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Sondland’s Ties to Romanian Official Ana Birchall Set Off Alarms at National Security Council

Even before Gordon Sondland’s work in Ukraine set off alarm bells, senior U.S. officials were raising concerns about his communications with officials from Romania—including his efforts to get White House access for a politician with a history of pushing back against anti-corruption reforms.

That’s according to two individuals with knowledge of the situation who say that Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who is now a major figure in the House impeachment inquiry, often hosted meetings with Romanian officials without consulting the National Security Council. His increasingly close relationship with one of those officials, former deputy prime minister Ana Birchall, generated significant concerns within the NSC, according to those same sources.

Birchall graduated from Yale Law School and has long had ties to the U.S. Her husband, Martyn Birchall, is an investment banker whose held positions at international financial firms in New York, London and Hong Kong. In Romania, Birchall has a history of opposing anti-corruption measures in her country and for years supported Liviu Dragnea, a Romanian politician who was recently convicted of corruption, according to two senior U.S. officials. Dragnea served as the head of Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD)—a party known to publicly fight back against western pressure for corruption crackdowns—before being indicted for procuring fake jobs at a child protection agency for two members of his party. He was also barred from becoming prime minister because of a 2016 conviction of vote-rigging.