Key impeachment witness sues Pompeo over $1.8M in legal fees

Ruben Hill
May 25, 2021

Sondland is now suing both Pompeo and the United States government for $1.8 million, a figure that Sondland said reflects the cost of hiring his own private attorneys for the impeachment trial after he was denied access to government counsel.

Sondland is the founder of Provenance Hotels and was a wealthy Trump donor before the now ex-president tapped him for an ambassadorship.

Gordon Sondland, the former USA ambassador who testified against President Donald Trump during his first impeachment, sued former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the US government for $1.8 million in legal fees on Monday.

Sondland alleges in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, that Pompeo had committed to reimburse his legal expenses after he was subpoenaed by House Democrats to testify in an impeachment case that accused then-President Donald Trump of withholding military aid from Ukraine while demanding an investigation into political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

He was sacked on February 7, 2020, two days after the Republican-held Seante acquitted Trump on the House's impeachment charges.

"For all his troubles, Ambassador Sondland learned that testifying truthfully and candidly before Congress as cameras roll was in fact a fireable offense in Pompeo's Department of State", Sondland's lawyer Mark Barondess wrote in a 21-page complaint.

He testified that there was an agreement that the Trump administration would release USA military aid for Ukraine's newly elected government if it investigated then-candidate Joe Biden's alleged ties with Ukraine.

"I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?'" Sondland told Congress at the time.

Specifically, it claims that Pompeo's about-face came after Sondland's became the first impeachment witness to confirm there was a quid pro quo that came from Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the "express direction of the President". In February, 2020, the Senate acquitted him. "Yes", Sondland told lawmakers, using a Latin term meaning a favour for a favour.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said at the time that Sondland's testimony showed "that the knowledge of this scheme was far and wide".

"Mr. Pompeo is confident the court will see it the same way", the spokesperson said in an emailed comment.

Sondland, a Seattle-based businessman who had donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration committee, was appointed by the former president as the ambassador to the EU. The suit argues that Pompeo's actions as secretary of state should not be subject to governmental immunity because the promise "was self-serving, made entirely for personal reasons for his own political survival in the hopes that Ambassador Sondland would not implicate him or others by his testimony".

The State Department did pay Sondland $86,040 to go toward his legal bills, but the suit says that fell short of Pompeo's pledge of 'full reimbursement'.

The complaint filed Monday accounts for the possibility that Pompeo may attempt to argue that he did not have the authority to bind the USA government to reimburse Sondland's attorney fees - a claim the lawsuit says would make the former secretary personally liable for "misrepresenting his authority".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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