Donald Trump in Scotland: A four-hour wait at the airport for the Donald Trump show to begin
Told to arrive at 7.30am, by 10.59am, there was word the Boeing 757 was just over Wick but the thick skies offered up no sight or sound of the approaching ex-president. The wait continued before, at 11.27am, the aircraft suddenly broke through a bank of the North East’s finest grey and touched down.
But as the twin Rolls Royce engines pulled the aircraft within a stone’s throw of the press pen, the true purpose of Mr Trump’s quickly arranged visit was still unclear.
On Sunday night, Mr Trump posted on Truth Social - his social media rival to Twitter – that he was here to ‘cut the ribbon’ on a second ‘SPECTACULAR’ course at the Menie Estate, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire.
Certainly, the press weren’t invited to Menie to share in the ceremony, or see progress made although Trump’s team released images of a ground cutting – with red ribbon and golden spades – later in the day. Plumes of red, white and blue were also photographed over the green, which will be called the MacLeod course, after his Lewis-born mother, Mary.
Back on the tarmac, the doors to the aircraft opened. It could have been the holiday of a dynastic family getting underway as an entourage of around 15 descended the steps of the private plane, luxury luggage in tow, security at the ready.
Eric Trump and an assembled cast of extended family and friends – sunglasses protecting against that North East grey - made their way to the awaiting cavalcade of cars after being welcomed by Sarah Malone, the longstanding executive vice president of Trump International in Scotland.
Then, last but not least, Donald Trump appeared. At the top of the aircraft steps, he looked straight at the press pack and raised his right, leather-gloved fist before pausing for his moment. Wearing a grimace against the cold, a long navy wool coat with his hair standing firm against that stiff northerly, he waved hello.
We had been warned there would be no questions for the ex president but it’s rare for Mr Trump not to engage with the media to some degree. Ahead of the 2016 election, when he became the 45th President of the US, around 100 US journalists chartered a plane to visit Balmedie on his invitation, with the pack driven over the course in golf buggies to his favourite photo-friendly spots.
Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall were also seen trundling around the resort that day. Then, the optics were super clear but yesterday, a far more opaque picture was presented. Ever hopeful for a moment of his time, the media tried to grab his attention and wave him over.
As Mr Trump reached a safe distance from journalists and cameras, he said, perhaps a little sleepily,: “It’s great to be home. This was my mother’s home.”
Then, he stepped into a gold coloured Chevrolet Suburban, and left.
Around 9pm GMT on Sunday night, shortly after the press call attendance was confirmed, Mr Trump ‘truthed’ on Truth Social: “Will be leaving for Scotland & Ireland soon in order to see and inspect by great properties there. The Golf Courses and Hotels are among the Greatest in the World – Turnberry and Aberdeen, in Scotland, and Doonbeg, in Ireland.
"Will be meeting with many wonderful friends and cutting a ribbon for a new and SPECTACULAR Second course in Aberdeen. Very exciting depite the fact that it is “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” that is on my mind....”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this trip is the timing. As the days tick down to the Coronation, it could well be that Trump fancies upstaging President Biden – who will not be at Westminster Abbey on Saturday but represented by First Lady, Jill – in the headlines as he aligns himself to his activities this side of the Atlantic. Last night, in a statement, he hinted at the Royal occasion and said his late mother, Mary, loved Scotland, loved The Queen and added: “ I got to know The Queen too during my visits here I love Scotland just as much.”
His trip out of the US comes as Mr Trump faces several legal actions. This week, the civil case raised by former magazine columnnist E Jean Carroll, who claims she was raped by Trump in the dressing room of the lingerie department at the city’s high-end Bergdorf Goodman store in the 1990s, continues.
Trump denies the allegations and her legal team said it was unlikely to call Trump as a witness.
Separately, in early April, he pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan criminal court to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records with the case making him the first former president to be charged with criminal activity.
Less than a fortnight later, he attended a deposition in New York as part of a separate $250m civil lawsuit raised by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The case alleges widespread fraud by Mr Trump and The Trump Organization with the case accusing the former president – who hopes to secure the Republican nomination for the 2024 election and has spent weeks dominating the primary polls - of overstating the values of his assets in statements to banks, insurers and the IRS in order to secure better loan and tax terms.
In 2022, the value of Trump’s Scottish golf courses, which continue to run at a loss, were among those assets under question.
Then, Ms James’s office said the value of Mr Trump’s inaugural Scottish golf resort in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire was “improperly and materially” inflated.
According to the statements of financial condition, Mr Trump valued the resort in 2014 at $435,562,426 (£385.5m).
In Trump International Scotland accounts for the same year, filed with Companies House, it was stated the firm had tangible assets of just £30.3m, with ‘land and buildings’ worth just over £29m.
The 2014 valuation assumed as many as 2,500 homes could be built. Planning permission has been granted permission in principle for 550 properties at Menie, with the houses yet to be built. As he breaks ground on the new golf course, which was approved by planners in 2020, there is no date set for its completion.
Great to be home, perhaps, but that may be largely due to that Transatlantic flight putting his pressures at some distance, for a time at least.
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