The attacks also offered him another useful political tool. Facing former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Trump repeatedly decried the war in Iraq, launched in response to 9/11 by Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush. To that end, he highlighted the role of Saudi actors in the attack, drawing the (accurate) distinction between Saudi involvement and lack of ties to Iraq.
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During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity in May 2016, Trump was asked if he would advocate for the release of documents from the official terror attack report that allegedly implicated Saudi officials in the attack.
“The answer is yes,” Trump replied. “…And, you know, we got into a war in Iraq that I was totally opposed to. But Iraq didn’t bring down the World Trade Center, Sean.
Hannity had also asked if the families of the victims should have the right to sue Saudi Arabia. Trump said they should.
“We have to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “And everyone wants it to be quiet. Everyone wants to keep it a secret. I don’t know — I think most people pretty much know what’s on those papers, but people have the right to sue and they should have the right to sue. They lost their loved ones. »
Trump won – and his relationship and rhetoric around Saudi Arabia quickly changed. The country was the focus of his first trip abroad; he enjoyed a flattering and exaggerated reception. Saudi officials understood that Trump responded positively to lavish praise and overspending, which they demonstrated wherever possible. It worked.
By the time killers suspected of working for the Saudi crown prince dismembered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, Trump’s willingness to dispel concerns about the kingdom was well established. He couldn’t take a heavy hand in response to Khashoggi’s killing, he said, because the country bought so many weapons and armaments from the United States. (The dollar amount he commonly quoted was grossly overstated.) The Saudis were customers, and businessman Trump knew the customer was always right.
For a time, Khashoggi’s murder made the Saudi government a global pariah. Seemingly as part of an effort to reintroduce themselves into polite society, the Saudis have backed a new golf league, LIV, which would compete with the US-based PGA. Before long, they found a club willing to stand up to public opprobrium and host a tournament in the United States: Trump’s facility in Bedminster, NJ.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump discussed his desire to host LIV. Part of that, of course, is money, the fat that allowed LIV to quickly build a stable of competitors and defenders. Trump thought LIV and PGA would merge at some point, with those who agreed to work with LIV no different than those who didn’t, except they would have “$200 million in their pocket.”
But there is also an element of revenge. The PGA of America had scheduled the PGA Championship in Bedminster this year, pulling the tournament in the days following the Capitol Riot last year. In an article on Truth Social providing an update on a potential merger, Trump lamented golfers who would “stay ‘loyal’ to the highly disloyal PGA.” Hosting the LIV not only allowed Trump to generate lost revenue for his club, but also put a finger in the eye of one of his perceived enemies. For Trump, that’s as much of a win-win as you get.
Not everyone viewed the decision with such enthusiasm. A group of people who had lost family members in the 9/11 attacks were outraged by Trump’s willingness to game the Saudi government so explicitly. They called on Trump not to host the tournament, even running an ad targeting him (and his support base).
“I will never forget, I will never forgive golfers for taking this blood money,” one man said. Another woman asks, “How much money to turn your back on your own country?”
Through an aide, Trump contacted the families, Politico reported this week. A family member recalled that the aide said “9/11 is really near and dear to [Trump] and it means so much to him that he will remember everyone who signed the letter and he personally told that person to reach out.
That didn’t help matters.
At the Journal, Trump expressed somewhat less vigorous sympathy for the families of those killed.
“I don’t know much about the 9/11 families,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t know what the connection is to that, and their very strong feelings, and I can understand their feelings. I can’t really comment on that because I don’t know exactly what they say, and what they say who did what.
(He also marveled at a question about Khashoggi, saying the controversy “really seems to have died down completely” and that “no one has asked me that question in months.”)
Abandoning the concerns of the families of those killed on 9/11 — including first responders whom Trump has often invoked at political events — in favor of taking money from a regime he once criticized would seem burdensome for a politician. normal considering a possible presidential election. Trump, however, is unlikely to pay any political price.
Consider: On Thursday, Trump will take part in the pro-am of the LIV tournament (meaning foursomes made up of professionals and amateurs), alongside two professional golfers who had joined the upstart league. During a brief segment on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, a show Trump had lambasted just days before, the hosts amazed not in turn on Saudi Arabia’s guilt, but rather on its prowess with sport and its athleticism.