A former Trump campaign staffer filed a federal lawsuit Monday accusing President Donald Trump of forcibly kissing her on the mouth prior to an August 2016 rally in Florida.
Alva Johnson says she was helping organize a campaign stop in Tampa when Trump grabbed her and kissed her as he was exiting a recreational vehicle where he’d been signing autographs.
“Defendant Trump grasped her hand and did not let go. He told her he knew she had been on the road for a long time and that she had been doing a great job. He also told Ms. Johnson that he would not forget about her, and that he was going to take care of her,” the lawsuit contends.
“As Defendant Trump spoke, he tightened his grip on Ms. Johnson’s hand and leaned towards her. He moved close enough that she could feel his breath on her skin,” the complaint alleges. “Ms. Johnson suddenly realized that Defendant Trump was trying to kiss her on the mouth, and attempted to avoid this by turning her head to the right. Defendant Trump kissed her anyway, and the kiss landed on the corner of her mouth.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the suit and Johnson’s story as a fabrication.
“This accusation is absurd on its face. This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,” Sanders said.
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is one of several Trump aides and Secret Service agents who witnessed the unwanted kiss in the RV, Johnson claims in the suit. Bondi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Johnson, who says she started out working for Trump in January 2016 as director of outreach and coalitions for the Alabama GOP primary, is African American and also alleges in the suit that the campaign underpaid her on account of her race and gender.
“Ms. Johnson was vastly underpaid compared to many of her Campaign counterparts who were white, despite her critical role at various stages of the Campaign,” the suit alleges.
Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said in a statement, “The Trump campaign has never discriminated based on race, ethnicity, gender, or any other basis. Any allegation suggesting otherwise is off base and unfounded.”
The 45-page complaint Johnson’s attorneys filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa Monday pulls no punches, painting the unwanted kiss as just one example of Trump’s decades-long history as a “sexual predator.”
“Defendant Trump’s battery of Ms. Johnson is part of a pattern of predatory and harassing behavior towards women,” the suit says. “He continues to repeatedly and unashamedly grope women, kiss them without their consent, and force them to endure unwanted touching. As demonstrated by his long history of similar behavior, he does so intentionally, maliciously, and with the knowledge that it will cause damage and injury.”
Johnson says in the suit that she didn’t realize the gravity of Trump’s actions or how they fit into a pattern of behavior on his part until the broadcast of the so-called Access Hollywood tape in October 2016 where Trump appeared to brag in vulgar terms about assaulting women. Johnson’s suit says she quit the campaign that month, consulted an attorney and began seeing a therapist.
“The realization that she was not the only person Defendant Trump had forcibly kissed added to Ms. Johnson’s already considerable distress,” the suit says.
The suit was assigned to Judge William F. Jung, a Trump appointee confirmed to the bench last year.
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
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