Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R) announced Friday he would resign from office effectively immediately, rather than waiting until January 31, 2018, as he had announced on Thursday. Franks resignation comes on the heels of a House Ethics Committee investigation that found he had asked two of his female staffers to be a surrogate for his child.
Subsequent reports from the Associated Press and Politico on Friday revealed that one of the women was offered upwards of $5 million dollars to act as his surrogate; one of the aides also claimed that the congressman had even suggested intercourse to impregnate her, an accusation which Franks has denied.
In Thursday night’s statement, however, Franks remained vague, leaning on his wife’s infertility to justify his sudden departure instead.
“My wife and I have long struggled with infertility,” he wrote. “We experienced three miscarriages. We pursued adoption on more than one occasion only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth. 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. 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 added, “I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress […].”
Full statement from @RepTrentFranks on leaving congress after Ethics Committee launched an investigation into asking two female staffers about becoming surrogates for his children. pic.twitter.com/NVpZbgAOUt
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 7, 2017
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 8, 2017
In a second statement released Friday, Franks cited his wife’s admittance to the hospital for an “ongoing ailment” as the reason for his immediate resignation.
“Last night my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment,” he wrote. “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.”
Minutes later, the AP and Politico published their stories.
Rather than letting the House Ethics Committee investigation run its course or offering a more detailed explanation for his departure and apologizing, Franks appeared to have used his wife’s “ailment” and previous infertility issues — both highly personal and unrelated to the accusations against him — to duck out of Congress before the details of his alleged inappropriate behavior could be made public.
It’s possible Franks thought that summoning up those things might spare him from humiliation or further media inquiry, but it comes at the expense of his wife, whose private struggles were put on display in her husband’s vague resignation statement. Franks had no reason to mention his wife’s three miscarriages, he didn’t have to detail her admittance to a hospital for an ongoing illness, yet he did — seemingly in a last-ditch effort to absolve himself of any guilt.
Franks has so far denied the allegations detailed in Politico’s report, stating on Friday that he had “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
According to Politico, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had a part in hastening Franks’ departure this week. Two weeks ago, Ryan was informed of inappropriate behavior on the part of Franks directed at a former staffer. In a statement, the speaker’s office clarified that Ryan’s staff had initially reached out to the former staffer and was able to verify the information in an interview last week. The staffer shared her story as well as the story of another staffer, which was verified by a third party. After Ryan was briefed on the matter, he filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee and asked Franks to resign.
A spokesperson for Ryan’s office declined to comment further on the speaker’s request that Franks’ resign ahead of the Ethics Committee’s full investigation, although the statement released on Thursday noted that Ryan had “found the allegations to be serious and requiring action.”
Rep. Franks office did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.