One of the U.S. diplomats who was a star witness at last week’s Democratic impeachment hearings is being accused of sexual misconduct.
Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, was accused of assaulting three women more than a decade ago.
The accusations were made public Wednesday afternoon in a report by ProPublica and Portland Monthly.
According to the report, all three women said they were retaliated against professionally after they rebuffed Mr. Sondland.
The women — Nicole Vogel, Jana Solis and Natalie Sept — were named in the report and, according to ProPublica, friends recalled contemporaneous complaints about the purported misconduct.
Mr. Sondland threatened to sue the media outlets Wednesday.
“Ambassador Sondland refutes the allegations entirely and … intends to bring a lawsuit against those publications, their management, and others involved as swiftly as possible,” he wrote in a statement on his personal website.
In eight bullet points, he listed numerous criticisms of the accounts of the three women — some of which were included in a statement made to ProPublica prior to publication — their political bona fides, and ethical breaches in the reporting by ProPublica and Portland Monthly.
In his statement, he also said ProPublica’s reporters asked leading questions and accused the publication of sandbagging and not giving him fair time to rebut the claims.
“ProPublica gave us just one-and-a-half business days to respond to the allegations, even though gathering records and details from so many years back would be next to impossible … whether this method of reporting and substance-free accusations is taken seriously is not up to Portland Monthly or ProPublica but instead for readers and the public to assess. We intend to confront it accordingly, both in the public discourse and in court,” Mr. Sondland wrote.
All three women gave detailed accounts of the circumstances, Mr. Sondland’s behavior and subsequent professional damage.
Ms. Vogel says she sought out Mr. Sondland, a hotelier, as an investor in her magazine. After giving her a tour of one of his Portland hotels, she said Mr. Sondland tried to kiss her before she left one of the hotel rooms, which she rejected. She also recounts a car ride during which he placed his hand on her thigh, but she “clamped her own hand on top of his so he couldn’t move it any further up her thigh.”
After that ride, Ms. Vogel said Mr. Sondland suddenly pulled out of the deal to invest $25,000 in her magazine and instead would give $10,000 if she raised $100,000 herself.
Ms. Vogel’s magazine Portland Monthly also published the ProPublica article, though it notes she was not involved in editorial decisions.
Ms. Solis, who worked as a hotel safety engineer, said he “slap[ped] me on the ass” after a business meeting in 2008, and then met him at his house to maintain the business relationship where he exposed himself to her in his pool house.
She recounted a third encounter when Mr. Sondland brought her up to his penthouse as she was inspecting one of his hotels and forcibly kissed her.
After she rejected his advances, she received a call from Mr. Sondland where he was “screaming” about insurance issues.
Ms. Sept said she had met Mr. Sondland multiple times before going to dinner with him to discuss a potential job offer. She said the dinner was mostly friendly, but as she cut the evening short, he tried to kiss her. She said she never heard about the job offer after that dinner.
Sondland attorney Jim McDermott told ProPublica the former hotelier recalled meeting all the women, but denied any wrongdoing or inappropriate interactions.
Mr. Sondland was approved as the ambassador to the European Union in June 2018.
He has found himself at the center of the impeachment hearings as one of the handful of officials working on securing a White House meeting between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
He told lawmakers that the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was seeking a quid pro quo for investigations into Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son over Hunter Biden’s lucrative job with Ukrainian energy company Burisma and allegations of 2016 election interference.
Mr. Sondland also said he believed that quid pro quo extended to military aid for Ukraine, but he did not hear directly from any official on that front.
Mr. Sondland’s lawyer suggested that the accusations against his client surfaced because of the impeachment inquiry.
“Given the timing of your intended story, a reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that you are attempting to affect Ambassador Sondland’s credibility as a fact witness in the pending impeachment inquiry,” Mr. McDermott wrote, a comment included in the article. “Given the politically charged climate in which current events are unfolding, some might consider this to be veiled witness tampering.”
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