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Envoy key in Trump impeachment accused of sexual misconduct

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Gordon Sondland, the US envoy to the European Union, denied the allegations, with his lawyer alleging that the accusers were trying to taint his credibility in the inquiry.

[WASHINGTON] A US ambassador nominated by President Donald Trump who provided key testimony in his impeachment hearings was accused on Wednesday of sexual misconduct by three women.

Gordon Sondland, the US envoy to the European Union, denied the allegations, with his lawyer alleging that the accusers were trying to taint his credibility in the inquiry.

The Portland Monthly published named accounts by three women who said that Mr Sondland, a wealthy hotel owner from Seattle, retaliated against them professionally after they rejected him sexually.

One of the women, Jana Solis, said she met Mr Sondland in 2008 when she was seeking work in her position as a safety expert for hotels.

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She said Mr Sondland met her for lunch and offered her a job as "my new hotel chick" before slapping her rear.

She said Mr Sondland later invited her to his Portland home to evaluate his personal art collection - which included a picture of himself with then president George W Bush - and that he exposed himself in the pool house.

She said Mr Sondland at a later meeting also forcibly kissed her.

Another woman, Nicole Vogel, said she met Sondland in 2003 over dinner to seek investment in a new magazine.

He then took her to a hotel he owned and invited her to see a room, where he requested a hug and then "grabs my face and goes to kiss me," she said.

Ms Vogel said she refused and left. She pointed to an email afterward in which Mr Sondland declined funding for her project.

Mr Sondland in a statement rejected all the accusations and accused Ms Vogel of "underhanded journalism" out of anger that he did not invest in the magazine.

"These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes," he said.

"They have no basis in fact and I categorically deny them," he said.

Ms Vogel owns the Portland Monthly, which published the article. The magazine said that, due to her implication in the story, it teamed up with ProPublica, a respected non-profit news group known for investigations.

A lawyer for Mr Sondland told the magazine the article was timed to damage the ambassador's credibility in the impeachment inquiry.

Mr Sondland donated US$1 million to Mr Trump's inauguration and was afterward named ambassador to the European Union.

Despite his support for Mr Trump, Mr Sondland, testifying last week under oath before lawmakers, said he was following the president's orders in demanding that Ukraine investigate domestic rival Joe Biden before he would agree to a White House summit.

The accusation is key evidence for House Democrats as they look to impeach the tycoon turned president.

AFP