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Former Trump Campaign Staffer Suing President Over 'Unwanted' Kiss Shown In Video

ryan.ford 11 Jul 2019

In a lawsuit brought by former campaign staffer Alva Johnson, the lawyers for President Trump are being accused of playing dirty tricks with evidence.

Johnson, who worked as an outreach staffer on the Trump 2016 campaign and who managed a fleet of RVs used by the campaign, is suing over what she calls an unwanted kiss from the president during a rally in Tampa in 2016.

At the center of the dispute is a 15-second video taken on a cell phone that both sides agree captured the incident in question.

One of the lawyers representing Trump, Charles Harder, uploaded the video Wednesday and cited it in pleadings filed with the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit.

He says the video proves Johnson's lawsuit is "unmeritorious and frivolous," according to Politico.

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In previous court filings, Johnson has described the exchange in detail.

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She said that Trump "moved close enough that she could feel his breath on her skin" and "suddenly realized...Trump was trying to kiss her on the mouth," Business Insider reported.

She said that she "attempted to avoid this by turning her head to the right" but "Trump kissed her anyways...on the corner of her mouth."

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However, the Trump team says the video shows a much more innocent encounter.

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"The Video shows that the Plaintiff's allegations in the Complaint that Mr. Trump 'forcibly' kissed her, and kissed her 'on the mouth,' are entirely false," Harder wrote.

"In watching the Video, the only conclusion a reasonable person could reach is that the exchange was an innocent moment between a dedicated campaign staffer and the candidate for whom she was working."

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While the president's lawyers claim the video exonerates him, Johnson's lawyers also see it as helpful to her case.

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"We are gratified and pleased that we finally have proof what Ms. Johnson has been alleging in this lawsuit," said lawyer Hassan Zavareei. "It is basically exactly what Ms. Johnson has been saying."

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Refuting the Trump team's downplaying of the exchange in the video, Zavareei said that it's far from innocent.

"I don’t regard it as innocuous. ... Does it look dramatic? No. That does not mean it wasn’t a serious battery. It’s a battery because she didn’t want it to happen. It’s not an appropriate thing to do to another person."

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If a court filing, documents show that, before Trump's lawyers uploaded the video, Johnson's lawyers think the Trump team took some effort to prevent them from seeing the video and may have altered it.

In the filing, Johnson's lawyers described an attempt by the Trump team to "alter a video of Defendant Trump kissing Ms. Johnson, hide the video within eight hours of unrelated video footage, and sandbag Ms. Johnson with the video at her deposition. Notwithstanding Defendants' efforts to mischaracterize the video to the Court, the video shows exactly what Ms. Johnson alleged happened to her: an unwanted kiss from Defendant Trump."

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In addition to burying the 15-second clip within eight hours of video, Johnson's lawyers also say the Trump team "stripped this important video of its metadata."

"Without the appropriate metadata for the video, Ms. Johnson is unable to determine who created the video, when it was created, and other important information about its origins."

Former campaign volunteer Brian Hayes said in a legal declaration that he was in the RV during the exchange and took the video on his phone.

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Zavareei also says that the video contradicts many claims by Trump advisers and aides who have denied her account.

For example, according to The New Yorker, Trump Florida campaign chief Karen Giorno said "I don't even recall Alva being on the RV," and yet both Alva and Giorno can both be seen in the clip.

For his part, Trump has also denied any involvement. In a personal declaration submitted by his lawyers, he said "I do not know plaintiff Johnson or recall having any interactions with her."

h/t Politico, Business Insider

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