Trump impeachment witness suing Pompeo, State over legal fees
A former top diplomat who testified against former President Trump during his first impeachment trial is suing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department, alleging that his legal fees were not paid as promised.
Trump’s former ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, is seeking $1.8 million in damages from Pompeo and the State Department in a suit filed in federal court in the District of Columbia on Monday.
According to Sondland’s suit, Pompeo had promised him that the government would cover the necessary legal costs of complying with a House subpoena stemming from the inquiry but later backed out of the agreement when it became apparent that the former ambassador’s testimony would be damning for the Trump White House.
“After Pompeo learned what Ambassador 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 reads. “As a result, the Government has withheld reimbursement of Ambassador Sondland’s attorneys’ fees and costs in willful breach of the October 2019 agreement between Pompeo, the Government and Ambassador Sondland.”
“The lawsuit is ludicrous,” a spokesperson for Pompeo said in an emailed statement. “Mr. Pompeo is confident the court will see it the same way.”
Sondland was fired from his post in February 2020, just two days after the Senate acquitted Trump on all of the House’s impeachment charges.
The former ambassador alleged in his lawsuit on Monday that the Trump administration would not allow him to use government legal counsel during the impeachment process, which required significant resources in preparation for his testimony.
“Despite the fact that Ambassador Sondland was subpoenaed in his capacity as an official Government diplomat, Defendants bucked normal convention and denied him the services of any Government counsel,” the lawsuit reads.
“This act was especially problematic in this instance because the amount of preparation needed to comply with the subpoenas was staggering. Ambassador Sondland was required to prepare for highly charged testimony under oath with international scrutiny without access to materials or anyone from the Government agencies which had knowledge of all the facts relevant to his testimony. Ambassador Sondland was forced to create a new team to reconstruct all the materials needed and to prepare for this daunting task.”
The complaint says that Sondland accumulated $1.8 million in legal fees throughout the process, which included a total of 17 hours of congressional testimony.
His testimony was key to the House impeachment managers’ case against Trump, which centered on allegations that the then-president had pressured Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political rivals.
Sondland testified in November of 2019 there was a quid pro quo connected to a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Sondland said in his opening statement.
Updated at 10:37 a.m.