Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks Announces Resignation

Published: Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 3:31pm
Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 7:31pm

(Photo courtesy of Trent Franks)
Trent Franks

Republican U.S. Rep. Trent Franks says he’s resigning because he’s the subject of a House Ethics Committee review.

In a statement, Franks acknowledges he talked about surrogacy with two women who’d worked in his office, “making each feel uncomfortable.”

Franks asserts he’s never had or tried to have sexual contact with any of his staff.

Franks is a well-known social conservative and member of the far-right Freedom Caucus in the House. He won re-election last year with 69 percent of the vote. His district is in the northwest part of Maricopa County and includes Peoria and Surprise.

According to Arizona election law, a special election will be held to replace Franks. After the seat is officially vacant, Gov. Ducey must set a date for the primary and general elections.

In a statement, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that when he learned of the allegations, which he considered "serious and requiring action," he told the lawmaker he should resign.

Franks said he would step down effective Jan. 31, 2018.

In a one-page statement late Thursday, the Ethics panel said its members were examining whether Franks "engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment." The statement provided no further detail and noted that while it was establishing an ethics subcommittee, that didn't mean that any violations of law or House rules had occurred.

Franks was seen being comforted in the House chamber by several other Republicans. They included Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, Alabama's Robert Aderholt and fellow Arizonan Andy Biggs.

Asked for comment as he left the floor, Franks said, "I'll let the statement speak for itself."

Franks has been a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. He's a staunch social conservative who sponsored House-passed legislation to make it a crime for any person to perform an abortion if the age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.

Earlier Thursday, liberal Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced his resignation after facing allegations of sexual harassment by at least eight women. Franken said some of those accusations were false and said he remembered others differently than his accusers did. He said he'd depart in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned effective immediately. He also faced accusations from women of improper sexual behavior that he's contesting.

Franks drew a sharp response from Democrats during a 2013 House committee debate when he said "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." He sought to clarify the comment, saying later-term abortions linked to pregnancies caused by rape are infrequent.

He's a strong backer of President Donald Trump and has embraced some of his stances on social issues. Franks has harshly criticized some NFL players for not standing during the national anthem, calling them "arrogant and overpaid Lilliputians who dishonor America."

Franks represents a district encompassing suburbs north and west of Phoenix. He serves on the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees.

Before winning election to Congress, he served in the Arizona legislature and founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, an organization associated with Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family." The institute advocates for policies designed to protect children and families.

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