House Intelligence Committee to subpoena Trump associate Felix Sater

House Intelligence Committee to subpoena Trump associate Felix Sater
© Greg Nash

The House Intelligence Committee says it will issue a subpoena for President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE’s onetime business associate Felix Sater after he did not show up to testify behind closed doors before the panel on Friday.

“The Committee had scheduled a voluntary staff-level interview with Mr. Sater, but he did not show up this morning as agreed. As a result, the Committee is issuing a subpoena to compel his testimony,” committee spokesman Patrick Boland said in a statement Friday morning.

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The committee, led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates MORE (D-Calif.), had requested Sater’s testimony as part of its investigation into Russian interference and Trump’s business dealings with Russia and other foreign entities.

The committee is particularly interested in Sater because he worked with former Trump attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenDOJ releases hundreds of pages of memos from Mueller probe Scaramucci visits Cohen in prison US Supreme Court readies for Trump MORE to try to broker plans to build a Trump real estate property in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. The plans never came to fruition, but they attracted scrutiny from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE and congressional investigators because of their timing.

Sater’s attorney, Robert Wolf, said in a statement to The Hill that Sater did not show up on Friday because of “unexpected health reasons” and that he looked forward to appearing voluntarily in the future. 

“Today’s issuance of a subpoena by the Committee was entirely unnecessary,” Wolf said.

Schiff has sought Sater’s testimony for months. He announced following Cohen’s first closed-door appearance in late February that Sater would testify — publicly — before the committee on March 14.

However, the committee has twice postponed Sater’s testimony. News broke earlier this week that Sater would submit to voluntary closed-door testimony on Friday.

Sater told The Washington Post in an interview published Thursday that he would answer “every question without exception.”

“I will answer every question without exception,” Sater told the Post. “I always have and always will cooperate with anything the U.S. government asks of me.”

Sater was expected to arrive sometime around 9 a.m. for the interview in the U.S. Capitol building Friday morning, but more than an hour went by without him showing up.

The committee issued its statement threatening the subpoena shortly after 10 a.m.

Wolf, Sater’s attorney, noted Friday that his client has voluntarily cooperated with the Intelligence panel and other congressional committees as well as the special counsel’s office. He said Sater “had voluntarily agreed to testify today until unexpected health reasons prevented him from doing so.”

Sater, a Russian-born businessman who worked as managing director for the New York-based real estate firm Bayrock Group, worked with Cohen to move the Trump Tower Moscow project forward in 2015 and 2016. Trump signed a letter of intent to pursue the project, but ultimately never went through with it.

“Our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote to Cohen in an email during the 2016 campaign.

Sater’s involvement in the project is detailed in Mueller’s report, including his efforts get Cohen and Trump to travel to Russia as part of the property discussions, trips that ultimately never happened. 

Last November, Cohen pleaded to lying about the real estate plans in testimony before Congress as part of a deal to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. Cohen admitted, among other things, that the property discussions extended into June 2016 — six months longer than he originally testified and at which point Trump was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. 

Mueller did not charge any crimes related to the real estate plans, beyond Cohen’s false statement. However, Schiff has raised concerns about their counterintelligence implications, noting that Trump was publicly making positive statements about Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden expresses shock that Trump considers attending Russia May Day event Harris swipes at Trump on Russia: 'Always nice to spend time with supporters on the campaign trail' Trump says he's considering attending Russia's May Day parade MORE on the campaign trail at the same time he was pursuing the real estate deal.

“This was a deal that he was seeking the Kremlin's help to make happen — a deal that Michael Cohen believed — and others as well that without Putin's support they could not make happen,” Schiff told reporters at the National Press Club on Wednesday. “That may not be a crime. Maybe it should be, but it may not be a crime. It is however, a counterintelligence problem of the first order of magnitude.”

Trump, however, has defended the real-estate plans, arguing he was doing nothing wrong by pursuing the business deal during the campaign.

Updated 11:40 a.m.