Sunday, 4 August 2013

Trump: FM called Megrahi scapegoat

[This the headline over a report (behind the paywall) in today’s Scottish edition of The Sunday Times.  It reads in part:]

Alex Salmond told Donald Trump that the Lockerbie bomber would be dead “within one week” when he tried to secure his support for the terrorist’s early release from prison, the billionaire has claimed.
Trump, who was once on friendly terms with the first minister, said Salmond made the claim to him in a telephone call days after the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi who lost his battle against prostate cancer nearly three years later. (...)
A spokesman for the tycoon also told The Sunday Times that Salmond privately claimed at the time that Megrahi had been “a scapegoat”.
Salmond has not denied that the discussions took place but a spokesman for the first minister denied the latest claims about the detail of the talks.
Some supporters of Megrahi have long argued that he did not directly participate in the bombing and was used as a scapegoat by the former regime headed by Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. However, the Scottish government’s official position then, as now, was that he was guilty of Britain’s worst terrorist attack. (...)
It first emerged last October that Salmond had asked Trump to endorse the Scottish government’s controversial decision to free Megrahi when a draft statement in Trump’s name prepared by Geoff Aberdein, the first minister’s chief of staff, was leaked. (...)
Trump said: “He called me and was very strong in wanting me to sign that letter or something very similar and I said, ‘I just can’t do it. I think it’s crazy that you did it.’
“He said he did it for humanitarian reasons . . . I told him in the strongest of language, ‘I cant do it, I disagree with your decision,’ and he said, ‘He’ll be dead in a week — because he had cancer — he’ll be dead in one week . . .’ Well, he lived for a couple of years after that and frankly, if they didn’t have the revolution [in Libya] he’d probably still be alive today.”
Trump’s spokesman George Sorial said he and Trump’s son Donald Jr also spoke to Salmond earlier on the day of the talks between the pair.
“Don and I expressed our extreme disagreement and outrage with the decision [to free Megrahi],” said Sorial. “He was responding saying, ‘Well, you don’t really have all the facts,’ and he made statements like, ‘Megrahi was used as a scapegoat.’ ” (...)
Labour said Salmond’s conduct on the Megrahi affair had been unacceptable and that it would be concerned by any suggestion that he regarded Megrahi as a scapegoat in contradiction of previous grounds given for his release.
Elaine Murray, the party’s MSP for Dumfriesshire, said it would be “totally inappropriate” for Salmond to discuss the matter in such terms with Trump.
She added: “If the first minister has the full facts about Megrahi then he should share these with the families who are still looking for answers after all these years.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said Trump’s claims were “embarrassing” for Salmond and underlined the fact that he had “serious questions to answer about the Megrahi release”.
But a spokesman for Salmond said that the memories of Trump and his employees “seem to be playing tricks on them again”, stating that the first minister “made no such comments to Mr Trump on the medical condition of Mr Megrahi”.
He said that the Scottish government had taken the decision to free Megrahi “on compassion grounds following medical advice and for no other reason”.
He added: “The first minister has never, to anyone, second-guessed that medical advice nor questioned Mr Megrahi’s involvement in the Lockerbie atrocity.”


  1. Boringly, I think the spokesman said it all. Trump just makes stuff up.

  2. Private chats between Trump and Salmond about Megrahi’s release were held, but who to believe!

    Trump’s hostile response to Megrahi’s release does illustrate the ‘state of terror’ in America about this issue and others that prevents reasoned thinking.

    Instead express any doubts and you are accused of being a terrorist or a green lizard fancier!

    Therefore Salmond would, and would have to, try hard to persuade Trump because an endorsement from a prominent American would be of great value.

    And therefore trying the line that ‘I know you hate the idea, but he’ll be dead in a week’ and ‘you don’t know the facts, he was a scapegoat’ are desperate but logical comments to make.

  3. Salmond did try to persuade Trump to support him over Megrahi's release. It was a brain-dead thing to have done. It seems the international reaction to the release spooked him quite a lot, because of course he knew that all the politicians were in fact in favour of releasing Megrahi.

    However, Salmond has always been entirely consistent in his belief that the conviction was sound. He was also meticulous in quoting the medical advice of the doctors at the time. There is absolutely no evidence that he said Megrahi would be dead within a week, or that he was a scapegoat, and there is no reason to believe he said any of that.

    If this story was coming from someone with credibility one might have to consider it seriously. It is however coming from Donald Trump, who has no credibility and seems simply to make stuff up as it suits him.

    There is a middle ground of course. Salmond might have said Megrahi would be dead within a few weeks. Three months might be seen in those terms. Megrahi was also never believed to have been the sole operator in the bombing, and indeed was only convicted of being an accessory, not of being the actual bomber. So Salmond might have said something like that.

