It is Gordon Sondland's head's day to shine.
Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, is testifying before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee about his role in wielding President Donald Trump's influence in Ukraine. The crux of impeachment proceedings is whether Trump threatened to withhold military aid to that country if it wouldn't investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter's business entanglements there.
A Trump appointee whose loyalty veers toward worship, Sondland is one of the so-called "Three Amigos" in the Ukraine affair, alongside ex-diplomat Kurt Volker and vampire-in-failing-health Rudy Giuliani. It was Sondland who encouraged former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanavitch to "go big or go home" and tweet her support of the president when she learned of the brewing Ukraine scandal.
It was Sondland who described Trump, a president, as a "businessman" in speaking with acting U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, saying a businessman doesn't "sign a check to someone who owes him something" without "asking that person to pay up."
It was Sondland whose actions regarding Ukraine, coupled with that of White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, were described as a "drug deal" by no less than hardcore neo-con John Bolton.
And it was Sondland who one diplomat heard telling Trump over the phone that incoming Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky "loves [Trump's] ass," as an apparent confirmation that Zelensky would "do the investigation" into the Bidens.
And lastly, it is Sondland whose Provenance Hotels chain runs the lavish Lora Hotel in Stillwater, Minnesota, in mid-2018.
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Room with a view? Check. Huge bathroom? Check. Extra space to relax in? Check. The perfect getaway? Absolutely. . . . . #findlora #provenancehotels #getaway #weekendvibes #stillwater #boutiquehotel #relax #romanticweekend #onlyinmn #truenorth #minnesota #discoverstillwater
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Thank you, Condé Nast Traveler readers! How cool is this?! Lora is named among the Top 20 Hotels in the Midwest. What an incredible honor. Thank you so much! �� . . . . #findlora #minnesota #truenorth #onlyinmn #hotel #exploreminnesota #discoverstillwater #owneverymoment #condenasttraveler
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If you've visited our restaurant, Feller, you may have noticed the logs stacked on shelves near the ceiling as you walk in. Although they add a lot of rustic charm to the space, they're more than just decorative. They're a tribute to all of the hard-working folks who were part of Stillwater's booming logging industry back in the day. Back then, if it was your job to cut down - or "fell" trees - you were called a "Feller." That's where we got our name. So proud of the history behind this town we call home. #FindLora ��: @halfacrehouse . . . . #discoverstillwater #exploreminnesota #onlyinmn #minnesotabirthplace #minnesota #truenorth #boldnorth #stillater #history #architecture #owneverymoment
Here's how the boutique hotel describes itself on its website:
Set on the banks of the St. Croix, Lora is ideally situated for exploring Minnesota’s rich landscapes or whiling away an afternoon by the river. Fabled tales are reimagined through contemporary art, and the hotel’s hidden nooks ignite the imagination. Signature Amenities nourish body and soul, while a spate of culinary options tempt the palate. Our attentive staff and intimate 40-room setting make Lora the ideal location for your special occasion, or a memorable weekend escape.
Those capital-A "Amenities" include such "Mascioni linens and duvet covers of 100% Supima cotton percale," "an intriguing collection of spirits and comestibles," "a variety of books of faith," and "pet-friendly room service." Nightly rates at the Lora range from around $200 to upwards of $400, depending on demand.
What does the Lora, to say nothing of Provenance's other 13 hotels, most of them in the Pacific Northwest, have to do with Sondland's testimony today? Nothing. Nothing and everything.
As highlighted recently by former U.S. Ambassador to Russia (2012-2014) Michael McFaul, Sondland had no diplomatic experience of any kind prior to his appointment.
Nor, to judge by the available sources, does Ambassador Sondland have any expertise in Ukraine, Ukrainian, Russia, deterrence theory, European security or diplomacy. Yet there is one very clear reason why Sondland became a member of the Trump foreign policy team: He contributed $1 million to a Trump inauguration party. That’s it. No other reason. Another quid pro quo of the simplest kind: private resources for a public office.
In signing a big check and expecting someone "owes him something," in Sondland's own words, he was acting like the "businessman" he is. Guys like Sondland, and Trump for that matter, are used to paying for what they want and not used to answering questions about it. Certainly not publicly.
If facing this level of public scrutiny for the first time in his wildly successful life makes Sondland long for a "weekend escape" from all the attention, we know just the place. Skip the books of faith. Head straight for the intriguing collection of spirits.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated Sondland's company owns the Lora Hotel. In fact the Lora is one of three hotels Provenance Hotels operates, but does not own. The Lora is owned by Elevage Hotel Group, based in Minnesota, which hired an affiliate of Provenance to manage the Lora's operations.