AZ GOP Rep. Trent Franks announces resignation over possible sexual harassment allegations

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Rep. Trent Franks. (Source: Wikipedia.org) Rep. Trent Franks. (Source: Wikipedia.org)
FILE - In this March 24, 2017, file photo, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Source: AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) FILE - In this March 24, 2017, file photo, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Source: AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Rep. Trent Franks said he will step down after allegations of possible sexual harassment after he reportedly talked about surrogacy with two female staffers.

The Republican from Arizona made the announcement in a statement on Thursday that he will leave Congress on Jan. 31, 2018.

According to Franks' statement, which can be read below, he and his wife were looking for a surrogate for a third child and he talked to two female staffers about it, which made them feel uncomfortable.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

"Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others," Franks said.

The eight-term lawmaker, a staunch conservative and fierce opponent of abortion, denied ever having "physically intimidated, coerced or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff."

According to a statement from House Speaker Paul Ryan, the claims were made to Ryan on Dec. 6. Franks didn't deny the allegations and Ryan told Franks he should resign, the statement said.

An Ethics Committee started the investigation last Friday into the discussions between Franks and the two staffers. The panel also said it will investigate Franks to determine if he engaged in "retaliation for opposing sexual harassment."

Ethics is unlikely to proceed in light of the resignation.

Ryan accepted the letter of resignation on Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, Franks was seen being consoled 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 said he wanted to get out in front of the story.

"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," Franks said.

The resignation was first reported by Roll Call.

He served in Congress since 2003 and represents Arizona's Eighth Congressional District.

There will be a special election to decide who fills his seat. It will be held within three months.

"Trent Franks has always been one of the more conservatives members of Congress," said Barrett Marson with Political Media. "I'm sure it will be a conservative person who wins this race to replace him."

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

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.

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.

Franks is 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."

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.

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 that he remembered others differently than his accusers did. He said he'd depart in a few weeks.?

[RELATED: Combative Franken quits, points to GOP tolerance of Trump]

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

Below is the full statement from Franks:

"I have always tried to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere for every last person who has ever worked in my congressional office. It is my deepest conviction that there are many staffers, former and present, who would readily volunteer to substantiate this fact. 

"Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff. 

"However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about.

"My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. 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.

"When our twins were approximately 3 years old, we made a second attempt with a second surrogate who was also not genetically related to the child. Sadly, that pregnancy also resulted in miscarriage.

"We continued to have a desire to have at least one additional sibling, for which our children had made repeated requests. 

"Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.

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

"We are in an unusual moment in history – there is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims.  

"But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, 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 as of January 31st, 2018. It is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting. I hope my resignation will remain distinct from the great gains we have made. My time in Congress serving my constituents, America and the Constitution is and will remain one of God’s greatest gift to me in life."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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