Topline: ABC News reported Friday that they obtained and reviewed a 2018 audio recording that seemed to capture President Trump asking Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two former Rudy Giuliani associates indicted for allegedly funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, to “take out” Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
- ABC News has not released the audio, but reported that Trump said in reference to Yovanovitch: “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”
- Yovanovitch, one of the key witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry, was recalled from her position in 2019—which means that Trump’s alleged request to remove her was made at least a year prior.
- The recording also seems to contradict Trump’s claims that he does not know Parnas, with Parnas appearing to say, “I think where we need to start is, we gotta get rid of the ambassador. . . . She’s basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.’”
- Parnas’ comments on the tape appear to back up his bombshell two-part interview on The Rachel Maddow Show, in which he described efforts to remove Yovanovitch, and that Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine.
- House lawmakers have made efforts as part of the impeachment inquiry to prove that Parnas and Giuliani worked to oust Yovanovitch from her post, which was bolstered January 15, 2020, when Parnas released dozens of pages of text messages, including communications with Giuliani.
- ABC News reported that New York federal prosecutors also have a copy of the audio recording, which was reportedly made on April 30, 2018, during an intimate dinner at Trump’s D.C. hotel.
Crucial quote: “Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his administration,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham in response to ABC News’ report.
Key background: Yovanovitch, a career diplomat with over 30 years of experience, said in a November 2019 public hearing that she was “shocked and devastated” after learning Trump attacked her on the July 25 phone call that kicked off impeachment proceedings. During that call, Trump appeared to direct Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter for corruption, and suggested Yovanovitch would “go through some things.” She was recalled from her role two months before the call took place.
Tangent: Parnas’ text message dump appeared to indicate Yovanovitch was being surveilled by one of his associates. Ukraine has since announced it is investigating this, and Yovanovitch has requested that U.S. officials do the same.
Surprising fact: Giuliani is godfather to Parnas’ son.