Gordon Sondland, the first high-ranking Trump administration official to confirm that there was a “quid-pro-quo” arrangement with the government of Ukraine to investigate then presidential candidate Joe Biden and son Hunter in exchange for military aid, has sued former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and the U.S. government for $1.8 million in legal fees.
Filed Monday morning in federal court in the District of Columbia, the suit alleges that Pompeo promised that the State Department would pay Sondland’s legal fees he incurred during former president Donald Trump first impeachment proceeding in 2019, but that he later reneged on his promise because Sondland’s testimony implicated Trump.
Sondland’s testimony became a bombshell in the House inquiry because he was the first official to say that he had firsthand knowledge of conversations among Trump, then attorney Rudy Giuliani and top officials in the Ukrainian government. At the time, Sondland was the United States ambassador to the European Union.
The lawsuit alleges that Pompeo told Sondland that federal government lawyers would not be made available to represent him but that if he hired his own counsel, his attorney fees would be covered by the U.S. government. Top aides to Pompeo also acknowledged this commitment, the suit alleges, but “everything changed” after Sondland delivered his testimony alleging a “quid pro quo.” At the time Sondland also refused to resign despite a request from one of Pompeo’s most trusted aides, Ulrich Brechbuhl.
“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,” the suit alleges.
Sondland is demanding that the U.S. government cover the fees or Pompeo pay out of his own pocket. The suit argues that Pompeo’s actions as secretary of state should not be subject to governmental immunity because the promise “was self-serving, 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.”