Trump Doesn’t Deny Asking for Envoy’s Ouster: Impeachment Update
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg)

Trump Doesn’t Deny Asking for Envoy’s Ouster: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- House managers will wrap up their case against President Donald Trump on Friday, completing three days of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial. Trump’s lawyers are set to begin presenting his defense on Saturday.

Here are the latest developments:

Trump Doesn’t Deny Asking for Envoy’s Ouster (11:20 p.m.)

Trump did not dispute that he may have called for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch as the United States ambassador to Ukraine in a 2018 recording obtained by ABC News, saying he had “a right to hire and fire ambassadors.”

“I am not a fan of that ambassador, just so you understand,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News that was broadcast on Friday night. “From what I understand - and I heard this a long time ago - she wouldn’t put my picture up. She was an Obama appointee, I believe, and she wouldn’t put my picture up.”

The president did deny that he had instructed Lev Parnas, an associate of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to execute Yovanovitch’s removal, saying he “wouldn’t have been saying that.” Instead, Trump said, he was likely speaking to Giuliani or “somebody” else when he apparently said to “get rid of her.”

“I make no bones about it, I want to have ambassadors -- I have every right -- I want ambassadors that are chosen by me. I have a right to hire and fire ambassadors,” he said.

A lawyer for Parnas, who has been charged with making illegal campaign donations, says he has turned over a video recording of Trump calling for Yovanovitch’s ouster to the House Intelligence Committee.

House Democrats are expected to seize on the recording to argue that additional witnesses and documents should be subpoenaed before lawmakers vote on whether to remove Trump from office in the impeachment trial currently ongoing in the Senate

Trump Video Given to House, Lawyer Says (7:57 p.m.)

The lawyer for Rudy Giuliani’s indicted associate Lev Parnas says he turned over to House Democrats a video recording of Trump calling for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in 2018.

“Lev went back through his account today and found it. I then conveyed it,” said Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph Bondy. He said the recording was an iPhone video, and that it was given Friday to the House Intelligence Committee.

The chairman of that committee, Adam Schiff of California, leads the House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump in the Senate.

ABC News reported earlier Friday that Trump could be heard on the recording saying, “Get rid of her” and “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. O.K.? Do it.” The focus of those remarks was Yovanovitch, according to ABC.

ABC described the recording as being made during an April 30, 2018, dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that included Parnas and Igor Fruman -- business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Giuliani who later were indicted in New York on campaign-finance charges.

The recording, along with purportedly reflecting that Trump was focused on getting Yovanovitch out of her ambassador post as early as the spring of 2018, was also described by ABC as appearing to contradict statements by Trump that he didn’t know Parnas.

Asked by reporters about the recording, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said, “An ambassador serves at the pleasure of the president. You know who said that? The ambassador herself.” Yovanovitch said that at a House hearing, when she said Trump could have fired her without anyone disparaging her character.

When news of the recording surfaced earlier Friday, Schiff had declined to discuss it in detail.

“I don’t have enough background really, to give you a response to it at this time,” Schiff told reporters. “But plainly, if the president at the urging of Giuliani, or Parnas, or Fruman, if this is additional evidence of his involvement in that effort to smear her, it would certainly corroborate much of what we’ve heard.”

Schiff added, “But I’m not in a position yet to analyze that, not having looked at it.”

Nadler Says Trump Acting Like ‘a Dictator’ (6:32 p.m.)

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler lit into Trump as a “dictator” who is worse than Nixon in his defiance of congressional subpoenas.

“If presidents could abuse their power and then conceal all the evidence from Congress, the impeachment clause would be a nullity,” Nadler said.

The only person to defy an impeachment inquiry subpoena before Trump was former President Richard Nixon, Nadler said, and he faced an article of impeachment as a result. But even Nixon turned over many documents and allowed many to testify, unlike Trump, Nadler said.

