WASHINGTON – A woman who worked on President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 accuses him in a lawsuit of kissing her without her consent a little more than two months before the election.
In a filing Monday, lawyers for Alva Johnson said Trump “violated norms of decency and privacy by kissing Ms. Johnson on the lips without her consent in the middle of a Florida work event and in front of numerous other Campaign officials.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the allegation “absurd on its face” in a statement and said Johnson’s description of events “is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eyewitness accounts.”
According to the lawsuit, the incident occurred at a campaign event in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 24, 2016, as Trump met with staff and volunteers inside one of the campaign’s recreational vehicles. After 15 minutes of shaking hands, taking pictures and signing autographs, Trump prepared to leave the RV and passed Johnson on his way to the door.
Johnson, who had joined the campaign in early 2016, says that she told Trump to “kick ass” and that he told her he was aware of her work on his behalf. She said Trump told her “he would not forget about her, and that he was going to take care of her.”
The lawsuit says Trump then “leaned towards her. He moved close enough that she could feel his breath on her skin. 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 lawsuit says.
Three Trump supporters who were there, including then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, told The Washington Post they did not witness the alleged incident.
“Do I recall seeing anything inappropriate? One hundred percent no,” Bondi told The Post. “I’m a prosecutor, and if I saw something inappropriate, I would have said something.”
‘Full Disclosure’: Stormy Daniels memoir accuses Trump of sex, lies and cheating
More: Judge awards Trump lawyers nearly $300,000 in Stormy Daniels case
Karen Giorno, who was director of the Trump campaign in Florida, told The Post that Johnson’s story was “ridiculous” and that it “absolutely did not happen.”
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump, told The Post she was in front of Trump as left the RV and she did not see the alleged kiss.
Johnson, who was director of campaign outreach in Alabama during the primary and then worked in Florida during the general election, says in the lawsuit that both Bondi and Giorno were aware of, and amused by, the kiss. The lawsuit says she was “upset that Ms. Giorno and Ms. Bondi reacted this way.”
The lawsuit says Johnson was very upset and told her boyfriend and parents about the incident the same day. It said the story that she had gotten “a kiss from the boss” circulated quickly among campaign staff, and because the incident was treated “as some kind of joke,” Johnson felt “pressured to play it off.”
In October 2016, a 2005 recording surfaced of Trump boasting about groping and kissing women to an “Access Hollywood” correspondent. After hearing the tape, Johnson was “instantly transported back” to the incident in Tampa, according to the lawsuit.
“I just start kissing them,” Trump said of women in the recording. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
After hearing Trump’s words, the lawsuit says, Johnson felt “panicked, like she couldn’t breathe, as she realized that what Defendant Trump had done to her was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of predatory behavior towards women.”
More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct over the years, including eight women who have accused him of forcibly kissing them. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
More: Meet 19 women who claim affairs with Trump or accuse him of unwanted advances
After the “Access Hollywood” tape was made public, Johnson felt she needed to leave the campaign, the lawsuit says. On Oct. 12, 2016, she spoke to an attorney about the incident, and he told her she might have a case. On Oct. 16, she sent an email announcing her departure from the campaign, according to the lawsuit.
Johnson also began to see a therapist, the lawsuit says.
The Post obtained copies of therapist of Lisheyna Hurvitz’s notes from an Oct. 27 session with Johnson. According to those notes, Johnson was “having nightmares because of what happened.”
More: How Donald Trump’s explanation of his role with Michael Cohen and the hush money payments has changed
More: National Enquirer owner admits paying ex-Playboy model $150,000 to squelch story, help Trump campaign
But Johnson attended one of Trump’s inaugural balls in January 2017 and applied for two jobs in the administration, according to The Post. Johnson told The Post that not getting those jobs was not a factor in her decision to sue Trump.
Johnson praised Trump in a May 2017 radio interview, saying he is a “more incredible in person than I think you would even think as you see him on TV,” according to The Post. “He’s just the nicest guy” and “he treats everyone as if they are a part of his family.”
Her lawyer, Hassan Zavareei, told The Post she was saying what she thought the White House wanted to hear because she was still hoping to have her application to work at the U.S. Embassy in Portugal approved. He also said she was bound by an “oppressive” nondisclosure agreement.
The lawsuit also says the Trump campaign discriminated against Johnson, who is African-American, and others on the basis of race and gender.
“The campaign knew that it was underpaying Ms. Johnson relative to her white counterparts,” the lawsuit says.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany denied the assertion.
“The Trump campaign has never discriminated based on race, ethnicity, gender, or any other basis. Any allegation suggesting otherwise is off base and unfounded,” McEnany said.
Contributing: The Associated Press