An audio recording reviewed by ABC News captured President Donald Trump demanding the ouster of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a 2018 dinner with a group of associates that included Lev Parnas, the indicted businessman Trump has repeatedly claimed not to know.
“Get rid of her!” Trump said in the recording, ABC reported Friday. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”
The president’s outburst came after Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, recommended that Trump fire Yovanovitch. Parnas, according to ABC, told Trump in the recording that the ambassador was “basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.'”
“The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador,” Parnas said. “She’s still leftover from the Clinton administration.”
A copy of the recording is now in the possession of federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, ABC reported.
Trump eventually recalled Yovanovitch from her post in April of 2019. Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators in sworn testimony last October that her firing was the result of a “concerted campaign” of smears directed by Giuliani.
In a column Friday, the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent wrote that “it’s worth noting here how bat-bleep insane it is that Trump, who has the power to recall ambassadors, is talking with his goons about this.”
“Remember that Giuliani launched an epic smear campaign to hound her out of office,” Sargent noted. “Trump finally did remove the ambassador, but if there were legitimate reasons to do so, why this secretive campaign against her?”
Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner told Sargent that the Southern District of New York could be looking “into a conspiracy to do something to Yovanovitch.”
“SDNY is or should be looking at all of this,” Kirschner said.
Two questions about the "take her out" audio of Trump on Yovanovitch:
Why is POTUS, who has the power to remove ambassadors, conspiring with goons to do so?
WTF is SDNY doing, and is Barr interfering?
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) January 24, 2020
Joseph Bondy, Parnas’ attorney, told The Daily Beast Friday that the recording reviewed by ABC was made by Igor Fruman, another associate of Giuliani. Fruman and Parnas, who helped Giuliani pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, were arrested and charged with campaign violations at the same time last October.
“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 told The Daily Beast. “We have hoped that, to the extent this recording still existed, it would be released to Congress for use in the impeachment trial.”
Trump has said he does not know Parnas or Fruman, a claim contradicted by the dinner recording and photos of the men together that have circulated in recent months.
“I don’t know those gentlemen,” Trump said of Parnas and Fruman last October following their arrest. “Now, it’s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody.”
Just last week, Trump said “I don’t even know who this man is,” referring to Parnas.
In a series of explosive interviews with MSNBC that aired last week, Parnas disputed Trump’s claim that his efforts in Ukraine were geared toward rooting out corruption rather than advancing his own personal political agenda.
“It was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden,” Parnas said, referring to the former vice president’s son. “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all of my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.”