Former US President Donald Trump defended hosting the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series at his own course in Bedminster, New Jersey, brushing off criticism from families of 9/11 victims by saying “nobody’s gotten to the bottom” of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

With families set to protest the golf event — being held just 80km from where the Twin Towers once stood — ESPN pressed Trump for a response to the controversy, the New York Post reported.

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“Well, nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately, and they should have as to the maniacs that did that horrible thing to our city, to our country, to our world,” Trump said. “So nobody’s really been there.”

The former President then attempted to put a positive spin on the golf event, saying, “there are a lot of really great people that are out here today, and we’re gonna have a lot of fun”.

“We’re going to celebrate and money’s going to charity,” Trump added. “A lot of money (is) going to charity.

“I’ve known these people for a long time They’ve been friends of mine for a long time. They’ve invested in many American companies. They own big percentages of many, many American companies and, frankly, what they’re doing for golf is so great. What they’re doing for the players is so great. The salaries are going to go way up.”

For many Americans – particularly the family members of 9/11 victims – Saudi Arabia is the nation most directly responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington that killed 3000 people 21 years ago.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who deliberately crashed planes into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania were Saudi nationals — as was Osama bin Laden.

Trump’s comments quickly drew widespread condemnation.

American broadcaster Bob Cesca tweeted: “Trump went full 9/11 Truther at a Saudi-sponsored event for the same reason he refused to criticise Putin. He needs the $$$$.”

Rick Strom wrote: “He’s covering for the Saudis, including one of the darkest days in American history, because they enrich him at every turn. Gross. Unacceptable.”

NBC’s Mike Sington added: “Jaw-dropping comments from the disgraced ex-President on why he’s hosting the LIV Invitational. Of course, with Trump it’s about money, money, money, and he could (not) give a damn about 9/11.”

In a letter to the former President this week, a 9/11 victims’ families group pointed out that even Trump himself had once accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the atrocity.

“Who blew up the World Trade Centre?” Trump told Fox News in a 2016 interview. “It wasn’t the Iraqis — it was Saudi. Take a look at Saudi Arabia. Open the documents.”

The families wrote that they “simply cannot understand” why Trump would accept money from LIV Golf to host the tournament — a decision they said had caused them “extreme pain, frustration, and anger”.

The Saudi government has long denied any involvement in the attacks.

In September last year, new American President Joe Biden’s administration declassified a 2016 FBI report tying two Saudi nationals living in the US at the time — one of whom enjoyed diplomatic status — to the 9/11 hijackers.

LIV Golf is backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump’s decision to host LIV Golf has also come under fire from America’s National Press Club (NPC), among others, over bin Salman’s connection to the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, and the US intelligence community has since concluded that the crown prince ordered the operation.

“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,” the NPC said on Tuesday.

“We call on all Americans to see this unsavoury attempt to minimise 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.”

This story first appeared in the New York Post and was republished with permission.

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