WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Gordon Sondland, the former U.S. ambassador who testified against President Donald Trump during his first impeachment, sued former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. government for $1.8 million in legal fees on Monday.
Sondland, in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, accused Pompeo of not covering his legal expenses as promised after the ambassador told lawmakers about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
The U.S. House of Representatives impeached the former Republican president in 2019 over his push to have Ukraine investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, although the Senate acquitted him.
During the probe, Sondland told Congress “everyone was in the loop” regarding Trump administration efforts to pressure Ukraine. “Was there a quid pro quo? … Yes.” Pompeo later said he never saw Sondland’s testimony ahead of time.
Sondland, a Seattle-based businessman who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, was appointed by the former president as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Trump later distanced himself from Sondland and ultimately lost his re-election bid to Biden.
In the lawsuit, Sondland said Pompeo in 2019 “assured” him that “the State Department would reimburse him for all of his legal costs” when House lawmakers initially sought his testimony and “continued to reaffirm his promise.”
Sondland said he was later fired on Feb. 7 2020 after appearing before a House panel on Oct. 17 and Nov. 20, 2019 for “simply for telling the truth.”
“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 lawsuit said.
“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” in a “willful breach of the October 2019 agreement” to pay his costs.
Representatives for Pompeo did not be immediately respond for comment on the lawsuit. Representatives for the U.S. Department of Justice had no immediate comment.
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