Gordon Sondland, an ambassador in the Trump administration who testified against former President Trump during the first House impeachment trial, filed a lawsuit Monday against former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department, saying that his $1.8 million in legal fees were not paid as promised.
Mr. Sondland, who was the Trump administration’s ambassador to the European Union, says Mr. Pompeo made a “legally binding promise” to reimburse the legal fees he incurred during the 2019 House impeachment trial.
The complaint, which was filed in a federal court in Washington, says Mr. Sondland was denied a government lawyer, forcing him to put together his own legal team. Mr. Sondland hired the private lawyers “in reliance on Pompeo’s promise of reimbursement.”
“Pompeo assured Ambassador Sondland that the State Department would reimburse him for all of his legal costs and through the fall of 2019, Pompeo and his staff continued to reaffirm his promise,” the lawsuit said.
A spokesperson for Mr. Pompeo said in a statement to media outlets, “The lawsuit is ludicrous. Mr. Pompeo is confident the court will see it the same way.”
A spokesperson for the State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit says the State Department told Mr. Sondland he would be reimbursed for only about $86,000, even though Mr. Pompeo said he “would receive full reimbursement from the government.
Mr. Sondland incurred $1.8 million in attorney’s fees and costs, according to the court filing.
However, once Mr. Pompeo learned Mr. Sondland’s testimony would be critical of the former president, he “reneged on his promise,” according to the lawsuit.
“As a result, the government has withheld reimbursement of Ambassador Sondland’s attorneys’ fees and costs in willful breach of the October 2019 agreement between Pompeo, the government and Ambassador Sondland,” the lawsuit said.
Mr. Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee in November 2019 that there was a quid pro quo connected to a meeting between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
He testified that he and other administration officials followed Mr. Trump’s orders to coordinate U.S. policy regarding Ukraine with Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was the president’s personal lawyer at the time.
Mr. Giuliani was pushing Ukraine officials to investigate Joseph R. Biden and his son, Hunter. Mr. Biden was former President Obama’s vice president while Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, whose owner was suspected of corruption.
Mr. Sondland said in his testimony that a proposed White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky was contingent upon a Ukrainian probe into the Bidens.
“I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Mr. Sondland said in his 2019 testimony. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Mr. Sondland later said, “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”