WASHINGTON — A key Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the panel needs to seek testimony from Felix Sater, a business associate of President Trump, and may ultimately have to call the president himself in light of newly disclosed emails about a prospective Trump Tower project in Moscow that was being pursued during the early stages of last year’s presidential campaign.
“This is a bright light in an ever growing constellation of contacts between Donald Trump and Russia,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told Yahoo News on Tuesday. In a hearing with then-FBI Director James Comey last March, Swalwell first raised questions about Sater’s role.
Swalwell told Yahoo News that Sater, a Russian-born convicted felon turned FBI informant, is a “relevant witness” who may have been a “pivotal player” in the relationship between Trump and the Russian government. But the committee will likely need to go further to resolve all the questions swirling about the issue, including seeking testimony directly from Trump. “We don’t want to be reckless,” said Swalwell. “But that should be on the table. My belief is we have to hear from all relevant witnesses, and it does look like he [Trump] is likely relevant.”
It would be extremely rare, but not unprecedented, for a president to testify before a congressional committee. The last known instance was in 1974 when then-President Gerald Ford testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee about his pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon. (Before that, it hadn’t happened since Woodrow Wilson testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the League of Nations.) But the mere fact that a leading Democratic investigator is raising the issue illustrates the mounting stakes for the White House from the inquiries, both by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, into contacts he and his campaign had with Russian officials. Special White House counsel Ty Cobb said Tuesday night: “We will continue to cooperate with the committee’s investigation to the extent that it is appropriate.”
The potential new interest in Trump’s testimony was triggered by emails turned over to the House Intelligence Committee this week showing that even while he was running for president, Trump was pursuing a deal to build a giant Trump Tower in Moscow — an ambitious project, envisioned as the world’s tallest building and costing well over $100 million, that was conceived and pitched to…