President Donald Trump has defended himself after audio leaked Friday of him ordering the firing of then-Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
The recording, now in the hands of Congress and federal prosecutors, was made during a fundraiser dinner on April 30, 2018 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman – the two indicted sidekicks of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
‘Get rid of her!’ is what a voice that appears to be the president is heard saying on an audio recording reviewed by ABC News. ‘Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.’
‘I am not a fan of that ambassador,’ Trump said in an interview with Fox News defending his actions on Friday. ‘She wouldn’t put my picture up, she was an Obama appointee I believe.’
‘I make no bones about it,’ he continued. ‘I have every right, I want ambassadors that are chosen by me. I have a right to hire and fire ambassadors.’
Yovanovitch’s attorneys have already denied that she did not put his picture up. Yovanovitch was a career diplomat who had been appointed an ambassador by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Asked if the order to fire Yovanovitch was directed at Parnas, a fixer who arranged interviews in Ukraine for Giuliani as he pursued his freelance investigation into alleged corruption, Trump demurred.
‘I would probably say it was Rudy there or somebody,’ Trump responded when asked whom the order was directed at. Giuliani has no position in the federal government and is Trump’s personal attorney. it was unknown until now that he was at the dinner.
Trump defended his order to fire then-Ambassador to the Ukraine MarieYovanovitch in an interview on Friday with Fox News’ Raymond Arroyo (right)
‘She wouldn’t put my picture up, she was an Obama appointee I believe,’ Trump said of Yovanovitch, who was relieved of her post in late May 2018
Lev Parnas (left) and Igor Fruman (right) were at a fundraiser dinner on April 30, 2018 at the Trump International Hotel when they recorded Trump giving the order
Trump has repeatedly claimed not to know Parnas, who has produced picture after picture of them together in multiple locations, including the White House, Mar-a-Lago and the Trump hotel D.C.
‘He’s somebody that I guess, based on pictures that I see, goes to fundraisers,’ Trump commented in the Friday interview, with Raymond Arroyo. The interview ran on Fox News, where Arroyo is a contributor, but he is also an anchor on the conservative Catholic EWTN channel, which was founded by TV nun Mother Angelica.
Last week Trump denied knowing Parnas 14 times in one White House question and answer session, then he denied it again on Wednesday, this time saying: ‘I don’t know him, other than he’s sort of like a groupie.’
Parnas’ attorney confirmed on Friday night that he had located the recording and passed it to the House Intelligence Committee. The recording reported by ABC News suggests that Parnas and Fruman were very much in Trump’s inner circle.
Democrats seized on the recording as further evidence of Trump’s involvement.
‘If this is additional evidence of his involvement in that effort to smear her, it would certainly corroborate much of what we´ve heard, but I´m not in a position yet to analyze that, not having looked at it,’ said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., one of the House impeachment managers.
Parnas and Fruman are heard on the recording telling Trump that Yovanovitch is bad-mouthing him. Federal prosecutors have the recording and ABC News said it appeared to have been made by Fruman, and also featured a short video with Don Jr., the president’s oldest son in it.
On it, Parnas appears to say: ‘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 also says: ‘She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait,’ he said.
That was when Trump said to get rid of her, the tape said.
Together again: Igor Fruman (second left) appears to have made the tape which ABC News says features Lev Parnas (center)
As the bombshell development reverberated – and Trump’s impeachment trial continued – Trump’s allies jumped to his defense.
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 She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.’
What Lev told Trump (who denies knowing him
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan told reporters on Capitol Hill the president had the right to recall any ambassador he wished to.
And Vice President Mike Pence made the same argument, but dodged the issue of the tape itself.
‘I have not heard the tape and would not be prepared to comment on it,’ Pence told reporters traveling with him in Italy. ‘All of the ambassadors for the United States of America serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.’
Yovanovitch – who has served as ambassador to several countries and was first appointed to such a position by President George W. Bush – wasn’t recalled until a year later in April 2019.
She told lawmakers in her testimony during the impeachment inquiry that she was recalled based on ‘unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives’ that she was disloyal to and undermining the president.
She also said in her testimony she never told embassy staff to disregard orders from the administration because Trump was going to be impeached.
‘I did not and would not say such a thing,’ she said.
The identities of others on the recording are unclear, ABC News reports.
During an early portion of the recording where video is available, Donald Trump Jr. is seen posing for pictures with people.
The event at the president’s hotel that night was an event for The America First Action super PAC – a super PAC supporting Trump’s re-election campaign.
The president and Donald Trump Jr. have denied knowing Parnas, who has been making the media rounds as he seeks a deal with federal prosecutors, saying they only had photos taken with him at fundraisers.
President Trump has repeatedly denied knowing him and did so again last week during a school prayer event in the Oval Office.
‘I don’t know him,’ Trump said. ‘I don’t know Parnas other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people.’
‘I don’t know him at all, don’t know what he’s about. Don’t know where he comes from. Know nothing about him,’ he said. By one count he denied knowing Parnas 14 times.
Trump Jr. has made similar statements.
‘I met him at fundraiser events,’ Trump Jr. told Fox News earlier this month. ‘He was a donor at a super-PAC, shows up to some of these things like anything else. Honestly, I think it’s funny, I didn’t realize he was Ukrainian. I thought he was Israeli.’
Parnas and his attorney have released photos of Parnas with the president and various members of the Trump family, including Trump Jr. and Ivanka.
Shortly after President Trump’s denials aired last week, Parnas’ attorney released yet another new image of them together, this time a video of them speaking at Mar-a-Lago.
Parnas and Fruman face charges of violating campaign finance law.
Parnas has been on a media tour in recent days to talk about his work in the Ukraine with Giuliani. The White House has accused him of trying to stay out of prison.
