The former Trump campaign staffer who accused the president of forcibly kissing her during an August 2016 rally has decided to drop her lawsuit.
“I’m fighting against a person with unlimited resources, and repeatedly the judicial system has failed to find fault in his behavior,” Alva Johnson, 44, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “That’s a huge mountain to climb.”
Johnson initially filed her lawsuit in February, claiming that Trump grabbed her and leaned in to kiss her on the lips in an RV during the Tampa event, and that she turned her head at the last minute to avoid the “super-creepy and inappropriate” encounter, causing him to plant the kiss on her cheek instead.
She also accused Trump of gender and race pay discrimination.
Then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Johnson’s account at the time of the suit’s filing, claiming the kiss “never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eyewitness accounts.”
When video evidence of the encounter was reported by Politico in July, lawyers for Trump and Johnson both claimed the footage vindicated their clients. President Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, posted the 15-second clip online and submitted it in court documents as part of discovery in the case. Harder said in those documents that the recording proved Johnson’s suit was “unmeritorious and frivolous,” calling the exchange “an innocent moment between a dedicated campaign staffer and the candidate for whom she was working.”
Johnson, who has said she previously met Trump twice before, can be heard saying in the video: “We’re going to get you in the White House; I'll see you in February.”
In the same court filings, Trump’s attorneys also included a brief, personal declaration from the president saying he did not remember ever meeting Johnson. “I do not know plaintiff Alva Johnson or recall having any interactions with her,” he said.
But Johnson’s lawyer, Hassan Zavareei, said on Wednesday in a statement to The Daily Beast that the video “shows Trump grabbing Alva by the shoulders, pulling her into him, and kissing her in front of numerous co-workers and others” and that it proved Johnson was “telling the truth about what her employer did to her.”
Zavareei called Trump “the most powerful sexual predator on the face of the Earth,” in light of the more than a dozen other women who have come forward with allegations of misconduct against Trump, including attempted rape, groping, and forcible kisses.
Though Johnson doesn’t appear shaken in the video, she has repeatedly said that she did not fully appreciate the interaction until she heard the now-infamous audio recording from the Access Hollywood tape in October 2016, when Trump bragged that he used his fame to forcibly kiss and grab women “by the pussy.”
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them,” said Trump, in the 2005 footage. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“Once the Access Hollywood tape came out, I knew that it wasn’t just something that he did 15 years ago, that it was still his behavior, that he thinks he can violate your personal space, that he can kiss women without permission,” Johnson recalled on Wednesday.
After she filed the lawsuit, Johnson said she had to make “a big adjustment” to the onslaught of “nasty comments and having your entire life under a microscope.”
“I think people forget that I was at work. It’s absurd to think that it was mutual,” she continued. “He’s a big guy. You should keep your hands to yourself, you should keep your lips to yourself.”
Going public with her allegations “was very scary because a lot of his supporters are fanatics,”Johnson said. “But I’m proud of myself for standing up—not only for myself—but for other women.”
“I think we’ve become kind of desensitized to his racism, to the misogyny,” said Johnson. “That’s a part of his MO. We are overwhelmed with the amount of absurd things that happen.”
Johnson said she was surprised that so many people sided with Trump after the video surfaced.
“He has proven to be great at propaganda,” she said. “They do a great job of changing the narrative, even when we see things with our own eyes.”
In a statement on Thursday, President Trump’s attorney Charles Harder said Johnson’s decision to drop the case “represents total victory for President Trump, and fully vindicates him of Johnson’s false accusations.”
Harder also said that the president is “weighing” his legal options over Johnson’s alleged breaches of her non-disclosure agreement with the campaign, citing her statements both in and outside of court as examples.
“Just as the president defeated the Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit and obtained an order requiring her to pay his legal fees, so too should Alva Johnson reimburse the President’s legal fees and costs incurred here,” said Harder.
In a separate statement to The Daily Beast, Harder added that he took exception to the characterization that Johnson was sparring in a David vs. Goliath-style fight.
“Johnson had the backing of a political organization that put 8 lawyers on her case and spent over a million dollars in just a few months,” said Harder. “The judge still dismissed her case, and she gave it up, not because of resources, but because she had zero evidence to support her false claims—all evidence showed there was no battery and no discrimination.”
Johnson said that her case didn’t get a “fair shake” from U.S. District Judge William Jung, who dismissed the suit on June 14 but allowed her to redraft her complaint if she still wished to pursue legal action against Trump.
“As currently stated, the complaint presents a political lawsuit, not a tort and wages lawsuit,” Jung wrote. “If [Johnson] wishes to make a political statement or bring a claim for political purposes, this is not the forum.”
Jung—a Trump appointee who was first nominated by Obama—wrote that Johnson’s case would have its “fair day in court” if she made the appropriate changes. He also allowed discovery to continue, which is why Trump’s attorneys shared the video of the encounter in July.
But Johnson said she feels the fight is over.
“I am very proud that I fought,” she said. “I will continue to remain an outspoken advocate for women and for the injustices against women.”
“I do still believe in humanity.”