On Thursday, an Army general accused of sexual assault pleaded guilty to three lesser charges. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair is accused of twice forcing a female captain to perform oral sex, and threatening to kill her family if she told anyone about their three-year affair. General Sinclair admitted to having improper relationships with two other female Army officers and to committing adultery with the primary accuser, which is a crime in the military.
“What Senator Gillibrand is doing is way off-base,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, his voice rising. “It will not get us to the promised land of having fewer sexual assaults.”
Kirk, a retired Navy Reserve officer, told reporters after the vote that he’d changed his mind after hearing arguments from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that Gillibrand’s bill could force much broader changes to the World War II-era military justice system. He also said he feared having outside lawyers take over prosecuting military cases and disrupting the unique culture of the armed services.
Then there’s the 2016 factor. Gillibrand is widely seen as a Democratic presidential contender if Hillary Clinton doesn’t get into the race. And on the Republican side, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an Air Force lawyer and defense hawk, didn’t hesitate to chide two potential primary front-runners — Paul and Cruz — for siding against the Pentagon.
People wanting to run for president on our side, I will remind you of this vote,” Graham told reporters. “If you want to be commander in chief, you told me a lot about who you are as a commander-in-chief candidate. You were willing to fire every commander in the military for reasons I don’t quite understand, so we’ll have a good discussion as to whether or not you understand how the military actually works.”
Cruz insisted in an interview that his presidential ambitions didn’t factor into his position.