As Gordon Sondland, the Portland hotelier and U.S. ambassador to the European Union, prepares to give closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 17, more information about his role in the Trump administration's dealings with Ukrainian officials is coming to light.
Sondland will present his version of events beginning at 9:30 am Thursday, following preparation with his legal team, led by Jim McDermott, his longtime Portland personal attorney, and Robert Luskin, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represented GOP strategist Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame affair and cyclist Lance Armstrong in his anti-doping case.
New reporting this week shows how Sondland emerged as a central figure in the impeachment investigation.
1. The New York Times reported that Fiona Hill, a former intelligence officer who worked under Presidents Bush and Obama and as a Trump adviser on Russia and Europe, testified Oct. 14 about an explosive July 10 meeting that Sondland and former National Security Adviser John Bolton held with Ukrainian representatives. The Times says Hill testified that Bolton got into a "tense exchange" with Sondland over an alleged "rogue effort" by Sondland, Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani, and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Hill said Bolton was so concerned that he ordered Hill to alert White House lawyers about the meeting. Hill also reportedly said that when she asked Sondland why he was involved in Ukrainian matters, since Ukraine isn't part of the E.U., he said Trump had picked him. "He told her that he was in charge of Ukraine, a moment she compared to Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.'s declaration that he was in charge after the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt," the Times reported.
2. In a lengthy profile of Sondland, The Washington Post reported he hoped to parlay his diplomatic work into a more senior position. "Current and former U.S. officials and foreign diplomats say Sondland seemed to believe that if he delivered for Trump in Ukraine, he could ascend in the ranks of government," the Post reported. "A person close to Sondland disputed that notion, but other officials said Sondland had been talked about in the administration as a possible successor to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross." In the same story, Sondland's wife, Katherine Durant, decried the dogpile on her husband, including calls to boycott Provenance Hotels, the chain he founded. "This environment is so sad and vicious that there is no one who will stick up for him," Durant told the Post. "I find it really pathetic."
3. WW has learned of an unreported link to a key figure in Trump's orbit, the California financier Elliott Broidy. Broidy served as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee as well as vice chair of the Trump Victory Committee and Trump's inauguration. In 2016, one of Sondland's companies invested $200,000 in a Broidy company, Threat Deterrence Capital LLC. (The two men were "casual political friends in Republican donor circles," according to McDermott.) When Trump tapped Sondland for his ambassadorship, Sondland assigned the investment to his two children in response to a State Department divestment request. Broidy later resigned from the RNC after The Wall Street Journal reported that he'd paid a Playboy playmate $1.6 million after getting her pregnant. When Broidy's legal troubles became big news in 2018, the Sondland children sold their stake in Threat Deterrence back to the company for $200,000. McDermott says the Broidy investment was "unrelated" to Sondland's nomination to his ambassadorship.