Gordon Sondland

True Colors: Key Witness From Trump Impeachment Registers as Foreign Agent of Ukraine

DCNF(DCNF)—A leading witness in the 2019 impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald Trump registered as a foreign agent representing Ukraine and the European Union (E.U.) on Thursday.

Gordon Sondland served as the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union from 2018 to 2020 and testified against Trump before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence in 2019, claiming that Trump sought to withhold foreign military aid to Ukraine unless it launched an investigation into then-former Vice President Joe Biden regarding his son’s business dealings in the country; Biden was running against Trump for the presidency at the time of the impeachment hearing. Sondland filed a registration statement with the U.S. Department of Justice, declaring himself a foreign agent of Ukraine and the E.U. in order to legally represent their interests in the country, according to a document obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Sondland’s registration is required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 law that governs how foreign governments and other entities may lobby U.S. officials. FARA registration is required regardless of U.S. citizenship and must occur before an individual begins lobbying.

Read Sondland’s registration statement here:

Gordon Sondland – FARA Regi… by Daily Caller News Foundation

“Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Sondland told the committee on Nov. 20, 2019, during a high-profile hearing that garnered international attention. “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in the 2024 election, was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18, 2019, but acquitted by the Senate on Feb. 5, 2020. Shortly afterward, he dismissed Sondland from his ambassadorial position.

During his government service, Sondland personally dealt with high-ranking Ukrainian government officials such as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Since 2022, Ukraine has sought to lobby members of Congress and executive branch officials for support during its war against Russia.

Sondland defended his decision to register as a foreign agent in a telephone call with The Daily Caller News Foundation, describing it as a preventative measure to comply with FARA’s large scope, which he called “crazy.”

“This term ‘Foreign Agent.’ It sounds very sinister because that’s the way the FARA laws are written. You’re designated as a foreign agent. I’m not an agent of anyone. I haven’t been asked by Ukraine or the E.U. to represent them. I’m simply having conversations that everyone has all the time with members of Congress and with members of governments of other countries to try and bridge and divide,” Sondland told the DCNF. “The problem is the FARA laws require this registration and you become known as a ‘foreign agent,’ and that’s very different than someone who is hired by the E.U. or hired by Ukraine and paid to do a certain job on their behalf. I am not doing either.”

“My allegiance is still 100% to the United States, not to the European Union. Unfortunately, I can’t have these conversations without registering,” Sondland noted.

Sondland also pushed back against the belief that he provided testimony against Trump during the impeachment inquiry. “I relayed facts that occurred in 2019, some of which had the effect of having a negative…showing President Trump in a negative light and some showing President Trump in a positive light, but I had no agenda to testify against or for President Trump in 2019,” he claimed.

Before joining the Trump administration, Sondland was a developer and served as the chairman of Provenance Hotels, which owns a network of hotels across the United States. He donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee in 2017, according to The Intercept.

The Trump campaign, the Ukrainian mission to the United States and the European External Action Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comments from Gordon Sondland.

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 DEED.