President Trump fired EU Ambassador—and Portland resident—Gordon Sondland today, the latest twist in a long saga bound up with the just-concluded impeachment trial.
Sondland, the founder of a Portland-based chain of upscale hotels and wealthy political donor who rose to prominence in the Trump administration before testifying about his boss before Congress, said in a statement that he was being "immediately" recalled from his post in Brussels.
"I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union," he wrote. "I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the opportunity to serve, to Secretary Pompeo for his consistent support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career."
Returning home to Portland might hold some uncertainties for Sondland. In November, three women accused him of sexual misconduct, in a story published jointly by Portland Monthly and ProPublica. Sondland denied all the allegations, and threatened legal action.
Bashar Wali, the President and CEO of Provenance Hotels, which Sondland founded and which now has properties in Portland, Seattle, Nashville, New Orleans and other cities, released a statement after that story stating that he'd had no prior knowledge of those or any similar allegations, and that the company's policy was to take allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, "very seriously." Sondland's wife, Katy Durant, is still listed as the Chairman and Chief Investment Officer at the hotel chain.
Sondland's firing comes on the heels of the Senate's acquittal of Trump in the impeachment trial, which centered on whether the president instructed his administration to withhold humanitarian aid to the Ukraine until the country agreed to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his political opponents.
In his testimony to the House of Representatives last fall, Sondland appeared to implicate Trump in the Ukraine scandal, stating that he had been "following the President's orders," that there was an implied quid pro quo at stake and that key administrative officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, were in the loop.
The Democratically-controlled House voted to impeach Trump. But the Republican-controlled Senate this week acquitted him without calling any witnesses, sparing Sondland a return to the podium and, the New York Times speculated, empowering the president to summarily dismiss some of those who had provided testimony, including Sondland.