A former campaign staffer alleged that President Donald Trump kissed her without her consent during the 2016 election cycle and has filed a lawsuit arguing the violation caused her distress, the Washington Post reports. This is the first time Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct since he took office. The White House denies the allegations.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, Alva Johnson alleged that Trump grabbed her hand and tried to kiss her without her consent outside a rally in Tampa, FL on August 2016. Johnson says once she realized what was happening, she turned her face and Trump ended up kissing her on the side of her mouth. “I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” she told the Post. “I can still see his lips coming straight for my face.”
Johnson, who first joined the campaign in 2015 as an Alabama organizer, is seeking unspecified damages. The lawsuit also claims that she faced gender and racial-based pay discrimination, earning less than her white, male counterparts. The Trump campaign disputes the allegations.
Johnson said she immediately told several people about the alleged kiss. She kept quiet for weeks, but told the Post that she first thought of coming forward in October 2016 after the infamous Access Hollywood tape, where Trump brags of sexually assaulting women, was made public. In the tape, Trump infamously said: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” He then added: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Johnson said that after hearing his remarks she understood that what had allegedly happened to her was part of a pattern.
The White House denies the incident ever took place, pointing at how two witnesses who Johnson mentions in the lawsuit — campaign official Karen Giorno and then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi — have denied seeing the unwanted kiss.
But Johnson said the violation has caused her anguish for nearly three years. "I’ve tried to let it go," she told the Post. "You want to move on with your life. I don’t sleep. I wake up at four in the morning looking at the news. I feel guilty. The only thing I did was show up for work one day."