Sondland says his family, businesses receiving threats over role in Trump impeachment inquiry

As Democrats work to protect the whistleblower, whose lawyer says he receives regular threats due to the complaint that touched off the current impeachment inquiry into President Trump, another major figure in this week's hearings says the proceedings are taking a personal toll on him as well.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said in public testimony Wednesday that his family had received "many" threats as a result of his role in the impeachment inquiry, under questioning from Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, on the personal repercussions he'd dealt with since being pulled into the scandal.

"We have countless emails apparently to my wife, our properties are being picketed and boycotted," Sondland said.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, followed at left by attorney James McDermott, finishes a day of testimony 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/J. Scott Applewhite)

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, followed at left by attorney James McDermott, finishes a day of testimony 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/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Conaway began the questioning by bringing up Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff's calls for respect toward witnesses. He then contrasted the guidance from Schiff, D-Calif., against Democrat-led calls to boycott Sondland's hotels in Oregon.

"The chairman also announces at every hearing that he will not tolerate, and I agree with him, any witness intimidation or any threats or any issues of trying to bully a witness," Conaway said. "Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon has in fact called for a boycott of your hotel chain or your hotels in Oregon. I'm assuming he believes that will harm you to the point that you will then be bullied into doing whatever he wants done."

Sondland agreed with Conaway's statement before also confirming the congressman's assertion that Blumenauer's comments "gave rise to demonstrations at your hotels that made customers have to weave in and out of the demonstrators to try to actually get into the hotels."

"As I understand they are going on as we speak," Sondland responded.

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KATU in Portland reported large crowds were outside of Sondland's hotels on Tuesday.

Sondland's hotel properties have also come under siege on Yelp, a website on which users can post reviews of businesses.

"Do you enjoy treason and putting Russia's interests before the United States' interests?" a user named Chris J. wrote in a review for the Sentinel hotel, which Sondland owns. "Are you into perjury and white supremacy? Are you looking to patronize a hotel owned by a rightwing extremist lying sack of s---? Look no further! This is the hotel for you!"

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That Wednesday review is the only activity from that profile, which has a photoshopped picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a Donald Trump puppet as its avatar. Yelp has posted an "Unusual Activity Alert" on the profiles of at least some of Sondland's businesses, indicating, "This business recently made waves in the news, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news." The alert goes on to say that Yelp had disabled posts onto the page and directs users to a separate discussion forum.

Sondland's wife, Katherine Durant, told The Washington Post that the backlash to Sondland was a "mob" and "sad and pathetic," in a profile on the hotelier-turned-diplomat.

Last week, it was Democrats sounding the alarm over alleged witness intimidation when President Trump live-tweeted ridicule of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she was testifying on Friday.