Hotel Owner Gordon Sondland Now Figures In Trump Impeachment Investigation
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Hotel magnate Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, has landed in the middle of the exploration into potential impeachment proceedings for President Donald Trump.
Sondland isn't a career diplomat, but a commercial real estate entrepreneur and executive. Among other businesses, he runs Provenance Hotels, a chain of 14 boutique properties, with properties in Portland, Boston, Nashville, New Orleans, Seattle and other places. The company, which Sondland founded, designs or remodels its properties using elements that relate to a location’s history, art or culture.
A longtime supporter of Republican candidates, Sondland initially supported Trump during his candidacy, withdrew his support before the election, then donated $1M to the Trump inaugural committee, the Oregonian reports. Trump appointed him to his ambassadorship.
The whistleblower report that has spurred the U.S. House of Representatives to open an impeachment investigation about the president mentions Sondland by name four times regarding his dealings with Ukraine.
"[U.S. Special Rep. Kurt] Volker was accompanied in his meetings by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland," the report said. "Based on multiple readouts of these meetings recounted to me by various U.S. officials, Ambassadors Volker and Sondland reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to 'navigate' the demands that the president had made of Mr. Zelenskyy."
The report said U.S. officials told the whistleblower that State Department officials, including Volker and Sondland, had spoken with Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in an attempt to "contain the damage" to U.S. national security.
The report said the ambassadors met with members of the new Ukrainian administration and, besides discussing policy matters, sought to help Ukrainian leaders respond to the differing messages they were reportedly receiving from official U.S. channels and Giuliani.
In the text messages provided recently by Volker to House committees, Sondland defended the president to Bill Taylor, interim chargé d'affaires in Kyiv and top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine.
On Sept. 9, Taylor texted Sondland: "As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
Sondland answered: "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been clear no quid pro quos of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign."
The House committees undertaking the impeachment inquiry have demanded that Sondland appear for questioning on Oct. 10. Sondland indicated he would cooperate with Congress, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Later U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the House wasn’t giving his agency enough time to prepare for the testimony of Sondland and other State Department officials.
Over the weekend, NBC White House correspondent Geoff Bennett tweeted that Sondland would testify in the House at a closed-door hearing on Oct. 8. The Hill reported that anonymous congressional sources had confirmed that date.