Gordon Sondland, the Northwest hotelier who has provided key testimony in impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, is facing accusations of sexual misconduct and professional retaliation from three women, according to a report published Wednesday by ProPublica and Portland Monthly.
Sondland, who formerly owned the Ridpath Hotel in Spokane, denied all the allegations including one alleged incident at a Seattle hotel – in a statement to ProPublica, calling them “untrue claims” concocted for political purposes. He also posted a statement on his personal website, calling the reports “underhanded journalism,” laying out what he said were flaws in the stories, and saying he intends to sue both publications “and others involved as swiftly as possible.”
The accusations stem from Sondland’s time in business, before his appointment in 2018 as U.S. ambassador to the European Union, a post he secured after donating $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. The Mercer Island native has maintained his legal residence in Seattle at Hotel Theodore but has long been known more as a player in Portland business and political circles.
All three women agreed to be named in detailing their new accusations against Sondland, including Nicole Vogel, owner of Portland Monthly, who says Sondland made unwanted advances after she met with him in 2003 seeking financing for launching the publication.
She recounted Sondland attempting to kiss her in a hotel room at Portland’s Hotel Lucia, which his Provenance Hotel chain owns, after one meeting, and on a separate occasion placing his hand on her midthigh, leaving it there for 10 minutes during a car ride. She “clamped her own hand on top of his so he couldn’t move it any farther up her thigh,” the ProPublica article stated.
According to ProPublica, a national nonprofit investigative journalism organization, Vogel said: “God, I would love to have told him to shove it. To have kneed him in the balls,” she says. “But I didn’t do that. It was precarious.” She said she knew having her magazine in Sondland’s hotel rooms would boost its readership.
After she rejected his advances, Sondland pulled back on his planned investment in her magazine, Vogel said.
Sondland’s attorney, Jim McDermott, denied Vogel’s account, accusing her of political motivations, as well as an effort to profit from the allegations, writing that her magazine faces “significant financial pressure,” according to ProPublica. He added that the investment decision was based solely on business concerns.
The publications said Vogel, as a source in the articles, was not involved in editorial decisions and that Portland Monthly had brought in ProPublica to independently report on her allegations.
A second woman, Jana Solis, a work associate at the time, accused Sondland of exposing himself to her during a business interaction a decade ago. During a subsequent meeting, Sondland brought Solis to his penthouse at Hotel Theodore (then called the Roosevelt Hotel), where Solis says he tried to forcibly kiss her, sticking his tongue down her throat.
After she wriggled away and “made her lack of interest clear,” Sondland later called her “screaming about job performance,” the ProPublica article stated.
The third woman publicly accusing Sondland of sexual misconduct, Natalie Sept, told ProPublica and Portland Monthly she met the hotelier in 2008 after being introduced to him by Portland City Councilman Nick Fish, whose re-election campaign she had managed.
Sondland later invited Sept to dinner to discuss a potential job. He ordered “the nicest bottle of wine” on the menu. Later, at a nearby bar, she said she cut their meeting short after Sondland invited her to sit next to him on the same side of a booth seat.
He insisted on walking her to her car, and then leaned into the car for a hug. He then held her shoulders, pushing himself at her for an attempted kiss. Sept said she pushed him to the side and sped away in her car, she told ProPublica and Portland Monthly.
In his statement denying the women’s allegations, Sondland said he has never been aware of such accusations, calling them “false incidents” that are “at odds with my character.”
The women said they felt compelled to come forward. “The fact that (Sondland) uses his power to terrorize people who he perceives as having less power is really disgusting,” Sept told ProPublica. “I want other women to feel comfortable to share their stories, and be believed.”
Sondland suddenly has been thrust into a national spotlight over the past few months, with revelations piling up about his role in an effort by Trump and allies, including his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into announcing an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.
After previously denying knowledge of such a deal, Sondland testified on national television that there was a “quid pro quo” linking U.S. aid and a White House meeting to the Biden political probe, and that it was widely known by top administration officials – though he admitted Trump did not tell him that.
After his testimony, which was described as a bombshell by Democrats and exculpatory by Republicans, Sondland flew back to Belgium to resume his diplomatic duties.
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