[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.”