Trumps ‘frustrated’ at inability to pursue ‘foreign investment’ deals, says Trump Org executive
Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Scotland, suggested that since assuming the presidency, Mr Trump’s personal “liberties and freedoms” have been curtailed because he cannot visit his Scottish properties to play golf as and when he pleases.
Ms Malone, who is overseeing a major £150m expansion of Mr Trump’s inaugural resort in the north east of Scotland, made the comments at a rare public speaking engagement at a controversial evangelical church with ties to Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), a US broadcaster which claims to be the world’s biggest Christian television network.
Mr Trump - along with members of his cabinet including vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo - has granted TBN several interviews since entering the White House, and several of the network’s most prominent presenters have patronised Trump properties.
The event also saw Ms Malone’s husband, Damian Bates, claim Mr Trump had turned down a $65m (£50m) offer to film another series of The Apprentice in order to pursue his political career.
Mr Bates, a former newspaper editor who dined with Mr Trump numerous times at the White House and his US golf resorts while co-authoring a book on the Trump Organisation’s Scottish developments, also lashed out at the media coverage of the Trump administration, urging people to tune in to RT, the Russian government-funded broadcaster.
In an unguarded address before an audience around 120-strong at Destiny Church in Glasgow, which has been banned from using some Church of Scotland and Scottish Episcopal Church properties after invited faith healers and contentious US televangelists to address its worshippers, Ms Malone tackled an array of subjects.
They ranged from the Trump Organisation’s international expansion ambitions and the imposition of US tariffs on imported Scotch whisky, to Mr Trump’s faith and his desire to visit Scotland more frequently.
It is understood to be the first time any employee of the Trump Organisation, other than Mr Trump’s adult children, has given a public address since he became president.
Ms Malone, who is referred to by Mr Trump as the “Queen of Scotland,” told the Thursday evening gathering she was looking after £750m worth of business at the Aberdeenshire golf resort and hotel, which has yet to turn a profit since opening in 2012. Its most recent accounts filed with Companies House show its total assets are valued at £31.8m. The firm is also reliant on an interest free loan from Mr Trump worth £40.6m.
The 45-year-old at one point engaged with a question from Andrew Owen, Destiny’s senior pastor, about how the presidency has impacted on the Trump Organisation, which she characterised as a “development company.”.
“Obviously as a paid executive I have to be careful,” she said. “The reality is, because of the emoluments act, many of the foreign investments and opportunities - and there’s lots of stuff in the business proper, as it were, across the globe - everything was put on hold.”
She said those who claim Mr Trump is profiting from his presidency had a “very crude,” “overly simplistic,” and “ridiculous” mindset.
“It’s frustrating for the family, because they’re business people, so the presidency is, is … and also his liberties and his freedoms to be able to come and play golf when he wants,” she explained.
“And I for one, having spoken to him about it, know that he’d love to come to Aberdeen, but where do you fit that into your schedule?”
Ms Malone said after Mr Trump promised there would be no new Trump Organisation deals during his presidency, the Aberdeenshire resort was “one of the only projects that we can continue developing, because we were already underway.”
However, as revealed earlier this month by The Scotsman, the Trump Organisation tried - and failed - to have land surrounding its Turnberry property in South Ayrshire rezoned to make way for swaths of housing and luxury villas.
At one point, referencing a separate, successful planning application to build 550 housing units at the Trump resort she looks after in Aberdeenshire, Ms Malone said: “If anyone wants to buy a house at the Trump Estate…”
Mr Bates went on to add: “Or stay at the hotel.”
Ms Malone, who is also a director of several of Mr Trump’s firms in Ireland, said she knew her husband - a former editor of the Press & Journal and Aberdeen Evening Express newspapers - would write a book about Mr Trump after he and George Sorial, until recently the Trump Organisation’s chief compliance counsel, hatched the plan in a New York steakhouse. She indicated others in the company would follow suit.
“Everybody in the Trump Organisation is going to write a book,” she said. “Everybody’s writing a book. Everybody’s writing a book about Trump whether they’re in the organisation or not.”
In light of the venue hosting the event, Ms Malone also reflected on the importance of her faith (“the single most important thing in life and business”), stating: “When you give yourself over to the Lord, he takes you down paths that are often daunting.
“My journey has been a sequence of going down doors and paths that get bigger and more daunting, and here I am today, and I work for one of the most formidable … he’s no longer just a formidable business man, he’s a history maker, a game changer, he’s an incredible human being who defied all predictions.”
