Boris Johnson has held discussions with Donald Trump about Ukraine during his tour of the US, in an apparent attempt to make the Ukrainian case to the sceptical former US president.
Johnson met Trump “to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the vital importance of Ukrainian victory”, his spokesperson said. It is understood that they held the talks on Thursday.
The former prime minister – who faces continued questions at home over allegations about lockdown-breaking parties at Chequers and No 10 – has been in Dallas, where he met Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, and Las Vegas, and made the latest in his recent sequence of highly lucrative corporate speeches.
The discussions with Trump, the location of which has not been divulged, probably centred on Johnson, a vehement international cheerleader for the Ukrainian cause, trying to impress his ideas on the former president.
Trump, who is the favourite to win the Republican nomination and take on Joe Biden in next year’s presidential election, has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and appears agnostic on the issue of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During a question-and-answer session aired on CNN earlier this month, Trump declined to say whether he wanted Ukraine to win the war. “Russians and Ukrainians, I want them to stop dying,” he said. “And I’ll have that done. I’ll have that done in 24 hours.”
Speaking earlier, Keir Starmer said Johnson has questions to answer about the Chequers allegations, despite the public being “fed up to the back teeth” with stories about his lawbreaking.
The Labour leader said there were people who were feeling hurt and fed up about the continuing saga, but there were “questions now about why these allegations have not come out before”.
Starmer weighed in on the controversy after the Cabinet Office passed fresh allegations of wrongdoing to the police this week. They did so after seeing diary entries about guests who visited Chequers during the pandemic, which Johnson handed to lawyers representing him as part of the Covid inquiry.
On Friday Johnson said suggestions he may have taken part in further rule-breaking during the pandemic were a “load of absolute nonsense”.
Asked by Sky News at Dulles Airport in Washington whether he broke the law at Chequers and Downing Street, he said: “No … The answer is, as I said before, there was absolutely no rule-breaking. Those who want to make allegations should make allegations, but so far nobody has.
“This whole thing is a load of absolute nonsense. I think it was absurd that it was decided to pass entries in my diary to the police.”
Police fined Johnson more than a year ago in relation to an event in June 2020 to mark his birthday. More than 100 fines were handed out to others over events held in and around Downing Street.
The Partygate saga contributed to the demise of Johnson’s premiership, but he has since been mulling whether a comeback is possible. Johnson is still facing an inquiry by the privileges committee of MPs into whether he misled the House of Commons by saying all Covid rules were followed in Downing Street.
On Friday, Starmer told broadcasters: “I think people are fed up to the back teeth with stories about Boris Johnson. The heart of this is a simple truth that, across the country, people made massive sacrifices during Covid.
“Some people not going to the birth of their baby, not going to the funeral of one of their close family members. These are deeply personal things, and increasing revelations about Boris Johnson, I think, just add to that sense of hurt, and people are fed up with it.
“I do think there are questions now about why have these allegations not come out before … Obviously, there will be investigations, I understand that. The core of this is a very human feeling of one rule for us, which we obey, another rule for Boris Johnson and those at the top of the Tory party.”
The diaries, showing about a dozen events at both the prime minister’s grace-and-favour mansion, Chequers, and No 10, between June 2020 and May 2021, were provided to Johnson’s government-appointed lawyers.
However, the Cabinet Office, which paid for the lawyers, also received the diaries, and officials then decided that under the civil service code, they should refer the matter to the police.
Downing Street denied that Johnson was the victim of a politically motivated “stitch-up” after his allies reacted with fury to the news of the latest police involvement.
No 10 stressed that Rishi Sunak had no involvement in the decision to hand over Johnson’s pandemic diaries, saying he had “not seen the information or material in question” and that ministers had “no involvement in this process and were only made aware after the police had been contacted”.