U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland has Mercer Island ties

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified before the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents.

Decades before Sondland was a U.S. Ambassador, he was a Mercer Island High School student. He was part of the Class of 1975. He also attended the University of Washington.

Sondland went on to own a chain of hotels, including Seattle's Hotel Theodore and Hotel Max. He is the founder and CEO of Provenance Hotels, which manages hotels across the country. Sondland also is the co-founder of eponymous charitable foundation.

Sondland is the son of immigrants who fled Europe during the Holocaust and settled in the Northwest.

Testimony by several officials revealed that Sondland was in frequent contact with Trump around the time Trump spoke with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about doing a politically beneficial “favor.” Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s former Russia and Europe director, told House investigators that Sondland and Trump had spoken approximately five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 — the weeks that $391 million in U.S. assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released as Trump pressed for the favor. He said the ambassador “related to me he was acting — he was discussing these matters with the President.”

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Sondland himself changed his testimony Wednesday to acknowledge more contacts with Trump than previously revealed.

In previous testimony, he failed to disclose calling Trump the day after the July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats, along with Biden and his son, as a “favor.” In testimony Wednesday, Sondland did not challenge the account by David Holmes, an aide to top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor, who told House investigators that he overheard Trump discuss “investigations” in Ukraine. Sondland on Wednesday acknowledged that he opened the July 26 conversation by telling Trump that the Zelenskiy “loves your ass.”

As recently as Oct. 8, Trump had tweeted that Sondland was a “really good man and great American.”

But later on Nov. 8, Trump said that he “hardly” knew Sondland. That came after the ambassador revised testimony to acknowledge he had told an aide to Ukraine’s president in September that military aid would not likely occur until Ukraine made public announcements about corruption investigations.

Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee before being named the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

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