Trump welcomes LIV Saudi golf tour to his New Jersey course, outraging 9/11 families

Larry McShane
New York Daily News (TNS)
FILE - Greg Norman, of Australia, watches his tee shot on the first hole during the final round of the PNC Championship golf tournament on Dec. 20, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. Norman is heading up a Saudi-backed company that plans 10 new tournaments on the Asian Tour to attract top players. It could be the first step toward Norman trying again to start a world tour. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

NEW YORK — The news hit 9/11 families as hard as a fairway wood and way too close to home: Ex-President Donald Trump’s welcome of the Saudi-financed LIV golf tour, coming to his New Jersey course just 42 miles from Ground Zero.

The controversial new operation arrives July 29 for three days at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in a state where 750 residents died inside the World Trade Center and the wounds remain raw. Local residents who lost loved ones in the attack are infuriated by Trump’s embrace of LIV given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and alleged ties to the terrorist attack.

“For the 9/11 family members, this is another kick in the gut after 21 years,” said Dennis McGinley, whose brother Danny perished on the 89th floor when the 110-story Twin Towers toppled. “It is beyond comprehension, the fact that a former president would host the Saudis. Helping them get their new golf league off the ground? It’s absurd.”

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Dozens of teed-off 9/11 family members plan a protest at the Garden State course, just as a group did when the tour made its U.S. debut last month in Portland, Oregon. The addition of Trump, who was in Manhattan as the skyscrapers collapsed on a September morning, only further inflamed their ranks.

“It’s hard for me to get even more angry after the things I’ve witnessed Trump do,” said Terrease Aiken, 29, who lost her father Terrance one week after he started work on the WTC’s 97th floor. “So I’m not surprised he was the one supporting this. It’s hurtful of course.

“Honestly, it’s disgusting if you ask me,” she continued. “But surprising? No.”

Trump will roll out the welcome mat barely six weeks before the anniversary of the attacks that killed 2,763 people in lower Manhattan. And he’s also hosting the final event of the LIV season in Miami at his Trump National Doral course in late October, with stars like Phil Mickelson (reportedly earning $200 million from the Saudis) and Bryson DeChambeau ($125 million) likely to appear at the events.

“To me, it’s wrong,” said attorney Jim Kreindler, co-chair of the Plaintiffs’ Committee representing families in litigation seeking to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its alleged role in the attacks.

“Every president should stand with the families until the day arrives when Saudi Arabia is held accountable. Until then, it’s not going to be love and kisses and business as usual.”

An email to a Trump spokeswoman for comment on the event was not returned, and it remained unclear if Trump would attend.

The LIV, funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, was quickly denounced by critics as “sportswashing” — using its golf tour to deflect attention from allegations of its record on human rights.

Harsher critics denounced the LIV golfers for fattening their bank accounts with a fortune in Saudi “blood money.”

“I don’t know what makes taking millions and millions of dollars from a government that has constantly devalued human life alright,” said Aiken. “I don’t know what good can come of that, unless you’re donating to the family victims hurt by this government.”

The irate family members note 15 of the hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens, while recently declassified U.S. intelligence reports linked some of the terrorists to Saudi nationals.

And U.S. intelligence found Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman backed the 2018 beheading of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey, while Amnesty International recently cited 92 Saudi Arabian executions in the first three months of 2022.

The Saudis have denied any role in 9/11 or the Khashoggi murder.

Trump’s alliance with the nascent Saudi tour was forged out of spite, coming one year after the PGA of America cut its ties with the departing president following the Jan. 6, 2021 riot where his violent supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

And the Trump-LIV pairing contradicts his earlier suggestion that the Saudis were linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

“Who blew up the World Trade Center?” Trump asked during a Feb. 17, 2016 appearance on Fox News. “It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents.”

More recently, news emerged that his son-in-law Jared Kushner received a $2 billion investment from the Saudi government into a firm launched last year by the one-time White House adviser.

For the 56-year-old McGinley, now in a third decade without his sibling, Trump’s Saudi partnership remains a head-scratching slap at the 9/11 community.

“It’s beyond tone deaf,” he said. “Almost like a big ‘F-you, I’m getting paid.’ He’s as callous as the golfers — worse. He was the president.”