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Jan. 24, 2020, 2:07 p.m. EST

Trump heard saying he wanted Ukraine ambassador Yovanovitch gotten rid of, ABC reports

White House responds that presidents have the right to have supporters in their administrations

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By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch


Getty Images
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 15.

ABC News reports that it has reviewed a recording that appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, fired.

The report says Trump was speaking at a gathering that included two associates of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have since been indicted in New York. ABC wrote that sources familiar with the recording said it was made during an April 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington . That was the month Mike Pompeo formally took over the State Department, under which the diplomatic corps falls, in the wake of Rex Tillerson’s ouster as secretary of state in mid-March 2018.

Trump said last week that he didn’t know Parnas, “other than I guess I had pictures taken.”

“Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it,” a voice that appears to be Trump’s is heard saying, according to ABC.

The report states that it appears on the recording that the two Giuliani associates are telling Trump that Yovanovitch had been bad-mouthing him.

Yovanovitch was recalled in May 2019. Presidents have the authority to nominate and remove U.S. ambassadors.

“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 press secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement following publication of the ABC story.

The story comes with Trump’s impeachment trial under way in the Senate. Trump maintains he has done nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine. (Click to watch the impeachment trial online.)

The House impeached Trump last month, saying the president abused his office by asking Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden while withholding aid from the country. The House also approved an obstruction charge against Trump.

Robert Schroeder is the White House reporter for MarketWatch. Follow him on Twitter @mktwrobs.

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