Trump Campaign Staffer Claims He Kissed Her Against Her Will in 2016: 'I Can Still See His Lips'

"This accusation is absurd on its face," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told PEOPLE in a statement. "This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eyewitness accounts"

Alva Johnson
Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

A former campaign staffer for President Donald Trump claims in a newly filed lawsuit that he forcibly kissed her in Florida in August 2016 — an allegation the White House dismissed as “absurd on its face.”

“I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” Alva Johnson told The Washington Post in a Monday article about the alleged incident, on Aug. 24, 2016.

“I can still see his lips coming straight for my face,” Johnson said.

According to the Post, which first reported news of Johnson’s complaint, she is the first woman to publicly claim Trump sexually mistreated them while in office or while he was campaigning for president.

Previous allegations against Trump from more than a dozen women date back decades. He has vigorously denied them all.

Johnson, a 43-year-old mother of four, said she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, according to her federal lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to PEOPLE by her attorney’s office. But she became interested in Trump because of what she thought he might be able to do for the economic opportunities for black people in Alabama, where she lived.

Initially the director of outreach and coalitions there, she later joined a campaign “strike team” to work in Florida, a key battleground state for the presidency, the Post reported.

According to Johnson’s suit, Trump allegedly kissed her while on an RV ahead of a campaign rally in Florida on Aug. 24, 2016: “He moved close enough that she could feel his breath on her skin. … Trump was trying to kiss her on the mouth, and [Johnson] attempted to avoid this by turning her head to the right. Defendant Trump kissed her anyway, and the kiss landed on the corner of her mouth.”

Johnson’s suit states that there were multiple other people in and around the RV.

Though the Post confirmed that she contemporaneously told her parents and boyfriend about the alleged kiss that same day, two of the women she said were witnesses — former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Karen Giorno, a state-level director on the campaign, both supporters of the president — told the Post they did not see a kiss.

“This accusation is absurd on its face,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told PEOPLE in a statement. “This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eyewitness accounts.”

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On Monday, Johnson filed her suit in Tampa against both Trump and his campaign seeking unspecified damages for three allegations: that he committed battery via the unwanted kiss, that his campaign paid its female staffers less than male counterparts and that Johnson was paid less than white campaign workers.

A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign told the Post that the claim Johnson’s pay was different based on her race was “off-base and unfounded.” (The campaign did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.)

Johnson is seeking a jury trial, according to her suit.

“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 of Defendant Trump’s unwanted sexual attention,” her suit states. “Ms. Johnson brings this lawsuit against Defendant Trump for that humiliating violation, which amounts to common law battery, and seeks assistance from the Court to put a stop to his predatory conduct.

Johnson’s lawyer Hassan A. Zavareei was not immediately available for further comment; a spokesman for his office declined to make Johnson available for an interview.

In a statement, Zavareei said, “Alva Johnson has made the very difficult and courageous choice to come forward today and hold Donald Trump accountable for his sexual predation. … Trump has bragged about his sexual misconduct; now it is time for him to defend himself in court.”

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Former PEOPLE Natasha Stoynoff is among the women who said Trump assaulted them. She said she was attacked by him while reporting a story at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in 2005.

In a first-person account published in PEOPLE in 2016, Stoynoff recalled the incident while alone with Trump at a room in his club. “Within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat,” she said then.

Johnson’s suit references Stoynoff’s story and accusations by other women that the president has forcibly kissed them — which the suit describes as “a pattern of predatory behavior towards women.”

Some of Trump’s accusers came forward after now-notorious audio surfaced in October 2016 of Trump bragging while on the set of Access Hollywood about touching women without their consent.

“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,” he said then, adding, “Grab ’em by the p—-. You can do anything.”

Hearing the Access Hollywood tape was a turning point for Johnson, she told the Post.

“I felt sick to my stomach,” she said. “That was what he did to me.”

Johnson left the campaign within days. According to a therapist’s notes that were provided to the Post, she was also having nightmares. Still, she attended the president’s inaugural ball and applied for positions in his administration.

In June, she hired Zavareei, her attorney in her suit against Trump, the Post reports.

Johnson’s mother spoke with the Post and remembers her as being “hysterical” later the same day as the alleged kiss, when the two discussed it.

Bondi, whom Johnson said was a witness, said the opposite.

“Do I recall seeing anything inappropriate? One hundred percent no,” she told the Post. “I’m a prosecutor, and if I saw something inappropriate, I would have said something.”

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