She said she prayed for Mr Trump, a man who “is not inhibited by anything - rules, laws, policies, ways of working,” and that he would “receive that” and thank her.
Ms Malone said she felt “very privileged” having “direct access” to Mr Trump, but stressed her husband has been spending more time the president of late.
“Damien’s been sashaying in and out of the White House, so he has more access to him these days than me,” she observed to laughter from the audience.
Mr Bates, who now works as a lobbyist and public affairs executive, penned the collection of anecdotes about Mr Trump with Mr Sorial. Mr Trump has promoted it on Twitter, and Mr Bates has uploaded pictures of himself holding a copy of the tome alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson to social media.
He told the gathering in Glasgow city centre he and Mr Sorial identified a gap in the marketplace for a different book about Mr Trump, and singled out Bob Woodward, the veteran Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, for criticism. “He wrote a book about Trump and never went and actually spoke to him. How can you do that?” Mr Bate asked.
He said the presidency had cost Mr Trump “immeasurably” in terms of lost business, putting the figure at “billions,” before saying it was “hundreds of millions in dollars.”
He explained: “People don’t want to go to his properties any more. It’s cost him because he’s not allowed to charge diplomats [and] foreign governments staying at his properties, and his property in Washington is the only place in town to stay, so all of that is done at cost - if he makes money he has to give it back to the government.”
Drawing on his conversations with the president, Mr Bates also claimed Mr Trump turned down another series of The Apprentice television show in order to run for president at a cost of around $65m (£50m) for the season.
NBC, the US television network which broadcast the programme, announced in June 2015 it was “ending its business relationship with Mr Trump” after he characterised some Mexican nationals as criminals and rapists.
Mr Bates went on: “I mean, in the long run, his name is in history, maybe for the right reasons or the wrong reasons. Financially, it’s cost him dearly.
“Business cannot expand in the way it’s supposed to expand. Opportunities across the planet, and all the expansion is likely to be outside of the United States - they can’t do it.”
He also said Mr Trump’s businesses were a meritocracy where employees were valued by their ability, not their background. “If you go into Trump Tower, and I have done on many occasions, it’s like the League of Nations,” he said.
In an unprompted aside, the 50-year-old, who has lobbied senior Scottish politicians on behalf of oil and gas firms, also tackled the ongoing controversy surrounding the financial ties between the state-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport, Mr Trump’s nearby Turnberry resort, and the US Defence Department, the subject of an ongoing investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the US Congress.
“There was a deal done with the US government whereby military aircraft would fly into Prestwick, so the aircrews would stay at Trump Turnberry. If you know the geography, it’s not that far away at all, and obviously, accommodation in Ayrshire is pretty limited,” he said.
“The reason that the US military was stopping at Prestwick is because the landing rates are the cheapest in Europe, so it’s a really good deal for the US military and it’s a great deal for the Scottish Government.
“The guys go to Turnberry because it’s quality and they can only be charged cost, they can’t be charged any profit whatsoever. So it’s a great deal for the US military and it keeps jobs in Ayrshire as well.”
He criticised the media coverage surrounding the Prestwick deal, arguing that “everybody who could have benefited from that has lost out,” adding: “It’s just down to people trying to dig up something that isn’t there.”
Responding to another question from Mr Owen, Mr Bates also referenced his journalism experience to encourage those in attendance to seek out alternative news sources.
He said: “I hate the BBC, it’s so PC and so frightened of offending people … I’ll go to CNN or look at Fox, and I’ll step into Russia Today territory.
“You should always try and find a different take. Actually, if you’ve got Sky, go and look at Russia Today - oh my goodness, the difference is incredible.”
The event also saw Ms Malone and Mr Bates share numerous private photographs, including images of the latter dining with Mr Trump in the Blue Room of the White House.
Another slide shown to the audience was of one of three Sikorsky helicopters owned by Mr Trump. “You can rent that in Scotland,” Ms Malone noted as the picture appeared.
But The Scotsman revealed last month how the helicopter in question has been shipped back to the US.
Richard Stubbs, a pilot and co-owner of Cardinal Helicopter Services, which had a contract with Mr Trump’s firm to fly the Sikorsky S-76B, said the business - which has since been “discontinued” - suffered after Mr Trump became president, with customers including wealthy Russian nationals offered the option of flying without the ‘TRUMP’ insignia that had been prominently emblazoned on the aircraft’s tail boom.
