New lawsuit alleges that Donald Trump kissed staffer without her consent during election campaign
A former staffer on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has filed a federal lawsuit against the president, alleging he kissed her without consent.
Alva Johnson claims she tried to move her face away as the former reality TV star attempted to kiss her on the lips during a 2016 campaign stop in Tampa, Florida. The 72-year-old eventually placed his lips on the side of her mouth, leaving her feeling "violated".
Her federal lawsuit also claims Trump discriminated against her as a black woman, paying her white colleagues with both similar jobs - and lower-ranking ones - more than her, and demands unspecified damages for emotional pain and suffering.
Johnson stated she first met the future president at a rally in November 2015, where he looked her up and down before saying, "Oh, beautiful, beautiful, fantastic."
Recalling the incident in 2016, she says Trump was walking out of a motor vehicle following a rally when she told him: "I’ve been on the road for you since March, away from my family. You’re doing an awesome job. Go in there and kick ass."
She continued: "He’s coming straight for my lips. So I turn my head, and he kisses me right on corner of my mouth, still holding my hand the entire time. Then he walks on out."
"To Defendant Trump, however, Ms. Johnson was nothing more than a sexual object he felt entitled to dominate and humiliate," the lawsuit read. "Like he has done with so many other women, Defendant Trump violated norms of decency and privacy by kissing Ms. Johnson on the lips without her consent in the middle of a Florida work event and in front of numerous other Campaign officials."
The White House has denied the allegations, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders naming the accusations "absurd on its face".
"This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts," she said, while a campaign spokesperson described Johnson's story of discrimination as "off-base and unfounded".
However, The Washington Post detailed the process of reaching out to the former campaign staffer to ask her to share her story nearly a year ago.
"I’ve tried to let it go," she told the newspaper, reportedly beginning to cry as she spoke. "You want to move on with your life. I don’t sleep. I wake up at 4 in the morning looking at the news. I feel guilty. The only thing I did was show up for work one day."
Johnson claims she spoke about the alleged incident to those close to her afterwards, including her mother, stepfather and boyfriend, who all confirmed her story. An attorney she met with in Florida told the Post he had found her story to be "credible" and referred her to a therapist but did not take her case for "business reasons".
According to the Post, Johnson said two other people saw the alleged kiss, but both have reportedly denied to the paper that they witnessed anything. One of the alleged witnesses was a campaign official, and the other was former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida who received a $25,000 donation through a political committee from the Trump Foundation that became a subject of investigation.
The president has been accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct in the past, but has denied all allegations of inappropriate behaviour.