The audio was made at a fundraising dinner for Trump’s 2020 campaign on April 30, 2018 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.; Trump, above, is seen at the White House on that date
Trump’s limo ‘The Beast’ at the Trump hotel on the night of the fundraiser
Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and David Correia with Rudy Giuliani in the Trump Hotel Washington D.C.
Three days later: Lev and Igor were in California with Donald Trump Jr. and Tommy Hicks Jr., a financier and campaigner Republican
The phone that was recording the Trump conversation reviewed by ABC News appears to be placed down on a table with the audio still recording. The president does not appear on the video reviewed by ABC News.
Parnas, when he appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s show last week, provided additional details on the campaign to remove Yovanovitch from her post as ambassador because she was impeding efforts to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.
Parnas expressed regret over his involvement in ousting Yovanovitch, saying: ‘I want to apologize to her.’
He described the scene at the dinner and said Trump turned to John DeStefano, who was his deputy chief of staff at the time, and said ‘Fire her.’
‘We all, there was a silence in the room. He responded to him, said Mr. President, we can’t do that right now because [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo hasn’t been confirmed yet, that Pompeo is not confirmed yet and we don’t have — this is when [former Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson was gone, but Pompeo was confirmed, so they go, wait until — so several conversations he mentioned it again,’ Parnas recounted.
Pompeo had actually already been confirmed by the Senate and sworn into office.
A copy of the recording is now in the custody of federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern District, ABC News reported, noting both the prosecution team and the White House declined to comment.
Parnas also told Maddow that he was ‘absolutely’ working for the president in his capacity as a legal aide to Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
Yovanovitch was the focus of text messages between Parnas and prominent Trump donor Robert F Hyde, which were made public on Tuesday.
Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate from Connecticut, repeatedly disparaged Yovanovitch in the messages and implied that she was under surveillance, often referencing her exact physical location.
However, Parnas told Maddow that while he was ‘disturbed’ by Hyde’s messages, he never believed they were serious.
‘I don’t believe it was true, I think he was either drunk or was trying to make himself bigger than he was,’ he said. ‘I didn’t take it seriously, and if you see, I didn’t even respond to it most of the time.’
Maddow questioned whether Hyde could have been drunk throughout their text correspondence, which lasted several days.
Parnas replied: ‘He’s drunk the whole time. He wakes up and he’s drunk. He starts at 6. I’ve never seen him not drunk.’
Hyde himself reacted to the release of the messages on Tuesday night.
He did not dispute the validity of the texts but said he was drinking when he sent the ones about surveilling Yovanovitch.
LEV’S PICTURE GALLERY: HOW HE KEPT MEETING THE MAN WHO DOESN’T KNOW HIM
You sure they didn’t speak Mr. President: Lev Parnas’ attorney released this video of them together at Mar-a-Lago
‘I don’t believe I’ve ever met him.’ The House Intelligence Committee released this photograph of the two together in a document dump
Have we met? I’m sure we haven’t! President Trump dismissed a photos of him and Parnas as just taken at a fundraiser – this is one of two taken on different occasions on front of the Florida state flag
Lev Parnas with Donald Trump at the America First Action Superpac Leadership Summit at Trump Hotel Washington D.C. June 18 or 19 2018. Also partially visible right, Donald Trump Jr
No, total stranger, so sorry: President Donald Trump alongside Lev Parnas in Florida before his election
Great to make your acquaintance for the first time: Lev Parnas and Donald Trump at the door of what appears to be Mar-a-Lago
I take thousands of photos: Lev Parnas and Donald Trump have not yet reached that number of pictures together, but there are certainly more than one
And who are you? No, I’m sorry, never met you. Lev Parnas and Trump at Christmas time in an undated photograph
AND HERE’S SOME MORE PEOPLE WHO ‘DON’T KNOW’ HIM EITHER
No, I don’t believe we have: Mike Pence was the latest to say ‘I don’t know the guy,’ with an inevitable picture emerging
We’ve never met, of course we can have a photograph: Lev Parnas’ attorney tweeted this image just after Kellyanne Conway climbed aboard the fast-moving denial train
Lev Parnas with letter from Pete Sessions, Texas Republican Congressman to President Trump
THESE ONES HAVE STILL TO SAY IF THEY (DON’T) KNOW HIM…
Lev Parnas with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump
Lev Parnas and Ivanka Trump are seen together at Donald Trump’s inauguration celebration at Union Station, Washington D.C., in January 2017 in a new batch of photos from Parnas’ phone
Lev Parnas and Jared Kushner at Donald Trump’s inauguration celebration in Union Station, Washington D.C., January 2017
Lev Parnas poses with with former Marine General John Kelly, then Donald Trump’s chief of staff, at the America First Action SuperPAC Leadership Summit at Trump Hotel Washington D.C. June 18 or 19 2018
The legal team’s (almost) all here: Lev had photographs of a dinner with Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani, an unknown man, and Jane Raskin and her husband Marty. Sekulow and the Raskins are part of Trump’s impeachment legal team; Giuliani is apparently still one of his legal advisors
Parnas was also tight with Trump’s legal team, the photos show. Trump’s personal attorneys Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani, and Jane Raskin are seen above dining at Trump’s DC hotel. The man sitting on the far right has not yet been identified
AND DON JR. SAYS HE DID KNOW HIM (THEY HAD SHARED BREAKFAST AND LEV MET THE KIDS…)
Parnas sits next to Donald Trump Jr in one of the photos released on Friday
Parnas mingles with Don Trump Jr and Trump Jr’s children in one of the photos at Trump’s inauguration celebration in Washington D.C. in 2017
Parnas (far right) poses with Jared Kushner, Don Trump Jr, and an unidentified man at Donald Trump’s inauguration celebration in Washington D.C., in January 2017
Lev Parnas with Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump Jr