Four months into the Biden administration, the chickens are coming home to roost for members of Donald Trump’s cabinet with a Justice Department no longer actively protecting the former president’s associates as they did with their mischaracterization of the Mueller investigation.
Today was a big day for accountability for former Trump officials as federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson unsealed some formerly heavily redacted documents detailing the lies that Paul Manafort, the former campaign director for Trump, told Mueller investigators about his interactions with known Russian intelligence operations, putting a definitive end to the repeated claims of “no collusion” that the disgraced ex-president would continuously try to convince the public were true.
While the newly confirmed revelations won’t affect Manfort much given the pardon he received from Trump before his corrupt collaborator left the White House, another Trump enabler, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is facing a $1.8 million lawsuit due to his actions while serving as the nation’s top diplomat and simultaneously attempting to protect his boss at all costs.
Pompeo is being sued by the former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, a major donor to Trump’s 2016 campaign after allegedly reneging on his assurances that Sondland’s legal fees related to his testimony at the former president’s first impeachment trial would be reimbursed.
After Sondland gave testimony that contradicted Trump’s claims that there was no quid pro quo involved in his infamous phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, trump was not happy and Sondland was ordered to resign his ambassadorship.
When he refused, he was promptly fired and the promised full reimbursement of his legal fees never arrived.
“Ambassador Sondland confirmed he would not resign because he did not do anything improper. After that, everything changed. Ambassador Sondland did not receive his attorneys’ fees, notwithstanding the promises from the State Department that the attorneys’ fees would be paid,” his lawsuit alleges.
With his legal action, the former ambassador is insisting that either the U.S. government live up to its obligation to him or, alternatively, that Pompeo pay those fees out of his own pocket.
“Sondland’s attorney, Skip Miller, said the former ambassador “harbors no ill will against” Pompeo but is “simply seeking reimbursement, as was promised by Secretary Pompeo,” The Washington Post writes of the legal battle.
If Sondland’s suit is successful and Pompeo is forced to accept personal liability for the broken promise of full reimbursement, that $1.8 million will surely be a painful penalty for the former Secretary of State.
Outside observers, however, aren’t so certain that the ex-ambassador will be able to prevail in his attempts at getting the money that he was promised.
“There should be provisions for government officials who are unwittingly pulled into political battles that they have their legal fees covered,” said Wshington DC attorney Mark Zaid, who has represented multiple American officials in lawsuits against the government. “He did the right thing. He stepped up and fulfilled his role as a representative of the U.S. government.”
Noting that secretaries of state are often granted broad immunity for their conduct in office, Zaid said that “the sad fact is that sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t lead to a reward, and unfortunately it has a cost.”
In this case, let’s hope that the cost is borne by Mike Pompeo, the person who did not do the right thing by refusing to honor his commitments.
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