    It would be entirely in character for Trump to spin "he'll be dead in a few weeks" and "he was a minor player who ended up taking the rap for the whole thing" into "he'll be dead in a week and he was a scapegoat".

    Much as I would like to believe that Salmond realises the truth, I don't think he does.

  4. The facts may be wrong, but the story may be true.

    Trump’s words are probably an angry exaggeration, meaning they are not literally true, but essentially true!

    It’s similar to when someone angrily accuses someone else of always being late for important meetings.

    It’s untrue, because they are not always late, but essentially true because they are often late.

    Therefore even if Salmond spoke in terms described by Rolfe, you would still expect this to be politically damaging, except all the Governments supported Megrahi’s release!

    This explains why despite the vitriol from US, no reprisals were suffered by Scotland.

    However Trump and some Lab/Con/LD MSPs are unaware of this and still think they can damage the SNP over Megrahi’s release.

    Caution do not confuse with the crash of PanAm 103, over Lockerbie !

    Al Jazeera World : Flight 1103: Libya's Lockerbie?
    The story behind Libya's worst aviation disaster and how the regime of Muammar Gaddafi sought to deceive its citizens and blame its enemies for the tragedy.

    Tuestday 6 August, 20:00 GMT
    Wednesday 7 August, 12:00 GMT
    Thursday 8 Augus 01:00 GMT

  6. I was not aware that "some supporters of Megrahi have long argued that Megrahi did not directly participate in the bombing and was used as a scapegoat by Gaddafi". I thought supporters of Mr Megrahi argued that both he and Libya were scapegoated (where does that word come from?) by the British and US Governments.

  7. I may have got this quite wrong but I was not aware that supporters of Mr Megrahi had long argued that he did not participate directly in the bombing but was fitted-up ("scapegoated") by Colonel Gaddafi. This seems absurd. It was of course the Western Governments who indicted Fhimah and Megrahi in order to "scapegoat" Libya. Yet I recall Vinny's initial "Libyan solution" expressed in "On the Trail of Terror". In this scenario the culprits were two other Libyans and the purchaser of the Malta clothing a junior accomplice.

    Is the writer Jason Allardyce not really a master of his brief or could this be a possible new official default or fall-back position in order to explain away these supposed further investigations. Perhaps it was still Libya but Megrahi played only a minor role (purchasing the clothing?) and was implicated by being on Malta on the 21/12/88. Perhaps Megrahi was also the author of his own misfortune by failing to come clean as to his "minor role"! Perhaps this scenario could be adapted for a Heathrow origin in order to explain away the failure to recover the "Bedford" Samsonite!

  8. The spin on this is that Salmond doesn't really believe Megrahi was guilty. Sadly, there is no evidence at all that this is true.

    The SCCRC already shot the Gauci identification down in flames. The bomb went on at Heathrow, so it hardly matters what Megrahi was doing in Malta that morning. We actually have no freaking idea who did what in relation to this mess, except that it seems to have Khreesat's grubby fingerprints all over it.

  9. Salmond’s compassionate release of an alleged mass murderer on a ‘medical hunch’ to assist the US/UK (and Scottish) Governments would imply doubt about Megrahi’s guilt!

  10. The idea that Megrahi was given compassionate release on compassionate grounds following medical advice and for no other reason is an obvious joke.

    And if the First Minister never, to anyone, second-guessed that medical advice nor questioned Mr Megrahi’s involvement in the Lockerbie atrocity, then this proves it.

    Or are we to believe Salmond never took an interest in the Lockerbie Case and would not ask questions about Megrahi or ask for a second opinion before releasing a mass murderer?

    The only reason the First Minister would not ask pertinent questions is if he didn’t want to hear the answers! A bit like Thatcher’s ‘I don’t write about things I don’t know about’.

    Except they both would know, because it’s their job to know because knowing is vital for decision making!

  11. No, it really wouldn't. Dave, do you live in Scotland? You seem remarkably clueless about just about everything that goes on here.

  12. If Salmond had asked for a second opinion and the medical advice was Megrahi had longer to live, then that would have scuppered his compassionate release.

    The advice was tailored to the decision rather than the other way round.

  13. And you know this how?

    Nobody had any interest at all in keeping Megrahi in jail, and that includes Salmond. Why would he ask for another opinion to enable him to do what he had no interest in doing?

    Anyway, the person responsible for the decision wasn't Salmond, it was MacAskill, though I think it's fair to assume there was discussion.

    Salmond and MacAskill were getting all sorts of green lights from Brown in particular that getting Megrahi the hell out of there before he embarrassed everyone by dying in jail was the desired outcome. They weren't going to do the PTA route, but they were prepared to do the compassionate release.

