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Ambassador from Portland told by State Department not to testify in Trump/Ukraine scandal

Gordon Sondland, a wealthy hotelier turned ambassador, is embroiled in the investigation into Pres. Trump's relations with Ukraine.

PORTLAND, Ore. — EDITOR'S NOTE: The video attached to this story is a tour of the Heathman Hotel, one of the hotels Sondland oversees. 

The State Department is telling U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland of Portland, not to testify today before Congress Tuesday. 

Sondland is a key figure in text messages that have been provided to Congress as part of the inquiry into the Trump/Ukraine scandal. According to Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Sondland has tests and emails on a personal device that are being withheld from Congress.

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Sondland attorney Robert Luskin said that as the sitting U.S. ambassador to the EU and an employee of the State Department, Sondland is required to follow the department's direction. No reason for the direction was cited.

Luskin says Sondland "is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify," and that he "believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States."

Sondland was scheduled to testify behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. Tuesday amid the impeachment inquiry investigation.

Who is Gordon Sondland?

So how did a connoisseur of the arts and hotel re-development mostly based in the Pacific Northwest land as one of the key players of the impeachment inquiry?

Sondland is a co-founder of Aspen Capital, and founder of Provenance Hotels, which oversees a slew of trendy, upscale hotels across the country. Most notably in Portland, Provenance Hotels owns Hotel Lucia, Hotel deLuxe, The Heathman Hotel, Dossier, Sentinel and The Woodlark. 

Sondland and his wife, Katherine Durant, have donated thousands of dollars to politicians and political causes over the past 20 years in the Pacific Northwest, records indicate. He has donated to both Democrats and Republicans.

They include a $12,500 donation to Knute Buehler, the Republican nominee for governor in 2018 and $15,000 in donations to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Mayoral hopeful Sarah Iannarone has asked Wheeler to return those donations in light of the impeachment inquiry. 

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Sondland or his business also made contributions to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, former Portland Mayors Sam Adams and Charlie Hales, as well as Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick. Some were made under Sondland's name, while others were submitted by Provenance Hotels. 

And, in what would lead to his current position, Sondland donated one million dollars to Donald Trump's inauguration committee in 2016. Trump eventually appointed Sondland the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

Sondland's nomination was supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Most notably, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden was an outspoken supporter of Sondland at his June 2018 confirmation hearing.

"I have known 'Gordy' for well over a quarter of a century," Wyden said during the hearing. "At a time when lots of politics is polarized and divisive, Gordon Sondland will be a good fit." 

Records show Sondland has donated nearly $15,000 to Wyden over the past 22 years. His wife has donated more than $20,000.

Sondland's role in the impeachment inquiry came into focus last week in text messages given to Congress.

In these messages, Sondland and another diplomat discuss whether Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy's willingness to announce an investigation would lead to an official White House visit. 

According to a report Monday from NBC News, almost a dozen House Democrats are calling for Sondland to resign his position as the investigation inquiry hums along. 

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