State Department Official Hired by Trump Was Accused of Sexual Assault by 5 Different Students

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President Trump might want to run background checks on his staff. Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images

The Trump administration is not known for vetting its hires — even for top national-security positions — and it appears to be continuing that trend down through the ranks of the State Department. According to a ProPublica investigation published this week, the State Department’s assistant chief of visits, Steven Munoz — who supervises up to ten staffers as they organize visits of foreign heads of state — was accused of sexual assault by five different students during his time at the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina. And although a local prosecutor declined to press charges against Munoz, an investigation by the school found that “certain assaults likely occurred.”

The first accusation against Munoz came in 2010, when a student told a school official that Munoz had sexually assaulted him in 2009 when he was a freshman. According to a report filed with police in 2013, the student said he and Munoz were at an off-campus house watching TV and consensually spooning. The student later woke up “thinking he was having a wet dream, but it was Munoz on top of him with full body contact, kissing him with his tongue in his mouth. Munoz had his left hand down [the other student’s] shorts touching his penis.”

The student reported the incident to sexual assault response coordinator Janet Shealy but said he wanted to keep the accusations “informal.” She set up a mediation session between Munoz and the other student, but according to her notes, Munoz “said it was consensual and that accuser started it.” The other student was “upset” and said Munoz had “lied.” Munoz was not disciplined further.

According to ProPublica, four more students say that Munoz went on to sexually assault them over the next year and a half. One student said that during an out-of-town trip, Munoz “jumped on [him] … I felt jerking and bouncing on my back, I threw my elbow up which threw him off the bed to the floor.” Another said that, during a meeting in Munoz’s room, he “put his other hand down my underwear until I again pushed him away, but he did not stop. He said as a new leader I had to learn to trust other leaders on the team and this was how I should show him I trusted him.”

These incidents were all reported in the fall of 2012, after Munoz had graduated. At that point, the Citadel referred the case to police and banned Munoz from the campus. Police interviewed each victim, all of whom said they were willing to press charges for incidents that ranged from forcible fondling to sexual battery. But a Charleston County prosecutor said she wouldn’t recommend charging Munoz because “there is no probable cause that he committed a crime prosecutable in General Sessions Court.”

Munoz’s past isn’t exactly a secret — a Google search turns up plenty of articles on the allegations against him, most of which were written while he was working on Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign. Nevertheless, he was hired to work on Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, and he joined the State Department on January 25. Maybe the agency was willing to overlook his record, or maybe no one in Trump’s White House knows how to cyber.

Trump Administration Hires Aide Accused of Sexual Assault