Rep. Trent Franks announced last night that he is resigning from Congress after the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into what Franks described as inappropriate “discussion of surrogacy” with female staffers. Some reports have said that the Arizona Republican asked his subordinates to act as surrogates for him and his wife.
Update: AP reports that one Franks aide says “the congressman repeatedly pressed her to carry his child, at one point offering her $5 million to act as a surrogate.” Politico says that according to sources, two aides who Franks approached about asking as surrogates “were concerned that Franks was asking to have sexual relations with them.”
Franks is one of the farthest-right members of Congress, equally comfortable with the Religious Right, anti-Muslim extremists and birthers. He is best known for his leadership in the anti-choice movement, including serving on Donald Trump’s “pro-life advisory council” during the 2016 campaign.
In his 14 years in Congress, Franks has been at the forefront of anti-choice legislation. He is an original cosponsor of a fetal personhood bill and is also a cosponsor and advocate of a “heartbeat” bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Franks has been promoting the heartbeat bill along with its originator, Janet Porter, a longtime ally of Franks who has recently been in the national spotlight for giving a pair of insane interviews on behalf of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. (Franks also appeared in Janet Porter’s 2015 documentary “Light Wins,” about how gay rights will lead to the criminalization of Christianity.)
Franks has repeatedly sponsored a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, though he temporarily derailed the effort in 2013 when he objected to an amendment adding a rape and incest exception by saying that “the instance of rape resulting in pregnancy is very low.” He blamed opposition to his bill on “evil” forces.
Franks also repeatedly introduced a bill that would ban race- and sex-selective abortions, which he admitted was a messaging strategy in his campaign to ban abortion altogether. Franks once said, according to a Religious Right group, that “if I die and Roe v. Wade stands … I will die a failure.”
At a 2009 conference hosted by Porter and other Religious Right leaders, Franks memorably called President Obama an “enemy of humanity” because of his support for abortion rights. In 2015, he warned that God would judge America for legal abortion.
Franks has repeatedly compared abortion to slavery, claimed that late-term abortion is “the worst human rights atrocity in the history of the United States” and once said that African-Americans were better off under slavery than with legal abortion in today’s America. He said that the civil war started because “the left was so committed” to slavery.
Franks, beloved of the Religious Right, once told a conservative Christian audience that the U.S. Constitution is “the greatest Gospel outreach the world has ever known” and that they must “do everything that you possibly can to make sure that the leaders in Washington are leaders that honor God” and has warned that the “secular left” would lead to the downfall of America.
He called for impeaching Obama for his refusal to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and once said that marriage equality is “not only is a complete undermining of the principles of family and marriage and the hope of future generations but it completely begins to see our society break down” to the extent that “it literally is a threat to the nation’s survival in the long run.”
Franks has also been a friend to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim extremists and conspiracy theorists. He warned that Obama’s executive actions on immigration “literally could be the death of the republic” and claimed that Obama had an “ideological commitment” to “weaken America.”
Franks once agreed with an anti-Muslim activist that Obama was either secretly a Muslim or acting like one and has said that Obama wouldn’t care if “Al Qaeda took Texas.” He called for an investigation of Muslim “spies” on national security committees, based on the claims of a book published by the conspiracy theory outlet WorldNetDaily, and partnered with Michele Bachmann in her witch hunt of Muslims serving in the government.
Franks has also flirted with birtherism, admitting to at one point considering a birther lawsuit against Obama, but later acknowledged that Obama is a natural-born citizen “even if he acts un-American.”