    It was all completely political, and it had its roots in Blair's "deal in the desert" in 2007. Gaddafi was threatening all sorts of reprisals if Megrahi died in jail, and nobody really wanted that sort of grief.

    Salmond's shock was caused by the fact that the very people who had encouraged him behind the scenes to release Megrahi then turned on him and monstered him for doing that. He was set up. He's a big enough boy who has been round the block often enough to know how things are - he might have anticipated it, but he didn't.

    Much as I'd like to believe that Salmond knows Megrahi was innocent, there is no sign whatsoever that he thinks that.

  14. Immediately after Zeist Megrahi’s conviction was derided and the absence of evidence is now widely known, at least by those who look.

    Salmond can only maintain the pretence of believing in Megrahi’s guilt if he has never looked at the evidence.

    But you would only not look, to avoid information you know you will find, but which you don’t want to officially know about, thus enabling you to say, ‘I have seen no evidence to doubt the conviction’.

    A bit like Rolfe and the condition of the forward cargo door!

  15. Salmond has more to do than look at the detail of the evidence in the Lockerbie case. He gets briefings from the Crown Office, who are telling him that the conviction is sound (no doubt parroting as gospel all the assertions we know have been utterly discredited) and that we are all a bunch of lunatic conspiracy theorists. That's all there is to it.

    Salmond has a country to run and an independence referendum to win. I don't know when he finds time to sleep, quite frankly. The idea that the Lockerbie thing is more than an infernal nuisance he'd rather hear no more about is fanciful. I doubt if he even thinks about it unless something in the news forces it on him.

    And don't start again about your precious forward cargo door. The door is clearly recorded in the AAIB report as being recovered without significant damage, and the fatal damage to the plane can be seen by anyone to have been on the other side of the fuselage.

  16. Salmond is a consummate politician and would absorb information about Lockerbie and most things in his stride and no politician worthy of the name relies on expert advice.

    Therefore the idea that he is too busy running the country and campaigning in the devolution in EU referendum to learn or be concerned about Lockerbie is silly.

    Cameron has to swot up on everything for PMQs and I’m sure Salmond does the same.

    And a picture line drawing showing the location of the forward cargo door in the AAIB report is not the same as referencing its condition. To suggest otherwise is shameless dissembling.

  17. The "devolution in EU referendum"? What on earth are you talking about?

    Much of the AAIB report's crucial data are presented in drawings. The drawings DO reference the door's condition. Just as they reference the location of the actual fatal damage to the hull, on the opposite side.

    If we're in insulting mood, then hear this, Dave. You are ignorant, arrogant and not very bright. You also have no idea about anything that goes on in Scotland - or probably anywhere else.

    Have you ever watched FMQs, I wonder?

  18. The one dimensional pencil line drawing in the AAIB report shows the outline of where the cargo door was located on the plane and that’s all.

    The one dimensional pencil line drawing of the damage on the other side illustrates damage, but what this involved is reported on in the text of the report, unlike the condition of the cargo door.

    And yes I do watch the Parliamentary channel and admired Salmond for speaking out against the Iraq war.

    Sadly he went silent over Libya and the so-called ‘independence’ referendum is a choice between devolution in the UK and devolution in the EU.

    Oh and is ignorant similar to not very bright?

  19. The cargo door is illustrated in several images, not just one. There is much more information that simply its location. Of course, if you think an illustration on paper is "one-dimensional", that could explain your confusion.

    I asked if you'd watched FMQs. The Iraq war was 10 years ago and Salmond wasn't FM then. In fact he wasn't even an MSP.

    You are both ignorant and not very bright. Ignorant in that you have very little knowledge about - well, just about anything as far as I can see. Not very bright in that you don't know what to do with information when you get it, not even when it's spoon-fed to you.

    So, you think Sweden and Denmark and the Netherlands and France and Germany and Luxembourg and Ireland enjoy "devolution in the EU"? That's semantics, but whatever you call it, I'm buying.

  20. Dear Rolfe you’re incorrigible!

    John Barry Smith is a qualified aircraft accident investigator and he says the AAIB does not reference the condition of the cargo door.

    But you persist in refuting this by referencing a pencil outline drawing and no text.

    Clearly you must think we’re all stupid!

    Oh and Salmond was MP for Banff and Buchan at the time and you forgot to mention Greece?

  21. John Barry Smith is an idiot with an obsession. You're probably his only fan. Unless you are him, of course.

    Yes, I do refute what he says. Look up "refute" in a dictionary. And if you can't see the other relevant illustrations that's not my problem. The reason you're a lone voice on this is that everyone else can see the illustrations in the AAIB report and realises Smith is bonkers.

