(CNN)Felix Sater, the Russian-born onetime business associate of Donald Trump's who worked to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, says the then-business magnate asked him to "look after" his kids when they were pursuing business deals in Russia.
Businessman says Trump sent him to Russia to 'look after' his kids
Sater told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day" Friday that Trump had personally asked him to travel to Russia to be in Moscow with his children.
"The President asked me to be in Russia at the same time as them to look after them," Sater said, adding that Trump had asked him directly.
The Trump Organization's general counsel has said previously Sater was not accompanying the Trump children in Moscow. And Trump himself has downplayed his connections to Sater.
"Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," Trump said in a December 2015 Associated Press interview. "I'm not that familiar with him."
Sater, a mob-linked felon turned FBI informant, is speaking out now after he has figured prominently amid questions about Trump's connections to Russia for his role in trying to land a Trump Tower in Moscow in late 2015 and early 2016, while the presidential campaign was underway.
Trump signed a letter of intent on the Moscow deal, which was a nonbinding agreement, but the venture was ultimately scuttled in 2016.
Sater worked with Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen on the deal, and emails exchanged between the two show that Sater thought the deal could "get Donald elected," according to The New York Times. Sater also suggested he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to say "great things" about Trump if the deal went through, according to The Washington Post.
But Sater, who was born in the Soviet Union and moved to the US as a child, said Friday that he did not have connections to Putin's government — though he insisted his statements weren't just hype.
"At the end of the day, I'd start finding people that knew Putin," Sater said. "I'd start finding people that could get Donald on top of this project. I would have, believe me, turned over every rock to make sure everyone was involved."
Sater said he's now speaking out because of his longtime intelligence work on behalf of the US, as his name has continued to surface in the congressional and special counsel investigations into Trump and Russia. Sater said he has spoken with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, but he won't say whether he's talked to special counsel Robert Mueller's team.
"I cannot answer about anything that may be on ongoing investigation," Sater said Friday when asked if he had spoken to Mueller.
"True, except you could say if you haven't spoken to the investigators. You could say that," Cuomo responded.
"I choose not to," Sater said.
Sater denied there was ever any money exchanged or any effort to build a relationship between Putin's allies and the Trump Organization as part of the project.
"To my knowledge and anything I was involved with, absolutely not," he said.