Gordon Sondland held his nose and backed Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign in hopes of landing an ambassadorship, but now he’s got a compelling reason to turn on the president.
The longtime Republican donor got what he wanted after donating $1 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign, and was named the U.S. ambassador to the European Union — but he may be forced to testify against the president to save his marriage and his business, reported the Washington Post.
The 62-year-old Sondland landed knee-deep in the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into helping his 2020 re-election campaign, and he has been subpoenaed by the House to testify about his work this summer with U.S. diplomats in Kyiv and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Current and former U.S. officials say Sondland, who once said Trump offended his — “personal beliefs and values on so many levels” — hoped that he might take over for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross if he helped Trump get damaging information against Joe Biden from Ukraine.
“He spent a year trying to prove that he wasn’t anti-Trump,” said a former White House official. “He got into the position [of ambassador], and he had an opportunity to prove it. Trump knew that he wanted to prove his loyalty.”
But now he faces another loyalty test — from his wife of 26 years.
Sondland’s wife Katherine Durant, a real estate investor and registered Democrat, fears her husband’s ties to Trump and the Ukraine scandal will hurt the hotel company he built.
One local company in Portland, Oregon, where the couple lives, has already cut ties with Provenance Hotels over Sondland’s role in the foreign scandal, and Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer has called for a boycott until the ambassador cooperates fully in the impeachment inquiry.
Durant has criticized media coverage of her husband, saying he deserves a chance to clear his name.
“We live in a world right now where there’s no upside to supporting someone like Gordon who is working for Trump,” Durant said. “It’s a mob.”
“He’s been extremely hard-working,” she added. “He came from immigrant parents, he’s first generation here, he made his own wealth, he’s worked his entire life hard, he’s extremely generous. I mean, he’ll sit down and listen to anyone, take his time, go to bat for them, give his money. But this environment is so sad and vicious that there is no one who will stick up for him. I find it really pathetic.”