Watch: Trump Discussing Ukraine Ambassador
Fox News has obtained the full video of an April 2018 meeting where President Trump told associates that he wanted then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired.
“Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it,” Trump is heard saying.
ABC News first reported on the recording, made during a meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman – former Rudy Giuliani associates who have since been indicted. Parts of the audio were previously aired on ABC News, but Fox News is posting the full video.
Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy provided the tape.
“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 said in a statement to Fox News.
In the tape, Fruman and Parnas tell Trump that Yovanovitch — who was recalled from her position in May 2019 — had been speaking negatively about him. It is then that Trump calls for her ouster.
“The biggest problem, where you need to start is we got to get rid of the ambassador, she’s still left over from the Clinton administration,” Parnas says. “She’s basically walking around telling everyone ‘wait, he’s going to get impeached.'”
Shortly afterward, Trump says to “get rid of her.”
The original report had raised new questions about the lengths to which the administration went to pursue Yovanovitch’s removal.
When the report first came out, one source familiar with the recording told Fox News that the context of the conversation was not being accurately reflected, questioning how serious the president was in the tape and also noting that the ambassador served more than a year after that conversation. It is unclear from the tape alone how serious Trump was at that moment in the meeting — Ukraine was only discussed for a few minutes.
During that discussion, Trump is also heard complaining that the U.S., as opposed to European allies like Germany, has to shoulder the burden of supporting Ukraine.
After ABC initially reported on the tape, the Trump administration downplayed its significance.
“Every president in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his administration,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement to Fox News on Friday.
Asked about the report on Friday, Trump told “The Ingraham Angle’s” Raymond Arroyo that he was not relying on Parnas to get rid of Yovanovitch while acknowledging: “I am not a fan of that ambassador.”
“I want ambassadors that are chosen by me. I have a right to hire and fire ambassadors,” Trump said.
Yovanovitch’s ouster was one of several events that became central to the House impeachment push, as Democrats linked her ouster to what they say was a pressure campaign to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.
The full tape shows Trump discussing everything from trade to golf to pot legalization. On the Middle East, Trump says of former President George W. Bush: “he gets us into the war, he gets us into the Middle East, that was a beauty.” He complains that the U.S. is involved in the Middle East for $7 trillion over 18 years: “And if you want to fix a window on a school, they don’t have the money.”
On Ukraine, he expresses surprise that Ukraine has oil, and asks how long they can last in a “fight with Russia” without U.S. support.
“Not long,” one of the participants says, before saying that Russia “talks a big game” but is not “ready to play.”
The House approved two articles of impeachment last month, pertaining to Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine while withholding U.S. aid. The Senate impeachment trial began this past week, with Democratic House managers making their case to lawmakers that the president should be removed from office.
On Saturday, Trump’s defense team began to make their case, arguing that Trump had done nothing wrong and calling for his acquittal.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.