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.
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.
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.