US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.
The accusations, co-published by Portland Monthly magazine and ProPublica, date back to before he became an ambassador.
At the time of the alleged incidents Gordon Sondland was developing hotels in Portland and Seattle in the Pacific Northwest.
Gordon Sondland denies all of the allegations, and accuses the women of targeting him for his role in President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings.
He said in a statement: “These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, co-ordinated for political purposes.
“They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them.”
All three women said Gordon Sondland retaliated against them professionally after they rejected his advances – by verbally abusing them at their workplace, reneging on a promised investment, and withdrawing offers of professional introductions.
One of the women, Nicole Vogel, said she met Gordon Sondland for dinner in 2003 in order to secure investment for her new magazine.
Nicole Vogel is the owner of Portland Monthly. The magazine said she was not involved editorially in the story, and it had teamed up with ProPublica, a respected non-profit news group, to report the claims independently.
She said that after dinner Gordon Sondland took her to one of his hotels and invited her to see a room. He then requested a hug, she added, but instead “grabs my face and goes to kiss me”.
Nicole Vogel said she deflected him and left the hotel, and later received an email from Gordon Sondland changing the terms of his investment.
A second acuser, Jana Solis, said she met Gordon Sondland in 2008 when she was seeking work as a hotel safety expert.
When Sondland offered her the job, she said, he called her “my new hotel chick” and slapped her rear. She then said that on another occasion he invited her to his home in Portland to evaluate his art collection, before exposing himself.
On a third occasion, Sondland asked her to inspect his penthouse apartment and then forcibly kissed her, she said.
The third woman, Natalie Sept, was working in local politics in Portland for a candidate Gordon Sondland had donated money to.
After they were introduced through her boss, she claims Gordon Sondland invited her to dinner to discuss work opportunities. She said he asked for a hug at the end of the night, but then pushed himself towards her and tried to forcibly kiss her.
In response, Gordon Sondland described the article as “underhanded journalism” that was “fundamentally false”.
He said he intended to take legal action against the two publications.
Gordon Sondland provided key testimony at President Trump’s impeachment hearing last week, where he said he followed the president’s orders to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Former White House aide Fiona Hill has told the impeachment inquiry that President Donald Trump disregarded the advice of senior advisers to push a false theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
She said the president had instead listened to the views of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Fiona Hill called the claims about Ukraine a “fictional narrative”.
The inquiry is assessing if President Trump withheld aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
President Trump denies any wrongdoing.
According to a discredited theory, it was Ukrainians or individuals with Ukrainian connections who interfered in the 2016 vote, rather than Russia.
In a phone call with the Ukrainian president, President Trump urged him to look into the claims as well as open an investigation into Joe Biden, one of the main Democratic presidential candidates.
November 21 is fifth and last scheduled day of public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee.
In her opening statement, Fiona Hill – the former top Russia experts to the White House – accused other Republicans of sowing doubt about Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
She said: “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country – and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did.”
Fiona Hill urged lawmakers not to promote “politically driven falsehoods” that cast doubt on Russia’s interference in US elections.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” she said.
During Fiona Hill’s testimony, Democratic lawyer Daniel Goldman asked her: “So is it your understanding then that President Trump disregarded the advice of his senior officials about this theory and instead listened to Rudy Giuliani’s views?”
“That appears to be the case, yes,” she replied.
In her later testimony, Fiona Hill warned that Rudy Giuliani had been making “explosive” and “incendiary” claims about Ukraine.
She said: “He was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us.
“I think that’s where we are today.”
Fiona Hill testified that she had a couple of “testy encounters” with Gordon Sondland – the US ambassador to the EU who testified on November 20 – over Ukraine, because the ambassador did not keep her informed of “all the meetings he was having”.
US ambassador to Ukraine David Holmes also testified at November 21 hearing.
In his opening statement, David Holmes said that his work at the embassy in Kiev became overshadowed in 2019 by the actions of Rudy Giuliani.
He said: “I became aware that Mr. Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy.”
David Holmes added that he was “shocked” on July 18 when an official from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
State department official David Holmes has said at the impeachment inquiry that a US diplomat told Donald Trump Ukraine would carry out investigations the president had asked for.
David Holmes said he had overheard this during a call in July between President Trump and the US envoy to the EU, Gordon Sondland.
He said the call came a day after President Trump asked Ukraine to probe ex-VP Joe Biden.
President Trump has dismissed the impeachment inquiry as “presidential harassment”.
The inquiry is investigating whether Donald Trump withheld US military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a corruption inquiry into Joe Biden, now his rival for the presidency.
On November 15, President Trump launched a Twitter attack on another witness – former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
He tweeted in the middle of her testimony: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.
“She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
Asked for her response, Marie Yovanovitch called it “very intimidating”.
President Trump later hit back, arguing his tweets were not intimidating “at all”. He told reporters he had watched part of the impeachment hearing and considered it “a disgrace”.
David Holmes testified behind closed doors before us lawmakers in Washington DC.
The diplomatic aid said he had overheard the phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland in which “investigations” are said to have been discussed.
He said Gordon Sondland called President Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on July 26, 2019.
According to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CBS News, David Holmes said: “Sondland told Trump that [Ukrainian President] Zelensky ‘loves your ass.'”
“I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’
“Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it’, adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to’.”
Observers have drawn attention to the security implications of making the call from a restaurant, potentially exposing the conversation to eavesdropping by Russian intelligence.
David Holmes’ deposition appears to corroborate the testimony given to the impeachment inquiry by US ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor on November 13.
Bill Taylor said one of his aides heard the same chat.
The aide said President Trump had asked about “investigations” and Gordon Sondland had replied that Ukraine was ready to move forward.
According to Bill Taylor, Gordon Sondland then told the aide that the president cared more about the investigation of the Bidens than anything else involving Ukraine.
The call – which Donald Trump has denied any knowledge of – allegedly happened the day after the now-famous Trump-Zelensky phone call.
While giving her evidence, Marie Yovanovitch was alerted to the president’s criticism by the hearing’s chairman Adam Schiff.
Responding directly to Donald Trump’s tweet, in which he appeared to blame her for upheaval in Somalia, Marie Yovanovitch replied: “I don’t think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu and Somalia and not in other places.
“I actually think that where I’ve served over the years I and others have demonstrably made things better, you know, for the US as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.”
Marie Yovanovitch’s response was broadcast live during the televised hearing.
Adam Schiff, the Democratic Chairman of the Intelligence Committee overseeing the impeachment inquiry, suggested the president’s tweets could be classed as witness intimidation.
Marie Yovanovitch was removed as ambassador to Kyiv in May, two months before a controversial phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, which is now key to the inquiry.