- President Donald Trump appeared to order associates to “get rid” of Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s ambassador to Ukraine, during a dinner in April 2018, according to a recording published by ABC News.
- “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it,” Trump appears to say of Yovanovitch.
- The conversation reportedly took place at Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, and also involved Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of Rudy Giuliani who’ve become embroiled in the impeachment proceedings.
- Trump has repeatedly claimed he doesn’t know Parnas.
- In response to the new report, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told Insider, “Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration.”
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President Donald Trump in April 2018 appeared to order associates to “get rid of” Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s ambassador to Ukraine, in a newly unearthed recording published by ABC News, first reported on Friday.
“Get rid of her!” a voice that sounds like Trump’s says in the recording. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
Trump was reportedly speaking with a group that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Both Parnas and Fruman have been indicted in New York and entangled in the impeachment inquiry.
The president has repeatedly claimed he does not know Parnas, including after Parnas’ recent interviews in which he offered damning details of the smear campaign he was involved in against Yovanovitch. Trump and Parnas have been photographed together.
Trump tonight after the Rachel Maddow interview: I've never heard of Lev Parnas. pic.twitter.com/vboEUMH2Al
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 15, 2020
‘We gotta get rid of the ambassador’
The recording published by ABC News, is reportedly from an “intimate” dinner at Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, on April 30, 2018. In it, voices that are apparently Parnas and Fruman can be heard telling Trump that Yovanovitch had been bad-mouthing him.
“The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She’s still left over from the Clinton administration,” Parnas can be heard saying, according to ABC. “She’s basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.'”
Responding to the ABC News report, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told Insider, “Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration.”
Parnas’ lawyer, Joseph Bondy, told the Daily Beast that Fruman made the recording of the dinner.
“Last year, before he was arrested, Mr. Parnas personally heard a recording of his April 30, 2018, dinner with the president and others, made by Mr. Fruman, at which the subject of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed,” Bondy said. “We have hoped that, to the extent this recording still existed, it would be released to Congress for use in the impeachment trial.”
The ABC News report builds on reporting from The Washington Post on the April 2018 dinner, where The Post said Parnas and Fruman told Trump that Yovanovitch “was unfriendly to the president and his interests.” Trump “reacted strongly” to their assertions and immediately called for her to be fired, The Post reported.
Parnas spoke about the April 2018 dinner in a recent interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
“The conversation came up, but I do remember me telling the president that the ambassador was bad-mouthing him and saying that he was going to get impeached, something to that effect,” Parnas said.
“And at that point he turned around to John DeStefano, who was his aide at the time, and said, ‘Fire her.’ And we all – there was a silence in the room,” Parnas added.
Parnas suggested to Maddow that the president ordered Yovanovitch’s firing “at least four or five times” before she was recalled.
Parnas further elaborates on the April 30, 2018 dinner in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, corroborating more details about the attendees and the setting as reported by WaPo in November. pic.twitter.com/HcyWmGrMzH
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) January 17, 2020
‘I want to apologise to her’
Parnas also told Maddow that he no longer believes that Yovanovitch was bad-mouthing Trump, and he expressed regret over participating in efforts to see her fired.
“I want to apologise to her,” Parnas said.
Yovanovitch is a career diplomat who’s widely respected in the State Department, where she’s served since the mid-1980s. She was viewed as an obstacle in Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into his political rivals, and she was abruptly recalled from her diplomatic post in May after what she and other diplomats have described as a smear campaign against her, engineered by Giuliani.
“I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way,” Giuliani told The New Yorker in December. “She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.”
Yovanovitch and others have suggested that her reputation built on her anticorruption work is largely why she was recalled.
The veteran diplomat was a witness in the impeachment inquiry late last year that resulted in Trump’s impeachment on December 18; his trial in the Senate is ongoing.
In a July 25 phone call, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and into a bogus conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.
During the call, according to the White House’s memo of it, Trump described Yovanovitch as “bad news” and suggested she was “going to go through some things.” Yovanovitch testified that when she read the transcript of the July 25 call and saw Trump’s remarks about her, she felt threatened.
Parnas told Maddow that the “only motivation” for removing Yovanovitch was that “she was in the way of this effort to get the government of Ukraine to announce investigations of Joe Biden.” He said Trump “knew exactly what was going on.”
LEV PARNAS: “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president." pic.twitter.com/FKBJavIqzN
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) January 16, 2020
Ukraine and the State Department are looking into reports that Giuliani’s associates surveilled Yovanovitch
The Ukrainian government in mid-January announced it would launch a federal criminal investigation into whether Yovanovitch was surveilled.
This was prompted by the release in the US of a trove of documents by the House Intelligence Committee suggesting that Giuliani’s associates had tracked Yovanovitch’s movements while she was still the US’s top diplomat in Kyiv. The documents were provided by Parnas.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been criticised by other diplomats and officials for not defending Yovanovitch more forcefully, said last week that the State Department would look into the reports that she was surveilled.
“We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there,” Pompeo said during an interview with the conservative radio host Tony Katz.
“I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate,” Pompeo added. “Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we’ll obviously do that.”
Pompeo in a separate interview said that to the best of his recollection he “never heard” about surveillance of Yovanovitch “until this story broke.” The secretary of state also denied knowing Parnas.
Meanwhile, Giuliani, who is the focus of an investigation in New York, recently suggested that Parnas was not being honest in the Maddow interview. “Believe him at your peril,” Giuliani told The Post in mid-January.
Among the materials Parnas provided to House investigators were text messages, including one from Giuliani to him in May in which the president’s personal lawyer said: “Boy I’m so powerful I can intimidate the entire Ukrainian government. Please don’t tell anyone I can’t get the crooked Ambassador fired or I did three times and she’s still there.”
- Read more:
- These are Giuliani associate Lev Parnas’ most explosive claims in his wild interview with Rachel Maddow
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- Ukraine launches criminal investigation into alleged surveillance of US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch
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