President Donald Trump’s lawyers have asked a federal judge in Florida to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former campaign staffer Alva Johnson, who claimed Trump forcibly kissed her at a 2016 rally. Johnson, who is black, also accused the campaign of paying her less than her white male counterparts.
Trump’s attorneys have lambasted the suit as being politically motivated.
“This is a political case with its own political agenda that would impact Donald Trump and paralyze his presidency,” attorney Charles Harder told U.S. District Judge William Jung at a hearing Wednesday in Tampa, CNN reported.
Harder also took issue with the inclusion in the lawsuit of several other women’s sexual misconduct allegations against the president, dating back to at least the 1980s. Johnson “is trying to take advantage of allegations from 12 to 37 years ago,” Harder said, according to Courthouse News. “Her lawyers are trying to turn this case into 19 other cases.”
Johnson’s attorney Hassan Zavareei argued that the additional allegations had been included in the suit to illustrate Trump’s history of predatory behavior. Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by more than 20 women to date.
Jung said he would make a decision by June 14 on whether the case would proceed. He hinted, however, that a battery claim involving the alleged kiss would not be dismissed.
“That’s not going anywhere,” the judge said. “[Johnson] is entitled to her day in court.”
In her suit, Johnson, who joined Trump’s campaign team in 2015, claimed Trump sexually harassed her in an RV before a Tampa rally in August 2016.
He grabbed her hand and “moved close enough that she could feel his breath on her skin,” she has claimed.
“Ms. Johnson suddenly realized that Defendant Trump was trying to kiss her on the mouth, and attempted to avoid this by turning her head to the right. Defendant Trump kissed her anyway, and the kiss landed on the corner of her mouth,” the complaint states, noting that the “unwanted” kiss was “deeply offensive” to Johnson and left her “confused and humiliated.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier dismissed Johnson’s accusation as “absurd.”
“This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,” Sanders said in a statement.
Johnson’s forced-kiss accusation is part of a larger class-action complaint that claims the Trump campaign paid female and African-American staffers less than white male employees. Former campaign and White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman requested last month to join the collective action.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Manigault Newman told The Washington Post of the alleged discrimination. “After nearly 20 years inside the Beltway, working for two White Houses and countless political campaigns, I’ve never witnessed such egregious violations as I did during my time under the leadership of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.”
A campaign spokeswoman has dismissed the allegations as “off-base and unfounded.”