U.S. President Donald Trump asked dinner guests how long Ukraine would be able to resist Russian aggression, according to a tape recorded at a 2018 gathering with donors.
“How long would they last in a fight with Russia?” Trump is heard asking in the audio portion of a video recording obtained by U.S. media outlets, including the Associated Press and ABC News, on January 24-25.
Someone is heard on the tape saying, “Without us, not very long."
“Without us," Trump repeats.
Trump also asks whether Kyiv felt it was "going to be OK" in its conflict with Russia.
"They feel they're going to be OK if you support them," someone replies.
"It's always us that has to support everyone," says Trump, who then complains that European nations were not doing enough to share the burden.
The U.S. Senate is currently conducting a trial after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump last month on two articles -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The Democrats have accused Trump of withholding military aid and a White House invitation as a means to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch two investigations that would benefit the U.S. leader’s reelection chances.
Trump dismisses the accusations as a witch hunt and has said his dealings with Zelenskiy were "perfect."
Since 2014, Kyiv has been engaged in a war in eastern Ukraine against Russia-backed separatists in a battle that has killed more than 13,000 people. Russia also seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
Trump is also heard on the tape calling for the removal of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, a key figure in the series of events that led to the president’s impeachment.
She was fired a year later following a campaign by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others, including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, close associates of Giuliani.
A video recording of an 80-minute dinner at the Trump Hotel in Washington was obtained on January 25 by the AP. Excerpts were first published a day earlier by ABC News.
The recording appears to contradict statements by Trump that he did not know Parnas or Fruman, who were indicted on campaign finance charges in 2019.
Parnas' attorney, Joseph Bondy, has confirmed that he turned over a recording of the dinner to authorities.
On the tape, Parnas appears to say, “The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we got to get rid of the ambassador."
He later tells Trump: "She's basically walking around telling everybody, 'Wait, he's gonna get impeached. Just wait.'"
Trump responds: "Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
Trump has said he had the right to fire Yovanovitch. Trump removed her in May 2019 and said in a recent interview that he was "not a fan."