Friday, January 24, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to explain why he ordered a private citizen he supposedly doesn't know to "get rid of" a U.S. ambassador.

ABC News reported today on an audio recording in which Trump demands that Lev Parnas, one of his operatives in the Ukraine scandal, do something about then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it,” Trump said on the recording.

Excerpts of the recording begin at 0:45 in this ABC News video:

Yovanovitch was a non-political appointee with an anti-corruption portfolio. Trump's operatives, led by his personal fixer Rudy Giuliani, were concerned that she would become an obstacle to their plans to try to force the Ukrainian government to intervene in the 2020 election. She was physically and possibly electronically surveilled by Giuliani's associates. 

Trump himself hinted in the July 25th call, in which he presented his demands for Ukraine's "investigation" of his political rival, that Yovanovitch was "going to go through some things." Later, Giuliani bragged to reporters about having engineered her removal.

All of this was known before the recording surfaced—but Trump directly telling Parnas to "take her out" contradicts his previous explanations. Trump had insisted, documentary and photographic evidence to the contrary, that he didn't know Parnas, who is under indictment for illegally funneling foreign money to American political campaigns. 

Asked in a Fox News interview today to explain himself in light of the recording, Trump at first repeated his insistence that he didn't know Parnas—which wouldn't explain why the two were having dinner together, or why Trump was discussing such sensitive matters in front of a stranger. 

Pressed on the point, Trump hesitated. He started to say, "Well, I wouldn't have been saying that"—although the recording would be proof that he did. He stumbled briefly, then suggested he had perhaps been talking to Giuliani instead. 

Though the interviewer directly raised the point, Trump refused to explain why Giuliani, Parnas, or any other private citizens would be involved in internal State Department business. The real reason, made clear by the impeachment investigation, is that Trump's private operatives were trying to work around career State Department officials who were horrified at seeing Trump attempt to force Ukraine's government into corrupt actions.

Why should I care about this?

  • Because it is evidence from Trump's own mouth confirming the worst version of the events for which he has been impeached.