Philip Bump has an analysis in this morning’s WaPo — Four significant questions raised by the newly released recording of Trump and Lev Parnas — which goes into details of the video Parnas’s lawyer released yesterday. That prompted me to put together a timeline to try to make some sense of one of the questions everyone’s asking: Since Trump has the authority to fire an ambassador any time he wants for any reason (or none), why didn’t he fire Amb. Yovanovitch for almost a year?
Sometime in 2018 (Date unclear) Parnas and Fruman start working with Guiliani on Ukraine.
30 Apr 2018: Parnas tells Trump that the ambassador to Ukraine is “basically walking around telling everybody — wait, he's gonna get impeached. Just wait. You're going to be impeached.” Trump doesn’t know the ambassador’s name, and Parnas professes not to remember it. Trump then says, “Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
(At this point, it appears that the reason Parnas and Fruman wanted Yovanovitch out is they thought she might interfere with their plans to replace the CEO of Naftogaz, the Ukrainian gas company.)
6 Dec 2018: At a White House Hanukah party, Trump meets privately with Parnas, Fruman, and Guiliani, telling them to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Jan. 2019: Guiliani tries to get former Ukrainian prosecutor Shokin a visa to the US, which is denied. Guiliani apparently wants to talk to Shokin to get manufactured dirt on the Bidens. He is convinced Amb. Yovanovitch had blocked Shokin’s visa.
Feb 2019: A Ukrainian cabinet minister tells Amb. Yovanovitch that Parnas and Fruman were trying to have her replaced and were conducting a smear campaign against her, and that she needed to watch her back.
Late Mar 2019: Guiliani gives a packet of material on Yovanovitch to Pompeo; he accuses her of, among other things, blocking Shokin’s visa.
21 Apr 2019: Zelenskiy wins election as the new Ukrainian president.
24 Apr 2019: (1 AM 25 Apr Ukrainian time) Amb. Yovanovitch is woken up by a phone call from State telling her to come back to DC immediately for her safety. When she comes back, she learns that Trump had wanted her removed since July 2018.
25 Apr 2019: Joe Biden announces he’s running for president.
7 May 2019: State announces that Amb. Yovanovitch will be leaving her post on 20 May.
(I left out a lot of details in the interests of keeping this to a manageable length.)
OK. I still don’t have an answer to my question, but here’s a theory: As long as Yovanovitch was only interfering in Trump’s friends’ efforts to steal money from Ukraine, he was happy to have her smeared and threatened. But as soon as Trump learned Biden was really going to run against him (given the timeline, he had to have had advance word), the Ambassador became a threat to him directly, because she was also interfering in his attempts to smear the Bidens. Whatever perverse pleasure Trump may have been getting from watching Yovanovitch get “punished” from suggesting he would be impeached (which she almost certainly never said), that was now less important than getting her out of the way now so he could get Ukraine’s help in making up dirt on Joe Biden.
Any other thoughts?