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Former President Donald Trump defended allowing the LIV Golf Tournament to play at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, after families of those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks urged him to back out over the tour's ties to Saudi Arabia.
Trump told ESPN that criticism of Saudi Arabia, which for years has faced accusations of funding terrorism, should not impact the tournament.
"Nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately," said Trump. "They should have, as to the maniacs that did that horrible thing to our city, to the country, to the world. So nobody's really been there."
Before the remarks, Trump teed off at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister for LIV Golf's pro-am event. The Saudi-backed league is scheduled to host its third tournament of the season this weekend at the club.
"I can tell you that there are a lot of really great people that are out here today, and we’re gonna have a lot of fun, and we’re going to celebrate," said Trump. "Money’s going to charity, a lot of money’s going to charity, and you have really the best players in the world."
LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, a pool of economic development money that is reportedly controlled by the nation's crown prince.
Due to that relationship, the tour has come under fire as an "exercise in whitewashing." Critics say the event boosts Saudi Arabia's public image at a time when the country continues to be bogged by accusations of funding terrorism and abusing the human rights of its citizens.
One of those critics is 9/11 Justice, an advocacy group made up of families with loved ones that perished in the attacks. The families have called on Trump to cut ties with LIV Golf over Saudi Arabia's purported connection to the tragedy.
"The evidence, Mr. Trump, is more clear than ever," members of the group wrote in a letter to him last month. "The Saudi nation is largely responsible for the death of our loved ones and for this horrific attack on America."
Most notably, 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks were of Saudi origin. The country's government has long denied any role in the tragedy.