WASHINGTON — Arizona Rep. Trent Franks announced his resignation Thursday evening after the House Ethics Committee revealed it was opening an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
"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 in a statement. "I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."
Franks and his wife used a surrogate to have twins and said in his statement that they were interested in having another child.
"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," he continued.
Franks said while he wanted to take "full and personal responsibility" for making the individuals feel uncomfortable, he had "absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff."
House Speaker Paul Ryan's office released a statement Thursday that said he was briefed last week "on credible claims of misconduct by Rep. Trent Franks. He found the allegations to be serious and requiring action." Ryan said he told Franks, who did not deny the allegations.
Ryan told him he would refer the allegations to the House Ethics Committee and said that the Arizona lawmaker should resign from Congress.
The allegations were filed with the committee last week and Franks gave Ryan a letter of resignation Thursday, according to Ryan's office.
Franks is a conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus who has made his crusade against abortion a cornerstone of his career. He is the dean of the Arizona delegation and is serving his eighth term in Washington.
Franks is a member of the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees. He chairs a subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice and is vice chair of a subcommittee on emerging threats.
Franks briefly considered running for Senate after Sen. Jeff Flake announced he was retiring, but ultimately decided it was not the right time. Last month he told USA TODAY "there may be some opportunity for me in the future maybe not, but I won't be brokenhearted either way."
The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call first reported the news, which came the same day Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat, announced his own departure due to complaints of sexual harassment. The Ethics Committee also announced Thursday that it was also opening an inquiry into GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas.
Farenthold used taxpayer money as part of a 2015 sexual harassment settlement involving a former staffer vowed to reimburse taxpayers.
Contributing: Ronald J. Hansen and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez in Phoenix, Ariz.
A look at Rep. Trent Franks