A freshman U.S. Congresswoman announced her resignation Sunday after she admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer.
Rep. Katie Hill said the relationship, which surfaced online in explicit photos and text messages, occurred before she came into office.
But she’s also been accused of a second relationship — one that, if true, would be considered illegal by U.S. House rules. The matter is now the subject of an ethics investigation.
“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” she wrote in a statement.
“This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.”
She continued: “Having private photos of personal moments weaponized against me has been an appalling invasion of my privacy. It’s also illegal, and we are currently pursuing all of our available legal options… However, I know that as long as I am in Congress, we’ll live fearful of what might come next and how much it will hurt.”
Here’s what we know so far:
Who is she?
Hill, a first-time candidate, was elected to U.S. Congress during the 2018 midterm elections. She won by nine percentage points, ousting an incumbent Republican seat anchored in Los Angeles County.
The 32-year-old was celebrated as a young, rising star for the Democrats. Hill was chosen by her fellow Democratic freshmen for a coveted House leadership position, was part of the House Armed Service Committee and was named vice-chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Prior to her run for Congress, she worked as the executive director of a Los Angeles non-profit which provided aid to the homeless, according to CNN.
During her run for office, she often spoke about her intention to be a voice for the LGBTQ2+ community, as she proudly identified as bisexual.
Her campaign was on track for a strong reelection bid prior to her stepping down, as it had reportedly already raised US$2.2 million so far this year.
What are the allegations?
Her fall from grace began when a right-wing website published numerous articles alleging Hill had been in separate relationships with a member of her campaign staff and a House staffer. The articles included intimate photos of Hill and purported text messages from her to a campaign staffer. They also later appeared in a British tabloid, according to the Associated Press.
Hill, in a statement, acknowledged engaging in an affair with a young female campaign staffer, saying it occurred “during the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage,” but denies having a relationship with a male senior aide on her House staff.
“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate,” Hill wrote in a letter to constituents, “but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment.”
The House ethics committee has launched an investigation into the latter unsubstantiated relationship, as it is prohibited under House rules, which were changed last year to bar relationships between members and employees.
That relationship allegedly involved her legislative director, Graham Kelly, according to CNN.
Hill is currently in divorce proceedings with her husband of nine years, Kenny Heslep. She claims the photos have been “weaponized” by Heslep, and that he is trying to humiliate her, however, she has provided no evidence linking her husband to the release of the photos and information.
She apologized to “people who have been hurt” and said the situation left her with no choice but to step down.
“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” Hill said.
“I can no longer allow my community, family, friends, staff, supporters, and especially the children who look up to me as a role model, to suffer this unprecedented brand of cruelty.”
Hill said Sunday that she will pursue legal action about the publication of the photographs. She said in her statement that she has already contacted U.S. Capitol Police about the situation.
Hill has so far provided no details on when she would step down. Her husband has not commented.
Meanwhile, the ethics investigation into one of the two purported relationships is just underway.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a statement Sunday about the ordeal, commending Hill for bringing a “powerful commitment to her community and a bright vision for the future” to the House.
However, she said that Hill’s “errors in judgment” has made her service as a member of Congress “untenable.”
“We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces,” Pelosi said.
— With files from the Associated Press