President Trump told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” in an exclusive interview Friday that he did not instruct indicted Rudy Giuliani business associate Lev Parnas to engineer the removal of Marie Yovanovitch from the post of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, but added: “I have a right to hire and fire ambassadors.”
“Were you relying on Lev Parnas to get rid of your Ambassador [Yovanovitch?” Raymond Arroyo asked Trump.
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“No, no, but I have a lot of people and he’s somebody that I guess, based on pictures that I see, goes to fundraisers,” the president said of Parnas, before adding: “But I am not a fan of that ambassador.”
The president was responding to an ABC report which claimed Trump told a group that included Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman in April 2018 that he wanted Yovanovitch removed “tomorrow.”
“Get rid of her!” Trump purportedly told the group during a recorded dinner conversation. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
“But were you telling Parnas to get rid of her?” Arroyo asked. “I mean, you have a State Department.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have been saying that,” Trump responded. “I probably would have said if it was Rudy there or somebody. But I make no bones about it. I won’t have ambassadors — I have every right. I want ambassadors that are chosen by me.”
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A source familiar with the recording told Fox News that the ABC report did not reflect the context of the conversation and added that Trump did not make the remark in a “serious” fashion. In response to the report, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said: “Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration.”
Yovanovitch was formally recalled in May 2019. Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October of that year and are charged with making illegal campaign contributions in order to further their business interests and political goals. Both have pleaded not guilty.