“He is a dictator. This must not stand and that is another reason why he must be removed from office,” Nadler said as he concluded his speech on Trump’s blanket defiance of House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. -- Steven T. Dennis

Warren Says She’d Release Trump Documents (5:26 p.m.)

Elizabeth Warren promised Friday that if elected president, she would order the release of all documents the White House is holding back from Congress during Trump’s impeachment investigation and trial.

In a series of tweets, Warren accused the Trump administration of “hiding” documents from the public. “They should know this evidence won’t be hidden forever,” she said.

Warren called on her fellow Democratic presidential candidates to make a similar pledge. “If we don’t re-establish the rule of law in this country, every future administration will think they can act illegally without facing any consequences,” she wrote.

Trump Defense to Target Biden, Lawyer Says (4:35 p.m.)

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow told reporters his team plans to showcase allegations against Joe Biden in the defense case set to begin Saturday.

Sekulow said the House Democrats’ presentation opened to the door to discussions of Hunter Biden’s work for Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, at a time when his father was vice president and worked on corruption issues in Ukraine.

“Why they opened up the door as wide as a double door on the Hunter Biden-Joe Biden-Burisma issue,” Sekulow said, “I guess they felt that was their way of getting ahead of it. We will address it.”

He said the defense will also discuss allegations that Democrats solicited foreign interference in the 2016 election by commissioning British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile a dossier of allegations against Trump.

“There was foreign interference; let’s not forget where it came from,” Sekulow said. “We are going to rebut and rebuke, but we’re going to put on an affirmative case tomorrow.”

Sekulow said Saturday’s three-hour Senate session will be a preview of “coming attractions” with the heart of the defense case to begin on Monday. He said the Senate asked for a shortened session on Saturday and the White House defense team agreed. -- Erik Wasson

Roberts Draws Barrage of Calls to High Court (3:58 p.m.)

The Supreme Court is getting a barrage of calls from the public while Chief Justice John Roberts presides over Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.

Social media posts have been urging people to call the Supreme Court about various aspects of the impeachment trial -- and Roberts’ handling of it. Posts on Twitter say Roberts should back Democratic demands for witness testimony and enforce rules requiring senators to remain in their seats.

The court has received a “higher than usual number of calls,” Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Unlike congressional offices and the White House, the Supreme Court isn’t designed to respond to public opinion and doesn’t have a public-comment line. The court’s public information office has been fielding calls and telling people they can send emails or contact their congressional representatives, Arberg said.

Roberts has largely played a ministerial role at the Senate. His most notable moment came during the first night, when he told both sides to tone down their language and “remember where they are.”

Roberts’ extra duties at the Senate may be slowing down the court’s work. The court indicated Friday it won’t issue opinions when the justices take the bench Monday before beginning a four-week recess. The court has released only four opinions in argued cases this term, down from eight at a comparable point last year. -- Greg Stohr

Pompeo Repeatedly Declines to Defend Envoy (1:33 p.m.)

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo refused to defend his ousted ambassador to Ukraine despite being pressed multiple times, maintaining his long-running refusal to mention former envoy Marie Yovanovitch by name.

“I’ve defended every single person on this team,” Pompeo told National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, when asked why he hadn’t stood up for Yovanovitch. “I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team.”

Asked to point to any remarks regarding Yovanovitch, he replied, “I’ve said all I’m going to say today.”

Over the course of the impeachment saga, Pompeo has consistently declined to offer public support for Yovanovitch, a widely praised diplomat. She was recalled from her post in May after a sustained campaign to oust her by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Trump Lawyers to Begin Defense on Saturday (12:44 p.m.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the trial will resume at 10 a.m. Saturday and run for “several hours,” as Trump’s lawyers deliver their opening presentation in the president’s defense.

Trump on Tape Sought Envoy’s Ouster: ABC (12:02 p.m.)

A recording appears to show President Donald Trump saying he wanted Marie Yovanovitch removed as ambassador to Ukraine, ABC News reported without providing the audio.

