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GOP senator says he doesn't remember signing 2016 letter urging 'reform' of Ukraine prosecutor's office

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Wis.) told reporters Thursday he did not recall signing a letter urging reforms in the office of the Ukrainian prosecutor President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE has alleged former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE improperly had ousted, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

Trump has repeatedly alleged Biden used his office to have Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin fired and prevent him from investigating a gas company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter.

CNN on Thursday reported that three Republican senators, including Johnson, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanStrengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths House panel advances bipartisan retirement savings bill Democrats confront difficult prospects for midterms MORE (R-Ohio) and then-Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.) signed a 2016 letter urging “urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office and Judiciary.”

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"I send out all kinds of oversight letters ... I don't know which 2016 oversight letter you're referring to so I will look at that and then we'll issue a press release, statement, or something — but I don't engage in hypocrisy. I'm looking at getting the truth,” Johnson said when asked about the letter.

Johnson did acknowledge the letter in an interview Thursday on WIBA's "The Vicki McKenna Show," saying "The whole world, by the way, including the Ukranian caucus, which I signed the letter, the whole world felt that this that Sholkin wasn't doing a [good] enough job. So we were saying hey you've ... got to rid yourself of corruption."

In the first interview, Johnson also said there was no misconduct in Trump’s call on Thursday for China to investigate Biden and his son.

"If there's potential criminal activity, the President of the United States is our chief law enforcement officer. We have proper agreements with countries to investigate potential crimes so I don't think there's anything improper about doing that,” he said.

Even as he endorsed investigations by both China and Ukrainian officials, Johnson denied the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the heart of a whistleblower complaint represented Trump pressuring Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.

"I look at that transcript and I go, it's Trump being Trump," Johnson said, according to the Journal-Sentinel.

In a statement, Andrew Bates, rapid response director for the Biden campaign, told The Hill: "“The United States, the European Union, the I.M.F., and Ukraine's leading reform figures were all pressing for Viktor Shokin to be removed from office because he was one of the biggest obstacles to fighting corruption in the entire country. This was a bipartisan goal in Congress as well."

"It is unfortunate that Senator Johnson seems to have forgotten a time when he put the country's values over his own politics, but perhaps re-reading his well-articulated words whole-heartedly agreeing with Joe Biden's push to move the anti-corruption cause in Ukraine forward will help him on his journey back to intellectual consistency," Bates added.

Updated: 9:35 p.m.