Former campaign staffer drops forcible kissing lawsuit against Trump


Alva Johnson, a former Trump campaign staffer, has decided to drop her lawsuit against President Trump. Back in February, Johnson claimed Trump forcibly kissed her against her will during a 2016 campaign stop in Alabama. Her lawsuit was tossed out in June by a judge who called it a “political statement.” However, the judge suggested Johnson could refile her complaint to get her day in court. Today, Johnson decided she won’t pursue it. From the Daily Beast:

“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.”…

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.”…

“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.”

A couple of points about this. First, when Johnson filed her case she made a very specific description of the alleged incident. Here’s a bit of CNN’s report from February:

While Trump was meeting with volunteers and signing autographs inside the RV, “Ms. Johnson noticed that Defendant Trump was watching her and appeared to be trying to make eye contact with her,” the lawsuit alleges.

After Trump was alerted by Secret Service that he was due for his next rally, she urged him “to go in there and ‘kick ass.’”

Trump then allegedly grasped her hand and praised her efforts.

“As Defendant Trump spoke, he tightened his grip on Ms. Johnson’s hand and leaned towards her. He moved close enough that she could feel his breath on her skin,” the lawsuit states. “Ms. Johnson suddenly realized that Defendant Trump was trying to kiss her on the mouth, and 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.”

The judge tossed her initial complaint in June but what really stopped it dead was the video which the Trump campaign released in July. While it does show a kiss that lasts approximately one second, the rest of what Johnson said about the kiss in the initial lawsuit appears completely inaccurate. Trump wasn’t looking at her in the seconds before the kiss. He was looking elsewhere and she seemed to be trying to get his attention by saying, “I’ve left my family for eight months for you.” At that point, he turned and grabbed her shoulders, but he did not try to kiss her on the mouth. He moves around to give her a quick peck on the cheek. She did not turn her head to the right to avoid him as she’d claimed. In fact, had she turned to the right she would have turned into the kiss. She appears to be pursing her lips to return his kiss.

After the video was released, Johnson’s lawyer claimed it vindicated her story: “the video shows exactly what Ms. Johnson alleged happened to her: an unwanted kiss from Defendant Trump.” But Trump’s lawyers had the better side of the argument. “The two have a very brief, innocent interaction that is mutual — and not forcible,” Charles Harder said.

Here’s the video. You may have to review it several times because the entire interaction is over in a matter of seconds. For me, the key point is that there’s no attempt by Trump to kiss anyone on the mouth. This was clearly a peck on the cheek. That may still have been unwanted, but as far as intent goes it’s not at all the same thing as what Johnson described. This looks like an attempt to express personal gratitude to a supporter who worked hard for the campaign. On the creepiness scale, with 1 being kissing your grandma’s cheek and 10 being Joe Biden, I’d give this a two.

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