An audio tape played by Rachel Maddow on Friday appears to support a bombshell ABC News report that President Donald Trump was recorded ordering the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Trump was reportedly recorded telling associates at a private dinner in April 2018 at the Trump Hotel to “get rid” of then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, to “take her out,” ABC News reported Friday. The recording itself was played Friday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” ABC News then also released the actual recording.
“Get rid of her!” an angry voice that appears to be Trump’s can be heard saying on the recording. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.” The White House has not denied the voice is Trump’s, according to ABC.
A voice that appears to be indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas can be heard on the tape disparaging Yovanovitch before Trump’s tirade. “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,” he says. (In fact, Yovanovitch joined the Foreign Service during the Reagan administration.)
“She’s basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait,’” the voice believed to be Parnas’s adds as men at the table laugh.
It’s unclear why Trump would issue an order to get rid of Yovanovitch at a dinner with Parnas, a Ukrainian American businessman who had no role in the federal government. But his attorney, Joseph Bondy, told Maddow he believed Trump was giving the order to his aide John DeStefano, who was with the group at the time. Bondy said Donald Trump Jr. was also present.
Parnas, who has been indicted along with fellow Florida businessman Igor Fruman for alleged campaign finance violations, has admitted he tried to strong-arm Ukrainian officials into launching an investigation into unfounded accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden to help Trump smear a top political rival. Parnas said he was following the president’s wishes, communicated to him by Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. Trump has denied knowing Parnas.
Parnas has turned over a trove of documents, including text messages, to the U.S. House supporting his claims. He insists that “everybody” — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence — “was in the loop” on the Ukraine scheme.
Yovanovitch testified during the House impeachment hearings that she never criticized Trump, as Parnas had claimed. She said she thought she was forced out of office because she was a corruption fighter.
The tape was recorded by Fruman, according to Bondy. It was provided Friday to House Intelligence Committee officials by Bondy, who characterized it as “of high materiality to the impeachment inquiry” against Trump, The New York Times reported.
Parnas has expressed his willingness to testify at the Senate impeachment trial, although it remains uncertain if any witnesses will be called. The trial resumes in the Senate on Saturday.