An audio recording from April 2018 has surfaced in which President Donald Trump appears to order associates to “get rid of” Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine following a conversation with Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman who has been indicted on campaign finance charges.
“Get rid of her!” Trump is ostensibly heard saying of Yovanovitch in the recording, which was reported by ABC News.
“Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”
According to ABC, Trump made the remarks at an event held on April 30, 2018 at Trump International Hotel for America First Action, a pro-Trump political action committee.
Parnas and an associate, Igor Fruman, contributed $325,000 to the PAC in May 2018. Fruman was indicted alongside Parnas on Oct. 10 on charges that they concealed the true origin of contributions to the PAC and several Republican lawmakers.
Both men have pleaded not guilty, though Parnas has indicated through his attorney that he is willing to cooperate with prosecutors by sharing negative information about Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Parnas began providing text messages last week to House Democrats as part of their impeachment efforts against Trump. (RELATED: Giuliani Associates Are Arrested)
The recording appears to back up some of what Parnas said in interviews earlier in January, while cutting against Trump’s denials that he knows the 47-year-old businessman.
Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he told Trump about Yovanovitch, and that the president turned to an aide and directed him to fire the career diplomat.
“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 tells Trump in the recording, according to ABC News.
“She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.'”
Trump did not recall Yovanovitch from her post until nearly a year after the conversation with Parnas. She was ultimately called back from Ukraine on April 24, 2019, following a public pressure campaign orchestrated by Parnas and Trump lawyer Giuliani.
It is still unclear what prompted Parnas to share information about Yovanovitch. In his interview with Maddow, Parnas apologized for his role in smearing Yovanovitch, and said he no longer believes the information he spread about her.
Days after his encounter with Trump, Parnas met in Washington, D.C., with then-Rep. Pete Sessions. Sessions sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to recall Yovanovitch from Kyiv following the meeting.
The indictment against Parnas alleges that he contributed to Sessions’ campaign in part to force Yovanovitch’s ouster on behalf of “one or more” Ukrainian government officials.
Months later, beginning in late 2018 and early 2019, Parnas and Fruman began working closely with Giuliani to collect and disseminate information about Yovanovitch and about Hunter Biden, who was a director for Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings.
According to ABC News, the recording of Trump is now in the hands of prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, which is handling the investigation of Parnas and Fruman. ABC also reported that it was Fruman who recorded the conversation with Trump.
An attorney for Fruman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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