    Yes, Alex Salmond was MP for Banff and Buchan in 2003. You raised this as an example when I asked you if you'd ever watched FMQs. Since Salmond wasn't even an MSP then never mind FM, I'm struggling to see the relevance.

    Have you ever watched FMQs any time in the past six years? Because if you haven't, why bring that up in the first place?

    And I didn't mention Malta either. Should I have?

  22. The "forward cargo door" thesis has been thoroughly ventilated on this blog. No further comments on the subject will be accepted on this or any other thread.

  23. Dear Rolfe,

    I mentioned PMQs/FMQs to show that Cameron and Salmond need to know about everything to do their job, to refute your claim that Salmond would be too busy to know about Lockerbie.

    Also for you to imply that only people in Scotland can talk about Lockerbie is parochial, arrogant and rude.

    Also what are your qualifications regarding aircraft accident investigations that entitles you to bully blogs with your angry posts.

    And selling the virtues of the EU without mentioning Greece could be considered malpractice if you were selling PPI!

  24. You talked about Salmond at FMQs in a manner that made it fairly clear you know nothing at all of what transpires at FMQs. If you seriously think senior politicians undertake detailed research of every issue that confronts them, personally, from the raw data, and make up their minds independently, you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

    I think people who have no idea at all about FMQs should not use FMQs to try to prove a point. That is the point I was making.

    You're a fine one to talk about angry, bullying posts. If I've been rude to you (and I have, quite deliberately), this has been in response to your own frequent imputations that I am dishonest, disingenuous and, the latest one, negligent.

    Why don't you go off and do some actual reading about the subject, instead of pontificating from a position of almost total ignorance?

    You characterised membership of the EU as "devolution in Europe". I mentioned a few EU member states in the course of commenting that irrespective of what you call it, that's the status I'm voting for for Scotland. I'm go to Wikipedia and find a list of the whole lot if you like.

  25. Dear Rolfe, you’re over egging it as usual.

    Of course a PM/FM would not research everything from the raw data, but they would ask some common sense questions from civil servants and colleagues about important issues.

    Your imputation that the Lockerbie Case and release of Megrahi would not merit a closer look by Salmond is silly.

    Norway would be a persuasive comparison for independence, except they’re not in the EU.

    And the SNP’s counter to the plight of Greece is that they no longer want to join the Euro, or introduce their own currency, but remain in Sterling!

  26. There are few colleagues and no civil servants who would explain to Salmond that Megrahi was railroaded. And he doesn't listen to Christine Grahame. The case would certainly merit a closer look, but there is no sign at all that such a closer look has been taken.

    Norway's government continually complains of being the victim of "fax diplomacy", where they just have to wait to be told the EU rules they have to follow while having no input into the process. They pay a stonking amount to the EU for trade relations, and get no influence in return. There are pros and cons to this situation, and it's not at all clear whether full EU membership or EFTA membership would most benefit Scotland.

    Given that Scotland is currently in the EU and compliant with all EU requirements, the sensible course of action is to remain in the EU during the transition to independence. If events transpire such that leaving would be advantageous, we can always have a referendum on leaving later. There is no advantage to burning our bridges with the EU at the present time.

    The SNP is playing Cameron like a vintage Stradivarius. Whether or not it is to Scotland's advantage to remain in a sterling union in the short to medium term after independence, it is overwhelmingly to England's advantage. Sterling is propped up to quite a large extent by the value of North Sea oil, and the loss of that asset would have catastrophic consequences for the stability of the currency. It is in Scotland's interest that the currency of its largest trading partner should not collapse. That is probably the main reason for wanting to continue with a Sterling zone.

    Of course, after independence, if we want our own currency, or if circumstances change and joining the Euro is desirable, we can do that. We can't do that within the union - all we can do within the union is wait and see what England decides. And England has been making some fairly bad decisions lately.

  27. Civil servants would not say Megrahi was railroaded, but would provide politicians with information and advice, particularly if asked.

    ‘He doesn’t listen to Christine Grahame’ or presumably other colleagues and JfM?

    But you would only officially not ask to avoid the answer and therefore not asking betrays the fact you already know the answer.

    Otherwise a fair critique of the one step nearer, but two steps back, ‘independence’ campaign.

  28. The Crown Office is one hundred per cent cast-iron certain of Megrahi's guilt. It is to the Crown Office that senior politicians look for briefings and advice on such matters. That's all there is to it, quite frankly.

    I don't know why you put "independence" in scare-quotes. We'll be just as independent as these other countries I listed earlier, the group of course including the UK at present. And we'll be voting Yes next year, if you want to get your money on early(ish).