Alva Johnson, a staffer on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has filed a lawsuit against the president, in which she accuses him of kissing her without her consent ahead of a rally in Florida months before the election.
“I can still see his lips coming straight for my face,” she told The Washington Post. “I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it.”
In an interview with the Post, the 43-year-old mother of four claims Trump grabbed her hand and leaned in to kiss her on the lips. Johnson claims she turned her head to avoid the contact, with Trump’s lips landing on the side of her mouth.
She called the interaction—which is alleged to have taken place at a rally in Tampa on Aug. 24, 2016—“super-creepy and inappropriate.”
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the allegation was “absurd on its face” and added: “This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eyewitness accounts.”
Johnson is seeking unspecified damages for emotional pain and suffering. She filed the federal lawsuit in Florida on Monday, which also alleges that the campaign discriminated against her by paying her less than her white male counterparts.
She told the paper that she’s been considering coming forward for a long time, but said she’s nervous about a backlash from his supporters. “I’ve tried to let it go… You want to move on with your life. I don’t sleep. I wake up at 4 in the morning looking at the news. I feel guilty. The only thing I did was show up for work one day.”
Trump’s campaign came to a screeching halt on Oct. 7, 2016, when now-infamous video outtakes of an Access Hollywood appearance in 2005 hit the internet. He was caught on tape saying: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. 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.”
Johnson alleges that those words were real life for her, just months earlier in August. In the lawsuit, she recounts the incident and alleges that she told Trump: “I’ve been on the road for you since March, away from my family,” to which he replied “You’re doing an awesome job. Go in there and kick ass.”
Trump then allegedly grabbed her by the hand and leaned in. She described the moment to the Post, saying: “Oh, my God, I think he’s going to kiss me… He’s coming straight for my lips. So I turn my head, and he kisses me right on corner of my mouth, still holding my hand the entire time. Then he walks on out.”
According to the lawsuit, Johnson is a “highly accomplished African-American woman who served as a senior staffer” for Trump’s presidential campaign. She was, the suit claims, “an integral part of the campaign’s success and was repeatedly recognized for her contributions.”
“In the moment that Defendant Trump forcibly kissed her, Ms. Johnson, a highly successful and widely respected campaign staffer, felt reduced to just another object,” according to the suit, which refers to the incident as a “humiliating violation, which amounts to common law battery.”
Allegations of misconduct by President Trump span from the 1980s to present day. They include groping on airlines and in nightclubs, several forcible kisses, as well as peering into underage girls’ dressing rooms and the attempted rape of a makeup artist.
Johnson’s attorney, Hassan A. Zavareei, released a statement on Monday noting that, “after Trump’s victory, Ms. Johnson tried to move on with her life.”
“But when she saw what her work on the campaign had wrought—a president who mocks the #MeToo movement and undermines the dignity of the office with his sexist and racist behavior—she decided to seek justice for herself and the many other women victimized by this sexual predator,” Zavareei continued.
“She is a brave woman and I am proud to represent her in this important lawsuit.”