The Saudi-backed LIV Golf International kicks off at Donald Trump’s Bedminster club this weekend, despite the rage of 9/11 families and journalists who say they are ‘revolted’ by the former President’s decision to ignore the Saudi government’s dark track record of human rights abuses and links to terror in exchange for a handsome paycheck.
Trump controversially agreed to host the event at his club after being dumped by the PGA in 2016 and again in 2021 after the Capitol riot. He has since encouraged golfers to sign up to the event, telling them to ‘take the money now’ and claiming that if they don’t, they will miss out on a payday when the LIV series and the PGA ‘inevitably’ merge.
The series has divided the world of sport and incensed critics of the Saudi regime. Among them is the fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. At the time, he had been exposing the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s government for human rights abuses.
She is joined in her outrage by The National Press Club, a society of journalists, who released a statement this week saying they were ‘revolted’ that the tournament is taking place on US soil.
But most appalled are the families of 9/11 victims, who say they are sickened by the fact the event is taking place 50 miles from where their loved ones were slaughtered in an attack that was in-part funded by the Saudi government.
They have vowed to protest outside the club on Friday. Trump recently tried to appease them by telling them via an aide that 9/11 was ‘near and dear’ to him.
Brett Eagelson, the founder of 9/11 Justice, said the peace offering was of ‘little value’.
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Trump and his wife Melania are seen on Wednesday night arriving at the welcome party in Manhattan
Golfers stand on a practice green, during a practice round at the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational, part of the new LIV Golf Invitational Series, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, USA, 27 July 2022. The tournament officially kicks off on Friday
9/11 victims’ families begged the former president to cancel the tournament earlier this month but he has rejected their plea
‘We’re going to make it as painful as possible and unenjoyable as possible for those involved. We think that they need to know our feelings.
‘I think it sets a precedent that money will erase wrongdoing, that’s what angers me the most,’ said Matthew Bocchi, who was nine when his father was killed in the attacks.
Donald Trump with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud in 2019
Donald and Melania Trump last night stepped out to a backdrop of this mounting fury to welcome golfers and event organizers at a Manhattan party.
Earlier this year the PGA moved to ban players who participate in LIV events and this month the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the PGA for anticompetitive behavior.
The tour, backed by Saudi Arabia, has angered family members of 9/11 victims, who are horrified at the former president so publicly supporting the country which in-part funded the attacks.
The terror mastermind, Osama bin Laden, was from a prominent Saudi family before setting up training camps in Afghanistan.
‘For Donald Trump, a former president of the United States to host the Saudi golf tournament, help it get off the ground 45 miles or 50 miles from Ground Zero, where 750 New Jerseyans were killed on that day, it is beyond comprehension,’ said Dennis McGinley, whose brother Daniel McGinley died in the attacks while working on the 89th floor of the South Tower.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘As 9/11 families we’ve had to grow thick skins over the last 21 years, but this really hurts.
‘This one is really painful.’
Their group 9/11 Justice wrote a letter to the former president expressing their ‘deep pain and anger’ about the tournament.
The 9/11 victims group 9/11 Justice released this ad this week shaming the golfers taking part in the series and Trump for hosting the event at his club
The group is urging others to boycott the event and shame Trump for his role in it
‘The evidence, Mr. Trump, is more clear than ever. The Saudi nation is largely responsible for the death of our loved ones and for this horrific attack on America. And you know it,’ the letter read.
‘For Donald Trump, a former president of the United States to host the Saudi golf tournament, help it get off the ground 45 miles or 50 miles from Ground Zero, where 750 New Jerseyans were killed on that day, it is beyond comprehension
Dennis McGinley, whose brother Daniel McGinley died in the South Tower
‘We ask for the opportunity to have some of our family members visit with you in the coming days to discuss our concerns in person with you and urge you to cease further business with the regime that was complicit in the murder of our loved ones.’
The letter continued: ‘It is incomprehensible to us, Mr. Trump, that a former president of the United States would cast our loved ones aside for personal financial gain.
‘We hope you will reconsider your business relationship with the Saudi Golf League and will agree to meet with us.’
In a statement earlier this week, the National Press Club said: ‘We are revolted by the way the Saudi-funded LIV enterprise has followed the fist bump in the desert by shoving themselves onto golf courses and television screens.
‘We call on all Americans to see this unsavory attempt to minimize the grisly bone-saw attack on Washington Post opinion writer Jamal Khashoggi for what it is – an attempt to sweep under the rug a brutal state-sponsored murder.
‘We call on people of conscience to reject this tournament. Do not attend. Do not watch it on television. Let it fail.
‘That the tournament is being held at a course owned by former President Trump is, if possible, even more revolting.
