Sunday, 23 June 2019

Donald Trump, 'Mad Alex' and Megrahi

[What follows is extracted from a long article in today's edition of The Sunday Times in which Stephen McGinty interviews George Sorial, a lawyer and former top executive in the Trump organisation:]

As a lawyer in New Jersey, Sorial first met Trump when he was representing a group of Wall Street executives who wanted to turn the estate of John DeLorean, the disgraced car manufacturer, into a golf course. When Trump bought the project, Sorial negotiated the deal and later bonded with the property billionaire over the fact that both their mothers were born in Stornoway. (...)

Sorial, who was executive vice president of the Trump Organisation, keeps his power dry for Alex Salmond, who as first minister started as Trump’s champion and supporter before clashing over a proposed wind farm off the Aberdeenshire coast. In the book he argues that Salmond misunderstood Trump from the beginning when the first minister’s staff booked an expensive French restaurant in New York for an early meeting. Trump prefers steak and hot dogs.

As Sorial explains: “In public Trump called him ‘Mad Alex’ but in the office we would refer to him privately as ‘stupid bastard’. I can’t tell when the two of them had a proper falling out. The release of Al Megrahi [convicted for the Lockerbie bombing] was a remarkable moment. He called me trying to persuade me to speak to Mr Trump to support (the release). He sent us a statement that he wanted Mr Trump to issue publicly and I’ll never forget walking into the office. We were all New Yorkers. Personally one of my classmates J P Flynn was on Pan Am 104 (sic). That point was the first sign of his stupidity.

“Another time he tried to persuade us to purchase The Scotsman. He thought it would be a great move for us and for Scotland. We had no interest in a newspaper that nobody reads and is so laden with debt - talk about a bad deal. It was another one of many things that Salmond would try and sell us. But they were very different personalities.”

[Alex Salmond's reaction to this story is reported in Monday's edition of The Times, as follows:]

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said that Mr Sorial’s memory “is playing tricks again” and insisted that “at no stage did Alex consider Donald Trump as a likely or serious investor in The Scotsman”.

He added: “The Trump Organisation wanted Alex to move the site of the [offshore] turbines. The first minister refused to countenance that and they then took the Scottish government to court three times and lost three times.

“Two years after the decision to release Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds the SNP were re-elected as the Scottish government by an absolute majority in a proportional parliament.”

Mr Salmond had been lined up as the figurehead for a takeover of Johnston Press, the owner of The Scotsman, by the Norwegian investor, Christen Ager-Hanssen, last year. However, he was dropped amid fears that his involvement would be too political.

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