Donald Trump on Wednesday night brushed off criticism of his hosting the Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament, partying with the players and other sporting stars in Manhattan on the eve of the event.
Accompanied by his wife Melania, Trump was seen with his frequent golfing partner Dustin Johnson, 38 – with whom he will play on Thursday in the pro-am. Johnson was accompanied by his actress wife Paulina Gretzky.
Also present was Caitlyn Jenner, who Trump shook hands with, and rapper Nelly, who performed on stage.
The latest in the LIV Golf Invitational Series will be staged at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey course from July 29-31, with 12 teams and 48 golfers competing for a $4 million top prize.
The upstart LIV tour has managed to poach some big names, offering more pay to those frustrated with the operations of the PGA, including Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler.
Trump and his wife Melania are seen on Wednesday night arriving at the welcome party in Manhattan
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
Caitlyn Jenner, herself a keen golf player, shakes hands with the former president on Wednesday night
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 from where most of the terrorists came.
On Wednesday evening Caitlyn Jenner and rapper Nelly were among the guests at Gotham Hall in Manhattan.
The party came after relatives of those who died in 9/11 signed on to a letter urging him to cancel the Saudi-backed LIV tournament.
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
Trump has remained defiant, insisting that the LIV tournament was the future.
‘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!’
Their group 9/11 Justice wrote a letter to the former president expressing their ‘deep pain and anger’ about the tournament.
Trump is pictured above with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in June 2019
‘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.
‘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.’
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.
An earlier memo released in September detailed the ‘significant logistic support’ two of the hijackers had received once within the country including ‘procuring living quarters and assistance with assimilating.’
Lawyers for 9/11 families believe the desert kingdom funded the terror network which carried out the attacks, al Qaeda, to stop homegrown fundamentalists turning against the ruling royal family.
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.’
The families of 9/11 victims are seeking a meeting with the former president over his decision to host the LIV tournament at his New Jersey Bedminster Golf Club from July 29 to 31
The PGA yanked tournaments from Bedminster and Trump’s Doral course in 2016 and 2021
In a Truth Social post, Trump wished luck to ‘really talented’ Cam Smith, who has joined the LIV tournament
McGinley said 9/11 Justice has not heard from anyone on Trump’s team since sending the letter.
The letter referenced comments made on Fox News in 2016.
‘Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis. It was Saudi. 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.’
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.’
Despite his past comments, Trump remained friendly with the Saudi kingdom.
He 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.
His decision to host the LIV tournaments is likely more driven by his soured relationship with the PGA than as a favor to the Saudis.
The PGA yanked tournaments from Bedminster and Doral in 2016 and 2021.
They said the 2016 tour was not pulled from Doral due to political reasons, but the 2021 tour was moved from Bedminster in the days after the January 6 Capitol riots.