Longtime Oregonian Gordon Sondland, named in a whistleblower complaint, was aware of the sensitive discussions.
As the U.S. House of Representatives steps up its investigation into President Donald Trump’s potential impeachment, longtime Oregon businessman Gordon Sondland finds himself at the heart of the matter.
Sondland, who Trump appointed US Ambassador to the European Union last year, played a significant role in the events described in the whistleblower’s complaint that rocked the country’s political establishment for more than a week and was finally made public on Thursday.
Sondland is expected to be tabled by the House on Tuesday, October 10.
US Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on September 26 used Twitter to demand that Sondland “appear immediately before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee” to explain his role in facilitating the activities of (Presidential Counsel Rudy) Giuliani in Ukraine.
Sondland did not return a call from the Portland Tribune, nor did his company, Provenance Hotels.
While Sondland may not be part of the president’s inner circle, he could provide valuable information to Congress regarding the allegations currently being leveled against Trump. The anonymous US government whistleblower has suggested Trump used his presidency to withhold $391 million in US aid to pressure Ukraine’s government – which is still engaged in border hostilities with its much larger neighbor Russia — to go after the son of the Democrats. potential opponent of the 2020 general election, Joe Biden.
The White House has acceded to pressure to release a rough transcript of a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and cooperate with Trump’s personal attorney and political operative, Rudy Giuliani.
In the months leading up to the call, Giuliani had asked for Ukraine’s support for the claim that Biden, when he was Barack Obama’s vice president, pressured Ukraine to helps Biden’s son, who was a board member of a Ukrainian gas company, according to media accounts.
Echoing the whistleblower’s complaint, Sondland’s own statements and Twitter feed confirm that the Portland hotelier played a pivotal role in the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine throughout this period. . His potential role in the investigation was first reported by The Daily Beast, and its nomination in the Willamette Week complaint.
In an interview with Ukrainian TV posted on YouTube, Sondland said he spoke personally with Trump “a few minutes” before the July 25 call, then met with Zelensky the next day to discuss next steps.
Sondland said he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker were “the ‘three amigos’…And we were tasked with sort of overseeing the relationship between Ukraine and the United States (to) ensure that all the reforms and all the initiatives that we undertake with Ukraine remain on track and move quickly.”
But the “Three Amigos” are now only two: Kurt Volker resigned a day after the release of the whistleblower’s report to Congress.
The August 12 whistleblower’s complaint states that on July 26, Sondland and Volker “allegedly provided advice to Ukrainian leaders on how to ‘navigate’ the President’s demands.”
The whistleblower also said that prior to the July 25 call, Sondland and Volker had “spoken with Mr. Giuliani in an attempt to ‘contain damage’ to U.S. national security” following Giuliani’s efforts to unearth information about the Bidens.
Spotlight on a new place for Sondland
Sondland is now in the national spotlight – a major change for a man who hasn’t been shy about attracting media attention but apparently preferred to stay out of the political spotlight.
In 2016, when his role in organizing a Trump fundraiser was released, Sondland quickly denied supporting Trump, saying through a spokeswoman that Trump’s positions did not align with his “personal beliefs and values.”
Sondland is the son of Jewish parents who fled Nazi Germany before World War II.
He was initially a supporter of Jeb Bush in the Republican primary. He then contributed more than $1 million to Trump’s inauguration through four companies he controlled, as first reported by The interception.
In Oregon, Sondland contributed to both Republicans and Democrats. Among the recipients were the campaigns of former Governor Ted Kulongoski, former Governor John Kitzhaber, former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, City Council candidate Stuart Emmons, Mayor Ted Wheeler and candidate for Governor Knute Buehler.
Kulongoski in 2010 credited Sondland with suggesting appointing Wheeler as state treasurer.
Asked about Sondland and his current situation, a spokeswoman for Wheeler said, “The Mayor hopes and expects Mr. Sondland to testify honestly before Congress, if called upon to do so.”
In Portland, Sondland’s Provenance Hotels owns and operates Heathman, Lucia, Sentinel, deLuxe, Woodlark and Dossier hotels.
Bill Parish, an investment adviser from Oregon, has followed the business arc of Sondland and his wife, investor Katy Durant, for more than a decade.
Parish said the fact that Sondland had no diplomatic experience before being catapulted to this crucial role underscores that ambassadorships are a matter of “pay to play,” a system that Parish says needs to change.
The parish also cited Sondland’s applied for residency at one of his Seattle hotels for tax purposes more than a decade ago, even as he was raising his children in Oregon. Parish said Sondland’s current situation — and potential testimony before Congress — could answer questions about her character.
“Who are you a citizen of anyway, Gordon, and what do you represent?”
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