Donald Trump says he made “a lot of money” in a deal years ago with Moammar Gadhafi, despite denying that he knew the former Libyan dictator was involved in renting his suburban New York estate.
“Don’t forget, I’m the only one. I made a lot of money with Gaddafi, if you remember,” Trump said in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday. “He came to the country, and he had to make a deal with me because he needed a place to stay.”
“He paid me a fortune. Never got to stay there,” Trump said. “And it became sort of a big joke.”
The presumptive Republican nominee was talking about a bizarre incident in 2009, when Gadhafi was looking for a place to pitch his Bedouin-style tent during a visit to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
After trying and failing to secure space in Manhattan’s Central Park, on the Upper East Side and in Englewood, New Jersey, the Libyan government turned to Trump’s 213-acre Seven Springs estate in suburban Bedford, New York.
Gadhafi never stayed at the property, but it was nevertheless a spectacle. Reporters flocked to the town to watch construction crews erect a white-topped tent that was lined with a tapestry of camels and palm trees and outfitted with leather couches and coffee tables.
At one point the tent was torn down after the Town of Bedford threatened to sue Trump personally — and was then re-erected, to the town’s chagrin.
At the time, Trump distanced himself from the matter, hinting that he’d been tricked into renting his land. Representatives of Gadhafi — loathed in the U.S. due to his ties to terrorism — had falsified the identity of their client in other instances to make renting property easier.
Before the tent was re-pitched, Trump said he had “no idea” that Gadhafi might be involved in the deal to rent a section of the estate, a town official said. Bedford Town Supervisor Lee Roberts told The Associated Press at the time that Trump told her that, as far as he knew, his arrangement was with partners in the United Arab Emirates.
“We have business partners and associates all over the world. The property was leased on a short-term basis to Middle Eastern partners who may or may not have a relationship to Mr. Gadhafi. We are looking into the matter now,” Trump Organization spokeswoman Rhona Graff said in a statement at the time.
But Trump had changed his tune two years later, when he boasted of having “screwed” the Libyan leader on the deal.
“I dealt with Gadhafi. Excuse me. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for the whole year or for two years. And then I didn’t let him use the land. That’s what we should be doing,” Trump said in a 2011 interview with Fox News.
He reiterated the claim on CNN that same year. Trump said he had leased Gaddafi “a piece of land for his tent. He paid me more than I get in a whole year. And then, eh, he wasn’t able to use the piece of land. … So I got in one night more money than I would have gotten all year for this piece of land up in Westchester. And then didn’t let him use it? That’s called being intelligent,” Trump said.
Appearing Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Trump once again reversed his stance on U.S. military intervention in Libya saying he would have authorized “surgical” strikes to take out strongman Moammar Gadhafi. However, previously he’d said the world would be better with Gadhafi in power.
“I didn’t mind surgical,” said Trump, who has criticized the successful U.S.-NATO effort in 2011 to remove Gadhafi. “And I said surgical. You do a surgical shot and you take him out.”
It was a notable change from the position he’d staked out at a Republican presidential debate in Texas in February.
“We would be so much better off if Gadhafi would be in charge right now,” Trump said then. He has also hit Clinton over the U.S. intervention in Libya in his stump speech.