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House panel to subpoena Felix Sater about Trump Moscow project after he's a no-show

The closed-door interview by the Intel Committee had been scheduled as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party in New York on September 19, 2007.
Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party in New York on September 19, 2007.Mark Von Holden / WireImage file

WASHINGTON — 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.

Patrick Boland, a spokesman for the House intelligence committee, said Sater "did not show up this morning as agreed" for a voluntary interview. "As a result, the committee is issuing a subpoena to compel his testimony," he said.

Sater's lawyer Robert Wolf provided NBC News the following statement: "Due to health reasons, Mr. Sater was unable to appear today. He looks forward to voluntarily appearing at the next rescheduled date."

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. House intelligence committee Chairman Adam 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., has said he wants to talk to Sater and "other witnesses related to Moscow Trump Tower" in future interviews.

Sater told The Associated Press on Thursday that he had testified extensively about the Russia project in the past 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. He gave no indication that he did not intend to testify.

"As I always have, I intend to give complete and truthful answers to any questions asked of me," Sater said.

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.

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, which never went through — contended it was strictly business.