An hour-and-a-half long recording of President Trump chatting at a donor dinner with indicted businessmen Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, who are entangled in the Ukraine impeachment scandal, became public on Saturday. In a particularly revealing portion of the recording, the two men bring up Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S.’s ambassador to Ukraine at the time. After Parnas disparages Yovanovitch as an intractable Clinton administration holdover, Trump can be heard saying, “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.” (Yovanovitch actually joined the State Department in the Reagan administration.)
Fruman used his phone to take a video of the dinner, which took place in April 2018 in a private suite at Trump’s hotel in Washington. ABC News first reported on its existence on Friday. Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, then released the recording in full to media organizations a day later and also said that he’d shared it with the House Intelligence Committee. “Given its importance to our national interest, we provided the entire 4/30/18 recording of the .@realDonaldTrump and Lev Parnas dinner to the media, for universal access and downloading,” Bondy tweeted. “Stay tuned. Call the witnesses. Hear the evidence.” Bondy claims that his client has additional recordings of the president.
Here is a highlight reel of the recording that Bondy also posted on Twitter, which he set to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”:
Parnas and Fruman have come under intense scrutiny in recent months for their work with Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, to get Yovanovitch dismissed from her position and pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into Joe Biden. Trump eventually removed Yovanovitch in May 2019. Federal agents arrested the two businessmen in October for allegedly violating campaign finance laws.
Over the course of the impeachment inquiry, Trump has repeatedly claimed that he does not know either of the two men. Parnas, however, sat for an interview on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC in mid-January and alleged, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.” He also said during the interview that he had raised concerns about Yovanovitch at a dinner with Trump and that the president had ordered an aide to fire her, a claim which this new recording seems to confirm.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN on Friday, “Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration.”
In the recording, Trump can also be heard discussing a number of other topics besides Ukraine with the donors, such as natural gas and his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. At one point, Parnas tries to convince the President to create a bipartisan commission to study cannabis banking, though Trump can be heard expressing skepticism about marijuana legalization.
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