Newsom’s denial comes in the wake of a New York Times report over the weekend that said Trump's son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner told one of Newsom’s advisers that "federal help would hinge on the governor doing him a favor." The aid, Bob Kocher, told the newspaper that Kushner’s words implied that Newsom had to ask the White House for help.
The report also states that Newsom had to publicly thank the president and reference an April 22 press conference where the California governor praised Trump for agreeing to his request for aid.
Newsom pushed back on the claims made in the story – saying that he was grateful for the federal help, but that “no one told him to express” his thanks.
“No one told me that. No one asked me that,” Newsom said when questioned by reporters. "I expressed gratitude, but no one told me to express it."
The California Democrat, however, did acknowledge that "there may have been a conversation" between Trump officials and his staff.
The relationship between Newsom and Trump – which has been punctuated by very public spats over everything from climate change to immigration – seemed to mellow during the pandemic. Newsom did thank the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, for the help California received in combatting the pandemic. For his part, Trump spoke highly of the cooperation between Washington and Sacramento, and would refer to Newsom as “Gavin” during his press briefings as part of the coronavirus task force.
The mutual praise – especially Newsom’s “promise made, promises kept” comment after receiving swabs for coronavirus tests – raised eyebrows among many Democrats and led to calls that the governor was feeding Trump’s ego.
Speaking during an interview on CNN in April, Newsom brushed off the criticism of his praise for Trump and argued that now is not the time for partisanship.
"This is not the time to bicker. I don't care who's up and down, whose polls are looking better than someone else's or who wants to run for president or who doesn't,” Newsom said. “When it comes to times of crisis, we need to [rise] above the partisanship and I've extended always an open hand, not a closed fist, in those circumstances. And this is no different.”
He added: "But let me just be candid with you. I’d be lying to you to say that he hasn’t been responsive to our needs. He has, and so, as a question, as a sort of an offer of objectivity, I have to acknowledge that publicly."
Fox News’ Joseph Wulfsohn contributed to this report.