Gordon Sondland isn’t backing down.
The U.S. ambassador to the EU, who has been at the center of Donald Trump’s impeachment scandal in Washington, has no intention of resigning over allegations of sexual misconduct, a close associate said Thursday.
Sondland has flatly denied the accusations, made by three women, who allege he engaged in inappropriate behavior years before he was named Trump’s envoy to the EU.
“No intention of resigning,” the associate said, in response to a question about whether Sondland believed he could still work effectively as a diplomat in Brussels given the distractions of the impeachment process, in which he has been forced to travel to Washington to testify, and the new allegations of inappropriate behavior.
The allegations by the three women were reported by Portland Monthly, a magazine in Sondland’s home city of Portland, Oregon, and ProPublica, a New York-based nonprofit investigative news outlet.
All three of the women who accused Sondland of unwanted touching, in incidents that allegedly occurred between 2003 and 2011, agreed to be named in the report. One of them, Nicole Vogel, is the owner of Portland Monthly magazine, and said the unwanted touching occurred as she was trying to convince Sondland, a wealthy hotel developer, to invest in her company.
In a letter to ProPublica, one of Sondland’s lawyers, James McDermott, suggested that the allegations and the impeachment inquiry were connected. He accused Portland Monthly and ProPublica of trying to “affect Ambassador Sondland’s credibility as a fact witness in the pending impeachment inquiry” and also suggested the news organizations were guilty of “veiled witness tampering.”
McDermott’s letter was dated the day before the article was published, and it did not deter ProPublica, which is dedicated to exposing “abuses of power and betrayals of public trust.” The journalism outlet, which often works with partner news organizations, has won five Pulitzer prizes and other awards for its work.
Sondland has become a central figure in the impeachment inquiry because of diplomatic efforts related to Ukraine that he said he undertook under direct instructions from Trump. He has testified privately and publicly in Congress, and told the House investigators that there was a “quid pro quo” in Trump’s demand that the Ukrainians investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, which was tied to U.S. military aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Sondland had been working aggressively to “reset” relations between the U.S. and the EU, with a concerted outreach campaign to the bloc’s incoming new leadership team, including Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen and Council President-elect Charles Michel. But European and American officials have said the impeachment process has become a major distraction, forcing Sondland to travel repeatedly to Washington and curtailing his public appearances.