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

If accurate, the recording backs up testimony in the House impeachment hearings that Trump had Yovanovitch removed because she was viewed as an obstacle to his efforts to press Ukraine into investigating Democrat Joe Biden and his son. She was recalled in May 2019.

The president reportedly made the remarks at an April 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, were in attendance, ABC said.

The president’s comments appeared to be prompted by comments that the network attributed to Parnas, who said that “we gotta get rid of the ambassador” because she is telling people “he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.”

Trump has denied knowing Parnas beyond taking a few photographs at fundraising events. Parnas has said that his activities in Ukraine with Giuliani were approved by Trump.

Parnas and Fruman were indicted by federal prosecutors on campaign finance charges as part of an alleged scheme to circumvent laws against straw donations and funneling foreign contributions to political candidates.

The White House and Giuliani didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. -- Jordan Fabian

Trump Likely to Object If Mulvaney Called (11:12 a.m.)

Trump probably would object to testimony from acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on executive privilege grounds, the same as he would from former National Security Advisor John Bolton, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Friday.

“There is a lot of information, sensitive information, national security information, that they discuss and that’s something that should be protected, absolutely, for this country, and again for future presidencies,” Grisham said on Fox News.

Mulvaney in October undercut the White House argument that there was “no quid pro quo” when he said that aid for Ukraine was tied to Trump’s demand for an investigation into the 2016 election. “We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney said at the time. “Get over it.”

Grisham said Friday that Mulvaney was simply saying that corruption needed to be looked into before aid to Ukraine was released.

”I don’t think he did say there was a quid pro quo,” she said. “I think he was saying we wanted to look into corruption before we would release taxpayer money. So if that’s the quid pro quo, that’s OK.” -- Josh Wingrove

Trump Lawyers Still Plan to Start Saturday (10:19 a.m.)

Trump’s lawyers still plan to open their defense on Saturday, an administration official familiar with the matter said Friday, hours after the president tweeted that Saturday is the “Death Valley” of television.

“After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.,” Trump tweeted.

Trump Laments Defense Bumped From Prime Time (8:07 a.m.)

President Donald Trump’s legal team will kick off their defense in his Senate impeachment trial on Saturday, “the Death Valley” of T.V., Trump lamented in an early Friday morning tweet.

“After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.,” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s lawyers have promised a vigorous defense against an investigation they have labeled as rushed and biased. Jay Sekulow, one of the lawyers representing Trump, has said the response to the Democrats’ case would combine both a rebuttal of their arguments as well as a positive defense of the president’s actions.

Some Republicans earlier this week said they worried Democrats were trying to push GOP arguments into the weekend, when TV viewership is traditionally much less. Senator Roy Blunt, one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top lieutenants, said Wednesday that Democrats’ efforts to force votes on all their amendments was a “cynical” ploy to push the president’s defense out of the prime time slot. -- Kathleen Miller

Managers to Argue for Obstruction Article (6 a.m.)

The seven House managers led by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff plan on Friday to argue in support of the second impeachment article, which accuses Trump of obstructing the House investigation of his actions toward Ukraine.

Managers will say the article is supported by the Constitution’s balance of power between the branches of government.

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

McConnell Changes Trial Rules at Last Minute: Key Takeaways

Trump Says He’s Still Mulling Whether to Block Trial Testimony

Schiff Draws Dark Portrait of Trump in Impeachment Trial Opening

Silent Senators, No Photographers: Inside the Impeachment Trial

Key Events

  • Here is House Democrats’ web page containing documents related to the impeachment trial. House Democrats’ impeachment brief is here. Trump’s initial reply is here, and his lawyers’ trial brief is here.
  • The House impeachment resolution is H.Res. 755. The Intelligence Committee Democrats’ impeachment report is here.
  • Gordon Sondland’s transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, is here.
  • The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here. The Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy’s is here.

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