Gordon Sondland, former US Ambassador to the European Union (L) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Gordon Sondland, who, as US ambassador in 2019, accused the then President Donald Trump of seeking “consideration” with Ukraine, sued former Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo and the USA on Monday for reimbursement of US $ 1.8 million for legal fees, which arose during Trump’s first impeachment probe.
The lawsuit alleges that Pompeo made “both individually and on behalf of the government a legally binding promise” to pay Sondland’s legal fees after the then ambassador to the European Union was summoned to Congress to testify.
But Pompeo reportedly “refused” his promise after learning what Sondland would say to Congress investigators: Trump and his aides, including Rudy Giuliani, urged Ukraine to announce an investigation involving then-potential Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter would be involved in Biden.
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“The lawsuit is ridiculous,” a Pompeo spokesman told NBC News later Monday morning. “Mr. Pompeo is confident that the court will see it the same way.”
The Justice Department declined NBC’s request for comment
The bomb certificate from Sondland, who was a hotelier before the Trump administration won him the role of ambassador, became the centerpiece of the former President’s first impeachment in the House of Representatives.
Trump was acquitted in the Senate for abusing his power by relying on Ukraine to announce the politically charged investigation in exchange for military aid.
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court in Washington, says Sondland was denied government service to help him with the “astounding” amount of preparation required to comply with the impeachment probe summons.
Just days before its first Capitol Hill deposit, Sondland was forced to hire a private attorney “to reconstruct all the materials needed and prepare for this daunting task,” the legal complaint read. He used these private services “depending on Pompeo’s promise of reimbursement,” says the lawsuit.
Sondland testified before Congress for 17 hours under oath, the last seven of which were broadcast live. His testimony, which dealt with the “consideration” that Trump had loudly denied, was “highly charged, highly charged and highly risky with enormous consequences,” the lawsuit said.
“Despite all of his problems, Ambassador Sondland learned that it was indeed a criminal offense at the Pompeo State Department to testify truthfully and openly in front of Congress while the cameras were rolling,” the complaint read.
Sondland was recalled from his position on February 7, 2020, days after the GOP-led Senate voted in favor of the acquittal.
The legal complaint accuses Pompeo of giving up its contractual obligation to Sondland “apparently for political reasons”.
The complaint also argues that if Pompeo were to claim that he had no authority at the time to order the reimbursement of Sondland’s legal fees, “Pompeo was at all times acting for personal or political reasons of his own to advance his interests to protect yourself and others. “
In this case, Sondland seeks to “hold Pompeo personally responsible for misrepresenting his authority,” the lawsuit said.
If Pompeo was not empowered to make such a promise to Sondland, then he “intentionally committed fraud,” the complaint said.
“After that everything changed”
The complaint alleges that Sondland scheduled a call to Pompeo in October 2019 after being told that the Justice Department and State Department did not represent him on his testimony. On that call, Pompeo and the Trump administration allegedly promised the ambassador that the State Department would reimburse him for all his attorney’s fees and expenses related to the impeachment process.
Sondland’s lawyers “heard Pompeo’s promise when they heard the speakerphone call between Pompeo and Ambassador Sondland,” the lawsuit said.
The State Department had ordered Sondland not to appear before the committees of the House of Representatives on October 8, 2019, and Sondland initially followed this instruction and canceled his appearance. The move “has tightened both the formality and the controversial tenor of further proceedings,” which has had an impact on Sondland’s legal fees, the lawsuit alleges. The House then summoned Sondland to testify, and the Ambassador joined.
A little over a week later, on October 16, Pompeo again promised “without qualification” in a conference call with Sondland that the ambassador’s legal fees would be fully reimbursed, the complaint said.
The lawsuit notes that Sondland had received praise from Trump and Pompeo and had a close relationship with his colleagues prior to his involvement in the impeachment process.
“When Ambassador Sondland first learned that he had been summoned to testify, he was in the White House,” the complaint said.
“During a conversation with President Trump, Ambassador Sondland advised him on his upcoming testimony. The President replied,” Go ahead and tell the truth, “it says.
On the day he was released, Sondland’s lawsuit claims he was told by the Trump administration that they “value his testimony” but are still “remotely cleaning up anyone involved in impeachment wanted”.
Sondland refused to resign and “everything changed after that,” the complaint read. “Since then, the government has rocked and weaved at every attempt by Ambassador Sondland and Private Counsel to please the compensation company.”
The lawsuit was first reported by the Washington Post.