Three women accuse Gordon Sondland of sexual misconduct

Three women have publicly accused U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandWhite House withdraws nomination for Pentagon budget chief who questioned Ukraine aid hold Juan Williams: Will the GOP ever curb Trump? House wants documents on McEntee's security clearances MORE, a key player in the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpDefense industrial base workers belong at home during this public health crisis Maduro pushes back on DOJ charges, calls Trump 'racist cowboy' House leaders hope to vote Friday on coronavirus stimulus MORE, of sexual misconduct relating to their business dealings with him.

The allegations were reported in an article co-published Wednesday by ProPublica and Portland Monthly and date back to before Sondland became ambassador.

All three women described unwanted kissing or attempted kissing by Sondland, a hotelier. One of the accusers said he exposed himself to her, and all three said he retaliated against them professionally after they spurned his advances.

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Sondland strongly denied the accusations.

"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," Sondland said in a statement to the two news outlets.

The allegations were made by Nicole Vogel, Jana Solis and Natalie Sept, who all agreed to be named publicly.

Vogel, who owns Portland Monthly but was not involved in editorial decisions involving the article, according to ProPublica, said she met Sondland when she was trying to find investors for her magazine.

She said that in 2003, Sondland invited her to dinner, where he allegedly told her he would invest in the publication. They later walked to a hotel owned by his company, according to Vogel.

She said they entered one of the rooms, and when she went to leave, he asked her for a hug, which she agreed to.

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“And as I pulled back, he grabs my face and goes to kiss me,” she told ProPublica and Portland Monthly, adding that she deflected the kiss.

She also said that on the drive back from a second meeting a few weeks later, Sondland put his hand on her thigh and left it there for about 10 minutes. Vogel said she put her own hand on top of his so that he could not move it further up her thigh and then they rode in silence.

Vogel alleged that after the encounters, Sondland changed the terms of his investment and she ended up proceeding without him.

Sondland's lawyer Jim McDermottJames (Jim) Adelbert McDermottSondland has 'no intention of resigning,' associate says Three women accuse Gordon Sondland of sexual misconduct Portland hotel chain founded by Trump ambassador says boycott is attack on employees MORE said the change was made for business reasons.

“A decision not to invest cannot fairly be characterized as retaliation,” McDermott told the news outlets. “Ambassador Sondland, in fact, conducted lengthy due diligence about Ms. Vogel’s investment proposal that included enlisting analyses from other regional publishers, before deciding not to invest.”

McDermott, in a statement provided to The Hill, said Sondland denies any unwanted touching in his interactions with Vogel.
 
"Ambassador Sondland denies any unwanted touching, and he specifically denies trying to kiss her or placing his hand on her thigh," McDermott wrote.

Solis told ProPublica and Portland Monthly that she had lunch with Sondland in 2008 while she was working on risk management plans and safety evaluations for restaurants and hotel at the insurance company Marsh & McLennan. 

She said that he “slap[ped] me on the ass and said, ‘I look forward to working with you.’”

"Ambassador Sondland denies slapping Ms. Solis on the rear end,” his lawyer wrote to the publications.

Solis described another occasion when she said she visited his home and agreed to meet him in the pool house after using the bathroom.

Solis said that she found him "naked from the waist down" when she entered the pool house. Solis said she told him she was sorry if she had given him the wrong impression and that he responded, “Well, I just thought we could have some fun, but you know, it’s cool.”

She also told the publications that while she was holding a staff training at one of his hotels, he invited her to his penthouse. She described sitting with him on the couch and having a glass of wine.

Solis said that Sondland tried to kiss her and that she fell "over the back of the couch" while spurning his advances.

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“Ambassador Sondland also denies exposing himself to her or forcibly kissing her,” his lawyer wrote. “We have been able to review Provenance’s records interacting with Ms. Solis’s company, and at no time did she or her employer convey any concern about Ambassador Sondland, his comportment, or the nature of any business dealings he had with them or their personnel.”

Solis told the news outlets that after the alleged incident, Sondland called her and screamed at her regarding insurance issues.

Sept, the third woman, told the news outlets that Sondland had invited her to dinner and later accompanied him to a cocktail bar to talk about a possible job with the Oregon governor’s film board.

She alleged that Sondland insisted on walking her to her car and that she agreed. She told the publications that he leaned in for a hug at her car and then tried to kiss her.

She said she pushed him to the side and the following day sent him an email in an attempt "to maintain professionalism." She told the news outlets that she never heard from him about the job. She has since worked for Democratic politicians including former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic fears rise again as coronavirus pushes Biden to sidelines Clintons send pizza to NY hospital staff treating coronavirus MyPillow to manufacture masks for hospitals amid coronavirus MORE's 2016 presidential campaign.

Sondland has become a key figure in the Democrats' impeachment push, as he is one of the administration officials who pressed Ukraine to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - House to pass relief bill; Trump moves to get US back to work Democratic fears rise again as coronavirus pushes Biden to sidelines Sanders charges forward with 2020 bid despite long odds MORE and his son Hunter Biden as well as an unfounded theory that Ukraine was behind the 2016 election interference.

Sondland's attorney accused the women on trying to undercut Sondland's testimony in the impeachment probe.

“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,” he told the news outlets. “Given the politically charged climate in which current events are unfolding, some might consider this to be veiled witness tampering.”