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Rep. Trent Franks resigns after discussing surrogacy with staffers

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

PHOENIX — U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said Thursday he was resigning from Congress after he discussed surrogacy with at least two staffers.

In a statement, Franks said he decided to resign rather than face a “sensationalized trial by media” over the surrogacy discussions he had with the staffers.

“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,” he said.

Franks said he and his wife used a surrogate to give birth to the couple’s twins. They attempted to use another surrogate to have a third child but that woman had a miscarriage.

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The congressman said he “became insensitive” to how talk of the matter could affect others because of his familiarity with the topic.

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

Despite the resignation, Franks said he “never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”

His resignation will be effective Jan. 31.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that he told Franks to resign after learning of the surrogacy discussions.

In a brief statement, the Arizona Republican Party thanked Franks for his years of service.

Franks’ resignation made him the third person to leave Congress this week. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) resigned on Monday and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) followed suit on Thursday.

Both had been accused of sexual misconduct.

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.

He’s 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.”

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

Because Franks left his seat during the first session of Congress, House rules required his spot to be filled by a special election. Arizona law said that Gov. Doug Ducey must set a date for the special election within three days of Franks’ resignation becoming official.

Had he left during the second session, his seat may have been filled or left vacant until the next election, depending on the timing.

Franks’ departure will create another question mark in Arizona’s political landscape, as Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake announced in October he would not seek re-election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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