Gordon Sondland, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union during the Trump administration, has filed a hefty federal lawsuit against Trump era Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department itself after Pompeo, while in power, backed out of his promise to cover Sondland’s legal fees connected to the first impeachment proceedings against then-President Donald Trump.
With his new lawsuit, Sondland is seeking to get his legal fees — totaling $1.8 million — covered by either Pompeo or the federal government. Pompeo dropped his pledge to cover the costs after Sondland effectively testified against Trump rather than in his favor. As part of the impeachment proceedings, Sondland eventually confirmed to Congress that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo arrangement in place, with the Trump administration asking for an investigation by Ukrainian authorities of the Bidens in return for military aid for the country. Sondland — in his role as a then-top ambassador — had firsthand knowledge of relevant interactions.
According to Sondland’s new lawsuit, “top aides” to Pompeo “acknowledged” the then-Secretary of State’s pledge to cover the then-ambassador’s legal fees, as summarized by The Washington Post. “Everything changed,” Sondland says, after he delivered his high-profile testimony to Congress and then refused to resign. (He was later fired.) Sondland’s lawsuit says as follows:
‘Ambassador Sondland confirmed he would not resign because he did not do anything improper. After that, everything changed. Ambassador Sondland did not receive his attorneys’ fees, notwithstanding the promises from the State Department that the attorneys’ fees would be paid.’
Sondland adds in his lawsuit that he believes that Pompeo should not be subject to governmental immunity because his agreement to cover the ex-ambassador’s legal fees “was self-serving” and “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.” Notably, Sondland also adds that his legal costs were as high as they were in the first place partly because the Trump administration blocked “access to materials essential to his preparation.” The next step for Sondland’s lawsuit isn’t immediately clear.
Meanwhile, other legal troubles with ties to those impeachment proceedings are continuing to unfold. Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is facing a federal criminal investigation over his foreign connections, including those to Ukraine, where he helped with trying to get damaging information on the Bidens. He’s suspected of possibly violating the law that demands registering with U.S. authorities when lobbying on behalf of foreign interests in the United States.