An audio recording appeared to capture President Donald Trump calling in 2018 for the firing of the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, a key figure in the series of events that led to his impeachment, ABC News reported on Friday.
The recording features a voice that sounds like Trump's speaking at a small dinner in April 2018 with guests including Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, ABC reported, citing sources familiar with the recording.
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Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report of the recording.
If it is authentic, it would bolster Democrats' argument that Trump associates spent nearly a year trying to oust the ambassador, Marie Yovanovich, because they saw her as an obstacle in their efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump's political rival Joe Biden.
Parnas had recounted the conversation in media appearances last week.
"Get rid of her!" the voice says, according to ABC. "Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it."
Trump has said he had the right to fire Yovanovich, which he did in May 2019.
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"Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration," said White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
Parnas attorney Joe Bondy said his client had not released the recording but that he was glad it came to light.
"When I read the article I was particularly gratified to see that everything Mr. Parnas has been stating about that event was true," Bondy said, referring to the April 30, 2018 dinner. "It is yet another example of Mr. Parnas's version of events being corroborated by evidence in the form of recordings, emails, text messages."
Parnas, a Florida businessman, has been providing evidence to Democrats now pushing for Trump's ouster at his impeachment trial in the Senate. He played a key role in Giuliani's effort to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine for Trump. He is now under indictment for campaign finance violations in a separate criminal case.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld, writing by Scott Malone Editing by Alistair Bell)