Caitlyn Jenner, herself a keen golf player, shakes hands with the former president on Wednesday night
A group photo shows the teams taking part in the controversial LIV event in Bedminster this weekend
Golfer Dustin Johnson with his new wife Paulina Gretzky at the Gotham Hall welcome party in New York City last night
Among the famous faces at Wednesday night’s party was Caitlyn Jenner (shown left with another guest), former baseball player Darryl Strawberry and golfer Brooks Koepka (right)
Donald Trump on Wednesday night speaks to golfer Dustin Johnson at a party in Manhattan to celebrate the tournament
Trump chats to Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, on Wednesday during the launch party
Ex-NBC broadcaster David Feherty, who left his role at the network to join LIV’s team (left) and Caitlyn Jenner (right) practising her swing
Nelly performs during the welcome party for the golfers and fans
Entertainers are seen dressed in iconic New York City costumes during the welcome party for the LIV Golf Invitational – Bedminster at Gotham Hall
Pat Perez of 4 Aces GC (left), his wife Ashley Perez and Team Captain Brooks Koepka of Smash GC dance to Nelly
Patrick Reed of 4 Aces GC shakes hand with Dustin Johnson, with Greg Norman beside them
Johnson is welcomed to the stage by Norman
Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra of Fireballs GC, Carlos Ortiz of Fireballs GC, Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, Abraham Ancer of Fireballs GC and Team Captain Sergio Garcia of Fireballs GC smile on stage during the welcome party
‘It reminds us that the former President bragged of distracting Congress from the murder, delaying the release of the final U.S. government report that concluded MBS, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (and recipient of the fist-bump from President Biden) was most likely involved in planning and approving Jamal’s murder.
‘And the tournament on the Trump course reminds us how Saudi Arabia finds ways to personally enrich Trump and his family – including $2 billion to his son in law.’
Trump has however remained defiant, insisting that the LIV tournament is the future and that it will inevitably merge with the PGA or surpass it.
‘All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ from PGA officials who are making Millions of Dollars a year,’ Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social on Monday morning.
‘If you don’t take the money now, you will get nothing after the merger takes place, and only say how smart the original signees were.
‘Good luck to all, and congratulations to really talented Cam Smith on his incredible WIN!’
Saudi Arabia has for two decades denied any involvement in the attacks, though 15 of the 19 men who hijacked and crashed four planes that day in New York City, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon were Saudi nationals.
The FBI released documents from its investigation, dubbed Operation Encore, in November 2021 after Biden ordered them to be declassified.
The Bureau had explored, among other things, whether three people including one Saudi Embassy official in the US had advanced knowledge of the attacks.
Golfers (L-R) Charles Howell III, Jason Kokrak, and Paul Casey talk to reporters during a press conference at the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational. Some have embraced the LIV series, claiming they need to support their families financially, while other golfers have rejected it
A viewing room in a tent at the 18th green with the US Presidential Seal at the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational, part of the new LIV Golf Invitational Series, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey
An earlier memo released in September detailed the significant logistic support that two of the hijackers had received once within the country including ‘procuring living quarters and assistance with assimilating.’
McGinley said 9/11 Justice has not heard from anyone on Trump’s team since sending the letter.
Trump’s track record with the Saudi government is complicated.
In 2016, he told FOX News that Saudi Arabia ‘blew up the World Trade Center.
‘Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis. It was Saudis. Take a look at Saudi Arabia, open up the documents,’ he told the network at the time. The people came, most of the people came from Saudi Arabia.
‘They didn’t come from Iraq,’ Trump said in 2016 on Fox News.
But once in office, he remained friendly with the regime and even claimed to ‘save’ MSB’s ‘a**’ after the CIA concluded he had ordered Khashoggi’s 2018 murder.
Trump allegedly told journalist Bob Woodward: ‘I saved his a**. I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to stop them.’
He referred to the Saudis as ‘an important ally’ and told how he’d jokingly instructed members of Congress to ‘let them trade with Russia instead’.
‘Let them buy a thousand planes from Russia instead of the United States. Fellas, you’ve got to be smart,’ he said.
When Khashoggi was murdered and evidence grew that the killing had been ordered by the Saudi government, Trump played a safe hand publicly.
He said he was ‘very angry’ that Khashoggi had been killed, but claimed ‘nobody had pointed the finger’ at MSB or his regime.
Privately, he told Woodward: ‘He says he didn’t do it…he says very strongly that he didn’t do it. Bob, they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time.’
He later supported arms deals with the kingdom despite its proxy war in Yemen and refused to abandon his relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – despite global outrage over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
McGinley was on the phone with his brother before the plane plowed into the tower.
Daniel had just moved into his ‘dream house’ in Ridgewood, New Jersey and he and his wife Peggy were raising their five children there.
He said his brother was crying on the phone and telling him, ‘I just want to get home to Peggy and the kids.’
‘I’ve been haunting this conversation for the last 21 years,’ McGinley said.
‘One of the golfers said in their interviews, he’s like, “Look, you know, we’re just trying to provide for our families.” Yeah, my brother Danny and 2,900 other people were just trying to provide for their families as well. And that was all horrifically taken away from them on 9/11.’
The LIV has so far held two major events, with its third planned for the Bedminster tournament. Trump will also host the season-ending Team Championship at the Trump National Doral Miami.