Despite giving $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, Portland businessman Gordon Sondland was originally blocked from getting an ambassadorship by Trump’s inner circle.
Axios reported Sunday that Sondland was excluded from a list of potential ambassadors circulated by the White House in 2017 because Sondland had criticized Trump during the campaign.
Sondland continued to press for an ambassadorship and won help from a key backer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, according to Axios. He was nominated in May of 2018 to represent the U.S. to the European Union.
It’s no surprise that stories discussing Trumpworld’s initial concerns about Sondland’s loyalty are circulating now. The Portland hotel magnate last week shocked many Republicans by turning into a key witness for the Democratic-led impeachment drive.
Sondland directly implicated the president in seeking to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation aimed at hurting political rival Joe Biden.
Sondland, whose parents escaped Nazi-occupied Europe, had long been interested in returning to the continent as an ambassador. He’s been a major Republican donor for years and was particularly close to the Bush family.
After former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out of the 2016 presidential race, Sondland agreed to raise money for the Republican Party presidential campaign fund when Trump became the nominee.
But Sondland and Bashar Wali, the president of Sondland’s firm, Provenance Hotels, yanked their names from a list of hosts for a Trump fundraiser in Seattle in August of that year.
At the time, the two cited Trump’s criticism of a Muslim Gold Star family that had spoken out against his campaign call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
According to Axios, Sondland made his play to get back into Trump’s good graces when he showed up at a Trump fundraiser in Manhattan a month after the election. He carried checks totaling $1 million to Trump’s inaugural, according to the report.
He was initially unable to get into the fundraiser because he wasn’t on the guest list. But he was eventually able to win admittance.
At the breakfast, Trump sarcastically noted that many in the audience were critics who now had no choice but to get in line behind him.