Jan. 26 (UPI) — President Donald Trump appears to tells donors at a dinner in 2018 to “get rid” of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in a video released Saturday.
Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Lev Parnas, who was present at the gathering with the president at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., released the video to PBS NewsHour. On Friday, ABC first reported it has reviewed the recording by Igor Fruman, who like Parnas, was an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Parnas and Fruman have been indicted on federal charges, including violating campaign finance laws. ABC reported federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have a copy of the tape.
Trump has denied knowing the pair, though he has been photographed numerous times with them.
After ABC reported the video, Bondy said his client searched an online database connected to his iPhone and found a video sent to him by Fruman. Bondy has turned over the iPhone video to congressional investigators.
“Given its importance to the national interest, we decided to release this recording in a manner intended to ensure equal public access, and in an effort to provide clarity to the American people and the Senate as to the need to conduct a fair trial, with witnesses and evidence,” Bondy told PBS NewsHour.
The video, which is one hour long, came during a gathering of super PAC members that support Trump.
About 2 1/2 minutes in, a voice announces that the president has arrived. The camera shows Trump taking a seat in a chair.
Trump discusses the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has sought military aid from the United States.
Forty-two minutes into the video, Parnas is heard saying: “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.”
Then Trump appears to say, “Where? The ambassador to Ukraine?”
Parnas replies, “Yes. She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.'”
A few seconds later, Trump appears to say, “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
It was not until April 2019 that Yovanovitch was recalled from her position. She said the decision was based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives” she was disloyal to Trump.
During an interview with Rachel Maddow of NBC, Parnas recounted his memories of the scene at the dinner.
Parnas recalled that Trump turned to John DeStefano, who was his deputy chief of staff at the time, and said “Fire her,” he claimed.
“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.”
Yovanovitch, who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations, has denied being disloyal to Trump.
The removal of the ambassador has been described by House managers in the Senate trial on whether to remove Trump.
“If the president at the urging of Giuliani, or Parnas, or Fruman — if this is additional evidence of his involvement and that effort to smear her, it would certainly corroborate much of what we’ve heard,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., co-chairman of the House managers told reporters Friday.
Jay Sekulow, who is Trump’s personal lawyer, told reporters of the recording Friday: “I’m not concerned about that at all.”