President Donald Trump is heard ordering a Ukrainian associate of Rudy Giuliani to “get rid of” Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in a 2018 recording.
Trump is captured on audio tape telling Lev Parnas to rev up his campaign to oust the American envoy who stood in the way of the president's reported scheme to bully Ukraine into launching bogus investigations.
“Get rid of her!” Trump is heard saying. “Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
The tape, which was recorded at the Trump International Hotel in April 2018, was obtained exclusively by ABC News on Friday.
It undermines Trump's repeated insistence that he hardly knows Parnas, a key player in the smear effort led by Giuliani that was aimed at tarnishing former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said all ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president.
Vice President Mike Pence said Friday the recording confirms only that “the president had concerns” about Yovanovitch and Ukraine.
ABC reports that the tape, which was handed over to Manhattan federal prosecutors, was recorded by Igor Fruman, an associate of Parnas. The news organization did not say how it obtained the tape or how it knows who may have recorded it.
The recording shows Trump was familiar with Fruman and Parnas, contradicting his claim that he didn't know Parnas.
“I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She’s still left over from the Clinton administration. She's basically walking around telling everybody: ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached. Just wait.’ ” — Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, speaking to President Trump
Parnas explains to Trump on the tape that Yovanovitch was blocking their efforts to get the Ukrainian government to launch what Giuliani and Trump believed would be politically damaging investigations into Biden and his son, Hunter, and into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, not Russia.
“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. "She's basically walking around telling everybody: 'Wait, he's gonna get impeached. Just wait.' "
That’s when the president said what is heard on the tape.
It’'s unclear why Trump believed he needed any dirt to oust Yovanovitch; he fired her last spring. Her successor, Bill Taylor, also resisted launching the investigations.
According to evidence presented during the impeachment inquiry, Giuliani convinced Trump that Yovanovitch was disloyal and was tossing diplomatic wrenches in the plot to force Ukraine to give its imprimatur to the smears of the Bidens and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
Trump mentioned the investigations and his dislike of Yovanovitch in his July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which is at the heart of his impeachment.
Parnas and Fruman reportedly also hoped to engineer Yovanovitch’s ouster because she sought to block them from corruptly obtaining a lucrative gas deal.
The pair were busted as they sought to flee the U.S. with one-way plane tickets in September.
Parnas, who lives in South Florida and has a string of bad debts and business disputes, has since flipped on Trump and Giuliani and has provided information to the impeachment inquiry and federal prosecutors.
Parnas, who donated lavishly to GOP causes and paid Giuliani six-figure fees despite being deeply in debt, says he met repeatedly with Trump and his personal lawyer to plan the Ukraine scheme. One such meeting took place during the 2018 White House Hanukkah party where Parnas, who is Jewish, was an honored guest.
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