Trump campaign against Ukraine envoy roils impeachment


Washington, Jan 25 (IANS): Reports about a private dinner in 2018 where US President Donald Trump purportedly demanded the recall of Washington's then-ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, provided an added element of intrigue to his impeachment trial in the Senate.

ABC News, who broke the story on Driday, said that journalists with the network had listened to a recording of the President's April 30, 2018, dinner with campaign donors at the Trump Hotel in Washington, reports Efe news.

"Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it," Trump is heard saying of Yovanovitch, according to ABC News, who said that the recording was made by one of the guests, Igor Fruman.

Also present was Fruman's business partner, Lev Parnas. Both men are facing federal charges for campaign finance violations.

Parnas previously told The Washington Post about Trump's outburst, explaining that it came after he and Fruman made negative comments about Yovanovitch.

Fruman and Parnas are former associates of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Parnas worked with Giuliani to effect the ouster of Yovanovitch and - subsequently - in the effort to get the government in Kiev to investigate former US Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in connections with events in Ukraine during the period 2014-2016.

Parnas disclosed late Friday through his lawyer that he had handed over a recording of the dinner to the House Intelligence Committee, which helped draft the articles of impeachment against Trump for allegedly conditioning the release of military aid to Ukraine on Kiev's announcing a probe of Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Trump raised the issue of the Bidens in a July 2019 telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Trump administration responded to the ABC News story with a brief statement that did not address the veracity of the network's account.

"Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said on Friday night.

Yovanovitch, who was ultimately recalled from Kiev, testified before the House of Representatives during the impeachment hearings.

She blamed a smear campaign for her removal, which marked the end of a three-decade-long diplomatic career.

Shortly after mid-day Friday, the Senate reconvened for the fourth day of Trump's impeachment trial.

The House Democrats chosen to present the case, known in congressional jargon as impeachment managers, took turns putting forward their final arguments before yielding the floor to Trump's legal team on Saturday.

Republicans hold 53 of the 100 Senate seats and a two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove a president.

In the short term, however, the Democrats have set their sights on persuading at least four Republicans to support the prosecution's call for the Senate to hear from witnesses.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, wants to see an expedited process, arguing that Trump's acquittal is a foregone conclusion.

During Friday's session, the Democrats focused on the second article of impeachment, which accuses the president of obstructing the House's investigation of the Ukraine matter by withholding documents and barring administration officials from testifying.

"President Trump tried to cheat, he got caught, and then he worked hard to cover it up," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York told senators.

  

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