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Gillibrand blocks Joint Chiefs nominee to obtain sexual assault documents

Washington - It's no holds barred for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in her drive to build a case for her legislation to revamp military prosecutions of sexual assaults.

After the Pentagon turned down her request for 2014 sexual assault case files, Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently and anonymously put a "hold" on the nomination of Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said her spokesman Marc Brumer.

Gillibrand's action threatened to push a Senate confirmation vote on Dunford into September, after the August recess. President Barack Obama nominated him for the post in May.

Brumer said Gillibrand's 2014 document request was a repeat of what she asked for and received for 2013 documents that the Pentagon fulfilled. Gillibrand asked for documents on military sexual assaults at the largest military base for each service and four training facilities, to determine the extent of sexual assault cases and prosecutions.

But this morning, just before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Iran deal, Gillibrand and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee chairman, reached an agreement on the files with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

CQ Roll Call first reported the agreement Wednesday.

Carter, who was at the hearing to testify about the Iran deal, committed to Gillibrand and McCain to provide redacted copies of the files requested to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Brumer said.

Gillibrand promptly lifted her hold and will support General Dunford's nomination, Brumer said.

UPDATE: The Senate unanimously confirmed Dunford this evening.  

This wasn't the first time Gillibrand resorted to the use of a hold on a military nominee in his legislative crusade to pass legislation to remove military sexual assault cases from the chain of command and turn them over to military prosecutors.

In November 2013, Gillibrand put a hold on the nomination Jo Ann Rooney for the post of undersecretary of the U.S. Navy in late 2013 after Rooney rejected the proposed change in her written response to Gillibrand questions.

"I believe the impact would be decisions based on evidence rather than the interest in preserving good order and discipline," Rooney wrote. "I believe this will result in fewer prosecutions and therefore defeat the very problem that I understand it seeks to address."

Gillibrand lifted the hold. But a year later, after McCain and Gillibrand grilled her at a hearing and made clear they opposed her, Rooney's nomination was withdrawn.


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