WASHINGTON — Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., announced his resignation Thursday evening as the House Ethics Committee announced it was opening an investigation into potential sexual misconduct.
Franks said in a statement that the incident being investigated had to do with his wife’s struggle with fertility and his approaching two women in his office about being a potential surrogate.
The Ethics Committee said that it was convening a subcommittee to determine if Franks “engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.”
The Arizona Republican released a lengthy statement Thursday evening, saying his resignation is effective on January 31. He cited the ethics investigation in his statement.
“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,” the statement read.
“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,” Franks said. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”
Franks and his wife used a surrogate for the birth of their twins eight years ago.
“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,” Franks said in the statement.
Franks’ resignation is the third announced this week as sexual harassment allegations have embroiled Capitol Hill. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced on the Senate floor Thursday that he will leave office at the end of the year. And Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said Tuesday that he was stepping down immediately. Both resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said that his office was made aware of in appropriate behavior toward a former staffer against Franks last Wednesday. Ryan’s general counsel investigated the matter and in the course of the probe came across a second woman with complaints. Ryan confronted Franks with the allegations and that he was recommending that the Ethics Committee open an investigation.
After discussions with the speaker, Franks decided to resign.
“The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House,” the statement from Ryan’s office said.
Franks is serving his eighth term in Congress and is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee. He is ardently anti-abortion and has spearheaded bills in the House to ban the procedure after 20 weeks, including the Pain Capable Unborn Children Protection Act.
Franks represents a solidly Republican district outside Phoenix that President Donald Trump won by 21 points in 2016. Franks was considering a run for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat, who announced in October that he would not seek re-election to the Senate next year.
If Franks leaves office more than six months from the next general election, Doug Ducey, the Republican governor of Arizona, would call for a special election to replace him.