Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he confronted President Trump over aid to Ukraine in August and that the president denied tying that assistance to assurances from Kiev that it would investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
Johnson told The Wall Street Journal that he learned of a potential quid pro quo or arrangement from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Johnson said that Sondland told him assistance for Ukraine was connected to Trump’s desire to have the country carry out investigations relating to the 2016 elections.
The senator said he spoke with Trump on Aug. 31 and that on the call, Trump denied that he told officials to connect military aid to the promise of investigations by Ukraine.
“He said… ‘No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?’” Johnson told the Journal.
“Senator Johnson does not recall in any meeting or discussion with the president, or any member of the administration, that the term ‘quid pro quo’ was ever used,” said a Johnson spokesman in a statement.
“Nor does he recall any discussion of any specific case of corruption in the 2016 election, such as Crowdstrike, the hack of the DNC servers, Hillary Clinton campaign involvement, or Hunter and Joe Biden, during general discussions of corruption, which is endemic throughout Ukraine.”
Trump has publicly denied that aid to Ukraine was connected with his desire for the country to look into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, but he has publicly called for the country to investigate the former vice president.
The Journal’s report follows text messages released by House Democrats on Thursday night that show officials pressuring Ukraine on Biden and signaling that a meeting between the Ukrainian president and Trump could be contingent on an investigation.
“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” William Taylor, a top official at the U.S.’s Ukrainian Embassy, said in the text messages provided by former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.
Sondland responded by saying he thought Taylor was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” and that he believed Trump had no intention of a “quid pro quo.”
Johnson is supportive of aid to Ukraine and was part of a bipartisan group of senators who wrote to the administration last month asking that the assistance be released.
Sondland was mentioned in a recently released whistleblower complaint over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The complaint alleged that Sondland and Volker visited Kiev and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other figures after Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to look into Biden.
The ambassador is also one of the officials House Democrats have said they want to depose.
This story was updated at 6:23 p.m.