WASHINGTON — President Trump has claimed he doesn’t know Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
But that’s certainly not the impression that emerges from the full recording of a dinner with Trump, Parnas and others, according to a recording shared with VICE News on Saturday by Parnas’ lawyer Joe Bondy.
During the dinner, Trump can be heard joking and laughing with the group while discussing a wide range of subjects including former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. During the recording, a voice that sounds distinctly like Trump’s can be heard saying: “Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow.”
Parnas just turned over a copy of the recording to the House Intelligence Committee, his attorney said, in just the latest delivery of documents from Parnas to Congress. Parnas, a businessman now facing criminal charges for allegedly funneling illegal foreign donations to GOP political campaigns, has said he helped Giuliani search for damaging information about former vice president Joe Biden. Parnas has pleaded not guilty.
Parnas has said that Trump verbally ordered the firing of Yovanovitch some four or five times, only to be stymied when his underlings failed to fulfill his orders. She was finally recalled in the spring of 2019.
Yovanovitch’s removal was intended to clear the way for a shadow diplomacy campaign to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation of former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to Parnas.
On the recording, a voice that sounds like Parnas’ can be heard saying, “We’ve got to get rid of the ambassador,” and claiming that she’s been telling people that Trump will get impeached.
Yovanovitch has denied saying any such thing. She’s said that a rumor campaign falsely accused her of disloyalty to Trump in an apparent effort to curtail her ambassadorship to Ukraine. That rumor campaign was eventually picked up and amplified in American rightwing media, and even on the Twitter account of Trump’s son, Don Jr.
Elsewhere in the recording Trump appears to ask Parnas about Ukraine’s ability to stand up to Russia in a conflict. Ukraine is currently locked in a bloody war with Russia-backed separatists that’s killed over 15,000 people.
“How long would they last in a fight with Russia?,” asks the voice that sounds like Trump’s.
“Without us, not very long,” responds a voice that sounds distinctly like Parnas’.
Trump subsequently held up $391 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine last summer, in what Democrats say was part of an attempt to pressure the country to announce an investigation of the Biden family. Hunter previously served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company called Burisma in an arrangement that’s been criticised by Trump and Giuliani. Trump has publicly called on both Ukraine and China to investigate Hunter Biden.
Trump eventually released the aid to Ukraine. But that holdup, in combination with Trump’s call for a foreign power to investigate a political rival, is at the core of Democrats’ case to impeach Trump for abusing the power of the presidency, in a trial now pending in the Senate.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House during an event with U.S. mayors on January 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)