Politics

Gordon Sondland denies sexual misconduct allegations

Josh Lederman and Rebecca Shabad
Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 20, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and a key witness who testified publicly this month in the House impeachment inquiry, is categorically denying allegations of sexual misconduct that occurred before he took his diplomatic post and were published for the first time on Wednesday.

"In decades of my career in business and civic affairs, my conduct can be affirmed by hundreds of employees and colleagues with whom I have worked in countless circumstances. These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes. They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them," Sondland said in a statement about the claims, obtained by NBC News.

Sondland's comments came in response to an investigative piece that was jointly published by ProPublica and the Portland Monthly on Wednesday which named three women accusing Sondland of sexual misconduct. All three women said that they experienced professional retaliation after reporting the allegations, which included unwanted touching. The report said that these alleged incidents occurred before he served as ambassador.

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NBC News has not confirmed the allegations, the most recent of which occurred nearly a decade ago.

"These false incidents are at odds with my character. It is distressing that this underhanded journalism was initiated by a source angry that I long ago declined to invest in her magazine, the same magazine now presenting its owner's outlandish claims as if the reporting is somehow objective," Sondland said in his statement.

And on Tuesday, one of Sondland's lawyers sent the news outlets a five-page letter obtained by NBC and wrote that each of the women pursued Sondland for "financial and personal gain."

"This is a shameful attempt to exploit what is going on in Washington, D.C.," wrote James McDermott. "Given the politically charged climate in which current events are unfolding, some might consider this to be veiled witness tampering."

Sondland testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 20 that he and other Trump administration officials followed President Donald Trump's orders to work with Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, on U.S. policy toward Ukraine. He had several conversations with Trump about Ukraine including a phone call that's become a critical piece of the impeachment inquiry.

Sondland said that he spoke to Trump by phone on July 26, the day after Trump's phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Sondland testified, "I have no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations" into the Bidens and the 2016 election. The conversation was overheard by at least one other State Department employee, David Holmes, who also testified in the inquiry.

Sondland became ambassador to the E.U. in July 2018 and previously served as the chairman of a hotel chain. He donated to Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush's presidential campaigns and refused to back Trump's 2016 campaign, though he did donate $1 million to Trump's inauguration to obtain tickets

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Key Points
  • Rudy Giuliani was in talks with Ukraine's former top prosecutor while they worked to dig up potentially damaging information about President Trump's potential 2020 rival Joe Biden, multiple outlets report.
  • Giuliani sought to make a deal worth $200,000 with that prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, earlier this year, according to The Washington Post, which cites people familiar with the discussions.
  • According to The New York Times, Giuliani signed a proposal in February that called for his consulting business to be paid $300,000 by Ukraine's justice ministry in return for locating assets the government lost overseas.