Three women have accused U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland of sexually harassing them and then taking retaliatory measures when they rejected his advances.
Sondland, who was thrust into the national spotlight last week when he testified in the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump, is accused of forcibly trying to kiss two women in separate incidents and exposing himself to a third. All incidents occurred while Sondland was working as the chairman of Provenance Hotels and before he had been appointed to his role as ambassador.
The sexual harassment claims were first reported by ProPublica and Portland Monthly Magazine. In a statement published on his personal website Wednesday, Sondland denied the claims in the story, calling it “fundamentally false” and “intended to influence congressional proceedings.”
“Ambassador Sondland refutes the allegations entirely and intends to bring a lawsuit against those publications, their management, and others involved as swiftly as possible," the statement continued.
In one incident, Sondland purportedly took Nicole Vogel, a prospective business partner and the owner of Portland Monthly, on a tour of a room in a hotel he owns before grabbing her face and trying to kiss her. After Vogel rejected him, Sondland reneged on investing in her venture.
“I remember seeing my hand drop from the door handle,” Vogel said. “I turned around, and he’s standing right behind me, and he says, ‘Can I just have a hug first?’”
She added: “And as I pulled back, he grabs my face and goes to kiss me.”
Sondland's statement noted Vogel's ownership of Portland Monthly, which he described as an "outlandish conflict of interest." He also described Vogel as "a frequent Democratic party donor and close associate of Rep. Earl Blumenauer, [D-Ore.] who has spent many weeks maligning Amb. Sondland and threatening his company, misconduct that is now the subject of a Congressional Ethics Office complaint.
The second incident involved Jana Solis, a hospitality safety engineer who worked for Sondland. He allegedly exposed himself to her during a tour of his home – saying “I just thought we could have some fun” - and when she expressed her lack of interest, he reportedly called her and yelled at her about her job performance.
“He was pissed,” she said. “He didn’t get his way [with me], and he was making it about work…And he was making it all my fault.”
In his statement, Sondland claimed that Solis "altered the date on her allegation by five years, first claiming it occurred in 2003 and then later saying it was 2008 – this despite insisting that contemporaneous conversations with a friend backed up her account. " He also claimed that in 2016, "years after she claims to have been victimized, Ms. Solis encouraged her new employer to again pitch Amb. Sondland’s company, and they cited her good relationship with him."
A third woman, Natalie Sept, claims Sondland pushed himself against her and kissed her before she shoved him away while they met about a potential job. Sept said Sondland stopped helping her after the incident.
"No mention was ever made about these three claims in the many preceding years, not even during the Ambassador’s confirmation process, when federal investigators were thoroughly pursuing input about his background, both personal and professional," Sondland said, adding that reporters had approached Provenance employees "with the unsupported innuendo that sexual harassment had occurred at the company – and then solicited the employees to describe anything similar."
Sondland last week became a key witness for Democrats during the impeachment inquiry when he repeatedly talked of a “quid pro quo” involving Ukraine.
He said “everyone was in the loop” about President Donald Trump’s push for Ukraine to announce investigations into a Ukraine gas company and the 2016 U.S. election.
Sondland was one of the most anticipated witnesses as Democrats are holding a rigorous week of hearings into whether Trump’s dealings with Ukraine are grounds for impeachment.
Sondland told lawmakers that he worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine at Trump’s direction and that he eventually came to believe that military aid for the country was dependent on Ukraine launching the investigations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.