report was released to the public Friday, upon multiple Freedom of Information Act requests by media outlets, including Breitbart News. It concluded:
The preponderance of evidence substantiates the allegation that COL Spletstoser’s leadership style meets the definition of ‘toxic’ as described in [Army Regulations] 600-100, resulting in a hostile work environment within the CAG and has negatively impacted the relationship between the CAG and other offices within the USSTRATCOM headquarters.
It also said, “COL Spletstoser categorically denied bullying or treating people in a demeaning way; rather, she said she treats everyone with dignity and respect,” and added:
She denied possessing or exhibiting any elements of toxic leadership and describing this investigation as a ‘fishing expedition.’ The preponderance of evidence does not support her conclusions. Her interview left the clear impression that she is not self-aware in terms of how her communication style and interpersonal skills are interpreted by others. She is convinced that she is treating people with dignity and respect, while most of the people I interviewed disagreed.
The investigation was conducted from January to February 2018, after a preliminary investigation from November to December 2017, and covered Spletstoser’s entire time at Stratcom.
The investigating officer, Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Bowen, recommended that she be reprimanded and fired. Hyten subsequently fired her in March 2018. She at first opted to retire but then appealed to Army leadership and transferred to a new department in the Pentagon, where she currently serves.
That toxic leadership investigation and Spletstoser’s past has become a subject of scrutiny after she began claiming in April, after Trump nominated Hyten for the vice chairman position, that he had sexually assaulted her when she worked for him at Stratcom.
After Trump nominated Hyten, Spletstoser went to the Senate Armed Services Committee — which approves defense nominations — with claims that Hyten sexually assaulted her. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) launched an investigation into her claims that same month, but ultimately could not find evidence to back her claims.
After Air Force officials briefed that conclusion to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in early July, Spletstoser went to select media outlets, keeping her identity private.
She told the Washington Post that the first sexual assault occurred on a trip to Palo Alto, California, in January 2017. She said as she was leaving a staff meeting in his hotel room, he grabbed her hand and pressed it to his groin.
She also told the Post about the alleged ejaculation incident in December 2017. “I felt really violated and really disappointed,” she said.
After those media reports did not derail his nomination — and after Breitbart News learned her identity and reported some details of the not-yet-released toxic leadership, she decided to reveal her identity in an interview with the New York Times.
She repeated to the Times her claim that Hyten came to her hotel room during a work trip to Simi Valley, California, in December 2017, pressed himself against her and ejaculated, “getting semen on his sweatpants and on her yoga pants.”
“I was distraught,” she told the Times. But “who was I going to report it to? Secretary Mattis? Really? All I was trying to do was just survive and not have my life ruined.”
Spletstoser has claimed that she did not come forward before because she figured that her assignment at Stratcom would be both her and Hyten’s last in the military, but after Trump nominated him for another position, she felt she had to come forward and prevent him from behaving inappropriately towards others.
She has claimed she was fired by Hyten as retaliation for not reciprocating his advances, despite the preliminary investigation being prompted by multiple complaints from colleagues and beginning in November 2017 — which was before the alleged December 2017 hotel incident.
Spletstoser also attended Hyten’s confirmation hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee in late July and spoke with reporters afterward. However, the committee still voted to advance Hyten’s nomination to the full Senate on a bipartisan vote of 20–7.
The AFOSI investigation’s final report, which was also released Friday, showed there were some discrepancies between what Spletstoser told AFOSI investigators and what she told media.
According to the AFOSI investigation’s final report, Spletstoser previously told AFOSI investigators that the Palo Alto trip happened in February 2017 but later told the Post it was January 2017. She also told AFOSI investigators that during the December 2017 hotel incident Hyten was wearing “gym shorts” and she was wearing “sweatpants.” She later told the Times that Hyten was wearing “sweatpants” and she was wearing “yoga pants.”
She also claimed to AFOSI investigators that Hyten had told her not to worry about the toxic leadership investigation until he saw that the final report implicated she and Hyten had an “unprofessional relationship.” She claimed that after that, Hyten was “determined to crush her, and fired her and called her crazy.”
However, the toxic leadership investigation’s final report — which was minimally redacted and reviewed by Breitbart News — does not suggest there was an unprofessional relationship between her and Hyten.
Hyten’s supporters say Spletstoser’s sexual assault claims are just the latest of a string of false accusations against Hyten and others who she blames for her firing from Stratcom and the end of her chances of becoming a general.
The AFOSI investigation’s final report revealed that after Spletstoser was fired, she asked a fellow Army colonel, who was assigned to be her “battle buddy,” to contact Hyten and tell him he had to reinstate her as his CAG director since an Army Review Board had exonerated her. The Army colonel told investigators she refused to do so since it was not true that Spletstoser was exonerated by an Army Review Board.
The report also revealed that after she was fired, Spletstoser filed complaints to the Pentagon inspector general alleging that Hyten abused his travel team and his protective service detail, and that she also filed complaints against the Army general who ordered the toxic leadership investigation. The report also revealed that toward the end of the toxic leadership investigation, she indicated to Hyten that she would commit suicide.
According to one witness interview, “toward the end of the investigation, [redacted] received an email from [Spletstoser] written to [Hyten] in which [she] stated ‘I wish you would have listened to me and it wouldn’t have come to this,’ and ‘I can’t live with myself and this decision.’ [Redacted] informed [Hyten] about the email and eventually AFOSI became involved.”
The witness said that after she was fired and escorted out of the building in March 2018, there were rumors that she threatened Hyten and that his security team had to increase measures, especially when attending events that Spletstoser could possibly attend.
Another witness said that as Spletstoser was being escorted out, several CAG members heard her say “something to the effect of ‘this isn’t over’ and ‘people will pay.’”
During an interview with Hyten, he told investigators that after her firing, she also made a “series of threats alluding that she would harm herself or [him].” He said she later apologized and stated that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.
The AFOSI investigation, which concluded in late June, stated:
AFOSI confirmed VICTIM and SUBJECT traveled together frequently; however, AFOSI was unable to find indications of an unprofessional relationship either electronically or through witness interviews.
No one AFOSI interviewed, to include those who traveled with SUBJECT and VICTIM had witnessed VICTIM alone with SUBJECT for more than a brief period of time, usually in his office. No one believed VICTIM had special privileges with SUBJECT. No one viewed their relationship as unprofessional or potential sexual.
AFOSI was unable to identify anyone who witnessed SUBJECT act unprofessionally with VICTIM, or anyone else, to include while assigned to Air Force Space Command.
AFOSI interviewed 53 witnesses across three countries and 13 states.