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Rep. Trent Franks has resigned after it was revealed he offered staffer $5M to be "surrogate"

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Updated December 08, 2017 04:44 PM EST

Rep. Trent Franks says he is resigning immediately instead of at the end of January.

The Arizona Republican announced Thursday that he would leave the House over accusations that he asked two former aides to bear his child as surrogate mothers.

But he issued a statement Friday saying, he would leave Congress immediately. He said his wife was hospitalized in Washington for “an ongoing ailment” and that it would be “the best thing for our family” to resign immediately.

Franks eventually bowed to an ultimatum from Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan told Franks that he would refer the allegations to the Ethics Committee, and urged him to step aside.

A former aide to Republican Rep. Trent Franks has told The Associated Press the congressman repeatedly pressed her to carry his child, at one point offering her $5 million to act as a surrogate.

The former staffer said the congressman asked at least four times if she’d be willing to act as a surrogate in exchange for money. Franks, in his statement announcing his resignation, said he and his wife have struggled with infertility.

In his original announcement, Franks said he had never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff.

He acknowledged discussing surrogacy with former aides however.

Franks and his wife have struggled with infertility.

The Associated Press verified the identity of the staffer, who asked that her name be withheld out of concern for her privacy, and confirmed that she worked in Franks’ office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona said Thursday he is resigning next month after revealing that he discussed surrogacy with two female staffers.

The eight-term lawmaker, a staunch conservative and fierce opponent of abortion, said in a statement that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff.

Instead, he says, the dispute resulted from a discussion of surrogacy. Franks and his wife have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy.

Franks says he had become familiar with the surrogacy process in recent years, and "became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others."

He said he regrets that his "discussion of this option and process in the workplace" with two female staffers made them feel uncomfortable.

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In a statement, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that when he learned of the allegations, which he considered "serious and requiring action," he told the lawmaker he should resign.

Franks said he would step down effective Jan. 31, 2018.

In a one-page statement late Thursday, the Ethics panel said its members were examining whether Franks "engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment." The statement provided no further detail and noted that while it was establishing an ethics subcommittee, that didn't mean that any violations of law or House rules had occurred.

Franks was seen being comforted 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 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.

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

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

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."

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

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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