In the days since Rudy Giuliani’s indicted associate Lev Parnas made the television rounds to insist (emphatically) that Donald Trump was fully aware of the operation to conjure an excuse to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in order to clear the way for investigations into the president’s political rivals, Trump has variously insisted that he doesn’t know Parnas.
That, despite all manner of pictures of the two men together.
“He’s a conman… I don’t know him, other than he’s sort of like a groupie. He shows up at fundraisers. I don’t know anything about him”, an exasperated Trump declared, during an irritated press conference in Davos on Wednesday.
He made similar comments last week: “I don’t know Parnas other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people, including people today that I didn’t meet. But I just met him. I don’t know him at all. Don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know nothing about him”.
Again, all of that is wholly ridiculous.
The idea that Trump doesn’t know the two men (Parnas and Igor Fruman) who were effectively working for him in the effort to gin up a reason to remove Yovanovitch and smear the Bidens is patently absurd. And even if you were inclined to believe it, here are a couple of Facebook posts that might change your mind:
There are quite literally dozens more where those came from.
And now there’s an audio tape, apparently.
“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”, Parnas can be heard telling Trump, on the tape obtained by ABC.
The recording was allegedly made by Fruman, during what sources describe as “an intimate April 30, 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.”
“She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait”, Parnas says to Trump.
(Yovanovitch, by the way, is not “left over from Clinton”. She’s been in the State Department since the Reagan years.)
Trump subsequently freaks out. “Get rid of her!”, Trump exclaims. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it”.
That was nearly a year before the ambassador was finally recalled amid an egregious smear campaign. Multiple former and current US government officials who testified both in public and behind closed doors in October and November told lawmakers that the allegations against Yovanovitch were entirely meritless. Yovanovitch herself testified twice, once in private and then in public, on national television.
“Shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American Ambassador who does not give them what they want”, she said.
During his truth tour this month, Parnas seemingly dismissed claims that Yovanovitch was corrupt or somehow disloyal. “The only motivation” was to brush her aside to pave way for the Biden probe, he told MSNBC.
House investigators last week released a cache of bizarre Whatsapp messages between Parnas and Trump donor Robert Hyde, who suggested he was actively having Yovanovitch tailed in Kiev. Parnas dismissed Hyde as a drunk, and said he never took the messages seriously. Nevertheless, Ukraine is investigating.
As for Trump, Parnas told Rachel Maddow the president “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 went on to say, adding that “it was all about Joe [and] Hunter Biden. It was never about corruption”.
ABC says a copy of the audio recording is “now in the custody of federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern District”. They declined to comment.