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BREAKING NEWS

Ex-campaign aide alleges Trump kissed her without consent

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Image: President Donald Trump pauses during a rally at El Paso County Colis
President Donald Trump pauses during a rally at El Paso County Coliseum in El Paso, Texas on Feb. 11, 2019. -
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Leah Millis Reuters
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A former campaign aide for President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign alleges in a lawsuit Monday that the then-candidate kissed her without her consent.

Alva Johnson, 43, alleges in the suit that prior to an August 2016 campaign rally in Tampa, Florida, Trump singled her out and then forcibly kissed her — which the suit says amounts to common law battery — on a campaign recreational vehicle in the presence of other campaign aides.

She also claims gender and race discrimination against the Trump campaign, alleging in the lawsuit that she was paid less than her white or male colleagues despite her success organizing volunteers and planning rallies, among other duties.

In a statement Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed Johnson's allegation that Trump kissed her.

"This accusation is absurd on its face," Sanders said. "This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts."

In a separate statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany denied any discrimination against Johnson.

"The Trump campaign has never discriminated based on race, ethnicity, gender, or any other basis," McEnany said. "Any allegation suggesting otherwise is off base and unfounded."

Johnson is seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress and loss of income, among other alleged harm.

Against Trump, Johnson alleges that she turned her head to avoid his lips and the kiss landed on the side of her mouth. She said she "felt reduced to just another object" of Trump's "unwanted sexual attention," adding that she "was nothing more than a sexual object he felt entitled to dominate and humiliate," according to the 39-page suit.

Trump has faced allegations of sexual misconduct from more than a dozen women over the years, which he has repeatedly denied. This is the first time a woman has come forward since he took office.

The Washington Post, which first reported Johnson's allegations, said two witnesses to the incident identified by Johnson, then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Florida campaign director Karen Giorno, told the newspaper they did not see the alleged kiss.

"I'm a prosecutor, and if I saw something inappropriate, I would have said something," Bondi told the Post.

Giorno called the allegation "ridiculous," saying "that absolutely did not happen," the newspaper reported.

Johnson, an Alabama native, served as the campaign's director of outreach for that state as well as on campaign operations in Florida, court documents say.

Her lawsuit says she joined the campaign in January of 2016 because she thought Trump's business acumen would help poor black residents in her home state after feeling disillusioned by President Barack Obama, whom she voted for in 2008 and 2012.

The lawsuit also says she was not aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct that have been made against Trump over the years.

Johnson's lawsuit says that when the now-infamous "Access Hollywood" tape of Trump bragging about kissing and grabbing women by their genitals without their consentsurfaced in October 2016, she realized Trump's behavior toward her "was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of predatory behavior towards women" and "felt horrified and sick to her stomach."

Soon after, Johnson left the campaign, according to the lawsuit. She did not come forward at the time of the alleged incident because, contrary to her expectations, female volunteers expressed support for Trump and skepticism of the authenticity of the "Access Hollywood" tape, causing her "to fear that no one would believe or support her" if she came forward, the lawsuit says.