ABC: Recording apparently captures Trump discussing Yovanovitch ouster with Parnas, Fruman
Newly surfaced audio appears to capture President Trump telling associates he wanted then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired during a private April 2018 dinner, ABC News reported Friday.
As described by ABC, the recording appears to capture Trump speaking about Yovanovitch to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, former associates of the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we need to get rid of the ambassador,” a voice appearing to be Parnas’s says. “She’s still left over from the Clinton administration.
“Get rid of her!” a voice that appears to be Trump’s responds. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
Reports from the time indicate that Trump attended a dinner at his Washington hotel hosted by the American First Action super PAC on April 30, 2018.
The comment comes after the two Giuliani associates appear to speak negatively about Yovanovitch, whom Trump recalled as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in April 2019.
The White House did not deny ABC’s reporting but emphasized that Trump has the right to place people in his administration who support his agenda.
“Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an emailed statement.
Asked about the report during a trip in Italy on Friday, Vice President Pence declined to comment on the recording, which he said he hadn’t heard, but emphasized that all U.S. ambassadors “serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.”
The story broke just before House impeachment managers opened their third and final day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial calling for Trump’s removal from office.
According to testimony in the House impeachment inquiry, Yovanovitch was subject to a smear campaign from Giuliani and his associates, including Parnas and Fruman, that eventually led to her dismissal last year.
Giuliani told The New Yorker in an interview published last month that he believed he needed Yovanovitch “out of the way” because she was going to present an obstacle to investigations he sought of 2016 election interference and the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine.
Those investigations, which Trump raised on a July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, are now at the center of House Democrats’ case for Trump’s removal from office over allegations he abused his power and obstructed Congress.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, describing his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “perfect” and accusing Democrats of undertaking a partisan effort to damage him.
Parnas, who was indicted alongside Fruman on federal campaign finance charges last fall, recently provided evidence to House investigators in connection with the impeachment inquiry even after the House voted on articles accusing Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December. Parnas has produced various photos of himself with Trump, among other documents, including records that indicate Yovanovitch’s movements in Kyiv were being monitored.
Parnas has also participated in a handful of media interviews during which he’s made bombshell claims about Trump and other members of the president’s administration, including that Trump knew everything he was doing in Ukraine.
Trump has denied knowing Parnas, calling him a “groupie” and a “con man” when asked about his claims during a press conference earlier this week.
“Parnas I don’t know — other than he probably contributed to the campaign, along with tens of thousands of other people,” Trump told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
Pence on Friday reiterated his denial of Parnas’s claim that the vice president knew about a pressure campaign to get Ukraine to investigate 2016 election interference and the Bidens.
“What he has said about me has been completely false. I don’t recall ever having met Mr. Parnas,” Pence told reporters.
Tal Axelrod contributed.
Updated: 10:30 p.m.