Arizona Rep. Trent Franks allegedly made unwanted advances toward female staffers in his office and retaliated against one who rebuffed him, according to House GOP sources with knowledge of a complaint against him.
The allegations, which reached Speaker Paul Ryan and top GOP leaders in recent days, led to Franks’ sudden resignation this week. Franks originally announced that he would resign on Jan. 31, 2018. But just hours after POLITICO inquired about the allegations, he sped up his resignation and left office Friday.
The sources said Franks approached two female staffers about acting as a potential surrogate for him and his wife, who has struggled with fertility issues for years. But the aides were concerned that Franks was asking to have sexual relations with them. It was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization. Franks opposes abortion rights as well as procedures that discard embryos.
A former staffer also alleged that Franks tried to persuade a female aide that they were in love by having her read an article that described how a person knows they’re in love with someone, the sources said. One woman believed she was the subject of retribution after rebuffing Franks. While she enjoyed access to the congressman before the incident, that access was revoked afterward, she told Republican leaders.
Franks denied all of the allegations through a spokesperson on Friday. In a statement Thursday, Franks acknowledged discussing surrogacy with his staffers and apologized for making them feel uncomfortable. But he said he “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
Also on Friday, the Associated Press reported that Franks offered to pay an aide $5 million to carry his child and pressured her relentlessly on the matter.
New details about the controversy surrounding Franks come as sexual harassment allegations have engulfed Capitol Hill. Franks became the third lawmaker this week alone to announce that he will step down after being accused of sexual misconduct, following Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).