Ambassador in Ukraine scandal spent $1 million in taxpayer funds to remodel his house

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Gordon Sondland shelled out $400,000 on kitchen renovations alone.

Gordon Sondland, Donald Trump's ambassador the to European Union, spent $1 million in taxpayer funds on extravagant upgrades for his residence in Brussels, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Sondland, who has been embroiled in the Ukraine scandal for the past several weeks, spent $30,000 on a new sound system, $400,000 on kitchen renovations, and $82,000 on a bathroom renovation labeled in government documents as a "backside office."

The wealthy hotelier, who donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee, also rewarded himself with an outdoor "living pod" complete with a pergola, LED lighting strips, and electric heating.

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Some people familiar with the diplomatic residence prior to Sondland's renovations disputed the need for extensive work.

"The house was in excellent condition," one person told the Post, saying claims the residence was deteriorated were "bullshit." Another former U.S. official told the Post that any claims the residence was in disrepair were "false."

During the Obama administration, then-ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner regularly held parties at the residence, including Fourth of July cookouts by the pool with European diplomats and bureaucrats.

"The facility is one of the most luxurious of any in Brussels," one person familiar with it told the Post.

But Sondland was disappointed when he arrived and began extensive renovations only after his demand to move to a new residence was denied, according to Sondland's colleagues.

The exorbitant renovations come a year after Trump's former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, was roundly criticized for spending more than $50,000 on new curtains for her New York City residence.

Sondland has found himself at the center of a firestorm over Trump's efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate his 2020 election rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump has been accused of withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for such an investigation, though he denied ever doing so, claiming he was upset the United States was supposedly paying much more in aid than other countries.

Sondland previously defended Trump's decision-making with regard to Ukraine, telling fellow diplomats there was no quid pro quo and that Trump's intentions had been misinterpreted. A series of text messages made public earlier this month showed him downplaying concerns over Trump's requests, and saying further conversations on the subject should be taken up over the phone, rather than over texts.

Sondland has since claimed in written testimony presented to Congress, that he wanted to move the conversations because he prefers talking over texting.

Sondland has also since admitted that he spoke with Trump over the phone before advising other diplomats that there was no quid pro quo.

Trump's actions with regard to Ukraine are currently at the center of a congressional impeachment inquiry. Sondland has defied White House wishes and will speak to House investigators on that inquiry this Thursday.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.