Franks to resign after discussing surrogacy with his subordinates
WASHINGTON – Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who is among the most conservative members of the House, said he would resign his seat after House officials learned that he had asked two female employees to bear his children as surrogates.
Franks’ announcement came as the House ethics committee said it would create a special subcommittee to investigate Franks for conduct “that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.”
His resignation, which Franks said is effective Jan. 31, will end the ethics investigation.
Franks said in his statement that the investigation concerns his “discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable.”
WhileFranks’statementleft the circumstances of the “discussion” murky, three Republicans familiar with the allegations said that he had asked the staffers, who worked for him at the time but have since left his office, if they would serve as surrogate mothers for his children. A spokesman for Franks did not respond to a request for comment on that claim.
In his statement, Franks said he never “physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
“However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable,” Franks explained in his statement that he and his wife have long struggled with infertility. After having twins with a surrogate, the couple sought additional children, he said.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s office said in a statement Thursday that Ryan, R-Wis., had been briefed on “credible claims of misconduct” by Franks last week.
Franks did not deny the allegations when Ryan confronted him, according to the speaker’s statement. Ryan told Franks he should resign, and said he would refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, his statement said.
The Franks revelations came on the same day that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., resigned his seat following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and as the House Ethics Committee opened a separate probe into Rep. Blake Farenthold, RTexas.
The committee initially launched an investigation into Farenthold in September 2015, but it was “significantly delayed” because the committee could not get “key witnesses other than Representative Farenthold” to testify, according to the committee’s statement.
Farenthold’s former communications director, Lauren Greene, accused Farenthold in 2014 of making sexually charged comments designed to gauge whether she was interested in a sexual relationship. Greene filed suit through the formal complaint process with Congress’ Office of Compliance.
It was revealed last week that Farenthold used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle the lawsuit. Farenthold has denied wrongdoing in the case.