A recording appears to reveal President Trump telling associates to fire former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a private dinner, ABC News reported on Friday.
The recording was reportedly made by Igor Fruman, a business associate of Lev Parnas and one of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s main contacts in Ukraine. Fruman made the recording at an April 30, 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which was attended by Parnas and Trump. The identities of other people present for the conversation were not immediately clear.
“Get rid of her!” says a voice on the recording that likely belongs to Trump. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”
Trump made the remarks after Parnas and Fruman apparently said that then-ambassador Yovanovitch was 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 appears to say (Yovanovitch in fact had served since the Reagan administration). “She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.'”
A copy of the recording was handed over to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
“Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration,” the White House said in a statement regarding the recording.
Yovanovitch was not fired until a year later, in May 2019. The former ambassador testified in House impeachment hearings that Parnas and Fruman were trying to oust her “because they wanted to have business dealings in Ukraine, or additional business dealings.”
Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani had coordinated some of their efforts with former top Ukraine prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. Lutsenko reportedly offered Parnas damaging information on Joe and Hunter Biden, if Parnas would work to oust Yovanovitch. The former ambassador had been critical of Lutsenko, while Lutsenko disliked her support for a semi-independent anti-corruption organization based in Ukraine.
President Trump is currently the subject of a Senate impeachment trial over allegations he withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate corruption allegations against Joe and Hunter Biden.