Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who asked staffers if they would bear his child as a surrogate, says he will resign
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz), left, during a hearing on the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on May 23, 2013. (Matt McClain/THE WASHINGTON POST) December 7 at 8:33 PM
Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who is among the most conservative members of the House, said he would resign his seat after House officials learned that he had asked two female employees to bear his child as a surrogate.
Franksâs announcement came as the House Ethics Committee said it would create a special subcommittee to investigate Franks for conduct âthat constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opp osing sexual harassment.â
His resignation, which Franks said is effective Jan. 31, will end the ethics investigation.
Franks said in his statement that the investigation concerns his âdiscussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable.â
While Franksâs statement left the circumstances of the âdiscussionâ murky, three Republicans familiar with the allegations said that he had asked the staffers, who worked for him at the time but have since left his office, if they would serve as surrogate mothers for his child. A spokesman for Franks did not respond to a request for comment on that claim.
In his statement, Franks said he never âphysically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.â
âHowever, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recentl y, made certain individuals uncomfortable,â Franks said, adding, âI deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.â
Franks explained in his statement that he and his wife have long struggled with infertility. After having twins with a surrogate, the couple sought additional children, he said.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryanâs office said in a statement Thursday that Ryan (R-Wis.) had been briefed on âcredible claims of misconductâ by Franks last week, after the House general counsel was contacted about the allegations and investigated them.
Franks did not deny the allegations when Ryan confronted him, according to the speakerâs statement. Ryan told Franks he should resign, and said he would refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, his statement said.
âThe speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House,â the statement said.
The Franks revelations came on the same day that Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) resigned his seat after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and as the House Ethics Committee opened a separate probe into Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.).
The committee initially launched an investigation into Farenthold in September 2015, but it was âsignificantly delayedâ because the committee could not get âkey witnesses other than Representative Farentholdâ to testify, according to the committeeâs statement.
Farentholdâs former communications director, Lauren Greene, accused Farenthold in 2014 of making sexually charged comments designed to gauge whether she was interested in a sexual relationship. Greene filed suit through the formal complaint process with Congressâs Office of Compliance.
It was revealed last week that Farenthold used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle the lawsuit. Farenthold has denied wrongdoing in the case.
This week, Greene spoke publicly about her experience for the first time since making the accusation. In interviews with CNN and Politico, she described the significant professional backlash she faced after filing a lawsuit against Farenthold.
Greeneâs attorney told Politico on Thursday that the House Ethics Committee has requested that Greene cooperate with the investigation and appear before the panel. The Ethics Committee had requested to interview her over a year ago, but she declined, wanting to move on from the matter, her attorney Les Alderman told Politico.
Farenthold said in a statement Thursday that he is ârelievedâ the House Ethics Committee will continue investigating the matter, saying he is âconfident this matter will once and for all be settled and resolved.â
Franks has served in the House since 2003 and is known as a fierce opponent of legal abortion, recently sponsoring a bill banning abortions after 20-week gestation that passed the House. He is also an outspoken critic of the Senate âs filibuster rule, blaming it for blocking conservative bills.
Franks is also a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a hard-right faction that has often clashed with Republican leaders.
He considered a run for Senate in 2012 but dropped out suddenly. He continued as chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee and as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
While Franks was on the floor Thursday voting on a stopgap funding bill and other measures, he appeared to be consoled by a number of fellow Republicans. At one point, Franks and four colleagues locked arms and bowed their heads in an apparent prayer.
Franks said he was compelled to resign after concluding that he would be unable to endure the ethics probe âbefore distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation.â
âRather than allow a sensationalize d trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018,â he said. âIt is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting.â
Arizonaâs 8th Congressional District, which stretches northwest of Phoenix, leans Republican by 13 points, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. President Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the district by 21 points last year; Franks did not face a Democratic opponent.
Under Arizona state law, a special election must be called if there is a vacancy more than six months before a regularly scheduled election.
Names of potential Republican successors include Kimberly Yee, a state representative currently running for state treasurer, and Phil Lovas, a former state representative, according to multiple Arizona GOP operatives.
Ed OâKeefe contributed to this article.Source: Google News