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Report: Trump campaign worker says he kissed her without consent before Tampa rally

The White House and Pam Bondi denied it happened, according to the Washington Post
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump meets supporters organizing voter registration and support for his campaign just before a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 24, 2016. Inside the RV seen here, Trump kissed a member of his campaign staff without consent, a woman is alleging in a new lawsuit. The woman, Alva Johnson, can be seen in the background of this photo wearing a Trump shirt and a hat on the left side of the frame. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times
Published Feb. 25
Updated Feb. 25

A former staff member on President Donald Trump’s campaign alleges in a new lawsuit that then-candidate Trump kissed her without her consent before a 2016 rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Trump kissed a member of his campaign staff without consent, a woman is alleging in a new lawsuit. The woman, Alva Johnson, can be seen in the foreground of this photo wearing a Trump shirt and a hat on the left side of the frame. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Alva Johnson told the Washington Post that Trump grabbed her hand to thank her for her work and then leaned in to kiss her on the lips in an RV before the Aug. 24, 2016 Tampa campaign event. She turned her head and he kissed the side of her mouth.

Johnson said former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi saw the encounter and “Bondi gave her a smile as she walked out of the RV,” according to the Post. Bondi told the newspaper that she did not recall it.

“Do I recall seeing anything inappropriate? One hundred percent no,” Bondi said. “I’m a prosecutor, and if I saw something inappropriate, I would have said something.”

Bondi and Trump were photographed that day walking to the rally together under an umbrella.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi walk to meet supporters organizing voter registration and Trump support just before a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016.

Here’s more from the Post story:

“I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” she said. “I can still see his lips coming straight for my face.”

Johnson said she told her boyfriend, mother and stepfather about the incident later that day, an account all three confirmed to The Post. Two months later, Johnson consulted a Florida attorney about the unwanted kiss; he gave The Post text messages showing that he considered her “credible” but did not take her case for business reasons. The attorney gave Johnson the name of a therapist, whose notes, which The Post reviewed, reference an unspecified event during the campaign that had left her distraught.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed Johnson’s allegation as “absurd on its face.”

“This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,” she wrote.

Two Trump supporters that Johnson identified as witnesses — a campaign official and Pam Bondi, then the Florida attorney general — denied seeing the alleged kiss in interviews with The Post.

While more than a dozen other women have publicly accused Trump of touching them in some inappropriate way, Johnson is the only accuser to come forward since he took office and the only one to allege unwanted contact during the campaign. Trump faces a defamation lawsuit in New York brought by Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” reality TV contestant, who claims he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2007.

Johnson, an event planner who lives in Madison County, Ala., is seeking unspecified damages for emotional pain and suffering. The federal lawsuit, filed Monday in Florida, also alleges that the campaign discriminated against Johnson, who is black, by paying her less than her white male counterparts. A campaign spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, rejected that claim as “off-base and unfounded.”

The Post first contacted Johnson nearly a year ago, while reporting on misconduct allegations against Trump, but she declined to comment. In recent days, Johnson’s attorney gave The Post a draft copy of her complaint, and Johnson and others connected to the lawsuit agreed to be interviewed.

Johnson said she began to consider coming forward in October 2016, after video surfaced of Trump bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent. That was the moment, she said, when she came to view the kiss as part of a pattern of Trump doing whatever he pleased to women.

Here’s the Tampa Bay Times report on Trump’s Aug. 24 rally.


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