The House Intelligence Committee says it will issue a subpoena for President TrumpDonald John TrumpAOC is the Trump-era hero we need Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks ‘Ms. Lewandowski’ at hearing Trump confirms US was ‘cocked and loaded’ for Iran strike 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.
The committee, led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff introduces bill to strengthen law barring campaigns from accepting foreign dirt Lawmakers spar at testy Mueller hearing Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children’s privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries 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 CohenHicks repeatedly blocked by White House from answering Judiciary questions The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump and House Democrats resume battle House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold ‘series’ of hearings on Mueller report 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 “health reasons” and that he looked forward to appearing voluntarily in the future.
“Due to health reasons Mr. Sater was unable to appear today. He looks forward to voluntarily appearing at the next rescheduled date,” Wolf said in a statement. Wolf did not comment on the committee’s plans to issue a subpoena.
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, Sater’s appearance has been twice postponed. News broke earlier this week that Sater would submit to voluntary closed-door testimony on Friday.
Sater told The Washington Post in an interview that 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.
Sater, a Russian-born businessman who worked as managing director for the New York-based real estate firm the 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 PutinThe Hill’s Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Putin warns war between US and Iran would be ‘catastrophe’ What the US and Israel can expect from next week’s meeting with Russia MORE on the campaign trail at the time 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 10: 52 a.m.