House Intel panel postpones interview with Felix Sater to focus on Mueller findings

The House Intelligence Committee has postponed its upcoming public hearing with Felix Sater, a longtime business associate of President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE, in order to instead focus on bringing in Justice Department officials to testify on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE’s investigation.

“In light of the cursory letter from the Attorney General, and our need to understand Special Counsel Mueller’s areas of inquiry and evidence his office uncovered, we are working in parallel with other Committees to bring in senior officials from the DOJ, FBI and SCO [special counsel’s office] to ensure that our Committee is fully and currently informed about the SCO’s investigation, including all counterintelligence information,” a spokesperson for the House Intelligence Committee said Monday.

“With the focus on those efforts this week, we are postponing Mr. Sater’s open interview,” the spokesperson said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The news comes days after Mueller concluded his sprawling inquiry into Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

According to a summary of his findings released by Attorney General Bill Barr on Sunday, Mueller did not find that members or associates of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to influence the election.

Barr’s letter also said Mueller did not draw a conclusion either way on whether Trump obstructed justice, but the attorney general and his deputy, Rod RosensteinRod Rosenstein10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Why the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing MORE, reviewed evidence laid out in the special counsel’s report and concluded that it was "not sufficient to establish” that Trump obstructed justice.

Democrats have raised questions about Barr's conclusion on obstruction since the letter's release, demanding his immediate testimony before Congress. 

The interview with Sater is supposed to be part of the Democrat-led committee’s sweeping investigation into links between Trump and Russia and other foreign powers as well as the president’s financial interests. This is the second time the committee has postponed Sater’s public testimony, and it is unclear whether or when it will be rescheduled.  

Sater was intimately involved in efforts to build a Trump real estate property in Moscow, which never came to fruition but has nevertheless attracted scrutiny from congressional Democrats because Trump pursued the plans during the heat of the 2016 campaign. 

Sater, a Russian-born businessman who was managing director for the New York-based real estate firm the Bayrock Group, worked with former Trump attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenCapitol Police advised Gaetz against holding open events I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations MORE to advance plans to build the property.

Last November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the property discussions within the Trump Organization as part of a deal to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s now-shuttered investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: YouTube disables 200+ accounts over Hong Kong misinformation | Lawmakers sound alarm over Chinese influence efforts | DHS cyber agency details priorities | State AGs get tough on robocalls | DOJ busts online scammers Nadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision YouTube disables over 200 accounts amid protests in Hong Kong MORE (D-Calif.) first announced late last month that Sater would deliver public testimony before the committee on March 14, but that appearance was recently postponed to Wednesday.

The Intelligence Committee was slated to vote Monday evening on releasing exhibits related to Sater’s open testimony, but that vote has now also been postponed. 

The Trump Moscow deal came under scrutiny by Mueller, who submitted his confidential report to the Justice Department ending his investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow last Friday. 

Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s conclusions was sent to Congress and made public Sunday afternoon, sending shockwaves through Washington. Trump and his allies have seized on Barr's letter as totally exonerating the president, who long denied collusion between his campaign and Moscow and often attacked the probe as a "witch hunt."