Ex-campaign staffer alleges in lawsuit that Trump kissed her without her consent
MIAMI (AP) — A former worker on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign claims in a lawsuit filed Monday that he abruptly grabbed her by the hand and planted an unwanted kiss on her face during a Florida meeting with staff and volunteers.
Alva Johnson, who lives in the Huntsville, Alabama area, contends in the federal lawsuit that Trump made the nonconsensual advance in August 2016 in Tampa, Florida. She says he ‘‘grasped her hand and did not let go’’ and kissed her on the corner of her mouth as she turned slightly away.
‘‘The forced and unwanted kiss was deeply offensive to Ms. Johnson,’’ the lawsuit says, adding that she suffered ‘‘emotional distress, psychological trauma, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of dignity, invasion of privacy and other damages.’’
The lawsuit, first reported by The Washington Post, seeks unspecified money damages and an order preventing the president from ‘‘grabbing, kissing or otherwise assaulting or harassing women without prior express consent.’’
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called Johnson’s allegations fabricated and said other people who were there say it did not take place.
‘‘This accusation is absurd on its face. This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,’’ Sanders said.
At the time, Johnson’s main job with the Trump campaign was to manage a fleet of recreational vehicles that served as traveling offices throughout Florida. According to the lawsuit, Trump visited one of these RVs in Tampa before a rally there when the unwanted kiss took place.
‘‘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,’’ Johnson claims in the lawsuit.
Among those who allegedly witnessed the incident was Pam Bondi, at the time Florida’s attorney general and a Trump supporter. The lawsuit contends that Bondi ‘‘glanced at Ms. Johnson and smiled’’ after the alleged unwanted kiss.
Bondi did not immediately respond Monday to an email seeking comment.
Johnson’s lawsuit also recounts at least a dozen similar allegations made by women against Trump and notes that she realized she was not alone after the infamous ‘‘Access Hollywood’’ tape emerged in October 2016 in which Trump brags about groping and kissing women without asking permission. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
A Florida lawyer who she contacted not long after the incident, Adam Horowitz, said Monday that ‘‘she was definitely in distress and not just about her job.’’ She also told Horowitz she was seeing a therapist.
Horowitz said what they didn’t know at the time was that October 2016 was also the month Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were being paid off through then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to Cohen’s sworn statements. Horowitz ultimately did not take the Johnson case.
Johnson, who is African-American, also claims in the lawsuit that she was paid less than her Trump campaign counterparts because of her race and gender.
‘‘The campaign knew that it was underpaying Ms. Johnson relative to her white counterparts,’’ the lawsuit claims.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany denied that claim.
‘‘The Trump campaign has never discriminated based on race, ethnicity, gender, or any other basis. Any allegation suggesting otherwise is off base and unfounded.’’
Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey in Washington and Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this story.