The question was straightforward: Did you know that President Donald Trump held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the foreign government to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden?
But Vice President Mike Pence stammered and dodged the question four times at a Wednesday press event in Waukee, Iowa.
Here’s the White House transcript of Pence’s exchange with NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard:
Q: But were you ever aware, Mr. Vice President, that interest in the Bidens ― that interest in investigating the Bidens was at least in part of the reason for aid to Ukraine being held up? Were you ever aware?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I ― what ― I never discussed the issue of ― the issue of the Bidens with President Zelensky and ―
Q: But within the administration, were you ever aware, within the administration?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What I can tell you is that all of our discussions internally ― I mean the President and our team and our contacts, in my office, with Ukraine ― were entirely focused on the broader issues of the lack of European support and corruption.
Q: But you were aware of the interest in the Bidens being investigated ―
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I was ―
Q: ― and that being tied to aid to Ukraine being held up?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What I ― well, that’s your question. Let me very clear: The issue of aid and our efforts, with regard to Ukraine, were, from my experience, in no way connected to the very legitimate concern the American people had about corruption that took place, about things that happened in the 2016 election in Ukraine or about ―
Q: But were you aware of others in the administration having those conversations?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: ― about the issue that former Vice President Biden had his son on the board of a major energy company in Ukraine at a time that Vice President Biden was running the United States’ efforts in Ukraine. I think the American people have a right to know what was going on.
And ― but all of our discussions, all of my discussions with the leadership in Ukraine was entirely focused on President Trump’s priority of supporting (inaudible) ...
If Pence did know that Trump had pressed Ukraine’s president to dig up dirt on Biden, that would mean he knew that Trump had potentially committed a federal crime and done nothing about it.
It is illegal for anyone, including the president of the United States, to solicit anything of value from a foreign national that relates to a U.S. election. Federal Elections Chair Ellen Weintraub recently reiterated this point on Twitter.
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office,” Weintraub said in a statement. “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election.”
Watch the video above to see Pence dodge the question about what he knew.