Trump ‘forcibly kissed’ ex-campaign staffer, new suit claims

Donald Trump has said that he could sexually assault women without repercussions due to his status. (Bloomberg pic)

NEW YORK: A former campaign staffer for President Donald Trump said in a federal lawsuit that he “forcibly kissed” her before a rally in Florida she helped plan, adding to similar claims by more than a dozen women in recent years.

The suit by Alva Johnson, an African-American woman who served as a senior campaign worker, claims Trump grasped her hand tightly and tried to kiss her on the mouth in a recreational vehicle before a rally in Tampa in Aug 2016.

The complaint, filed Monday in Tampa, also claims Johnson was illegally underpaid by the campaign because of her gender and race.

Johnson’s complaint quotes remarks that were captured on the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged in a private conversation that he could sexually assault women and kiss them without permission and get away with it because he was “a star.”

“This is exactly what the defendant Trump did to Ms Johnson,” the complaint states.

Trump viewed Johnson as “nothing more than a sexual object he felt entitled to dominate and humiliate,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit includes a claim of battery and seeks unspecified financial damages from Trump and his campaign.

“This accusation is absurd on its face,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

“This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eyewitness accounts.”

Johnson, an Alabama native with experience in event planning and human resources, voted twice for former President Barack Obama but decided his administration hadn’t improved the condition of African-Americans in her state, according to the suit.

Johnson was drawn to Trump by his business background and her stepfather’s connection to a campaign staffer, who invited her to meet the candidate at a 2015 rally in Birmingham.

When she approached Trump at the event, he “looked her up and down and said, ‘Oh, beautiful, beautiful, fantastic,’” according to the suit.

“Despite this uncomfortable interaction, Ms Johnson believed that if she went to work for the campaign, she could establish appropriate boundaries with defendant Trump,” according to the suit.

“At the time, she did not know of the many other allegations of his predatory behaviour.”

Johnson was paid US$4,000 a month in late 2016, while several white male staffers who were part of the same “national strike team” and who did the same or similar work were paid as much as US$10,000 a month, according to the suit.

The Washington Post reported that two witnesses cited by Johnson, including then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, didn’t recall seeing the alleged kiss.

The newspaper also reported that Johnson had spoken “glowingly” about Trump in a radio interview as recently as May 2017.