In an 83-minute video published by PBS Newshour on Saturday, Donald Trump appears to chat with Lev Parnas—a man Trump has repeatedly insisted he does not know—and then immediately demand that then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch be fired.
About halfway through the video of a dinner in an extravagant blue room in Washington, DC,, Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, brings up Yovanovitch, framing her as a “problem.”
Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Lev Parnas, told NewsHour that Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, was at the dinner with the president and several others when Trump said he wanted Yovanovitch out.
About 42 minutes into the hour-long video, Parnas appears to say, “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.”
Trump then 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.”
Bondy said Parnas attended the dinner along with Igor Fruman, another of Giuliani’s business associates. Both Parnas and Fruman have been indicted on federal charges, including violating campaign finance laws.
Yovanovitch was fired about a year after the April 2018 dinner, and subjected to a vicious smear campaign.
Newshour’s Yamiche Alcindor notes that the video—which was shot by Fruman—shows that just minutes before the Yovanovitch conversation, attendees of the dinner discussed Ukraine’s resources with Trump.
Minutes before discussing Yovanovitch, Trump discussed the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which is part of the reason Ukraine sought military aid from the United States.
In the video, someone is heard saying, “The resources in Ukraine are tremendous.” A voice also says Ukraine is part of pipelines in Europe. In response, Trump appears to ask, “Ukraine has oil?” Someone replies affirmatively. Trump then appears to ask, “Why aren’t companies going in? Too risky?” Someone says, “Exactly. They were supporting Clintons for all these years.”
Seconds later, Trump appears to ask, “How long will [Ukraine] last in a fight with Russia?” Someone replies, “Without us, not very long.” Trump appears to echo the voice saying, “Without us.”
The existence of the recording was first reported by ABC News on Friday, who noted that the video mostly aligns with Parnas’ recollection of the evening.
In a recent interview with MSNBC, Parnas publicly recounted his memories of the scene at the dinner and said that Trump turned to John [DeStefano], who was his deputy chief of staff at the time, and said "Fire her," he claimed. Sources familiar with the closed-door meeting corroborate that DeStefano was in attendance.
"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."
However, Pompeo had been confirmed and privately sworn in days earlier.
Got 82 minutes? Watch the full video below, and get a fascinating, if terrifying, snapshot into the way Trump talks when he thinks only a couple dozen people are listening. The conversations span the world, from the Middle East to China to Germany to South Korea and so many places in between, both before and after the Ukraine was the current topic.