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Trump pledges case of slain Army soldier Vanessa Guillén won’t be ‘swept under the rug’

Members of Army Spec. Vanessa Guillén's family and their lawyer spoke to President Trump July 30 about her death at Fort Hood and concerns for other troops. (Video: The Washington Post)

President Trump on Thursday pledged “a very strong investigation” into the death of Army Spec. Vanessa Guillén, whose remains were discovered two months after she went missing at Fort Hood in Texas, where family members said she faced sexual harassment.

“We didn’t want to have this swept under the rug, which could happen,” Trump told members of Guillén’s family and her attorney during an Oval Office meeting, calling Guillén “a spectacular person” who was “respected and loved by everybody.”

The family was in Washington on Thursday seeking to build support for legislation that would allow active-duty service members to file sexual harassment and assault claims to a third-party agency instead of their chain of command.

Guillén’s disappearance, and her family’s allegations that she was sexually harassed, drew attention from activists, lawmakers, celebrities and other soldiers. The family has also complained that the Army’s search for the 20-year-old soldier lacked urgency and care at the highest levels.

The Guillén family, accompanied to the White House by attorney Natalie Khawam, said it was heartened by Trump’s focus on the issue after what it described as interia from investigators and Army leaders. “When Natalie started helping, it’s amazing how we went from zero to 100,” Mayra Guillén, Vanessa’s sister, told The Washington Post on Thursday.

Another sister, Lupe Guillén, said her mother Gloria had wanted to meet with the president since her daughter’s disappearance. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has not met with them, she said. The Army said McCarthy would be open to meeting the family, and said the service’s chief of staff, Gen. James C. McConville, has met with them.

Guillén was bludgeoned to death at Fort Hood on April 22, near where she was last seen, investigators have said. The discovery of her remains in a shallow grave east of the Texas installation triggered a manhunt that ended when one suspect — Spc. Aaron Robinson — killed himself as officers closed in, the Army said this month.

Vanessa Guillén may have faced harassment before her disappearance and death, Army says

Robinson’s girlfriend was charged with evidence tampering, and she said she helped dispose of the body, court records show.

“As you know, the FBI and the DOJ are now involved,” Trump told the family, referring to the Department of Justice. “We got them involved. And the people at Fort Hood where it took place are very much involved. … We’ll get to the bottom of it, and maybe things can come out that will help other people in a situation like Vanessa. … We’ll be in touch with you constantly.”

Trump also offered to personally help cover funeral costs for Guillén.

Asked whether he would support the third-party legislation that the family is seeking, Trump said, “We’re going to look into that very strongly.”

Lupe Guillén welcomed the focus, she said.

“Like [the president] said, we will get to the bottom of this.”