The House intelligence committee says it will subpoena Russia-born business executive Felix Sater after he did not appear for a scheduled interview Friday to discuss his behind-the-scenes role in Donald Trump’s effort to build a skyscraper in Moscow during the presidential election.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the committee will subpoena Sater after he “agreed to appear this morning and he did not show up.”
Sater’s lawyer, Robert Wolf, said he missed the interview for “unexpected health reasons.” Sater “looks forward to voluntarily appearing at the next rescheduled date,” he said.
Wolf said the decision to issue a subpoena was “entirely unnecessary,” and noted that Sater had testified before several other congressional committees in the past.
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The closed-door interview was scheduled as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller said there was no evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s campaign, but noted dozens of contacts between the two. Schiff has said he wants the committee to investigate some of those contacts.
Sater worked with Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, on a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow before the 2016 election. The project was later abandoned, and Cohen is now in prison, partly on charges that he lied to Congress about the duration of the project.
Schiff, D-Calif., said earlier this week that he wants to talk to Sater and “other witnesses related to Moscow Trump Tower” in future interviews.
On Thursday, Sater told The Associated Press he would be at the interview and “as I always have, I intend to give complete and truthful answers to any questions asked of me.”
He said he had testified extensively about the Russia project and there was little new to add. Still, he said, he understood the committee’s interest in the project, which he helped kickstart during Trump’s 2016 White House campaign, and he was amenable to answering more questions.
In his own testimony, Cohen said Sater talked with him about having Trump visit Russia during the campaign and pitched the idea of offering Russian President Vladimir Putin a free penthouse in the planned tower as a marketing stunt to drive up the price of condos.
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Early in Mueller’s investigation, Trump critics seized on Sater’s Nov. 3, 2015, email to Cohen: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
Sater later said he was referring to exploiting Trump’s popularity and Putin’s interest in the Moscow development to boost the project, not any attempts to influence the outcome of the election.
Sater — who stood to make upwards of $100 million on the deal — contended it was strictly business.