It is not clear how Ms Malone and Mr Bates came to appear at the free ticketed event at Destiny Church in Glasgow city centre - billed as “their first ever joint speaking engagement” - where attendees were offered the chance to buy a signed copy of Mr Bates’s book for £20.
However, Ms Malone first attended the church as a fine arts student while studying at the city’s Glasgow School of Art. Her father, Tom, a former Aberdeenshire councillor and elder at Foundation Church in Peterhead, has also helped to host visits to Scotland by evangelist Will Graham, the grandson of the famous preacher, Billy Graham.
The evening talk was hosted by Mr Owen, the senior pastor at Destiny, who founded the church with his wife, Sue.
The couple present a weekly show on TBN’s UK offering, which is broadcast across Europe and Africa. The network also hosts a programme by Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a two-time Republican presidential candidate.
Mr Huckabee has interviewed Mr Trump twice for his show, even travelling to the White House last summer to film a sit down interview.
Mr Huckabee has also interviewed senior administration officials including Mr Pence, Mr Pompeo, and his daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary until July this year.
The Owens have expressed support for Mr Trump’s administration and prayed for him on social media. They also travelled to Washington DC last year to attend the National Prayer Breakfast, where Mr Trump spoke.
Destiny Church, described by Mr Owen as being part of a “contemporary apostolic movement,” has been repeatedly embroiled in controversy over its choice of controversial guest speakers.
Last year, it was banned by two Edinburgh churches - St Cuthbert’s and St John’s - from using their premises.
It had hired St Cuthbert’s to host John Mellor, an Australian faith healer, who said that diseases such as cancer and motor neurone disease could be cured by prayer.
Mr Mellor, who bills himself as an “international healing evangelist,” claims to have performed a “flood of miracles” in the North Lanarkshire town of Wishaw.
While hiring St John’s, Destiny also welcomed Rick Godwin, a Texas pastor accused of embarking on lavish spending sprees. He told Scottish worshippers of how he has armed security officers in and around his church, stating: “In my country an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.”
Several other speakers brought to Scotland by Destiny have longstanding ties with the TBN network.
They include Creflo Dollar, a divisive evangelical preacher who once urged his congregation to buy him a private jet. He presents a weekday morning programme on TBN.
Casey Treat, co-founder of the Seattle-based Christian Faith Centre, a so-called megachurch, has also appeared at Destiny events and presented TBN programmes.
Numerous other figures affiliated with TBN, including Mr Huckabee, Mike Rowe, Franklin Graham, and Kirk Cameron has frequented Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, according to research compiled by the US journalist, Zach Everson.
Others who have addressed Destiny congregations include Sir Brian Souter, the one-time major SNP donor and co-founder of the Stagecoach transport empire, who was a prominent figure in the failed campaign to prevent the abolition of Section 28, legislation which forebade schools from promoting gay rights.
Destiny Church, founded in Glasgow in 1990, is promotes teachings apparently linked to the so-called prosperity gospel, which promotes the idea that an individual’s wealth is controlled by God, and that God is willing the faithful to be prosperous
As part of various conferences it organises, it lays on masterclasses designed to teach people about “stronger finances.” which it describes as the “firm foundation to Kingdom fruitfulness.”
The events are presented by the Owens’ son, Dan, the business and operations manager at the Glasgow church, a role for which he receives a £44,000 salary.
According to the most recent accounts filed with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, the Destiny Church Trust received donations and legacies worth more than £1.65m in 2017.
The accounts state that the trust spent £1.64m on charitable activities - some £1.45m of that is classed as “support costs,” including wages, loan interest payments, and hospitality.
Of the remaining £194,000 that went towards grant funding, £144,000 went to Destiny Ministries, a charity registered at the same address in Glasgow. Its accounts show it had an income of more than £570,000 over the same period.
Another charity, Destiny Church Aberdeen, which shares two trustees with the Glasgow church, was declared bankrupt in August.
TBN’s UK and European operation is run by a London-based charity called Governance Ministries. It received £6.3m in donations and legacies in the 12 months to 4 April 2018, accounts filed with the Charity Commission show. It spend £6.1m on “programme production” costs.
On Monday, Mr Bates is scheduled to give a 90 minute talk in Glasgow at a book club evening, featuring drinks and canapes. The event is being organised by The Herald newspaper.