A woman who worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign has alleged that he “forcibly kissed her” before a rally in Florida in August 2016, according to a new federal lawsuit filed on Monday. In her complaint, Alva Johnson, who is black, also alleges that the Trump campaign paid her less than white staffers.
Johnson worked as Trump’s director of outreach and coalitions in Alabama and was then sent to work in Florida. She shared details of the alleged incident, which occurred during a campaign rally in Tampa, in the complaint as well as with the Post:
Wearing a dark suit and red tie, carrying an umbrella, Trump walked up to the RV as Johnson stood back and took video. “Good job, boss,” she said as he greeted supporters, according to footage she provided to The Post.
Johnson brought volunteers into the RV to take pictures with Trump. She noticed that Trump was attempting to make eye contact with her, she said in the interviews and lawsuit. When it was time for the rally, Johnson said Trump passed her as he exited the RV.
“I’ve been on the road for you since March, away from my family,” she told him, according to the lawsuit. “You’re doing an awesome job. Go in there and kick ass.”
Trump grasped her hand, thanked her for her work and leaned in, she said.
“Oh, my God, I think he’s going to kiss me,” she said in an interview, describing the moment. “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.”
She said she stood there, feeling humiliated, and Bondi gave her a smile as she walked out of the RV. Karen Giorno, director of the Florida campaign, grabbed Johnson’s elbow and gave it a tug, Johnson said in the interviews and lawsuit.
“I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” Johnson told the Post. “I can still see his lips coming straight for my face.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied Johnson’s account, writing in a statement: “This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts.”
Karen Giorno, director of the Florida campaign, also echoed Sanders. “I don’t even recall Alva being on the R.V.,” she told the New Yorker. As the New Yorker noted, “Photographs from the rally place Johnson inside the R.V.”
According to Johnson’s complaint, however, staffers, including Giorno, discussed the forced kiss after the rally. From the complaint:
When Ms. Johnson arrived at Campaign headquarters in Sarasota, the story of Defendant Trump’s kiss had beaten her back. Ms. Giorno had arrived earlier and was already sharing the details with other Campaign staff. As Ms. Johnson walked into the staff room, one staffer said, laughing, that he heard that she got a kiss from the boss. Though Ms. Johnson was deeply disappointed by this reaction, the fact that people seemed to be treating it as some kind of joke made her feel pressured to play it off. That staffer was not the only person to call attention to the fact that Defendant Trump had kissed Ms. Johnson. Florida Chief of Staff Darren Morris told her that she had become the Florida team’s secret weapon because Defendant Trump had kissed her. These comments made Ms. Johnson feel extremely uncomfortable.
Johnson is not the only woman who has alleged that Trump kissed her without her consent. Per the New Yorker:
Johnson’s lawsuit is at least the fourth filed against Trump by women with complaints of unwanted physical advances. None of the previous suits have resulted in judgments against Trump, but settlement negotiations are ongoing in at least one. At least nine additional women have publicly claimed that Trump kissed them without their consent, but none of them have pursued legal action.
After the alleged forcible kiss, Johnson told several of her family members of the incident. Soon after the Access Hollywood tape came out in October 2016—in which Trump boasted of kissing women without their consent, saying, “I don’t even wait”—Johnson reached out to an attorney and a therapist, who, according to the Post, wrote that Johnson “is having nightmares because of what happened.” Johnson quit working for the campaign, though later on, she applied for positions in the Trump administration.
“You want to move on with your life. I don’t sleep. I wake up at 4 in the morning looking at the news,” she told the Post. “I feel guilty. The only thing I did was show up for work one day.”