Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said he will resign from Congress effective immediately, rather than next month as he originally announced Thursday evening. The announcement came shortly before a report that the lawmaker offered a female staffer $5 million to act as a surrogate for him and his wife.
What did Franks say?
In a statement, Franks said his decision to resign Friday was spurred by his wife’s health.
"Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C., due to an ongoing ailment,” Franks said. “After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8th, 2017."
What are the allegations against Franks?
Soon after Franks made the announcement, The Associated Press reported that a former aide to Franks, 60, said the eight-term lawmaker asked her to be a surrogate for his child, and offered her $5 million to do so.
The AP reported that the former staffer said Franks asked at least four times if she’d be willing to act as a surrogate for him and his wife in exchange for money.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement Thursday, “Last Wednesday, the speaker was briefed on credible claims of misconduct by Rep. Trent Franks”:
He found the allegations to be serious and requiring action. The next day, the speaker presented Rep. Franks with the allegations, which he did not deny. The speaker told Rep. Franks that he intended to refer the allegations directly to the House Ethics Committee and told him that he should resign from Congress. The allegations were filed with the Ethics Committee last Friday. And today, the speaker accepted a letter of resignation. The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House.
In a lengthy statement issued Thursday evening, Franks said, "I have always tried to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere for every last person who has ever worked in my congressional office. It is my deepest conviction that there are many staffers, former and present, who would readily volunteer to substantiate this fact.”
Franks added, "Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
He continued to say that he and his wife “have long struggled with infertility,” adding that they experienced three miscarriages and tried and failed to adopt a child before pursuing surrogacy.
"A wonderful and loving lady, to whom we will be forever grateful, acted as a gestational surrogate for our twins and was able to carry them successfully to live birth,” Franks said. “The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos. My son and daughter are unspeakable gifts of God that have brought us our greatest earthly happiness in the 37 years we have been married.”
He said they tried surrogacy again for another child, but “sadly, that pregnancy also resulted in miscarriage.”
"Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks said.
"I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”
He said undergoing a House Ethics investigation might spur “distorted and sensationalized versions of this story” so “rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media” so he would vacate his office.
Franks initially said he intended to resign on Jan. 31.
Politico noted that the resignation will prompt a special election in Arizona’s 8th District, an area west of Phoenix.