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Impeachment witness Gordon Sondland sues Mike Pompeo, U.S. for $1.8 million

Gordon Sondland, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, filed suit in federal court Monday to recoup legal fees as a witness in 2019 impeachment hearings. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Gordon Sondland, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, filed suit in federal court Monday to recoup legal fees as a witness in 2019 impeachment hearings. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 24 (UPI) -- Gordon Sondland, a 2019 impeachment witness, sued former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. government Monday for $1.8 million in legal fees.

Sondland alleged that Pompeo broke his promise that the State Department would cover his legal fees as a witness in 2019 impeachment hearings for then-President Donald Trump in a complaint filed Monday in federal court in the District of Columbia, first reported by the Washington Post.

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As U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Sondland accused Trump and his aides during the November 2019 hearings of a "quid pro quo" involving pressuring Ukraine's government to investigate Trump's then-rival presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for military aid.

Sondland said he pressured Ukraine for investigations at the "express direction" of Trump through Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and "everyone was in the loop," since "it was no secret."

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Pompeo acknowledged his commitment to pay Sondland's attorney fees, but also said that "everything changed" after Sondland's testimony, and his refusal to resign after Ulrich Brechbuhl, a trusted aide of Pompeo, requested him to, the suit alleges.

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"Ambassador Sondland confirmed he would not resign because he did not do anything improper," the suit alleges. "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.

The suit demands the U.S. government cover the legal fees or Pompeo pay them out of his own pocket.

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It argues that Pompeo's actions were not 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."

Sondland's legal bills were high since the Trump administration restricted "access to materials essential to his preparation," forcing his legal team to "reconstruct" dates and itineraries for his testimony, the suit alleges.

A spokesperson for Pompeo told NBC News Monday "the lawsuit is ludicrous."

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"Mr. Pompeo is confident the court will see it the same way," the Pompeo spokesperson added.

In December 2019, the House impeached Trump on two articles, which included abusing the powers of his presidency and obstructing Congress. The charges stemmed from Trump's dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pressed for investigations of Biden and his son Hunter Biden. In February 2020, the Senate acquitted Trump on the two impeachment articles.

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Sondland was fired from his job two days after Trump's acquittal, along with Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, who also provided damaging testimony during the House impeachment hearings.

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