Subpoena Announcement By House Intel Committee Ruins Trump’s Weekend

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Whether President Donald Trump likes it or not, Democrat-led House committees are continuing their work to uncover more details about his relationship to Russia. This Friday, the House Intelligence Committee revealed that they would be issuing a subpoena targeting former Trump associate Felix Sater after he did not show up for a previously scheduled interview set for shortly before the announcement. Sater worked on the Trump Organization’s effort to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow that although never realized, has proven a flashpoint for concern about how indebted the president has been and/or is to the Russian government, which was involved in the project’s development.

Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), shared:

‘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.’

POLITICO shares that committee member Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) added bluntly:

‘Mr. Sater helped spearhead President Trump’s efforts to build a ‘Trump Tower’ in Moscow, including attempts to reach out to Vladimir Putin. He must come testify.’

Sater’s attorney Robert Wolff claimed that the infamous figure didn’t show due to “health reasons,” and he and Sater himself said that they looked forward to a future appearance before the committee without a subpoena hanging overhead. Sater had originally been scheduled to speak to the panel all the way back in March as one of the first key witnesses in House Democrats’ probes into Trump, but his appearance was postponed when Special Counsel Robert Mueller rolled out the results from his own Russia probe.

Trump has claimed that Mueller provided “total exoneration” and thus there’s no place for House Democrats’ probes, but that is flatly false. Mueller’s conclusion was that there was no criminally prosecutable conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian agents meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections — not that there was no obstruction of justice, and not that there was even no “collusion” in the first place. On that broader level, Mueller clearly established numerous links between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the Trump camp expected to benefit from Russian meddling efforts.

Besides groups including the House Intelligence and Financial Services Committees hoping to uncover what exactly has gone on between Trump and Russia through means like subpoenas targeting his financial institutions, there’s a concurrent probe unfolding across Congress into apparent presidential obstruction of justice. Mueller seems to have been primarily constrained by standing Justice Department precedent against indicting a sitting president when he declined to bring charges over obstruction evidence; he was not hindered by a lack of evidence.

The House Judiciary Committee had former Trump associate Hope Hicks in for questioning just this past week to try and understand some of the situations surrounding apparent obstruction, but a large legal team including three White House lawyers that accompanied her blocked her from answering questions more than 150 times. They claimed she had absolute immunity from questions covering her time in the White House, and her appearance concluded without much new information.

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