It turns out there was more than grandstanding at play during Wednesday’s House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing with Michael Cohen.
The line of questioning by freshman Representative Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) has led to a future interview with a convicted Russian mafia member and real estate developer whose Trump Tower office was on the same floor as the suite of future President Donald Trump.
The development is ironic when you consider that Rouda defeated and replaced longtime 48th Congressional District representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Crimea River), whose close ties to Russia and role in the current investigations into Russian meddling in U.S. elections cast a shadow over his ultimately unsuccessful reelection campaign.
Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announced they will interview Felix Sater in public later this month–one day after Trump’s former personal attorney Cohen told Rouda that the president lied under oath about his relationship with Sater.
“Mr. Cohen, in November 2013, President Donald Trump testified under oath in a deposition in a civil lawsuit related to the failed real estate project, Trump International Hotel & Tower in Fort Lauderdale,” Rouda began at the oversight committee hearing, which was carried live by many television outlets.
“During the deposition, President Trump was asked about his knowledge of Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer and convicted member of the Russian mafia, who, according to press reports, plead guilty in 1998 for his role in a $40 million stock manipulation scheme,” Rouda continued. “And it’s worth noting that it is well publicized the direct relationship between the Russian Mafia and the Kremlin.
“Over the years, President Trump was asked how many times he interacted with mobster Felix Sater. In 2013, President Trump testified that, quote: ‘Not many. If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.’ Mr. Cohen, isn’t it true that President Trump knew mobster Felix Sater in 2013 when he made that statement?”
“Yes,” Cohen replied.
“Isn’t it true,” Rouda asked, “that because of his relationship to the Trump Organization, Mr. Sater had an office in Trump Tower?”
“And on the 26th floor,” replied who Cohen, who when asked why that particular floor is important responded, “It was Mr. Trump’s floor.”
“So he had an office on the same floor as President Trump?” Rouda asked.
“In fact, when he left, his office became my office,” Cohen said.
“And at one point [Sater] used Trump Organization business cards indicating he was a quote, ‘senior adviser to Donald Trump,’” Rouda said.
“Yes,” Cohen replied.
“Did Mr. Sater pay rent for the office in Trump Tower?,” the congressman asked.
“No,” Cohen replied, “he did not.”
“Based on those facts,” Rouda pressed, “isn’t it true that Donald Trump misled at best, or at worst lied under oath?”
Here is video of the exchange:
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.