President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, is suing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the US government to cover $1.8 million in unpaid legal fees he incurred during the House impeachment probe.
The lawsuit claims that Pompeo personally told Sondland — who was denied a government lawyer — that the US government would be able to reimburse him for his legal fees but ultimately reneged on that promise upon learning about Sondland’s explosive 2019 testimony.
Specifically, it claims that Pompeo’s about-face came after Sondland’s became the first impeachment witness to confirm there was a quid pro quo that came from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the “express direction of the President.”
The lawsuit was first reported by the Washington Post.
Sondland’s testimony showed a link between US security aid and a White House meeting and Ukraine publicly announcing investigations that would help Trump politically.
What’s more, Sondland provided House impeachment investigators with emails and texts showing it wasn’t just him and Giuliani pushing for the investigations outside government channels — Trump’s inner circle knew what was going on, too, including Pompeo.
“Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland testified. “It was no secret.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said at the time that Sondland’s testimony showed “that the knowledge of this scheme was far and wide.”
“We now can see the veneer has been torn away, just why Secretary Pompeo and President Donald Trump do not want any of these documents provided to Congress,” Schiff told reporters after the 2019 hearing, “because apparently they show, as Ambassador Sondland has testified, that the knowledge of this scheme to condition official acts, a White House meeting and $400 million in security assistance to an ally at war with Russia, was conditioned on political favors the President wanted for his reelection.”
The complaint filed Monday accounts for the possibility that Pompeo may attempt to argue that he did not have the authority to bind the US government to reimburse Sondland’s attorney fees — a claim the lawsuit says would make the former secretary personally liable for “misrepresenting his authority.”
The complaint says that “Pompeo was at all times acting for his own self-serving personal or political reasons, to further his interests to protect himself and others.”
A spokesperson for Pompeo told CNN “the lawsuit is ludicrous” and that Pompeo “is confident the court will see it the same way.”
A lawyer for Sondland did not immediately reply to a request for comment.