Three women have accused the U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland of sexual misconduct and retaliating against them professionally because they rejected his advances.
The women, who all spoke on the record to ProPublica, claim Sondland, who has become a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, all claim Sondland tried to force himself on them, and in one case he even exposed himself.
Sondland has denied all allegations and through his lawyer has claimed the report could be an attempt to undermine his blockbuster testimony in Congress last week.
The women also claim that the result of their rejection of his sexual advances resulted in professional retaliation, which included harassment, loss of investments, and an end to help securing a new job.
The cases span a seven-year period between 2003 and 2010, during which Sondland was a prominent businessman in Portland, where he owns five hotels.
Here’s what the women told ProPublica:
- Nicole Vogel met Sondland in 2003 when she was 34 years old. She was seeking investors for an art and culture magazine she wanted to start in Portland. Sondland told her over dinner that he wanted to invest in her project. Afterward, they went to one of his hotels and in one of the rooms, he grabbed Vogel’s face and tried to kiss her. She deflected the kiss by reminding Sondland that he was married before leaving through the lobby. “There were a lot of indecent proposals when I was raising capital, but none as brazen as his,” Vogel said. Weeks later, Sondland backed out of his commitment to invest in the magazine.
- Jana Solis, a hospitality safety engineer, met Sondland in 2008, and her first meeting with him ended with him slapping her on the ass. She then visited him at his home to assess his art collection, a visit that ended with him exposing himself in the pool house. Finally, at Sondland’s penthouse suite in the Roosevelt Hotel in Seattle, he pounced on her. “He’s all over me. He’s on top of me. He’s kissing me, shoving his tongue down my throat. And I’m trying to wiggle out from under him, and the next thing you know, I’m sort of rising up to get away from him, and I fall over the back of the couch,” Solis said. Days later Sondland called Solis and screamed at her over the phone.
- Natalie Sept also met Sondland in 2010, at the same restaurant he took Vogel to in 2003. They were due to discuss a potential job for Sept, at the state film commission. They moved on to a cocktail bar down the road, but when Sept started feeling uneasy about the situation and made excuses to leave, Sondland insisted on walking her to her car. There, Sept says she gave him a brief hug but “he holds onto my shoulders and looks at me and pushes himself into me and tries to kiss me.” Sept escaped, but the job offer never materialized.
Sondland has staunchly denied all the allegations.
“In decades of my career in business and civic affairs, my conduct can be affirmed by hundreds of employees and colleagues with whom I have worked in countless circumstances,” Sondland told ProPublica. “These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes. They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them.”
In a statement posted on his own website, Sondland denied all allegations, calling the report “underhanded journalism” and listing all the issues he has with the report.
Among the complaints he lists is the fact that Vogel owns Portland Monthly, which jointly published the report with ProPublica. Both publications said that Vogel was not involved in editorial decisions about the piece.
Sondland, who was confirmed as Trump’s pick as EU Ambassador in June 2018, last week confirmed a quid pro quo at the heart of Democrats’ impeachment case. Sondland said Trump and his inner circle knew about everything he was doing to encourage Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political enemies.
Sondland’s lawyer Jim McDermott has suggested that the timing of the report could lead some to “consider this to be veiled witness tampering.”
McDermott also suggested that all the women involved were simply looking to profit financially and professionally.
“Notably, what each of these three women share in common is that they pursued Ambassador Sondland for financial and personal gain — an investment, a job, and insurance brokerage work — and he declined their proposals,” McDermott said in a letter to ProPublica.
Cover: Ambassador Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, center, appears before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)