Gordon Sondland, former U.S ambassador to the European Union (L) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Gordon Sondland, who as a U.S. ambassador in 2019 accused then-President Donald Trump of seeking a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine, on Monday sued former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. for $1.8 million in reimbursement for legal fees incurred during Trump’s first impeachment probe.
The lawsuit alleges Pompeo “made a legally binding promise, both individually and on behalf of the Government,” to pay Sondland’s attorneys’ fees after the then-ambassador to the European Union was subpoenaed to testify before Congress.
But Pompeo allegedly “reneged on his promise” after learning what Sondland would say to the congressional investigators: that Trump and his aides, including Rudy Giuliani, pressured Ukraine to announce investigations that would involve then-potential Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
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Pompeo did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Sondland’s lawsuit. The Department of Justice declined to comment to NBC News.
The bombshell testimony from Sondland, who was a hotelier before being tapped for the ambassador role by the Trump administration, became the centerpiece of the former president’s first impeachment in the House.
Trump was acquitted in the Senate on the charges he abused his power by leaning on Ukraine to announce the politically charged investigations in exchange for military aid.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, says that Sondland was denied government services to help him with the “staggering” amount of preparation required to comply with the subpoenas in the impeachment probe.
Sondland was forced to retain private counsel just days before his first closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill “to reconstruct all the materials needed and to prepare for this daunting task,” the legal complaint says. He used those private services “in reliance on Pompeo’s promise of reimbursement,” the lawsuit says.
Sondland testified under oath before Congress for 17 hours, the final seven of which were broadcast live, the complaint says. His testimony, which addressed the “quid pro quo” that Trump had vociferously denied, was “highly fraught, highly charged, and highly risky with tremendous consequences,” the lawsuit says.
“For all his troubles, Ambassador Sondland learned that testifying truthfully and candidly before Congress as cameras roll was in fact a fireable offense in Pompeo’s Department of State,” the complaint alleges.
Sondland was recalled from his position on Feb. 7, 2020, days after the GOP-led Senate voted for acquittal.
The legal complaint accuses Pompeo of abandoning his contractual commitment to Sondland “apparently for political convenience.”
The complaint also argues that if Pompeo should claim he did not have authority at the time to order the reimbursement of Sondland’s legal fees, then “Pompeo was at all times acting for his own self-serving personal or political reasons, to further his interests to protect himself and others.”
In that case, Sondland “seeks to hold Pompeo personally liable for misrepresenting his authority,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit was first reported by The Washington Post.
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