Ex-Trump business associate fails to show for interview, leading committee to vow to issue subpoena
(CNN) — The House Intelligence Committee says it will issue a subpoena for former Donald Trump business associate Felix Sater to appear before their panel after he failed to attend a prescheduled Friday morning closed-door meeting.
Sater’s lawyer, Robert Wolf, said his client cannot appear for health reasons, but a spokesman for the committee said the panel would take action to compel him to testify.
“The Committee had scheduled a voluntary staff-level interview with Mr. Sater, but he did not show up this morning as agreed,” the spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee said in a statement. “As a result, the Committee is issuing a subpoena to compel his testimony.”
Wolf later said Sater planned to voluntarily attend “the next rescheduled date” but it was unclear if that commitment was enough to avoid a subpoena.
Sater was scheduled to appear before the committee for a second time following his 2017 appearance to discuss his work on Trump Tower Moscow with Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.
The interview was a sign that the committee is turning its attention back toward the President’s financial dealings and potential foreign influence. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said this week that Sater is one of several witnesses relating to Trump Tower Moscow that the committee has lined up.
Sater is the first significant witness from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee, which is examining volume one of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference, while the House Judiciary Committee probes the second volume on obstruction of justice.
Sater’s work with Cohen on the Trump Tower Moscow project was cited in the Mueller report, in which then-candidate Trump signed a letter of intent to pursue the deal but ultimately did not do so. The special counsel report details Sater’s efforts to arrange travel for Cohen and Trump to travel to Russia, Sater’s statements that the Russian government had to sign off on an agreement and his email to Cohen that suggested the project could help Trump become President.
“Our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote to Cohen.
Sater was initially supposed to testify publicly before the committee in March, but his testimony was delayed after the special counsel finished his investigation. Schiff said that they were putting the testimony on hold while they pursued the unredacted Mueller report and counterintelligence evidence he had collected.
Schiff has made some progress on that front, striking an agreement with the Justice Department for a set of a dozen counterintelligence documents. Now Sater is coming back to testify as originally planned — but it will be behind closed doors instead of in public.
In addition to pursuing witnesses with ties to the Trump Tower Moscow project, Schiff is also seeking interviews with other key officials cited in the Mueller report. He has issued subpoenas to both former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates, who both pleaded guilty as part of the special counsel’s investigation and are still cooperating with the Justice Department.
It’s still unclear whether either Flynn or Gates will testify as a result of the subpoenas.