US Lawmaker quits amid ‘surrogacy’ inquiry

Trent Franks’s announcement comes after an ethics committee said they would investigate him.

Arizona Republican Trent Franks has said he will resign amid an ethics investigation into conversations he had with female staff about surrogacy.

The announcement came after a congressional panel said it was opening an inquiry into sexual harassment claims against Mr Franks.

The lawmaker said he discussed surrogacy with two female aides when he and his wife were facing infertility.

He is the third congressional lawmaker to resign in three days.

“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,” the 60-year-old Republican said in a statement on Thursday.

“I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”

Mr Frank’s statement did not specifically mentioned whether he had asked his female staff members to bear his child.

His resignation comes after the US House of Representatives Ethics committee said they would open an investigation into an allegation “that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment”.

In his statement, Mr Franks said that he has never “physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff”.

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a statement that he had advised the congressman to resign after he presented him with the allegations.

“The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House,” Mr Ryan’s office said on Thursday.

Mr Franks and his wife Josephine had struggled with infertility and used a surrogate to carry their two twins, he explained in his statement.

The fiercely anti-abortion congressman added that the children were conceived in a ‘pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos”.

Mr Franks said that due to his “familiarity” with surrogacy, he “became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others”.

“I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”

Former Franks staffer Rebeccah Heinrichs said on Fox News Thursday that the congressman had “talked about surrogacy” and had “uncomfortable conversations” in the office.

But she added that she was never made to feel uncomfortable and “have never seen any slightest bit of sexual harassment or intimidation”.

Mr Franks joined congress in 2003 and has been a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

His resignation will take effect on 31 January 2018.

The House Ethics Committee also announced on Thursday they are investigating Texas Republican Blake Farenthold amid claims of sexual misconduct against him by a former member of staff.

It was revealed last week that Mr Farenthold used $84,000 (£67,000) of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit with his former communications director.

Resignations of two Democratic lawmakers have roiled Washington this week. Democratic congressman John Conyers announced on Tuesday that he will step down after multiple aides accused him of sexual misconduct.

Hours before Mr Frank’s announcement, Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken said he too was resigning over claims of groping after several Democrats called on him to step down.

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