Amb. Sondland Sues Pompeo, State Department for $1.8M in Legal Fees 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 Nov. 20, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
By Eric Mack | Monday, 24 May 2021 12:57 PM
Former Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland has filed a $1.8 million lawsuit in federal court, alleging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department promised to pay his legal fees for the participation in the first impeachment trial of then-President Donald Trump.
Amb. Sondland's lawsuit claims Pompeo "made a legally binding promise, both individually and on behalf of the government" to pay his legal bills, but Pompeo "reneged on his promise" after learning what Sondland was going to testify to, The Washington Post reported.
"For all his troubles, Amb. Sondland learned that testifying truthfully and candidly before Congress as cameras roll was in fact a fireable offense in Pompeo's Department of State," the lawsuit claimed, CNBC reported.
"Was there a quid pro quo? With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes," Amb. Sondland said during the impeachment trial that sought to remove Trump for leveraging aid on a Ukraine statement to address its public corruption.
"Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret."
After the testimony that rocked Washington, D.C., and potentially led to the House Democrats' impeachment vote, Sondland was recalled from his ambassadorship by the Pompeo State Department.
"Amb. Sondland confirmed he would not resign because he did not do anything improper," the lawsuit read, the Post reported. "After that, everything changed. Amb. Sondland did not receive his attorneys' fees, notwithstanding the promises from the State Department that the attorneys' fees would be paid."
A spokesman for Pompeo rejected the lawsuit as "ludicrous."
"The lawsuit is ludicrous," the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hill. "Mr. Pompeo is confident the court will see it the same way."
Sondland seeks to hold Pompeo personally accountable for reimbursement of the legal fees if the secretary "intentionally committed fraud" – the lawsuit read – in making the promise against State Department policy.
"After Pompeo learned what Amb. Sondland’s testimony was before Congress during the 2019 Impeachment Inquiry — words that were entirely candid and truthful (but uncomfortable to the Trump Administration) — Pompeo reneged on his promise," the lawsuit read, The Hill reported. "As a result, the government has withheld reimbursement of Amb. Sondland's attorneys' fees and costs in willful breach of the October 2019 agreement between Pompeo, the government and Amb. Sondland."
Sondland's testimony was not only controversial for its pointed accusation of quid pro quo, but also the fact he revised it closer to the trial to add the phrasing "quid pro quo," which was oft-repeated by House Democrat impeachment managers.
Sondland's attorneys gave House impeachment investigators a new sworn statement that updated his sworn prior statements during the closed-door testimony.
Sondland said his memory was impacted by the opening statements of 2 other key witnesses who have testified in broadcast portion of the impeachment inquiry.
Sondland said he then recalled a conversation in Warsaw with a top aide to the Ukraine president in which he said resumption of military aid would not happen until Ukraine had issued a public anti-corruption statement.
Notably, Sondland impeachment testimony lawyer Robert Luskin, who advised him to update his sworn testimony, was a Democrat speech writer and operative before becoming an attorney.