A former staffer claims in a lawsuit that Donald Trump kissed her without her consent while she was working on his 2016 presidential campaign, which immediately left her feeling “violated.”
On Monday morning, Alva Johnson filed a federal claim against Trump, alleging that he forcibly kissed her ahead of a 2016 campaign rally in Tampa. Per the suit, when Trump was getting out of an RV on August 24, 2016, he grabbed Johnson’s hand and leaned in to kiss her; startled by the advance, Johnson told the Washington Post that she turned her head, causing Trump’s lips to land on the side of her mouth. While Trump has faced sexual-assault accusations from dozens of women, Johnson is the first former campaign staffer to break her non-disclosure agreement to make an allegation of this nature.
“I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” she told the Post, calling the incident “super-creepy and inappropriate.”
In the suit, Johnson, who is black, also alleges that she experienced “racial and gender discrimination” while working on the campaign, claiming that she was paid “substantially less” than colleagues who had similar responsibilities as she, but who were white men. As a result, she is seeking unspecified damages for emotional pain and suffering.
Johnson told the Post that she first considered coming forward about her experience in October 2016, after the emergence of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Disturbed by what she saw as a pattern of inappropriate behavior toward women, Johnson opened up about the unwanted incident to her boyfriend, mother, and stepfather, and contacted an attorney and a therapist, all of whom confirmed Johnson’s accounts.
In a statement to the Post, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders rejected Johnson’s kissing allegation, calling it “absurd on its face” — a rejection that campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany echoed in regards to the discrimination allegations.
While The New Yorker notes that Johnson’s lawsuit will likely face “intense scrutiny” because of the nature of the allegation, as well as the fact that it’s in violation of her NDA, Johnson told the Post that she felt like she needed to come forward as she grew increasingly horrified over the Trump administration’s policies.
“I’ve tried to let it go,” she said of working on the campaign. “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.”